25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. LUCHETTI presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that action be taken, through Constitution alteration referendum proposals, to give the Commonwealth power to make laws for the advancement of the Aboriginal people and prevent the making of laws which would discriminate against any person born or naturalised in Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Did he yesterday, at a joint meeting of the Government parties, tell the faceless men and women of those parties that the Government has decided to call up unnaturalised citizens? If so, why has he not made an announcement of this policy in the House in view of the fact that it represents a major departure in Government policy? If policy decisions are to be announced they should be announced here and not outside.
– Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that if a similar question were asked relating to events that took place in his party room I would rule it out of order.
– May I finish the question by inquiring why the Government has not made known its changed policy with regard to the call-up of unnaturalised aliens - the conscription of unnaturalised people. Why has the Prime Minister not made the announcement in this House instead of elsewhere? Will he now say to what extent the policy has been varied? Finally, is he keeping the matter dark until after the Kooyong by-election?
– What occured in the Government parties* room yesterday illustrates the difference, as I indicated to the House yesterday and on other occasions, between the methods of policy formation adopted by the Government parties and those adopted by the Opposition. Before advising the House on any significant matter of policy it is customary for the Government to have discussed it with its supporters and to have given them an opportunity to record their views in relation to it, because members of the Government parties are able of their own authority and as democratically elected representatives of the people to come to decisions on policy which can promptly be given effect to in this Parliament. There were two aspects of policy discussed, which I can now refer to since the honorable gentleman has raised the matter. As in his own party, we like to regard the discussions in our party room as confidential discussions amongst members of the parties.
– That is an old fashioned idea.
– Yes. I gather that the honorable gentleman has discovered that this does not always work out in practice. The Government did indicate yesterday in the party room that it did have under consideration at present the question of the call-up of alien members of the Australian community who had indicated, or would indicate if requested to do so, that they had made Australia their place of permanent residence. I make no secret of my own view that if it is practicable for persons in this category to serve in the Australian forces after they have indicated their intention of making Australia their permanent home the obligations of service which apply to Australians should apply equally to them. But I have also pointed out that there are problems and complexities about this arising from international relationships and other aspects. These matters were being canvassed in the party room yesterday. When we have come to a decision of policy on the matter the Parliament will most certainly be advised.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Minister. In view of the grave suspicions being expressed by Cabinet Ministers and members of the various political parties that confidential information from Cabinet and party meetings is being obtained by the use of scientific listening devices, and in order to protect the honour and integrity of Australia as a nation during the course of the InterParliamentary Union Council meeting to be held in this chamber in two weeks’ time, in case confidential discussions of the delegates from the various countries happen to be released, will he undertake to have a search made of the Cabinet and party rooms and the Press offices to ensure that the leakage of information is being transmitted by human and not by mechanical devices?
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that this is the responsibility of the Presiding Officer.
– Can the Minister for Defence, representing the Minister for Supply, state whether arrangements have been completed for the use of American Redstone rockets at the Woomera range?
– I am able to tell the honorable member that arrangements have been finalised under which the programme of upper atmosphere re-entry physics, which was heretofore carried on as part of the joint project, will now be extended to include the United States of America, which will supply the Redstone rocket for this purpose. My colleague in another place, the Minister for Supply, will shortly be making a full statement on the matter.
– My question to the Postmaster-General relates to the threatened Post Office strike. In view of the fact that the greatest comfort and solace that troops in the field can have is letters from home I ask whether those who by way of a strike are seeking to assert their privileges may have forgotten those who are defending them. Have arrangements been made or are arrangements possible to ensure that the troops get their mail?
– There will be a 24 hour stoppage of mail officers within the Post Office tomorrow. This will mean that there will be no handling of mail whatsoever and, therefore, the troops will suffer equally with other members of the Australian population as a result
– I preface a question addressed to the Treasurer by pointing out that in Tasmania, and 1 believe- in other States also, there is some concern over the failure of the Development Bank to provide financial assistance, except under the most stringent conditions, particularly to farmers who lodge applications for loans. Is the Bank imposing not only strict but harsh conditions in determining whether loans can be approved, with the result that loans are being granted only in cases where the security offered is out of all proportion to the amount of loan requested? Further, will the Minister examine this matter with a view to effecting some improvement of terms and conditions?
– As I have said before, I have received few specific complaints relating to this matter since I have been Treasurer. There have been general statements of the kind just made by the honorable gentleman. If he can refer to me any specific case, I give him my assurance that I shall examine it immediately and convey my decision to him. It is difficult to act on general assertions but I shall ask for information about the matter and, as soon as the House reassembles after the Easter break, I hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House.
– I preface a question addressed to the Minister for the Army by reminding him that national service trainees from Western Australia are required to do their training in eastern States, and this notwithstanding the fact that the vast military training establishment at Northam is virtually empty. I ask the Minister whether it is correct that many trainees from Western Australia have leave entitlements coinciding with Easter and are anxious to rejoin their parents at this time. Is it also correct that the Army is offering these trainees transport on a DC3 aircraft at a charge which is only about £7 less than the commercial air fare? Finally, if this is correct, will the Minister take the necessary action to ensure that air travel arrangements are made for these trainees at a much more reasonable cost?
– I shall treat the question as being on notice and get an answer for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether Security officers act under instructions when they attend meetings which are addressed by Labour Party members of the House of Representatives, and of the Senate. If this is so, what are the reasons for their attendance? Are not actions of this kind typical of a police state? Would measures of this kind indicate that the Government is trying to intimidate members of Parliament and to prevent them from addressing public gatherings on matters of great national concern? Why were three Security officers present at a meeting which I addressed in Footscray on Monday, 28th March last?
– The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is not concerned in any way with the activities of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. I shall look at the other matters raised by the honorable member when the question appears in printed form in “ Hansard “ and see whether I can provide him with an answer. I shall also make investigations to see whether I can find an answer to the honorable member’s question relating to the alleged attendance of three Security officers at a metting addressed by him. Let me emphasise that it has been a long standing custom of this Parliament that the activities of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should not be publicised when, to do so, would affect the capacity of the Organisation to perform the job which it was consitituted to do - to act for the better security of this country.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Yarra, in a question addressed to me, asked - ls it a fact that there is doubt as to whether it is legally correct to send Australian servicemen overseas without their consent?
My reply was -
I know of no legal doubt to this question. 1 went on to say -
The first time I have heard it raised is by the question now asked by the honorable member for Yarra. Because of the significance of the question, I will examine it very closely and I will undertake to give an opinion on it.
At the time the legislation was passed, my Department and I closely examined the question and came to the conclusion that there was no doubt either constitutionally or on other grounds. I have now further examined this question at the request of the honorable member for Yarra. I am satisfied that the conclusion I then reached was and remains correct.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether an embargo has been placed by the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea on the importation of poultry and poultry products from metropolitan Australia because of Newcastle disease? If this is a fact, are surveys being carried out on flocks in the Territory? Further, is the Minister aware of the consultations which occurred last week between Commonwealth and State veterinary officers, and was his Department represented on that occasion? The conference resulted in the lifting of the embargo that had been placed on the movement of poultry and poultry products between the Australian States. Will the Minister give consideration to the report of this consultative committee and agree to the lifting of the embargo on the importation of poultry and poultry products, particularly as the present strain of the disease has been shown to have no economic effect on the growth or production of poultry or poultry products?
– There is an embargo at the present time on the export of poultry and poultry products from Australia to Papua and New Guinea. Everyone realises, of course, that Newcastle disease is an extraordinarily serious disease in its virulent form and I think everyone is aware that Newcastle disease is a problem in Australia today. However, the outbreak of Newcastle disease with which we are concerned at the moment is in a rather mild form. My Department is carrying out tests in the Territory on a regional basis to see whether it can find any reaction to this disease. So far the indications are that the Territory is free of Newcastle disease. I point out to the honorable member that I have very great sympathy for the many Australian poultry breeders who have been affected by this embargo. I point out also, however, that we have encouraged the production of poultry by the native community in the Territory because this provides a very valuable addition to the diet of the local villagers. We have endeavoured to improve the breed of poultry in Papua and New Guinea. The honorable member will realise that we have to be very careful in the Territory so that a situation is not produced in which the poultry flocks in the area could be endangered. Until the survey is completed, I am unable to make any announcement on the possibility of lifting the embargo.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. By way of preface, I refer to a question asked by the honorable member for Wills on 22nd March 1966. The honorable member asked in part -
To this the Prime Minister replied in part -
From what can be foreseen the number of troops at present envisaged is not likely to be exceeded . . .
I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Was his emphasis on the words “ at present envisaged “ made with a full appreciation of the report of the Mansfield Committee to the United States Senate on 3rd January 1966 which declared that as the Vietnam war has evolved - . . the question is no longer one of applying United States pressure to a defined military situation but rather of pressing against a military situation which is, in effect, open ended.
Continuing the quotation-
– Order! The honorable member for Hindmarsh has made reference to a report. He is now quoting from it. He is out of order. I suggest to the honorable member that he direct his question as he originally started it although I have some doubt as to whether that also was in order.
- Sir, can I paraphrase the statement-
– Order! I point out that questions asked in the House cannot refer to debates in the current session. The question the honorable member is asking is out of order.
– I rise to order. This question referred to a question that was asked in this House and answered by the Prime Minister.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, ls the Minister aware of an organisation known as the Youth Campaign Against Conscription? Is the secretary of this organisation a paid, full time employee of the Australian International Committee for Disarmament? Further, has the secretary undergone medical examination for cali-up, and if so, what was the result? What action is contemplated to deal with card burners and those who incite them to break the law?
– There is no doubt from the evidence which we already have that this is part of a concerted campaign. It is run on somewhat parallel lines to a similar campaign in the United States and there is very little doubt that there is an intimate and close hookup between those organising it there and those doing so here. First, I should like to say that one should treat this matter in perspective. The numbers who have been involved so far in card burning have been extremely small. Perhaps a d i Te r.ent impression is given because one of the essential features of these demonstrations has been that Press and television representatives, photographers and others, are lined up to come along to take pictures and report the demonstrations. This is, of course, a tactic of the campaign being waged, and it is being carried out very skilfully.
We have found that some of those participating are medically unfit. They include one gentleman who is, I think, the person who the honorable member has in mind. A number of others who have been involved in alleged card burning have burnt other bits of paper. The offence lies in not being able to produce a registration certificate. As far as call-up notices are concerned, the offence lies in not appearing at the time and place designated. What the person does with a bit of paper is his business. However, we have a number of cases of card burning under investigation and a number of prosecutions are in train. This matter, of course, raises a number of issues apart from the non-production of cards, including, for example, the inciting of others to break the law of the land and whether those who fail to produce their registration certificates when required to do so should continue to enjoy deferment.
– They are working at this full time.
– There are undoubtedly people employing their full time in organising these particular activities. One should take seriously the remark made recently by the Minister for Defence in this connection. Wc are engaged in serious political warfare of a very complicated character and have the enemy conducting it in our midst.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has any decision been reached to provide freight concessions on the Commonwealth Railways for restocking purposes in the north of South Australia?
– No recent decision has been made on this matter, but I will have a look at the point made by the honorable member. I understand that some concessions are in existence, and I will get the exact details for him.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate introduced in 1963 expires in August of this year? Has this subsidy increased the use of superphosphate and consequently increased revenue to both primary producers and the Government? Will the Treasurer give favourable consideration to the continuance of this subsidy for a further similar period?
– The honorable gentleman’s statement that the subsidy expires shortly is correct. His statement that the subsidy has increased the use of superphosphate and thus has been a benefit to primary producers and to the Australian community is also correct. I cannot give a clear assurance that the Act will be continued for a further period of three years, but I can assure him that his suggestion will receive most careful and sympathetic treatment by the Government.
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade and Industry, I ask the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Minister for External Affairs: Is it true that arrangements have been in hand for some months for a visit by a Communist Chinese trade delegation to this country? Is it a fact that the Australian Wheat Board, amongst other interested sections of the Australian business community, is pressing for this visit to be proceeded with in the interests of Australia-Communist China trade? Is the only reason that this visit is being delayed the fear of electoral reprisals and the certain realisation in the Australian electorate that the Government’s political protestations about China are insincere?
– I will see what information 1 can get for the honorable gentleman. I can tell him that no action has been taken by this Government to prevent or encourage a trade delegation from any such source.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to the announcement by the Prime Minister of New Zealand that New Zealand will end its trade with North Vietnam on the ground that, while such trade is small and of no strategic importance, it does play a part in sustaining the economy of North Vietnam? Has the Australian Government decided to end Australia’s trade with North Vietnam, which I believe is mostly in hides and tallow, for the same reason as that given by our New Zealand ally or has it yet considered such a ban?
– There has been no change in the attitude previously indicated on this matter by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question on the International Monetary Fund. Has his attention been drawn recently to a statement made by one of the private banks to the effect that it is becoming increasingly common for Australia’s overseas reserves to be quoted inclusive of International Monetary Fund drawing Tights? There are a number of people who consider these drawing rights to be somewhat unusual and different in quality from our owned reserves, and therefore should be treated as such. Has there been any change in drawing rights policy to jusify this new treatment when discussing the level of our overseas reserves?
– There are two methods of stating our overseas drawing rights, the one used by Australia and the other used by the International Monetary Fund. In our own case we have what we regard as two different sections, our first line reserves and our second line reserves. In the first branch we include our gold and our foreign exchange, and in our second line of reserves we include those funds that can be drawn upon in the International Monetary Fund. For our purposes, as we are a country which has strong overseas reserves, I think this is a sensible and wise method to follow. It does show clearly what our first line and our second line reserves are.
The International Monetary Fund has three components. It looks at its own holding of gold, holdings of foreign exchange and what it calls the reserve position of the country with the Fund. This reserve position represents the net lending by various countries to the International Monetary Fund. The International Monetary Fund puts all these amounts together and classifies them as the amounts which any individual country may draw upon. I think that in the case of the International Monetary Fund that is a wise procedure and a wise principle to follow. In the first case, any country can virtually draw upon these funds and can get the money more or less immediately. So I can understand the attitude of the International Monetary Fund. Much more importantly, I believe that the International Monetary Fund, knowing that there are grave doubts as to whether there are sufficient international reserves and sufficient free currency to permit increasing world trade, is anxious to improve the Fund facilities as quickly as it possibly can to the extent it can. As International Monetary Fund funds are a source of finance and one of the ways in which world trade can be assisted by liquid finance, I think the International Monetary Fund acts prudently and wisely in the interests of world trade.
– Does the Prime Minister think it is fair and proper that national service trainees should be forced to suffer financial loss during the time they are serving in the defence of their country? If not, will the Gevernment make up the difference between the amount of wages they were receiving at the time of call-up and the amount of wages they would have received had they remained in civilian occupations?
– I should first point out that the conditions of pay and of service in the Australian Regular Army are so attractive these days that we have had the highest re-engagement rate in the history of the Army, or a rate ranking with the highest that the Army has ever known. I make that point because national service trainees who are taken into the Army receive the same pay and conditions while serving with Regular Army units as the members of the Regular Army themselves. My information is that among the lower ranks of the Army the rates of pay are the highest to be found in any army in the world for a soldier of that category - higher even than in the United States Army. So it can hardly be said that the rates of pay provided by the Australian Government are not reasonable. It should also be borne in mind that national service trainees who serve in one of the recognised theatres of war where military activities are in progress return to this country with full repatriation rights and with war service home entitlements. As has been mentioned previously, it is unlikely that the tour of duty overseas would be longer than one year. So not merely are rates of pay and conditions comparable with those of members of the Regular Army but also full repatriation rights and war service home entitlements are part of the conditions of service of national service trainees.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I may say at the outset that my investigations have revealed that Commonwealth valuations of rural properties in Victoria for estate duty purposes are based almost entirely on the valuations of the State Government. I ask: Does the Minister know that the Victorian Government’s valuations for estate duty are chiefly assessed on land sales in the area rather than on the productive value of the holding? Will he make investigations with a view to giving a clear lead in rectifying the anomalies associated with this system?
– It is true that in most cases the valuation of land for probate and estate duty purposes is based on comparative land values if those values are normal market values in commercial sales. 1 consider that this is the proper method to adopt, lt has been approved by the courts of this country over many years. 1 believe that if valuations were based on productivity, this could well impose a penalty on efficient farmers and could, in certain circumstances, play into the hand of Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers if lower values were permitted for estate duty purposes. This would be against the interests of genuine farmers. I point out to the honorable gentleman that a person who is dissatisfied with a valuation has recourse to a valuation board or to a State Supreme Court or to the High Court of Australia.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior a question which I preface by stating that recently Mr. Overall of the National Capital Development Commission displayed before the Public Accounts Committee a series of 35 millimetre slides depicting various scenic views of Canberra. Could the Minister arrange for those slides to be shown at a film night in the Senate Opposition party room or, better still, could he arrange for groups of members and senators to make a tour of the National Capital to ascertain the progress being made?
– I would be very happy to make available any up to date slides or films which may be available showing the development of the National Capital. I am pleased to hear that the honorable member would be interested and that there are other members of the Parliament who would be interested in having a look at the development of Canberra. If the Whips of the parties can organise a sufficient number of members and arrange a convenient time for them to make an inspection tour. I shall be happy to make available the tourist bus provided by the Department of the Interior for chaner to delegations, conferences and other gatherings and to provide those members with an opportunity to study the progress that is being made in the development of the National Capital. I am quite sure that seeing provides the best proof of the excellent job that the National Capital Development Commission is doing in building the National Capital as a city which, I believe, is being developed in accordance with the true concept of a city worthy of the standing of the National Capital of Australia which was envisaged when this site was selected.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a report from Vietnam that in 1962 17,865 innocent civilians in that country were either butchered or abducted by the Vietcong, that the number fell to 17,710 in 1963, to 10,645 in 1964 and-
– Order! The honorable member is now giving information. His right is only to seek it and I suggest that he direct his question.
– The number fell further in 1965. Is this one sign that the joint action of the free allies in Vietnam is becoming increasingly effective? Is the recent butchering of a Burmese farmer who would not give his produce to the Communists a sign that the same thing may be beginning in Burma?
– I do not think there is any doubt, from the information reaching the Government, that there has been a significant improvement in morale inside South Vietnam since the build up of allied forces, particularly United States forces, in that country. I believe this improvement in morale is not confined to South Vietnam itself; it has certainly, I think, been a factor in strengthening the attitude of neighbouring countries, and I would not put it out of my own belief that it has been a factor in recent events in Indonesia. I believe that new heart has been given to those resisting the thrust, the subversion and the terrorism of Communism in South East Asia by the knowledge that friendly countries, including the most powerful democratic country in the world, are joining together in determined and resolute action to resist the thrust of Communism in the South East Asian area.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of preface I would like to bring to his notice the fact that Viscount aircraft operated by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. have their Bendix radar instruments out of commission for SO per cent, of the time in which they are flying. Will the Minister conduct an inquiry into this matter to ascertain whether any breach of civil aviation safety regulations is involved, and will he have all aircraft carrying this equipment grounded unless the instruments are fully operative?
– I think the information given by the honorable member is entirely incorrect. The airline operators must conform to regulations which are strictly administered by my Department. These regulations require the maintenance of radar instruments in an efficient condition. If a breakdown of an instrument occurs during flight it is reported and. attended to immediately on landing. If the honorable member has any individual case in mind he should refer it to me and I will then see that it is investigated.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that Neutral Bay, one of the oldest and most respectable suburbs on the north side of Sydney Harbour, and situated in the electorate of Warringah, is without a post office in its shopping area? Is he also aware that residents wishing to transact postal business have to go to a temporary post office some distance from the shopping centre, and that this causes concern and annoyance particularly to pensioners? When does the Postmaster-General’s Department propose to proceed with plans to build a new post office on land resumed for this purpose some time ago in the Neutral Bay shopping centre?
– There is an official post office at Neutral Bay in the honorable member’s electorate and there are two nonofficial post offices, one at Neutral Bay Junction and one at Cremorne Junction. I think each of these is about a mile from the Neutral Bay post office. We have obtained land for the purpose of constructing an official post office, but I am unable to say when we will be able to commence building operations, because there are many post office requirements throughout the Commonwealth which I believe are more urgent than the one in this area.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Can he say what stage has been reached in the preparation of legislation for the introduction of strata titles in the Australian Capital Territory? Does he know that the absence of such legislation is delaying projects for the construction of home units in this Territory? Is the delay in introducing this legislation associated with the need to consider the recent New Zealand decision affecting the diminishing capital of companies controlling home units? Will there also be a need to amend the Companies Ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory to close the gap that has been revealed by the New Zealand decision?
– Strata titles are now being given active consideration by the standing committee of Attorneys-General. Victoria introduced some legislation of this kind a few years ago. Subsequently similar legislation was introduced in New South Wales. Without any disrespect to Victoria, I think that the New South Wales legislation, being later than the Victorian legislation, was better legislation. At the same time it cannot be said that the New South Wales legislation is ideal. In the Australian Capital Territory we are seeking to get the best possible ordinance that we can get at this time. It is in the course of preparation. I would not like to say precisely how long it will be before it is ready, but it should be ready in the not too distant future. The New Zealand decision was considered by the Attorneys-General in Hobart in January this year. My recollection is that we thought that the New Zealand law was sufficiently similar to the Australian unified companies law to require us to make some amendment to the Companies Act so that there would be now doubt about the position, even though we felt that as a matter of law this course probably was unnecessary.
- Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misreported. In today’s “ Daily Telegraph “, under the dateline “ Canberra, Wed. “ and a two column heading reading ‘* Labor opposes wheat, wool sales to China “ the following report appears. -
The Labor Party opposed sales of Australian wheat and wool to Communist China, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said today.
He declared the party’s stand in an interjection in the House of Representatives at question lime.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Holt) had challenged the Labor Party to say if it was opposed to Australia’s selling wheat and wool to Communist China. “ We say it”, Mr. Calwell retorted.
Mr. Holt issued the challenge when replying to an appeal by Mr. P. Calvin (Lab., S.A.) for a review of the Government’s policy on wheat, wool and metal sales to Communist China.
The report in “Hansard” will show that I said just the opposite to what the “ Daily Telegraph “ alleges I said. The “ Hansard “ report reads -
– I take it from the honorable gentleman’s question that the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the sale of wheat and wool to Communist China.
– It will not say where it stands on this.
– We say where we stand. Wc are in favour of trading with everybody but we are not in favour of sending conscripts to die in jungle warfare.
You, Sir, closed the incident with this very sagacious remark -
That interlude was out of order.
I hope that the “ Daily Telegraph “ - it may be a vain hope - will at least do me the credit of quoting precisely what I did say.
– I bring up from the Standing Orders Committee a report, together with proposed amendments to the
Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That the report be printed.
I should explain that the motion is purely formal. If the House will agree to it, I shall move immediately that consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day. This will give honorable members an opportunity to debate the report in the House at some convenient time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for the next sitting.
– by leave - -In his statement to the House on 8th March on Government policy, the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) referred to some proposals the Government had under consideration for new and extended farm loan facilities designed to provide primary producers with greater access to medium and long-term finance through the banking system for farm development purposes, including measures for drought recovery and mitigation of future droughts. The proposals comprised the establishment of a separate Rural Division within the Commonwealth Development Bank, and the establishment by the trading banks of farm loan funds which would be separate from the existing term loan arrangement and for which a sum of $50 million would be available. The Prime Minister also indicated that the Government was exploring an insurance scheme to cover loans made from the banks’ farm loan funds. After further consideration we have decided not to proceed with the proposal to establish a separate Rural Division within the Commonwealth Development Bank.
On this matter we have taken the view that legislative action is not necessary to achieve the Government’s objectives so far as the operations of the Commonwealth Development Bank are concerned, and that the needs of the rural industries for development finance from the Commonwealth Development Bank could be served just as effectively if we were to indicate that we wished to see a somewhat larger proportion of the Development Bank’s funds applied to rural loans. We have accordingly adopted this course and I have informed the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board, which controls the Commonwealth Development Bank, of the Government’s wishes.
With regard to our proposals for the establishment of farm loan funds by the trading banks, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and I discussed the proposals on 17th March with the general managers of the major trading banks and the Governor of the Reserve Bank. The general managers expressed themselves as being generally in full agreement with our proposals, and it was arranged that further discussions on details would be held between the Reserve Bank and the trading banks. I am now pleased to report to the House that these further discussions have taken place and have resulted in the formulation of agreed arrangements. The arrangements are entirely in keeping with the Government’s objectives, and the trading banks will proceed immediately to take the necessary action to give effect to them.
A Farm Development Loan Fund will be set up initially by the transfer of $50 million from the trading banks’ resources to accounts to be kept by the trading banks with the Reserve Bank and to be called Farm Development Loan Fund accounts. Approximately two thirds of the amount of $50 million will come from the banks’ statutory reserve deposits with the Reserve Bank and one third from their other assets. At the same time, an amount equivalent to 0.4 per cent, of banks’ deposits - approximately $21 million - will be transferred to the existing term loan fund accounts on a similar basis. As in the past, a proportion of the term loan funds will also be applied to rural lending. The Governor of the Reserve Bank will shortly be announcing the reduction in the statutory reserve deposit ratio necessary to make these transfers.
Loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be made by the trading banks to rural producers, particularly smaller producers. Those whose main activity is outside rural production, and public companies, will not generally be eligible. Loans so made will be designed to supplement those available from the trading banks on overdraft and from term loan funds, and will represent a net addition .to bank lending to the rural sector.
They will be at fixed term for a period related to the nature of the particular project being financed. It is expected that the periods will range up to 15 years, with longer periods possible in special cases. The loans will be subject to fixed periodical repayments. Conditions for servicing the loans will be related to circumstances in. the ry. ral sector and to the requirements of farm programmes for which they are made. Where the project financed takes some time to yield increased income the first repayment may be delayed appropriately.
Loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be directed predominantly to developmental purposes which will raise productivity in rural industries. These purposes will include development projects for the mitigation of future droughts or to promote recovery from the present drought. Purchases of property may be financed if the purchase will result in a substantial increase in productive efficiency. It will, of course, be for the trading banks themselves to determine whether to make loans in particular cases. However, the trading banks have indicated that in examining applications for these loans they will stand prepared in appropriate cases to relax normal security standards. They will look for good prospects for the success of the venture and capability and integrity in the borrower. Generally in the administration of the Farm Development Loan Fund they will also give special consideration to the needs of creditworthy younger men with appropriate experience who have been unable to build up adequate resources.
With regard to rates of interest, loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund will be made within the range of preferential overdraft rates normally applicable to rural customers, with the majority of loans being towards the lower end of this range. I should perhaps emphasise that the Farm Development Loan Fund will constitute accounts of the trading banks whose administration will be a matter for the trading banks, lt follows that applications by primary producers for loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund should be made direct to the trading banks.
With regard to the question of an insurance scheme to cover loans made from the Farm Development Loan Fund, this is a matter involving complex technical problems and the banks have proposed that, for the time being at least, they would prefer to undertake the type of lending envisaged by the Government without looking for insurance or guarantee cover from the Government. The purpose of the proposal was to ease the risk which banks might feel would be involved, and therefore the Government is disposed to defer consideration of the scheme for the time being.
The establishment of the Farm Development Loan Fund, as a source of finance for primary producers additional to the facilities available on an ordinary overdraft basis and through the term loan funds, marks a new and continuing policy on credit for the rural sector. The new arrangements will result in the provision of additional facilities exclusively devoted to the special needs of primary producers for longer term developmental finance and will undoubtedly make an important contribution to the achievement of higher farm productivity. The outcome is a pleasing one to the Government, and I should like to place on record our appreciation of the helpful and co-operative attitude shown by the trading banks in the formulation of the arrangements I have outlined.
– by leave- 1 have had only a few minutes to examine this document, but I have listened with interest to the Treasurer’s proposals and all I can say about them is that the hard pressed sufferers of the existing drought are offered exactly nothing. Is anybody going to tell me that having abandoned its own proposal to establish a reserve banking sector within the Commonwealth Bank the Government honestly suggests to the Parliament that something will be done about the further usage of the Commonwealth Developmental Bank?
– The honorable member is out of touch.
– The honorable member who interjected has never been in touch. Having expressed the wish that the Commonwealth Bank will do something that under its charter it is not legally entitled to do, there is to be no amendment of the Commonwealth Banks Act. Consequently the Commonwealth Development Bank will be required still to operate under its existing charter. If its existing charter has proved inadequate to handle the loan requirements of the primary producers, particularly those affected by the present drought, and has proved incapable of enabling loans to be made to drought stricken farmers to restock their properties and to rehabilitate themselves, I fail to see how, after the mere expression of a wish to the Commonwealth Development Bank, the Bank will do anything to alleviate the distress of those most harshly pressed today.
We have been told, of course, that there has been a meeting with the private trading banks which are prepared to cooperate. This means, of course, that if a person cannot get accommodation through the Commonwealth instrumentality to which this Government has expressed the wish that long term finance at a low rate of interest be made available, he certainly will not get it any cheaper from any private trading bank. I can understand the mechanics of the Government’s proposal. The Government’s plan is to release from the special account held by the Reserve Bank those moneys that the private banks are required to lodge with the Reserve Bank from time to time in order to prevent inflation. Lo and behold, when the special account moneys are released from time to time to the private banks the banks proceed, with the extra liquidity they have and which is desirable and necessary, to make loans to their clients. They do not charge a lower rate of interest. They charge their clients current interest rates. This is what they will do in this set of circumstances. The only hope offered is that a person might get a minimal rate of interest on a loan from the Development Bank. If that is so, and the Commonwealth Development Bank is the institution to look to, why has the Government had to make arrangements with the private banking institutions at all? The $50 million talked about by the Treasurer will be liberated to the private trading banks which will, as a result of the liberation of this money, show an increase in their profits in their annual statements to their shareholders. This is what the Government is offering the primary producers. There is not one solitary reference in the Treasurer’s statement to any particular rate of interest.
– Yes there is.
– There is not. The Treasurer did not specify any rate of interest. He refrered to a minimal rate, but what is to be the minimal rate? Any Government offering a gleam of hope to the people bogged down with a massive debt on their shoulders would say: “We have arranged with the Developmental Bank and with the private trading banks for loans to be made available at 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, interest “. What the Opposition would do is what the Labour Government did for the hard pressed primary producers in the drought of 1944 to 1946, when millions of pounds were distributed without any requirement for the primary producers to repay the money. If the Government cannot go that far, surely it can stipulate a minimum rate of interest, thereby putting hope into the hearts of the people concerned. Surely Australia is financially strong enough to shoulder the difference between the market rate of interest and a specified minimum rate of interest if the resources of the private trading banks must be used. Surely the difference could be shouldered by the Commonwealth Bank or by the Government. Recently I read the annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia and noted that it had made a profit of £23 million for the year. Of that figure, £15 million represented profit from the Commonwealth note issue. I remind honorable members that the Commonwealth note issue was introduced first by the Australian Labour movement and that at the time of its introduction the notes were referred to as Fisher’s flimsies. Today, those notes are responsible for returning to this Government a net profit of £15 million, half of which is paid into consolidated revenue and the other half credited to reserves. The balance of the £23 million profit made last year is the result of the operations of the Reserve Bank and other sections of the activities of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
Surely this Government should have the decency to say to those who are most severely embarrassed and harassed by the drought, those who cannot buy stock, that it will accept some of the financial respon sibility for lifting them out of their plight. But all the Government has done has been to put its friends who contribute to its party funds in an immensely stronger position than they have enjoyed hitherto. It is underwriting any losses that the private trading banks may incur as a result of the transactions referred to in the Treasurer’s statement.
