25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr. Speaker, I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Robert Duncan Sherrington, a senator from the State of Queensland, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
It is my sad duty formally to advise the House of the death in Brisbane yesterday of Senator Sherrington, a highly regarded member of the Senate. Senator Robert Duncan Sherrington had been a member of the Parliament only since 1962, but in that comparatively short time he made a deep impression on his parliamentary colleagues. It was a matter of great sadness to myself and my colleagues to learn last night that, after the long illness against which he had struggled so valiantly, he had passed away.
Although Senator Sherrington had not been in the Senate for any great length of time, he was very well known to many of us in this House. He had for many years been a prominent figure in the sugar industry in his State of Queensland. He had taken, and continued to take right up until the final days of his illness, a most active part in the political life of his State and, in particular, in the political activities of the Liberal Party. Indeed, at the time of his death he was, and had been for a period of two years, President of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party.
I personally came to know Senator Sherrington most closely over the past 12 months. I had met him over a period of years before that and had found him a warm, breezy, companionable man. He seemed to me to radiate the whole spirit and atmosphere of the spacious State he represented. If ever a man was typical of the area from which he came, I think Bob Sherrington could be so described. He was not only a man of remarkable personal qualities which endeared him to those who came in contact with him, but also he had an inner strength, a strength of conviction and a strength of character, which saw him through his most trying periods as his illness worsened for him. Sir, it is a mark of the courage and character of the man that, knowing for many months before the end came that death threatened him and in all probability awaited him at an early point of time, this merely served to spur him into redoubled efforts in the objectives he saw ahead of him in the political field.
He served Australia with great devotion throughout his lifetime and he continued with active service right until his untimely end. We of the Liberal Party mourn a respected colleague for whom our admiration grew as we came to know him more closely. The Government Parties have sustained a loss; but I believe that the Parliament as a whole also has sustained the loss of a man who bore no malice to any of those who disagreed with him politically. He gave, in the best interests of Australia, the highest service that he could bring to the country and he leaves behind him the honoured memorial of a man of character and a man of high personal qualities whom we could all join in admiring and respecting.
In paying our tribute to him this morning, we would at the same time convey an expression of our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Sherrington and her family. I saw a good deal of her over recent months. She too knew of the danger that threatened to take him from her at any time. Yet her own courage never faltered. She supported him in every way that it was humanly possible for a devoted and loving wife to do. I hope it will be of some comfort to her in a bereavement and sadness we share with her to know that her husband was so highly regarded and so profoundly liked and admired by his colleagues in the two Houses of the Parliament. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and my colleague, the Leader of *he Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen), will pay their tributes in this place. There are few men who have come here in my Mme in the Parliament for whom I developed a more profound personal regard than for the late Bob Sherrington.
– The Opposition wishes to be associated with the resolution of regret at the death of Senator Sherrington and the sympathy to be tendered to his widow and his four daughters and one son. I did not know Senator Sherrington very well. I had a few brief conversations with him. The last time he was here I sought him out to offer the sympathy of my colleagues and myself in the illness from which he was suffering and which, I was told, would be fatal. 1 did not need to mention to Senator Sherrington that he was a man whose days were limited, because he told me so himself. He told me with great fortitude and splendid courage that he knew he would not live long, but he had no regrets. Talking to a man who is dying is a strange experience, especially when he says that he is dying. It is difficult to know just how to carry on a conversation. There is no use saying to him: “ I hope you will get better”. But I said it and I meant it. I hoped that a miracle might happen in his case, but he was certain in his mind that that was his last visit to Canberra. I gave him all the suport and encouragement I could in his really dreadful predicament.
He was a man who served Queensland and Australia very well. I did not know of his association with the cane industry until I was given some notes about his life. He started as a chemist, became a cane inspector and eventually a cane grower. He not only knew cane growing but he took an interest in public affairs. He served his own political party and Queensland to the best of his ability in the various organizations that he felt commanded his attention and Reserved his support. To his widow and children we offer our heartfelt sympathy. We hope that the sympathy of their friends will help them in their dire trouble at this time and that the memory of a devoted husband and good father will reconcile them, if one can be reconciled to death, to an acceptance of the divine will in this matter, sad as it is.
– I desire to associate the members of the Australian Country Party in the Parliament with this sad resolution now before us. Senator Sherrington was, as we came to know him, a man of strong convictions. Although he was not for very long a member of the Parliament he was a man of significance and certainly a man of real important in his own party, the Liberal party, coming to be, and being at the time of his death, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) reminded us, President of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party.
Senator Sherrington brought to the Parliament the strength of his convictions on a variety of issues and he was respected foi the strength of his convictions and background which enabled him to bring to this Parliament some specialized knowledge, particularly in respect of the sugar industry. He was respected for the quite extraordinary manner in which he continued to devote himself both to his parliamentary duties and io the service of his party notwithstanding the character of the illness that had overtaken him. He was indeed an example of fortitude at as high a level as one can expect from a human being. For this we respect his memory and we offer our great sympathy to his widow and his family.
– I, too, should like to pay a short tribute to Bob Sherrington, as we in Queensland knew him. I do so particularly because of my own personal association with him which was perhaps closer than that of any other member of this House. As has been said, he commenced his life in relation to the sugar industry first as a sugar chemist in one of the mills; then he became a cane inspector and eventually believing that he could make a success of the growing of sugar, be purchased a property of his own and did make a great success of it. Sugar was not his only interest in the north of Queensland, for he early became associated with the research work being done in the pastoral industry. Particularly was he an advocate of the activities of our own great scientific organisation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in its animal and plant research in that area. I think it can be said truthfully that Senator Sherrington was, with some others, a great advocate of, and perhaps was responsible to a degree for, the establishment and opening last year of the new C.S.l.R.O. laboratory in Townsville.
Throughout his life he desired to render community service. Although he retired in his 50’s he was not satisfied, as are many men, merely to be idle. He had been associated with local community activities in the north and he came to Brisbane and associated himself particularly with the Liberal Party. He became Vice-President of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party. Having served in that capacity for some five years, he became, two years ago, the Division’s President. Even in the north, he had been associated with the Party because he was chairman of the area committee in the Townsville district. In appreciation of the service he had rendered to the Party, at last year’s annual convention he was honoured with life membership of the Party.
Perhaps Senator Sherrington’s greatest attributes were his abilities to make friends and to hold friendships. Wherever one went in Queensland one realised that Senator Sherrington had been there and had made lasting friendships. It is my privilege today to pay tribute to his memory and to the service that he rendered and to express regret that he should be taken from us at the comparatively early age of 64 years when, in normal circumstances, it might have been expected that he would still have a number of years of service to render to this Parliament and to the Australian community. I join in expressing my sympathy to his widow and family.
– Bob Sherrington was a man of the people. He was a straight shooter and a warm and sincere friend. I shall miss him. Bob, his wife and his family knew in August last, as I did, that the chances were that he had but six months to live. We have been told with what courage he faced what is one of the greatest loads a human can be called upon to bear - the knowledge of approaching death. His death represents a great loss, not only to Queensland and to this Parliament but also to the many friends he made in the south. I extend my sympathy to Mrs. Sherrington and her family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the inter-departmental decentralisation committee referred to last year by the Minister for Trade and Industry. Does the committee still exist? If so, how often does it meet? Is it answerable to a Minister? If so, to whom is it answerable? Has the committee brought down any recommendations relating to the advancement of decentralisation which require the attention of the Parliament? If so, does the Government intend to take any early action to implement the recommendations or are they to be ignored as were those submitted by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development?
– The committee does exist. It has been doing a considerable amount of work. I shall later give the honorable gentleman an amplified answer to his question, indicating just how far that work has proceeded and what developments in the sense of further Cabinet consideration are expected to arise from the work.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the mine found recently on the south coast of Queensland is a menace to the nearby population. Has the mine been destroyed, and has the Navy any indication of its country of origin and whence it came?
– As has been reported in the Press, the Navy undertook to move the mine from the built up area near Southport. This task has now been achieved but the mine has not been destroyed because attempts are to be made to delouse it and inspect it internally to see whether some serial number can be found. At this stage, it has been identified as a German mine of the type laid by the raider “ Kormoran “.
It is essential that this information be gained because the problem of mines laid in wartime is a world wide one. I think it was in 1960 that a mine washed up on the Sydney foreshore was found on investigation to have been laid off the main island of Japan 20 years previously. It is essential that all possible information be gained about the drifting of these objects in ocean currents. Therefore, if it is possible to ascertain the serial number, the information gained from inspecting it will assist greatly the research being conducted in connection with this problem.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that nowhere in New Zealand is there to be seen the unsightly array of extremely high television antennae which plagues some Australian cities and towns. Is television reception in New Zealand infinitely superior to television reception in Australia? Has any study been made of television reception in other countries, having in mind distances, topography and climate? Can it be said that New Zealand receivers and/or transmitting equipment are superior to Australian equipment? Alternatively, does the New Zealand Government provide booster stations to ensure satisfactory reception throughout that country? In view of the fact that high antennae are dangerous, costly to maintain and often fail to provide an adequate service, will the Minister have his Department examine the reason why thousands of television viewers in New South Wales are unable to obtain satisfactory viewing, taking-
– Order! The honorable member is making his question too long. I ask him to direct his question.
– Will his department examine the problem of unsatisfactory reception in New South Wales so that adequate viewing as often as possible can be ensured for centres such as those between Sydney and Newcastle?
– I cannot speak about conditions of viewing in New Zealand or the need for different antennae in one place as against another. 1 do know that viewing conditions vary from area to area within Australia, and even within the same locality. For instance, T know that, in Sydney, homes situated on the side of Middle Harbour nearest the transmitters have less satisfactory viewing than those which are in a more direct line with the transmitters. In general terms, television is a line of sight operation. -There are many homes in Australia in which the antennae are fitted under the roof. Sometimes antennae are installed in the sitting room near the viewing set. I shall be happy to make inquiries, but let me inform the honorable member that the alteration of the thousands of sets which are in use in Australia would be a very expensive business for the people concerned and I think that they perhaps would not be interested in any alternative method of setting up antennae.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, relates to the change to decimal currency. As some confusion exists and will continue to exist while dual prices and dual curency continue, will the Minister take the necessary action to have the old currency withdrawn much more quickly than the estimated two years allowed for?
– I have already directed inquiries to the Decimal Currency Board to find out whether it is practicable to shorten the estimated period during which the old currency will remain in use. As a result of the honorable gentleman’s observations, 1 shall make further inquiries. 1 can assure him that both the Treasury and the Board will do their best to shorten the period if that can be done.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs, ls he in a position to make a statement about the recent changes in the Government of our nearest neighbour, Indonesia? If not, will he assure the House that such a statement will be made as soon as the position becomes clearer? Will he assure the House also that he and his Department will do their utmost to foster better relations between Indonesia and Australia now that there appear to have been major changes in the personnel of the Indonesian Government?
– Answering the last part of the honorable member’s question first, I would like to assure him that over recent years the Government and my Department have constantly attempted to improve relations with Indonesia in spite of the unfortunate circumstances produced by the confrontation of Malaysia by the Indonesian Government. We shall continue to try to promote as good relations as we can achieve with our neighbour while resisting the attempt to crush Malaysia.
The recent events in Indonesia have not worked to a conclusion and 1 think it is a little early for us to make any pronouncement about the nature of the change or the possible outcome. I would make only two or three simple points. The first is that all the published statements, appeals or declarations made by the new Government have still been made in the name of President Sukarno who, in the terms of these announcements, is still the effective head of power in Indonesia. Secondly, the announcements have called on General Suharto to protect the Indonesian Revolution. They have affirmed or reaffirmed the views that have been expressed by President Sukarno for some time about the maintenance of what the Indonesians describe as anticolonialism. There has been no indication of any intention to diminish or end the attempts to crush Malaysia. However, the announcements that have been made and the action that has followed them have made it clear that there is a strong antiCommunist element in this change. The Indonesian Communist Party, or P.K.I., has been banned and other political parties have been warned not to admit to their ranks former members of that Party. To that extent, one can see the recent events as a definite rebuff to the Communist Party and a very definite rebuff to Peking, which consistently in recent months has been trying to intervene in and influence the course of domestic events in Indonesia.
Another point that I would make is that the public pronouncements of the new Government have also admitted the seriousness of the internal economic situation in Indonesia and have shown some sort of intention to try to deal more resolutely with that problem. Having mentioned those few matters that are on public record, I suggest that there is nothing else that I can usefully say to the House at this stage. However, if I may, I would counsel honorable members against drawing too readily any conclusions about the external aims of the Indonesian Government.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Interior. Can the Minister inform me whether any progress has been made concerning the request made by the honorable member for Chisholm and myself, and by various groups of the Australian Light Horse Association, to have a second replica of the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial erected in Canberra?
– I am aware of the efforts of both the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Chisholm to have a second replica of the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial erected in Canberra. I have pleasure in telling them that the Government has decided to erect a second replica of this memorial on the flanking side of Anzac Parade in front of the Australian War Memorial. Both these gentlemen were members of the Australian Light Horse Association which contributed to the original Desert Corps Memorial which was erected at Port Said. At the time of the Suez crisis, however, rioting squads damaged the statuary to such an extent that it was decided to have what remained removed to Australia. A replica was made of the statuary of the original memorial by the noted Australian sculptor Ray Ewers. This was erected at Mount Clarence at Albany, Western Australia. This was thought to be the most fitting site as it was here that the New Zealand and the Australian forces were marshalled before leaving Australia to participate in the First World War. However, because of the fine statuary and the beauty of it the Returned Servicemen’s League, members of the Australian Light Horse Association and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles considered that there ought to be a second replica placed where the great mass of the Australian people could see it. For this reason, the Australian Government has decided, in view of the fact that we already have the mould in Italy, to make a second replica and to erect it in Canberra.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has there been a sharp decline in the percentage of medical costs met by Commonwealth and fund benefits following the last rise in doctors’ fees? Does the Government intend to raise the level of benefits or are patients to be left to carry the burden?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: “No.” The combined level of fund and Commonwealth benefits still represents a considerably higher percentage of doctors’ fees than the average for the period since the medical and hospital benefits scheme was introduced.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service relates to the inquiry into the Australian waterfront being conducted by Mr. Woodward. Is the Minister able to inform the House of progress made and when a report is likely to be available?
– Discussions have been proceeding, under the chairmanship of Mr. Woodward, between the Waterside Workers Federation and the employers. They have been under way for some time and some proposals have already emerged which I am now considering and which the Government may bring forward in the fairly near future. But most of the matters concerned are not likely to be settled for a long time. The inquiry is a long and complicated operation. I will keep the Parliament informed of any progress made which may be of general public interest.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the dismal failure of the Government’s $1,600,000 a year advertising campaign for recruitment and the obvious need for substantial increases in rates of pay, benefits and allowances to service personnel and their dependants, will the Government give consideration to diverting this huge sum of money now being spent in advertising from the pockets of the Press barons into the pockets of the servicemen who volunteer to sacrifice their lives in defence of their country? Further, will the Government call upon the proprietors of newspapers and television and radio stations to volunteer to sacrifice free advertising space for the Government’s recruiting campaign?
– The honorable gentleman has marred an otherwise sensible question by importing unjustifiable comments and deductions.
– Don’t be nasty.
– The question invited comment and what I am pointing out is that to that extent he marred his request for the facts. I would be glad to supply the facts. They would show that there has been a response of volunteers. What honorable members opposite seem not to realise is that the objective of the Army is to secure the most effective fighting force that this country can provide. We have heard a good deal from honorable gentlemen opposite about the concern that is felt for those who come in under the national service training scheme. The Government is also concerned with the safety and welfare of the tens of thousands of Australians who have volunteered and who are serving in th.: three fighting forces of this country. We believe it important that they be supported by an effective body of men. These men are being secured with the assistance of the national service scheme and not solely from the volunteers who come forward. It is weil known in this House that the proportion of volunteers coming forward who are eventually taken into the Army is comparatively small because, understandably, the Army wants to ensure that those who will be taking their places alongside the trained military men already in the Army will be of a standard and a capacity sufficient to maintain the efficiency of the forces, and that the newcomers will not cause an increase in the hazards to their colleagues in the forces.
– Turn over the record.
– I know the facts are unpalatable to honorable members opposite. They want to throw a big emotional screen about the whole operation. It is only when the facts are bared that the Australian people can realise what shabby humbug is coming from members of the Opposition.
– We know who the shabby humbugs are. Why don’t you call them conscripts? That is what they are.
– The honorable gentleman asks why I do not call them conscripts.
– Order! We must have some order in the House. I heard a remark about inviting comment, but I think we are getting a little too much of it now. The purpose of question time is for honorable members to seek information on urgent matters, and I think the replies that are given should be examples to the questioner;.
– I conclude by taking up the interjection just made by the Leader of the Opposition. He talks about calling up conscripts but he fails to add the words, “ for the security of this country “ although that, of course, is the purpose of the national service call-up. A Labour Government, of which he was either a member or a supporter did call up conscripts.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– You can’t take it.
Mi: Clyde Cameron. - My point of order is this: The honorable member for Bonython asked a question and the Prime Minister, after a long speech, answered it. Now he proposes to make another speech in answer to an interjection made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order and I point out to honorable members that interjections lengthen the time taken by a Minister in replying.
– My final comment is that it is true that we have made arrangements to call up 20 year old men for the security of this country. The honorable gentleman’s Government called up 18 year old men for the security of this country.
– That was for the defence of Australia, not for the defence of Air Vice-Marshal Ky.
– Yes, and if the honorable gentleman denies that the military action in South Vietnam can properly be considered to be for the security of Australia, the people of this country will form their own judgment on that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. I refer to the question of the electricity supply to the projected improvements to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, and the rejection by the Government of the application by St. George County Council to supply its legal entitlement of the power within its franchise area. Is the Minister aware of a similar case heard in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in the months of April and May of 1964 in which a unanimous decision of the judges rejected an attempt by the Macleay County Council to supply power in a similar manner to that intended by the Sydney County Council per medium of the Commonwealth Department of Works? Is he also aware that the High Court refused leave to appeal against that decision? Is the Minister aware that the present responsible Minister in New South Wales has indicated -
– Order! The honorable member is prolonging his question. 1 ask him to direct it.
-In the light of the positive legal ruling, and the attitude of the New South Wales Government, will the Government reconsider its decision to refuse St. George County Council’s application to supply power to the Kingsford-Smith Airport?
– I am not aware of the full details of the case referred to by the honorable gentleman and therefore I cannot say whether it is precisely on all fours with the present situation, I can assure him, however, that the Government does not intend to do anything illegal and that the Minister for Works will undoubtedly look very carefully at that case. But that is a different question from the economics of the case. The economics of taking- the supply of electricity from elsewhere were very carefully explained to this House and to the Public Works Committee at the time the decision was made by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Now that the Treasurer has had four months’ experience as a married man he should appreciate that the joys of marriage are sometimes dimmed by increased financial responsibility, and he should have a better understanding of the plight of social service pensioners forced to exist on the pitiful amount paid by the present Government. I ask him whether he will include an increase in pensions in the little Budget which it is rumoured he will introduce on Tuesday, 19th April. If not, will he make certain that an increase in all social service pensions is granted in his first complete Budget when it is introduced later this year? Will he also-
-Order! I think that the honorable member is taking advantage of St. Patrick’s Day. I ask him to direct his question.
– Will he also note that this question is asked on St. Patrick’s Day, the day on which Sir Robert Menzies, that simple Presbyterian-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. I refer to letters and telegrams from responsible people in primary industry organisations in my electorate in which they suggest that the new farm loans should be made for a minimum term of 15 years at an interest rate of 3 to 4 per cent. Will the Treasure assure the House that he personally understands the need for loans on these terms and will he put this need clearly before the banks’ representatives when he meets them on this matter?
– I have on at least three previous occasions indicated the Government’s approach to long term lending for primary industries. Today the Government will be meeting the repre.senatives of the trading banks, and the Government’s approach to this problem will then be put clearly to them. As the honorable gentleman will know, in negotiations of this kind I cannot be specific as to the rate of interest. One of the problems that will be discussed will be the rate of interest to be charged on these long term loans.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. The Queensland branch of the Colliery Employees Union has advised me that the Coal Miners’ Pension Fund is becoming actuarily unsound due, in part, to the fact that because of mechanisation and other technological improvements a rapid reduction is taking place in the work force. I might say that the miners and the employers subsidise this fund. As the miners are falling off in numbers there are fewer of them to make the contributions, lt has been suggested that the Government might consider the imposition of an excise duty on coal produced in Australia in order to keep this fund solvent. Will the Minister give the matter his consideration?
– This matter has been considered by the Joint Coal Board for some considerable time because it is anxious about the state of these funds in Queensland and New South Wales. Only a short time ago discussions were held between the Joint Coal Board and the Ministers for Mines from New South Wales and Queensland. It had been intended that a joint submission should be put by these people to the Commonwealth Government asking for support along the lines mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but Queensland was not in agreement with the New South Wales submission and, therefore, this has not been done. All I can say at the present moment is that the States are getting together to try to resolve their differences on this matter and, in due time, will undoubtedly have further discussions with the Federal Government.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral’s attention been directed to newspaper reports that officers of his Department, in conjunction with officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, have perfected a new type of fuel cell? Are these reports true? If so, will he be in a position, early next week perhaps, to lay on the table of the House papers in regard to this important matter?
– I think it would be incorrect to suggest that this process has been perfected. This is research being done by the C.S.I. R.O., and the Post Office, because of its interest in cheap energy and the fact that this fuel cell can produce electric energy from readily available fuels, is co-operating to the maximum with the C.S.I. R.O. It is proposed that next year there will be laboratory tests in relation to this development and then, if these are satisfactory, the cell will be used in field tests in some of our telephone equipment in country areas. If there is any additional information that can be made available I think that primarily it should come from the Minister in Charge of the C.S.I.R.O., but I will be happy to discuss the matter with him.
– - I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will he give his urgent attention to the serious crisis in the Australian tanning industry arising from the acute shortage of hides? Will the Minister ensure that appropriate assistance is given to the industry in order that the grazier may continue to receive a high price for his product while continuity of supply is maintained to Australia’s 103 tanneries?
– I have had no representations on this matter, but I know that there is not an ample supply of hides for this purpose. I will consider the point made in the honorable member’s question.
“EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA”.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport recall that when the “ Empress of Australia “ was built there was a strong request from commercial interests in Hobart for a more frequent service between Sydney and Hobart than the two voyages per month? Now that the vessel has been operating for a full 12 month’s period, has the Minister made any review of the demand for cargoes and can he say whether there is a demonstrated need for a more frequent service than that existing at present?