I condemn this Government on its policy with regard to the present tragic drought. It has failed to satisfy anybody right from the time of its first statement about drought relief, and it satisfies nobody today. Even if there were any substance in what the Treasurer has said today, there would still be no immediate hope for the man who is in a desperate position now. What is proposed is some long term arrangement, and emphasis is laid on the fact that the managers of the trading banks are to have a discretion as to whether the security offered is good enough. Everybody should know that there are many cases today in which no security at all can be offered. The Government’s present proposal is typical of its lack of realisation of what is actually happening in the badly drought stricken areas of the Commonwealth. I hope that the members of the Country Party, and even the members of the Liberal Party who sit behind the Government will rise in their anger and indict their own Government for the meagre and mean help it proposes to give.
– The honorable member said that he had not studied the report. That is obvious from his remarks.
– $how me where I have not studied it? The Government’s arrangement is with the private trading banks. Is that Tight or wrong?
– The honorable member said it would not help the primary producers. I say it will.
– I said that it will not give any immediate help to the drought stricken landholder who has no security - the man who has lost nine-tenths of his cattle or his sheep, the man who is already up to his neck in debt with the banks. The Treasurer has indicated that the banks are expected to make this money available only to people who have adequate security.
Where is there any adequate security in the drought stricken parts of Australia today? It just does not exist.
– The honorable member said be had not studied the report. That is obvious.
– What report? This is not a report; it is an apology. I leave it at that. Those who are suffering today can judge whether I am right or whether the Government is right. I know what their answer will be.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the matter which is now before the House.
– (Mr. Lucock). - Is leave granted?
– There being objection, leave is not granted.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House that I have invited the Select Committee on Constitutional Development appointed by the House of Assembly for Papua and New Guinea to come to Canberra for exploratory discussions in the week beginning 18th April 1966. This invitation follows informal talks I had with the Committee in Port Moresby on 19th January this year. The Committee was appointed in 1965 and its terms of reference are: To draft for the consideration of the House of Assembly a set of constitutional proposals to serve as a guide for future constitutional development in the Territory.
The Committee presented an interim report to the House of Assembly in November 1965. The report said that it was reasonable to suppose that the Government would consider further changes in some aspects of the House of Assembly before the 1968 elections and that the Committee would be considering early this year possible constitutional changes before the next House of Assembly elections. The Committee was also formulating a list of the possible alternatives from which the people of both
Territories might al the relevant time choose their future. Before it sought the views of the people on possible constitutional development the Committee considered that it should have exploratory discussions with the Government. It appears that the Committee is particularly interested in the range of special relationships in the future between Papua and New Guinea and Australia which might be considered by the Government of the day.
The next elections for the Territory House of Assembly are due to be held in March 1968. Any proposals for changes in the composition of the House of Assembly would need to come before the Commonwealth Government this year for consideration so that if legislation to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act were decided upon it could be brought before the Parliament in due time, and so that any legislation relating to proposals for adjustment of the Territory electoral boundaries might be considered by the House of Assembly in time to enable all actions necessary for holding of the elections to be taken.
The Gevernment has no desire to press upon the people of the Territory constitutional changes which they do not want or for which they think they are not ready; nor will the Government refuse to make changes if there is strong and widespread support for change in the Territory. This is the Government’s attitude to the possibility of changes affecting the House of Assembly which the Select Committee referred to in its interim report, and it applies also to possible changes in the form of executive government, that is, in the arrangements for the Administration of the Territory to operate after the next elections for the House of Assembly. Subject to these considerations, the Government would regard transitional steps towards eventual responsible ministerial government as appropriate at this stage. Without taking away from the Commonwealth Government’s final policy responsibility that is exercised through the Administrator and the Minister for Territories, arrangements could be made for certain responsibilities of a ministerial character to be passed to an initially limited number of elected members and for changes to be made in the arrangements for the Administrator’s Council directed to the same end. I present the following paper -
Papua and New Guinea - Constitutional Development, Ministerial Statement, 31st March 1966- and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
– I should like to move that this paper join the other . matters on Papua and New Guinea which are on the notice paper and which have not been debated since May and August of last year.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is in order only in moving the adjournment of the debate initiated by the Minister.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Eightieth Report - Department of Customs and Excise - Excise Control Procedures.
I ask for leave to make a short statement
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The eightieth report relates to an inquiry by the Committee into the assessment of excise duty administered by the Department of Customs and Excise, and into certain aspects of the Department’s administration which, although not specifically a part of the excise function as such, have an important bearing on the operational efficiency of the Branches concerned with excise duty, namely, the Excise Branch and the Petroleum Products Branch.
In the field of excise revenue, the Committee’s inquiry was centred on the assessment methods adopted by the Department in refineries, breweries, wineries, cigarette factories, distilleries and match and liqueur production. In respect of the more general aspects of the Department’s administration, the inquiry related to personnel, training, organisation and methods, automatic data processing, and publications. The Com mittee also has taken the opportunity to place on record a short history of excise collection in Australia dating back to the early days of colonial settlement.
Basically, the Committee’s interest in the matters under review stemmed from evidence it had received from the Department of Customs and Excise during the inquiry into the Auditor-General’s Report for 1961-62. In that inquiry, the Department had stated that in 1959 it had introduced a new system of administering customs and excise controls over petroleum products and that as a result, cash savings of £50,000- $100,000- per annum and a substantial reduction in staff employed had been achieved.
In formulating its approach to this inquiry, the Committee recognised that considerable advantage would be derived if evidence were taken from Departmental officers located in State regional offices as well as from the centra] administration in Canberra. Accordingly, public hearings were held in Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. In addition, the Committee took the opportunity to make inspections of premises where excise duty is actually assessed and to discuss the procedures involved with the manufacturers and excise officers concerned. The Committee’s inquiry indicated that effective control is being exercised by the Department of Customs and Excise over a wide range of excisable commodities which in 1964-65 yielded about £315 million - S630 million - of Commonwealth revenue.
However, following the introduction of the petroleum products system of control in 1959, the Department appears to have faltered in maintaining the momentum of its re-appraisement of existing procedures to other areas of excise collection. Only recently has a system of commodity control been extended to an additional industry and then only on a trial basis. The Committee feels that whatever the merits or demerits of the proposed system may be, senior officers of the Department have had an adequate opportunity to endorse or reject the proposal. We also find it difficult to accept the Department’s view that, if the new system of commodity control is finally accepted, a period of several more years may elapse before it is finally implemented. Another disturbing feature of the Department’s apparent indecision over the proposal is the failure to make any assessment of staff requirements necessary to successfully implement the system.
The Committee believes that certain outmoded provisions are contained in the legislation governing some detailed aspects of the Department’s administration. For example, we doubt whether the present allowances in respect of the contents of beer kegs may continue to be justified. As a significant proportion of brewers currently use steel containers, the Committee considers that the legislation providing for this allowance should be reviewed. The various levels at which the cost of distillers’ licences appear to have been arbitrarily fixed is also worthy of comment. The Committee considers that fees for such licences should be fixed on a uniform basis, at a level appropriate for the purposes of licensing but not less than an amount sufficient to recover the administrative expenses incurred. I commend the report to honorable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Building Extensions and Central Airconditioning Plant at the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Television Studios, Gore Hill, New South Wales.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr. Speaker, the proposed building extensions in this reference comprise a ground and four upper floors to accommodate continuity and control suites associated with country television services and programme service accommodation of various types. The structure of the extensions is planned to allow for the construction of an additional four upper floors at a later time. About 60 per cent, of the accommodation proposed in the initial stage is to relieve a shortage of accommodation and chronic overcrowding which exists at the present time. The remaining space is designed to accommodate additional staff appointed in the time up to the completion of the first stage and to allow a small margin for expansion. The additional space will generally allow staff to spread out and again work under reasonable conditions and for a regrouping of functions to take place. Other staff who at present work elsewhere, but who should be located at Gore Hill, will be brought there.
From the evidence given to the Committee we concluded that at this stage in the development of Australian Broadcasting Commission television, there is an ever present need for additional accommodation for various requirements and that in the absence of long range planning there will always be an overcrowding problem at Gore Hill. Furthermore, we were told that the construction of the studio-office extension in two stages of five and four floors respectively, would cost at least $20,000 more than if the whole nine floors were built under the one contract. The availability of the second stage accommodation for staff now located elsewhere would mean a saving in the cost of rented office space of more than $33,000 per annum.
For these reasons, and because of the administrative economies and convenience that would result from having the extra accommodation available from the outset, the Committee, in agreeing that the work should proceed, has recommended that the additional four floors be built as part of the initial contract.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 19th April, at 2.30 p.m.
Question proposed -
That grievances be noted.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of the House some of the unethical practices being carried on by some very snide organisations that set out deliberately to rob unsuspecting members of the public. At the present time operating in Newcastle is a company called the Manchester Style Knitwear Company. It is selling knitting machines for £95 and providing to the unsuspecting members of the public who purchase these machines alleged agreements cum contracts that are not worth the paper they are printed on. In reality, this company is not giving these people anything whatsoever. In this way, it fools the people into purchasing these knitting machines at £95 each.
This company is not the only one operating in this field. I understand that in the Sydney area and the Wollongong area there are two similar companies to the one in Newcastle. These organisations are: Bristol Style Knitwear Co. of Darlinghurst, Double Dee Knitwear Co. of Rose Bay and Manchester Style Knitwear Co. of Willoughby. As I have said already, the branch office of the latter firm at Newcastle is situated at 456 Hunter Street, in the Mercantile Mutual Building which, I understand, is an off-shoot of, and closely associated with, the Chamber of Manufactures. I will deal with this aspect of the matter in a moment or two.
The unsavoury part about these contracts cum agreements which the company enters into with its purchasers is that these agreements or contracts which come with the sewing machines which are sold for £95 each are absolutely valueless. I would like to read a letter from Double Dee Knitwear Co. to a very reputable retailing firm in Newcastle which sells machines of this type. I do not want to name the firm because it could cause some confusion and bring it into disrepute, but I can vouch personally for the owner of it. He is a man I have known for the past 20 to 25 years. This is what the Double Dee Knitwear Co. wrote -
Thank you for your prompt reply to our inquiry regarding knitting machines.
We would be interested in purchasing the Girotex for £10.0.0, the Texilia, which is now discontinued, for £5.0.0, and the single bed Japanese machine for £3.0.0 also, making a total of £20.0.0. However, as a bulk lot we are prepared to pay £25.0.0 for the three. Unfortunately, the Passap is of no use without the parts.
Looking forward to an early reply to our offer,
Yours faithfully, David Dowe Double Dee Knitwear.
The machines the company is selling for £95 are useless, secondhand, traded in, obsolete machines which it is buying for £5 or £10. Unfortunately people in the community who do not understand the crooked business that is being transacted fall for what they believe to be a legal and binding contract which promises them, over a 24 month period, an average of 60 oz. of wool per week with which to make garments which will be purchased and paid for by this company at the rate of 2s. an ounce. Unfortunately, people take the view: “That will give us a return of £6 a week for 104 weeks. In the first 16 weeks that we operate we will be able to recoup our outlay of £95 on the machine and the rest of the time we will be making a profit. We will be able to make a profit of £529 in two years.” The catch is that this company is dealing with many other people. I had a look at the way these crooks operate in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Certain people have received approximately 15 oz. of wool in two weeks. One lady who had received 15 oz. in two weeks told me that she completed two garments and returned them personally to the office of the company, although the company had promised to call and collect the finished garments each week. Although she took the garments into the office she had not received 2s. per ounce for the 15 oz. of wool she made up into garments. This is how these people are operating in the community. It is most unfortunate that nothing can be done legally to prosecute them and have them gaoled. Prosecution alone is not good enough. There is only one thing to do with such people and that is to put them in the place where they belong, with other crooks in the community - prison.
I bring this matter forward, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the hope that some action will be taken as a result of what I have said about these people operating in the community. They are Mr. David Dowe, a crook; Mr. Giersch, another crook; and Mr. Paul Makin, another crook. The last is no relation whatsoever to the former honorable member for Bonython, Mr. Norman Makin, an ex-Speaker of this Parliament. It will be deplorable if these people are allowed to continue to operate in the present manner. It is most unfortunate if nothing can be done to prosecute them and to put them into prison - the place where they really belong. When I went to the office of the Manchester Style Knitwear Co. last Monday to try to discover something about this matter I found a bare office with an old table, an old typewriter and a few cardigans hanging around the wall. I spoke to the girl in the office and while I was standing in the passageway awaiting an opportunity to have a talk to these people, about 10 incoming telephone calls were dealt with. The girl gave the same cock and bull yarn to every inquirer. She said: “ I am sorry, madam “ or “ 1 am sorry, Sir, that we cannot supply the wool to you. We are so busy; we have so many orders. We have sold so many machines that we cannot supply the wool. We cannot keep the supplies up, but you can rest assured that we will average the 60 oz. per week over the next two years “. This is the type of reply that the unfortunate people who have purchased these machines are getting over the telephone in response to their inquiries.
One of the things that annoys me is that reputedly respectable newspapers accept advertisements from these people and reputedly respectable business houses provide them with accommodation. In the latter respect I refer to the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd. This company is, I believe, closely associated with the Chamber of Manufactures. It should know that the people operating the fraud to which I have referred are crooks of the worst and lowest type. They are robbing people who can ill afford to spend £95 on the purchase of one of these machines. What is the security officer of the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd. doing? Why has he not gone to the manager of his company and said, in effect: “ I do not know whether you are aware of it or not, but you have a tenant in this building who is a crook, a firm which is selling machines to people for £95 each. The machines are secondhand rubbish for which the firm has paid £5 or £10 each. The machine that the lady whom I mentioned purchased was valued at only £39 brand new.
Not only should the knitwear companies be strongly condemned for the way they are conducting their businesses, but likewise the newspapers, insurance companies and other people who allow them space and accommodation to enable them to transact their crooked business must accept some degree of responsibility. These companies are operating in bank chambers and insurance buildings and because of this some people believe that there must be something good about them. Why should newspapers allow these companies to advertise in their journals? Why should banks and insurance companies allow them to occupy accommodation in premises of allegedly reputable organisations? I strongly condemn the management of the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd. for not investigating the bona fides of these people and obtaining references as to their standards.
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to deal with a matter which is perhaps a little more palatable than that brought forward by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). I direct the attention of the House, on humane grounds, to the parlous and alarming position which exists in my electorate in respect of the shortage of telephones. It is a position which is actually getting increasingly worse. I believe I would be remiss in my responsibility to my constituents, and to other people who are in such dire need of telephones, if I did not bring this matter before the notice of the House. I refer particularly to the situation in the suburbs of Neutral Bay, Cremorne and, more particularly, Mosman. In these three suburbs there is a tremendous demand for telephones which cannot be met. Apart from the people who have submitted applications to the Postmaster-General’s Department, there are many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have not submitted applications because they know that it is no good doing so because at this point of time they have no chance of getting a telephone. 1 believe that the shortage of telephones in the three suburbs to which I have referred constitutes the greatest shortage in any area in Sydney, and perhaps in Australia. I thought that I may have been challenged on that assertion. As no one has challenged me, it would seem that I am correct. I can give strong support to my argument, because I have in my office a very large file of correspondence with people who have brought their telephone problems to me. The documents I have, of course, are additional to the applications that have already been lodged with the Postmaster-General’s Department through the normal channels.
The factors contributing to this serious position are very largely outside the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The three suburbs - Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman - are of a high residential standard. They include the harbour foreshores and they are close to the city and to the beaches. They are all well served by public transport, both ferries and buses. Over the last four years, each of the suburbs has had a tremendous home unit development. This applies especially to Mosman. The development has been so extensive that now the ratio of people living in normal houses to people living in home units substantially favours those living in home units. The influx of people who come from all parts of Sydney to occupy home units in these suburbs has created a situation in which the residents are predominantly elderly or living alone. It is essential that they should have an outside line of communication, especially as many of them are not in the best of health. Some of them have obtained medical certificates showing their state of health. But the demand for telephones in this area is so great that the priority established by a medical certificate is really of no advantage The priority means very little. T.et me <>ive an instance. A gentleman came to see me and told me that his wife had given birth to a baby whose heart had a hole in it. It was, therefore, most desirable that the child be given as much hospital attention as possible. In fact, the doctor would not let the child go home because no telephone had been installed in the home unit in which they lived. I made inquiries and I found that in this very small area every one of 11 people who had applied for a telephone had submitted a medical certificate and obtained a priority. Unfortunately, the gentleman to whom I have referred was unable to have a telephone connected to his home unit, but I am pleased to say that we were able to make alternative arrangements.
Honorable members will realise from the information I have supplied that the installation of telephones for so many elderly and sick people in these suburbs is a matter of extreme urgency, amounting to a dire necessity. To have or not to have this means of communication with medical assistance can mean the difference between life and death. Real estate agents have told me that numerous clients who wish to come into the area cannot do so because they cannot get a telephone. To those who are elderly or not in the best of health, a telephone is essential and the shortage of telephones in these suburbs means that these people remain where they are instead of moving into a home unit.
A considerable change has taken place in the population of Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman over the last few years. Not only has the population increased, but the population now contains more people to whom a telephone is essential. The telephone facilities available in the area are far below requirements. I understand that the amount of street cable that has been laid is not adequate. But more important is the fact that the Mosman exchange is very nearly the oldest in Australia. It is completely inadequate. I understand that provision for 200 telephones will be made this month, but this will provide only temporary relief. It is true that a new telephone exchange is in course of construction, and this is all to the good. However, I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) to try to find a way to expedite the supply of telephones to the suburbs I have mentioned for the reasons I have given.
.- This morning I want to express to the House my concern at some information I received from a most reliable source relating to section 24aa of the Crimes Act.
– That is the treachery section.
– That is right. The information I have is that a powerful lobby has been formed and is operating in the ranks of the Liberal Party to agitate for the implementation of this section, which is a potential cudgel of political oppression. The lobby wants the section to be used against people who are demonstrating about Vietnam and who are showing their disagreement with the Government’s policy. Let me outline the provisions of section 24aa. Subsection (1.) makes it an offence for any person to assist by any means whatever, with intent to assist, a proclaimed enemy of a proclaimed country. Sub-section (2.) provides that a person shall not assist by any means whatever, with intent to assist, certain persons who are defined. The 10 minutes I am allotted this morning does not allow me to give the details, but the Crimes Act is available to anyone who wants to read it. The penalty for the offence I have just mentioned is imprisonment for life. Sub-section (4.) provides that a proclaimed country means a country specified by proclamation made for the purpose of this definition to be a proclaimed country and includes certain defined areas. It also provides that a proclaimed enemy, in relation to a proclaimed country, means an enemy of and at war with a proclaimed country, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared.
To have a proclaimed country, a proclaimed enemy and so on, this Parliament must go through certain processes. I understand that some members of the Liberal Party are agitating most vigorously to have this section implemented and that they are receiving a favorable hearing from some Ministers. Section 24aa relates, inter alia, to people who excited disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth or against either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. This apparently is a seditious intention and the penalty for this offence is imprisonment for three years. Later, some so called safeguards are provided, but they are not worth the paper on which they are printed. This is largely a matter of interpretation and one must be concerned at the interpretation by some Ministers of the protests of people who are exercising their democratic right of dissent. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) has talked about a political fifth column existing in this country, merely because people in Australia are not happy about the policy which this Government espouses in the field of foreign affairs. People in this country have a perfect right to express dissent. We are living in a democracy and one of the essentials of a democracy is a right to express non-conformism, the right to express dissatisfaction with the way in which the nation or the economy is being administered.
This morning we heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) refer to the enemy in our midst. We hear these sinister, ominous words which are being dropped about this House; these sinister, ominous phrases which are being dropped about this community; and we hear these serious ominous threats which are being constructed around a by-election and which will be developed into a very real threat by the time of the next general election, unless the people of Australia realise the threats implicit in the attitudes being expressed by these people. Ministers in this place say: “ We believe in freedoms; we believe in the rights of people to demonstrate in a democracy, but “ - and we always have this huge “but” flung at us like the fettering manacles of a gaoler. These restrictions on our freedoms are dangerous. Honorable members opposite seem to think that they have a monopoly of virtuous interpretation of what our foreign affairs should be. There is no room for disagreement, in their view. When it comes to interpreting foreign policy, there are some extremists on the other side of the chamber who cause a shudder to run through everyone in this community by the way in which they pose potential threats to the liberty of our people. I want to give to the House an example of what has happened in this respect.
I refer to an incident last week in Queensland, my home State, when some young people demonstrated against our commitment in Vietnam. As a result of that demonstration 27 people were arrested. I want to make my position clear. If people break the statute laws of the community they must expect to be proceeded against, one way or the other. This is obvious. But then certain responsibilities rest on the people who make arrests. If people break statutes and regulations - I understand that in this instance most of the law breaking was a breach of the traffic regulations - and if they do so in an orderly way with no civil disobedience in terms of disorderly conduct or resisting arrest, they should not be treated roughly. They should not be roughly manhandled. I received telephone calls here from about 11 p.m. last Thursday night and I received further calls when I went home. These were as a result of the concern of people, who normally were not greatly interested in political activity, who were distressed at the way in which they had seen on television screens in Brisbane these demonstrators roughly manhandled unnecessarily. As a result I made a fairly exhaustive survey at the weekend. It seems to me that a number of the police panicked when the demonstrators arrived at the point of demonstration and were unfairly and unnecessarily rough with the people who were involved. I understand that in one case six policemen - I do not know whether that number is exact, but certainly there were more than two - lifted bodily a young lad who had a broken arm which was in plaster. One of them-
– He was huge.
– A huge man,, as the honorable member for Griffiths points out, twisted the lad’s broken arm up his back and flung htm into the paddy wagon. This is not the way to handle a civil disorder.
– Hear, hear!
-The honorable member for La Trobe says “ Hear, hear! “ Of course we know him as the swaggering young juggernaut of this place.
But let me mention also how badly the demonstration was handled by the police. Two young people were standing by the sidelines watching the demonstration. One of them said to one of the policemen. “ You are pretty rough, mate” and he was lumbered. His friend said “By jingo, I think that is tough “ and he also was lumbered. I have been informed that they were both members of the Young Liberal Movement. . This is how serious the situation was. I have been informed also that the 27 people arrested were not all demonstrators - some were innocent but curious bystanders - and that if the public thought they were all demonstrators the people responsible for the demonstration would be somewhat flattered. What I am suggesting should be done is that a special public inquiry should be undertaken immediately in Queensland to investigate the way in which this investigation was handled by the police. Secondly, we want to see in this House the television films which were screened in Brisbane on commercial television stations and which show the way in which the police handled these people. If this were an isolated instance we would not mind, but there have been loo many of these instances in Queensland of late. Before I mention another one I want to say also that there is a very strong suspicion among people who were not directly involved in the demonstration that the reasons why the lengthy delay took place - it was an extremely lengthy delay - between the time of arrest and the time when the people were released from the watch house, notwithstanding that bail was available, were first, that the police did not know whom they had arrested and for what; and secondly, the special branch, the State political police - if I have time I will say more about them - were pinpointing certain people whose fingerprints they wanted on record. There is no power to fingerprint under the Traffic Act but there is under the Vagrants Act for certain simple offences. I do not know whether this is true, but if this sort of thing is happening in a democracy we want an immediate inquiry. People in this country have rights and they should not be intimidated by special branch police or political police.
There have been demonstrations by trade unionists in Brisbane who have been intimidated by these special branch police. The people gathered in a public park - Queen’s Park - to protest about rising living costs. They were threatened with arrest, insulted and treated quite discourteously by senior police officers. From a photograph which I saw in the Press I know that one person was physically removed from the scene. The trade unionists then went to
Botanical Gardens, a Brisbane City Council park. Again they were threatened by the police with quite stern reprisals. A senior police officer was advised that they had the right to be in the gardens and he was referred to authority obtained from the Lord Mayor of Brisbane or the Town Clerk. Stymied there, the senior police officer, I am informed, was quite discourteous and nasty to these people. We cannot have this sort of thing developing in our community. 1 think honorable members opposite will realise that 1 have raised this matter not because of an opportunity to grab something sensational but because of my serious concern. The police must realise that they do not have a personal involvement and that there is no personal slight against them when people perform in these demonstrations. They have a right to demonstrate. If they break the regulations, then lawful processes must be introduced, but not unnecessary force or unnecessary intimidation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Time will not’ permit me to comment on the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) this morning. I rise to introduce a rather important subject dealing with national service training. I refer to deferment’s. First, I want it to be known that I do not wish to criticise the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), nor do I want to criticise his Department. My criticisms are of the present laws and regulations and the administration of the scheme. National service training was introduced last year with little prior warning. 1, with other honorable members on this side of the chamber, accepted it. At that time we thought that the scheme of having magistrates to handle applications for deferment was a good move. We believed that by so doing, no underhand methods could be used to have selected people evade their respective duties. Unfortunately, this has not worked out so well as we would have liked. No doubt there are many reasons for this, but I believe that it has come about by a lack of direction as to what should be classified as a case of exceptional hardship.
In my remarks to the House recently I raised the question of twins. 1 still have not received any satisfaction on the case I raised, despite the fact that I took up the matter with the Department. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that a case similar to the one to which I referred earlier is being raised with a magistrate today in an application for a further deferment. Under the present set-up a boy has the opportunity to join the Citizen Military Forces or to take his chance on being called up for a two year period of national service training. Naturally people in all centres in or around capital cities have an opportunity to join the C.M.F. as an alternative and in many centres scattered throughout the country areas people have the same privilege But I should like to know what happens to a young man who resides in a remote area. He has no chance to join the C.M.F. and has no choice. He must take his chance on the call-up.
If a case of hardship is not regarded by a magistrate as a case of exceptional hardship, the lad concerned must undergo national service training regardless of all other considerations. This is the difference between the circumstances of those who live in metropolitan areas and those who live in remote rural districts. If we were in the midst of a total war in which we were calling up all in a particular age group, all would have a responsibility for doing their share. In circumstances similar to those that I am about to describe, total exemption was granted during the war. It is not granted in the present situation, however.
The case to which I refer is that of Rodney Clarke of Rupanyup in Victoria, in the heart of the wheat belt. His mother, Mrs. Clarke, runs a property of some 800 acres on which she grows wheat and grazes sheep. Her late husband - I emphasise that she is a widow - served in the Royal Australian Air Force in the last war and was killed in an accident 12 or 13 years ago. She has three daughters and one son and since her husband’s death she has employed all sorts of labour in an effort to maintain the property in . good order for the time when her son takes complete charge. At IS, the lad left school chiefly because his mother could not obtain suitable labour, and he has managed the property for the. last five, or six years. I may add that my investigations show that he has done so very satisfactorily. The lad has now been called up for national service training and has passed his medical examination. His application for deferment was refused on the ground that Mrs. Clarke can obtain alternative labour.
– I agree. It is true that she could employ labour, but anyone capable of managing a farm and working it is no doubt already managing a property or owns his own. The position in which Mrs. Clarke has been placed is ridiculous and impossible for her, Mr. Deputy Speaker. She must sacrifice practically everything that she owns because a magistrate has decided to refuse her son’s application for deferment of his call-up - a decision against which there is no right of appeal. I have brought this case to the notice of the Department of Labour and National Service, but its hands are tied because of the Government’s decisions. I have appealed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, but his hands are tied because of the provisions of present legislation. Where do we go from here? Are we to ask Mrs. Clarke to sacrifice virtually her life’s savings and to dispose of her property, which, incidentally, is valued at some $90,000? Do we expect her to dispose of it? If she is not prepared to do that, the alternative is to lease it or to try to obtain suitable labour to work it. I am prepared to make a forecast that not within SO miles of her property could she obtain a suitable person to carry on for two years. If she were looking for someone to manage the property for a longer period, the story might be different.
– She might get a fellow out of Pentridge Gaol if she tried.
– That is so. I have checked the unemployment figures in her district and the surrounding areas and there is very little labour available - certainly not competent labour, as one of my colleagues has just remarked. What can the Government do about the matter? We must do something and we must do it quickly. In my opinion, an appeal tribunal should be provided in every State. If one cannot cope with the flow of appeals for any State, let us have two, three or even four if necessary. But let us at least afford a right of appeal from the decisions of magistrates in this matter. This is surely not a complicated issue. Only small tribunals would be needed. Perhaps each could be presided over by a magistrate, or even a judge, who could be assisted by two other members. May I suggest too that as many of the appellants would be residents of rural areas at least one member of each tribunal be a person who has a knowledge of agriculture and rural affairs. This is particularly important when dealing with applications for deferment by persons engaged in agriculture. I do not suggest for a moment, Sir, that only the farming community is affected. Quite the contrary. Scattered through rural areas are many small business houses that are in exactly the same position in this respect, and they must be given similar consideration.
I appeal to the Minister and the Government to look into this suggestion without delay. The kind of action that 1 propose must be taken very quickly if further embarrassment is to be prevented. I suggest also that any person who is at present serving in the forces and who had applied for deferment of his call-up and had his application refused be afforded an opportunity to appeal to a tribunal of the kind that I have proposed. I have a number of other suggestions that I would like to make, but time will not permit me to do so. I again appeal to the Government and the Minister to look into the feasibility of appointing appeal tribunals so that applicants for deferment may have recourse to somebody other than a magistrate. In my view, magistrates have been very fair but they have not been given an opportunity to make comparisons between cases. If we allow the sort of things that have been happening to continue, some very good lads who cannot be spared will be dragged off their properties and away from their businesses and in the long run this will adversely affect the community as a whole.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the first matter that I wish to raise concerns the effect on certain of my constituents and their homes of the noise nuisance and vibration caused by aircraft taking off from and approaching Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, which is contained almost wholly in my electorate of Watson. Since I was elected to this Parliament nearly 1 1 years ago, I have received numerous complaints about this problem. Some time ago, representatives of the Municipal Councils of Botany, Randwick, Marrickville and Rockdale met in conference to discuss the matter. The result was the issuing of a unanimous protest at the excessive noise to which the local residents are subjected.
Several months ago, I was present at a well attended public meeting organised in the West Pagewood area by some of my constituents to direct attention to, inter alia, the noise nuisance and vibration effects emanating from the vicinity of the Airport. The meeting unanimously resolved that I be requested to seek the agreement of the Minister for Civil Aviation to receive a deputation representing the views of the gathering. Consequently, I wrote to the present Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), who was then Minister for Civil Aviation, and asked him to receive a deputation. He replied to the effect that he would accede to the request and grant an interview for a date which was to be fixed and which would be on his first visit to Sydney. However, owing to the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies and the reshuffle of ministerial portfolios, a new Minister was appointed to the Civil Aviation portfolio. I wrote to the new Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) pointing out that his predecessor had agreed to receive a deputation in Sydney. The honorable gentleman replied stating that he would interview a deputation but that the meeting would have to be in Canberra as he would not be available in Sydney between the end of the present sessional period and the beginning of the Budget sessional period later this year.
I immediately communicated with Alderman Tobin of the Botany Municipal Council who had been appointed by the public meeting that I have mentioned to lead the deputation. I inquired from him whether it would be possible for members of the deputation to come to Canberra for the interview and I received the reply that I fully expected. In simple words, it was that some of the members of the deputation were plain, ordinary working people and could not afford to lose a full day’s pay in addition to paying fares. It seems to me that the Minister adopted a most unreasonable attitude in not making an hour or two of his time available in Sydney to receive the deputation and listen to the views of the people of the Pagewood area about vibration effects and noise emanating from the Kingsford-Smith Airport.
I should like to devote the remainder of my time to matters that concern age and invalid pensioners. Yesterday, a direct question was put to the Prime Minister by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and evasive tactics were employed by the Prime Minister in giving an answer. The question and answer are recorded in “Hansard” as follows -
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I have received a statement from the Western Australian Division of the Australian Pensioners League intimating that the percentage of the basic wage represented by a married couple’s combined pension has dropped from 70.29 on 30th October 1961 to 67.97 on 1st January 1966. Will the right honorable gentleman tell the 725,000 age and invalid pensioners of Australia how much further the Government intends to let the percentage fall before granting them the relief to which the are justly entitled?