– I do recall the requests that were made at the time the “ Empress of Australia “ first began operations for three voyages per month between Sydney and Hobart. After 12 months with two services a month the cargo loadings between Sydney and Hobart have been reasonably satisfactory. Speaking from memory I should say that, between Hobart and Sydney, there are about 88 per cent, capacity cargoes and between Sydney and Hobart about 72 per cent, cargoes. This does not indicate that there is any great demand for a more frequent service, particularly in view of the fact that part of the cargo on the Sydney to Hobart trip occasionally includes cargo which is transported from the north of Tasmania to Hobart.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the discovery of natural gas on the continental shelf off Victoria and I ask: Is he aware that the Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, suggested on his return from the United States that the changeover to and distribution of this gas to industry and to householders was beyond the financial capacity of his State? The Prime Minister may remember that Sir Henry Bolte suggested at the time that the cost would be about $80 million. As this seemed to indicate a disposition to hand over the distribution of gas in Victoria to overseas financiers, will he protect the interests of the Australian community by offering to Victoria Commonwealth assistance to make practical use of this important natural asset and so enable the people of Victoria, through the Gas and Fuel Corporation of that State, to remain in control of the distribution of gas in Victoria?
– I am sure that we all welcome the discoveries which have occurred off the coast of Victoria and join in hoping that the optimistic expectations which have been expressed regarding them will be fulfilled in the result. The latest operations, of course, are the result of combined activities on the part of one leading Australian organisation and a very experienced American organisation. As to the supply of gas to Victoria, I am not aware of any view other than that reported in the Press as having been expressed by the Premier of Victoria, nor am I conscious that we have received any formal approach from him in relation to this matter. I can assure the honorable member that we would look with very great care and constructively at any proposal which may come on any matter which is of such importance to the economy. As honorable gentlemen will have gathered from earlier replies to questions, the Government has been in discussion through the Reserve Bank of Australia with banks and financial institutions to see whether we can devise means whereby Australia’s prospective participants in ventures of this sort can turn to Australian financial sources in order to finance the equity element in their share of any such undertaking.
– Take your time.
– If the honorable member’s colleague is interested, as I believe he and other Victorians and indeed Australians generally are, he will want the information I am supplying. I am prepared to leave it at that, Mr. Speaker. We are showing an active interest in this matter.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that petrol prices at Norseman in Western Australia are 4s. 2£d. a gallon for standard grade and 4s. 5d. a gallon for super grade and that 103 miles east of Norseman the price is 6s. a gallon and stays at that price until 100 miles out of Port Augusta? If this is a fact, can the Minister say why these prices are far in excess of the figures that should apply in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s policy that fuel prices in country areas should not be more than 4d. a gallon above city prices?
– I would be grateful if the honorable member for Canning would put his question on the notice paper, together with as many of the facts as he has at his command. I understand that the Minister for Customs and Excise in the next few days will make a statement on the whole subject of the operation of the petrol prices subsidisation plan. Any further information of this nature that the honorable member can get will be closely examined straight away and will be of help to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Now that the Government has finally accomplished the conscription of fresh faced boys for overseas military service, can the Prime Minister advise the House whether the Government intends to introduce legislation for the conscription of wealth for the same war purposes?
– The question is in line and in character with those that have come from other honorable gentlemen opposite. The reference to fresh faced youths is used as though it is a nutter of unfavourable comment. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman would prefer the bearded youths we see carrying placards around outside Parliament House. He asked whether we propose to conscript wealth. Of course, there is a conscription of wealth in this country in the form of our taxation legislation. As incomes are earned they carry their proportion of tax ind thai persists for purposes of defence as well as for general welfare purposes.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has his attention been directed to the printed document “ Activities of the Zambian Broadcasting Corporation “? As this paper presents shocking examples of broadcast messages inciting violence in Rhodesia, sponsored by other governments, I nsk whether the Australian Government, subject to its being satisfied that there is accuracy in the allegations, will express its concern to the United Kingdom Government.
– I have had the opportunity to make only a hurried examination of the pamphlet, which appears to be one that has been issued by the Smith regime in Rhodesia. My hurried glance showed !o me that it contains two sets of complaints. One is against the Zambian broadcasting authority for broadcasting incitements *c, violence to the people of Rhodesia and the other is against the British Broadcasting Corporation for having used tha same station for its broadcasts. As I understood it in my hurried glance the gravamen of the complaint against the British Broadcasting Corporation is that it has associated itself with the Zambian Broadcasting Corporation, which broadcast incitements to violence. I know no more of the matter than that. As honorable members know, there is very strict censorship in Rhodesia at present. In an attempt to break through the Rhodesian censorship, the British Broadcasting Corporation sought means to broadcast the British point of view to Rhodesia and in doing so used the Zambian station. I am not aware that the British associated themselves in any way with the broadcasts ‘hat were originated in Zambia itself. However, I shall have the matter examined and if there is occasion to do so, I shall sec *“i it a further statement is made to the House.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories, in reply to a question that I asked him recently about a report that pastoral leases in the Northern Territory would be extended for a further 50 years, the Minister said that he was not aware of the suggestion but that a committee was now looking into these matters. I ask the Minister to inform the House of the nature of the committee, ls it a departmental committee or an inter-departmental committee? Does it include outside representation? Will the Minister explain the reason for the existence of the committee if it has not been set up for the purpose of extending the term of these leases, which in many instances have more than 40 years to run?
– 1 know of no instance in which there is a possible extension of the long term pastoral leases that the honorable member has mentioned. If the honorable member cares to place this question on the notice paper, I shall then be able to give him fuller details in reply to his earlier question. I had in mind a committee - I am not sure of its membership - which is examining our policy on coastal plains land. As the honorable member realises, there is a considerable area in respect of which leases are falling due for renewal. We are assessing the proper policy that should be adopted when we deal with this country. I repeat that, if the honorable member puts his question on the notice paper, I shall be able to give him a full answer.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Territories, by pointing out that some time in 1964 I referred to him a question about the transfer of public servants from the Commonwealth Public Service to the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea. The Minister subsequently explained the conditions which were then applicable and which were still unsatisfactory. Will the Minister now inform the House whether the same conditions still apply and whether changes are contemplated that will enable public servants to transfer to and from the Public Service of New Guinea without loss of benefits?
– 1 am very happy to be able to inform the honorable member that as a result of discussions between my Department and the Public Service Board the position has been resolved and that now a public servant who transfers from the Commonwealth Public Service to the Territory Public Service suffers no loss whatever. I think that in his earlier question the honorable member referred to a patrol officer who desired to take up service in the Territory. At that time he could serve for only two years. This period has now been extended to six years. In addition, we have been able to make satisfactory arrangements with various State Public Service Boards. This has been of practical assistance in our recruitment of skilled personnel for the Territory. As the honorable member realises, the report of the World Bank indicated that to put the Bank’s plan into operation we would need to recruit about 2,500 skilled personnel. We are, by various means, succeeding in this intention. We have instituted an intense recruitment programme. Tenders are now in train for the building of 500 new residences in the Territory. We are very grateful for all the assistance and cooperation we have received from the State Governments. This will certainly help us in a most important national project.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Territories. Have arrangements been made with the State Governments for their school teachers to be seconded for service in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and are there to be such arrangements even if teachers are still under bond?
– I would say that this arrangement has been made, but I am not sure of the precise details. I will look into the matter and inform the honorable member.
– by leave - I lay on the table of the House the report dated November 1965 of the National Radiation Advisory Committee. In pursuance of its function of advising the Commonwealth Government, through thi Prime Minister, on matters concerning the effects of ionizing radiation on the Australian community, the N.R.A.C. reviewed during 1965 those matters studied by the Committee since it presented its previous report in July 1962. In its present report the Committee has concentrated its attention on fallout from nuclear tests. An assessment is made of the possible effects on health in Australia of fallout from all tests conducted to date. Proposals by France to conduct weapons tests in the South Pacific Ocean in the near future have also been considered and possible effects on health in Australia evaluated.
On the question of hazards arising from those tests already conducted, fallout monitoring programmes have continued over the Australian continent since the Committee’s last report in 1962, and the Committee has accordingly had at its disposal a most extensive body of data oh the levels of fallout radio-activity in Australia. The report presents these facts lucidly and in lay language. Appendices to the report give the detailed technical information. Having reviewed all of the information available to it, the Committee sees no reason to amend its previous conclusion that there is no significant hazard to the health of the Australian population now or in the future as a result of past nuclear tests.
The French Government will probably commence later this year the testing of nuclear weapons on a site being established for this purpose in the South Pacific Ocean, some 4,000 miles east of Australia. It is expected that at first the tests will involve only low yield nuclear weapons but later megaton weapons will be included. In assessing the possible position in Australia the Committee had available an analysis of the problem prepared by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee. The National Radiation Advisory Committee is satisfied that the proposed weapons tests are unlikely to lead to a significant health hazard in Australia. I might add that this assessment is supported by the report received from Professor E. W. Titterton and Mr, J. R. Moroney of their discussions with the French authorities in Paris last December in regard to the safety measures being undertaken by the French.
The major programmes for monitoring fallout in Australia are carried out under the direction of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee; much of this work features in the report now before honorable members. The National Radiation Advisory Committee, being familiar with these current programmes and also with those to be implemented in relation to the proposed French tests, believes that they arc adequate to provide for thorough assessment of the situation in Australia. The measurement and analysis which must be made to provide reliable information on these low levels of radioactivity is an exacting and slow process and, obviously, we cannot expect useful statement of fallout levels to be made on a day to day basis. However honorable members can be assured that adequate monitoring programmes will be implemented on a continuing basis to keep a check on the level of radioactive fallout following future tests. I present the following paper -
National Radiation Advisory Committee Report dated November 1965 - Ministerial Statement, 17th March 1966- and move -
That the House take note of the papers.
– Mr. Speaker, might I, with your indulgence, ask the Prime Minister whether he will table the report of Professor E. W. Titterton and Mr. J. R. Moroney, which supports the assessment?
– I shall examine that request to see whether it is practicable.
– We cannot discuss the report satisfactorily unless we have it before us.
– I have the report here. I do not know, offhand, how far it covers what the honorable gentleman requires.
– Let us have it and we will decide that.
– The honorable gentleman has the Committee’s report. I shall see whether it covers adequately the remainder of his request. If it does not, I shall see whether it is practicable to meet his request.
Debate (on motton by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is leaving Australia this weekend to lead the Australian delegation to the meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East which will open in New Delhi on 22nd March and he will subsequently go to Rome to preside over a meeting of all the Australian Heads of Mission from our posts in Africa. This meeting of Heads of Mission will afford an opportunity to the Government to receive from its own representatives an up to date assessment of the present and prospective situation in Africa.
While in India the Minister will have the opportunity of meeting the President, the new Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of India and of discussing with them matters of common concern. The Indian Government has invited him to be its official guest during the period of his stay outside attendance at the E.C.A.F.E. meeting. On his way to Rome he will take the opportunity of paying an official visit to Israel and to Greece, again with the main purpose of meeting the Foreign Ministers of those countries and of having discussion with our own Ambassadors.
As the Minister for External Affairs was required to make the visits I have mentioned, I have taken advantage of his presence overseas to ask him to make a special visit to Washington, the United Nations headquarters at New York and London in order to continue the high-level discussions with our allies concerning the situations which we are facing in Asia and the trends of policy, and to pursue the contacts we have with countries interested in the region and with the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. On his way home he will complete this particular round of discussion by calling at Wellington in order to talk with the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs of New Zealand.
During the absence of the Minister, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) who ordinarily represents him in the Senate, will act as Minister for External Affairs. I shall deal with matters affecting the External Affairs portfolio in this House.
Bill presented by Mr. Snedden, and read a first time.
Mr. SNEDDEN (Bruce- Attorney-
General) [11.45].- I moveThat the Bill be now read a second time. This is a Bill mainly about legal practitioners. It lays down who may practise as barristers or solicitors in the High Court and other federal courts, and who may practise in courts of the Territories, and it deals with subsidiary matters such as discipline of persons so practising. This is not, of course, a new topic. Section 49 of the Judiciary Act has dealt with it, in part at least, since 1903. However, section 49 is not suited to modern developments, and the Bill takes the course of deleting the section and substituting a new set of provisions.
Put very shortly, the new provisions recognise Territory practice in a way that the earlier law was not concerned to do by giving Territory practitioners as well as State practitioners a right to practise in the High Court and other federal courts. The new provisions also say who are to be Territory practitioners, subject to any Territory laws that may make other provision. The Bill leaves it open for Territory laws to provide for local admission as a condition precedent to Territory practice. Any such Territory laws that are made will not affect the right that Territory practitioners will have under this Bill to practise in federal courts.
Let me take, first, the position as to Territory practice. A person who is enrolled as a barrister or solicitor in a State or Territory may practise as a barrister and solicitor in any Territory. This provision can be replaced at any time by a Territory law providing for local admission and restricting practice in that Territory to persons locally admitted. This means that the Territories will be able to control legal practice within their boundaries as fully as the States do.
Let me now take the position as to practitioners in the High Court and other federal courts. Persons who are for the time being entitled to practise in the Supreme Court of a State or Territory will have the like entitlement to practise in federal courts. To show that they are “ for the time being entitled “ they will need to hold current practising certificates from a State or Territory in any case where the State or Territory makes this a test. The Chief Justice has already issued directions to this effect, and the Bill adopts the Chief Justice’s approach. Territory practitioners do not at present need to hold practising certificates and, therefore, they will be able to practise in federal courts without holding such certificates. A State solicitor who has no current practising certificate will not, however, be able to take advantage of this provision. The right that he has to practise in a Territory cannot be used as a means of becoming a federal court practitioner unless in fact he practises as a solicitor in the Territory and has his sole or principal place of business there. What I have said relates to legal practitioners generally. There has always been a special provision in the Judiciary Act giving the Crown Solicitor a right to practise in his official capacity. The Bill takes the opportunity to restate this right in greater detail than before.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Snedden, and read a first time.
Mr. SNEDDEN (Bruce- Attorney-
General [11.49]. - I move -
That the Bill now be read a secondtime.
This Bill is complementary to the Judiciary Bill. Rights to appear in Territory courts are to be laid down in the Judiciary Act, subject to any Territory law that may make local admission in a Territory a condition precedent to practice in that Territory. It would be inconsistent with that to leave standing the present provision in section 40 of the Australian Capita! Territory Supreme Court Act that a party may appear before the Supreme Court by a barrister or solicitor having the right to practise in any federal court. The test should be whether the barrister or solicitor concerned has a right to practise in the Supreme Court itself, and that is the test adopted by this Bill. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Queensland Aborigines - Sydney Customs House- Surf Life Saving Movement - Film on Changi Prisoner of War Camp - Housing - Child Endowment - Commodity Prices - Aged Persons Homes - Desert Mounted Corps Memorial - Referendums.
Question proposed -
That grievances be noted.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise in the Grievance Debate today the question of expenditure on Aboriginal welfare in Queensland with a view to asking the Commonwealth Government to make a grant under section 96 of the Constitution or to take other appropriate action to help in this field. I make passing reference to the fact that now that the decision has been made to postpone the referendum in which was embodied proposals that would enable Aborigines to be counted in the next census, the position is that Queensland will be denied in the future the increase in taxation reimbursement which will accrue to it when Aborigines are counted in the census figures. This being so, we have the position where the Commonwealth directly assumes all the responsibilities in connection with expenditure for Aboriginal welfare in the Northern Territory and makes a sizable contribution through the Commonwealth Grants Commission to expenditure on Aboriginal welfare and in many other social welfare fields in Western Australia. But at this point in time, the Commonwealth makes no contribution in respect of the problem in Queensland.
Referring to the last available edition of the Commonwealth “ Year Book “ I found that Queensland in 1963-64 spent £852,500 in this field from Consolidated Revenue. Western Australia spent £774,854 from Consolidated Revenue while in the Northern Territory £1,522,608 was spent in this field from Consolidated Revenue also. Comparable figures for the current financial year show that the expenditure in the Northern Territory will be £1,759,000 and in Queensland £1,008,000. The “Year Book” shows also the comparable Aboriginal population in each of the States. We recognise, of course that there are great difficulties, because of the census position, in estimating the number of Aborigines in Australia.
The matter that I wish to place before the House is this: The Queensland Government in its wisdom has brought down new bills which, when assented to, will replace the present Aborigines Protection and Preservation Act and also the Torres Strait Islanders Act. The new legislation which will be proclaimed shortly envisages introducing new horizons in the field of Aboriginal welfare in Queensland. A number of the restrictions previously placed on Aborigines and Islanders will be removed by this legislation. It is obvious that the Queensland Government is now bringing its views up to date and is anxious to make an increased contribution in this field. We find that not only is it increasing the financial appropriation in its budget but also the staff of the Native Affairs Sub-Department of the Department of Health in the present financial year has risen from 1 83 to 250 when compared with the previous financial year. It follows that if the new legislation is to be carried out not only in sentiment but also in actual practice Queensland will be required to meet a greatly increased expenditure in this field. Because the proposed referendum is not being submitted now and because Aborigines will not be counted in the next census, Queensland will be denied funds which would otherwise have come to it.
I should like to give to the House a few examples of the sort of problems that have to be solved. I realize that these are not all problems which can be charged to Consolidated Revenue because some of them, 1 imagine, would quite properly be charged to the Loan Fund. Queensland has a great number of Aboriginal reserves and settlements. A serious problem exists in this regard. The problem is to create a system of incentives on these reserves and settlements. We must provide the people with decent housing and gainful employment and create a system under which those who are prepared to work can be given the proper training and can be settled in a rewarding occupation. This will mean the abolition of a lot of the practices which exist at the present time. For example, the Aborigines in these settlements are now provided with accommodation and with a ration hand out, and those who are able work for 32 hours a week for no payment, in return for the accommodation and ration provided for them.
It now follows that the desirable practice would be to pay these people award wages, charge them rent lor their homes and give them the free choice of going to stores, butcher shops and so on set up on the reserves, so that they may be properly prepared to take their places in the Australian community and can be brought up to the standards of our society even if they choose to remain in their own settlement.
There is also the problem of developing the reserves so that they may be brought into full production. For example at Cape York a great deal more could be done in the pastoral industry. The Jardine River could be dammed, proper roads could be built and other capital improvements effected on the reserve over a period.
We in this Parliament have paid much attention to northern developments but I do not visualise that any scheme of northern development can succeed while so many Aboriginal people who are living in the north and arc capable of making their contribution to northern development are denied an opportunity to do so because of the wage structure, neglect of education facilities and so on.
I am not saying that the position is not being improved. In recent decisions of the Arbitration Court, recent decisions of the State Government and recent decisions of of the Commonwealth on matters such as social services, repatriation benefits under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act and so on the whole tendency has been to effect improvements. But while giving credit for what has already been done I want to record in the House the fact that a great deal remains to be done and this can only be done in Queensland if the Commonwealth comes to the assistance of the State financially to a greater degree than it has done in the past. No Commonwealth money is spent for this purpose in Queensland, yet we know that Commonwealth money is spent in Western Australia and the Northern Territory in the ways that I have previously outlined. I ask the Government which has stated that there is no discrimination against Aborigines in Australia and which has taken ‘the view that the present disability contained in paragraph (xxvi) of section 51 of the Constitution does not prevent the Commonwealth from helping to promote the welfare and advancement of Aboriginal people to look now at the question whether under section 96 or elsewhere, it can assist Queensland with funds from Consolidated Revenue or loan moneys to enable that State to carry out improvements in Aboriginal welfare which I feel would have the support of every member of the House.
.- I make no apology for taking 10 minutes of the time of the House to bring forward a matter which I believe is of considerable interest and importance to the people of Australia and on which I think I will have the full support of honorable members on both sides of the House. On 8th March last, I submitted to the House a petition containing 7,507 signatures which had been obtained from people all over Australia and from a wide cross section of the community. They were obtained from judges, from seafarers, from yachtsmen, from lovers of tradition and from lovers of historic buildings. They all pleaded for the preservation of that historic building, the Customs House at Circular Quay, Sydney, and for its conversion into a national maritime museum.
We have been told that because the Customs House in its present form is too small to provide adequate accommodation for the requirements of the Department of Customs and Excise, the building will have to be demolished and new accommodation found for the Department. The petitioners to whom I have referred do not want the Customs House - this impressive sandstone monumental building of classic dignity with its Italianate facade and handsome coat of arms, this elegant, historic and charming building - to be ruthlessly demolished. It is felt that such an act of demolition would be nothing more than wanton vandalism on the part of any developer involved in the project. Its replacement by a rectangular monster of glass and concrete would be a heinous crime. I recall that Sir Robert Menzies said recently that the giant glass houses of modern architecture are robbing great cities of their character. I, and many thousands more, would heartily agree with him.
The Customs House is 82 years old. It was built in 1883 so perhaps it is not, in itself, historic. Two previous Customs
Houses were built on the same site or close to it. Historically they have housed officers of the Customs service who waged war on early smugglers in Sydney Cove. The site of the Customs House on the shore of Sydney Cove is beside the spot on which Governor Phillip raised the Union Jack on 26th January, 1788. It is, therefore, a site of great historic significance. In fact - this is most important - it is the birthplace of the British settlement in Australia and for that reason I believe that this is a matter which should have the attention and interest of all honorable members.
Britain has a National Maritime Museum which was founded in 1934 at Greenwich on the Thames. Some honorable members may know of it. That Museum is now a tremendous tourist attraction. The museum which I have suggested on behalf of the petitioners would be of great interest and a tremendous attraction to tourists, not only Australians from other parts of our country but also for tourists who are and will be flocking here as a result of the developing incidence of tourism. It is time that we took steps to retain something of our heritage. We are an island continent but we have no national museum to preserve our maritime lore. We believe that the proposed museum would be a live and useful place, a place of education. We envisage a garden square in front of the Customs House. I am sure those honorable members who know Circular Quay will have in their mind a picture of the area to which I refer. The square that we envisage could feature trees and perhaps provide a place for rest and relaxation. It would add to the charm of the famous Circular Quay and it could provide a worthy approach to the famed Sydney Opera House to be.
The people of Sydney have been very critical of the Commonwealth Government because for the accommodation of newly established departments and departments to be moved from other locations it has constructed buildings of unimaginative architectural design. One building in this category that comes to mind is the Commonwealth Centre in Sydney. We do not consider that that structure is of outstanding design. Honorable members will be aware, furthermore, of our great concern about the despoliation of the Sydney Harbour foreshores by various installations and in one location by the construction of houses for members of the Army. The people of Sydney believe that the actions of this Government in relation to the foreshores and in being party in recent years to the construction of buildings deficient in architectural merit would be to some extent compensated for if the Government could see its way clear to consider favorably the proposition that I now put forward and to retain the Customs House in its present charming form and convert it to use as a national maritime museum.
At this point. Sir, I would like to pay a tribute to three gentlemen with great foresight who have been responsible for putting forward the idea of preserving the Customs House at Circular Quay in its present form. The first is Mr. Doug. McBurney of Kirribilli, a retired engineer. The second is a man well known in sporting circles, I refer to Mr. Fred Lane of Mona Vale in Sydney, who has the honour of being Australia’s first successful Olympic swimmer, having won two medals in 1900. The third of these gentlemen is Captain Clive Henderson, President of the Ship Lovers Society. There are also legions of others whose names I could mention, but time will not permit me to do so. The gentlemen whom I have named have been leaders of the campaign to preserve the existing Customs House building and use it as a national maritime museum. The project is strongly supported by the New South Wales Government and the Sydney City Council. I hope that members of this House who love all things dear to Australia’s traditions and history also will support it. In conclusion, I plead with the Government to spare the Sydney Customs House from demolition and make it available for use as an Australian national maritime museum.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to direct the attention of the House to the need of the surf life saving movement of Australia, particularly in New South Wales, for direct financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. This Government can validly assist the movement under three heads of constitutional power - first, under its power to legislate in matters relating to health, .second, under its power to legislate with respect to. life assurance and, third, under its defence powers. Some weeks ago at Coledale, adjoining my constituency, there was an outstanding exhibition of bravery when six members of the surf life saving movement entered the surf and dragged to the shore a young man who was being attacked by a shark. They deserve national recognition and I have no doubt that both the Commonwealth and State Governments will sponsor the necessary approaches for a suitable honour to be given to them. The point I wish to make is that their gesture was spontaneous, they were all members of the surf life saving movement and surf life saving is as Australian as the kangaroo and the tradition of mateship.
Last Saturday we in Wollongong were honoured to have the State surf life saving championships. We had 2,500 surfers from 114 surf life saving clubs. It was a magnificent exhibition of virile healthy Australian manhood. The surf life saving movement is uniquely Australian as a form of athletic activity and public service. We evolved it. We instruct other countries in its practices and lead the world in methods of operation. This is a complex organisation. Indeed the organisation of a surf life saving club is as complex as any form of activity that I know. Membership of the surf life saving movement is a training both in public service and in citizenship. Above all, it is based on a tradition of voluntary service and has resisted all attempts at commercialisation.
The advantages of surf life saving from a national aspect are many in terms of publicity for Australia overseas, tourist publicity and stimulation of migration. Surf life saving presents a tremendous attraction to people overseas through posters, films, and publicity by the Press, television and radio for sunny beaches, surf boats and the glamour of surf boat competitions. The physique of the Australian citizen is itself a tremendous attraction. Added to that is the value of first aid training. More than 39,000 men have received the bronze medallion from the surf life saving movement. The standard of first aid required for the bronze medallion is comparable with that required for the St. John Ambulance Brigade certificate.
Surf life saving was founded officially in 1907. In New South Wales today there are 115 clubs. In 1949 a National Council was formed to combine the activities in the various States of Australia and there are now 220 surf life saving clubs in Australia. Active members number 15,000. Of these, 6,200 are in New South Wales. Another 8,100 are not on the New South Wales active list but are otherwise classified. There are some 2,000 juvenile members in New South Wales. In terms of its contribution to the prevention of juvenile delinquency alone the surf life saving movement has much to commend it.
I pass now to other and more serious reasons why I believe this movement is entitled to assistance from the National Government. Since its inception there have been 145,000 rescues from drowning throughout Australia, and about 300,000 cases have received direct first aid. In New South Wales, where surf life saving originated, there have been over 100,000 rescues from drowning. At present the New South Wales Government contributes annually £10,000 in financial aid. Queensland contributes £15,000, not as a direct grant but in the ratio of 7s. 6d. to the £1 for money raised. Victoria makes a direct grant of £10,000 to its 24 clubs and the Tasmanian Government makes a direct grant of £1,000. When we consider the advantages to the life assurance companies alone, the case becomes stronger than ever. In Australia today there are 7.3 million current life assurance policies covering the population of 11.4 million people. They are of various types - ordinary, industrial and superannuation. On that basis it could be fairly said that two out of every three people in Australia are carrying some form of life assurance. The average amount covered in each policy is approximately £800. The Commonwealth Government legislates directly in this regard. Taking it on a percentage basis of the number of rescues from drowning made in New South Wales last year - the total being 3,967 - the life assurance companies of Australia in that one State alone in that one year would have saved £2.1 million. For the whole of Australia the figure saved would be £3 million. Fire insurance companies contribute, by statute, to fire brigade costs. The principle is equally applicable to life assurance companies and surf life saving.
I do not want to reduce this matter to sordid commercial terms, but those are the stark realities. Let us consider the matter from another point of view. There is a torrent of publicity in the daily Press - and correctly so - about the road death toll. In Australia the road death toll is approximately 3,500 each year. Correctly, publicity is directed to minimise it, but how much publicity do we see concerning the total number of surf rescues - about 5,000 each year? There is nothing. Yet these men are doing a wonderful national service.
The national value of surf life saving clubs does not end with the rescue work. Let us consider another field. Let us consider the use of surf boats. Every adult member of a surf lue saving club at some stage in his career is trained in their use. I ask honorable members to recall the tragedy of the “ Renown “ and the “ Repulse “ which were proved to be antiquated in relation to the defence needs of an era when they were an open target for attack by aeroplanes. Today there is a very large school of naval strategic thought which believes that the aircraft carrier is a floating death trap. If the defence of Australia is to be put into reasonable and sensible terms the motor torpedo boat which can be launched from any point on the Australian coast will be of the utmost assistance. The motor torpedo boat is small, mobile and speedy and could be manned by these men. The national Government has given recognition to the rifle associations because of the training in marksmanship which is given by them. Similarly training in all the vagaries of wind and wave and water are of the utmost value to national defence. If ever a period of crisis comes to Australia these men will be playing their part. There is a strong case for direct national assistance. There should be an end to the members of this movement going round and rattling collection boxes and hawking raffle tickets. They are entitled to national assistance and it is up to this Government to see that they get it.
– I wish to refer briefly to a question I asked in Parliament on 9th March regarding a film on the Changi prisoner of war camp. The question was replied to in many newspapers - I saw it in three - by a letter from Mr. Colin H. C. Jones, Managing Director, Columbia Pictures Pty. Ltd.,
Sydney. Mr. Jones, in his letter to the Press began by saying -
As the importer and distributor of the film “ King Rat “ in Australia, we are rather surprised at the question raised in the Federal House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 9, by Mr. W. G. Turnbull, M.P.
I am rather surprised at the letter written by Mr. Jones which appeared in these newspapers and it is to that letter that I wish to refer. First, I do not want anything I say to cut across investigations that I have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to make. I have also asked him to make his findings known in a public statement in this House. I would not have spoken on this subject while the Prime Minister is making investigations but for the fact that I must do so while the subject is in the minds of the people who are reading these newspapers. On 9th March, in this House, I said -
I address a question to the Prime Minister because I regard this matter as one of great national importance. Will the right honorable gentleman make investigations with a view to making known whether the film “ King Rat “, currently being screened in Australia, is a true record of events in Changi prison camp, Singapore, or a money making project to the detriment of the reputation of many Australians and others who served in Malaya and who were imprisoned in Changi? If the Prime Minister will make the investigations as requested, will he make his findings the subject of a statement in this House?
Mr. Jones covers himself by saying: “He is reported . . .” There he is referring to me. I wish Mr. Jones would get his reports a bit more accurate. He says -
He is reported as asking the Prime Minister for an investigation to make known to the public whether the film is a true record of events in Changi Prisoner of War Camp during World War
. . .
I said that. He goes on to say - . . and if the film purported to be factual. Of course, I did not mention that in any way at all. No mention was made of it whatever. I just simply asked a straight question. Some newspapers made the comment that I had said certain things but “ Hansard “ is the record that proves this is wrong. Mr. Jones goes on to say -
When we received the print of the film we immediately showed it to Brigadier F. C. Galleghan, who was in supreme command of Changi;
That would be the joke of the century, that Brigadier Galleghan was in supreme command of Changi. Why, it was a Japanese prisoner of war camp. If he had been in supreme command, why did we stay there? This is absolutely ridiculous, but some people, reading it, might believe it. The Japanese were in supreme command. Brigadier Galleghan had some authority, or authority over the Australians, but only the authority that was allowed to him by the Japanese, and it was fairly limited. Going on with this matter quickly, I want to say that Mr. Jones went on to state that they had put the film before certain other people and apparently they had agreed that it should be screened. 1 do not care whether Brigadier Galleghan or anybody else agreed to it. I think it is in very bad taste. The letter continues - . . we agreed to recommend to the producer that each print of the picture in Australia should carry a foreword. This foreword was created by Brigadier Galleghan, the Producers’ Representatives in New York and ourselves.
Mr. Jones went on to set out the foreword, which states, inter alia - “ King Rat “ is pure fiction … 1 particularly want to stress that it was the discipline, mateship and splendid morale of the men of all nations and all ranks in Changi that alone allowed them to survive three and a half years of deprivation and brutality.
This is a little bit put in to break down the real effect of the film. The passage is shown at the start of the film, but by the time the people see what is purported to be happening in Changi they forget altogether about the foreword. The whole point that I want to make is that I asked the Prime Minister so that he would be able in the Commonwealth Parliament to make the announcement that this is fictional. It is not enough to have something just at the start of the picture. Many people do not see the foreword at all. Many have asked me whether such and such a thing really happened. They have forgotten all about what was written at the start. Why should the name Changi have been used? I believe that it was used only because this picture is trading on the suffering of the men in that camp. There is not the slightest doubt in the world about that. The makers of the film could have used some other name, some fictional name. They could have said: “These are events that happened in the prison camp at Bologa “ - a name that people do not know about at all. Would people rush along to see a film with that title? Certainly they would not. The name
Changi was used as a money making proposition, and no man can deny this.
Let me give the House an example. If we had a caricature of a parliament, with members sitting around, and said, “ This is the Parliament of Mudjimo “, no-one could take much offence at it, because after all it would be some fictional parliament. But if you said, “ This is a film of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia”, having said at an earlier stage, “But what is happening is only fictional “, you would be quickly summoned to appear before the Privileges Committee and you might spend six months in gaol. Because the men who were at Changi have not a privileges committee to deal with matters such as this, many people are gaining a view of what happened in that camp different from the one they had before seeing the film “ King Rat”. I am sorry that Mr. Jones had to write this letter because the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) is investigating the matter. I bring this up today to give a little more publicity to the facts. Even the producers of the film have stated in their letter that the film was based entirely on fiction. An assurance to this effect appears at the beginning of the film. But this is not enough. I believe that the name “ Changi “ should never have been used in a film of this nature, and for my part, and on behalf of many men whom I knew in that camp, I condemn the use of the name Changi in “King Rat”.
– I wish to speak about housing problems, particularly as they affect the city of Sydney where the housing situation is desperate. Since the Liberal Government took over in New South Wales we have heard not one word on the subject of housing from the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). The honorable member is a friend of mine. At one time we were both members of the Sydney County Council. During that period he had the idea of buying a coal mine. He took me with him to inspect the mine that we were going to purchase. We got our lanterns and went down to have a look at the mine. On the way back we lost our lanterns and we both could have been heard praying to get out of the mine. When we got to the surface he said: “I will never say a word against the miners again “. Instead of being black from the coal we were as white as snow because we thought we were going to lose our lives. That was the end of the coalmining venture.
Then as an estate agent the honorable member started telling us how to do this and that. He told us that we should put two or three girls into each room in the Greenway housing project of the New South Wales Housing Commission. He said that no girl should have a flat or a room of her own. I understand that in his electorate alone there are hundreds of homes from which many members of the original families have moved, the result being that in some homes that have seven or eight rooms only two persons are living. I am not suggesting that we should pack people into rooms or homes belonging to other people, but I do direct attention to the fact that the honorable member for Bennelong frequently told us over a period of 10 years of the shortcomings of the Labour Government in New South Wales in the housing field, although that Government built more homes than the New South Wales Liberal Government and Sir John Cramer himself will build in the next hundred years at the rate they are going.
The New South Wales Government is allowing all sorts of tricks. Representatives of oil companies, for instance, buy up groups of houses, remove the tenants and then demolish the houses. I know of one case in which an oil company bought ten houses in Glebe Road. In many of those old houses there were four or five pensioners each paying £2 or £2 10s. a week for a room. When I visited this place in response to a request from one of the tenants I asked what agreement had been entered into. I was told that a man had arrived and said to one of them: “ You are the head tenant. We will give $1,000 for the key”. The person to whom the off;r was made said: “What is going to happen to the people left behind in the houses? They have been paying me rent and they have been with me for five, ten or fifteen years”. The oil company representative said: “ Never mind about them, we will put a bulldozer through them”. That is the situation in New South Wales today under a Liberal Government.
I had the good fortune to visit New Zealand three weeks ago. I believe that instead of condemning things that are done in New Zealand our housing authorities should go to that country and have a look around. That is a place where the Government is really acting with sincerity in an effort to give not only the young people but also the older people some justice. In New Zealand child endowment is paid at the rate of 15s. per child, no matter how many there are in the family. A family with 20 children would receive 20 times 15s. per week. In New Zealand if a man and his wife have two children - whether twins or born separately - they receive £1,000 from the Government. For one child they receive £500. The money is either paid into the bank or to their solicitor and they can approach a bank and borrow £2,800 in addition to that £1,000.
Before proceeding, let me explain that the man with two children who receives this £1,000 does not also receive child endowment, so that over a period the cost to the Government is no greater. If a third child arrives the parents receive for it endowment of 15s. per week. Some of the cases I have been told about would seem to indicate that if, for some reason, after the birth of two children the parents are rot fully entitled to the £1,000 grant, the arrival of the third child often makes them eligible for it. I understand that the rale of interest on housing finance in New Zealand is about 4 per cent., and the legal eagles here can easily ascertain exactly what the rate is. Acres and acres of land are set aside for home building and young people, working at weekends, can build themselves decent homes at low cost.
Coming now to the prices of commodities, butter in New Zealand costs 2s. per lb. in most stores and at Coles stores it can be obtained for ls. 10 3/4 d per lb. Of course butter is subsidised there. In New Zealand milk is delivered for 4id. a pint and a 2 lb. loaf of bread is delivered for ls. Commodity prices, apart from that, are something in keeping with those in New South Wales. The New Zealand Government is catering, in the first place, for a man and his wife who want to rear a family, and secondly, for the children. Children well fed with milk, bread and butter at reasonable prices seem to get on all right.
– What about potatoes?
– I think the price varies the same as anywhere else, according to supply and demand. Over there I met the mayor of a city. He could be taken for a brother of the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack), being of the same build and having the same country of origin. He showed me the homes being built for aged people and others there. He has never been anything but a Labour man and is a member of an Independent council at present. This all goes to show that if you are honest and do away with greed for interest and high profits something can be done to house the people. I read in this morning’s Press that an extra $15 million is to be made available by the Commonwealth for housing. That is what always happens just before an election, but in the next two years after an election if you want housing finance you have to go and look for it. I hope and trust that this Government will do something in this respect.
I turn now to aged persons’ homes. I understand that all credit should go to Dame Pattie Menzies for the scheme under which there was a subsidy of £1 for £1 in respect of aged persons’ homes. We wanted to make the subsidy £2 for £1, but the Liberal Party would not hear of that for some time. However, to the credit of whoever was responsible, a subsidy of £2 for £1 is now an established fact. In my electorate in Sydney there are over 5,000 pensioners. Some of them, as I explained earlier, have* been thrown out of their homes and have nowhere to go. There is no home for aged ladies in the vicinity of the City of Sydney. There is a home for men built by the Sydney County Council in Hereford Street, Glebe, in which 60 men are well provided for. I appeal to this Government, if land can be obtained from local government or other bodies, to do something about this matter. I think it is a fair proposition to ask the Government to lend the necessary money. One thing is that it will not give money to councils or local government bodies in any shape or form, or to State Governments, for this purpose.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This is technically grievance day, but I hope I will be forgiven if I turn it, for a few moments, into a thanksgiving day. I believe that not only myself but many others will wish to tender the thanks of the whole of the members of the Desert Mounted Corps to the Government. It is right and proper that I should express these thanks in this place following the announcement that was made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) this morning. Many of us, for a long time, have been asking that another replica of the Desert Mounted Corps memorial originally erected on the Suez Canal just outside Port Said should be erected on a readily accessible sit in Australia. As the Minister said, the fund for the original memorial was started by the contribution of a day’s pay from every member of the Corps. We have been asking that a second replica should be placed in Canberra. May I therefore, on behalf of, I think from memory 28 Desert Mounted Corps ex-servicemen’s associations in Australia, and on behalf of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Association - which also has been associated with us in this request - tender our very heartfelt gratitude and warm thanks to the Government for the decision announced this morning.
It is unfortunate that the original statue was destroyed. We are not in any way jealous of Albany for having the first replica of the memorial erected there. In fact, I think all of us felt honoured that this particular statue, or its replica, should have been erected at Albany as a memorial or a reminder that that was the spot where the first Australian convoy was assembled at the end of 1914. It was assembled in King George’s Sound, where it was later joined by some New Zealand ships, and took the first troops to Egypt. However, we did think that Albany was somewhat remote. It is picturesque, it is a fine port, but it does not have the advantage of being central, or in a position where those of the Desert Mounted Corps who are still alive, their relatives and descendants, can come and see this very fine piece of statuary. It is one of the finest equestrian statues in the world today, and now that it is to be erected in Anzac Avenue I am sure that we are all delighted. As I have said, we want to thank the Government most sincerely for the decision announced today.
May I make one further suggestion, namely that on the base of the statue - which will be a low base and not a high base - tablets should be placed setting out the various units of the Desert Mounted Corps. This Memorial is a Corps memorial. It is just not an Australian Light Horse memorial, although the spirit of the statue is undoubtedly symbolised by horsemen. It is a Desert Mounted Corps memorial. The Australian Flying Corps was part of the Desert Mounted Corps. Air Vice Marshal Williams was one of the very active people who supported the request to the Government that a second replica should come to Canberra.
Colonel Rex Hall of the Camel Corps also joined with us in our representations and has done a tremendous amount of work in putting the case before the Government. I would like to mention also Mr. Clive Newman, an old Light Horseman and former Auditor-General. Others have contributed their efforts and I hope they will excuse me if I do not mention them all individually. The Desert Mounted Corps included the Light Horse, the Camel Corps, the Australian Flying Corps and also all the base units, the hospitals and the lines of communication units. I offer the suggestion that a tablet should be placed on the base of the statutary, stating the various units of the Desert Mounted Corps, because to name only the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division would not make a complete record.
I join with me in my remarks the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who has been working with me for many months now in this matter. He asked the question; I am rendering the thanks. We are very grateful to the Government. We believe that the memorial will be a great asset to the National Capital. I am perfectly sure that if members of the Corps cannot attend the unveiling, they will certainly make every effort to see it when it is erected in Anzac Parade.
.- I support the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) in this matter. We will see that it is attended to after the next election. I wish to raise a matter which I think is of great interest to the people of Australia, this House and its members. I refer to the decision of the Government not to proceed with the referendum proposed last year. The Government’s announcement that it does not intend to proceed at present with the referendum is an arrogant assumption of rights which do not reside with the Cabinet or Executive Government and ought not to be tolerated. On 15th February last the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) announced that Cabinet had decided to inform the Parliament that the Government would recommend to the GovernorGeneralinCouncil that he not issue a writ for the holding of a referendum and so on.
The Constitution is precise on the subject. It states that after certain procedures have been carried out and the legislation has passed through both Houses of Parliament, the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote. No power of discretion lies with the Government in this matter. It is a provision of the Constitution and the Government cannot properly make a decision of this nature. It is significant that in section 128, which relates to the situation where only one House passes a law, the word used is “ may “. The Government has no discretion in the matter.
This Parliament is accepting the decision lying down, in a way which should not be tolerated. All the procedures have been carried out and the law has been passed by both Houses. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives on 11th November last and was passed with an absolute majority on 23rd November. It was returned by the Senate on 2nd December without amendment after being passed by an absolute majority and was forwarded by Mr. Speaker to the Governor-General on 13 th December with a certificate in these terms -
This proposed law originated in the House of Representatives on the second day of December One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five and finally passed both Houses of the Parliament. There was an absolute majority of each House to the passing of the proposed law. In accordance with section 128 of the Constitution the proposed law is required to be submitted to the electors.
The certificate was signed by Mr. Speaker. The failure of the Government to proceed in this matter is offensive to the Aboriginal people. I am referring particularly to the proposed amendment to section 127. The Government’s decision is contrary to the Constitution, because the provision of the Constitution is precise. I believe that it is an arrogant assumption of rights which do not lie within the Cabinet. It might be said that it is a piece of dictatorship which ought not to be tolerated. I believe that it is a breach of privilege.
The correct procedures have been followed and the requirements of the Constitution have been carried out. I believe that it is a breach of privilege.
I believe that members of the Parliament would be remiss in their duty if they allowed the Executive Government of this country to get away any longer with its proposed action. I have had only a few minutes to grieve on behalf of the citizens of Australia.
– Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock and in accordance with Standing Order No. 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question -
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 16th March (vide page 338), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the House take note of the following paper -
State of Policy by New Government -
Ministerial Statement, 8th March 1966.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ this House records -
its most emphatic opposition to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country, and
its disapproval and grave concern at the Government’s failure -
to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community;
to retain an adequate and proper Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in Northern Australia:
to alleviate the effects of the drought and take steps to rehabilitate rural industries and conserve water resources;
to make adequate provision for housing and associated community facilities, and
to submit to referendum the two
Bills to alter the Constitution in respect of Aborigines and the Parliament which were passed last year and, in connection with the latter Bill, to disclose the related distribution proposals “.
.- In the course of this debate I want to refer particularly to the report of the Vernon Committee. In doing so at this time I wish to complain about the way in which the business of this House has been conducted by Une Government. Until a few hours before we commenced business in this place on Tuesday of last week, after a recess, it was not possible to discover what business would be coming forward on that day or the order of business. Last Thursday evening I had hoped to be able to speak in the debate on the Vernon Committee report, but I found that the time allotted for the debate had run out. As there were no more Government supporters to put forward the Government case, members of the Opposition, several of whom were available, were not allowed an opportunity to speak to the report until this week in this debate. That is why I take this opportunity to comment on it. I feel that there is a strong obligation on the Opposition to discuss this report which is one of the most important reports that have been brought before the Parliament for many years. Although it is a tremendously voluminous report which cost more than $i million to compile and which contains some thousands of pages, we are expected to discuss it within 20 minutes.
I want to refer particularly to the former Prime Minister’s violent attack on the planning proposals and projections of the Vernon Committee. His attack makes it clear that the battle lines over long-term economic policy have now been drawn. The whole world has accepted the desirability and urgent need for planned development and for guided growth. But Australia’s reactionary head-in-the-sand leaders defy this trend. Backed by their Treasury “ Yes “ men, officials schooled in economic doctrines long since superseded, the Government’s leaders have re-affirmed their faith in stability, in free enterprise and in muddling along in a mindless do-nothing about the long term. This is an approach that is making Australia a laughing stock among liberal thinkers everywhere. The philosophy behind the former Prime Minister’s remarks on the Vernon report is an old one - as old as aggressive capitalism itself. Its nearest parallel is to be found in the terrible hatred for F. D. Roosevelt’s New Deal on the part of American big business circles in the 1930’s. The controllers of private industry were then captives of obsolete economic doctrines. They instinctively resisted the new diagnoses and new policies. Yet the New Deal advocates came to power with a clearer view than the professional administrators of how the United States Government might intervene to bring prosperity. But certain reactionary politicians have not learnt from this experience.