– lt is the practice of the Government, when considering the Budget, to make a thorough review of all social welfare policies in force at that time.
– The same old cliche.
– It happens to be a statement of fact about the growing expenditure on behalf of the people of Australia by this Parliament for social welfare purposes. I think I am correct in saying that in the last year of office of honorable gentlemen opposite the provision was £90 million or $180 million-
– Answer Yes or No.
– The Government has increased not merely the level of payment but the range of payment for an ever-increasing body of social welfare provisions throughout the period that it has held office, with the result that in the last Budget a provision of $940 million was made for social welfare purposes generally. The group to which the honorable gentleman refers will be included in the review that will be undertaken when the Budget is being considered later this year. lt is a scandalous state of affairs when age and invalid pensioners are so callously neglected by a Government which has failed to maintain a reasonable pension rate to meet the ever increasing prices of essential commodities. The Prime Minister uses the worn out bedtime story that pensions will be reviewed when the Budget is being considered later this year. There is absolutely no impediment in the way of the Government’s bringing down a supplementary Budget to increase the pension rates when we resume this sessional period on Tuesday, 19th April. If the combined pension of a married couple had retained the relationship to the basic wage that prevailed on 30th October 1961, when it represented 70.29 per cent, of the basic wage, such a couple would now be receiving a combined pension of $22.75. In other words, the purchasing power of the combined pension has declined by 75c or 7s. Gd. a week over the period in question.
It is noticeable that the Prime Minister compared the amount of social service benefits paid in 1948-49 with the amount provided in the last Budget. This is a ridiculous comparison. In 1948-49 the total Budget amounted to about £500 million or $1,000 million. The £90 million allotted at that time for social services represented about 18 per cent, of the total Budget. The Prime Minister has told us that in the last Budget provision was made for $940 million for social service purposes. If one considers that as a percentage of the total Budget of $5,200 million one sees that it represents about the same proportion as prevailed in 194S-49. There has been absolutely no increase in the effective amount of social service benefits since 1948-49, when considered as a proportion of the total Budget.
Then the Prime Minister again produced the worn out argument that the Government will review the situation when the Budget is being considered later in the year. What happens to these people who, in the meantime, are struggling to exist on the paltry pensions they are being paid? Deeds count more than words. Whenever a question about social services is asked we receive the same stock answer from either the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) or the Prime Minister that the matter will be reviewed at the end of the year when the Government is preparing the Budget. This is not much solace to the people who are forced to exist on the paltry pension now being paid. I suggest that if the Government is sincere and has any real regard for the welfare of age and Invalid pensioners it should bring down a supplementary Budget when we resume on 19th April so that pensions will be restored to a rate which will give them the purchasing power that they formerly had.
.- I want to refer to a question I asked in this Parliament this morning regarding valuation of land for estate duty purposes. I said I had investigated the position and found that Commonwealth valuations of rural properties in Victoria, for purposes of probate or estate duty, are based almost entirely on State Government valuations. The Minister agreed with me on that point. I pointed out to him that Victorian Government valuations are based chiefly on land sales in the particular areas, rather than on the productive value of the holdings concerned. I asked him to make an investigation with a view to giving a clear lead in rectifying the anomaly associated with this system. I have only a few minutes available to me and cannot go fully into the details, but I may be able to point out one or two anomalies that occur in the process of making valuations for estate duty on the basis of land sales.
There are all sorts of reasons why land sells at high prices. A man occupying a property may find the adjoining property coming on the market. He may want to buy that property for his son and he may say to himself: “I can buy this for my son and I can work the two properties pretty well with the plant I have at present “. Such a man may pay a price which represents more than the land is really worth to anyone else. Then there are directors or owners of big companies, or perhaps doctors or dentists or other professional men who have amassed a lot of money and who want to avoid as much taxation as possible. These people frequently buy rural land that needs improvement and they then spend money in general clearing and preparing the land for crops. In the year in which they have such improvements made they get the advantage of full taxation deductions for the money they spend. They have large incomes and in some cases their taxation deductions are quite considerable. Other people who want to buy such land may have to put all their available money into the purchase of it and the provision of machinery to work it. They then have little income at all for quite a while and so enjoy only small taxation deductions. The logical conclusion is that the man with all the money, sometimes referred to as the Collins Street farmer, is able to pay a good deal more per acre than the working farmer who would live on the property and not be simply an absentee owner.
Suppose a valuation is required of a property in a certain area. The valuer studies the area within 10, 20 or more miles radius of the property in question. He finds that land in that area has been bringing unrealistic prices, and perhaps those prices are high and have been paid for reasons such as those I have just outlined, and which should not be taken into account in making a valuation. It is for this reason that I asked my question of the Minister. Although I have not had time to study his reply closely, I must say that I do not feel at all satisfied with it. That is whyI am raising the matter again in the Parliament. I know that it has engaged the attention of property owners recently, because they ; gain no satisfaction from realising that if land is sold in their districts for more than it is worth, the effect will be reflected later in probate duties levied on their own estates.
– 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.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, it is expedient that the following proposed work should be carried out without having been referred to the Parliamentary Standing . Committee on Public Works: - Construction of a road from Humpty Doo to Mount Bundey in the Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the construction of approximately 27 miles of road to permit the cartage of iron ore from the Mr Bundey deposits by road train to Minns rail siding and thence by rail to Darwin. The project will include the construction of two bridges, one across the Adelaide River, and a smaller one across Mr Bundey Creek. It will also involve several miles of causeway across the flood plains of the Adelaide River. The total estimated cost is $1.7 million and this is to be shared equally with the Mr Morgan Mining Co.
In addition, the road will serve three pastoral holdings and a number of buffalo holdings. It will also connect with existing tracks and roads through to Oenpelli, and thus provide an important step towards opening up the whole of the coastal plains area.
As the first shipment of Mr Bundey ore from Darwin is required by April 1968, the road must be available for cartage several months prior to this and, to meet this target, it is essential that construction of the road be commenced as soon as possible so as to make the most use of the 1966 dry season, particularly as the road crosses the flood plains of the Adelaide River.
In view of the need to commence construction urgently I recommend that the proposal be carried out without being referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
.- The Opposition opposes the motion. It will be discussed at some length by Opposition members of the Public Works Committee who are conversant with all the details of the project. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) and perhaps other Opposition members will give reasons why we oppose the motion.
.- The Opposition opposes the motion moved by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). We do so in protest at the Government’s action in continually bypassing the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works by not referring to it proposals for work exceeding in value $500,000. We register also our resentment at the Government’s flagrant disregard for legislation of its own creation and of its contempt for Her Majesty’s Opposition by the manner in which the motion now before us has been introduced. Only six years ago, the Government amended section 16 of the Public Works Committee Act to increase from $50,000 to $500,000 the maximum value for work that need not be referred to the Committee. All projects costing in excess of $500,000 then had to be referred to the Committee. Exceptions were works which the Parliament had agreed should not be referred to the Committee because it was expedient to carry them out without such reference and works which the GovernorGeneral in- Council had declared to be of a defence character and in relation to which investigation by the Committee would be contrary to the public interest.
The Minister has claimed that the work referred to in his motion is of an urgent nature. He has asked the Parliament to agree to by-pass a Public Works Committee inquiry into whether the proposed work is warranted, whether the funds to be appropriated for the work are to be wisely spent, or whether there is an alternative proposal to the one now contemplated. In my opinion, the motion now before the House is an endeavour on the part of the Government to continue a practice which it has been getting away with for the last three or four years. It is a practice which the Parliament will see snowball. If the practice is not stopped we will see reference after reference dealt with by the Government in the same haphazard manner. I know that from time to time the Public Works Committee has agreed that certain types of work need not be referred to it but it has taken this course only to assist the Government to expedite certain proposals of which the Committee had prior knowledge. In some cases the Committee had discussed the proposals and even inspected proposed sites. Only recently the Fort Hill wharf proposal at Darwin, costing more than $3 million, was not referred to the Parliament for approval because the Northern Territory Port Authority had been established under the Ports Ordinance of 1962-63. In my view the establishment of the Port Authority under the Northern Territory Administration is just another way to by-pass the Public Works Committee, because the funds for the work that this Authority will carry out will be appropriated by this Parliament. The 1965-66 Budget Papers show under
Division No. 995, item 12, that £890,000 was appropriated as a first instalment on the work. Incidentally, the Fort Hill wharf is being constructed by the Government mainly for the loading of bulk ore carriers and the ore from Mount Bundey will be shipped to Japan from that wharf.
In recent years several proposals involving projects in the Northern Territory have not been referred to the Public Works Committee. In these cases the Government has claimed that the work has been of an urgent nature. Among other proposals, there were those relating to the Administration Block No. 5 and the cold storage plant in Darwin. In 1962 more than £4i million was provided for beef roads in the Northern Territory, but only one project was referred to the Committee. What happened to that reference is now a matter of history. The Wave Hill-Top Springs Road proposal came before the Committee after two years of bickering on the part of the Government. I am sure that the proposal approved by the Committee has been of much greater benefit to cattle man of the Territory than the Government’s original proposal would have been.
To keep the record in order, Mr. Speaker, and so that I might not incur your displeasure, I should remind the House that in addition to providing a road for the transport of iron ore, it is claimed that the current proposal will lead to the opening up of the entire coastal plains area in which initially three pastoral holdings and several buffalo holdings will be served. This, in effect, brings the proposal into the category of a beef road. I have previously expressed the view that the cost of the DunmarraTimber Creek Road, which is estimated to be £2,520,000, was out of all proportion to its actual value to the cattle industry of the Northern Territory. Nothing I have seen since has induced me to change my mind. The proposal to build the Top SpringsWillerooKatherine Road which in my opinion is one of the most important in the Northern Territory, was not referred to the Committee. The present proposal, according to the vague information given to the Public Works Committee, is estimated to cost about £850,000 or $1.7 million. I submit that the Government’s claim to urgency is fictitious and not according to facts. It is common knowledge that for some years the Mount Morgan company has held deposits of iron ore in the Mount Bundey area and that the company has been exerting pressure on the Northern Territory Administration and on the Commonwealth Government to undertake the building of a road and a wharf to enable export of the ore to take place. I understand that the Government initially refused to have any part in the building of the road because a sufficient abundance of ore was not proven and the area could not produce sufficient meat, hides or other exportable products in payable quantities. In the Opposition’s view the Government must now show the circumstances that have caused it to change its attitude.
To our way of thinking, it is not just a question of building a road at a cost of $1.7 million. There are many other aspects of development in the Humpty Doo-Mount Bundey area to be considered. The indecent haste with which the Government has suddenly gone about this proposal savours to me of a vested interest by someone in the establishment of the road. So that honorable members will know why the Opposition opposes the motion and why it submits that all work exceeding in estimate $500,000 should be referred to the Public Works Committee, I shall read two letters that have been dealt with by the Committee. The first letter is addressed to the Chairman, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) and is from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes). In substance it shows that there is no real urgency in having the work completed. The second letter, from the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), deals with the proposal generally. On 16th March the Minister for Territories wrote to the Chairman of the Committee as follows -
I am writing to confirm oral advice given you recently as to why the proposal to construct a road from near Humpty Doo to Mount Bundey in the Northern Territory was not referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works.
In December, 196S, Cabinet agreed to construct the road (about 27 miles long), including a bridge over the Adelaide River, at an estimated cost of $1.7m. subject to the acceptance of certain conditions by the companies concerned in the development of the Mount Bundey iron ore deposits. Cabinet also agreed that because of the urgency involved, the road proposal need not be submitted to the Public Works Committee.
The background to this decision is that Mount Morgan Ltd., through its wholly owned subsidiary Morgan Mining and Industrial Company
Pty. Ltd., obtained contracts for the sale of 1.4m. tons of iron ore from Mount Bundey to two Japanese companies. These contracts stipulated that the initial shipment of ore should be made no later than October, 1967. Mount Morgan then sought Government assistance and inter alia asked that the Commonwealth pay for half the cost of an access road to Mount Bundey.
It will be seen that four months ago Cabinet had agreed to construct a road, and a bridge, over the Adelaide River. It is clear, too, that there is no urgency about this work, because talk of it has been bandied round for four to five years.
Mr. -Barnes. - Is that the only argument? The honorable member has mentioned the date by which the ore is required to be delivered. Is not that an important argument?
– If the Minister takes note of what I say a little later he will realise that they do not want the ore until April 1968. For four or five years talk of a road has been bandied round and suddenly it has become important, only because the Government now has agreed to build it to enable 1.4 million tons of ore to be exported. The letter continues -
The Department of Works advised that two dry seasons would be required to construct the road and bridge. To enable Mount Morgan to meet the terms of the Japanese contracts it was therefore vital to expedite the decision as much as possible. Even though this was done, the road will probably not be completed by October, 1967, and the Japanese have agreed to accept the first shipment no later than April, 1968.
The second letter, dated 28th March, from the Minister for Works, stated -
The Government has approved a proposal for the construction of a road from near Humpty Doo to Mount Bundey in the Northern Territory.
The road is required urgently to enable the cartage by road train of iron ore from the Mount Bundey deposits, via the new road, the existing road from Humpty Doo to the Stuart Highway, and then by rail to Darwin from Minn’s Siding.
It is only 22 miles from Darwin to Minn’s Siding yet money is to be spent on building hoppers and loading bins at Minn’s Siding to transport ore to Darwin. The letter continued -
In addition, the road will serve three pastoral holdings and a number of buffalo holdings.
What do the owners of those properties do now? How do they get on? The letter continued -
It will also connect with existing roads and tracks through to Oenpelli and thus provide an important step towards opening up the whole of the coastal plains area.
Incidentally, Oenpelli is not even shown on pastoral or road maps. The letter continued -
Construction of approximately 27 miles of road is involved, including several miles of causeway to cross the flood plains of the Adelaide River and two bridges, one over the Adelaide River and a smaller one over Mount Bundey Creek.
The estimated cost of the work is $1.7 m. and this will be shared equally between the Commonwealth and the Mount Morgan Mining Company, which will mine the Mount Bundey deposits.
The agreed date for the commencement of shipment of Mount Bundey iron ore from Darwin is April 1968, and this requires that the road be available for cartage several months prior to this date. In order to meet this, it is essential that construction of the road be commenced as early as possible to make the most use of the 1966 dry season, particularly as the road has to cross the Adelaide River flood plain, which presents extremely bad road making conditions during the wet.
It will be seen that the proposal entails the building of 27 miles of road, two or more bridges and several miles of causeway along a flood affected plain. It also involves building the loading bin at Minn’s Siding, about which nothing has been said. Of course, the company may be meeting that cost. Any honorable member with only a remote knowledge of the district will know that many problems are associated with road building in the coastal area of Darwin. As I see it there would have to be a much greater income producing potential than 1.4 million tons of iron ore now to be exported to justify, first, the closure of Adelaide River to marine traffic and, secondly, the cost of building a road that possibly will have limited use.
In my view the building of a bridge over the Adelaide River anywhere in the vicinity of Humpty Doo will most assuredly cause the closing of the river to shipping south of Humpty Doo. As it is, ships of up to 3,000 tons weight can tie up at Humpty Doo, and have done so for rice loading purposes. Why cannot the river be dredged to allow heavier shipping to use the river? What justification is there for closing the river by bridging it as is proposed, particularly as this will close the river for all time to shipping of a coastal type, shipping such as has been used in the rivers of New South Wales and in other places in past years. In New South Wales we call them “ 60-milers “, and they draw 8 to ten feet. There is a good length of the Adelaide River that could be served by shipping if there is such a great potential for commercial and rural production as the Government now claims there to be. I am amazed that something has not been done much earlier than this to encourage the use of small vessels for commercial purposes in the Adelaide River if the district’s production potential is anywhere near as great as we are being led to believe it is.
Why is the Government so anxious to have this road built so quickly and without referring the work to the Public Works Committee? Local maps show that there are roads and tracks leading to Mount Bundey from the Stuart Highway. In fact, one road appears to run from near the Manton Dam to Marrakai. Another runs to a point near the Batchelor turnoff and still another runs from just south of the Adelaide River. I should like to know from the Minister what study has been made of these roads, especially the one which commences south of the Adelaide River township. 1 suggest that a road through this higher country would be of much more value to the Territory than would be a road constructed through the swamp country. I also suggest that ore could be loaded just as profitably onto rail transport at, say, the Batchelor or Adelaide River sidings as it could be at the proposed loading point at Minns. As I see the matter, there is no justification for the Government’s bypassing the Public Works Committee with this reference, and the Opposition proposes to vote against the motion.
.- I support the views expressed by my colleague, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), in opposition to this proposal. The Government is using the powers vested in it by the Public Works Committee Act in an attempt to have this matter dealt with on the grounds of urgency and so exclude it from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. 1 do not think anybody could be satisfied that the Government has established the ground of urgency. As has been pointed out, this project has been before the Government for some considerable time. This motion is part of a pattern. The Public Works Committee is being bypassed allegedly on the grounds of urgency, but the urgency, if it arises at all, arises only because of the procrastination that has taken place prior to the presentation of the matter to the Parliament.
It is becoming traditional practice for the Minister to come into this House and try to establish a case for urgency, primarily on the claim that in building a bridge or carrying out a project of the type proposed here, seasonal conditions have to be contended with and two wet seasons will be encountered before it is completed. Such an argument would be very impressive if one did not know the background of the matter. The Public Works Committee and this Parliament have been deluged to a degree that is almost incredible with defences of this kind. These submissions reached such proportions that the Committee deemed it desirable to write to the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, drawing his attention to the practices in which various Ministers and departmental heads were increasingly engaging.
To show the House how the Public Works Committee has been bypassed by the various departments, and to justify the Committee’s complaint, I point out that between the years 1963 and 1965 the Government exempted from the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee 21 individual defence works, the total value of which exceeded $70 million.
– The Public Works Committee cannot expect to examine all defence works.
– Whether a defence work should be investigated by the Committee depends upon the interpretation of “ public interest “. The Committee has never sought, nor does it propose to seek, the right to have referred to it projects which involve the security of the nation. We have made that perfectly clear. I point out, however, that many of the defence projects that were exempted from examination by the Committee were exempted not on the ground of security but on the ground of public interest. Nobody could argue that there is any security risk involved in such defence projects as the building of barracks, laundries, or accommodation for troops.
– Of course you can.
– Then let the Minister get up and make his point. The former Prime Minister does not agree with him and has said so in a letter to the Committee. We are hoping that, as a result of that letter from Sir Robert Menzies, the Public Works Committee will at least be treated in the manner in which the Act of Parliament governing its operations visualised it would be treated. 1 repeat that between the years 1963 and 1965 the Government exempted from scrutiny by the PublicWorks Committee 21 defence projects costing a total of$70 million. In that same period, it referred to the Committee three defence projects costing $5 million. Many defence works approved by Cabinet in mid 1964, were not referred to the Public Works Committee because it was argued, not that security was involved, but that they were urgent. But tenders for those works were not called until late in December 1965. So, the Committee is told that projects cannot be referred to it because of their urgent character, yet 1 8 months later, they are still waiting to go to tender. Those are the types of practices to which the Committee has stated its opposition in most emphatic terms.
As I have said before, the Public Works Committee has tried to make it clear to this Parliament on more than one occasion that it does not expect to have referred to it works that involve security. Nobody would be so unreasonable as to expect that, but, at the same time, the Committee does not expect to be bypassed in defiance of the terms of the Act in the way in which it has been bypassed up til! now. My colleague, the honorable member for Shortland, has established from the letter which the Minister for Territories wrote four or five months ago that there was ample time for this matter to be dealt with by the Public Works Committee if the Government really wished that to be done.
I think that what is being done in the north should be scrutinised by somebody other than departmental authorities. As has been mentioned, of all the beef roads constructed in the north, only one proposal was referred to us and, as a result of our investigations, we were able to prevent a scandalous waste of public money that would have occurred had the work been proceeded with in its original form. The Public Works Committee is entitled to receive better treatment from Cabinet, from Ministers and from departments than it has received in the past.
.- We have before us a proposal for northern development - the construction of a road from near Humpty Doo to Mount Bundey in the Northern Territory. It is a proposal to carry out an urgent work, a proposal for developing the north, yet the Labour Party is attempting to obstruct this development. The proposed road is essential to enable iron ore to be transported efficiently and cheaply from Mount Bundey to the railway line and then on to Darwin. We cannot allow this urgent work to be obstructed by the Opposition. The Labour Party talks about northern development, but whenever the Government proposes to carry on with its excellent record of northern development, we find all kinds of obstructions placed in the Government’s way by members of the Opposition. It amazes me that these people who talk so much about northern development in this Parliament are not congratulating the Government upon getting on wilh the job as quickly as possible. This proposal is for the construction of 27 miles of road to permit of the cartage of iron ore. We have a wonderful opportunity at the present time to develop these mineral resources in northern Australia. The policy of the Government is for thorough investigation and to get on with the job as quickly as possible. We find that every attempt that is made to do this is met with obstruction from the Australian Labour Party.
I suggest to honorable members that they support this motion because of its urgency and because of the urgent need to develop our northern areas as quickly as possible. The Government has investigated this proposition through its very competent officers. Urgent work of this nature should not be held up while members of the Australian Labour Party go for trips up to this area and look at this urgent work. If the work were not urgent, this motion would not be before the House. The Minister in his speech has stated quite clearly that this work has become urgent because the road has to be completed by the time the ore is ready to be transhipped to Darwin. If this matter were referred to the Committee and if, say, six months or more were taken by the Committee to examine it, obviously the road would not be ready when the ore was available to be transhipped to Darwin. Therefore, I support the Government in its proposal, even if it is exceptional. We have to use exceptional means to get things done quickly in the development of our north. I wholeheartedly support the action of the Government in getting on with this job without further delay.
.- I wish to support the remarks made by my colleagues, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor). This is a protest, really, against what has been going on in the past as outlined by the honorable member for Dalley. I do not want’ to go into this aspect of the matter but many projects have been put forward and not referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Committee has been passed over. The Public Works Committee, after all, has been constituted as a watch dog on the expenditure of public money and to sec that work proposed to be carried out is warranted. The Committee has a- duty to see that projects are constructed in the best interests of the people, particularly those in the area in which the project is to be undertaken. I do not agree with the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) who preceded me that the Australian Labour Party is against the development of the north. This is utter rot. It is not a matter of being against the development of any place. We are all for the development of Australia. But, at the same time, it is our duty as parliamentarians and it is the duty of members of the Public Works Committee to see that public money is being spent in the best- interests of the people and the area concerned.
There is no reason why this project should not be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– There must be something fishy about it.
– Many aspects of this project could be looked into. The money could be better spent and better treatment could be given to the people in this area rather than to the private enterprise concerned. We are not against this project at all. But we are against the method that is being used to push this matter through without thorough investigation. There are many other means of getting this ore to Darwin so that it can be shipped overseas, if it is necessary to do so. The Government refers to the urgency of the work. But as has been pointed but by the honorable member for Shortland, the urgency was not discovered yesterday. The Government has had this matter before it for a while now. It knew what was going to happen because it has an arrangement with the Japanese firm concerned. It is because the Government has to keep to this arrangement that the urgency has arisen. As the honorable member for Shortland pointed out, other roads in the area could be utilised. Probably a shorter route could be taken. Anyway, the matter should be looked into.
The honorable member for Sturt said that this matter had been examined by departmental heads. Has it? Or is it that the Government has accepted the proposition put to it by the private company concerned that it will meet half the cost if the Government meets the other half? Can the Government get away with this action? This kind of thing has to cease some time otherwise the Committee created by this Parliament will be overlooked all the time. Certain aspects of defence building programmes are not referred to the Committee because, we are told, security risk is involved. But no security risk arises in relation to the building of living quarters, for instance. Then there are the barracks to be built at Townsville for approximately £10 million. No security risk is involved in that work. A private constructor will be working on the job and, after all, the public will be able to see what is going on. There is no security risk at all in regard to that project.
The need for urgency in relation to this work does not really exist. If the matter were referred to the Public Works Committee, and it were noted as urgent, I can assure honorable members that it would not be delayed. We could carry out the investigation, in, say, three weeks. We could thoroughly look into the matter in that time. I feel that when a matter comes before the Public Works Committee, the public money is safeguarded. Not only is the money aspect dealt with, but also the Committee sees to it that the project is created in the proper interests of the people, and particularly those people who are going to use the project. The Committee investigates what further development can be achieved in the area concerned. The road proposed is to be constructed to carry this mineral for export because one company has developed a mine in the area. Surely we must look further ahead than this to find out what further developmentwill take place in the area. All of these aspects should be taken into consideration. Possibly a better system of exporting this ore could be worked out if the matter were investigated thoroughly.
.- I find myself in a somewhat difficult position in this matter. I firmly believe that wherever possible expenditure of public money of the required sum in connection with any public work should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on PublicWorks in the interests of the public. I speak as a member of the Public Works Committee. The duty of the Committee, as my friends opposite have said quite rightly, is to see that public money is spent to the best advantage. The Committee ensures that the facility that is required is provided in the proper way and, what is more to the point, that the interests of the taxpayer are safeguarded.
For a long time now, great disquiet has existed in the Committee about the fact that several projects have not been referred to it on various grounds. No member of the Committee can be blamed for feeling that sometimes the excuse that a matter is urgent is used for not referring a public work to the Committee. In this case, the Government is quite right in not referring this matter to the Committee. In the Public Works Committee Act, three provisos are set out quite clearly in this regard. The first is that no public work above a certain amount can be commenced until it has been referred to the Committee; secondly, the work cannot be commenced unless it has been brought before the Parliament and the permission of the Parliament has been obtained to proceed with the work without referring it to the Public Works Committee; thirdly, the Governor-General may decide that the work concerned is a defence project and that it would not be in the public interest to have it referred to the Public Works Committee.
The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) mentioned that the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had agreed with the Committee that some of the public works that had not been referred to it probably should have been referred. Sir Robert Menzies expressed the hope that, in the future, these matters would be referred to the Committee. I sincerely hope that the various departments concerned will carry out this requirement, because it is rather important. Some of the defence projects which involve expenditure of money on buildings for the accommodation of troops or other similar purposes should come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. However, if a security risk is involved, obviously it is better not to do so. We must trust the people concerned who are providing the facilities to the Services in these cases to have due regard to the safety of the public purse.
In this case, the Government is quite right in what it is doing. It has brought the matter to the House under a section of the Public Works Committee Act which provides that a matter can be referred to this Parliament and the Parliament can decide then whether it is expedient that the matter should be carried out without reference to the Public Works Committee. I do not think we can really decide this matter without considering the circumstances in which the project is not being referred. It has been regarded as an urgent job. An iron ore deposit is in a rather inaccessible place in the Northern Territory. Naturally it is desired to exploit this deposit, as iron ore is one of the very important materials in Australia at the present time. We have iron ore projects all over Western Australia and only a couple in the Northern Territory. In relation to the Western Australian projects the various companies have been required to provide railway, harbour, town and other facilities out of their own funds. Here we have my very good friends of Mount Morgan Ltd., in partnership with other people, with an interest in this iron ore deposit. They too have made a contract with the Japanese to supply the iron ore within a certain time. The contract has been approved by the Government. They now find themselves in a little difficulty in getting the iron ore to the port. Incidentally this is another case in which the particular port development project should have been referred to the Public Works Committee. The project was carried out as the result of a change of front in the Department of Territories which put the project through a statutory authority. We have no guarantee that this public money will be spent by that statutory authority in the right way and I believe that the Public Works Committee should look at the matter.
Now we have this Mount Bundey project. The Government is stepping in to help the contractors fulfil their contract with the Japanese. The situation is no different from that of the Mount Newman mine in Western Australia where the companies that hold the rights to the ore made contracts with the Japanese and now find themselves in some difficulty in complying with the requirements, of time particularly. A discussion is going on in Western Australia at the present time to decide how these companies can be helped. I believe that they should be helped in the same way as the Government is going to help in the Northern Territory, that is by the Government providing the money, as it intends to do at Mount Bundey. The money will later be refunded to the Government.
I do not recall whether it was mentioned, but in this case the Government intends to construct an additional length of road. Some road was to be built in connection with ordinary Northern Territory development anyway, but because of this iron ore deposit further out the Government intends to construct a longer road and build a bridge over the Adelaide River. This will enable the iron ore deposit to be exploited but the companies will pay the cost back to the Government. That is a very important point. The Government is financing the work but the companies concerned will eventually pay for it.
I now come back to the question whether the matter should be referred to the Public Works Committee. None of the Committee members knows how long these negotiations have been going on. The companies concerned did have a contract with the Japanese and then found that they could not deliver the material in the time specified. Japan has been good enough to extend the terms of the contract for a year in order to give the companies more time. The Government intends to help them and unless advantage is taken of the two dry seasons there will not be time to do this work. You cannot work up there in the wet as the river is then terrifically wide. Anyone who knows the Adelaide River will agree that this work should be commenced immediately.
The criticism I have to make is that we do not know how long these negotiations have been going on. I quite approve of the fact that the Government has brought this matter to the Parliament. That is important, because in many cases it has not brought such matters to the Parliament for decision at all. My criticism is that we do not know how long the Government has taken to arrive at the decision to bring the matter before the House. Where public money is being spent, and we have a Public Works Committee which has been entrusted by this Parliament with the task of watching over the expenditure of public money the Committee should always be given the opportunity to carry out its work properly. In the circumstances we can do nothing but accept what has happened, but I express the criticism that this matter should have come before the Committee in time to allow it to be examined.
.- As a result of the attitude of some honorable members on this side of the House - the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) and the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) - this chamber has been afforded an opportunity to assert the authority of the Parliament and to uphold the position of members of the Parliament against the excesses of the Executive and the conduct of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who wishes to take from the Public Works Committee its responsibility to investigate works of this nature. Honorable members who have discussed this matter have referred to other instances where this has happened. It is fresh in our minds that the Chairman of the Committee, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), on other occasions referred to another important road work. On that occasion the view of the Committee was upheld and eventually the Government was obliged to heed the request of the Committee to have another look at that important work.
One asks: Why should the Minister on this occasion wish to bypass a statutory committee? It was unworthy of the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) to refer to certain members of the Public Works Committee going on a jaunt into the Northern Territory when he, a senior member of this place, even if a back bencher, does know that this Committee is comprised of parliamentarians from both sides of the House. They look into works such as this, assess their value, consider the economics and see whether they are being carried out honestly and in the best interests of the nation.
The work in question has been bandied round and discussed for some considerable time. Cabinet decided four months ago that this project would go on, and it has taken that four months for the Government to bring this important and urgent matter to the Parliament. What strange behaviour in a matter of urgency is this? Is it not typical of the attitude of the Government in matters affecting the development of this country? Four months is neither here nor there to it. We heard members of the Public Works Committee say today that if the Committee were given an opportunity to consider this matter it could do so in the course of a few weeks. It could investigate the project and see whether the facts are as stated. Be that as it may, the responsibility rests upon the Parliament to have these matters thoroughly investigated. The development of this country has been left too much to chance. A close examination of the needs of northern Australia should be made. In respect of this area in particular, shipping, road and rail requirements should be investigated by the Committee.
The honorable member for Shortland in his responsible and well reasoned speech this afternoon told of the great problem that can occur if a bridge is constructed over the Adelaide River. A bridge could close that mighty river to traffic in the future. If this is true, if this river is not dredged, if this waterway is not made available for development in the future, it is a serious matter that the Parliament should not allow to escape its notice. It is true that the economics require to be considered. This road is only 27 miles long and it requires two bridges. The Government speaks of urgency. I say to the Minister for Territories, who is at the table now, that it is just about time that he took some urgent action for the development of northern Australia and the Northern Territory, which is his responsibility.