In 1965 we were presented with the ideas of an expert committee on how the Government could intervene in the economy to increase the growth rate and solve chronic economic problems. But the then Prime Minister is the real prisoner, in this day and age, of the most discredited economic doctrines at a time when the world economy urgently requires a new dynamism and rapid economic development in all countries. We should nevertheless welcome his statement. It was a rare statement of the Government’s real intentions in the economic field - to sit back and to do no planning. Any statement, however odious, is better than the undisclosed and secret official economic tinkering of which the Treasury is the acknowledged master. Those of us who wondered how the then Prime Minister would treat the recommendations of the Vernon Committee need not have bothered. There is another document, a rarer statement, that had already let the Government’s real attitude to planning, to a faster growth rate and to new economic ideas out of the bag. I refer to the Treasury White Paper on “The Australian Economy 1962 “. This is indeed a remarkable document. It contains a partisan account of the recent course of our economy, an account which reveals to a disturbing degree the extent to which certain Treasury officials will forsake objective analysis to please their Ministerial chiefs. Its analysis is at the level of a first year economics student. But this is not its most significant feature.
Its real importance is found in its last pages. In this relatively unpublished and unknown section is contained the first rounds of the ammunition supplied to the former Prime Minister for use on the Vernon Committee. We are therefore entitled to look closely at this arsenal of ideologically committed laissez faire dogmas. The White Paper said that forward thinking is - . . based upon certain assumptions as to how our economy prefers to organise itself and what the role of government in it is to be. Hitherto it has been, and still is, preponderantly a free enterprise economy … the underlying presumption is that, given the right facilities and economic climate, private enterprise will advance growth further, and along lines more acceptable to the community, than any alternative system would.
What is completely lacking in this servile endorsement of the personal opinions of a few top Ministers, and in the former Prime Minister’s statement on the Vernon report, is any recognition that forward thinking would gain in consistency and purposefulness if it were extended into a national economic plan. Nowhere do the nineteenth century ideologists of free enterprise even see that modern capitalism has much to gain from the more favorable economic climate that would result if the Government set itself and the nation a set of targets.
For the then Prime Minister to say that this would be incompatible with free enterprise and that no alternative to the present procedures of economic policy making would be acceptable to the community is a monstrous piece of question begging and a display of astonishing arrogance. He says “ turn “ and we all turn. Does he expect a modern industrial nation to conduct itself on this principle? Does he think his posturings in this matter have the support of modern private industry itself? The facts are otherwise. The intelligent sections of manufacturing industries and transport sections have been clamouring for industrial targets to be announced by the Government. It is now clear that Treasury officials were told - I repeat, told - to defend the
Menzies refusal to contemplate any form of overall economic planning. The Vernon Committee was set up to look at the needs of the economy after the bungling, stop-go policies pursued by these same Treasury officials prior to 1963. They have always hated the Vernon Committee. Its very existence was a monument to their bungling, a bungling that resulted mainly from the web of ideological nonsense about the evils of planning that they had spun for themselves. And now they have had their revenge.
In the months that elapsed between the Cabinet’s receipt of the report of the Vernon Committee and the former Prime Minister’s rubbishing of the report in this House, the Treasury was a virtual hive of activity. Various financial journalists and economists began to receive Treasury studies on topics highlighted in the Vernon report. Whispers started that the report’s forecasting and projections were hopelessly wrong. The political and financial commentators were softened up for the torpedoes that were to follow when the Prime Minister was ready to push the button. I want to say about the behaviour of the Treasury in this matter that what was done in the backstabbing of the Vernon Committee represents a most extraordinary and audacious bid by Treasury to become the undisputed master of both long-term and short-term economic policy in Australia. The method used was to mount an intellectual attack on the arguments of the Vernon Committee and to feed it to everyone in journalism, in business and in the universities who would listen. The Treasury begins by attacking planning and forecasting. By pointing to alleged errors made by the Vernon Committee it seeks neatly to rubbish any effort to introduce more planning into the management of the Australian economy. What is involved here is a sleight of hand trick which aims to confuse two different processes under the one blanket term of “ planning “. In fact, planning consists both of a set of analytical techniques and projects and the policies and actions used to implement chosen targets. By criticising the forecasts and projections of the Vernon Committee, the Treasury aims to throw doubt on all other aspects of the planning process.
There are, of course, pitfalls and difficulties involved in making long term projections. This is well known in the Planning Commission of Holland, France, Japan and India. But the economists and planners of those countries have never gone on to draw the conclusion that their achievements with economic growth have not been due to planning in the sense of mobilising efforts and policies and methods of implementation. By contrast, the Australian Treasury in its 1962 White Paper and its criticism of the Vernon Committee’s report has done everything possible to ensure that just this conclusion is drawn. In its White Paper, the Treasury reached the height of absurdity when it said, in relation to planning, that what suits older, more mature economies may be quite wrong for an economy like ours which is still in a frontier stage of economic development. For years, reactionary economists have argued that planning is suited only to rapidly developing economies. But now that Holland, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom have planning commissions, suddenly the Government’s advisers find that planning is suitable to them and not to younger, rapidly developing countries. How ridiculous this is. Many people have objected to the forms the planning has taken in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Poland and other East European countries. They have objected to planning methods adopted in India, Ceylon and African countries. But no-one has ever maintained that, on the evidence, planning has had a cramping and restrictive effect on the economic development of those countries. The Australian Treasury’s assessment of this matter is unique and reaches the height of absurdity.
What is the basis of the Treasury’s attack on the Vernon Committee’s report, both through the former Prime Minister’s outburst and its various other channels? The main argument seems to be that every major suggestion for a change in policy or a change in the structure of the economy is accompanied by some reference to the projections set out in Appendix D and Appendix N of the report. If it can be shown that these projections contain errors, all the major criticism and recommendations fall to the ground. Secondly, the Vernon Committee is accused of desiring a target growth rate of 5 per cent, in the gross national product, something that the Governor of the Reserve Bank has been advocating for more than five years. TheTreasury argues that in urging this the Vernon Committee is following a statistical illusion - that it will bring about changes only in the particular items that make up the gross national product at a particular point of time. The Treasury arsenal’ then provides a minute criticism of specific projections of the Vernon Committee. It says that the rate of growth of the labour force is slowing down and not, as the Committee suggests, tending to accelerate. It says that the whole notion of a likely balance of payment prices in a decade is completely wrong headed. To back this, the Vernon Committee is accused of understating likely mineral export earnings by at least a third. It is accused of guessing the likely trend in manufacturing exports and of guessingwrongly. It is accused of assuming that the rate of earning on foreign capital will be 8 per cent., involving an outflow of foreign exchange averaging £212 million a year. The Treasury says that on recent experience the figures should be 6 per cent, and £160 million respectively, concluding that trends in foreign capital inflow do not justify the concern that the Vernon Committee has expressed on this matter.
I will concede that on these various matters about projections there is room for considerable and genuine disagreement. A number of economists have said that the Vernon Committee’s remarks on foreign capital are more realistic than the Treasury’s estimates, since the Treasury figures refer to the past five years which include two years of serious recession. Therefore, the Treasury’s ideas on likely earning rates on foreign capital may be too conservative. The former Prime Minister made great play of the 6 per cent, rather than the 8 per cent, in his attempts to destroy the Vernon Committee’s report. His dogmatism on this matter is not, however, shared by the Australian Labour Party nor by a large section of the economists and financial journalists of Australia.
All this shows the futility of the approach adopted by the Government to discredit the Vernon Committee’s report. There is room for genuine disagreement with any forecast and projections. There can be no question of the former Prime Minister being completely right and the Vernon Committee completely wrong. Doubtless there is some truth in the extraordinary detailed criticism made by the Treasury of particular projections in the Vernon Comittee’s report. But the usefulness of this detailed criticism depends largely on a consideration of the motives, of the Vernon Committee in making the projections and of the way in which they were limited and constrained in their investigation. If we imagine, as I believe to be the case, that the Vernon Committee relied largely on its common sense and a broad approach, much of the very detailed attacks on its projections are less significant.
What the Committee seems to be saying is not that each trend will definitely change by a definite rate or amount. Rather, the Committee describes the broad pattern and structure of the Australian economy and then says that, if we want to get away from this, we will probably need to take certain courses of action and change certain priorities. Tt is also important to note that because of limitations on its terms of reference the Vernon Committee was not able to do what the National Economic Development Council in Britain did - that is, to choose a growth rate for the United Kingdom economy and then spend most of its work in seeing how this could be achieved. Consequently, there is something of a confusion in the report between two separate things - a growth rate set as a target rate, and a growth rate that is likely to be achieved. This confusion is understandable when intelligent and tough minded men like Sir John Crawford are put on to an expert committee and then hamstrung by a Government directive that it does not want to hear about certain things that are actually crucial to the whole project.
The Opposition does not endorse everything in the Vernon Committee’s report. The report is the work of conservatives, of businessmen and friends of the Government. It avoids all comment on capitalism as a just and efficient system. It omits completely problems of improving the distribution of income. It is silent on taxation and fiscal policy generally. Its sections on the causes of price rises are sketchy and bolstered by the untrue argument that we have been putting too big a strain on the economy when in fact, as shown by successive reports of the Department of Trade and Industry, productive capacity has been almost continuously under-employed. The section of the report on wage policy is a shocker. It contains a theory of inflation that would not do credit to the most immature student. Its recommendations on wage policy exclude cost of living adjustments of any kind. If we are to deal with these recommendations, then, according to a recent study by Professor E. A. Russell, the implementation of a wage policy of the kind advocated in the Vernon Committee’s report would have led to a fall in the share of wages in national income from 60.5 pet cent, to 46.4 per cent, over the period from 1945 to 1964. But we believe that the report does show what can be done and reveals the value of having a real programme whose elements are clarified and made consistent with one another.
The most democratic and efficient way for this work to be continued and to become part of the political and economic life of Australia is for the Government to contain a Ministry of Economic Affairs to study and recommend policies about long term planning and management of the economy. I was opposed to the workings of the British National Economic Development Council when it became clear that it was acting as a bargaining area for an incomes policy as much as it was acting as a planning authority. The British Government quite rightly moved away from “ Neddy “ to a full planning ministry. The best arrangements in Australia would be for the restrictive and conservative Treasury to stay out of planning and to stick to short term management and the preparation of budgets. The long term projections on fixed investment, inter-sectional relationship in the economy and other planning problems should be done by a Ministry of Economic Affairs. This body should make the technical studies and take the decisions. This would be the democratic way. The Minister concerned would be responsible to Parliament and ultimately to the electorate. He could be questioned and he would be held responsible for plans. There would then be less suspicion of the motives and self interest of members of the planning authority, a suspicion, I confess, that must inevitably arise with an outside national economic advisory council.
The former Prime Minister’s criticism of the Vernon Committee’s report should not distract attention from the fact that fundamental questions were not asked in the report. No-one asked whether production for profit rather than social use perverts our society and our personal lives. There was no serious discussion of the way in which our productive capacity can be systematically expanded without causing serious inequalities in the distribution of income. Progress was seen as a process of movements in various economic indicators, and no-one on the Vernon Committee dared to ask whether progress had become a mad rush to satisfy artificial appetites, stimulated by advertising techniques which appeal to envy, snobbery and a sense of inferiority. The report has a message of hope - that more can be done with social investments out of the higher wealth that would result from planning. But it did not, and could not, say anything about the ordering of Australian social priorities. After all, the Liberal Party in office is the public mask of property and of an almost unchecked rampage of the profit motive. Its task is to beguile the voters and to suggest that capitalism now wears a benevolent smile. But sometimes the mask drops, and before it can be slipped on again we have caught a glimpse of the hard face behind it. On this occasion a petulant Prime Minister attacked the Vernon Committee in a way that was bound to be embarrassing even to other Government members.
.- Time will not allow me to answer in detail the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden). Suffice to say that if the Government adopted the attitude he suggests in relation to the Vernon report it would certainly be inflexible, because he would have us believe that we should either adopt the Vernon report in full or not at all. By so doing we would have to implement the Vernon report irrespective of current conditions. I mention as an illustration the recent drought in Queensland and New South Wales. Under his proposition there would be no room to enable the State or Commonwealth Governments to provide assistance. I heard an Opposition member interject that there would be no drought. That is exactly what some Opposition members would like. They would like to be able to control the weather, and they would do so if they had their way and could control it.
On 8th March the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) delivered to this chamber a comprehensive report. It was his first in this chamber as Prime Minister. He covered many issues related to our economy, drought relief, rural finance, defence, the Vietnamese situation - and he mentioned the Vietnam medal, which I am sure we were all pleased to hear about - national development and immigration. On 15th March the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) replied to the Prime Minister’s statement and moved a complicated amendment. After moving it he spoke at length on the issues related to using conscripts for overseas service. He did not cover all that the Prime Minister mentioned in his remarks a week earlier. I mention this because I believe it is the prerogative and duty of the Leader of the Opposition on occasions like this to cover everything brought forward by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition is given unlimited time to cover such subjects, whereas following speakers are limited to 20 minutes.
I draw the attention of members to this morning’s “ Age “ and to a leading article headed “ Mr. Calwell on Vietnam “. Naturally I have not sufficient time to read out all the report, but I advise anyone who has not read it to do so for his own benefit. Generally speaking the Opposition was critical of the Government’s activities in South Vietnam. Likewise it was critical of national service training and of national service trainees being sent abroad. A number of Opposition interjectors during the Prime Minister’s statement indicated that they would like the Government to announce categorically that we are officially at war. I remind the Opposition of the situation in the period 1943-1945. The Prime Minister was about to refer to this period this morning but obviously one Opposition member - the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) who is not in the chamber at present - did not like what he thought the Prime Minister was about to say, so he raised a point of order and the message was not delivered to the chamber.
– Order! The point of order was not upheld.
– And rightly so, Sir. I agree with your ruling. My point is that during that period the Australian Labour Party was in power. There was conscription then and troops were sent abroad. It could be said that a line was drawn as to how far the Government should be committed to sending troops abroad.
– There was a declared war then.
– Yes, and there is a shooting war going on now. I can see no difference. As far as the line I referred to was concerned, it was like trying to stop a river at a given point. Unless a dam is built a river knows no boundaries. War knows no boundaries. Conscripts were then serving in New Guinea and in Borneo to my knowledge, and I do not know in what other areas they served. It cannot be said that the present proposal is unique or that it is the first time we have proposed sending conscripts overseas. I want to quote now from “Mufti”, the Victorian Returned Services League paper, containing a report of a statement by the Victorian President of the organisation. The article states - “ Our troops in Vietnam are probably the finest we have ever committed to action,” the Victorian RSL State President, Mr. W. H. Hall, said following his return from Vietnam and Malaysia recently.
I cannot quote the whole article, but another small paragraph that I am sure the Opposition will be glad to hear reads as follows -
The Australian troops to whom he spoke freely expressed the opinion they would rather be fighting the Communists in Vietnam than fighting Chinese Communists in Australia.
I should like the Opposition, and anyone else who may be interested, to remember that. Where do we fight our enemy? In his territory or in our territory? I draw attention to what the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday last. He said -
The third observation the Prime Minister made was that the Vietnam war is of greater interest to Australia than it is to the United States. This is not so. It is completely false. The United States went into Vietnam before Australia did. . . .
For the life of me I cannot understand the attitude of Opposition members in relation to this matter. What do they want? Are they prepared to let Australia fall? Of course Australia has a bigger interest in South East Asia than the United States of America has. After all, what is America doing there? She is looking after our interests and the interests of the free countries of the world. Having regard to the contribution being made by the United States, I think it is only right for the Government to increase our commitment from 1,500 troops to 4,500. Even allowing for the differences in population or on a pro rata basis, United States troops in South Vietnam outnumber Australian by 12 to 1. We have a responsibility to play our part in this area. After all, if the war in South East Asia extends it will be in the direction of Australia and the closer it comes to our shores the more problems we will face. From time to time the Leader of the Opposition has said that the conflict in South Vietnam is a job for the United Nations. Does he suggest that the United Nations should jump in and offer its services in the form of troops? Is so, what countries would supply the troops? It cannot be forgotten that we are a member of the United Nations.
I turn now to national service training. I agree with national service training but, like many other honorable members, I do not like the ballot system. I think objection to the ballot is fairly widespread but what is the alternative if you require only a limited number of men? Other countries have faced a similar problem. Most of them lay down a hard and fast rule of calling up everybody. Undoubtedly there are plenty of anomalies associated with the ballot system where, simply on the luck of the draw, one man is exempt from call up and another suffers hardship by reason of being called up and having to serve his time. I would draw attention particularly to the position of twins. I have raised this matter on other occasions in this chamber and with officers of the Department of Labour and National Service and with the Minister for Labour and National Service. Under the present system, it is possible to have two or three members of one family serving at the one time. It seems a little unfair in the case of twins that both should be called up when their neighbour in the appropriate age group is not called up.
In one case that I know of the twins, having been called up, tossed a coin to see who would apply for deferment. In due course, the winner of the toss applied for and obtained deferment. In another case, one of the twins was working on a farm. He may have considered that his work was of a little more importance than that of his twin brother. He automatically applied to have his call up deferred. The magistrate granted him deferment of four months only. His position is now due for revision. It seems to me that the two cases I have mentioned are identical. However, in one case a magistrate unhesitatingly granted 12 months’ deferment while in the other case there was a lot of doubt as to whether 4 months deferment could be granted. I submit that in cases such as these there should be a right of appeal, as there is in the field of repatriation, where an applicant has available to him two appeals. I do not know that two avenues of appeal are necessary in these cases but where a young man feels that he is suffering hardship by being called up and unsuccessfully seeks to have his call up deferred by a magistrate, he should have the right of appeal.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s announcement about rural finance. I congratulate the Government on its decision to make $50 million available for rural finance. At first glance this appears to be a substantial amount, but we must remember that we are talking in dollars and not pounds. It is only £25 million and, having regard to the ravages of the drought in some parts of Australia, I do not think £25 million will go very far. One hopes that this amount is only an instalment. We know that for some time the Commonwealth Development Bank has been very cooperative and that its efforts have been crowned with success, but in my opinion the terms under which loans are made by the Bank are a bit on the tough side. This is no doubt due to the Bank’s shortage of finance. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) tell me in answer to a question yesterday that the Bank’s long term loans would be over a period of 15 years or more. So often the expression “ long term “ means a period of fewer than 15 years. It is now up to the Bank to decide on rates of interest. Many people are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the conference to be held later today between the Treasurer and representatives of the banks.
I was pleased to hear the announcement that our immigration laws are to be changed. I think members of all political parties represented in this Parliament agree that our immigration policy must work to Australia’s advantage in the long term.
Australia has no real racial problems. Not many countries can say that they have no racial problems. One recalls the disturbances in the United States and what has happened in the United Kingdom, the African States and South East Asia. No doubt many of the problems that now arise in these countries could have been avoided if the right action had been taken years ago. We in Australia enjoy many advantages over other countries. We have room to expand. There is plenty of room for an increased population. There is scope to increase our food production. We have the privilege of living in a country with a predominantly homogenous population.
I think I speak for almost everybody in Australia when I say that we do not support discrimination except when it is to the advantage of the people concerned. Our present policy in this regard must be maintained at all costs. The Government has announced that non-Europeans in this country may apply for naturalisation after five years residence. Hitherto the residential qualification was 15 years. This relaxation of the residential qualification will remove one of the barriers which these people faced. It has been welcomed by many of them. But the picture is not all rosy. Some of the other aspects of our immigration policy announced by the Prime Minister will not be received altogether as favorably in some countries as we would have hoped. To my mind, any alteration in our immigration laws that would increase the number of people who would not be able to be integrated into our way of life would be a very dangerous move indeed. I would always oppose any move that I thought would encourage entry to Australia of the type of people who, in their turn, would encourage discrimination. This could only lead to more discrimination in the long run.
I welcome the opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on his first speech in this House as Prime Minister of Australia and to say that I wish him well. May he be spared to hold that position for many years to come.
.- I do not want to say much at this stage about Vietnam because I know that we are to have a foreign affairs debate, probably next week. I cannot let the opportunity go, though, without taking up the challenge laid down by different Government speakers who have denigrated the Australian Labour Party as an isolationist Party. I would have expected the spirit of the Labour Party in its concern for international affairs to be well known to all Government members by now. After all, we have been accused of being preoccupied with allegiance to the United Nations Organisation. My predecessor in the electorate of Barton, the late Dr. Evatt, was renowned for his championing of the international view of human relations, and any attempt to gibe at the Labour Party as being a narrow, isolationist, nationalistic group, does not hold water.
When has the Labour Party been found wanting in its support of any move for social and economic help to the countries of Asia, to say nothing of the European states? Was it not the Labour Party which, at the instigation of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), laid the foundation for and gave impetus to the great immigration scheme that has provided a home in this country for thousands of benighted people from Europe since the war? So any attempt to denigrate us as an isolationist party just does not hold water. But when it comes to military expeditions into countries in which we have forfeited any right to expect allegiance to the democratic way of life because of our neglect of their economic and social conditions, then we have misgivings. In fact, the Government itself is confused about this matter. The Government wants us to believe that we are confronted with a great Communist challenge from China. Yet, as has been said so many times in this debate - and it has not yet been answered - if China is the great conspiratorial power in Asia that threatens to engulf us all, then to allow trade to continue between Australia and China is a pretty shabby performance on the part of this Government. Commodities sold to China include steel, wool and wheat, to say nothing of minerals, particularly titanium, a steel hardener used in the manufacture of armaments. This is trading with the enemy. Is there a more despicable crime than that in any society?
I make no bones about it. I strongly support the Labour Party’s objection to the conscription of youths to serve in Vietnam. I cannot go into all the characteristics of that particular campaign at the present time. There are many problems, particularly political problems, associated with it. There is political instability in Vietnam due to the lack of a truly democratic society and to the downtrodden state of these people. These are all things that have to be taken into account when we ask 20-year-olds to serve in Vietnam. I feel strongly on this, probably because I have young boys who will soon be reaching that age and I can well guess at what is in the hearts of many parents as they contemplate the sons they have brought up, nurtured, educated, clothed and fed, being sent off to fight in Vietnam. Our youth would not be found wanting if men were needed to fight for the genuine protection of Australia. Recruits would not he lacking any more than they were during the last war and wars before that.
In our estimation, the most sincere commentary on the Government’s policy is the fact that we are not getting enough volunteers to go and serve in Vietnam. This is the simple test. During World War I, World War II and the Korean War, volunteers were forthcoming in their patriotic fervour to serve the country.