The Minister admits today that it has taken him four months to bring this matter to the attention of the Parliament. His alibi is that he has now brought it to the Parliament, but this is the last day of the fourth week of this sessional period. This is the type of urgency that we get from the Government. But the work must go on; we want our country to develop. All these matters are urgent, and honorable members on this side of the House have stressed this over and over again. I rise merely to assert the responsibility of the Committee to investigate these matters and to report to the Parliament. We want to know whether the propositions are correct, whether they are economically wise and whether they are feasible. We want to know, too, whether there is complete honesty in these matters. This is getting to the root of the whole question. It seems to me that the Government has something it should reveal in this matter; hence its refusal to accept the willingness of the Committee to investigate thoroughly and to probe this matter in conformity with the standards that we require in this House.
– At the outset, I would like to say that I hope the whole of this debate is well reported in the Northern Territory so that some of the remarks I have heard made by honorable members opposite will be known there. I, together with many honorable members on this side of the House, respect the Public Works Committee for its surveillance of Government expenditure. I and my Department on all occasions co-operate with the Committee and we are at a loss to understand why this project should be selected as the medium for a protest. Obviously, there are occasions when urgency arises in these matters. If there were not, the Public Works Committee Act would not provide the means for urgent matters to be commenced without an investigation. Two honorable members opposite have raised this more as a protest than a factual exercise. This does not apply to the honorable members for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton), who condemn the work outright.
– That is not right.
– Well, let me go a bit further into the matter. It has been suggested that there is no urgency in this work. Both the honorable members for Leichhardt and Shortland said that these deposits have been lying here for years. But Australia contains many mineral deposits that have been lying there for years and they will lie there until we get somebody to buy them and until the economics of the situation make it worthwhile. 1 will go over the history of this development so that the House will understand. 1 made officers of my Department available to inform the Committee on these matters and I cannot accept the suggestion that they are ignorant. There are two deposits of iron ore reasonably adjacent to Darwin. One is the Frances Creek deposit, which is slightly in excess of four million tons. The other is very much smaller and is at Mount Bundey.
I think it was about 18 months ago that we received a request from a company to provide loading facilities at Darwin and to assist in transport arrangements to the loading facilities so that the ore could be shipped from Darwin to Japan. We investigated the economics of the situation and I eventually put a submission to Cabinet in which the estimated cost of the extension to the wharf, loading facilities and so on was given as £1 million. At the same time, the company undertook to build a railway spur line at its own expense from Frances Creek to the present Commonwealth line. A company called Nevsam, which then owned the Mount Bundey deposit, approached the Government for assistance to build a road over the Adelaide River so that it could enter into a contract with a Japanese company to ship ore. It intended to use the loading arrangements at the Darwin wharf. I approached Cabinet and received approval to go ahead. The company at Frances Creek concluded a contract with a Japanese company for the export of iron ore. On subsequent investigation of the harbour, it was found that, Because of unexpected foundation problems, it was necessary to make some adjustment to the piles. It was also found that the original expectation of the ore facilities were unsuitable and a different type of loading device, a portable one, was required. This necessitated the provision of further funds for the development and the matter was again brought to Cabinet. Cabinet agreed to the new arrangements.
There was also a time factor. The deal would fall through unless ore could be delivered by a certain date - I think it was the end of 1967. Cabinet agreed to the further expansion. In the meantime, the company that originally had the Mr Bundey deposit decided not to go ahead with its contract with the Japanese. Incidentally, the company had applied to us for assistance to build a low development road where this road is to be. We were interested in this road, naturally, because we have great prospects of development in the coastal plains area on the eastern side of Darwin. This is the area where we have quite a few abattoirs operating to treat buffalo and it is vital to have a short road to Darwin. Both the honorable members for Leichhardt and Shortland said it is much better to use the present road right round by Pine Creek and get to Darwin that way. This would mean travelling an additional 100 miles and would add to the cost of transport of all the produce that comes out of the area. It would be 100 miles against 27 miles.
– I said nothing about Pine Creek. I referred to Adelaide River.
– The honorable member mentioned other roads to be built. The honorable member for Leichhardt did also.
– I did not mention it at all.
– The honorable members will see it in “ Hansard “ tomorrow. The suggestion is that we should go all the way around. I hope that the people of the Northern Territory learn also that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) spoke of the Adelaide River as this marvellous river for water transport. I think he would be lucky to row a boat up there. If the honorable member likes to substantiate this, I think we could, if the time factor allowed, put in a bridge suitable for the shipping mat would go up the Adelaide River at mis point and he could open it. Unfortunately, time is the factor here.
– Why does not the Minister tell the truth? He is not talking to the Abos now.
– I hope that the honorable member will guide the first iron ore ship up the Adelaide River. If he ever becomes a skipper he will have his work cut out. I have pointed out to the House that the company which owned the iron ore deposit at Mount Bundey dropped out of the picture, having sold its interest to Mount Morgan Ltd. Mount Morgan Ltd. made application to us for a road traversing the route of the original road as proposed. The company required a road of a higher standard because, as anyone who knows that area will realise, this is a flood plain. A low level road in this area could be used for only a few months of the year.
Mount Morgan Ltd. stated as a requirement of the road that it would have to operate for almost the whole of the year. Therefore, we had to build up the road above the wet season flood rivers. Anybody who knows that area knows that the whole of it is inundated for at least two months of the year and an ordinary road is nearly impassable for almost another month. The proposed higher level road requires a high level bridge which greatly increases the cost of the project. As the honorable member for Shortland has said, the cost of the road increases from £650,000 to about £850,000 simply because of the high road level. In its application to me, Mount Morgan Ltd. assessed that only 400,000 tons of iron ore was available in Mount Bundey. The application by the company was refused by the Government because, as we pointed out, this was not an economic proposition.
– When was that?
– In August last year.
– The Minister should get his facts right.
– It was in August last year. Subsequently the company showed us that 1.4 million tons of iron ore was available. The honorable member for Shortland suggests that we should have refused the application when we were shown that extra iron ore was available.
– That would not be enough to justify construction of the road.
– The honorable member suggests that 1.4 million tons of iron ore is not sufficient to justify the road. He should - tell that to the people of the Northern Territory who are interested in exporting iron ore and in developing the Territory. I point out also that the company will meet half the cost of the road. I have said already that we will be able to use the road and that it will be open to the general public. It will be used by tourists and it will be available for all activities on the coastal plain area.
The honorable member for Shortland said that he could not find Oenpelli on the map. I point out to him that Oenpelli is a district in the Northern Territory and districts are not shown by a dot on a map unless he refers to the mission. The position is that on the reassessment by Mount Morgan Ltd. of the iron ore body we gave approval for the road to go ahead. However, there was a difficulty. Mount Morgan Ltd. had to begin deliveries of iron ore by the end of 1967, a date which was subsequently extended to April 1968. So we had to meet this deadline. Obviously the honorable members for Shortland, Leichhardt and Macquarie do not seem to realise that unless this road is finished by the end of 1967, and before the wet season starts, work on the road will have to cease. The honorable member for Leichhardt should know that.
– Why was it not started earlier?
– I remind the honorable member that this project was not acceded to by Cabinet until just before the Parliament adjourned in December.
– That was four months ago.
– The honorable member said that we have had four months, but I remind him that Parliament has been sitting in this sessional period for only four weeks. The honorable member’s arguments are ridiculous. The situation is that we are already spending £1.7 million on the development of the port of Darwin so that it can -take the ore. By getting this additional contract which will involve a considerably greater tonnage moving through the port of Darwin we will amortise the whole of our works in that area. We would not be able to do this on the Frances Creek deposit alone. I would also point out for the benefit of those honorable gentlemen who would like to stop this effort that with the tremendous development of iron ore deposits in Western Australia we would not have a hope in the world of selling in a few years time the small deposits in the Northern Territory. I have mentioned Mount Bundey and Frances Creek; but other prospectors operating in a small way will be able to come into the district and work these areas.
The Government has maintained that we must have good roads in all these areas so that we can open up the country. The road which we are discussing will not serve only one iron ore deposit; it will open the whole of the north eastern area of the Northern Territory for development. The building of this road is a great step forward and I have pushed hard to get it and to have the bridge built across the Adelaide River. This project will be a vital matter in the development of the Northern Territory. But, of course, we do not get very much credit for this development. This is one of the great mineral deposits for which we have attracted private investment. It is the responsibility of a Government to bring about a climate of opportunity for investment to come to the Northern Territory. I issued a Press statement the other day on the first shipment of manganese from Groote Eylandt in which I said that this was the first step in the development of the great mineral resources of Gove and the McArthur River area in the Northern Territory. But does any honorable member think that I received any credit from the Press of Australia? I ended up with, I think, one newspaper printing about one inch of one column on the subject. No one is interested unless the honorable member for Shortland or someone else says that the
Government has been robbed in respect of expenditure of this sort.
I think I have made it clear that if we do not ship this iron ore by April 1968 the whole of the scheme will fall down and we will not be able to ship any more. This matter is urgent because the contract provides that the ore must be delivered by that date. Otherwise the whole thing will fall through. The honorable member for Shortland said that he intended to oppose this scheme. I have no doubt that there will be a division when this is put to a vote, and I will be interested to see how the Opposition lines itself up in the division. If this project does not go through it will mean that within five years the Port of Darwin will have lost the opportunity to increase its export tonnage by 1 00 per cent.
– Mr. Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) in my opinion tried to mislead the House by saying that my remarks to the effect that the Government had had four months in which to refer the proposed road to the Public Works Committee were not in accordance with fact, because the Parliament met only four weeks ago. He stated that by presenting this motion to the House in the fourth week of sitting the Government was bringing the matter before the Parliament as speedily as possible. I want only to direct the attention of the Minister and the House to the fact that in accordance with the terms of the Public Works Committee Act this project could have been referred to the Committee at any time after December, when it was determined that the road would be built.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in debating the matter.
.- Mr. Speaker, I have listened to this discussion very carefully. I have been considerably astonished at the amount of heat and the partisan attitude that have been evoked on the Opposition side of the chamber. It seems to me that the matter is relatively simple. In the first place, it is admitted that the proposed road is to be constructed as a matter of urgency. The decision not to refer it to the Public Works Committee has been made for good reasons and with full recognition of the traditional right of the Committee to examine public works. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) gave an adequate explanation of the reasons for not referring the project to the Committee. He has told the House that officers of his Department have been made available to the Committee to explain the factors involved. Though we have been told all this, we have just witnessed an unprecedented display of hostility by the Opposition. I ask myself: Why has the Opposition exhibited this behaviour and taken this attitude?
I was deeply astonished at some of the interjections that were made by Opposition members. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said that it was unworthy of the honorable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) to say that Labour members of the Committee wanted to go on a jaunt to have a look at the area through which the proposed road is to be constructed. If the honorable member for Sturt did say something like that, he perhaps used an unfortunate expression. It was also unworthy of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) to interject to the effect that there seemed to be something fishy about this whole matter, as if to suggest that there was some kind of financial or economic indecency about what is proposed. Another suggestion was that the Government was trying to hide something.
What are the facts? A road is to be constructed in the Northern Territory in an area that is of great interest from the standpoint of national development - an area where a tremendous amount of exciting enterprise is taking place. When one talks about these developments to the Administrator of the Territory, one realises that there is a new access of interest throughout the region extending from Groote Eylandt and Gove in the north across to the area through which the proposed road is to be built. As the Minister for Territories has just pointed out, it is urgent that we promote the kind of interest in this area that has attracted Mount Morgan Ltd. to undertake development there. What kind of arguments have been used by Opposition members in this last ditch stand made for the purpose of preventing the Government from going ahead with this project, which is further evidence of its interest in northern development? They have used the sort of argument that was put to the House by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who said that there was not enough ore in the area to justify the construction of the proposed road. It is estimated that 1.4 million tons of iron ore from this region will be exported, Mr. Speaker, and I point out that this will mean something like $12 million or $14 million in export earnings. The cost of the proposed road is estimated to be $1.7 million. However, this is not just for the road itself but also for major bridging works. The private enterprise company concerned is prepared to spend half the money required, or $850,000. I suggest that this fact alone indicates that there has been careful scrutiny of the economic value, feasibility and desirability of the proposed work.
The Minister has also told us a good deal about the background to this project and has outlined the history of recent experience in developing Darwin as a port that will provide an adequate export outlet. This tremendous and exciting development m the north will enable us to develop a large export trade in minerals. All this, however, meets with no sympathy and no understanding on the Opposition side of the chamber. The Minister told us how projects such as this are submitted to the Cabinet and discussed with its advisers, the Cabinet devoting a good deal of its time to projects of this kind. When it is now clearly demonstrated that the construction of the proposed road must be put in hand without the delay that would be occasioned by its being referred to the Public Works Committee if the contingencies of monsoonal weather and meeting the deadlines for export commodities are to be met - now that it ls demonstrated without question that this is an urgent project, we witness on the Opposition benches the sort of display that we have seen this afternoon. The attitude of Opposition members is most unfortunate. There was no justification for their treating the Minister as they have done or for the honorable member for Macquarie to sneer that the Minister “ is not talking to the Abos now”. Quite apart from the social implications of that remark, the honorable member’s attitude seems to me to be completely unworthy and not in accordance with the accepted standards of debate in this place. In conclusion, Sir, I submit that the construction of the proposed road is a matter of urgency. This is a nationally desirable project. No-one can doubt these things in the light of the Minister’s remarks. Therefore, I believe that the Parliament must immediately sanction the proposal.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 do not propropose to delay the House long by my participation in the important discussion that is taking place this afternoon. This is the first -occasion since I have been a member of the Public Works Committee, and, indeed, since I have been a member of this place, on which the House has evinced any interest in the work that the Committee has done down through the years. This is the first time there has been any comment of this kind by honorable members about the Committee’s work. The Public Works Committee is a very important committee. The concern voiced this afternoon by some members of the Committee at its being bypassed in relation to a project of the kind that is usually referred to it is not confined to one group of its members. Since I have been a member of this Committee, it bas functioned without party considerations entering in any way into its deliberations. Decisions have not been made by the Committee on party lines. On occasions, Liberal and Labour members of the Committee have stood together and on other occasions Australian Country Party members and Labour members have stood together against Liberal members.
I want to discuss the background to the matter that is now before the House. I do not agree with all that has been said, but I consider that the urgency of this project has been ably demonstrated by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who has told us of the reasons why there is an urgent need for the road to be built. I object to certain remarks that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House in relation to the Public Works Committee. One honorable member on the Government side of the chamber implied that Labour members of the Committee have taken a stand against the motion because they want a trip to the Northern Territory. That was an unworthy remark. All members of the Committee at all times try their hardest to keep down expenses. Nevertheless, the Committee does a thorough job of making inspections. The Minister, in explaining the urgency of the project, said that he had made departmental officers available to the Committee. I should like to put matters right for the record. He made officers of his Department available to me, as Chairman of the Committee, for discussions about the proposed road. 1 passed on to other members of the Committee exactly what the departmental officers told me about the project. 1 rose mainly to say that the Public Works Committee for a considerable time has been concerned at the attitude of certain departments that try to bypass it in relation to projects of the kind that are usually referred to it. The Committee, having investigated such projects over the years, sometimes is told that its investigation of a particular proposal would not be in the public interest. Members of the Committee are sufficiently broadminded to accept an explanation that because a project involves defence matters or is urgent it would not be in the public interest for the Committee to investigate it, and this is one occasion on which I accept that kind of explanation. My principal purpose this afternoon, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to explain to the House how the Committee works and to place on record the concern expressed by Committee members in recent months at the bypassing of the Committee in relation to projects of the kind that are usually referred to it. I stress again that ever since I have been a member of the Committee its decisions have rarely been arrived at by a vote of the members. Furthermore, they are not based on any party considerations.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page SI 7) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Opperman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The objective of the Bill is to place beyond doubt the legality of two administrative reforms designed to make aliens’ registration a more simple and efficient process. A procedure was introduced last year whereby necessary details for registration of an alien after arrival are secured at the time when he is applying, in his own country, for a visa for Australia, instead of forms of application for registration being collected at time of arrival in Australia. As was confidently expected, this has saved delay in clearing ships and aircraft on arrival in Australia and has ensured more accurate information about non-British migrants arriving here. From the alien’s point of view the procedure has the advantage of permitting his application for registration to be completed with the help of the officer who is interviewing him about. his migration to Australia, and, if necessary, with the assistance of a qualified interpreter also. A good deal of time and trouble is saved at points of arrival in Australia for migrants, ships’ staffs, and Immigration officers; and this the more important because of the need to clear ships and aircraft quickly.
In addition, as another simplification, aliens coming to Australia for a stay of less than a year are not now required to be registered. In the past, registration was required for such aliens in order to provide a means of checking that they left when their authorized stay expired. Now a better way of doing this has been introduced. Each incoming alien completes the usual incoming passenger card. Instead of this being used solely for the Commonwealth Statistician’s purposes, it is placed in an alphabetical visitor index. The departing alien visitor completes an outgoing passenger card, and this also goes to the visitor index and provides the necessary departure information. If no outgoing card is received, enquiries are then made. All this makes it unnecessary to obtain additional aliens registration forms from alien visitors.
The Bill contains eight clauses, the first two of which deal with the title and date of commencement. Clause 3 simply provides a definition of the exact time at which a person is to be deemed to enter Australia. Clause 4 can be understood by reference to section 7 (1) of the present Aliens Act which specifies that an application for registration must be made by a person who has arrived in Australia. Section 7 (2) of the Act exempts from this requirement a person who has previously been here and been registered as an alien, but this does not satisfactorily provide for the alien who has never been in Australia before, has only completed an application for registration when applying for his visa to come here, and has not been registered. Therefore an addition needs to be made to section 7 (2) of the Act, and this is done by clause 4 of the present Bill.
Clause 5 provides authority for our officers overseas to receive applications for registration, and to cancel them when the aliens abandon their plans to come here. Clause 6 provides the desired exemption from registration for aliens coming here for visits of a year or less. At the present time section 8 paragraph (c) of the Act exempts only people coming here for 60 days or less, and clause 6 extends this to those coming for the longer visits in question. Clauses 7, 9 and 10 simply change the amounts of penalties from pounds to dollars.
Clause 8 is another necessary consequence of the new procedure of accepting applications for registration overseas and ensures that persons making false statements in such applications can be prosecuted, after entry to Australia, on the same basis as if they had committed the offence in Australia.
I can assure the House that the changed procedures contemplated by this Bill will be of considerable benefit to non-British people coming to Australia and at the same time will ensure greater efficiency and accuracy in recording essential information. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Opperman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. It is over five years since the Nationality and Citizenship Act was last amended. This Act is fundamental to our national status, and from it stem the concept of Australian citizenship and the rules under which our citizenship may be acquired.
It is natural that, with the passing of time and changing circumstances, adjustments become necessary in a law of this kind. The Bill which I now introduce to the House proposes a number of amendments to the main legislation, some of them of a minor machinery nature, but two of them representing positive and desirable amendments to the naturalisation process which is so important to the many thousands of settlers who have come here from non-British countries. I think it is desirable that I deal with these two amendments first.
Clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill give effect to the first of these two changes. Under section 15 (4) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, the Minister for Immigration is empowered to grant naturalisation to the spouse of an Australian citizen without any of the usual statutory requirements being met. In practice, and as a matter of policy, concessions under this section have been made in relation to the residence and language requirements. As regards residence, the situation is that where a husband or wife is qualified but the partner is not, the eligible party is granted naturalisation and the non-qualified partner, as the spouse of an Australian citizen, then becomes eligible for naturalisation without completing the normal five years’ residential qualification. Much the same procedure operates in respect of the language requirement except that the concession is granted only to the wife. Our nationality law does not, however, at present make provision for a married couple in either of these cases to be naturalised together; one has to wait while the other has completed all of the formalities and then attend a separate ceremony. The Government has therefore decided that in these circumstances a man and his wife should always be able to become naturalised at the same ceremony. It is much more suitable that the couple should receive their Australian citizenship together. Clause 6 of the Bill will effect this improvement, whilst clause 7 will ensure that the unqualified partner does not take the oath of allegiance before the qualified partner.
The second important amendment is dealt with in clause 11 of the Bill and concerns the present practice of requiring applicants for naturalisation to renounce allegiance to their former countries before swearing allegiance to our Queen. In its present form the renunciation is a prominent and separate part of the naturalisation ceremony, but we have decided that the essential words of renunciation should now be incorporated as part of the oath of allegiance to the Queen. The change will simplify and shorten the naturalisation ceremony and enhance its dignity, and will also,
I believe, eliminate the emotional disturbance felt by candidates due to their natural and rightful love of their homelands. The change has been effected by means of clause 11 of this Bill, which amends the prescribed oath of allegiance by the addition, after the applicant recites his name, of the words “ renouncing all other allegiance “.
The other clauses of the Bill are, as I said earlier, mainly of a minor or technical nature. I shall deal with these in the order in which they appear in the Bill. Clause 3 amends the existing definition of the term “Australian Consulate”. This has become necessary because some doubt was cast upon the legal effect of a register of births of Australian citizens born abroad which is kept at the central office of the Department of Immigration in Canberra. The amended definition places the point beyond doubt.
Clause 4 of the Bill seeks to amend section 10 of the Act in relation to children born in Australia of fathers who are here as members of other countries’ diplomatic and consular staffs in Australia. The Act at present recognises the generally-accepted principle that such a child should not become an Australian citizen simply by birth here, unless the father is an Australian citizen. It is considered that a child should not be debarred from citizenship if the father is one of our migrants who has merely been locally engaged to work at an embassy or consulate. Clause 4 ensures this. The clause also takes account of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which seeks to end the present situation whereby all the staff of a diplomatic mission have the same immunity from suit as the head of the mission. This situation forms the basis of present wording of section 10 (2) (a) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, and the new wording now proposed by clause 4 of this Bill will ensure that, if Australia becomes a party to the Vienna Convention, there will be no need for a further consequential amendment of section 10.
Clause 5 of the Bill is an amendment to help those Australian citizens living abroad who fail, within a reasonable time, to register the births of their children born whilst they are away. At the moment, section 11 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act says that the birth may be registered within one year of its occurrence or, in special circumstance, within such extended period as the Minister allows. In the past, the view has been taken that the words “ in special circumstances” permitted late registrations to be accepted where the failure to register within one year was due to ignorance of the provisions of the Act. I have been advised that ignorance of this kind might not always be regarded as “ special circumstances “, and, as it is not desired to refuse such late registrations, clause 5 amends the Act by omitting the words “ in special circumstances” and substituting the word “ further “ for the word “ extended “ in relation to the period of time in which a late registration may be made.
As I have already dealt with clauses 6 and 7, I move on to clause 8. A person born abroad prior to the commencement of the Nationality and Citizenship Act in 1949 who was a British subject in 1949 and whose father was born or naturalized in Australia becomes an Australian citizen immediately on entering Australia, under section 25 (3) of the Act. Even if he had become naturalized in a foreign country between 1949 and the date of his entering Australia, he still becomes an Australian citizen automatically on his entering this country. Clause 8 of this Bill inserts a further provision whereby the person must have remained a British subject right up to the time of entering Australia.
The second amendment which has become necessary because of Australia’s ratification of an international convention is dealt with in clause 9 of the Bill: Having acceded, in 1961, to the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, Australia has an obligation to ensure that the alien wives of its nationals may acquire the nationality of their husbands through specially privileged naturalisation procedures. The Nationality and Citizenship Act takes care of this obligation in respect of the wives of Australian citizens and the wives of Australian protected persons, but it does not provide for persons who, under our citizenship law, are British subjects without citizenship and whose association is with Australia rather than Britain or any other British country. Clause 9 of the Bill will amend section 26 of the Act to allow such alien wives to acquire the same national status as their husbands by making application to the Minister for Immigration and by taking a simple oath of allegiance as prescribed by clause 12 of the Bill.
Clause 10 of the Bill is a small amendment to ensure that section 34 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act as it stands at present does not restrict the possible wider application of sections 89, 90 and 91 of the Marriage Act 1961 in relation to the legitimation of children. Finally, the opportunity has been taken in clause 13 of the Bill to convert the prescribed penalties for non-observance of certain sections of the Nationality and Citizenship Act into decimal currency.
Mr. Speaker, I know that honorable members of both sides of this House will endorse the changes in our basic citizenship law which this Bill contemplates. They are changes which will assist those aliens in our midst who are worthy of Australian citizenship and who are most anxious to become Australians, and changes which will also enable the department of Immigration to administer the law with greater efficiency. I commend the Bill to all members of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Oppermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to effect two amendments to the Migration Act 1958- 1964. The objects of the amendments may be stated briefly. First, to reduce, as far as possible, the documentation required in respect of persons included in the complements or crews of vessels; and, secondly, to revise certain provisions of the Act relating to penalties, consequent upon the introduction of decimal currency.
In connection with ships’ crews, the Migration Act requires that the master of a vessel must have in his possession an identification card, in an approved form, for each member of his crew, that the card must be produced when required, and surrendered on demand. In court proceedings to establish desertion, the Department is required by the Act to produce a document “purporting to be an identification card, signed by the master of the vessel “. The need for the identification cards is to ensure that deserting seamen can be traced, and that in any court proceedings their desertion can be proved.
Practically all seamen in ships entering Australian waters are in possession of identity documents of one variety or another - such as seamen’s continuous discharge books. These documents contain sufficient identification detail to facilitate search for deserters; and in many cases masters are in a position to hand these documents over to my Department. However, they do not purport to be identification cards and do not carry the master’s signature. Therefore, they are not at present acceptable as the Migration Act stands.
Shipping companies are involved in considerable clerical work and inconvenience in preparing special identification cards for the sole purpose of complying with Australia’s Migration Act, and British companies particularly, supported by the British Board of Trade, have asked the British seamen’s discharge books be accepted. The amendments to the sections of the Act referred to in the schedule have been rendered necessary upon the introduction of decimal currency. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd March (vide page 513), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- I have been waiting quite a long time this afternoon to say a few words upon this measure which, in essence, is a fairly technical amending Bill. It deals with two matters in the Post Office - the question ot money orders and the question of what were formerly called postal notes but which after this legislation is passed will be known as postal orders. In a sense the Bill might be regarded as the demise of the postal note. There are one or two observations I should like to make about these two forms of Post Office service.
The amendments will, of course, convert the denominations in which both money orders and postal orders are expressed to decimals in future instead of pounds. In addition the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has thought it wise to increase the maximum amount that can be taken out in a money order or a postal order. In each case it has been doubled. Where formerly there was a limit of £20 on a money order the new limit is to be S80 or £40. Where the maximum amount of a postal note was £1 or $2 it is now to be doubled to £2 or $4. In future, the document that has been known as a postal note will be known as a postal order. The new name is probably in consonance with the definition adopted in other parts of the world. I would have liked the Minister to produce a facsimile of the new postal order with the counterfoil to which he referred. I cannot follow what its merits are from the cold words of his speech, but it seems that, to facilitate checking and handling, a counterfoil similar to the butt of a cheque is to be attached to the new postal orders. Should a postal order become lost, I take it that the person who lost it will have an easier means of claiming for his loss than is available to him under the present system.
Apparently the cost of recording the old postal note considerably outweighed any advantage gained and since recording was abandoned some years ago, it has been rather difficult to claim for loss of a postal note. The Post Office records did not disclose whether the note had been presented. I take it that the new arrangement will make it easier to claim for loss in the future.
I have taken the occasion to examine some of the statistics contained in a very useful publication issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It is called “Financial and Statistical Bulletin - 1964 “. I understand that the issue for 1965 has been printed but as it was not to be available until 4 o’clock this afternoon, I am able to quote only figures which relate to the year ended June 1964. No doubt the Minister is in possession of the later figures, but I doubt very much whether they greatly alter the perspective of the sort of thing to which I wish to refer.
I draw the attention of the House to table 14 appearing on page 23 of the “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin” for 1964 which gives details of the number of money orders and the number of postal notes issued by the Post Office. In 1939, 3 million money orders df a total face value of approximately £18 million were issued. By 1964, the number issued had increased almost four-fold to 11.4 million and the total face value was £168 million, a nine-fold increase. Of course, the increase in face value would have some relation to the change in the value of money between 1939 and 1964. I suppose by 1964 approximately £2 or more would be required to buy what could be purchased for £1 in 1939. However, this four-fold increase in the number of money orders issued and the nine-fold increase in their face value indicate that the money order is still a much availed of device. The average value per issue of the 1 1 .4 million money orders issued was approximately £15, or $30 in the new currency.
The statistics disclose also that there has been a decline in the use of postal notes over the same period. Whereas in 1939 there were 22 million postal notes issued with a total face value of £8 million, by 1964, only 16 million notes with a face value of £8.6 million were issued. Even though their real purchasing power would have been much less than it was in 1939. the face value of the postal notes issued in 1964 was very little different from that of the notes issued in 1939. In both years the average was about 10s. I do not know whether statistics of the purposes of postal notes are kept, but I suppose that their greatest use would be the purchase of lottery tickets. However, it would seem that many people who formerly used postal notes now have recourse to some other method of payment.
Recently I read an article in the British journal “ The Banker “ for September 1965. It contained statistics which probably related to 1964. Those statistics disclosed that the British Post Office handled something like 666 million individual postal orders. I am not sure whether the British postal order is the same type of transaction as the Aus tralian money order or postal note hut the fact is that there is certainly much greater resort to this form of payment in Great Britain than is the case in Australia. Even allowing for the fact that the population of Great Britain is four times greater than that of Australia, when we aggregate the number of postal notes, money orders and postal orders issued in each country, it would seem that the use of these documents is 20 times greater in Great Britain than it is in Australia.
This brings me to the point that perhaps there is occasion now to reassess some of the functions of the money order and the postal note, both of which are forms of cash, or near cash. Postal notes seem to have gone out of vogue slowly whereas the money order is still availed of to the extent that I have mentioned - 11.4 million separate orders in the one year. Most of those 11.4 million money orders circulated within Australia. I think only about 500,000 of them were sent outside of Australia. So, at least the money order is stilt used to a great extent by some people to pay debts that other people would probably pay by cheque.
I have great admiration for the Post Office as an institution. I think it is a highly efficient public utility. It shows that public enterprise can be just as efficient and just as useful to the community as can private enterprise. I repeat that I have a very high regard for the Post Office as an undertaking.
In recent times the Government of Great Britain produced a White Paper dealing with what is called the giro system. It is rather difficult to make direct comparisons between the banking, credit and postal facilities of one country and those of another. For example, I should think that the pattern of savings banking in Australia is very much different from the Post Office savings system in Great Britain. It may well be that the Post Office of Great Britain more readily lends itself to the giro system than does the Australian Post Office. An interesting aspect of the giro system is that it offers a very convenient method of payment for people who apparently still have not enough transactions in a year to make them want to have a cheque bank account. They can establish a credit at an institution like the Post Office and can conveniently pay monthly or periodical transactions such as the electric light bill or the gas bill. They simply write out a chit of some sort which is accepted at the Post Office. A debit is then made in their giro account and a credit is recorded in the giro account of the undertaking concerned, be it the electricity commission, the gas and fuel corporation or the rate department. 1 suggest that consideration be given to establishing a similar facility in Australia. I would not like to be categorical at this stage about whether the Post Office ought to be the institution that should make the facility available, but at least the suggestion is worthy of consideration. This system seems to me to have two possible advantages. As I indicated earlier, it would be of considerable interest to the great majority in the community who still do not want to have recourse to a cheque bank account. Moreover, in aggregate the accounts would always be in credit rather than in debit. If the money was banked at a place such as the Post Office or in the savings bank system, it would provide an investing fund that would be readily available to the Post Office or the public at large.
For the benefit of the House I should like to quote from a statement that is contained in a book entitled “ Banking in Western Europe “, which was edited by Professor R. S. Sayers and published in 1962. The statistics I propose to quote deal with the situation in Sweden, the economy of which is not very much different from that of Australia. Sweden has much the same sort of population as we have and has the same standard of living. The relevant passage reads -
The relative importance -
The writer is discussing the giro system, which operates quite freely on the Continent, particularly in France and most of the Scandinavian countries - of the different methods of payment may be judged to some extent by the results of an inquiry undertaken by the Swedish Banks’ Association during the week 21-27 January 1945. This showed that of the total amount of ail payments made during the week, 27 per cent, were made in cash, 38 per cent, through commercial bank accounts, 28 per cent, through the accounts of the Post-Giro, and 7 per cent, by other means.
I point out that in Sweden nearly three transactions out of ten in terms of amount were transacted through the Post-Giro. The passage continues -
The apparent importance of payments through the commercial banks is misleading in so far as it can be explained by the large average size of the sums paid in this way. The payments effected through the Post-Giro comprise a larger number of small amounts. If we compare the number of payments
That is, the number as against the amounts - transacted through the different institutions, the results of the inquiry conclusively show that payments through the Post-Giro predominated. During the period-
That is during the sample week - they accounted for 1,248,708 of the payments made compared with 202,368 through the commercial banks’ cheque accounts.
Then this conclusion is reached -
It is clear that in the Swedish financial system the Post-Giro and the commercial banks cater for different types of transactions, the former specialising in effecting the payments of private individuals, the latter in those of the business and industrial community.
I make the point that the Post Office is designed to handle in the course of a year hundreds of millions of small individual transactions involving the posting of letters, the buying of stamps, the sending of post cards externally and internally, the sending of parcels, the registering of valuable articles and so on. It seems that there is quite a gap in the community for facilities to enable people on what might be described as average incomes more conveniently to pay some of the sums that they have to pay weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annually. I am not suggesting that the Post Office is the only place that perhaps could provide this facility. However, I draw attention to the fact that in Sweden approximately seven transactions out of eight in terms of number are conducted under the Post-Giro system and that even in terms of value such transactions still account for 30 per cent, of the total.
I note that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is in the chamber. From time to time the honorable member makes observations here about mobilising the savings of the community. I suggest that there is a considerable untapped reservoir of savings for which the existing banking mechanism does not cater. One of the matters to which the Vernon Committee drew attention was that it was perhaps time to have a re-examination of the credit and banking mechanism in Australia. The Government of Great Britain has chosen to use the Post Office to meet this situation and has introduced the giro system.
I conclude by quoting briefly from an article that appeared in the “ Banker “ of September 1965. I commend the full article to honorable members. The article, which is entitled “ Living with the Giro “, was written by Anthony Bambridge, an English writer who apparently looked closely at the system. He wrote -
The simplicity and speed of the giro, working all day on six days of the week, are calculated to appeal to that area of society now well accustomed to buying on credit but still without bank accounts, either because it regards the banks as to stiffly conservative or because it finds their short hours of opening inconvenient.
Equally, while the giro is specifically aimed at these two out of three adults at present struggling with postal orders, money orders, registered letters and having to wait over a week for a postal cheque to be cleared, it may well find favour with many who already have bank accounts.
I commend this matter to the consideration of the Postmaster-General because it seems that money orders are still availed of. They are used, it would seem to me, to pay accounts from one individual to another. The postal note, now to be called a postal order, is a declining sort of commodity. I have suggested that this Bill might have been called “The Demise of the Postal Note Bill “. Over a period of time, a considerable reduction in the use of this form of commercial paper has taken place. It seems that about the only service it performs now relates to people who live in country areas and who use it to buy lottery tickets from lottery institutions which are established in the cities. Not only does the post office gain from the poundage on the postal note but also it gains in the use of two postal stamps as well. A person sending for lottery tickets has to put the postal note in a letter and then has to include in that letter another stamped self-addressed envelope so that the ticket may be returned. Sometimes another stamped self-addressed envelope is required so that the person concerned can receive a result slip. Really, the Post Office does fairly well out of the postal note. Usually the sale of the postal note in connection with a person’s transactions has tied to it the sale of at least two postal stamps. Here is the occasion for this matter to be reconsidered. I also ask the Postmaster-General, because I know he is interested in these matters, whether he might give some consideration to exploring whether in fact a gap exists in the credit facilities in Australia and whether the postal giro or something else like it might very well be inserted to channel the credit that could come out of that gap.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29th March (vide page 719), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the House take note of the following paper -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement. 10th March 1966.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech to move men’s minds: I only speak right on. These words might sound like a false modesty. They might sound pompous. But I do believe with the utmost sincerity that before this generation is dust and ashes the people of Australia will have made a decision touching the very survival of this nation as a free people. This issue confronts us today. I believe it is raised by the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) that we are now debating.
History is not just something that children read in school text books. It is something made from day to day by you and me, by millions of our fellow citizens, little by little, line upon line. But because history is made in this familiar fashion it is nonetheless a fascinating drama, fraught with immense consequences, not only for us but also for our children and our children’s children. Firmly believing that this nation now faces a crisis of survival, I address myself with such little skill and eloquence as I have to the hearts and minds of my fellow citizens, knowing that decisions are made both in the coolness of understanding and the warmth of emotion, particularly hopes and fears for ourselves and our children in the present and the future.
First, I believe we must clear our minds as to the nature of modern war. In the past, an aggressor made a formal declaration of war and he marched across a denned border with flags flying, drums beating and bugles blowing. He wore an identifiable uniform. Whether his cause were just or not, he tried to make it appear just. Even as lately as War World II, it was regarded as treacherous and a breach of international standards of conduct when Japan, while talking peace, attacked Pearl Harbour without a declaration of war.
However, international Communism has changed all this. Frustrated by nuclear weapons, mutual terror, the certainty of mutual annihilation in the full scale war, aggression today takes the form of wars of so called “ national liberation “. There is no formal declaration of war. On the contrary, every effort is made to conceal aggression. There are no frontiers. There are no uniforms. The weapons are indiscriminate terror and selective murder. Moreover, the war is total. That is to say, it is conducted on thousands of fronts and in millions of hearts - ki yours and in mine. First, it is, of course, a military war. Force is the prime instrument. Secondly, it is a social and economic war. There is competition in improving the social and economic conditions of peoples. Thirdly, it is above all a psychological war- a battle for men’s minds. It is this last with which I am concerned at present
In this, 1 believe the most critical area at this time, the battlefront is not in Vietnam. It is in your own living room when you turn on your T.V. set. It is in the train or the bus when you read the newspapers. It is on the beaches when young people listen to their transistors. It is wherever people meet together and talk. It is in quiet corners when, withdrawn from others, they read. It is throughout the world. Above all, it concerns us -as a battle for the ultimate survival of this nation as a free people - for us, for our children, and our children’s children. And each of us, man and woman alike, is in the front line.
In this battle, our greatest enemy is confusion of thought. Scores of false issues have been raised and honest people have been cast into doubt. This was cunningly and covertly planned and intended. It is not an accident. The authors who sowed the seeds are exulting in their success. There is no need for me at this point of time to pinpoint either the target or the tools. Let me illustrate this. We have been told that Vietnam is a long way from our shores; that the Diem regime was corrupt and oppressive; that the Vietcong are simply nationalists and agrarian reformers. We have been told that there has been no aggression from the north; that China will be drawn into the conflict and the war will escalate. We have been told further that it is a dirty war; that it is an unwinnable war; that the Government of South Vietnam is not supported by the people; that we should negotiate a peace; that ideas can be fought only with ideas, not with guns; and that conscription is undemocratic and immoral. And so it goes on. There is, of course, an answer to these things. But I do not propose to be drawn into side issues. They have been debated up hill and down dale and have greatly added to the confusion.
The real issues are very simple. Is the war in Vietnam part of a pattern of aggression that threatens our security? This is a very simple question. If so, is it just that this nation should resort to conscription? Again, this is a very simple question. These are the questions that I propose to answer. They are quite straight forward and absolutely fundamental. I do not propose to occupy time in quoting texts to show that it is the proclaimed intention - proclaimed in words and proclaimed in deeds - of international Communism, whether Russian or Chinese, to dominate all the nations of the earth. Let it suffice to recall Mr. Khrushchev’s phrase: “ We will bury you.”
If, owing to the nuclear deterrent, this cannot be done by open and direct aggression, can it be done by little wars like that in Vietnam? May I recall the history of the past 30 years? Hitler marched into the Rhineland, a zone between France and Germany, demilitarised under the Treaty of Versailles. Why should we go to war about this? It was German territory, and all other States were at liberty to protect their borders. He then marched into Austria. After all, the Austrians spoke the German tongue and were people of German culture. Why should they not be united with their spiritual home? Then he marched into Czechoslovakia. Why not? The western provinces were inhabited by the Sudeten Germans, who naturally wished to be liberated to join the German Reich. Anyway, why should Britons be involved in a quarrel in a remote country among people of whom they knew nothing? I repeat those words: “ A quarrel in a remote country among people of whom we know nothing “. They echo rather eerily down the corridors of time. They are being used in this country today. They were the words used by Mr. Neville Chamberlain about Hitler’s attack on Czechoslovakia.
Next, Hitler marched into Poland and the clank of his Panzers and the shriek of his dive bombers echoed around the world. The lights of Europe went out. The protesters for peace found that they had been the architects of world war, that they had unleashed misery on all mankind. Let me here quote the words of the greatly respected American statesman, Adlai Stevenson, written a few days before his death in a letter to a group of scientists, writers and artists, who questioned the moral position of the United States in Vietnam. These are his words -
I do not think the idea of Chinese expansionism is so fanciful that the effort to check it is irrational. And if you argue that it should not be checked, then I believe yon set off on the old, old route whereby expansive powers push at more and more doors, believing that they will open until, at the ultimate door, resistance is unavoidable and major war breaks out.
Then he went on to say -
This is the point of the conflict in Vietnam.
But I take up the chronicle. After the collapse of Germany in World War H, Western Europe was in chaos. It was the ideal breeding ground for Communism. But under the impact of the Marshall Plan the large Communist Parties in France and Italy melted away. No country blessed with a free franchise has ever voted for Communism. But in Eastern Europe, under the guns of the Red Army, by force and fraud one country after another was enslaved.
Then the nibbling process began again: In Greece; in Berlin; in Korea; in the Philippines and Malaysia; in Tibet and India; and, of course, in Vietnam. Already national fronts - sp called - are being established in Thailand and Malaysia. Agents are busy in Africa and Latin America. These are subversive activities escalating into armed insurrection, organised by Communist agents and using nationalism and poverty to achieve their ends.
This is very interesting, very trite. But the true things are apt to be trite. Take the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments. They are not less true because they have been said before. But for those who want to come closer to home, to consider the threat posed by Chinese expansionism in our quarter of the world, let me quote a few relevant passages from the statements of Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese leaders. On 6th November 1938, a long time ago, at Yenan, in a speech before the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, Mao said -
Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun
. Whoever has an army has power, for war settles everything . . . The theory of war and strategy is the core of everything.
Then Mao, in a resolution on “ Some Questions in the History of our Party “ in April 1945, said -
Military struggle ia the main form of political struggle.
Again, in an address on 1st July 1949 on “ The People’s Democratic Leadership he said -
Neutrality is mere camouflage and a third road does not exist.
Liu Shao-chi, another Chinese leader, said on 16th November 1949-
The path taken by the Chinese people . . . in founding the People’s Republic of China is the path that should be taken by the peoples of the various colonial and semi-colonial countries . . . It is necessary to set up wherever and whenever possible a national army . . .
Mark these words -
This appeared in the “People’s Daily”, official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, on 19th November 1958-
The Communist Parties of the Asian, African and Latin American countries are becoming the core of national unity in their struggles for national independence.
I could quote more but I have not time. I turn now to the allied subject of conscription, and I will use the plain word “ conscription “. Yes, conscription is the -policy adopted by the Chinese, by the United States, by North Vietnam and by South Vietnam. All of the people, enemies and friends, in our part of the world adopt it. By what God given grace can we escape what others find necessary? And might I remind the House that one-third of the American forces in Vietnam are conscripts. It is much further from, say, Dakota to Da Nang than it is from Saigon to Sydney, but they are there. ls conscription undemocratic in itself? People in our community enjoy many rights and many privileges. They have liberty. Nobody comes in the middle of th; night, taps them on the shoulder and takes them away, never to be heard of again by their families. This is something. They enjoy liberty. They have a right to vote freely for the government of their choice. They have a right to police protection and access to courts of law. They receive all kinds of educational advantages. Many of the protesters today have the privilege of Commonwealth scholarships and other advantages given to them by the community in which they live. They are assisted with all kinds of social services. They are helped with regard to their housing requirements. They have immense privileges and great rights. But there is another side to this coin. Are these things given without any return? Surely the other side of the coin is duty. They have certain duties and they are not at liberty to say whether or not they will accept the duties. Nobody asks them whether they will exercise their democratic right not to pay taxes. Nobody asks them whether they choose to serve on a jury. Nobody asks them whether they choose to obey the laws. If they commit murder, they are for it. If they commit’ a traffic offence, they are for it. They have no democratic right to choose, because rights and privileges go with duties and the first duty of any citizen is to protect that state upon which all his privileges and all his rights depend. This is the other side of the coin of citizenship.
Well, is conscription wrong if it is selective and you just pick out some? Let us go back to the very seed beds of democracy, the ancient Greek city-states, when every person could be, called upon to perform his duty as a citizen. If only a few magistrates or, as we might call them, ministers, or even a general were needed they were chosen by lot, because only one general and only a few magistrates were required. But every citizen was eligible and available to serve and protect the state itself on which all his rights depended. Sir, is it right, fair and democratic that we should rely upon the voluntary system?
Let us take the case of a man who went to the last war. He was recruited by the late right honorable W. M. Hughes in his campaign for volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force. He was moved by what he conceived to be his patriotic duty. He was 34 years of age. He had three young children aged eight, six and three years. His sight was very bad and when he enlisted nobody bothered about his eyes. He had a pair of spectacles in every pocket because he always had a nightmare that sometime he might be out in no man’s land without the means of seeing. Well, he went. He faced what the Leader of the Opposition has called the lottery of death. He can recall many occasions when he was shot at, when he was mortared, when he was bombed. He can remember dive bombers coming down with the scream of their sirens, as he thought, right into the middle of his back. He can remember going along the Kokoda Trail, when the track was mortared. It happened that he and some of his companions went over to the right and, of course, went down on their stomachs. Others went to the left. When the barrage ended he saw a man on the left picked up on a groundsheet with blood pouring out of his mouth because a mortar fragment had hit him in the lungs. He faced the lottery of death, to use the phrase of the Leader of the Opposition.
Why should that man have left his wife and children behind? Because he had a conscience. Because he had a sense of patriotism. Why should he be the man who went out and faced the lottery of death for the sake of other young men without obligations, fit and well, who chose not to go? Is this democracy or is it not? I appeal to the moral sense of the people of this country. I say to them: Do not delude yourselves by saying: “ Not my son, somebody else’s son can defend me.” I say: Look into your heart and conscience and decide whether this is just, right and proper, or whether you are plucking some reason out of the air that is not the real reason why your son should not be exposed to the dangers faced by other mothers’ sons and other wives’ husbands.
.- 1 do not propose to address myself to the question raised by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) although I believe we would all be impressed with the sincerity with which he expressed his opinions, not all of which do I agree with. 1 propose to talk about one aspect raised by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), and that is the question of China. The Minister for External Affairs said -
We do not imagine that a lasting arrangement can emerge in Asia which does not take account of what exists on the Chinese mainland.
He went on to say that this is not the same thing as immediate recognition of Communist China or its admission to the United Nations. He said -
Those are simply parts of the whole question of China. 1 propose to address myself for a few moments to the question of China because 1 believe that it is time that we in Australia had a more honest look at our China policy and developed a policy which is more realistic in terms of what is going on in the world around us.
The Australian Labour Party, to which 1 am proud to belong, has a foreign affairs platform in which it supports, firstly, the Commonwealth of Nations and says that Australia should always remain an integral part of it. lt supports the United Nations to which Australia must give its unswerving and paramount loyalty, and which the Labour Party hopes eventually will develop into some wider form of world government. The next proposition is co-operation with the United States in the areas of the South Pacific and Indian oceans and elsewhere, subject to the understanding that Australia must remain free to order its policies in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Paragraphs (d) and (e) refer to our association with the nations of South East Asia for the development of common interests, the setting up of treaties and the like. Paragraph (f) deals with the necessity to review defence treaties and alliances from time to time to meet new circumstances as they arise.
Attention was given yesterday in the Parliament to just what this last sentence means. What it means, of course, is that in any alliance set up at a point in time circumstances change. Today’s enemies may be the friends of tomorrow, and yesterday’s allies may be the enemies of today. We know of the changed circumstances with regard to France and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, for example, and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. We know of the changed circumstances whereby Pakistan, which is a S.E.A.T.O. power, has recently developed firm and friendly relations with China. It is necessary to have some degree of flexibility and all of these relations between Australia and the world have to be kept under constant review.
My proposition is that Australia, because of the very sound and satisfactory relationship - one might say initimate relationship - which it has built up with the United States of America, ought to use its powers of persuasion and its influence with that country to normalise Communist China’s relations with the world. I should like to emphasise that I would not compare the two relationships. Our relationship with the United States of America quite obviously is the most important relationship that Australia has at this point of time, but if we are to turn China away from her rather bellicose statements and warlike tendencies then we have to provide China with an alternative, namely to give her her rightful place in the councils of the world and the diplomatic recognition which Australia normally accords to nations with which it trades and with which it carries out normal international functions.
– What about the consequences of that action?
– I propose to deal with some of those things. This has become even more urgent because of the fact that last year on 17th November in the United Nations the vote in favour of admitting China to that organisation was even - 47 in favour and 47 against, with 20 nations abstaining. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there were two resolutions. The first was that the question was an important one requiring a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. That resolution was carried by 56 votes for and 49 against. If honorable members consider the facts surrounding this resolution they will see that many of the nations which voted in favour of China’s admission were neighbours of China, Asian powers and European nations with which Australia is associated in defence agreements. The Asian nations which voted for China’s admission to the United Nations were: Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Singapore. I shall not mention all of the European nations but merely those with which we have a special relationship. They were: France, which is a S.E.A.T.O. and N.A.TO. power, and the United Kingdom, with which, of course, we are closely associated in the Commonwealth of Nations and in numerous defence arrangements. 1 believe that over a number of years the attitude of the United States and of this country, in support of the United States, towards China has been completely unrealistic. We have not accorded China the normal rights that any government in effective control of a country should be given, whether we agree or disagree with many of that government’s attitudes. We are now brought to the situation, because this has been made a prestige issue, that if China is admitted to the United Nations at the next session, as it well may be, there will be an enormous loss of prestige by the United States, ourselves and all of those nations which have supported the United States in its attitude. I believe that the time has come when Australia and its allies ought to be prepared to put forward some positive resolution in the United Nations in order to resolve this question. I believe that such a resolution could revolve around the two - China policy that has has been expounded, that is; to admit China to the United Nations without at the same time expelling the Nationalist Chinese Government on Formosa.
The question may well be asked: Is this acceptable to China? I believe that if we submitted a positive resolution of this kind and it was carried, it would be up to the Government of the People’s Republic of China to determine whether it would enter the United Nations on those terms. So, instead of locking the door on China, we would be opening the door with what would be a reasonable proposition and one from which some negotiation could take place with a view to the eventual admission of China to the United Nations. I believe that we have to consider this matter, not only because it is an urgent and important question, but also because the attitude of this Government is a hypocritical one indeed.
We trade with China. From the latest figures that I have been able to obtain, in 1964-65 China was the fifth largest purchaser of Australian exports. In that year we exported 2,239,909 tons of wheat to China for a total of $116 million. We exported wool to China to the value of $15 million. The most important nation with which we traded in that year was the United Kingdom. Japan was next, then the United States of America, New Zealand and China. I believe that if we want to trade with China, if we are willing to take money from China, and if we value China as a client, we ought to explore the question of recognising China and normalising our relationship with her.
I know that the question of trade is controversial. I know that some honorable members opposite are opposed to trading with China, to recognising China and to accepting China’s admission to the United Nations. The position of the Labour Party on this matter is quite clear. We are in favour of trading with any nation in the world. We are not in favour of exporting strategic materials to China because we have defence commitments and we cannot break them. We are in favour of the admission of China to the United Nations without prejudicing the membership of the nationalist Chinese Government in Formosa. I have said that we are in favour of normalising the relationship between our nation and China. This would be a rather slow procedure, but the important thing is that we have to take the first few steps along the road.
– Which road?
– The road towards normalising China’s position in the world and bringing about, in relation to China, these changes which have taken place in the Soviet Union over a long period whereby the Soviet Union is able to take its place as a respected member of the councils of the world today. To illustrate this point, one needs only to refer to the recent meeting at Tashkent where the Soviet Union was able to bring about an agreement between the two Commonwealth countries,
India and Pakistan. That was something that a lot of people had been trying to do for a long time and the Soviet Union should be commended.
The Government has told the Parliament on numerous occasions when questions have been asked concerning the export of wheat and 0,her commodities to China, that after “ali this is not done by the Government; it is done by private organisations such as the Austraiian Wheat Board and the Australian Wool Board. But the Commonwealth Government is not without its official role in the development of trade. Because Great Britain recognises China and has a diplomatic representative in Peking, we are able to enjoy facilities that are normally accorded by one Commonwealth nation to another. But a number of people, including public servants, have gone to China to foster and develop trade with that country, either with the encouragement of the Government or certainly without any discouragement. None or very few of them could go if the Government said that they could not go.
In 1956 Mr. H. C. Menzies was the Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong. I do not know whether he had a famous relative, but he went to Hong Kong and made a report on China and its trade potential. His report was considered and evaluated by the Government. In 1958 an Australian trade mission visited the South East Asian area in the vessel “ Delos “. It called at Shanghai. The arrangements in relation to its call were made by the Australian Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong with the representative of mainland China in Hong Kong. In 1961 Mr. R. B. Patterson, the Australian Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong, visited the Canton Trade Fair. He had negotiations with the trade department of the Government of China with a view to expanding Australia’s trade. In 1961, Dr. H. C. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, went to China to establish between the Reserve Bank of Australia and the People’s Bank of China the relations which would normally exist between the Governments of two nations which were trading together.
It has been said that the Reserve Bank is a quasi-autonomous body. That is true, but at that point of time the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was Acting Minister for External Affairs. The present
Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) was Treasurer of this country. I venture to say that there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Coombs’ visit to China would have required the approval of both those gentlemen. Another matter of interest is that in 1962 there was a reciprocal visit by three delegates from the People’s Bank of China. They came to Australia to negotiate with the Reserve Bank. While they were here they met not only the representatives of private organisations but also officials of the Department of Trade and Industry.
One could go on giving similar examples. In addition to public servants and people associated with Government instrumentalities, a great number of Australian people have visited China. In 1963 five trading bank delegations went to China on behalf of the Wool Board. Of course, members of the Wheat Board are regular customers on the airlines which operate between this part of the world and China. I have tried to put the point of view that we ought to be honest about this situation. We cannot have a little bit each way, as the Government is trying to do at the present time. If we are to trade with China, if we are to develop the trade which has been of a great advantage to our wheatgrowers, woolgrowers and the people of Australia generally, we ought to recognise our obligations.
I have one interesting point to make in relation to wheat. Because the price of wheat has fallen since 1959-60, the Government has honoured its legal obligations to the Wheat Board. It has subsidised wheat on the cost of production level. In the year 1962-63, the export of wheat to China was subsidised to the extent of £11 million.
– That is untrue.
– I have my references here. If we are to continue this trade, we ought to be honest and consistent and take the other steps that I have suggested. A number of reasons have been given why we should not trade with China and normalise our relations with China. The Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) dealt with this matter when he said -
There was the Chinese intervention in the Korean War. There was the successful Chinese rape of Little Tibet. There was the ruthless and unprovoked attack on democratic India.
He went on to refer to Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaya, South Vietnam and the nations of Africa and Latin America. I do not necessarily subscribe to a lot of the views about China that are expressed by honorable members opposite. I think that China is entitled, as all great powers are entitled, to be surrounded by friendly or neutral nations. That is something that we demand for ourselves. Our presence in New Guinea was brought about by strategic considerations in Australia. We regret the circumstances in which the Soviet Government occupied the eastern European countries. But the fact is that the existence of those countries between Russia and the N.A.T.O. powers has been a great factor in the moderation of Russia’s attitude - it has a feeling of security. The United States insists that it should not have an unfriendly power in Cuba or in those areas of Latin America which are so close to her. I believe that the same situation should apply to China. 1 do not condone everything that the Government of China has done. Far from it. But its admission to the United Nations should not be determined by a test of whether we agree with what it does or says at all times. We are told that clause 4 of the United Nations Charter requires member States to renounce war. We must be consistent. Does this mean that Australia went into the United Nations after the rape of Hungary and demanded the expulsion of the Soviet Union? Does this mean that we took action when India and Pakistan elected not to settle their disputes within the United Nations or by conference but went to war? Does this mean we took action to expel them?
– There is Suez, too.
– That is right. These are principles that cannot be applied, but I believe that we should work towards facilitating China’s development along peaceful lines. I think that the trade that Australia has encouraged and is developing with China is a useful step, but we ought to take it a little further by being honest, by recognising China and agreeing to its admission to the United Nations. I close by reiterating what I said earlier. I do not suggest that Australia do this unilaterally. Australia has treaties and defence associations with the United States of America^ Great Britain and other great powers. I merely suggest that
Australia use its influence with the United States and come forward at the next session of the United Nations with some positive policy on the admission of China to that body. The point that this may not be acceptable to China is not one that we ought to determine. It is a point that ought to be determined by the United Nations when China has the opportunity to decide whether it will seek admission on a reasonable basis or whether it will decline admission. China has a population of 750 million. It is the largest nation in the world. It has a strong Government that came into office by a revolution. I do not condone many of the acts of that Government, but there is no doubt that it is a Government in effective control of China and a Government that has done much for the Chinese people. One of its principal propaganda points is that it is treated like a pariah dog in the world. If it is good enough for us to trade with China, we ought to be honest and extend the hand of friendship to China in an effort to have it moderate its policies and take its place on the councils of the world.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) has told us a lot about China. Later in my speech, I intend to speak about this country, but I shall deal with a different angle. First let me draw attention to two points on which I differ quite strongly from the views of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that the war in Vietnam is an unwinnable war. Quite bluntly, this is not a matter of fact; it is a matter of opinion. My opinion is the same as the opinion of this Government, of the Government’s military advisers, of approximately 250,000 conscripted American troops and of the Government of America. It is the same as the opinion of some 43,000 conscripted Korean troops in Vietnam, or who shortly will be in Vietnam, and of the Government of Korea. My opinion is the same as the opinion of the Government of the other half of Anzac - that is, the Government of New Zealand - whose troops are in Vietnam. Indeed, it is the same as the opinion of the other 30 nations who, in addition to the United States, at 1st February of this year were giving aid to South Vietnam and of the nine other governments that have promised to provide aid to South Vietnam.
All these people believe that the war in South Vietnam is winnable, and there can be no doubt that it is. But possibly they are all out of step and the Opposition in this Parliament is the only group in step. This war is winnable, just as was the war in Malaya, Borneo, and Korea, the Cuba incident, the Berlin blockade and the other points of pressure brought to bear by Communist forces. The point I take is that calling the war in South Vietnam an unwinnable war is a shocking bump to the morale of the troops serving there. It is a shocking kick in the stomach to them to know that this Parliament is divided on this issue. I was no great shakes as a soldier. I was not even an infantryman. But I do know a little about being in a jungle at night. In a few hours time, these fellows of ours will be settling down over there for the night and they will be watching everything - watching every move and listening to every noise. But tonight they will know that the National Parliament of Australia is split and that a group of honorable members believe that the war in South Vietnam in which they are engaged now is an unwinnable war. I think this is a shocking state of affairs. It is a very nasty reflection. It is a bump to morale.
The second point on which I disagree with the Opposition is this: The Opposition says that this is not a civil war. Let everybody in the country ask themselves these questions: Is there no conclusive evidence of Communist aggression in South Vietnam? Are not arms, munitions and materials coming forward from such Communist countries as the Chinese Peoples Republic, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Poland, North Vietnam and the latest addition, East Germany? Is there any evidence of arms or munitions coming from any country in the free world? Is there any conclusive evidence of the antics of the Communist propaganda machine? I am sure the Opposition is behind the Council of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. At least I think it is, but after listening to the debate the other day I was somewhat uncertain. The Council of S.E.A.T.O. said -
The Communists themselves have proclaimed their assault on the Republic of Vietnam to be a critical test of the tactics of infiltrating arms and trained men across national frontiers.
Is it not a fact that, of the estimated 80,000 Vietcong regulars, 20,000 are from North
Vietnam? These are irrefutable facts. Have not the North Vietnamese had no close, shall 1 say, life-injecting contact with the 40,000 members of the political cadres that are in South Vietnam? Have they had no great impact on the 100,000 to 120,000 village guerrillas who are in South Vietnam? Of course they have.
Is Ho Chi Minh himself a Republican or a Democrat? Is he a supporter of the Labour Party, of the Liberal Party or of the Australian Country Party? He is a Communist. He started his revolutionary activities as a boy. In 1919 he went to France and joined the French Communist Party. In 1923 he went to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. For what purpose? To study revolutionary techniques. In 1925 he went to Canton. For what purpose? To join the staff of the Soviet Consul. In 1927 he went to Russia. In 1929 he went to Thailand and in 1930 he went to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong he organised Communism in Indo-China. So the record of Ho Chi Minh goes on. He is a Communist to the boot heels; he is a Communist to the tip of his wire whiskers. Is this a civil war in South Vietnam? I say it is a blatant, militant, deadly act of aggression by Communists who have come down into South Vietnam, and I am sure that many Opposition members agree with me.
Let me deal now with a section of Australian criticism. There is criticism in this country. This is a democracy and we can still criticise. But if there is criticism, I think surely it ought to be based on a point of responsibility. I am rather surprised at the criticism. I want to deal particularly with the criticism coming from certain churchmen and academics in this country. Thank goodness there is no church and no denomination in this country which has taken an outright stand on this point, but there are a lot of individuals, such as wardens of colleges in charge of our younger generation, who talk of the duties of Christian ministers; principals of colleges who talk anti-Vietnam and anti-conscription; churchmen from all fields; a professor from Sydney University who accused the Primate of Australia, Dr. Gough, of jingoism - the one senior churchman in Australia who, with all due respect to the Primate, has got off his behind and gone to have a look at conditions for himself. He has been accused of jingoism.
These people have spoken of the way of totalitarian governments. According to them, this is a totalitarian Government adopting policies which, as they put it, are utterly inconsistent with democratic principles and Christianity. I mark that because I want to develop this theme. Do not these people know that Communism is opposed to all religion and all religious practices? Do they not know that the Communist is sure that religion is incompatible with Communism’s materialistic ideology? Certainly its suppression of religion has varied from time to time from outright suppression in Stalinist days - it has eased slightly to suit places, conditions and people - to less forcible and persuasive methods which arc used in various countries, but always there is the effort to rid the people of religious beliefs and religious practices.