– Not enough in World War II for the Australian Labour Party. It had to conscript men then.
– World War II was different from what is happening in Vietnam today. My thought is that if in this undeclared war Australia needs only a comparatively small number of men, some of whom will probably make the maximum sacrifice, then we should call for volunteers and we should be prepared to make it worthwhile for men to enlist. Nobody can convince me that we have made the ultimate appeal to people to serve. Nobody can say that the pay of servicemen and the conditions of service are such that they could not possibly be bettered. Despite the Government’s fervent assurances about the welfare of our troops in Vietnam, the Sydney “Sun” of 19th December 1965 - just a few months ago - published the following report -
Troops feel “ forgotten “.
Australian troops in Vietnam felt they were forgotten men, it was claimed yesterday.
Mr. W. B. Watson, a senior official of the R.S.L. backed Australian Forces Overseas Amenities Fund, said he believed the majority of
Australian people neither understood nor cared about the battle they were fighting . . .
Mr. Watson said: “ Amenities for the men in Vietnam as practically nil.”
Honorable members will recall that I was bitterly criticised during the last sessional period for having drawn attention to the deficiencies of the conditions under which these men were serving. Mr. Watson went on to say -
They are working and fighting hard in a hostile territory where the pressure is never relaxed.
Yet they have no amenities or comforts to lighten the burden.
They feel they have been forgotten by the Australian people.
Their pleasure was fantastic when they found that at last an organisation -
Not a government organisation, but a private organisation - had been set up to look after their interests.
That shows the Government’s great concern for the welfare of people who volunteer to serve in this theatre of war. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) drew attention to the wretched inequity of the ballot system. Apart from the ballot with its hit or miss system of picking and choosing, there is the completely subjective assessment made by a magistrate or judge in determining whether a youth should or should not go. The law provides that those who are engaged in full time educational pursuits may have their service deferred. What is happening, of course - and I do not blame the parents - is that a number of youngsters are being kept at long term university courses or technical college courses as a means of ensuring that they do not have to face a call up when they are 20 years of age. What sort of people can afford to do this? Generally speaking, only the wealthy people in the community will be able to keep the:r sons at a university in order that they may obtain deferment. Some young men will do a six year course, if necessary, in order to avoid being called up. But the ordinary worker’s son, the fellow who, perhaps, had to leave school to help maintain the family, will be called on to serve. His father may have died and his widowed mother may have other younger children *o look after, but despite these responsibilities such young men are being called up regardless of my entreaties and the entreaties of other honorable members.
In my view, there is something immoral about the whole situation when, not in a widespread war such as we had in World War I and World War II, but in the present context of a limited conflict, we ask the 20 year olds - only the 20 year olds and only some of them - to put their bodies between us and the enemy. This reminds me of the customs of some ancient tribe in which the seniors and elders pick out - in effect, conscript - 20 year olds and expect them to make themselves a human band of protection between the tribe and enemy. The 20 year olds are immature and have the smallest vested interest in society at that stage of their lives, though they also have the greatest hope for the future and the greatest part of their lives still to live. There seems to me to be something totally immoral in a situation in which 20 year olds, without any voice in the matter, are chosen and sent out in this way to put themselves between us and the enemy.
As I have said, there has not been a genuine attempt to get volunteers to come forward. The fact that Australians are not volunteering as they did in previous contests when they considered that their country’s welfare was at stake is an eloquent commentary on their genuine feeling in their innermost hearts about the present conflict. As I have pointed out, volunteers are not being recruited in the numbers that should be available. Last Thursday, in answer to a question that I had asked, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) had to confess that recruitment to the Australian Regular Army had been static for some time. As a matter of fact, it has been static for about five or six years. The reason is that the present conditions for service offer no inducement to volunteers. I do not intend in this debate to go into all the reasons why conditions are not attractive enough to encourage men to volunteer and make the Services their career.
The other night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) also surveyed the Australian economic scene. The Financial Editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ summed up the right honorable gentleman’s performance with respect to economic matters in some comments that were published under the heading “ Mr. Holt’s Economic Platitudes “. That is just about all they were. The Prime Minister gave us little indication of what the Government intended to do about the very important problems that at present confront the Australian community. I refer especially to economic problems. He said very little to ease our minds concerning the period of stagnation in growth that we have reached. I do not propose this afternoon to weary the House with ail the statistics. It is sufficient for me to say that they indicate that in the final quarter of last year we reached the point of complete stagnation in the growth of our output of goods and services. Allied with this was the decline in personal consumption.
A man like Sir Edgar Coles, who is head of the great chain store organisation of G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd., does not say merely for political motives that we in this country are virtually on the brink of a recession. Sir Edgar has gone on record as expressing himself in these terms. We in the Australian Labour Party have often been accused of trying to raise scares in the community. It is hardly in the interests of a great retail organisation such as G. J. Coles for its head to be trying to spread statements that would tend to damp down public enthusiasm or the people’s confidence in the economy. In the last quarter of 1965, personal consumption not only stagnated but in real terms which measure the volume of goods and services that can be bought by the individual’s income declined significantly. The decline in the automotive industry also has been mentioned. C. V. Holland Pty. Ltd., a big Holden dealer in my electorate, reported a 12 per cent, decline in sales. Production levels generally are down.
There has been a considerable fall in housing activity. In recent weeks, this has given rise to the following newspaper headlines -
Housing lowest for three years.
Poor figures for quarter - Slump in building of new houses and flats. £4 million loss in N.S.W. Big slump in home building.
January home building approvals down 20 per cent.
The editorial in the Sydney “ Sun “ on 4th January - a little more than two months ago - which was headed “ Haywire Housing “, stated -
There is something haywire about a country which received 140,000 migrants last year - as
Australia did - yet allowed its home building rate to decline by about 16 per cent.
What are we to think when that happens in a country that is screaming out for development at a time when we should take every migrant that we can lay our hands on? This Government is still not facing up after all this time to the problem of housing.
The decline in building activity has related not only to the construction of houses and flats. One newspaper headline stated -
Commercial building boom over.
Statistics show that approvals for commercial and factory buildings fell 22 per cent, in the three months to January last. Indeed, the January figures were 40 per cent, down on those for January of last year and the December figures were 35 per cent, down on those for the previous December. This situation confronts the Australian people with worrying problems. But there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement the other night to indicate that this Government has any new approach to the country’s problems. We have the same old Government without its previous distinguished leader, but still with its reluctance to act and its diffidence about facing up to the country’s great problems. The Government’s policy leads to a temporary uplift in economic activity followed by a recession and a general decline in activity. This is the sort of treatment that the Australian people get all the time from the sort of government that we have now.
Newspaper reports stated that the new Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) appeared to be concerned about the decline in building activity. Belatedly an additional SI 5 million is to be allocated to the State housing authorities in an attempt to energise home building. Why should not we have expected the decline in building? After all, only a little more than a year ago, on 10th February 1965, the present Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, was reported as having said, in an address to the Australian Hire Purchase and Finance Conference, that the defence effort would take a greater share of national resources and that the rate of growth in housing and commercial building and in the motor industry should slow down. lt is of no use for the Government to pretend that it is concerned about the situation. It has deliberately created the present situation, for it has allowed the economy to slide down to the present low level of activity. It has brought about a contraction of the volume of bank credit available for home building, with the consequences that we see wherever we look. But there is now an election coming up and the Government believes that therefore it cannot’ allow the situation to continue, with migrants pouring into the country and looking for homes and thousands of Australians who were born here still desperately seeking them. At present, a higher proportion of the population than ever before is of marriageable age and more young married couples than ever previously in our history are looking for homes. There are many aged people throughout the community desperately looking for flats at rentals of less than $12 or $14 a week. The Government realises that, with an election pending, it cannot afford to allow this sort of situation to continue. So, belatedly, it tries to plug the gap by making a handout of $15 million. It has adopted no substantial or continuing plan to provide for the future. One wonders what has happened to the much vaunted Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. This was to be the salvation of many people who would otherwise be forced to take second mortgages at exorbitant rates of interest.
– Is not the Corporation doing very well?
– I have not heard anything to indicate that it is doing well or that it is satisfying any kind of demand. If it is doing well, why does the Government consider it necessary at present to bolster the State housing authority field by providing additional finance? Why does it do that if other facilities are available? I find that the Liberal Government in New South Wales, my own State, is now badgering the Commonwealth to do something. The State Government has requested the Commonwealth first to subsidise the State housing authorities for the construction of units for the aged, but this Government will not come to the party. The State has also asked the Commonwealth to widen the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act. These are things that the Australian Labour Party for years has been asking the Commonwealth Government to do, but nothing has been done.
There are many other fields apart from housing in which the Commonwealth Government’s lethargy and indecisiveness are clearly demonstrated. There is the matter of the new Commonwealth roads authority that is being set up. I think it is called the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The “ Federal News Letter “ of the Australian Automobile Association has traced the progress - if you can call it that- of the Government’s activities in that regard. It records that back on the 12th March 1964, two years ago, there was a statement made at the Premiers’ Conference by the then Federal Treasurer to this effect -
We intend to push on with its early establishment
Meaning the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads - because it has a big and urgent job to do and the sooner it gets launched on this task the better.
Only just recently has the Government appointed the chairman of that organisation and now, belatedly, he has a staff. About two years after that statement, just now, it is having its first meeting. This is the urgency we were told about. Of course, all over the country local government organisations are being forced to the point of desperation in trying to find finance for road making and maintenance within their local communities. Rates have had to be jacked up and there have been tremendous protests against aldermen; but to my mind they are the innocent people. The Commonwealth Government, which will collect over £31 million in petrol tax, is really the guilty party. No, Mr. Speaker, neither in respect of foreign policy, especially in respect of Vietnam, nor in respect of the economic platitudes presented to this Parliament in the long winded statement of the new Prime Minister the other night do the Australian people have any reason for confidence in this Government. I think before the end of this year the Government will really find itself under serious challenge.
Mr. ASTON (Phillip) [3.17j - The honorable member for Barton (Mr.
Reynolds), who has just sat down, rather amazed me because usually he wants to talk on state aid and matters of that kind, being a former schoolteacher. He has been most vociferous in relation to foreign affairs in this House. I wonder if his removal by the left wing Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party from its education committee has had anything to do with his silence on this occasion on those matters. He just brushed the foreign affairs problems of this country away, and brushed away the contrasting policy of the Labour Party, by saying that he would say something about foreign policy at a later date. Quite frankly, the honorable member for Barton is in a rather precarious position electorally. I believe that his sitting on the fence in relation to the struggles within his party will not do him much good. He would have done better to have come out today and stated where he stood in relation to his party’s policies and in relation to the foreign affairs of this country.
Last Tuesday night in this House, I felt rather sorry for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I think most honorable members on this side of the House would share this view because he is rather a pleasant fellow. He is a likeable fellow apart from his politics, of course. The fact that I do not agree with his politics and his statements is completely irrelevant. But neither do many members of his party, and this is relevant. It must be most humiliating and difficult to speak on behalf of a body of men who are themselves divided on the policies expounded and on the quality of the leadership that they are at present receiving. Almost one half of the members sitting behind him want to replace him and another section want to retain him. The right wing despises the left wing for its radicalism. But the Leader of the Opposition, who joined the left wing Victorian Executive last year, has now become its captive and espouses its socialistic and neocommunist foreign policies at its bidding. He is assisting it to wreck the right wing of the Labour Party so that in time the left wing alone will be all powerful on the Federal Executive and will be able wholly and solely to control the parliamentary Labour Party in this House. His position as Leader of the Opposition depends on his ingratiating himself the more fully with the radical left wing of his party. This is the price of leadership.
The Australian people believe in their parliamentarians being free and believe that they should not be the puppets of any executive which controls their pre-selection and which, in addition, instructs them how to vote in this Parliament on policies on which they themselves have no say. The Executive dictates the policy of the Labour Party which is decided outside this Parliament and on it the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have no vote. This is not democracy as we know it. Nor, I believe, is it democracy as the people of Australia desire it.
It is well to recall the rather farcical and embarrassing position of the Leader of the Opposition and his selfproclaimed man of destiny who ignominiously waited outside a hotel at midnight waiting to receive instructions to oppose the establishment of the United States’ radio communications base at Exmouth Gulf. That decision was made by the 36 faceless men, whose numbers included the 12 witless men. The 12 witless men are not to be confused with Whitlam’s men because they do not support him. Last year the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) announced his desire for strong action to be taken on unity tickets but when brought under pressure at the Labour Conference of 1965 he did not press the issue. Just recently, something like an elephant at bay, he commenced his caustic criticisms of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party. He also criticised members of his own Party and his own parliamentary colleagues. At that time one newspaper reported him as follows -
He said, “No longer will Federal politicians permit the Federal Executive to stand over them and pick out favourites among them.
– Who said that?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Note these words - “ No longer will they allow inept and irresponsible Federal delegates to continue to transgress policy and promote factions on the Federal Executive of the party. It is high time the Federal organisation of the party was as democratic as the Queensland organisation.”
But just how democratic is the Queensland organisation? The president of that body is Senator Keeffe. He is the right hand man of the left wing president, Mr. Chamberlain, from Western Australia. These were brave words - very brave words. But consider what happened later. Subsequently, in a letter to the South Australian Executive, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition promised that in future he would abide by the decisions of all constitutional Australian Labour Party authorities and their interpretations of policy. This is completely different to the statement that he made at Brisbane Airport. He said that he would not challenge the Federal Executive rulings and would accept the processes of the Labour machine. This is the man who arrogantly threw down the gauntlet to the Executive and then humbly stooped to pick it up again. What respect, might I ask, let alone support, if any, can any man expect from his parliamentary colleagues or from the general public, whom I believe are extremely interested in this matter, if he acts in such a manner? Are these the qualities of leadership? Or are they the actions of an ambitious political opportunist who apparently still knows very little of the Labour machine and its traditions? We surely can be pardoned if we conclude that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition too has adopted the same attitude as the Leader of the Opposition who has surrendered to the left wing Executive of the Labour Party. I am sorry to say this. This is a sad and dangerous state of affairs for Australia. These men whom I have just mentioned would form part of the alternative Government of Australia.
I do not want to be political in my following remarks because a matter of great importance has been raised in this Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). He informed the nation of his decision to deploy national service trainees with Regular Army personnel in Vietnam. This was not unexpected because it was inherent in the provisions of the National Service Bill when it was introduced into this House. It is important, then, that we understand the reasons for the decision and in order to do so we should have a brief look at our position. I shall endeavour to do this simply, without embellishment and without trying to take any political advantage. It should be remembered that the emphasis in world affairs has shifted from Europe to Asia, where Australia now mans the world’s most crucial frontier. Geographically our country is a large one, rich in resources and with a great potential. We are adjacent to Asia. We are a small power in international affairs and it is essential that we have powerful allies. This has been proved conclusively in the past.
In World War II our country was threatened by an aggressor and after Pearl Harbour we made sometimes anguished appeals for British and American assistance. Following the fall of Singapore and the battle of the Coral Sea we had the campaigns in New Guinea where 18-year-old national service trainees, sent by a Labour Government, were able to inflict on the Japanese at Milne Bay the first land defeat that they had suffered. The Japanese had by then formulated plans for the occupation of Australia, and many of us handled the currency that had been printed for circulation in Australia after we were over-run. Fortunately, our request for assistance did not go unheeded. Our allies came to our aid and we were able to resist and eventually defeat the aggressor. Could we alone, today or is the near future, achieve what was achieved then for our very survival? I believe honorable members will agree that we could not. But with the aid of powerful friends we could, if need be, successfully resist.
It is interesting to note how the United States, Korea and the Philippines - all allies in Vietnam - obtain their manpower. They do so by drafting people into the Services - in other words by the equivalent of our national service training call-ups. Quite recently we saw in Sydney units of the American Navy manned largely by draftees - national service trainees - each playing his part in resisting the menace of Communism. Australians have never expected people of other nations to fight an aggressor for them while they enjoyed the benefit of protection. We have always played our part alongside our allies in the common cause of resisting aggressors in various parts of the world. We must be ready to do so again today because we are in fact meeting a very real threat to our own security. The fact that the conflict is not being waged on or within our coastlines does not mean that it does not constitute a threat. It is commonsense to try to restrict the territorial expansion of the Communists to places as far from our shores as is practicable. It will be too late when the Communists are at our front door.
Australia must be concerned with events in Vietnam. The conflict is occurring in the part of the world in which Australia is situated, and it is Tightly regarded by Australia as of vital importance for our future security. It is imperative that the rule of law be applied and upheld internationally because Australia is a small power. It is necessary for large and small nations to live together in peace, respecting the rights of each other to govern themselves as they choose. 1 do not, however, support the kind of peace that would mean handing over to the North Vietnamese the right to govern - if that is the correct word - the people of South Vietnam. The declared policy of the North Vietnamese is to liberate - I use the word advisedly because in this case it means the complete subjugation of a free people to the Communists. Hanoi has the support of China, Russia and other Iron Curtain countries, which not only advise the Hanoi Government but also supply equipment, technicians and training officers to continue the offensive. It would be unrealistic for Australia to divorce its security from that rf our northern neighbours, and it can be readily seen that we are in Vietnam to protect our security, because if the smaller nations of Asia fall victims to the Communists our position will be difficult for us to maintain alone.
The Government’s decision to send additional forces to Vietnam is for the purpose of insuring against this prospect. No Australian Government wants to send the nation’s sons into conflict, but it is the duty o? the Government to protect the nation. We have no territorial aims, nor have our allies, but we do require the North Vietnamese to honour the Geneva Agreement of 1954. Our participation in this struggle is on behalf of all Australians. The young men already stationed in Vietnam are fighting - and those who will serve there in the future will be fighting - for their own security, the security of their families and the security of the present and future generations of Australia.
John Citizen should urgently examine his attitude in the light of recent events, and he should not be evasive about the gravity of the situation or the consequences of an adverse result. Vietnam is not just a country situated vaguely somewhere up there. It is strategically placed at the gateway to the smaller nations of Asia and the islands leading to our very front door. In view of these facts we cannot afford to be divided as a nation. It is essential that the Government have the full support of the Australian people on this issue. It is not by coincidence that the Communist Party supporters in Australia are enthusiastically upholding the actions of the Vietcong and of Peking. They have been most vociferous in their call for so-called peace, but a peace founded on the Communists’ own terms would be an intolerable one for the courageous Vietnamese people who have been bearing the brunt of this conflagration for many years. In my view any peace which ignores the rights of small nations to live under administrations of their own choosing, and ignores their unfettered right to build their own social structures and economic lives, is a peace which is unacceptable.
In spite of all the obvious difficulties efforts have been made and are continually being made by the United States Government and by various world leaders to engage Hanoi in peace talks, but Hanoi has consistently refused to negotiate. In spite of all the rebuffs, efforts to obtain a just peace by negotiation should and will be continuing and unrelenting. We all want a genuine peace, but we must not have in Asia another Munich. We well remember how in the 1930’s Hitler quickly and almost without opposition occupied the Rhineland and then, spurred on by this easy conquest, occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia. Confident that Great Britain and France would not support the Polish Government, he then attempted to occupy Poland and the holocaust of World War II began. America has unmistakably shown her determination that Red China shall not emulate this performance in Asia, and we as Australians should be proud to be associated with this resolve. If aggression should remain unchecked in Vietnam, not only will millions of people be submerged under Communist domination but a way of life freely chosen will cease. The principle of freedom to choose a way of life has in two world wars and in the Korean war been preserved by the stoic efforts and will of Australia and her allies.
There will be some people, particularly those in and close to families directly affected, who will find it difficult to accept completely the decision to increase our forces in Vietnam. No doubt when casualties do occur emotions will run high. This is understandable, for at such a time we are tempted to think on a purely personal level. But we are a free people who have always been big enough in times of difficulty to put the nation’s interests before our own. I feel confident that the people of Australia will again honour their obligations.
Following my question to him yesterday in relation to the eligibility of migrants for call up, it was pleasing to hear the Prime Minister say that this matter is being studied by the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Labour and National Service and that the Government is considering it. In my view the majority of migrants would willingly serve in the national training call up. They want to play their full part as Australian citizens, particularly as many of them and their families have had firsthand experience of Communist domination. The number of Australians in other countries who would be affected by international agreements would be very few, and it is to be hoped that the Government will speedily overcome the obstacles that prevent migrants from joining actively in the defence of the country of their adoption.
While I am speaking on electoral matters I also want to say that I hope it will not be long before the Government comes to a decision to give present young servicemen the right to vote. I believe that a vote should be given not only to national service trainees but to all servicemen. When national service trainees go into service they are at least 20 years of age. They train for 9 months and if they are sent overseas after that period it would be only a few months before they would reach the age of 21.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Parliament of the nation has been listening to the baron from Bondi, the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who blows in and out of this Parliament al alternate elections like a napkin from a clothes line to a home. The greater part of his speech was levelled against the administration of this country by the Labour Party, of which 1 am very proud to be a member, during its term of office. The honorable member failed to tell the Parliament why he missed out in the Cabinet reshuffle, why he failed to realise his aspiration to become a member of the Holt Cabinet. He also failed to tell the Parliament how he was preselected to enable him to become the member for Phillip. I am proud to say that the electors of Hunter determine my preselection. They determine who shall represent them in the national Parliament. That is a thoroughly democratic method. I do not want to waste much time replying to the honorable member, because I do not think his speech was worthy of it, but I want to remind him that a former member for Herbert, a member of the Liberal Party, Mr. John Murray - who is now the State member for Clayfield in the Queensland Parliament - was recently reported in the Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ as saying -
Members might disagree with the Executive on policy, but they cannot deny the right of the Executive to define a policy.
An overwhelming majority of members of the Labour Party also believe in that principle.
The Parliament is debating the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) made to this Parliament last week to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has moved an amendment which registers the Labour Party’s emphatic, and I might add, its violent opposition, to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country. The amendment further expresses the Opposition’s disapproval of the Government’s failure to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community. Prices are soaring to an all time high and wages are remaining static. I pity the people of this nation in the low income group who are trying to maintain a reasonable standard of living for their wives and children with today’s soaring prices.
– What about pensioners?
– The pensioners are people whom I have particularly in mind. By the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition we protest at the inadequate and improper Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in northern Australia, and at the Government’s neglect of Australia’s drought stricken farmers and its failure to conserve the water resources of this nation. The Hunter Valley has suffered one of the most devastating droughts experienced since white men came to the country. The Glenbawn Dam, which was built through the foresightedness of the New South Wales Labour Government is at an all time low level. The water is 29 ft. below the spillway and the water restrictions imposed upon farmers in the Hunter Valley could have been avoided by a long range Australian developmental policy, as advocated by the Labour Party for many years.
The Opposition also points out to the Government the shocking lack of adequate finance to meet the housing needs of the nation and the Government’s omission to hold a referendum to alter the Constitution to give Aborigines the right to vote and the privileges to which these indigenous people of Australia have been entitled for a long time. Parliament passed a bill last year to hold a referendum on 28th May. The Government has abandoned the referendum, to my mind, because of the economic crisis into which this country is being led by this Government.
I desire to direct the greater portion of my remarks to the major question which concerns the Australian people today, and that is the conscription of 20 year olds for service in the Vietnam war. The Prime Minister’s Government has committed now 4,500 Australian troops to Vietnam of which a considerable number will be 20 year old conscripts. Government supporters claim that our involvement is to protect Australia from the downward thrust of Chinese Communism. Nothing is further from the truth, because China, as we know, has not one single combat troop in Vietnam. On the contrary, if we take note of a statement by one of the senior officials of the Pentagon - in other words the War Office of the United States - as reported on page 22 of the United States magazine “ Newsweek “ of 15th March last year, we find that the military potential of the Chinese is geared entirely for defence rather than offence. The article pointed out-
– What rot.
– If it is rot, then the official of the Pentagon was misleading the readers of “ Newsweek “. The article pointed out that half of the Chinese army, which numbers 2.3 million men, is poised in the north opposite Russia. Admittedly it is the largest and most well equipped army in the world - but it is equipped with light automatic weapons according to the article in “ Newsweek”. These light automatic weapons are for close combat duty. The article goes on to say that the Chinese army “ sadly lacks heavy artillery, tanks, trucks and carriers”. ls this the equipment of an aggressor? Is this the equipment of a country that wants to make territorial gains? Is this the equipment of a country that, as our people are being led to believe by Government supporters, is likely to threaten the shores of Australia in the immediate future? It is complete poppycock which Government supporters are pouring into the throats and minds of the Australian people. It is high time that the newspapers played the true role they should play, in the freedom they get in a democratic community, and told the people the truth about some of these matters which 1 am pointing out here this afternoon.
– Has the honorable member ever been there?
– Yes, I have been to China. I was there in 1962. The honorable member might adopt a different view to that which he holds if he had been there too. In view of his statements in this Parliament it is doubtful whether China would ever allow him to enter. The Chinese army is described as an army for fighting in rough terrain and the article goes on to say that it is no match for a modern conventional army in the open. It is a large well trained militia. The Chinese air force has only 2,000 planes, 1,500 of which are obsolete M.I.G. fighters of the 15 and 17 type. The bomber fleet consists of 150 llyushin 28 Russian light jet bombers and a few ancient TU4 propeller driven bombers, and the whole of ‘he air force suffers from a sad lack of jet fuel and spare parts. The navy is purely defensive, according to the article, geared to operate in shallow waters. It has four old Soviet destroyers and 24 vintage Soviet submarines. The bulk of the navy is made up of 1,000 gun boats, torpedo boats, minesweepers and armed junks, an amphibious force capable of landing only two battalions. Is (his the defence potential of an aggressor which is threatening other countries and the shores of Australia? That suggestion is utter ry. The Press of this nation should tell the people of China’s defence potential. Their amphibious force is not sufficient to take Manly from the southern side of Sydney and is not sufficient to take the electorate of Mackellar - one look at that and they would flee.
We know that the American U-2 aircraft, at the instigation of the Central Intelligence Agency, have photographed the whole of the Chinese defence potential. Time will not permit me to say very much about the CLA. Its story appears in a book “ The Invisible Government “ which has recently come into the Parliamentary Library. I recommend it as reading for Government supporters because it points out some of the most scurrilous and villainous things in which the CLA. has involved itself. The book states that the CLA. virtually dictates to the American Government. I seriously believe that, in view of its history as described in this book, the CLA. could be playing a part in the politics of Australia. The preamble to the book slates -
This startling and disturbing book is the first full, authentic account of America’s intelligence and espionage apparatus - an invisible government, with the CLA. at its centre, that conducts the clandestine policies of the United States in the Cold War.
The present Director of Central Intelligence is Mr. John McCone who was appointed head of CLA. of the United States following the muddling of the invasion of Cuba by Allen Dulles, brother of Foster Dulles who was formerly Secretary of State of the United States. McCone virtually became a millionaire from the profits he made during World War II. At page 193 the book states -
Outside the scientific community, many were disturbed by McCone’s big wartime profits in the ship-building business. Ralph E. Casey of the General Accounting Office, a watchdog arm of the Congress, testified in 1946 that McCone and his associates in the California Shipbuilding Company made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000.
Yet we hear about the sinews of war. The sinews of war are gold and silver and for a long time have been and will continue to be until the ruthlessness of capitalism is removed from the face of the earth.
To my mind Australia should never have become involved in the Vietnam war. Nor should the United States have become involved, but that is entirely a matter for that country. The defeat of the French in Vietnam should have proved to the world the strength of the Vietnamese nationalism. We learn that after seven years of fighting the French had incurred 150,000 casualties, one-third of whom were dead or missing, and that the cost to the French Government was $5 billion. The French force consisted of approximately 200,000 of their crack combat troops plus 200,000 natives from the associated States of IndoChina. I believe that the only solution to the Vietnam war is an immediate ceasefire and a conference between the Hanoi Government, the Saigon Government and the National Liberation Front. China and the United States also should be directed to take their seats at the negotiating table, and there should be an ultimate withdrawal of United States and other foreign troops. There should be free elections throughout the whole of Vietnam.
– That is the Corns’ statement.
– That is not the Corns’ statement; it is the belief held by people in Australia when they learn the truth of the Vietnam war. The recent Honolulu conference on Vietnam, attended by President Johnson and Air Vice Marshal Ky, seems to have brought no fruitful result. We learn that on President Johnson’s return to Los Angeles on 8th February last he spoke of his sound targets for social reform in South Vietnam. Three days later at his White House news conference, when asked to quote the targets that he had in mind, he is alleged to have said: “ We do not have any.” We accept that President Johnson urged the Saigon Government to tighten up on corruption and black marketing. Hence we learn that a corrupt Chinese millionaire, referred to in the House the other day by the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay), was publicly executed in Saigon for being involved in rackets. If I may interrupt myself at that point, the honorable member for Evans pointed out that there had been a revolting display on television a few nights ago when he and his wife and children were watching. He said that a Chinese millionaire had been publicly executed in the streets of Saigon. But it is not so many months ago that the honorable member for Evans, a former educationist and Principal of Basser College, criticised me in this chamber when I said that war toys should be removed from the shops throughout Australia so that the minds of Australian children would not be contaminated. We now have a complete reversal from this great educationist and former Principal of Basser College who now sits in this House.
Australia was not invited to the Honolulu conference, despite her commitment in Vietnam. Yet we find that Vice-President Humphrey, who was not at the conference, came to Australia allegedly to brief our Government on the Honolulu conference decisions. Australia believes that this is not the reason why Vice-President Humphrey came here. Australians are not fools, although the Government, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the previous Prime Minister have treated them as such. The real reason for Vice-President Humphrey’s visit was to solicit more troops. Senator Fulbright made a public statement in the United States shortly before the arrival of Vice-President Humphrey in this country that Australia should contribute more in war material and manpower to the Vietnam war. In my opinion the real reason why Vice-President Humphrey came to Australia was to get more troops. I believe that the Australian people should be told the truth about these missions and not kept in the dark. I believe that the cat was let completely out of the bag by a statement attributed to Vice-President Humphrey after he left Australia and went to Saigon. The “ Far Eastern Economic Review “, a conservative magazine, states -
Before departing Saigon for Bankok, U.S. VicePresident Humphrey appealed for more countries to join U.S. in helping South Vietnam tight “ Communist aggression “.
So it is only commonsense to assume that Vice-President Humphrey’s mission to Australia was for that purpose. I believe that the people of the United States are gravely concerned at America’s involvement in Vietnam because of the increasing number of casualties among American boys for whom we on this side of the chamber feel just as much sympathy as do the boys’ relatives. I believe that the thinking on this side of the Parliament is not anti-American, but we are most unhappy about the activities of the United States Government in the Vietnam war. If there were Communist aggression in South Vietnam - I say that it is a nationalist uprising - the appeal for additional Australian aid would undoubtedly be listened to more sympathetically, but surely every reasonable and honest man must consider that the war in Vietnam is a civil war, a nationalist uprising of a people fighting for a better way of life, a people who on finding that they had been deprived of a vote and that the principles of the 1954 Geneva Conference were not to be put into effect took up arms to achieve these principles. Here we find the most powerful nation in the world with the most modern scientific weapons of war, raining down napalm, phosphorous, gas and Lazy Dog bombs on innocent communities.
I agree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other Opposition members that no military solution to the Vietnam war is possible. We have been informed that there is a strong pressure on the United States Government from the war hawks in the United States who want to bomb the dams in North Vietnam. This was reported in the “Australian “ on 9th December 1965. The dams we bombed in 1945 and famine and floods caused the deaths of 1 million people. This is said to be a conservative figure supplied by the French. General Le May said in a recent book -
We can bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age. Between 1 million and 3 million will drown in a flash if we do this. They will have no chance to reach high ground, and that includes Hanoi.
How dreadful it would be to have Australia’s name coupled with such an act, should it occur. It could well occur as a result of the pressure being placed on the United States Government by the war hawks, the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society.
– Who said that?
– General Le May.
– Where was it reported?
– I mentioned that a few moments ago. If the honorable member had listened he would have heard. It was reported in the “ Australian “ on 9th December last. I conclude with the words of Francis Moore, who wrote -
When after many battles past,
Both tired with blows make peace at last,
What is it after alf people get?
Why, taxes, widows, wooden limbs and debt.
.- I do not intend to divert myself, although it is most tempting, to any kind of analysis of the expostulations of the apostle of peace, to whom we have just been listening. However, I would like to refer to one point. He gave his recipe for peace in Vietnam. He mentioned two points. The first is a cease fire and the second is a conference between Hanoi, the National Liberation Front and South Vietnam. In short, he gave in a few words the world wide publicised aims of the Communist Party and the clear statement of the Communist cause, namely, that the only people who can talk peace in that area are the people in Vietnam themselves; the Americans mast first withdraw. The only people to attend a conference must be Hanoi, the National Liberation Front and South Vietnam.
– He also said the United States and China.
– That’ is not how I heard it. However, we will look at the “ Hansard “ report.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Evans who, apart from mentioning-
– Order! The honorable member may make a personal explanation when the honorable member for Evans has concluded his speech.
– When I was listening to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) make his statement to the nation, I was also aware of something in the back of my mind which added up to concern bordering on alarm. Since then, the reason for this feeling has become apparent, so I do not intend to address myself this afternoon to the old arguments of the great debate in which many of us have taken part for a long time. I want to say something that to me is a more critical, necessary and constructive issue on the home front. I could sum up my main theme in this way: I believe that there is in Australia today an insufficient understanding, and therefore backing, for the lead and the direction the Government is giving in the vital field of Australian defence. At the same time, there is being waged an ideological battle in which the enemy has the initiative.
Today, we are being undermined from within, quite often through unsuspecting and otherwise decent people. As a result, there is too little evidence of solid support for our troops and our diplomacy overseas. Divisions exist today where they ought not to exist. Our enemies are far advanced in the old Communist technique of divide and conquer. It is not enough for those of us on these benches and our own supporters to believe that what we are doing is right. There ought to be in Australia’s interest substantial agreement at least on matters of principle from a majority of the Australian people and from Opposition members. This is an issue as crucial for Australia as any in 1914 or 1939, whether war is technically declared or not. Yet it is unhappily true that, across the nation in churches, universities, trade unions and elsewhere, vociferous minorities are opposed to our fundamental objectives. There is room to fear that a change of government, if it could take place, would revoke our whole strategic position in South East Asia and our basic principles of defence.
It is no comfort to know that the most virulent opposition can almost always be traced fairly and squarely to the Communists. The enemy’s “ Fronts “ have done an assiduous job. There are even leading churchmen today who have lived cheek by jowl with the Communists for years and have spearheaded their most obvious subversive fronts. This is true also of our schools and universities. The Communist influence is very significant in the Teachers’ Federation in New South Wales. In the universities there are professors and lecturers who openly challenge the basic principles of the Australian society. We have men like that unfortunate individual Alex Carey who was seen recently on television attacking the Christian basis of the institution of marriage and sexual continence. On another front, misguided and otherwise decent women follow the Red line in the Save Our Sons movement. It is not enough for the trumpet to have a certain sound, if it calls to an uncertain and divided nation.
Australia at this moment is in no immediate military danger. The Government does not claim that it is. But Australia is clearly vitally concerned if it sees a net beginning to close around it, even if it should remain far off at this stage. Yet the extension of our defence to meet this obvious, declared and self confessed strategy of our enemies is, I believe, not sufficiently understood nor is it backed by many sectors of the nation from whom we have the right to expect backing. Before we proceed much further, we must work for great changes. Let me emphasise some of the reasons why I believe this is so and give some of the factors that are giving comfort to and playing into the hands of our enemies. The first is obvious. It is the sense of Australian isolation. Asia is still remote to many Australians. Then there is the aspect of our prosperity. We have come so far so well and every day turns up new evidence of the wealth inside our borders that is there to be enjoyed. Our sport, our beaches, our money and our gadgets are ever present and we will not easily turn from them to the stark, bloody realities of the terror that lurks in the jungles to our north. But only a fool goes on painting his cabin in a sinking ship. Then too there are the widespread changes in the patterns of personal behaviour and discipline, especially as a result of two world wars and the failure of religion to translate its message into realities consonant with this scientific age. Can anyone argue with the basic thesis that directly as the individual’s moral responsibility diminishes so controls must be instituted? The more dishonest the people are the more policemen are required.
There is only one alternative to the rejection of the freely accepted disciplines of individual morality, in the widest sense of that word, and that is dictatorial control, and the Communists know this. Elementary Communist strategy is to undermine authority - moral authority in the community, the authority of parents, the authority of churches and governments - and out of the ensuing anarchy to seize control. This breakdown is being deliberately nurtured in our society today. Governments feel impotent or are unable to intervene because to do so is unpopular. This is politics. The need is first to convince enough people that things have to change. A strong and reasonable voice must point out the alternatives to the people, who in a democracy make or break governments. There is no other way. There is a widespread cynicism and nihilism today which brings together in a common cause pacifists, leftist protestants, some intellectuals, and the promoters of the Communist fronts. The fundamental principle of this movement - if I can call it that - is that staying alive is more important than how one lives. So we see leftist parsons who have succumbed to the humanism of Communism and with it their whole strategy of the conquest of Asia. I know leading preachers who have in turn bitterly attacked the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, conducted almost frenzied opposition to our troops going to Malaysia to help Britain defeat the Communist terrorists and have tried to persuade me that the documents in the Petrov affair were forged by our own security agents. More recently they have deplored our opposition to Indonesian aggression. They are now busily organising against our involvement in Vietnam.
However, there is one other factor which is of great importance to our nation today, and that is the sorry story of Her Majesty’s Opposition. Headed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) we have had from it little other than sheer, negative partisan criticism of every aspect of the Government’s action. This has led to a situation which, at present, is downright dangerous. For example, while the Prime Minister was speaking, one was confronted with the astonishing and disturbing spectacle of an increasing number of interjections and jeers from the Opposition whenever mention was made of Communist aggression in South East Asia. Was this because the majority of honorable members opposite are Communists or Communist sympathisers? Far from it. Not for one moment do I think so. But they have been outmanoeuvred. They have been outmanoeuvred, because of lack of leadership and because of lack of courage and content in their debating, into a dangerous position. Indeed, one wonders how many honorable members opposite realise that we are in the midst of a situation which has a deadly import for the future of the nation. Are they really trying to think and act as an alternative government acceptable to the people of Australia, or are they fomenting and giving momentary lip service to a cause because it is opposition? Do they see that their public attitudes are crystallising into what may well endanger the nation, and that they are in peril of sneering themselves into comforting and supporting the enemy - into de facto treason? In many cases this is, to me, deeply disappointing.
I appeal most earnestly to those honorable members opposite who reject Communist principles and who stand for the value and rights of the individual - of the small as well as of the large societies - to search their hearts and their consciences as to how long they can permit to continue this blanket opposition of all that the Government is doing. I believe there are many honorable members opposite who would welcome an opportunity to provide exactly the kind of forthright, challenging but constructive criticism of this Government’s activities in South East Asia that the nation has the right to expect. It is not a sign 0, weakness to find areas of agreement, but it is childish, unthinking and dangerous to oppose utterly for the sake of opposition - some of them even getting the substance of their opposition from enemy propaganda.
I turn briefly to the largest issue before us at the moment, namely, the sending of extra troops, including national servicemen, to fight in Vietnam. This question has been deeply in all our minds for a long time. For Australia’s sake I believe it should be more than a party issue. Surely the facts are clear and inescapable. Let me state my own conviction concerning it. I believe deeply, although sadly, that we must fight Communist aggression in Vietnam. I believe we must fight Communist aggression wherever it is found, particularly in South East Asia. That there is Communist aggression no-one in his right mind can deny. We must fight Communist aggression in Vietnam because this course is basic to the ultimate defence of Australia. Peace in the largest sense of the word - world peace - may well hang on the firmness with which we and our friends meet this situation, just as it has in Korea, Cuba, Berlin and elsewhere. There is no precedent in the 1914 situation or the 1939 situation for the course that we must now take. Let us take one example.
We are winning - and I use the word “ winning “ in the ideological sense - in the situation in the Malaysian-Indonesian area because we are fighting the Indonesians on the one hand and are sending them aid on the other. Honorable members may suggest that this is crazy and illogical. Maybe it is; maybe it is not. However, it is right. To insist on the old classical concept of declaration of war in Vietnam could lose us the most precious objectives, as it would have done in Indonesia, where it would have been totally wrong. Nonetheless, we are at war.
Forget Vietnam for a moment and listen to Mao Tse-tung, or to Chou En-lai while he was in Indonesia. This is not a time for semantics, but a time for stark realities and for meeting revolutionary war at all its levels - in the jungle, in the headlines and in the minds of men and women. We must, as a nation, to the utmost of our resources, bring to bear as needed the most adequate forces we can muster. If that requires conscription, and it does, then we must have conscription. Does anyone in his senses for om moment imagine that the Government is doing this because it thinks it is popular and will win votes? Does anyone think the Government is doing it because it brings some personal aggrandisement to its members? Australian isolationism and individualism recoil from the discipline of compulsion. We know it would be easy to leave it to the willing few and let it go at that, but the few are not enough. Our allies, the United States of America and others, and, of course, all our enemies, have long since left behind the merely volunteer system. In any case, why should volunteers be asked to fight out there and leave the long haired beach boys to face nothing more dangerous than sunburn? This responsibility is something for all Australian youths or for none. All Australians must face up to this. This is my conviction, but the Australian nation is not yet sufficiently persuaded of it.
I believe that we have solid and sincere political work to do. This is the job of patriots opposite, as much as it is for honorable members on this side of the House. If it is not, let them convince us of a constructive and better way. There are two claims of the Opposition that make some sense to me, and I know make sense to a lot of other Australians, and I turn to them now to illustrate how seriously I have tried to look for sense in what the Opposition has said. The first claim is that the burden must not be left on the shoulders of a limited few 20 year old men. The second is that we should review our economic relations with mainland China. Obviously if we can take only 8,400 to 80,000 men for training in military service, then selection by ballot is fair enough, but we ought to require at least something extra from the other 70,000 or so. I know that university training and other training is desperately needed in Australia, but every young man at a university could do one night a week of military training or other form of national service training without harming his prospects as a student. Far beyond this 20 year age group, however, there are other burdens to be borne by the community. It is difficult to see what measures should be taken by the rest of the community, apart from financial ones. We have a race with time in developing the nation. This is the integral part of national security. Nevertheless, I believe it is incumbent on the Government at this stage to take another and very close look at some of the luxury and unproductive industries in the community where precious manpower resources are being squandered at a time when manpower is desperately needed. There is a whole range of such industries and activities where financial and other pressures could be brought to bear, directly or indirectly, by the Government to enable us to have more manpower available for production.
As for trading with Red China, I repeat again the arguments about Indonesia. We are winning, ideologically speaking, partly because we have refused to over simplify the situation. A declaration of war would have unified Indonesia against us at a time when we were desperately needed to supply the people there with goods. Our activities are paying off. At first sight this appears to be double dealing - keeping doors open at all costs, despite provocation - but it is the right action.
The case of Red China is not an exact parallel, but we are out to encourage friendly developments in that country at the same time as we try to deter aggression. However, we must not be lured by greed into economic dependence or near dependence on Red markets, only to find that the basic approach of the Communists to trade is ideological and not for profit. I think it was Lenin who scoffed that the love of profit would lead the West into financing its own destruction. I appeal to the Government to take another long and hard look at our trade with China, because expediency alone is not enough. It is at best a dubious argument to say that we need the overseas exchange to finance our defence build up. Butter for guns, lt is a hard bit of logic to maintain before many audiences. I am delighted to know that the Prime Minister is soon to visit Vietnam and South East Asia. I hope that he will go there often. I hope that more and more of us from both sides of the House will go there more often. I hope that our diplomatic activity in this area will be greatly extended. 1 hope that we will turn to Indonesia as soon as possible with vastly increased offers of help. As soon as our troops can be brought back from Borneo it may be possible to obviate the necessity to send men under compulsion of any kind for service abroad, at least until we have got much further in all the difficult areas I have enumerated. In this task we will need the support of every man and woman of goodwill in the nation, especially in the areas of Press, radio and television, where most are already doing a fine job.
I am not asking that the Government be spared criticism. I am asking many sectors of the nation to make some basic decisions about what is happening in the world, particularly in our part of it. Having made those basic decisions we must do everything possible to advance our fundamental national cause in the best possible way. Let us win this struggle, as we can and must. This thing is too big to be a party measure. It would be dangerous if it became a party measure. It is too big for selfish neutralism and isolationism. I am fully behind the Government’s decision that with our allies - British, American and Asian - we will halt armed aggression in Vietnam, Borneo and Malaya and anywhere else it is unleashed in South East Asia. If we are firm, resolute and united we can win that most valuable of allies - time for change. That is the hope of our age - that we may be able to contain Chinese aggression until China learns, as Russia is learning, that peaceful coexistence is not only possible but imperative for the survival of mankind. Only a united Australia is an adequate basis for building that peace in. South East Asia.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– -Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In my speech this afternoon I said that the Hanoi Government, the Saigon Government, the National Liberation Front, the Chinese and the United States should be represented at the negotiations table if we are to achieve a peace in Vietnam. The honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) omitted to say that I included the Chinese and the United States.
– If that is what the honorable member said I withdraw my remarks. I did not hear his reference to the Chinese and the United States.
– One or two of the matters raised by the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) need clarification. The honorable member said that Mao Tse-tung was an enemy of Australia. I freely admit that. But let us look at this Government’s attitude to Communist China. Is it hypocrisy for this Government to supply Mao Tse-tung with the goods with which to keep his Army on its feet? Is it hypocrisy for the Government to supply the wool with which to make uniforms for China’s Army? Is it hypocrisy for Australia to supply China with metals that may be used in war? What protest has the honorable member for Evans made to these actions since he has been a member of this Parliament. Absolutely none.