Do not these people know that in 1963 a Chair of Scientific Atheism was set up in the University of Jena in Communit Germany to teach the young people of that country, not Christianity, not any other religion but atheism? That is the kind of thing the Communists want to get into the minds of the young people. Do the critics to whom I have referred know that the head of that faculty came from the Department of Dialectical and Historical Materialism - the Communists love these long words - in the Philosophical Institute of the University of Jena? Do they know that that man was the chairman of a working group on atheism and that to this working group came representatives from the Universities of East Berlin, Leipzig, Jena, Halle, Rostoch and Greifvald? Would they be surprised to know that that same man made a study trip to the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1963 to study scientific research on atheism? Now he occupies the chair to which I have referred and he is teaching the young people sitting below him the principles of atheism.
The articles of foundation of the chair may interest some people, lt was to be the chief co-ordinating centre of scientific atheistic work in the Soviet zone, it was to develop an intense and purposeful research in this field of science - they call it a science - and it was to make a decisive contribution to the dialectic, materialistic, philosophical education of the people. How the Communists love these long words. In the words of the articles, it was also to be a valuable stimulus to the improvement of philosophical, atheistic propaganda. 1 should like the House and the Government’s critics to mark this. There was to be intensification of atheistic propaganda among teachers and educators and clear atheistic and anticlerical direction. There is the age old philosophy and the age old method. Go to the teachers and the educators, and get to the minds of the young people. I direct the attention of the critics, particularly those from the churches, to what Communism is trying to drive down the throats of people.
The basic philosophy of Marxist Communism is that there is no God, that the State takes the place of God and that everyone subordinates himself to the State. A man discards his right to control his own actions and his own words and, to repeal a phrase used by the Primate of Australia, the most degrading form of slavery is that he is denied the right to control his own thoughts. The public policy of the Communists, as announced, is to respect fully the religious feelings of believing Christians. This policy is honoured in the breach. In practice, the principle of religious tolerance is by no means respected. Time does not permit me to develop this theme but I have any amount of evidence to support my remarks.
Let me turn now to China. Bearing in mind the peaceful right hand that has been put out to China by the honorable member for Brisbane, it is not surprising to find embodied in China’s constitution a guarantee of religious freedom. In fact, this amounts only to a tolerance of persons holding certain religious beliefs in private life. Mao Tse-tung, who was mentioned by the honorable member for Bradfield, laid down in 1940 - these are his own words - that toleration of religion by Communists can only be temporary and expedient. Have these dissentient churchmen looked as far afield as this? Do they know that lslam in China is described as an anti-scientific reactionary world concept? Do they know that China Islam is regarded as alien and inimical to the scientific Marxist-Leninist world concept? I repeat that those are Mao’s words, not mine. - Where religion is concerned, China is running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. It shouts to the outside world that it has religious freedom but internally it is restricting and gradually eliminating religious freedom. With the present trend it is estimated that within 10 years Islam in China will be dead. In all schools, I should like the House to note, religious teaching is prohibited. Its place is taken by scientific materialism and Marxist-Leninism. Children are taught to ridicule religious beliefs and to become scientific atheists. This is the China to which the honorable member for Brisbane has referred.
Now let us look at the religious situation in North Vietnam where the present trouble exists. Again, the Constitution provides freedom of religious thought. Some activity has to be shown to indicate that North Vietnam is abiding by that part of the Constitution so the Unified Buddhist Association of North Vietnam has been formed. It has been proved that this Association is suborned to the State. It plays along with the regime partly from fear and partly by passive acceptance because passivity fits in with tha Buddhist religion. However, the Association has no voice of its own. It has no anti-Communist role and it follows the Government Une of anti-American propaganda.
The danger I see is that the critics to whom I have referred hold most responsible positions in the community. They have a great influence on the thinking of many people. People in trouble go to them for advice. These are the kind of men - just a handful, fortunately, but quite a vociferous handful - who are coming out against the Government’s policy. They have a great effect on the emotions of people, both those amongst the deep and objective thinkers and those in the impressionable sector. I think they should pause and truly assess the dangers of Communism. Let them seek for themselves whether Communism can exist for any length of time in the same society as does religion of any type for any length of time. Then let them come in behind the Government in the stand it is taking against an ideology which does not in any circumstances fit into- our Australian way of life. I do not shrink away from the accusations that are going to be thrown at me of talking about a holy war. The wars that have been fought in my lifetime have been fought for freedom - freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of expression and freedom of worship. Wars have been fought for these reasons, but never before in the lives of honorable members in. this chamber has there been so much effort throughout the world for the suppression of religion and religious beliefs. So honorable members may call it a holy war, if they wish. I say to these men and to the editors of some of the church newspapers that if they stand in the way of the actions taken by this Government to halt the advancing tide of Communism, there may come a day when they will not want to be heard talking of these things. They will not want to be heard speaking of the rights, duties and responsibilities of Christian ministers, and the Church as we know it now may no longer exist.
.- A debate on foreign affairs always reminds me of the time that I was mixed up in an argument between a Hindu and a Moslem as to who had the right religion. It was a good argument, but we were never quite sure who won it. The paper presented by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) dealt more with the position in Vietnam than with anything else. It dealt briefly with the food problem of India which in itself is a major problem if taken in relation to the pressures of Communism at present in Asia, the relations between Malaysia and Singapore, the confrontation of Malaysia by Indonesia and the dispute between India and Pakistan, a struggle which was resolved by the intervention of the Russian Premier. The Minister’s statement contained also a little about Africa in general and a little about Rhodesia in particular. The significance of most of these countries should never be underestimated because of their closeness geographically to Australia. Whatever happens there must of necessity have its effects on us here. Where I come from, of course, the main concern is the hot spot of Vietnam. I think this would also be the main concern of most people throughout Australia.
Having spent some time in Vietnam I thought I should say what I think about the whole affair. Before doing so let me say that 1 was with a delegation from this Parliament which spent about four weeks in that area. About ten days of the time was spent in Vietnam, some days were spent in Cambodia, we had a certain time in Laos and about a week in Thailand. We were travelling under the guidance of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney). I have always said, not only in this place but outside, that I think we should look at the problem of Vietnam through both eyes. Unfortunately, too many people in this place have a tendency to use only one eye; some use the right eye and some the left. As a consequence we rarely get a true picture of what is actually happening in Vietnam, nor do we get a balanced view, so far as I have been able to see and so far as I have been able to hear. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) said a few nights ago that the Australian Labour Party in claiming that the Government had over simplified the problem was itself guilty of over complicating the whole affair. With all due respect to the Prime Minister and to anyone else who may hold that view, [ do not think we can possibly over complicate the situation in the unhappy country of Vietnam. The whole situation is both complex and confused.
When 1 was in Laos with the delegation to which I have referred 1 think it was the British Ambassador to that country who said to me that anyone who came to Laos or. for that matter, the whole area of South East Asia, and did not go away confused had not been properly informed. In my opinion that is still the position. In Vietnam in those days there was a great need for military action that was of a concerted nature, and it was desirable from the political angle to keep the military structure divided to prevent coups. This was evidenced by the fact that a divisional commander might have half of his command in the north and the other half in the south. The idea was to keep the military divided as this was an advantage from a political point of view. However, as we know, this did not work out and there were coups despite that action. The military theory that they were working on at that time was that they would clear an area of all Vietcong influence and then, like a drop of water on blotting paper, the cleared area would extend until the whole country was clear. But like the theory of divided military command, that did not work out either.
When I was there I found that most of the Ministers seemed to be decent nationals and reasonable people, although from the way they lived it was not hard to believe that there had been a great deal of corruption and misuse of public money. That was obvious to anyone who cared to look. Honorable members opposite who have made statements to the contrary should go back to Vietnam for another look because it is obvious they are not reporting what they saw at that time. Since our visit the mayor of Hue has been accused of graft and corruption. He had a magnificent home surrounded by hovels. His home was situated on the Hue River and he was living like a king, but the people next door were living in conditions in which we would not want to see dogs live in Australia. In Laos there was a huge monument in the main boulevard to show how the money which had been given to them had been spent. There was a great building five or six storeys high which was unfinished and still surrounded with scaffolding. The reason why it was not finished was that the cement being used in its construction had been supplied by the Americans for the runways at the airport and the Americans had found out how the cement was being used. Since then General Phoumi has departed in a hurry with half the population of Laos after him. He had a magnificent home which in Australia would be worth up to $250,000. It was furnished to the same level of luxury, yet this Minister earned about £10 a week. When one looked across the street from his house and saw the standard of housing of the general public, one was left in no doubt as to why Communism was a welcome alternative for these people, despite the ideologies and the other matters that we have heard discussed across the chamber today.
The methods used by the authorities in this part of Asia to keep the people free were little different from those used by Communist authorities in Communist controlled countries, especially in Vietnam under Diem’s regime. While we were there we were told that conditions were much like those in Germany in the days of Hitler and the Nazis when there was a so-called free society under non-Communist rule. In Thailand two or three years ago one had only to name a person as being a Communist sympathiser and that person went to gaol. The Minister had the power to keep him in gaol for as long as he wished without any evidence or any trial. At that stage of our visit we met a prison superintendent from New South Wales who was visiting Thailand and investigating its gaol system. He told me that one gaol in Bangkok held 1,800 political prisoners. All these facets of government and of the conditions prevailing in these places leave no doubt in my mind that many of the objectionable features of Communist rule exist already under non-Communist governments in that area.
For anyone to claim that the war in Vietnam is entirely a civil war is ridiculous, and to claim that it is 100 per cent. Communist aggression is, in my opinion, equally stupid. In my view it is a little of both, or perhaps I should say a complex of both. In Hue we saw heaps of captured weapons made in China, Russia and Czechoslovakia. We saw the same type of light machine gun in Cambodia where it seemed to be the standard weapon used. We saw 16 year old children being trained in the use of this weapon. It was obvious to me that the weapon was of Russian design. The bayonet was tapered with fluting down the -side whereas our bayonets usually are of a knife shape. The stock of the weapon also was different. Everywhere in Cambodia these weapons were evident. We were told that they had been taken from the Vietcong. There were, of course, a few American weapons at that stage. They were very old. I doubt whether a high percentage of the weapons used by the Vietcong today would have been captured. Perhaps when this affair started in 1955 or 1956 many captured weapons were used. But I believe that the dimensions of the war today preclude any possibility of 80 or 90 per cent, of the weapons used by the Vietcong being captured weapons. When I was there I could see no evidence that that was the position.
Further evidence of the aid from outside the borders was given to us by the Laotian Prime Minister of that time, Prince Souvanna Phouma, who, with his half brother, had been in the Pathet Lao, which was then the Communist Party in Laos. He said: “ I know that these people in the Pathet Lao have been receiving aid from North
Vietnam because I was in the jungles with them for two and a half years “. He was the gentleman who said, as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cross) told us this afternoon, that it is rather foolish for us to persist in the unreal attitude of keeping Mainland China, Red China, or whatever you like to call it, out of the United Nations. His theory was that only by China being in the United Nations could we ever have any control over it; that only in the United Nations would China ever be made to face up publicly to the things that it has done over the years. He said that by keeping China out of the United Nations we are playing into its hands and making things worse for ourselves in the long run.
– What would he do about Nationalist China?
– I suggest that the honorable member keep quiet. I am in enough confusion already. One thing to be seen by anyone who went to Laos was that apparently American civil air crews were flying arms and equipment to the neutralist armies north of the Plain of Jars. It was common talk when we were there that these men were not civilians at all; they were army air force personnel. They certainly looked like army air force personnel to me. They were not civilians, as far as I could see.
The International Control Commission was just a big joke in Laos because, according to the Indian Ambassador who sat next to me at a function in our Ambassador’s house in Vientiane - I have no reason to doubt his sincerity - before the International Control Commission can investigate any complaint about a breach of neutrality it must have the permission of the three official parties - the neutralists, the rightists and the Pathet Lao. Of course, if any of them were guilty of a breach of neutrality they would not want anyone to investigate, so they would not give permission. He said that if the Commission, with its white helicopters, went to have a look they were promptly shot at. I mention that only because it shows that without goodwill and sincerity these international agreements on neutrality and international control commissions are nothing more than a waste of time and money. The International Control Commission certainly was, from what I could see in Laos.
In my opinion, the whole trouble in this area boils down to the accumulated reaction to years of exploitation first by the inside ruling class in some cases and by the people who ruled this area under colonialism at a later stage. During that period, as far as I could see, there has never been any attempt to establish a middle class society which, as we all know, is the basis of any democracy. Unless there is a solid middle class society there are only extremes of thought one way and the other. In this area there are only two classes - a top class and a bottom class. They are very far apart. In my opinion, that is the main reason why these people are, if nothing else, fair game for any ideology, be it Communism or anything else apart from what they know at present.
A theory was put to us by General Khanh, who was then Prime Minister of South Vietnam, that the Vietnamese people should create a constitution and hold free elections within two years. Of course, he is now past tense like many of his successors, and things are still much the same. There is still talk about a constitution and there are still promises of free elections. Free elections were to have been held 10 years ago. But, apparently, had they been held then the Communists, or the Vietminh as they were then, being better organised, would have won quite easily. The Vietcong claim that they are only fighting for what they would have had if free elections had been held. That certainly makes sense to them, and I can see their point of view in that respect. It seems to me that any attitude on Vietnam can be justified logically, depending on where one starts chronologically. We see this done daily.
With regard to conscription in Australia, I have said before that if the Government was determined to send troops to Vietnam it should have sent volunteers. I do not agree with honorable members opposite in relation to picking up people who do not want to go to Vietnam and keeping at home people who want to go there. I believe that, had only volunteers been used, the moral issue would have been the only issue involved; but now a much deeper issue is involved. History has shown that volunteers have always been readily available in times of national need. If they were not available, or if the Government considered they were or would not be available, that does not say much for the efforts which, over the last year or so, the Government and its supporters have put into convincing the Australian people that this war is of vital interest to Australians.
The fact that no-one can even hazard a guess as to how long this war will last or when it will finish means that many lads who are at school today - 16 and 17 year old lads - are more than likely to be sent to Vietnam. That is worrying their mothers, who have a vote. Whilst many people demonstrate outwardly, I can tell the Government that many people in my electorate who normally vote for it will not vote for it at the next election merely because of their feelings against its policy of using conscripts in Vietnam.
– That is rubbish.
– Wait and see. Although these people are not ones for running around waving banners, their actions at the polls could be much more devastating. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) is interjecting. He has made his speech, which was full of the usual bunkum.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) referred to the position of rural workers. I wish to refer particularly to the position of people in the sugar industry. I believe that every honorable member who represents a rural area has a great deal of trouble in respect of the inflexibility in the Government’s policy with regard to the conscription of these kids. I think of the owner of a farm who is 65 years of age and is broken in health as a result of his work in the days when farming in the sugar industry was really tough. He has one lad who has been working the farm for years. The farm is not in the lad’s name simply because these days no-one in his right senses would put a farm as valuable as a sugar farm in a young person’s name without any strings attached. When the lad goes away, all that the Department of Labour and National Service will say to the farmer is: “There is plenty of labour available. Ask the Commonwealth Employment Service to find labour for you.” The position in the wheat industry also applies in the sugar industry. Workers for sugar farms cannot be picked off the street. They have to know something about the work, and if a man knows anything about it he has a farm of his own.
I certainly hope - as I think we all do - that this war will not escalate. But, for the life of me, I cannot see any reason why it will not escalate. Today it is quite evident that, in order to pull North Vietnam away from China and under the wing of Russia, much more help will be forthcoming from Russia to Hanoi. That is as logical to Russia as aid to South Vietnam is to the United States. So, as far as I can see, there will be a stepping up of the war. I believe that the anti-aircraft defences of North Vietnam will be the first to benefit from increased Russian aid. The only persons to suffer will probably be the men of the American Air Force.
Before I finish let me say that Communism in Asia can be defeated in the long run only by the Asians themselves. Suppressing it by force of arms and doing nothing to remove its causes, as we have seen in so many other parts of the world, will only make its ultimate supremacy a certainty. That applies to virtually every country in South East Asia. I hope that the Indonesian Government, for its own sake, at last will begin to put economics before politics and will recognise that the Communist Party in that country will be contained permanently by proper land reform, education and administration aimed at improving the lot of the lower classes, and not by perpetuating a heirachy which is of use only to itself. If Australia as a nation can help Indonesia in this respect - I am sure that the Government is doing what it can - in the future we will save many millions of pounds which otherwise we would have had to spend on armaments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haworth) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - In his statement to the House, at the beginning of this sessional period, on the state of the nation, the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) mentioned some of the economic measures that had been taken by the Government. He pointed out what we were doing overall in terms of help to offset the effects of the drought. He stated that incentives to exports would be continued - that is, existing incentives - and he mentioned several other measures that the Government was taking, and intended to take, particularly regarding rural credit funds. Since then various Ministers have issued statements. One of these related to housing. This morning I made a statement concerning rural credit. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury), has made a statement dealing with the employment position. Each of these statements has told a story. When they are looked at together they paint a picture that no-one can possibly cavil at and of which few can be genuine critics.
At the beginning of a year we usually find it difficult to make economic forecasts about what is likely to happen during the year. There are several good and understandable reasons for this. Immediately after the Christmas period there is a fall in consumption expenditure. People have spent some of their savings or some part of their resources and consequently there is a slowing up during January and February. As well we have a large number of school leavers coming on to the employment market. False impressions can be created because the number of registrants for employment can be seen to be increasing. There is the business shut down over the Christmas period and it frequently takes time for industry to get under way again and to take up the slack that has occurred. We find that in December and January it is difficult to estimate what the economic trends might be. This was the position early in January. Many people were then pessimistic about what the economic trends would be early this year and about what would happen during the year. However, in March the February employment figures became available. The February figures of numbers of unemployed, numbers registered for employment, job vacancies and the rate at which job vacancies are being filled are indicators to which we look forward with great interest during March.
I can state clearly and emphatically that anyone who cares to look at the figures fc employment and unemployment in February will be reassured, because there was a substantial drop in the number of people registered for employment. The young people coming on to the market and the migrants who have become available are being rapidly absorbed in employment. 1 do not want to labour the figures nor to go into detail over them, but it is fair to say that not only were the figures reassuring, as any objective witness would admit, but they indicated quite clearly that comparatively speaking, the number of registrants for employment during February was low. We have now a state of virtually full employment. I am fairly certain as a result of what I have seen of the numbers of applicants for jobs that there will be a significant fall in registrants for employment during March. I think it is right to say, as many people who have looked at the figures, cautiously and carefully, have said, that this is a reassuring scene. It indicates that we have full employment and I forecast that not only will we sustain full employment but that there will be a widespread and general demand for employees throughout the country-^ demand that is likely to continue in the future.
I want to use the word “reassuring” again, because there are so many critics who during the last months of 1965 and the early months of 1966 forecast that we would have serious unemployment problems. Clearly they were wrong, because instead of their forecasts proving accurate we now have a state of virtually full employment. Because the employment position is so strong and there is a strong demand for employment throughout the whole economy I think we are entitled to say that the problem of economic management is turning out satisfactorily and that the Government’s economic policies have been successful.
To put this matter into perspective and to show what has haooened I refer to the situation over the last four years. We have had an unprecedented increase in immigration; about 150,000 migrants are coming here annually. We have had a substantial increase in school leavers and a substantial increase in the work force. Admittedly in 1961 we had a higher degree of unemployment than we cared for, but since 1961 there has been a substantial growth in our work force and this has been taken up. More than 500,000 people have been satisfactorily absorbed in employment. It is fair to say that our policies have been successful.
I turn now to our economic policies. I want to explain, if I may, just what was the objective of our economic policies. Our policies had two objectives. First, we have had the growth in our economy with the problem of a constantly increasing work force. We wanted to achieve our policy objective while trying to ensure that we did not create great problems of inflation and did not add to our balance of payments difficulties. We had to make sure, if we could, that our exports and imports came into balance. We had another great problem. That was the necessity to change the pattern of activity so that resources could be diverted from one sector of the economy to another. Let me explain this diversion of resources in greater detail. We had to ensure that the rate of increase in demand was reduced because, as I shall show in a few moments, it was too great. At the same time we had to ensure that resources were diverted into the defence effort, as the defence forces had to be built up to 40,000 people and equipment had to be provided. Moreover, we wished to promote basic development projects throughout the economy such as the large scale development of iron ore deposits and the construction of railways and roads. Finally, we had to attempt to ensure that the production of the heavy section of industry - a section which will mean increased production and a better future for Australia - was increased. Later I shall quote some figures to illustrate the extent to which that part of our policy has been successful.
It was the aim, the essential aim, of Government policy not only to restrain inflation but also to achieve this diversion of resources. We attempted to divert resources from one sector of the economy to the more productive and more essential sectors by trying to ensure that expenditure in the more important sectors was increased while expenditure in less important areas was decreased and in some cases considerably reduced, as in the case of stocks.
– And housing.
– If the honorable member will remain quiet he will get the complete answer on housing. That is what has happened; that is the rationale of
Government policy. Over the months we have succeeded not only in shifting resources out of the less essential sectors of the economy but also in transferring them to what I call the more essential sectors. I point out here that at any given moment of time you have a fixed amount of resources and what you can do is limited by the physical quantity of manpower and resources that is available. I have drawn attention to that fact because some people think that you can expand all sectors of the economy at the one time. It was our duty to move resources to defence, to basic development projects, and into private capital expenditure.
I now turn to the background of the problem as we see it. In the early part of 1965 we found that expenditure over all sections of the economy was increasing at the rate of approximately 13 per cent, per annum. That rate of increase is beyond the capacity of this country, or perhaps any other country, to sustain. It was beyond what we could produce locally and the imports that we could afford to pay for. Therefore, we faced not only the problem of reducing money expenditure but also the problem of diverting resources.
What has happened? There has been a steadying down in rates of expenditure. In more recent times consumption expenditure has not increased nearly as fast as it has in other years. This is understandable. It was our policy, as expressed in two successive Budgets, not to allow this to occur. The rate of stock-building has fallen. Stocks were too high to maintain production in relation to the demand that existed, and some sectors of activity had to take the brunt. We found during the latter part of the year that the rate of increase in expenditure continued to ease and that a great deal of the strain was taken off the economy. We found that the rate of increase of total expenditure last year was 1 3 per cent. In the December quarter of 1964 the rate of increase in consumption and fixed investment expenditure was 1 1 per cent., in the last quarter of 1965 it was of the order of 8 per cent, and at this rate we were able to maintain full employment and to ensure that production in the essential sectors of the economy increased.
– I think the Minister is wonderful.
– Thank you. I think the honorable member, if I may use the phrase-
– Order! Honorable members must not interject. I point out that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, on behalf of the Opposition, will be replying to the Treasurer. He, too, should be heard in silence.
– I did not say that, Mr. Speaker. You are looking at me.
– I now turn to important sectors of the economy that have been affected. I shall refer to housing and the motor vehicle industry. I should like to take advantage of the opportunity to deal extensively with the greatest problem that faces Australia today - the drought, its persistence, and the effects that it is likely to have for some time to come. I shall deal first with the motor vehicle industry. Towards the middle of 1965, motor vehicle registrations attained a rate of more than 440,000 a year. Clearly this was a level that could not be maintained, because it would have led to a saturated market and other problems. In 1964-65 a total of 420,000 vehicles were registered. That was in contrast to a total of 400,000 in the year before, which was 100,000 greater than the total in 1959-60. In 1959-60 we had the biggest number that we had known up to that date.
– There was a bigger population.
– Yes, but not to the same extent. There had to be a fall in registrations. Later I want to touch upon the problem as we see it at the moment. I think I shall be able to indicate that registrations are now moving towards what I would regard as being a satisfactory level.
The second sector of the economy upon which I want to touch - it is more important than the motor vehicle industry, because of its social implications - is the housing and construction industry. We look at this as being a great social problem. We want all Australians to be adequately housed. We want the standard of housing to improve continually, and at the same time to avoid if possible the sharp increases in the cost of housing that have occurred in the past years.. In 1964-65 a total of 116,700 dwellings were commenced. I think it can be said that at that level the rate of commencements was too high. In 1963-64 the number of commencements was 107,600. I remind the House that only a few years ago when there were between 85,000 and 90,000 commencements we thought the performance was rather good. Towards the end of 1965 the rate of approvals given by shire councils and local councils fell substantially. Consequently in both the private and the public sector the Government had to ensure that what could be regarded as being a satisfactory rate of commencements and of approvals was achieved. In the December quarter of last year the rate of commencements was 24,582. If that rate were continued throughout this year we would achieve a rate of at least 100,000 commencements.
What I want to point out here is this: When we saw the rate of approvals and the rate of commencements falling in both the private sector and the public sector, we took action - not perhaps quickly enough, but we did take action. In the case of the private sector, the savings banks at the request of the Reserve Bank, with our full approval, are making an additional $24 million available for housing over a period of six months - that is, in the final two quarters of this year. Undoubtedly, that must make a big impact upon the numbers of approvals and commencements. Later, when I had a look at the figures for the public sector of the economy - that is, for the activities of the State Housing Commissions and for similar activities - I came to the conclusion that activity in this sector had to be increased substantially. Consequently, over the final three months of this financial year $15 million will be available. That has not yet had time to make an impact. I shall return to these two aspects later, indicating what we think the present position is and what we think the trend of the economy will be.
I now want to turn to another section of the economy that does, I think, deserve very special treatment. I have said to the House before and I want to repeat it now - it cannot be repeated too often - that the drought is, I believe, the major economic and social problem that we face today. The impact of drought is, regrettably and unfortunately, first felt by the men on the land themselves and by their families. Their incomes are reduced, and their costs go up. We have to do all that is physically and humanly possible to give them support not only for carry on purposes but for restocking and rehabilitation as well. In the case of the drought, the problem does not end there. In addition to affecting the men on the land, a drought affects the commercial interests in the towns, lt has finally an effect on the supply industries which provide motor vehicles, tractors and everything else associated with the farms. So, Sir, we find that not only does the drought affect the men on the land; it also has a pervasive effect throughout the economy.
The Prime Minister, in the speech that he made to the House at the opening of the session, made a statement which I now want to repeat. It illustrates the philosophy of the Government and the attitude that it has to drought relief. He said that we will go as far as we can and for as long as is necessary in order to give help to those people who are in need. I repeat those words: “ as far as we can and for as long as is necessary in order to give help to those people who are in need “. I have not been the Treasurer for very long, but at least I have been able to take a quick look at the extent to which we will be helping in financial terms. I point out, Sir, that we have in truth underwritten the Budgets of the States concerned. We have permitted up to $6,000 for carry on purposes to be made available by the States to individual farmers in need. We have underwritten the cost of subsidies for the transport of stock and for fodder, and we have taken various other measures to ensure that the person in need will in fact receive the help to which we believe he is entitled.
– What are you doing for the housewives?
– I married one. Now, Sir, let me explain in financial terms the extent of our commitments to do this. In order to ensure that the States will receive the moneys that are necessary to underwrite their Budgets, we shall this year provide a minimum of $20 million to permit them to carry out the drought relief works that they consider to be so necessary. I emphasise, Sir, that that $20 million is the minimum amount. I personally believe that the amount will be much more than that. I shall be able to give more definite figures to the House when I introduce the legislation to validate the payments.
Because I believe the drought to be a No. 1 problem, I should like now to mention some of the matters that we have dealt with during the last day or two. Since the Prime Minister made his statement, arrangements have been made for the establishment within the banking system of a Farm Development Loan Fund. That is the name by which it will be called. In my statement to the House earlier today, I outlined the details of these arrangements. The Farm Development Loan Fund, to be set up initially with finance of $50 million, will be used by the trading banks to make fixed term loans for periods of up to 15 years or more to rural producers for a range of developmental purposes that will include the restocking of drought affected properties and other measures for drought recovery. The loans so made will supplement those made by the banks on overdraft and from Term Loan Funds, and will represent a net addition to bank lending to the rural sector.
At the same time, Sir, as announced in my statement of this morning, the Term Loan Funds of the trading banks are being augmented by an amount of approximately $21 million. A substantial proportion of the Term Loan Funds is used for the making of loans to rural producers, so that the increase in the size of those funds will further increase the availability of bank finance to rural borrowers. This is another decision that the Government has made in order to attempt to ensure that we do our best to help the bloke who is in need on a rural property.
Although we believe that the banking system will be able to meet the needs of most drought affected rural producers for finance for restocking purposes, there will inevitably be producers who cannot obtain adequate bank finance for such purposes because of their own particular financial positions. The Prime Minister announced in the course of his policy statement that he had advised the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland of the Commonwealth’s willingness to extend its financial support to the two States in respect of the cost of drought measures, so as to cover expenditure by them on concessional loans for restocking. This, Sir, is a new policy decision by the Government about which we have written to the two State Premiers. The two State Premiers have since been in touch with us on this matter and have advised us of the details of the cecessional loans schemes that they propose to introduce. These schemes, Sir, will provide for the making of loans to producers in necessitous circumstances of up to $10,000 in any one case, the loans to be made by the States to carry an interest rate of 3 per cent, per annum and to be repayable over a maximum period of seven years, with no repayments being required during the first two years.
I said, Sir, that these amounts of $10,000 to be made available by the States would be underwritten by us. I can assure the House - it will be made more obvious later on - that the terms under which we are making the loans to the States are very generous indeed. The Prime Minister has now confirmed to the Premiers that expenditure by the States on these schemes will come within the Commonwealth’s undertaking to provide financial assistance to the States in respect of the cost of drought relief measures. The details of the schemes will, I understand, be announced by the two State Governments shortly.
In the light of this, Sir, I think it can fairly be claimed that we have been sensitive to the seriouness of the problem of the drought. We have treated it a major national problem, not as a localised State problem, and we have provided a range of remedies and a range of assistance that we hope can be used in most’ circumstances.
I would now like to turn briefly, however briefly it might be, to our external accounts. It was not so long ago - perhaps three or four months ago - that we in the Commonwealth Government thought we might have substantial difficulties with regard to our overseas reserves and our balance of payments. Because farm production and exports had fallen by something of the order of 10 per cent., we thought we were heading for a deficit in the current account section of our balance of payments of well over SI, 000 million. That is a large amount to encompass in any one year. However, signs have emerged lately that the problem will be nowhere as great as we formerly thought it might be.
On the exports side, there are three good reasons for this. First, there was some carry over of stocks of exportable products which have now been sold. Secondly, it appears that the prices of some of our rural commodities have increased. For example, wool prices have increased by something of the order of I2i per cent. This will give some relief to the sore pressed farmer. Finally, there has been a substantial production increase both in metals exports and in exports of our manufacturing industries. While we felt previously there might be a fairly substantial decrease in exports, we are now able to say that we feel that exports will be kept up and that the value of these will be somewhat the same as it was last year.
Turning to the other important section, imports, let me say that in the September quarter these were coming in at the rate of about $265 million a month. Clearly, this was a level of imports that could not be permitted to continue. It was beyond our capacity to pay for. So, following on the fiscal policy we have adopted in two Budgets and the monetary policy we have followed continuously, there has been a progressive easing in the rate of imports. In the first two months of 1966 the rate fell by $33 million which represented a monthly rate of $232 million as compared with the figure of $265 million I mentioned previously. Therefore, I can say that in terms of our balance of payments on current account the course of events appears to be satisfactory, and I am pleased to be able to say that the difference between the value of our imports and our exports last month was of the order of only $li million.
Now may I turn to the capital account of our balance of payments? During the first half of 1965-66, the current financial year, the rate of apparent private capital inflow was of the order of $396 million which was $112 million more than for the corresponding period of the previous year and, in fact, was much higher than the level for any other year we have ever known. If we look at the figures for the first two months of this year, as far as we have been able to ascertain them, we will see that private capital inflow is continuing at a high level. Consequently, we can say that for this year the increase in private capital inflow will be substantial. The sum total of what I want to say in this regard is that our position has improved substantially. This year, therefore, we will not be faced with a very big fall in our overseas reserves and a very big balance of payments deficit.