– What would the honorable member do?
– That is not the point. The honorable member for Evans said that it was fair to conscript every tenth Australian boy in a particular age group. Anybody who buys a ticket in a lottery hopes to win a prize, but the national service lottery is one in which none of the candidates hopes to win a prize. During the First World War the people were given the opportunity at a referendum to say whether they believed in conscription. The Opposition seeks a referendum on this issue. Whatever is the decision of the Australian people, the Labour Party will abide by it, because we are a democratic party. I do not seek to cast personal asper sions on anybody, but in 1916 the former Prime Minister had an opportunity to say at a referendum whether he should go to war. I venture to suggest that he voted against the conscription proposal. But what the former Prime Minister did was a matter for his own conscience. I do not criticise that, but he was given an opportunity to say whether he should be sent to the First World War. However, he denied that same opportunity to the people of Australia. He did not give them an opportunity to say whether their sons should be conscripted. No lucid explanation of this attitude has been given by honorable members opposite so that we may know where they stand.
I do not intend to devote my remarks to international affairs. I believe in sticking a little closer to home. First I take the opportunity to congratulate my colleague, the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), on the splendid contribution he made in his maiden speech on Tuesday night. It augurs well for the future of Australia that we have such a person willing to fight for the progress of the people of northern Australia. I have no doubt that we will hear a lot more from the honorable member in the near future.
In supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) I should like to direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Prime Minister’s statement on 8th March last about Government policy touched on many important matters affecting the future of Australia. But the right honorable gentleman failed completely to mention inflationary trends in the economy and the steps that his Government intends to take to maintain the purchasing power of wage and salary earners. The value of age, invalid, widows’ and repatriation pensions has rapidly declined since the rates were last adjusted. Nobody can deny that the price of consumer goods and the cost of home building has reached a staggering level. Indeed, one is justified in claiming that the position is frightening. The position is so alarming that many people are asking where will it all end. It is admitted that the current high prices are attributable partly to the drought in New South Wales and southern Queensland. However, the inflationary spiral had commenced long before the effect of the drought was felt.
While on the subject of inflation let me refer to remarks by the late Ben Chifley and the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, during the prices referendum campaign in May 1948. Mr. Chifley said that unless the referendum was carried we would see a never ending process of a dog chasing its tail, which in simple words meant wages chasing prices. On the other hand, Sir Robert in strongly opposing the referendum proposals said that the States can effectively control prices and charges and that private enterprise and healthy competition would keep prices stable. Well, as everyone is aware, every word of Mr. Chifley’s prediction was true. As to Sir Robert’s prediction the truth of that can best be judged by honorable members themselves.
About 18 months later during the 1949 general election campaign Sir Robert Menzies used a great .vote catching gimmick. He said: “ Our greatest task is to get value back into the pound “. One would have thought he was Longfellow reading a poem. Sir Robert won .the election, but he neglected to keep this important promise and others that he had made at the time. When the Menzies Government took office in December 1949 the average basic wage was £6 9s. a week. Today it is $30.80 or £15 8s. - an increase of more than 138 per cent. In the intervening 16 years of inflation and three recessions we have seen the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Public Service organisations acting on behalf of wage and salary earners, repeatedly frustrated by this Government in their efforts to obtain increased margins and an increased basic wage so that employees may have a fair and reasonable share of the increased value of the gross national product.
I turn now to the subject of age and invalid pensions. This is a matter of great importance to me, as it is to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), the honorable member for Dalle-/ (Mr. O’Connor), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), because a substantial number of our constituents are pensioners. It is admitted that something has been done to assist some single pensioners by the introduction of a supplementary allowance specifically to pay rent, board or lodging. What I object to strongly is the fact that single pensioners who own, or who are paying off a home, are excluded from this benefit despite the fact that water rates, local authority rates and maintenance costs are in many cases equivalent to the rents paid by other pensioners. I believe this to be most unfair and unjust. Such i position certainly would be remedied by a Labour Government.
I turn now to the position of married pensioner couples. These pensioners receive the paltry sum of £5 10s. or $1 1 each a week. It is indeed a struggle for these people, particularly those who have no other income, to make ends meet. How these unfortunate people exist on this amount of money is beyond my comprehension. If any honorable members think I am exaggerating, let them try it for a few months. I also remind everyone that these people pay the same prices for their meat, bread, groceries, fruit and vegetables as does any other member of the community.
I should like to confine the remainder of my remarks on age and invalid pensions to the permissible income rate of £3 10s. or $7 a week for a single pensioner and £7 or $14 a week for a married pensioner couple. These amounts were last adjusted in 1954 when the pension rate was £3 10s. or $7 a week. It will be seen that the permissible income then equalled the pension rate, but today the allowable income equals only 58 per cent, of the single pension and 63 per cent, of the combined pensions of a married couple. These rates certainly call for readjustment. In addition, we have the ludicrous position that where a person who is in receipt of superannuation receives an increase in superannuation payment, it is of no benefit to him because his pension benefit is reduced accordingly. For example, a single pensioner who is receiving £5 or $10 a week by way of superannuation and who has property assets worth less than £209 would receive a pension of £4 10s. a week. But, should he receive an increase in the number of superannuation units with a consequent increase in his superannuation benefit to £5 10s. a week, his age pension would be reduced to £4 a week because he is not permitted to enjoy a total income of more than £9 10s. a week. I submit that most honorable members will agree that this position should be remedied, particularly when the easing of the means test has been advocated constantly by members on both sides of the House. 1 turn now to a subject of a different nature. It is our balance of trade position. Our excess of imports over exports for the first eight months of this financial year has reached the staggering total of 231.1 million dollars. One may reasonably assume that this figure will increase to about 300 million dollars by the end of the financial year. To this sum must be added the cost of freight and insurance which totalled 330 million dollars last year. Therefore, this year we could be 640 million dollars in the r;d with our trading after meeting the cost of freight and insurance. Let me emphasise that this figure does not include the payment of dividends, interest and other invisibles which are payable overseas. This financial loss to Australia would pay for another project similar to the Snowy Mountains scheme. It would certainly more than pay for the northern development water conservation scheme so ably outlined by my colleague, the honorable member for Dawson, in bis maiden speech last Tuesday night.
Let me now examine the content of our imports. It has been stated that 82 per cent, of our imports are essential. The other -18 per cent, have been classified as nonessential. There are two ways in which we can save money which we now needlessly squander on imports. First, we could reduce substantially our intake of some of the nonessential items such as expensive luxury motor cars, expensive fur coats, jewellery, preserved foodstuffs, vegetables, confectionery, biscuits, shell fish such as prawns, oysters and so on. It is interesting to note the prices of some of these articles. Fur coats costs up to 4,000 dollars. The prices of diamond rings range from 1 ,000 to 4,000 dollars and of diamond wristlet watches up to 1,000 dollars. Luxury motor cars cost from 4,000 dollars to 10,000 dollars. I do not think it would be a hardship for any of the silver tails to do without these items for a few years.
In addition, although we have manufacturers as Cadbury’s, Nestle’s, McRobertson’s, Red Tulip, Sweetacres, Small’s and others producing chocolates and other confectionery comparable in quality with any in the world, quantities of these items are being imported. Again, we manufacture biscuits of top quality, yet biscuits are being imported. We are searching for export markets for our tinned primary products, yet we are importing these lines. We have the best oysters in the world and our coastal waters are teaming with prawns, yet we are importing these delicacies.
The second step to take if we are to save money on imports is to cut down on the importation of manufactured goods which can be produced in ample quantity in Australia. I refer in particular to machinery, electrical goods and radio and electronics equipment. In these troubled and uncertain times, it is essential that we be able to rely on our own secondary industries should any emergency occur. For example, the Australian radio and electronics industry would be of paramount importance to us in such an event. Yet this industry is being starved of orders while our defence departments are placing orders overseas for radio and electronics equipment. In the interests of our national security we cannot afford to neglect our secondary industries. They must be encouraged and expanded in order to be able to play an important role in our defence if called upon.
The loss of customs revenue to the Commonwealth through the restriction of the importation of manufactured goods would be more than offset by the additional revenue derived from our own manufacturers who pay 42i per cent, of their gross profits in company tax, who pay payroll tax and who would pay additional income tax as the result of increased sales. I should point out, too, that goods ordered overseas by the defence departments are imported duty free. Therefore, on the defence orders, the Commonwealth loses company tax, payroll tax and income tax. I submit that we must reduce our imports bill by at least 300 million dollars a year if we are to start paying our way. We have survived so far through the investment of overseas capital in Australia, but this state of affairs cannot go on much longer. We must not continue to sell our assets for the sake of political expediency.
In concluding my remarks, I refer to the housing of age and invalid pensioners. I make an appeal to the Government to provide additional funds to the New South Wales Housing Commission for the erection of units to accommodate age and invalid pensioners. I am aware that the position is being alleviated somewhat through the operation of the Aged Persons Homes Act, but the success of the scheme covered by that Act is dependent entirely on the efforts of outside voluntary organisations. These bodies have done and are doing yeoman service in this field, but the finance made available to them under the Aged Persons Homes Act does not keep pace with the accommodation requirements of pensioners, as is borne out by the fact that at the present time the waiting period for units is between six and seven years. 1 should like to point out also that the New South Wales Housing Commission has undertaken a slum clearance project in my electorate. Here again it is hampered by lack of finance. Slum clearance is a very costly work. For example, it costs the Commission between 100,000 dollars and 120,000 dollars an acre for the acquisition and demolition of sub-standard properties. In other words, a 10-acre slum clearance project would cost the Commission between -1,000,000 dollars and 1.2 million dollars before any new dwellings were erected. I presume that the Government supports slum clearance. If it does, then I request it to lend its support in a practical way by meeting at least portion, if not the whole of the cost of acquisition and demolition. Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me put this to you: We realise that we must provide necessary accommodation for our younger generation and the migrant intake. However, in the process of doing so, we must never forget the needs of our pensioners for housing. They, after all, are the people who laid the foundation stone for a prosperous, progressive nation.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rebut in toto the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has, I gather, taken up part of the proposed amendment alleging that the Government has failed to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community. I want briefly to deal with two particular aspects of the statement of the Government’s policy presented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on Tuesday of last week, but I should like first to deal with some of the points raised by the honorable member for Watson.
The honorable member dealt with the pensions system that exists in Australia at present. In particular, he spoke of the level of permissible income and advocated that it be raised. I do not know whether he realises the degree to which the range of pensions has been extended since the Menzies Government took office. Honorable members on both this side of the Parliament and the Opposition side have advocated the extension of pension benefits in two particular fields. These are the total sum payable as pension and the range of people who are eligible for pensions. The first relates to the sum actually payable to an individual pensioner household. The honorable member for Watson quoted some comparative figures. Unfortunately, he did so in such a way as to prevent me from getting them down. Consequently, I am not able to make proper comparisons. However, I do know that in 1949 the base rate of pension payable by the Government of the day was £2 2s. 6d. a week. In those days, there were very few supplements to the pension. Nowadays, we give supplementary assistance and other additional benefits.
– I referred only to the permissible income compared to the rate of pension in 1954 when the level of permissible income was last adjusted.
– I am comparing pension rates. Since 1949 the base rate of pension has increased from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £6 a week for single pensioners and £5 10s. a week for married pensioners. In addition, the base rate is supplemented in a number of ways, as the honorable member knows. We have provided for single persons, who seem to comprise the category of individuals in the community having the greatest need. Supplementary assistance, which is paid to a single pensioner, is intended to meet the particular expenses of a single pensioner who pays rent. Additional supplements are available according to the number of dependants that a pensioner has. A wife’s allowance is paid and there are allowances for children where these are applicable. Child endowment was available in 1949 but none of these other supplements was available. The range of supplemental benefits has been considerably increased in the intervening years.
I have dealt with the first aspect - the total sum available to individual pensioners. I now turn to the range of persons within the age section of the community who are eligible to receive pensions. This brings me to the extension of the means test. In 1949, 39.1 per cent, of those in the eligible age group received a pension in full or in part. In 1965, 53.4 per cent, of those of eligible age received pensions. So honorable members will see that over the years the range of persons eligible to receive pensions has been extended by approximately 14.3 per cent. Honorable members on both sides of the Parliament have referred to me the question of whether eligibility should be based on need or whether pensions should be available to all sections of the community. I think all of us basically agree that some benefits should be available to those who have worked and saved throughout their lives. Under our Australian system, we have fortunately an increasing number of people who are contributing for superannuation benefits. The Government has recognised the advantages and the needs of superannuation by allowing as a deduction in the assessment of income for tax purposes sums contributed to superannuation schemes. So contributors to superannuation schemes, while they are fit and able to earn, receive some help in providing benefits for the time when they will no longer be members of the work force. Through personal and private superannuation, people are able to take some advantage of their earning years in this way.
Allowance is made for the individual situations of persons in the elderly section of the community, and in the determination of eligibility for pensions a complete waiver is given in respect of certain personal assets. As honorable members know, a person is allowed to own his own home and certain personal possessions, even including a motor car, and in addition to have up to a certain sum in the bank without his right to a pension being affected. To take account of the distinction between income and assets, the range of eligibility was extended by the introduction of the concept of means as assessed. The Government has continually looked at the situation of those people who are considered to have the most need. Consequently, the pensions system is designed to encourage people to save while they are fit and able to work and save, and a means test is applied to pensions. Those who have been unable to save sufficient to tide them over their years of retirement and who are able to satisfy the means test are eligible for pensions. This Government will continue to look at the range of benefits and at the situation of pensioner households. Since the Menzies Government took office, a tremendous amount has been achieved in extending pension benefits and I can assure honorable members and the Australian community that under the present Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Harold Holt, this Government will continue to consider sympathetically the position of those who no longer are able to look after themselves.
Opposition members keenly and constantly raise the suggestion that areas of poverty exist in the Australian community. I like to think rather of areas of relative need. Unfortunately, there are people who, mainly through their own personal fault, seem to get themselves into a position in which their incomings do not match their outgoings. This is a Micawber like situation. Though one has sympathy for people in that position, it is difficult for a Government arbitrarily to determine that beyond a certain level a family should not invest in hire purchase, for example, or put money into poker machines or other forms of gambling. The situation of many households is, as Professor Galbraith has declared, a situation of case bankruptcy. In other words, there are individuals within every group in the community who, through their own actions, have caused themselves to be placed in a situation of relative need. It is very difficult for any pension system to take complete account of the situation of these individuals. Beyond this, the system of social services is primarily intended to cover the basic needs of as many people in the community as it may be devised to cover. Towards this end the research section of the Department of Social Services continuously endeavours to keep in touch with those people who are in receipt of pensions and those in respect of whom there is a suggestion that benefits should be given in order that benefits can be granted as the situation is proved.
Honorable members have suggested that a survey of poverty by the Department of Social Services would be the answer. There are many reasons why outside organisations - and I have mentioned in this House the
Institute of Applied Economics at Melbourne University as being one of them - are more suited to make a survey than the Department. The first of those reasons is that the Department does maintain certain figures and it is necessary each year for each pensioner to report to the Department on his present amount of income, bank balance and other facts of his situation so that a determination can be made as to whether or not that pensioner is receiving the correct amount of entitlement. This is as much for the pensioner’s benefit as it is for the fact finding purposes of the Department. Rather naturally, individuals are reluctant to have Government representatives intruding into their private affairs any more than is necessary. Beyond this, I think a university or an independent research organisation is in a far more dispassionate position to assess the results of any survey taken.
It is for this reason that the Government is encouraging voluntary organisations in the field of social welfare. In particular the financial contribution made to the National Old People’s Welfare Council last year was directed towards the encouragement of voluntary activity in the field of aged persons and other persons of need in the community. It is to be hoped that not only by that means but through the encouragement of voluntary organisations, such as those which have been encouraged by the Aged Person’s Homes Act, that more and more people in the community who are still able to earn for themselves will continue to bear their share of responsibility towards the less fortunate members of the community. I think it is by continual voluntary interest and participation that the best results can be achieved to aid the welfare of the pensioner section of the community.
I wanted, in addition, to refer to the substantial part of the Prime Minister’s policy statement of last week and to that part of the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition which related to the situation in Vietnam. A great deal of this debate has centred on the reasons for the struggle in Vietnam, on the reasons for Australia’s participation in it and, in particular, on the recruitment of national servicemen to bolster the defences of Australia and to further the progress towards renegotiation and the settlement of the dif ferences in that war-torn country. First, the argument as to Australia’s participation seems to be based on whether or not tha war in South Vietnam is a civil war. The rebuttal of this argument is provided by the participation by successive numbers of personnel from North Vietnam and from Hanoi in the Vietcong movement in South Vietnam.
Various publications have been brought out by the United States State Department and the Australian Department of External Affairs which have enumerated the volume of arms and personnel coming from North Vietnam. The extent of this participation seems to be the basic factor in the determination of whether or not it is substantially a civil war or aggression from North Vietnam. There is today an increasing appreciation by all members of the Australian community that Communism and, in particular, Communist China, are the factors behind the aggressive move of North Vietnam towards South Vietnam. The clash of power politics in South Vietnam has been appreciated even by members of the Opposition. In the statement of the Leader of the Opposition the other night he made reference to the fact that power politics are now centred in South East Asia and that they have moved from Africa and Europe to this geographic sphere so close to our own shores.
During World War II both the Axis and Allied Powers refrained from the use of gas and biological warfare because of the deterrent force of the other side. It was because the Allies possessed gas and the means of biological warfare that they were able to deter the Axis powers from utilising these devastating and cruel means of warfare. Since then we have had a shift from the use of gas and biological warfare as a deterrent to the nuclear deterrent. Beyond the nuclear deterrent there is the balance of power by means of force of arms maintained by the United States of America and the Western Allies through their various treaty organisations. The reason why the deterrent force is so applicable in the clash in South Vietnam may be seen if we look at any of the publications of Mao Tse-tung which contain frequent allegations that the power of the West in general and of the United States in particular is no more than a paper tiger. If a country has a deterrent force it is essential that when it is placed in a position of saying: “This is the deadline and you must go no further”, it is prepared to use that deterrent force.
Appeasement at Munich seems to have contributed considerably towards the last World War. Resistance to Russia’s action in blockading Berlin, by the use of aeroplanes to ferry supplies into that city, enabled the breaking of the Berlin blockade. The use of force by the United Nations’ troops in Korea was sufficient to ensure stability and security for the people of South Korea. In Cuba, the preparedness of President Kennedy to utilise the threat of fores was sufficient to persuade the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to withdraw its missile base. In Malaya, the use of British, Australian and New Zealand forces was sufficient to crush the Communist insurrection and the guerrilla movement in that country and to restore the stability, progress and prosperity of Malaya, that close and neighbouring country of ours, to its present point. In South Vietnam, unless the United States. Australia and our allies are prepared once again when called upon to exercise the deterrent of power that deterrent will no longer be effective.
For this reason, it is essential that Australia participate along with the forces of the United States to exercise this restraint and thus give effect to the power deterrent in order to belie the accusation from Communist China that the West is a paper tiger. A deterrent is only effective if a country is prepared to utilise it when called upon. Beyond this, the use of national service trainees is an effective means of handling a situation in which young men can stand up to tropical conditions far better, than the older men of the community. I have not time to go into all the details of the reasons why I support national service, but to my mind the situation is such that we in Australia should appreciate more and more that unless we are prepared to resist Communist aggression in South Vietnam our whole future must be uncertain, and all our social service benefits and our national welfare benefits, and even our very high standard of living, will be in jeopardy. We must be prepared to stand by the things we believe in and we must be prepared to commit ourselves in this sphere of operations.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) made a very interesting speech. He supported the conscription of youths for national service in Vietnam but it was noticeable that he skilfully avoided any definition of Country Party and Government policy on the sale of wool, wheat and metals to China and other nations which he says our conscripted boys and volunteers are now fighting and will be fighting for an indefinite period. I congratulate him on the skilful manner in which he skipped around that important and vulnerable point in Government policy. It was noticeable that he was prepared to spend more time today speaking of his own Department than he has been prepared to spend on explaining the workings of that Department in this House for some time.
The Parliament meets on this occasion with a new Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and a new Government. The Prime Minister was sworn in on Australia Day, 26th January 1966. Sir Robert Menzies, Knight of the Thistle, Lord Constable of Dover and Warden of the Cinque Ports, departed from the political scene after a record term. A link with the past, extending over his Prime Ministership since 1949, was broken when he left us. The new Prime Minister was introduced with a fanfare of trumpets. He has been acclaimed as the man of the hour. He had been 16 years in the shadows. A former Treasurer, and a skilful spear fisherman, he stepped forth to lead the nation. Over a glass of champagne at Government House on the day of the swearing in he expressed his delight by saying: “ This is a really wonderful day.” Then, with the stirring announcement “A new Government is in office “, the new Prime Minister announced himself. As the Leader of the Opposition asked: “ What is this new Government led by the right honorable gentleman? “ One Minister who passed away was replaced, two vacancies were filled, the former Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) was demoted - and quite rightly so - and that was the full extent of the changes. For the rest we had the same old team, with the same old policy to present to the people.
There was no new policy for this stirring and dynamic age. Any elector who thinks this is a new Government is, as I think you will agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, suffering from delusions.
Let us take another look back. We were told that the report to the nation would be made on the first day on which the Parliament met. The big day arrived for the new Prime Minister and we expected a stimulating, dynamic, exciting announcement of the Government’s approach to the problems of the nation from the sporting, new look Prime Minister who had been welcomed earlier by the Press and on radio and television with all the glamour of a movie star, In the course of his open”1” remarks he showed a bit of promise. He said -
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 1 give an account of the highlights of events over that period I shall also bs mentioning some ^important policy decisions not previously announced.
The most important, of course, he was not prepared to announce until he practically had a bodyguard. Then commenced a lengthy and dreary oration lasting for more than an hour. The best that could be said for it - and the Press agreed with this - was that it sounded more like a funeral dirge than an exciting programme for the future of this country.
So we heralded the new Prime Minister. One important announcement that he said had not been made before was indeed an important one. It has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister announced many matters in the course of that long and dreary hour, but this one was kept until the last minute I refer to the decision to increase our military commitment in Vietnam. That this would be done had been carefully denied right up to the time when the Prime Minister made his announcement. But’ hidden in this hour-long speech was the news that 4,500 servicemen - more than treble our previous military forces in Vietnam - would be sent to that theatre almost immediately. The Government said not only that it would treble the force but also that one-third of the men sent to Vietnam would be conscript national servicemen, 20 years of age, unable to vote and having no say in the government of the country. This decision was arrived at as the result of pressure from people abroad in the face of opposition by the Australian people to participation in the war in Vietnam by Australian military forces. The Prime Minister said -
The Australian task force which we will be sending to Vietnam in the middle of the year will contain … a proportion of fully trained and integrated national servicemen as will all future substantial Australian Army units deployed overseas in any theatre.
It is a disgraceful act on the part of this Government to call men up and send them to fight abroad for a cause which many of them know little about, particularly when the Government has no mandate to send conscript boys, who have no vote, overseas to fight. I make no bones about this issue. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, this Government should not have Australian forces engaged in Vietnam at all, and the conscripting of Australian boys to fight in that country and in other parts of Asia, through the medium of one of the most infamous ballot systems ever introduced, is something for which this Government will pay dearly.
Boys of 20 years of age with no vote are conscripted to fight abroad and make sacrifices that unnaturalised immigrants are not called upon to make. Asian students training in our universities are not required to make these sacrifices by their own governments, they may continue their university courses without interruption. There is no way in which one may find the basis of exemption or the method of balloting or many other matters of vital concern to the people involved. Furthermore, when we read of the O’Neill case we cannot help but think that there are features of this national service call up that require a better explanation than the Government has so far given.
At the 1965 Citizenship Convention I pointed out a dangerous aspect of our defence arrangements. I said -
In the eyes of the public, particularly people with sons involved in the call-up, the defence legislation exempting unnaturalised persons may be looked upon as a form of favouritism and could lead to violent reaction by some sections of the community against the immigration programme. In those circumstances it is not difficult to imagine that the situation could inflame passions and create bitter internal problems, including the stimulation of hatred and bitterness towards migrants in general and unnaturalised migrants in particular.
Since 1965 this Government has done nothing about that situation. It has sidestepped the issue, and now the Prime Minister merely hints that something might be done. 1 do not believe that migrants should be able to avoid their lawful responsibilities, and I think that anyone who accepts the freedom and security of this country should accept also the same obligations as those that are carried by the boys who are now being conscripted. To my mind it is scandalous that unnaturalised migrants are not required to do so. A total of about 12,500 Asian students are in our universities at the present time, and we welcome them, but it must be remembered that they are in no danger of being called up by their own governments although this Government conscripts Australians 20 years of age and forces them to fight and perhaps die for Asian freedom. I suggest to the Government that it has a responsibility to explain to the people why these things are allowed while our own boys are conscripted. Above all this, we have the amazing situation that nobody on the Government side, even the Prime Minister, will say whether or not this country is at war. Only a day or so ago on 15th March I asked the Prime Minister whether this country was at war. This is what he said. It is to be found at page 206 of “ Hansard “-
I am asked, Sir, whether this country is at war. This country is engaged in military operations at a number of points. We have joined with the United Kingdom forces in resisting Indonesian confrontation in Malaysia. We have joined with American forces and those of South Vietnam and certain other countries in resisting the Communist expansion and the repression and terrorism from Communist sources which are occurring in South Vietnam.
So the Prime Minister says we are not at war. Well, he differs from the previous Prime Minister who, speaking in London on 30th June 1965, said something different. An article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ is headed “ ‘ We are at war ‘ says Menzies “. The article said -
Australia is at war in South Vietnam, Sir Robert Menzies said tonight.
The Australian Prime Minister, addressing an Australia Club dinner, said: “ We are at war. Make no mistake about it.”
He said the old belief was that a country was not at war until “something else” had happened.
But, he said, nothing else was going to happen. “ There is a war going on in South Vietnam.”
Honorable members can take their pick of the Liberal Prime Ministers. They both have different policies. Last night the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said that we are at war and that we have been for a long time. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) said today that we are engaged in a shooting war and that he could see no difference from the 1939-45 war. Just what is the position? We are entitled to know. Are we at war or are we not?
This is a very touchy subject. The Prime Minister nearly went into hysterics at question time when he was asked about this. He got petulant, annoyed and flustered. His answers took so long that we had to put a time limit on him, as you know, Mr. Speaker. If there is no war as the Prime Minister says, why conscript kids of 20 years of age, who are voteless, to fight in Vietnam? At the same time that the Government is doing this, why, if there is no war, has the Government struck a war medal for Vietnam? Why has it given repatriation benefits to the boys and others engaged in Vietnam? If we are not at war it must be amazing to the relatives of the 25 who have been killed, the one who is missing and the 141 people wounded in a conflict which the Prime Minister says is not a war. Why does not the Government tell us the real truth about these matters? Men are being killed in action in Vietnam, yet the Government says we are not at war.
If we are at war, why are the people in this country who have all the wealth, power and influence in the nation not making a contribution at all? Why are profits going unchecked? For instance, Mr. Speaker, Woolworths Ltd., in the first six months of 1965, made £3 J million profit. What contribution is that firm making to the conflict in which people are engaged today? What about Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. with £9 million profit? What about Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. with £14 million profit? Men die, boys are conscripted and wealth, profits and prices go unchecked under this Government today. Every person with a son 20 years of age, and every person with a boy, should vote against this Government for no other reason than that it is conscripting boys to fight in a war in which they should never be engaged. The Government is doing this on the pretence of protecting Australian freedom and democracy.
It would be bad enough if the Government could not get volunteers. I asked the former Minister for the Army a question on this matter and I found that between 1960 and 1961 57,000 volunteered and 41,000 were rejected. That is 72 per cent., or 7 out of 10 of them. When I asked the former Minister for the Army about rejections he said that the rejects did not come up to Army educational standards and were not capable of taking a practical part in the war that is going on. This Government is conscripting boys and rejecting people who volunteer. The fact that this is happening proves that this Government needs to have a complete setback at the polls in order to be brought up with a round turn on this important subject.
I say it is a shocking indictment of the Government that it is prepared to conscript men today when volunteers are available, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) says we are not at war and when profits and prices spiral. Do not forget that these boys will be in the Army for an unlimited time. This Government on 13th May 1965 introduced amendments to the national service legislation which made it possible for boys to have their service extended to five years if a state of emergency was declared. They would have to soldier on indefinitely in case of war. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) in a first class speech on that occasion, pointed out what these men faced. He said that it was a snide piece of legislation which aimed at increasing the full time training period of national service trainees in the Regular Army Supplement from two to five years. The boys who are in today will undoubtedly be called upon to serve for five years if this Government goes on as it has been going. In every step it has taken regarding conscription or national service training and the war in Vietnam it has let the people down and has been discredited because it is a Government which cannot be trusted.
I refer now to the people we are facing in this conflict. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) almost went into hysterics last night, suggesting that Red China was on our doorstep. Every speaker for the Government, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), has stated that Red China is our enemy. If that is the case, why are we selling that country wool, wheat and other raw materials - millions of tons of wheat and millions of bales of wool? From 1960 to 1966 we sold Red China $560 million worth of wheat, and from 1963 to 1966 we sold SI 41 million worth to Soviet Russia as well. In the six years to lune 1965 we sold 180 million lbs. of wool, valued at $130 million, to Communist China, and, in addition, $9 million worth of metals which could be used to manufacture war materials. The Australian Labour Party believes that we should trade with other countries, but if you are trading with countries described, as Government members describe them, as the enemy, and are conscripting our boys to fight them, you are guilty of the gravest charge in the political calendar. You are guilty of that charge when you conscript our boys and supply the enemy with materials that may be used against them in the conflict which is taking place.
The Country Party, of course, will do anything for trade. As long as it gets the country vote in return for sales of wool and wheat it could not care who the goods are sold to. Today, honorable members opposite are selling the products of the primary producer to people who, they say, are shooting down Australian boys that the Government is conscripting to serve in this area of activity. I wonder why members of the Government are silent on this question. I do not say that we are at war with China. If I thought that, I certainly would not subscribe to policies which conscripted boys to fight against that country and at the same time be prepared to supply it with war materials.
I do not like to recall it, but a lot of boys were shot with scrap iron that went to Japan in the last great conflict, sent there by a Liberal Government at that time. The same pattern may well be followed on this occasion. That is why today, on this side of the Parliament, we wonder why the Government is silent on this issue and does not explain why it is prepared to trade - to take dollars for bodies, as it were - and at the same time demand that sacrifices be made, limited exclusively to the average boy of 20 years of age. I am sorry that my time does not allow me to go further into this subject. One cannot help feeling disturbed when one reads, for instance, of the late Mr. Moroney, of the Australian Wheat Board, receiving a nice cheque from Russia and China, worth £48 million, for Country Party wheat, although China is said to be an enemy against which the Government is conscripting boys to fight. Honorable members opposite say that this sale of wheat to Communist countries is good business. The Government attacks the Communists; it says it will have nothing to do with Communists and accuses every Labour man who walks down a street in a procession at a trade union gathering of being a Communist. But it sends Dr. Coombs to Peking, holds him up as one who is a good banker and does not - quite rightly - suggest that he has any Communist inclinations. If the Government wants to sell wheat and other goods, it should sit around the peace conference table and negotiate with these people to save the lives of men. Under no circumstances should governments be prepared to sell wheat and other goods necessary to maintain armies and enemy people, while conscripting boys without votes to fight in conflicts of this kind. I condemn the Government and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe it deserves to be carried.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in the last few moments has made one or two fine emotional points, but they were points based on emotion and not on reason. This argument about wheat, to which the Opposition constantly refers, is one which just does not make sense in the circumstances of the present time. The only way in which it would be possible to prevent Australian wheat from getting to Chinese markets would be to stockpile it in Australia and to go on stockpiling it. If we said that we would not sell it to China., some other country would buy it as an agent for China and we would have no control over that, or Canada would fill the market for us.
– What do we do in war time?
– In war time there is a navy and an ability to blockade their ports, but that is not the situation at the present time and there is not a blockade of Chinese ports.
The honorable member mentioned also that it was wrong that 12,500 Asian students should be in our universities and not subject to the call-up. What complete and utter nonsense it is when honorable members opposite bring the debate to this level. These are largely Asian students who have come here, many under the Colombo Plan, as a result of co-operation between the Australian Government and the governments of the countries concerned so that they can return to their own countries, assist in their development and help raise the standard of living of their own people. They are temporary residents of Australia. Yet the honorable member suggests that they should be subject to the call-up. This just does not make sense and I think the honorable member knows it. He mentioned again the question of volunteers. He said that there have been a great number of volunteers foi the Army but that the Army has not accepted them.
I do not know how many times it will have to be said in this House that the standards set for the Army are the standards laid down during the 1939-45 war and that if those standards were lowered it would cause grave damage to the structure of the Army.
– Do the same standards apply to national service trainees?
– They do. If lower standards were applied to people coming into the Army, in many instances the recruits could be an administrative liability and a danger to their colleagues. The education standard that has been set is Grade 4 in the Victorian education system - about the standard reached by a child of 9 or 10 years - and the intelligence quotient test is such that, if taken over the whole Australian community, it would exclude the bottom 3 per cent, of the community. This is not striking a standard which is unattainable or unduly high.
The Australian presence in Vietnam and the involvement of national servicemen in Vietnam requires an understanding of what is happening in Vietnam and South East Asia, and the nature of the threat this poses to Australian security. This, 1 believe, is the basis of the real difference between the Opposition and ourselves. I suspect that Opposition members say that the situation in Vietnam is no threat to us and, therefore, we do not need to do anything about it. But the best description of what is happening in South Vietnam is still to be found in the words of the British Socialist Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart. It was he, among others, who pointed out that it was North Vietnam in 1959 and 1960 which made the decision to resurrect the Vietcong terrorist movement to overthrow by terrorism and subversion the governments of South Vietnam. He devoted some time to the methods of the Vietcong. He pointed out that, in 1963, 2,000 unarmed civilians - men, women and children - were murdered and that in 1964 that figure had risen to 2,800. He made it clear that this is not just or mainly a civil war; it is basically a war of aggression by North Vietnam, supported and supplied by China, against South Vietnam.
If the North Vietnamese regiments and the Chinese war materials moved by one stroke across the borders from the North to the South or down the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos, there is not a person who could get on his feet and deny that this was plain, open, old fashioned aggression; but because the material and the regiments are infiltrated in over a period of time, quite slowly, over weeks and months and even years, there are people who get up and try to say that this is a civil war and nothing else. This, again, makes it difficult to understand that we no longer have the easy divisions between peace and war that were prevalent before 1939. Nobody can say that we or the world exist in a state of peace, but we are not at war in the full and complete sense as we were from 1939 to 1945. There are states between war and peace. This seems to be the normal circumstance for the world at present.
The Australian Government can develop and test its policies in this matter only against the facts of what is happening in South Vietnam; not as we believe them to be, not as somebody suspects them to be, but as we know them to be. These are the facts which honorable members opposite would deny. I think it should be pointed out that we have had considerable verification of the situation from our own people - from members of the Army training team in Vietnam who work with the Vietnamese in every corner of the country. I am referring not to a battalion, but to our training team, the members of which work in ones and twos with the Vietnamese. We have diplomatic sources, friends and intelligence sources. They all support the Government’s view of the nature of the aggression from North Vietnam against South Vietnam.
If we want to examine the types of policy that Australia could pursue, having some agreement on the facts - an agreement which I think the Opposition would deny - there are only two policies that we could pursue. They are involvement in South East Asia or a policy of neutrality or non-alignment. I would have thought that most of us would now have come to understand, especially since India’s experience of attack by China, that neutrality or non-alignment will not ever be a guarantee against attack or immunity from aggression.
If honorable members opposite are really arguing that we should have a policy of neutrality or non-alignment - the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) is the only honorable member opposite who has said so but it is the implication of everything honorable members opposite say - they should come out and say it in blunt terms. They should examine the effect of such a policy on South East Asia, the United States and the United Kingdom and on the actions of those countries in this part of the world. There is not the slightest doubt that a policy of neutrality or non-alignment on Australia’s part would cause great dismay in South Vietnam and in Thailand, already the subject of infiltration by Chinese instigated and trained people. A Thai liberation front has been set up and it has been said by the Chinese that once the war in Vietnam is over attention will be turned to Thailand.
There would be dismay in Malaysia. In the 1950’s when Malaya was under Communist attack, the Opposition stood against our commitment there. Honorable members opposite at that time said very many of the same things they are now saying against our obligation and commitment in South Vietnam. They were proved wrong over Malaya and I believe they will be proved wrong over South Vietnam. We should also look at the effect of a policy of neutrality, not only on South East Asia but also on the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I believe that the effect on both countries would be identical. Non-alignment would mean that we would not help the United States and the Government of South Vietnam in South Vietnam. We would not help the British and the Malaysians against Indonesian confrontation.
Under those circumstances, the people who cry for withdrawal of the British forces from east of Suez and the few members of the United States Senate who seem tb imply that the United States should not be involved in South East Asia would be enormously strengthened. They would be able to say: “ Look at Australia, a country like ours, with the same kind of traditions and way of life. They are not concerned about a possible downward thrust by China. They are not assisting us in trying to contain that thrust”. As late as last May, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that China had to be stopped. But if the critics of the policies of the United States of America and the United Kingdom at this time could point to an Australia that was completely unconcerned about these matters and playing no part in them, I believe that the movements for withdrawal of both the United States and the United Kingdom from this area could well become irresistible with disastrous results for the whole region. This would leave us alone in a dangerous and difficult part of the world. If we are indifferent to the independence of other small nations, there may well be a time when someone will be indifferent to our fate. lt is now well recognised that in recent times the centre of the world power struggle has shifted from Europe to Asia. But how often must Opposition members be given the lessons that have been learned with such difficulty so many times? In the years since 1945, the Western world has been tested at least four times and has relied on the help that America has given. America gave Greece help against the Greek Communist movement that had been directed and supported by the Russians. The Americans gave support to West Berlin and ensured that Russian threats mounted three times against West Berlin failed. The Americans gave support to the United Nations forces in Korea when there was plain and open aggression by the North Koreans and the Chinese. Again we have the resolution of the United States which resulted in nuclear missiles being removed from Cuba. These attempts to probe the defences of the West were overcome because of the ultimate determination of the United States, which was known to the Russians, to use nuclear weapons if this should prove to be necessary. The threats have been overcome and as a result there is a less uneasy peace than there once was between the United States and Russia. But will Australia’s determination fail now that the centre of the power struggle has shifted to South East Asia, to Vietnam, where it is no less important than were the previous threats in the world context but where it is infinitely more important to Australia? Events are now occurring in our part of the world where we must live till the end of time. If the events in South East Asia that are promoted by Peking and Hanoi, as I believe they are, are unchecked, in the medium term this will present a direct threat to the ultimate security of Australia. Believing this, any responsible Government must take steps to meet the threat. We have our alliances and our friends in the United States and the United Kingdom and in many Asian countries. But alliances and friendships are not enough. To be effective, they must be backed by action when action proves to be necessary.
In June 1964, in a statement delivered by the Minister for Defence at that time, the Government announced considerable improvements in the conditions for volunteers in the Australian Regular Army and the Armed Forces generally. This resulted in a steady improvement in the reengagement rate of regular soldiers. Our reengagement rate stands at 70 per cent, of those eligible for re-engagement, and this is one of the highest rates of any army in the Western world. But the rate of reengagement, with the number coming forward to volunteer, is not sufficient to supply the defence forces that Australia needs in the present situation. This circumstance is not peculiar to Australia. The number of people being drafted in the United States is running extremely high. It is interesting to note that more than half the total number of the United States troops in Korea came from the draft. A total of 1,500,000 men in Korea came from the United States draft. The number of United States draftees in South Vietnam is rising rapidly.
If we cannot get enough volunteers for the Australian Regular Army, are we to say that we will not bother, that we will not take the pains to establish an Army of the size we need? If this were the view of the Government, as it appears to be the view of the Opposition, the Government would be guilty of gross irresponsibility. Any government that took that position should certainly be rejected by the people of Australia. What reason is there for saying, as the Australian Labour Party does, that we are prepared to make provision to defend Australia, but only with volunteers?
What courage or bravery is there in saying that we will allow Australia to be defended only by volunteers; that we will hide behind the backs of volunteers; that we will not take the precautions and make the provisions that are necessary to secure the adequate defence of the country, but we will hide behind the backs of people with a very highly developed sense of patriotism and duty? That is the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. I do not think it is an attitude of which it can be proud.
I believe that there is a national duty and a universal obligation for Australians to do what the security of Australia demands. In the ultimate, the Government, which is responsible for Australia’s security, must make the judgment as to what the security of Australia demands. This is not a question of asking national servicemen to fight in some far field of France, as was the case between 1914 and 1918. It is not a question a taking part in some distant war which is no concern of ours. It is a question of taking part in a conflict which we believe is very directly concerned with our own ultimate security. This is quite a different situation from that which might have prevailed at some time in the past. If Australia and the Australian people cannot accept the responsibilities, the difficulties, the sacrifices and the burdens that are involved in the present situation, the Government at some future time may be faced with the much more difficult task of protecting our wives and children from inside Australia.
Dr. 3. F. Cairns. - Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation on the ground of misrepresentation. I have just had drawn to my attention a statement which is attributed to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) at page 316 of “Hansard” and in which, referring to me, he said -
He was asked whether he was against guerrilla warfare. He said -
What is wrong with guerrilla warfare?
Neither on the occasion to which the honorable member was referring nor on any other was I asked whether I was against guerrilla warfare, and neither on that occasion nor on any other did I make any statement like the one attributed to me by him. I have never said: “ What is wrong with guerrilla warfare? “.
– Mr. Speaker,-
– Order! Does the honorable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. All I want to say is that any comments that I made with regard to the Mosman meeting were from verbatim reports of the meeting.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Messages received from the Senate intimating that Senator Branson had been appointed to fill the vacancy on the Public Works Committee caused by the resignation of Senator Scott.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In making my personal explanation, I could not say all that I wanted to say about what the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) just tried to refute. Every word that I qouted last night had been taken down verbatim at the meeting concerned. I was interested to see that the honorable member did not refute what I quoted with regard to calling in American conscripts. It is all very well to come into this House and make certain statements. The statements that the honorable member has made are bad enough; but for him to come into the House and refute something that was taken down verbatim shows the sort of campaign that he is conducting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Two letters have been received from the British Government in this connection. The first, dated 12th August 1965, advised that an Order in Council has been made in pursuance of section 418 of the Merchant Shipping Act. The second, dated 24th August 1965, forwarded a copy of an Order in Council, 1965 No. 1525 made in pursuance of sections 4! 8. 424 and 738.
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What was the consumption of butter per head of population in Australia in each of the last 10 years?
Mr. ADERMANN.- The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Butter consumption per head of population in Australia from 1955-56 to 1964-65 was as follows-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
In my statement in the House on 9th March 1966 I outlined the progress that has been made since legislation was passed late last year authorising the distribution of the surplus in the Superannuation Fund. In the course of that statement, I explained that amounts totalling more than $2 million have already been paid to some 16,000 pensioners and that the Superannuation Board is now in the course of paying some $806,000 to 7,000 former contributors to the Provident Acount. An additional sum of $1,034,000 has been credited to the accounts of present contributors to the Provident Account.
The distribution of surplus to existing contributors to the Superannuation Fund is dependent on an actuarial recalculation of the surplus in the Superannuation Fund as at 30th June 1962. As I said on 9th March 1966, this is expected to take about three months from the production of the necessary statistical data which is being taken from the computer in conjunction with the adjustments of individual amounts of fortnightly contributions for some 120,000 contributors that are now nearing completion. However, payments totalling $12 million representing refunds of excess contributions that have accumulated since 1st July 1962 are about to be made to contributors and the reductions in their fortnightly rates of contribution will apply from 31st March 1966 onwards.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
As I explained in my statement in the House on 9th March 1966, the final assessment of the amount of the surplus in the Superannuation Fund at 30th June 1962 has yet to be made and is expected to take about three months from the production of the necessary statistical data. This is being taken from the computer in conjunction with the adjustments of individual amounts of fortnightly contributions for some 120,000 contributors that are now nearing completion.
Nevertheless, in that statement I did explain that amounts totalling more than $2 million have already been paid to some 16,000 pensioners, that the Superannuation Board is now in the course of paying some $806,000 to 7,000 former contributors to the Provident Account and that a further sum of $1,034,000 has been credited to the accounts of present contributors to the Provident Account. In addition, payments totalling $12 million representing refunds of excess contributions that have accumulated since 1st July 1962 are about to be made to contributors and the reductions in their fortnightly rates of contribution will apply from 31st March 1966 onwards.
b asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
Will the Minister arrange for a review of the ban applied by the Department of Customs and Excise against the sex education text book “An ABZ of Love “ by Inge and Sten Hegeler for the purpose of allowing the release of this book for Australian i leaders?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question -
The book “An ABZ of Love” was deemed a prohibited import in terms of regulation 4a of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations during the latter half of 1963. The decision to prohibit it was taken on the recommendation of the Director-General of Health to whom books of this kind are referred for advice.
Ministerial approval to import this work for use as a text book under the special release provisions of regulation 4a is available to members of the medical and legal professions, ministers of religion and other suitably qualified persons in the fields of marriage guidance and sociology. Since 1963, several such applications have been approved.
It is net yet three years since this book first came under notice. Due to this relatively short period of time and the fact that it can be made available to suitably qualified persons in the field of sex education, it is not proposed to re-open the question of its general release with the DirectorGeneral of Health at this stage.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660317_reps_25_hor50/>.