The only other matter I want to mention in this context is that we should not relax our efforts to increase our exports and reduce our imports. If we look at one other section of our balance of payments - the Government sector of the capital account - we see that next year we have loans of about $150 million maturing overseas at a time when funds available are drying up and when interest rates are constantly increasing. World Bank interest rates for example went up last month by about one-half per cent. We do not know how heavy redemptions will be.
As well as that, we have substantial payments to make overseas for our defence equipment. Defence expenditure overseas will increase from about $100 million, as it was in 1962-63, to about $200 million in this financial year. That will leave us with outstanding commitments abroad for defence equipment of over $1,000 million. The lesson we learn from (this is that unless the drought continues and becomes more severe and unless there is a sudden upsurge in expenditure of all kinds, our balance of payments is moving to a more evenly balanced position and by the end of next financial year we may perhaps have reached a satisfactory position.
May I now turn to the economic position as a whole? I .think our economic position may be brought into perspective by a consideration of the statement so frequently and erroneously made that the economy is slowing up. I want to look at four different aspects of .the economy. Let me deal with what are called the weak spots. The first relates to dwelling construction, the second to the general effects of the drought, the third is the lower level of motor vehicle sales and the fourth is the excessive stocks in some sectors.
As to housing, I think it can be taken from the figures that have been published recently and which I have mentioned in the House that the rate of approvals by local authorities has increased substantially at a time, let me point out, when .the full impact of the $39 million has not been felt. Only a few days ago before we announced the further advances of $15 million the Governor of the Reserve Bank said he thought that the number of commencements could be about 106,000 this year or will be at that rate during the last quarter of this year. If we look at the rate of approvals for private houses alone - .this does not refer to flats - we will see that the number of approvals in February was 5 per . cent, greater than it was in February last year during the boom period when dwelling commencements reached a rate that could not be sustained. I believe we can say of the housing sector that this is one of the soft spots which has been removed. I want to mention also that the housing industry is only one aspect of the whole building industry. This industry is a large employer of labour directly. It also has an impact upon the supply industries of household equipment and of industries such as those producing bricks, mortar, tiles and everything else that goes into a home. There has been some - not a great deal, but some - easing off in approvals in respect of the commercial and industrial sectors. I want to point out to the House that while there has been this easing off in these sectors, there will be a substantial increase in the public sector because large works associated with camps, drill halls and barracks will start to get under construction during the immediate future.
The second matter that I wanted to mention was the drought. Here, again, no one can make any positive forecasts as to when the drought is likely to end. There have been relief rains in some areas. Drought persists in other areas, and some areas that did receive relief rains are now starting to find that the drought is affecting them again. So at the moment all that I can say here is that we cannot predict what is likely to happen, but we will take all those remedial and preventive measures that it is open to the Government to take.
Now may I turn to the problem of motor vehicle sales? All that I mention in this respect is that if we look at the last figures that have become available to us we will see that although we have not got back to the previous figures - that is obvious - the rate of decline in the number of sales has in fact fallen. In the December quarter there was a decline of about 13 per cent, on the previous December quarter, and the February figures show a decline of 8 per cent, on the figures for the previous February. From the best figures that I can see I think we will find that the forecasts of those who think there will be something of the order of 362,000 motor vehicle sales for the year will turn out to be wrong. Perhaps the trend will be more apparent when we receive the March figures which will be available in the course of the next few weeks.
The next matter that I wanted to deal with was the problem of manufacturing stocks. During the whole, or most of, 1965 manufacturing stocks built up substantially. In some industries they built up to a level which at the then current level of production could not be sustained. The additions to stocks have been falling substantially over recent months and we are now informed in various significant sectors of the economy - and they are the sensitive sections - that stocks have fallen to a level compatible with current sales. We can therefore expect that in these industries where orders were previously lacking they will now commence to increase. So apart from the very difficult problem of the drought, I think we can say that there is good reason for stating that in one case it is no longer a soft spot and in the other cases we will need to see later figures before we are in a position to make statements with any degree of certainty.
There is a further ground for doubt. We have heard too frequently the comment that the rate of growth of the gross national product has fallen sharply. This is highlighted by the fact that during the December quarter, on the official statistics, there was an increase of only 4 per cent, in the gross national product. If we look at the figures that have been released we will see that this figure has been calculated after a very big fall in farm income. If farm income were taken out, the gross national product would have increased not by 4 per cent, but by 7 per cent. Further, the fall also reflects the smaller additions.
Then there is the problem of what is called the fall in consumption expenditure. Some people have argued that because consumption expenditure is easily the biggest sector of the economy and expenditures there are far greater than in all the other sectors put together, a fall in the rate of increase in consumption expenditure must necessarily mean that there has been a fall in the rate of growth in the economy as a whole in real terms. This does not necessarily apply. If there has been an increase in public works expenditure, an increase in development projects and an increase in productive equipment, then a smaller increase in consumption expenditure does not necessarily mean a fall in the real rate of growth in the country. Far from that being the position, as I have said, if we take account of the fall in farm output we will find that there has been a substantial increase in real terms.
What I want to point out is that the country continues to grow, and at a strong rate. We have full employment. I want to repeat that in my opinion when the next figures for registrants become available we will have further cause for reassurance. Perhaps it is not fully realised how rapidly we, as a country, have been adding to our productive resources. Too frequently it is forgotten that when we add to our productive resources we add to our capacity in the future. I should like to illustrate this by concentrating on the figures for new capital expenditure for private business. I make my comparison for the last six months of 1964 and the last six months of 1965. Looking first at manufacturing, we find that total capital expenditure rose from $378 million in the earlier period to $445 million in the later period, an increase of 18 per cent. Within that total, expenditure in extracting, refining and founding rose by 35 per cent., in engineering by 19 per cent., in chemicals by 14 per cent., in textiles and clothing by 50 per cent., in food, drink and tobacco by 28 per cent., and in other forms of manufacturing by 15 per cent. The only industry to spend less in the later period on capital expansion was the motor vehicle industry.
There was a decline in that industry from $50 million to S43 million, which was a decline of 15 per cent.
The non-manufacturing industries increased their capital expenditure by 45 per cent, from $318 million to $462 million. In mining, the increase was from $35 million to $110 million, which was an increase of no less than 208 per cent. Taking all industries together, the increase was from $696 million to $908 million, an increase of 31 per cent. This, mind you, was in the space of one year. What this amounts to is that over and above our defence expenditure we have channelled resources into areas where they will bring the greatest production and greatest productivity in future years. Can it possibly be argued by a reasonable critic that this means a slowing down of the economy? These are the very ingredients of progress. These are the very ingredients of increased production and productivity, and we as a Government cite them with a great degree of pleasure. As to the philosophy and attitude of the Government, I think it was well expressed by the Prime Minister when he said -
There are . . . apprehensions about some weknesses in the economy which, if they were to spread and combine, could create an undue slackening of demand and unemployment. The Government certainly does not want this to happen and will take any steps necessary to prevent it happening. The general trend of demand must be kept rising sufficiently to preserve full employment and provide jobs for the additional labour coming forward locally and from the rising migrant inflow.
Before I complete my statement I want to point to two factors. The first is that in an economy such as ours, which is growing at the rate at which ours is and with a very heavy migrant inflow of about 150,000 a year, changes can take place with bewildering rapidity. Consequently, it must be a cardinal principle of economic policy, and one which is adopted by this Government, that we have the maximum flexibility, and be prepared to encourage expenditures in one section of the economy and to moderate expenditures in others so that we achieve the maximum or best productivity and production that it is possible to achieve.
The second is that activity in some of the areas in which increased expenditures are taking place can fall with dramatic rapidity. I want to emphasise the words oi the Prime Minister. He said that we are carefully watching every one of the indicators; that we are determined to maintain full employment; and that we are determined to have the maximum rate of, growth of which Australia is capable. As one who is watching the economy on his behalf, I say that I will watch every trend with the maximum of the ability that lies at my command. I conclude on this note: I believe that the economy is basically sound and that growth is continuing. On behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government, I pledge that it will continue in that way.
I present the following paper -
State of the Economy - Ministerial Statement, 31st March 1966- and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) speaking for a period not exceeding 40 minutes.
– The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) was kind enough to give me a copy of his paper before dinner. I thank him for the courtesy that he extended to me. However, I expected that in his speech this evening he would attempt to assure and soothe the electors of Kooyong. I thought that tonight we were to hear something very special on the economy. I must confess that it seems to me that what the Treasurer has given us is a considerable number of assertions without much substance behind them.
Surely one of the most astonishing statements ever made in this House is the honorable gentleman’s statement showing that the statistics on the gross national product are not really as bad as they seem. I quote the following from my copy of his paper because I believe that it needs to be quoted and it needs to be allowed to sink in -
A second ground for doubt has been the trend of statistics of gross national product, particularly for the December quarter of 1965 which showed an increase of only 4 per cent, on the December quarter of 1964. I am informed that the main reason for this is the drop in farm income which is, of course, a consequence of the drought. I am told that if farm income were excluded the rise shown would have been of the order of 7 per cent, instead of 4 per cent.
What is the gross national product? It is a statement of the circumstances of all sections of the community. I suggest that if we look at the official document as we should, and not with the peculiar gloss that the Treasurer wants to put on it, we begin to see that the drought is not the sole reason for the deterioration in the gross national product.
I suggest that an additional contributing cause was the measures which the Government took in its Budget in August 1965 and which did not begin to take effect on the economy until the December quarter of that year. This is what the official publication, the “ Quarterly Estimates of National Income and Expenditure “, for the December quarter of 1965 says -
So, coldly the statistics show that, in essence, the Australian economy was not as healthy in December 1965 as it was 12 months earlier or as it was 3 months earlier, prior to the impact of the 1965-66 Budget.
In a moment I will quote some other figures from this document. The Treasurer has suggested that he is carefully watching all the indicators in the economy. I will refer to a few indicators which seem to me to show that all is not quite as good as he makes out. On page 7 of the document there is a little table headed “ Personal Consumption as per cent, of Personal Disposable Income “. In essence, that means that it is a table showing what percentage of their incomes people spend on consumption goods. I take the same quarter year by year in order to have similar circumstances. The table shows that for the December quarter of 1963-64 personal consumption was 80.9 per cent, of personal disposable income. In other words, people spent £4 out of £5 and presumably saved the other £1. For the December quarter of 1964-65 the index rose to 82.7 per cent. So people had to spend more of their income on consumption goods than they did previously. For the December quarter of 1965-66 the index rose to 84.4 per cent.
Does not that indicate something which surely should be a reality to most people?
Does not that indicate that in this community, in which most people depend on a wage for their existence, prices are rising far more rapidly than wages are? Does not that explain why this index is behaving as it is? Now people, instead of saving nearly 20 per cent, of their income, are saving only 15 per cent, of it - a drop of 5 per cent, in two years. I suggest that such a drop shows that prices in the community are rising far more rapidly than are the incomes of most people. That is one indicator to which I suggest the Government should give some serious consideration.
Another indicator from which the honorable gentleman has drawn different conclusions from that which I would draw - and certainly from what some industrialists would draw - concerns what he called the situation of stocks. Stocks are simply the value at a particular time of the goods which manufacturers and other people have in their stores and have not sold. Each year the Australian Industries Development Association publishes a survey of stocks. The most recent one, the “ Survey of Stocks 1965 “, was delivered to honorable members only a few weeks ago. It is dated February 1966. It shows that in the period between 1st January 1965 and 31st December 1965 there was an estimated total increase in stocks on hand of £289 million or $57S million. The document says that the estimated total increase of stocks for all companies in Australia - and it makes a pretty comprehensive survey - at £289 million or $578 million, was 83 per cent, higher than the estimate for 1964 and was the second highest absolute figure for the 11 years over which the A.I.D.A. has bean compiling its estimates. It was exceeded only by the exceptional build up of £329 million or $658 million in 1961.
I want to ask people to measure that other time, 1961. The Treasurer has drawn great consolation out of the fact that in the four years from 1961 to 1965 this country has made such remarkable progress. Of course, from the point of view of the Government 1961 was a very convenient stepping off point to show that conditions had improved. But the Government does not make allowance for the fact that the depressed conditions in 1961 were a direct consequence of the economic policies it pursued. At least this indicator is a sign that what happened in 1961 may occur again from the beginning of 1966 onward. I say that because this is what the A.I.D.A. said - . . it was exceeded only by the exceptional build up … in 1961, when high import levels were accompanied by a deliberate damping down of economic activity.
It goes on further to make this observation -
The high rate of stock increase in 1965, in conjunction with the somewhat slacker rate of economic activity in 1965 than in the previous year, leads to fears that there could be some difficulty in clearing stocks accumulated during 1965 without causing a reduction in production trends.
I prefer to take the opinion of these gentlemen who prepare that report, they being keen business people, on the situation in stocks than the soothing syrup which the Treasurer has given us in his speech this evening. The document goes on to show a number of other things. It states -
The A.N.Z. Bank’s Index of Factory Production rose by 6.9 per cent, from 1963-64 to 1964-65, compared with a rise of 7.4 per cent, in the previous year. The seasonally adjusted figures for the later months of 1965 showed an easing of production trends in total, though the basic metals and electrical apparatus groups continued to rise.
Employment in manufacturing industry rose 4 per cent, between June 1964 and June 1965 - compared with a rise of 5.4 per cent, for the previous year - and this increase was the same as for total employment.
Again, the measure there is that the economy is not improving as rapidly now as it was twelve months ago. I am not trying to draw an alarmist picture of a cataclysm. I am simply suggesting, in relation to the statement that the Treasurer made on behalf of himself and the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), that they were carefully watching indicators, that different people seem to draw different conclusions from the same indicators. I suggest there is not much assurance to be drawn from the indicator as to the value of stocks. The people who compiled this document conclude by saying -
Although economic activity generally -
I repeat that this document was written in February 1966, not much more than a month ago.
The honorable gentleman seems to draw some minor pleasure from the fact that they have dropped from $265 million to $232 million. They are still a lot higher than they ought to be. The statement continued -
A.I.D.A. has pointed out many limes before -
And so has my colleague, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) - . . that a large proportion of imports is of merchandise that could be supplied from existing capacity in Australian industries. Constructive Government policies, such as those envisaged to stimulate the use of Australian components in motor vehicles, could well be extended to ensure the optimum use of Australia’s resources and to reduce the needless drain on our overseas reserves through unnecessary imports.
That is another indication that people do draw different conclusions from the same indicator.
I now come to this question of the employment level. Again the Government seems to have taken great consolation to itself because the last release of figures showed that unemployment in Australia had dropped about one thousand from the previous month. Why should there be any unemployment in Australia, a country that has so much to do and which claims to be short of certain skills within the labour force? Let us consider the components of this unemployment. I mentioned this matter during the course of the debate on the Vernon Committee’s report and some gentleman reporting in the “ Financial Review “ said that I had made assertions but had not given any facts to support them. I will give these facts about the existence of unemployment as at 25th February 1966. The figures showed that there were 25,677 adult males out of work. There were also 11,446 males under the age of 21 out of work. I made the statement before, and I repeat it now, that surely there is something wrong with an education system when people come out of school believing themselves trained to do something and then find that industry apparently does not want them. Does that not show that some people are being trained - and these are almost the words I used before - to perforin jobs that no longer exist, and that apparently others are not being trained for jobs required by the community?
We see this more starkly in the field of female unemployment than in the field of male unemployment. Bad and all as it is to have 11,446 youths under the age of 21 years who want work but cannot get it, the situation is even more serious when we examine female unemployment. Females form probably one-quarter to one-third of the total work force. Of 28,000 females who are out of work, 16,446 are juniors under the age of 21 years. These statistics are divided into rural, professional, semiprofessional and so on and a further examination shows that most female unemployment is in categories defined as professional, semi-professional, commercial, clerical and administrative. It is not in the unskilled field at all. I repeat that most unemployed females under 21 years are found not in unskilled categories but in categories that are regarded as skilled. Does this not emphasise the point that apparently many thousands of young girls who have been to high schools and technical schools and other juniors cannot get the kind of jobs for which they have been trained?
I have no doubt that if further analysis were made - and it should be made - we would find that, in part, the tragedy lies in lack of decentralisation - a matter that has been raised often in this House by my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). In most of our country towns, there is limited employment for school children when they leave school. Decentralisation is talked about but very little is done about it and there is still a drift to the cities because employment opportunities do not exist in the country towns. I am sure many mothers prefer that their young daughters stay at home. They do not want to see them thrust into the maw of the cities at the tender age of 16, 17 or 18 years. I do not blame them for their parental care. But surely this is an indicator of the trend of unemployment. The Government can console itself if it likes that this section represents only 2 per cent, of the work force but it is serious for the females under 21 years. It is a trouble spot economically and socially and it is an indicator to which the Government should turn its mind.
Another acute problem concerns housing. Again, the Government seems to get great consolation from the fact that although housing construction is not booming as it was 12 or 18 months ago, the figure is still around 100,000. It is easy enough to take a figure like 100,000 and think it is a very good number, but surely the significant factor is whether this rate of construction is adequate for the needs of the Australian community, taking into account the new families that require homes each year and also the number of existing homes that are little better than slums.
It has been suggested on this side of the House that one of the reasons for the slackening in housing is that large sections of the community have been priced out of the housing market because of high land values, the high capital cost of houses and, finally, the iniquitous thing we call the interest burden. In this connection I want to quote some figures which are indicators to which the Government should pay attention. I take them from a document which was quoted last night by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). The document was compiled very carefully by Mr. L. L’Estrange of 291 Bridge Road, Richmond, Victoria - in the electorate of my colleague the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns).
Mr. L’Estrange has gone to a lot of trouble to document information about housing finance in Australia. In one of the appendices to his document he gives details of housing finance relating to Victoria, which has a little more than a quarter of the total population of Australia. This information includes a table showing rates of interest for mortgages on real estate registered with the Registrar at 3 1st December 1962. Mr. L’Estrange shows that there were 132,000 such mortgages and that one quarter of them, or 33,549, carried an interest rate of between 7 and 8 per cent. On 6,279 mortgages, or 4.74 per cent, of the total, the interest rate was between 8 and 9 per cent. On 11,424 or 8.61 per cent, of the total, the interest was between 9 and 10 per cent, and on 11,645 mortgages, or 8.78 per cent, of the total, the interest rate was between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent. Persons holding 1,536 mortgages, or 1.16 per cent, of the total, paid an interest rate between 15 per cent, and 20 per cent, and 146 individuals were in the unfortunate category of those who pay more than 20 per cent, interest.
An interest rate of 7 per cent, is high enough surely and that was the rate paid on more than half the mortgages registered in Victoria in that year. Is that not an indication of the state of the economy? In this House we often hear bandied about references to the bloke who gets an average weekly wage of £25 or £26 a week - S50 or S52 in our new currency. He is married with a child or two. What hope has he of being a candidate in the housing market with the value of land at its present level, with building costs as they are and with finance - if he is lucky enough to get it somewhere - carrying an interest rate of 7 per cent.? Is it any wonder there is some slackening in the demand for houses when about two-thirds of Australian families come within the category of the bloke with the average wage of £25 to £26 a week? We must remember something that the statisticians conveniently forget, and that is that the average wage is only what it is because there are more getting below the average than there are getting above it. In other words, many people are getting far less than the amount conveniently called the average. These are all indicators of the unsatisfactory health of the Australian economy.
The Treasurer himself referred to what he called the soft spots in dwelling construction. I have said something about that. He also referred to the drought. At long last there is to be some short term relief instead of promises of long term funds. But apparently the Government still places most of its trust in heaven where the rains come from rather than in practical methods, low interest rates and credit on reasonable terms for restocking.
I turn now to the motor industry. In this connection, I was interested to hear the Treasurer refer to what he called “ a diversion of resources”. This is a nice form of words but what do they mean? They mean that the deliberate policy of the Government encouraged the industry to grow to a certain size and a certain rate of annual production. In 1961 the Government found that the industry was growing more rapidly than had been expected or, to put it another way, more resources were being diverted to steel, petrol, roads and so on than the Government thought was healthy for the community. It applied to the problem what it described as a fiscal solution combined with a monetary solution. Because no alternative had been arranged for, all that happened was that the motor industry was brought to a sudden halt. As well, the Government’s action threatened to run down the whole economy. Therefore, only a few months afterwards, it had to reverse its policy and allow the industry to become active again. That industry, in its present situation, does not seem to be quite as assured of its circumstances as the Treasurer appears to be. I shall quote from the February-March 1966 issue, No. 40, of the “ Commonwealth Automotive Review “. This is the latest issue. Under the heading “ Condition of the Motor Industry “, it states -
Motor industry leaders attending the recent annual and general meetings of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries in Canberra expressed a great deal of concern about the downturn in new motor vehicle sales over the period September 196S through January 1966, when only a monthly average of 29,795 units were registered. This represents a fall of 121 per cent, on sales in the corresponding period 12 months before. . . .
The publication goes on to say that in this industry there has been a decline in employment from 48,000 in June of last year to 42,000 at the present time. I suggest that there is again trouble in that industry.
I come now to my final point, Mr. Speaker. I believe that in the long run the thing that makes the economy tick is adequate purchasing power in the hands of the great majority of the people. I suggest that if one examines the figures given in the national income statement, one sees certain unhealthy signs at present. The reason for the unhealthy indications is that most people have no means of insulating themselves against price increases. Even the so called improvement of changing to decimal currency has meant systematic robbery of the average family in the Australian community of a few shillings a week. One has only to think of the daily newspapers to find an example of this. Most households buy a morning and an evening newspaper and therefore are mulcted of an additional 8d. or 9d. a week in consequence of the increase in prices resulting from the change to decimal currency. Since there was no exact conversion in decimal currency for the price of milk, the price rose by the equivalent of about jd. a bottle. This impost is far from equitable. The larger the family, the harder is the impact. Most public transport systems raised their charges because there was no exact conversion of the existing fares in decimal currency. Even the publican seems to gain a fraction of a penny on every glass of beer after the Treasury decides to increase the excise, as was done in the last Budget.
I now return in essence to where I began. If one looks coldly and carefully enough at the figures in the national income statement, I believe, can see that the beginning of the deterioration in the state of the economy arose not from the drought but from the so called fiscal remedies that were adopted by the Government in the last Budget. Those measures resulted in increases in the prices of, among other things, beer, cigarettes and petrol. We on this side of the chamber are not here to defend the rates at which taxes are imposed on beer, cigarettes or petrol. At the time when the increases were imposed, we pointed out. as a result of our analysis of the situation, that unfortunately when there is an increase in the price of a pot of beer, a packet of cigarettes or a gallon of petrol, most people do not reduce their consumption of these commodities, and the statistics bear this out. What happens is that out of the same income as before they spend more on the same quantity of goods such as these and less money is left for other items of consumption.
One of the indications of trouble in the economy at present is to be seen in the fact that purchasing power is being reduced. One could say, if one liked, that the motive power that keeps the economy ticking is being reduced. After all, manufacturers do not expand their plants unless they believe they can sell what their plants can produce. And they cannot sell what they can produce unless the consumer has money in his pocket to enable him to buy. The processes adopted by this Government, resulting in increased taxes, in prices rising as a result of the currency conversion and in general prices rising more rapidly than wages, have systematically filched purchasing power from the majority of families in the community, to say nothing of those unfortunate people who depend on fixed incomes - the pensioner groups. All had lower living standards at the end of 196S than they had at the beginning of that year. If, in the face of the warnings given by the economic indicators, the Government pursues its present policies, the people, and especially pensioners, will have worse living standards by June 1966 than they had in January of this year. Let the economic indicators be the test of the situation. There are plenty of indicators that are showing bad signs, not good.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Peters) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 852).
– Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), dealt comprehensively with the matters that the House has been debating. However, I believed that it would be convenient if I were to take the opportunity provided by the motion that the House take note of his statement to deal with the three major matters that have relevance to the greater part of the debate that has taken place. Understandably, most speakers have concentrated a good deal of their attention on the issues that arise in South Vietnam and in South East Asia generally. I hope to discuss three particular matters in the limited time that I have available. First, in response to remarks made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who, in a thoughtful speech, urged that the Government state its aims in South Vietnam, I shall state those aims. This has been done on other occasions by numbers of my colleagues, I believe, but I shall make a statement on the subject in response to the honorable member’s appeal. Secondly, I wish to establish beyond the doubt of any reasonable man that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) misled the House wilfully and seriously when he assured honorable members that at the 1965 Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party there had been no change of substance in the Party’s defence policy. Thirdly, as the Leader of the Opposition has referred to the demonstrations which occurred at my public meeting on Monday night as being an expression of the pent up feelings of Australian youth and purporting to convey some atmosphere of spontaneity about that operation, 1 shall bring to the attention of the House a copy of the “ Newsletter “ from one of the principal organisations concerned, which will show how highly organised these demonstrations are at the present time.
Turning to our war aims in South Vietnam, I shall list the objectives of our intervention there. Our first objective is to help the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, at its request and in the light of our own assessment of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, to resist the armed aggression of Communist North Vietnam against the South - an aggression waged through the Communist agencies of the Vietcong and the National Liberation Front and by its own regular armed forces. It is aimed at taking over the South by a campaign of force, terror and subversion and thence reunifying the country under Communist administration. Our second objective is to free 15 million people of South Vietnam from the threat of oppression and terror which would be their lot under the domination of the Communists of the North, and help establish conditions under which they will be able to choose and develop free from coercion of any kind the forms of government and society which they themselves want. The third objective is to leave no one in doubt that we in Australia are prepared and resolved to honour our treaty commitments and our alliances and to stand firm with our allies in the face of aggression, whether direct or disguised as it is now in Vietnam under the label of a “ war of liberation “ or a “ people’s war “. Fourthly, by denying victory to Hanoi and Peking in South Vietnam we will ensure that the spread of Communism in South East Asia is checked and we will give encouragement to those moderate elements in the various countries of the region whom we are already supporting in the work of modernisation and economic and social progress. Fifthly, we do not seek to overthrow the regime in North Vietnam or to destroy the livelihood of the North Vietnamese people. We simply want the North to stop its aggression. We seek no widening of the war. We seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict through negotiations. We think that a peaceful settlement can be negotiated on the basis of the Geneva Agreement.
Our basic aims are not only clear and limited - they are sound. What, for example, would be the consequences of our abandoning these objectives and withdrawing, as honorable members opposite suggest, with our allies from the struggle and from the defence of the independence of South Vietnam? South Vietnam, a country of 15 million people, would become a Communist state. This would not be because the people of South Vietnam want Communism. It would be because they were unable to resist the armed power of the Vietcong supported by North Vietnam.
The lives of millions of people who have resisted Communism, the security of their families and their properties would be in jeopardy and opposition in South Vietnam would be wiped out. There would be a repetition of the liquidation of the so called class enemies, which occurred when the Communists took over the North. The political and psychological impact of our withdrawal would be felt, not only in the countries bordering Vietnam, but throughout the whole of South East Asia. The path of the aggressors would be smoother as the countries of the area lost their faith and confidence in the forces of the United States and of the free world to protect their independence and sovereignty. The American guarantee would come under challenge in other parts of Asia and Communist China’s long term aim of driving the United States out of Asia and the Pacific would have had a significant success. In those countries which have entered into a security partnership with the United States - Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines - the opponents of the American connection would gain new strength. Conversely, successful resistance in Vietnam will contribute to security and to peaceful co-existence in the region as a whole.
Australia has a vital interest in the effective presence and active participation of the United States as a great power in the area of Asia and the Pacific. We have an obligation to support the United States in this role - an obligation arising from our treaty relationships, from our role as an ally in supporting the United States in international diplomacy and politics, and from the fact that our international interests are directly involved in preserving South East Asia from aggression and from Communist domination. Can anyone doubt that the South East Asia region under Communism or Chinese domination would be a socially, morally and economically impoverished and degraded region?
I hope that that statement is a clear enough indication of where this Government stands. If the people of Australia support that kind of statement of objective, then they cannot hope to secure the support that they would seek from honorable members on the other side of the House. I have made a study of the resolutions and the policy discussions which, as the Leader of the Opposition said, were conducted in the full light of publicity and which were reported, not only in the daily Press, but also in the Press of the Labour Party itself. They have subsequently been the occasion for discussion by members of the Party opposite. Honorable members will recall that the Leader of the Opposition told us that there had been no change of substance. I shall give the precise language because I think it is important that I should. I have pointed out-
– Why does not the Prime Minister quote from a Labour Party document?
– I have the documents here if the honorable member wishes me to do that. 1 had them here yesterday when we were discussing this matter.
– If the Prime Minister is going to discuss the matter now, we would expect him to bring them in.
– I had it in “ Hansard “ and I thought that was authoritative enough. I quoted the precise words from the Federal Platform of the Labour Party, as reported at page 669 of “ Hansard “ of 29th March-
Labour will honour and support Australia’s treaties and defence alliances.
Those words have been dropped from the defence section of the Labour Party’s document. The Leader of the Opposition said that they had reappeared, at least in substance, in the same sense, in the foreign affairs section of the document.
– That is correct.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that because the document states -
Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.
Does the honorable member claim, with the trained mind which he brings to bear on these matters, that the words “ honour and support” are the same thing as “review” from time to time? That is what the honorable member is saying. That was not the view taken by members of the Labour Party at the time. I wish to refer now to the issue of the Labour Party journal “ Fact “ for Friday, 20th August 1965. The editorial states -
Important, too, is the new look at defence and foreign affairs whereby, for instance, Australia can face her nearby neighbours on a friendly basis rather than as a warring opponent as has been caused by the Menzies Government intervention in Vietnam’s private affairs.
– That is all right.
– Yes, that is all right. These things accumulate. Just give me a little time. Then in the August 1965 issue of “ Labour “, the official journal, the following appeared -
Despite a strong Press campaign and threats from the Deputy Leader, Mr. Whitlam, and the A.W.U., the recently concluded 26th Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party was highly successful.
The Conference refused to be stampeded on foreign affairs and by an overwhelming vote of 30 votes to 6 reaffirmed its support for Mr. Calwell’s nuclear-free zone proposals which were originally adopted by the Labour Party two years ago.
A number of recommendations from the Labour Party Foreign Affairs Committee were not accepted by the Conference who were obviously determined not to be intimidated by the Press to drop some of its more forward-looking peace policies.
The Conference expressed concern for military aspects of S.E.A.T.O. and suggested that new security arrangements in South East Asia should be considered by Australia, under the auspices of the U.N.
The Conference decided by a large majority, after hearing a speech by Mr. Calwell (Victoria) who moved an amendment, to retain the nuclearfree zone policy. The Foreign Affairs Committee had recommended its deletion. Only the six New South Wales delegates voted against this policy. By so doing, they ignored the 1963 New South Wales Labour Party Conference decision supporting the nuclear free zone.
It is quite obvious that there has been a very significant switch in the strength of the Australian Labour Party under its Federal Executive in relation to these matters of defence and foreign affairs. There was a rejection at several critical points - if I had the time I would deal with them - of proposals brought forward by the then Foreign Affairs Committee.
The representatives who were displaced from the Foreign Affairs Committee recently were, as I think most honorable gentlemen know, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), a former member for Darebin, Mr. R. W. Holt, who later became State President of the Party in Victoria, and Mr. Dunstan, the AttorneyGeneral in the Labour Government of South Australia. The three men appointed to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Labour Party by the Federal Executive - and these are the men who would be carrying out the proposed review of Australia’s treaties and alliances - are the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and Senator Cavanagh - and they threw in Senator Cohen for good luck. I intend no reflection on the honorable gentlemen I have named because I believe they hold their views as sincerely and earnestly as anybody else in this Parliament, but it is a matter of either public celebrity or public notoriety, according to one’s viewpoint, that these men are to be found on the extreme left of thought on defence and foreign affairs within the ranks of the Labour Party. The Labour Press treated as a rebuff to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Australian Workers Union the proposals carried at the 1965 defence conference. It was regarded by the Labour Press as a significant switch in attitude on these matters, and quite certainly it effected a reduction in the support that our allies, in particular the United States of America, might have expected from a Labour government.
The Leader of the Labour Party has shown significantly the difference in attitude that he brings to this matter. Anybody who studies the foreign affairs statement put out by the Australian Labour Party’s information release No. 2/1965 of February last year on “The Situation in Vietnam”, will notice a statement which, as to a great deal of it anyway, is very much in line with the general approach of this Government and its supporters.
– What arrant nonsense.
– Well, just give me 10 minutes more and I will establish to the honorable member’s satisfaction that the situation is as I have put it. But from that the Leader of the Opposition has turned to a statement about the West, as he calls it, and the only country that fits that description is the United States of America. In the debate on Government policy the Leader of the Opposition used these words:
The West has no standards and apparently no scruples. The Americans have already supported eight so-called governments in Vietnam, and all of them have been military dictatorships, and all have been tyrannical and oppressive.
– Answer that proposition.
– Order! The honorable member for Reid will come to order.
– I have said enough, 1 think, to show that the substance of what I allege regarding honorable gentlemen opposite and their leader has been borne out by recent developments.
– I want you to answer that proposition.
– Order!I will not warn the honorable member again. I will deal with him.
– I have only three minutes left and 1 want to answer the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition that the events at my public meeting the other night resulted from an upsurge of the pentup feelings of Australian youth. I have in my hand a newsletter distributed by the Youth Campaign Against Conscription. It gives details of the names and addresses of the President and Secretary. 1 shall not read it in full, but if honorable members want to know some details of the demonstrations that have occurred they will find them set out here. More interestingly, I can give them advance notice of the demonstrations for Wednesday, 6th April, Friday, 15th April, Friday, 22nd April and Friday, 29th April. But in relation to Monday, 28th March, the night of my meeting, the document says - 7 p.m., Kew Gardens. Meet at the corner of Gellibrand Street and Cotham Road, Kew (just inside the gardens) prior to Liberal Kooyong Meeting at Kew Civic Centre, Cotham Road. This time, some will protest silently by standing around the Hall with signs ona given signal. Others will remain part of the audience and heckle and ask questions.
This was the spontaneous upsurge of Australian youth to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. I say in conclusion that the foolish people who take part in these demonstrations will find that they are having exactly the reverse effect to that which they intend. There are in this country ways in which people may demonstrate a political opposition to Government policies or the views of members of Parliament. But no Australian who values democracy in this country will accept as a reasonable demonstration the methods that were adopted on this occasion.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired. I call the honorable member for Batman.
– Why didn’t he send the young men of his Party to Vietnam?
– Order! I ask the hero to keep quiet. Order! The honorable member for Scullin!
.- Mr. Speaker-
– I object to the Speaker making that statement.
– Order! The honorable member will restrain himself. The honorable member for Scullin will do so as well.
– Yes, and you want to restrain yourself, too.
– You have no right to make a slur on the honorable member for Scullin.
– Order! I name the honorable member for Reid for insolence.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the honorable member for Reid be suspended from the service of the House.
– I would like to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member for Scullin was upset by a statement you made and which prompted the honorable member for Reid to interject as he did.
– What statement?
– You called him a hero.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will remain silent.
– The honorable member for Reid mistook the word “ hero “ for the word “ heel “ and consequently he was disturbed. It is all right for Government members to laugh, but it was very disturbing to the honorable member for Scullin and the honorable member for Reid. With due respect, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to request the Government not to proceed with this motion, because 1 feel that the honorable member for Reid would apologise in view of the fact that it was a mistake.
– I think under strain, as an ex-serviceman, I made a comment which I regret having made.
Question put -
That the honorable memberfor Reid be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Labour Party were to come to power it would dishonour international treaties to which Australia is a party. The 1965 Federal Conference of the Labour Party was open to the Press. Anybody who had a mind to do so could have attended the proceedings. Everything said at the conference was recorded by pressmen. Television cameras were focused on the proceedings. The Press did not see anything wrong with what was said at the Conference. If it had seen anything wrong with our policy at that time there would have been headlines in the newspapers about it.
The 1965 Conference was held only a couple of weeks after the break occurred between Singapore and Malaysia. Taking into account what had happened between Singapore and Malaysia, the Conference included paragraph (f) in the preamble to Labour’s policy on foreign affairs. The paragraph reads -
Australia must periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances as they arise.
A new set of circumstances has arisen. As evidence of this I refer honorable members to the article in today’s “ Australian “ under the heading “ Singapore Quits Pact.” What are we as a responsible party to do? Does any honorable member honestly claim that Australia should not periodically review its defence treaties and alliances to meet new circumstances? Has not a new circumstance arisen now? Singapore has quit the alliance. I point out that, thanks to this Government’s action, Australia does not have an alliance with Singapore or Malaysia. The alliance exists between the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Yet we have troops in Malaysia. Later, if time permits, I will tell honorable members what the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs of the Central Government of Malaysia said to me a few months ago about the internal situation and the external situation as he saw them.
On Tuesday night last the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) commented on what the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) had said in his speech on 10th March. Early in his speech the Minister made one of the most outstanding statements that any Minister has ever made in this House, Remarks such as those of the Minister bring no credit on the Government for its policy on international affairs. The Minister said -
We cannot change Australia’s geographical situation and we cannot cancel out the great forces that are bringing massive changes in the world today and particularly in the southern half of Asia.
That is true; there is nothing wrong with that statement. The Minister continued -
We in Australia are living on the edge of a great upheaval both in human relations and in the ideas which influence the conduct of mankind.
Now I come to the important part. The Minister continued -
We cannot withdraw from this region. . . .
That is quite all right, because we live here. When I was a boy my grandmother used to talk to me about going home, meaning going back to England. Those days have gone. This is our country. We are here and we stay here. That is what the Minister means when he says that we cannot withdraw from this region. He continued - and this is most significant - and we cannot do anything to prevent the upheaval.
Why do we have troops all over South East Asia if, as the Minister says, we cannot do anything to prevent the upheaval? I want some honorable member on the Government side to explain that to me. If we cannot do anything to prevent upheaval in South East Asia, what are we doing there?
Now we are alone, come what may.
It was a very serious time indeed. Pointing out the seriousness of the situation, Mr. Hasluck cited the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, as having said -
The financial resources of the country would be strained, if necessary, to the point of financial collapse, for financial exhaustion was preferable to national destruction.
So, at that time we were prepared to strain our resources to the point of financial collapse. Mr. Hasluck then went on to record the Prime Minister as having used these most significant words -
The only limit would be that there would be no conscription for overseas service. In the exercising of these vast powers, the Government would welcome the fullest co-operation from everybody. In particular, it invited the co-operation of the trade union movement. 1 have quoted that passage from page 216 of Mr. Hasluck’s book, lt was, as he said, a desperate situation. The Prime Minister of the day found it unnecessary to introduce conscription. Now, in order to raise 4,500 men to go to Vietnam, we are told conscription is necessary, although Mr. Hasluck has said that we cannot withdraw from this region and we cannot do anything to prevent the upheaval. How can the people of Australia fathom what is happening in those circumstances? Let me quote further from what the then Prime Minister said. He went on to say -
This is not a time when any of us must look for advantages. We are an integral, proud and British community, and to preserve those attributes must practice a community of sacrifice. I have never yet met an Australian, whatever his religious faith, whatever his political colour, whatever his share of the world’s goods, who was not prepared to do his part in a time of emergency provided he felt that everybody else was doing his part also. So tonight I want to say to you as your servant and on behalf of those who are your servants at this fateful hour the watchword is “ All In “ - everything that we have, our savings, our property, our skill, the service of our hands, it’ necesary the service of our lives, for the country that wc love.
Is it a case of all in this time? Of course, it is not. The Government says that certain people in the community - those in the 20 year age group - are the only ones who are to be allowed to give their all. And, I am sorry to say, without any heroics whatever, some of them will give their all. I read in the Press last week about a woman who was left a widow. What is she going to get out of it? Is she going to be any better off? Forget that her husband has passed away, ls her financial lot going to be any better?
Although the Government was asking Parliament to give it powers of compulsion, it wanted cooperation. The power might be compulsive, but the method must be cooperative. He promised that the Government would not ask any section of the community to bear a burden more intolerable than that which other sections had to bear.
In that war the Government said that no section of the community would be expected to bear a more intolerable burden than any other section. How can any member of this House, whether he sits on this side or the other side, feel comfortable about letting somebody else do what the Government says is dirty work for the country? If it is good enough to conscript the youth or the manpower - call it whatever you like - of this country to give their all, is it not also good enough to conscript other things? Why should the sacrifices be unequal? What greater thing can a man do than lay down his life? Several people have laid down their lives in this war already. During the short time for which the war in Vietnam has been in progress, the number of killed and wounded in proportion to the number of people serving, has been far greater than during World War II.
In an attempt to gloss over the situation in this House, a “Dorothy Dix” question was asked by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) of the Minister for
Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). The honorable member asked how many 20 year olds had been killed on the roads in Australia and how many 20 year olds had been killed in Vietnam. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as an ex-serviceman, to consider the answer given by the Minister for the Army. He said that four such young people had been killed in Vietnam. To gloss over something like that is not the right sort of thing to do. My information is that over 100 people have been killed and wounded in the area up to the present time. If honorable members work out the proportion that 100 casualties in 1,000 men represent, they will find it is a ratio of 1 in 10. That is pretty high. Therefore I say that, from the figures I have been able to obtain, the casualty rate in Vietnam is greater than the casualty rate in World War II.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, those are the words of Dato M. Ghazali bin Shafie to myself and to five of my colleagues when we were in Malaysia in July of last year. This was just before the split with Singapore occurred. That statement goes to prove that, as far as this Party is concerned, thinking in Malaysia is not as the Prime Minister thinks it is. The Prime Minister has come into this House and has tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people and frighten them by saying: “ If you put the Australian Labour Party into power, it will dishonour every treaty that was ever written “. This is untrue, as the Prime Minister well knows. It is unfair, and what is more, it is un-Australian. It is unwarranted. It is not the sort of thing that should be said by any Prime Minister in an effort to score political advantage for himself.
– Order! Has the honorable member for Hunter spoken in this debate?
– No. This relates to a matter on which I spoke last night. I claim to have been misrepresened by two newspapers today.
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter can raise that matter at a later stage.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can well understand the concern of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) regarding the reference by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to the change in the policy of the Australian Labour Party relating to the deletion of support for Australian treaties and alliances. I am sure that the honorable member, and indeed many other members of the Labour Party, had no idea that such a radical change had taken place in the foreign policy of the Australian Labour Party until it was exposed a few days ago. However, 1 will speak about that matter later. In the meantime, I wish to make a few other observations.
The Prime Minister and my other colleagues have stated repeatedly during the debate that the future security of Australia is closely allied to that of countries in South East Asia. I should like to say something about international conduct in relation to treaties and alliances because that too can affect Australia’s security, particularly if it is our own Australian conduct which is in question. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) said in his speech -
The danger to Australia’s security is twofold. There is the danger of global war. If it occurs this will probably turn into a nuclear war . . .
The second danger, he said, was from the active and belligerent fact of Asian Communist imperialism.
Let me refer to the suggested danger of a global war which, if it occurred, could probably turn into a nuclear war. This is the second time in twelve months that the Minister has referred to this possibility in a statement he has made on foreign affairs. This danger, I submit, will continue to exist from one year to another if every country in the free world remains an island, aloof, not interested in unity or in a plan to act with others in the face of common danger. We saw in the years prior to the two world wars the effects of the absence of planned action. The U.K.. was nearly helpless when first the Kaiser and then Hitler struck. Europe was virtually open to them. Admittedly there were some loose alliances in operation but they were very uncertain alliances and the U.S. was almost under the spell of traditional iSO.lationism. Mr. Deputy Speaker, all this is a matter of history, but it seems as though it happened only yesterday. The terrible slaughter of yesterday might have been prevented if Great Britain, the United States, France, Belgium and Holland had been united and ready to act as a united force.
Why does the Minister say in his speech that the danger to Australia today is a danger of global war? I believe he does so because at the present moment there are agencies at work in Europe attacking the unity embodied in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. What these critics want, Sir, is some simple alliance between Europe and the United States. It is difficult not to see this as the type of loose arrangement which plunged Europe and the United States into two catastrophic wars. It is the same type of one sided agreement - if such a type of agreement is possible - of which the Labour Party approves. If we are to play our part in preventing global wars we must make sure by our example to other nations that this country does not drift into isolationism. Some members of the Australian Labour Party by their utterances in this House even tonight apparently desire precisely that to happen. In fact, the Labour Party has gone further by removing from ils printed Party policy the words that it will honour and support Australian treaties. I ask the question: If the Labour Party ever attained office would our powerful friends and allies trust a government which was prepared to play fast and loose with international treaties and to support the isolationism which caused so much trouble prior to the last world war? These are- the things with which the Labour Party is being confronted at the present time and they are things about which it is particularly sensitive. The Minister said that we need allies for the sake of our own security, and that is right. Of course we need allies. We need treaties that are more than just loose alliances. [Quorum formed.] We need treaties that are more than mere loose alliances in which the initial implementation, when put to the test, will be loo slow. And, of course, we must be ready to help our allies as well as being helped by them. Treaties are solemn contracts, imposing a responsibility on all the signatories to act when circumstances demand. We are fortunate that we have treaties with our neighbours in this part of the world based on the highest principles of international conduct. These treaties have been built up with years of patient co-operation and trust. This Government stands by them, as we would expect all other cogovernment signatories to stand by their part of the contract or agreement.
We must be watchful. There are forces at work in this country seeking to erode the bonds between the United States of
America and Australia. Treaties such as S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S. are under test. The Opposition would have us repudiate these agreement’s by refusing to send forces overseas. I am sure our international friends and allies will remember the quibbling statements that have been made by Opposition members in this House in the last two or three days, particularly by the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Communists in this country, like the Communists in other parts of the free world, are not concerned with the true interests of Asia or Australia any more than they are with Europe or the United States. Their overriding purpose is to divide the free world and disintegrate the countries that are not Communist controlled.
I come now to the question of Vietnam, because we in Australia, along with our ally, the United States, are deeply concerned in the war in Vietnam. We have troops there, along with troops from the United States and we propose sending more. They are helping to resist Chinese Communist aggression in South East Asia, in the same way as our troops might be compelled to go anywhere else in the Pacific, perhaps to New Guinea, and in the same way as our Navy has been patrolling the waters of Malaysia. We want a peaceful settlement on just terms in South Vietnam. We have a real concern about peace, stability and prosperity in South East Asia. That area can never have this so long as it is ravaged by aggression and war. No one likes the thought of war or of young Australians fighting in Asia.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Wills asked someone to leave the chamber in order to enable him to take this point.
– I can quite understand the action of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). His conscience is pricking him. He realises that he has been exposed as one of the members of the
Opposition who is totally opposed to the United States of America. He is very like some of the people in his electorate who are tied to the Communist policy. I can quite understand that in this House he feels his conscience pricking a little. Nevertheless he has to take it, and we on this side of the House are going to give it to him. We know that all Australians note at the present time with a good deal of pleasure the many attempts by the United States of America to reach a satisfactory and peaceful solution in South Vietnam. The Honolulu Declaration and the preceding talks were clear demonstrations of this. We know that the United States is in Vietnam for no other reason than to resist aggression. The United States has no selfish or private interest in this bitter war. Nor does Australia. It is fair to say that the United States has backed up its words of peace by a willingness to launch an extensive development programme in South Vietnam. We remember with interest the remarks made by President Johnson in his radio address from the Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore when he said that he would ask Congress to join in a $US1,000 million investment in South East Asia. He continued -
We want nothing for ourselves, only that the people of South Vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way.
If Hanoi spurns offers like this and if the Communists use the respite in the bombing of their territory - which they did recently over the New Year celebrations period - simply to increase their military strength, we can do nothing but deny them that strength where and when circumstances present themselves. If we have to continue fighting we shall fight. But at all times we should make it clear beyond doubt that we are prepared to take any reasonable steps to secure peace for South Vietnam at any time. This we have done. I believe that the reason why North Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh have rebuffed every approach to a peace settlement is because of their belief that they are winning the propaganda battle. I should remind the House that the war in South Vietnam is not a civil war that has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. This is the type of propaganda that the Communists like. This is the kind of diversion that they wish to promulgate throughout the community. All I want to say about that particular type of propaganda is that it is not based on fact, because I have before me a copy of the special report to the co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China in 1962. In this report the Indian representative and the Canadian representative denied that this was a civil war and said that it was a war of aggression. As long as Ho Chi Minh and his Government of North Vietnam can find agencies and people who will peddle this type of mis-statement, people like the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) who has been on his feet so many times tonight and is prepared to peddle the propaganda of the Communists that Ho Chi Minh would like him to spread, the war in Vietnam will be prolonged.
Somebody wrote an article recently on the stupidity of intelligence which he claimed was at the heart of the propaganda war. He said that Ho Chi Minh was resting heavily on this sort of stupidity to bring him success. The writer added -
Let us assume that all the demonstrators all over the world against war in Vietnam are everything they say they are - sincerely desirous for an honorable peace, troubled by the bombing of the civil population of North and South Vietnam, generally afraid that we may be trapped into a hopeless war with China and worried by the power of the United States. The trouble is that these people are inadvertently working against all things they want and are creating all things they fear most. They are not promoting peace but postponing it. They are not persuading the United States or their allies to end the war but deceiving Ho Chi Minh and General Giap into prolonging it.
This is the sort of thing that is going on at demonstrations and teach ins to try to create the impression in the community that those concerned are against the war in China. They are deceiving Ho Chi Minh into believing they have some force in the community when they have not. This Government does not believe, and I do not believe, that there are purely military solutions in Vietnam. It is an over-simplification to suggest that we do believe that. The United States and Australia and many other allied countries are already bending their best efforts in Vietnam towards a political and social solution of the many problems of that troubled country. The military role is not an end in itself but a means to an end - the end that peace and social justice may be brought to this rice bowl of Asia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McIvor) adjourned.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Addressing the House last night on the Loan (Housing) Bill I stated, as correctly reported at page 779 of “ Hansard “- 1 remember that on one occasion a doctor in the Newcastle district told me in confidence that one ward of a certain hospital was almost fully occupied by unfortunate females who were receiving medical treatment to help them overcome the after effects of terminating pregnancy.
Two newspapers, the “ Canberra Times “ and the Sydney “ Sun “ referred to my speech.
– Has not the honorable member had enough publicity? Why does he want another go?
– Every time the honorable member opens his mouth the words of a fool pour forth. The Sydney “ Sun “ has reported me as having said that one hospital in the Newcastle district was almost fully occupied by women recovering from the effects of terminated pregnancies. That report is not in accordance with what I said, as I have quoted from “ Hansard “, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy Speaker, honorable members will recall that in November 1964, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, announced in the House that in the course of this current three year programme, new Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft would be purchased to rearm No. 11 Squadron, stationed at Richmond. At present there are two Neptune maritime reconnaissance squadrons in the Royal Australian Air Force - No. 10
Squadron, which is equipped with Neptune SP2H aircraft embodying modern surface and underwater submarine detection equipment, and No. 1 1 Squadron, which is equipped with an older version of the Neptune aircraft, the P2E, containing submarine detection and tracking equipment which is now coming to the end of its useful operational life. It is, accordingly, necessary to re-equip No. 11 Squadron with new aircraft so that it will be effective against modern submarines. An order for 10 P3B Orion aircraft will therefore be placed with the United States authorities shortly. The P3B Orion is probably the deadliest submarine hunter killer aircraft in the world. It is manufactured by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation which also manufactured the Royal Australian Air Force’s Hercules transport aircraft, and it is equipped with the world’s most advanced devices for sonar analysis, navigation and direction finding. It is capable of seeking out enemy submarines oyer vast areas, pinpointing the target and then destroying it. The F111A aircraft are due to be delivered in the last half of 1968 and, in order to spread the impact of deliveries of new aircraft, the delivery date for the Orions has been brought forward to early in the same year.
A team of R.A.A.F. specialist officers and airmen will leave for the United States in the next few weeks for detailed examination of the technical and equipment aspects of the purchase. The leader of the team will leave tomorrow and the others will follow later this month. Arrangements have been made for the crews of No. 1 1 Squadron to be trained on Orion aircraft by the United States Navy at a naval establishment in the United States. Aircrew members undergoing this conversion training will fly in R.A.A.F. Orions and R.A.A.F. ground staff will maintain the aircraft during the conversion phase.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Hughes be appointed a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the place of Mr. Malcolm Fraser, discharged from attendance.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– I present the twelfth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Yesterday morning at question time I directed a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), in which I requested the Government to review the position of Australia’s trading with China. I want to make it clear at the outset, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) did today, that the Opposition has no objection to Australia’s trading with any country, but we are in a peculiar position at the present time. The Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) in his speech the other night said that the Chinese imperialist objectives would alter so much that they would lap the shores of Australia. All Government spokesmen have described China as the real enemy and the real power behind North Vietnam.
When I referred to the fact that Marshal Chen, the Chinese Foreign Minister, had said that China was helping North Vietnam and the Vietcong by sending to that country grain, textiles and metals, the Prime Minister said that Australia had its own economic problems in providing for its defence and its development. It appears that we are going to solve our defence problems by selling war materials to a country which this Government has described as the real enemy, and which has put its army into the field to fight and destroy Australian servicemen. The Government is not concerned about that matter as long as it can pay the expenses for the defence by Australian servicemen from the proceeds of the sale of goods to the enemy which is seeking to destroy Australian servicemen. This must be capitalism at its worst. This is trade at its worst. We are engaged not in a declared war but in a technical war. People are being killed, yet we supply the enemy with the equipment with which to kill our troops.
This is an interesting position. Today at question time a further question was asked about our trading with China. Reference was also made to our trading with North Vietnam. I have been waiting and watching for the answer to the question which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) has on the notice paper with regard to the Australian trade with North Vietnam. Whatever technicalities may be involved in relation to China, we have been told time and time again that North Vietnam has troops in South Vietnam. They are fighting and killing Australian servicemen. We find that in 1964-65 Australia sold §155,158 worth of tallow to North Vietnam. This was inedible tallow, and everybody knows what tallow is used for. It is a component part of glycerine and glycol. It is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of high explosives. It is a necessary ingredient in the high explosives that are being aimed at Australian servicemen. Those high explosives would undoubtedly be used not only on the battlefields of Vietnam but also in the streets of Saigon. Wherever you send Australian troops in Vietnam, whether to the battlegrounds in the jungles or to the streets of Saigon, you will find explosives made with Australian tallow that has been sold directly to the enemy, North Vietnam. How low can a country get? How low can capitalism bring this country when we find goods such as these being sold directly to the enemy? We should also remember that we are selling this tallow quite openly - and in much larger quantities - to China as well.
I have come to the conclusion not only that this Government should never be forgiven by the people of Australia, but also that it should be noted for all time that this combination of Liberal and Country Party members cares little for the boys serving in Vietnam, the young conscripts of 19 that the Government is sending there. Government supporters care little for them. All they care for is to receive money in return for their goods. They do not concern themselves with the fact that munitions manufactured from those goods will be used to destroy our own Australian boys. My opinion is that members sitting on the Government benches are just a lot of modern Judas Iscariots. They will sell Australian youth as long as they get their price.
Honorable members opposite must feel ashamed to know that the wheat they are sending to China is being used to feed the troops who are opposed to the Australian lads whom this Government is sending to Vietnam. If those lads are destroyed the fact must play heavily on your consciences - if you have any consciences. Ask yourselves if it is good to feed the enemy with Australian grain, or to clothe him with Australian wool, or to send him the metals with which to manufacture weapons of war to be used to destroy the youth of Australia.
Capitalism, we know, has a bad record. This Government has a bad record. I hope the Australian people will never forgive the members who sit on the Government side of this Parliament. I am sure the mothers of the boys they are going to send to these battlefields and to the streets of Saigon will not forgive them. It is no wonder that the lads who are serving in Vietnam do not want to take a spell. They realise it is as dangerous in the streets of Saigon as it is in the jungles of Vietnam because the bicycles that one sees in the streets of that city may be loaded with high explosives containing glycerine made from the tallow that Australia is selling to China and directly to North Vietnam. Honorable members opposite are prepared to sit in their places and describe China as the enemy of this country. One after another they tell us that China is the real power. They make no bones about the fact that North Vietnam is advancing and fighting face to face with the youth of this nation.
What I have said about honorable members opposite applies particularly to members of the Country Party. To meet them individually one gets the impression that they are quite a nice bunch of fellows, but the fact is that money is more important to them, trade is more important to them than the lives of Australians. As I said before, the best description I can give them is that of modern Judas Iscariots. They put their price on the lives of Australians. Every time one reads the casualty lists one has cause to wonder about the policies that Australia is following. Members of the Government say: “ We are sorry, but because we wanted money to raise the revenue for our defence forces’ we had to sell these goods.” They will be judged by history. The young people of Australia and their parents will not forgive them. They will pay the price at the - next elections.
Their hands will drip with the blood of every lad killed or wounded in this war.
.- The last few words of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) gave us a general idea of his thoughts on this subject. He said that at the next elections Government supporters will pay the price for their actions. That was the dominant theme of his speech. He said also that members of the Country Party were not bad fellows. How could he possibly feel that way after all the things he said about us? 1 have been friendly with the honorable member for many years. He is a decent fellow, but his speech tonight was the lowest I have heard in 20 years in this Parliament. Surely all honorable members will agree with me.
– The honorable member is hiding behind the uniforms of other people.
– I am not hiding behind anybody’s uniform. The honorable member for Wills can get that idea right out of his head. I submit that in his mood tonight the honorable member for Kingston was in no fit condition to speak in the Commonwealth Parliament.
As regards sales to Communist China of wheat and wool, it has been fully explained on other occasions that if China did not buy our surplus wheat she would obtain supplies from some other country. I stress that the wheat we sell to China is surplus wheat. I have said this on many occasions. I have said that I favour selling only our surplus wheat to China. The arguments employed by the honorable member for Kingston were ridiculous. We have an open market for wool in this country. People from any country may come here and bid for and buy our wool. If we were to refuse to allow China to buy wool on the open market, she would get some other country to buy it for her. The arguments of honorable members opposite on this subject are fallacious.
The honorable member for Kingston ranted and pointed his finger, claiming that Government supporters will pay for their actions. Can we accept the honorable member as an expert on what happens in wars? Only this week I heard a member of the Labour Party say that young boys of 19 are being called up. His words are recorded in “ Hansard “. The truth is that people called up for national service training are 20 years of age. Notwithstanding that, I do not think that a youth 19 or 20 years of age is a young boy. He is not. These matters are exaggerated. Young boys of 19 indeed. I know of many young people who enlisted in the First World War as soon as they turned 18. They had the consent of their parents to enlist. A lot has been made by the Opposition of the reaction of mothers of young men called up. A lot depends on the outlook of the mothers. Reference has been made to a Victorian woman whose husband was killed in Vietnam. She has said that her husband did not want to go to Vietnam. She has my greatest sympathy.
A woman in Hamilton, whose son was wounded, was taken over to Vietnam by the Army. When she came back she said that it was distressing to see him, but she was pleased that he went to serve this country. It must be remembered by members of this Parliament that the young men who are being called up today owe the privilege of living in this free country to the men who laid down their lives in two great world wars.
– But not dirty wars.
– It may be a dirty war in Vietnam, but it is not less important in upholding the principle of freedom for which this country stands.
In the last sessional period of Parliament I found fault with the Opposition and any other Australians who have tried to work up a case against Australia’s participation in the war in Vietnam, as we have heard the honorable member for Kingston try to do tonight. Only the other day people from the “ Save our Sons “ movement visited Canberra. On their first visit to Canberra I agreed to speak with them. They came to my office. If they read this account of their visit they will know it to be completely true. I treated them with the greatest courtesy but told them that I did not agree with what they were saying. Last week they returned to Canberra and asked me questions about the conscripts in Vietnam. I said that I would like to ask them a question in order to discover what was the basis of their advocacy. I said: “ Do you believe, apart altogether from conscripts, that Australia should have troops in Vietnam associated with the American forces? “ One lady answered rather reluctantly. She seemed not to want to answer the question. However, they all answered it and said that they believed we should not have troops in Vietnam. I rather liked one kindly lady who said to me as they left my office: “Look, Mr. Turnbull. I do not think we should have war at all. We should not have fighting.” I said: “If someone came into my office and attacked my secretary, do you think I should sit and do nothing? “
I have said before in this Parliament that at the time of the cold war Communism was pushing across Asia and getting nearer to our shores. Honorable members on this side of the chamber then said that someone has to say: “So far and no further.” The United States of America said that. American forces were sent to block the surge of Communism in South East Asia.
The old story has been told again and again but does not seem to sink in with people who do not want to believe it. It was said that under the treaty of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States- A.N.Z.U.S.- we had to honour our obligations. They must be treated as honorable agreements if we are to hope that in the future, if we are in peril, America will come to our aid. We have a great alliance with the United States and I hope there will never be any dividing line, save the seas, between us.
Some people say that America is trying to run Australia and that it has too much influence in this country. The United States will never have the influence on Australia that Great Britain has had. The Americans speak the English language. Their forebears came across from England in the “ Mayflower “. We are very closely associated with the United States; more closely associated than with any other countries except Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Because we are closely associated with the United States we must ally ourselves with that country in its struggle in Vietnam. I deplore the state of affairs that has been reached in this House when the Queen’s Opposition tries to work up a case against Australia’s participation in Vietnam. I am aware that it is a jungle war. It is much the same as the battle that was fought for Singapore in the Second World War.
Word reaching our troops in Vietnam of what honorable members are saying in this House is most discouraging. They have gone to Vietnam to play their part in ridding the world of would-be tyrants. Therefore I deplore the speeches that have been made tonight. I think the honorable member for Kingston made the lowest speech I have heard in this House. I regard him as a friend of mine but I deplore the speech he made tonight. I do not think that if he were in his right senses, speaking outside the House, he would say that, but he proved what he desired to convey when he finally said “You will pay for this at the next election “.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation in connection with a happening in this House tonight. Speaking in the debate on foreign affairs, the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) made direct and implied attacks on the Labour Party and on the integrity and patriotism of its members. I think everyone will agree that his was an emergency speech, delivered for consumption particularly in the Kooyong electorate. That, of course, is politics. I waited carefully until the Prime Minister had finished his speech and then suggested that he might propose to those in his Party who are of military age that they should enlist. I agree with the reasoning that those who would force others to go to war should set an example if they are eligible for military service. In other circumstances I would not suggest to any man, whether he was eligible or not, that he should go to a war. That would be his own personal decision, as a Prime Minister of Australia once said.
Mr. Speaker then called upon the hero for Scullin to remain silent. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) considered that Mr. Speaker was seeking to reflect upon my courage because I had a military career similar to those of the present Prime Minister and his immediate predecessor. Mr, Speaker then said he had made the remark because he was an exserviceman. I take it that that justified the interpretation that the honorable member for Reid put upon Mr. Speaker’s sarcastic taunt. I wish to emphasise that I am still of the opinion that I expressed when I suggested to the Prime Minister that young men should not be parties to forcing others to do what they themselves are unwilling or unable to do. I strongly resent the imputation contained in Mr. Speaker’s remark and I desire to express my appreciation to the honorable member for Reid.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the House to an article which appears in today’s “ Australian “ under the heading “ Miller frets over tanker cargoes “. It states -
Mr. R. W. Miller, chairman of R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd., the brewer, ship-owner and coal miner, last night called on the Federal Government to honor Sir Robert Menzies’ undertaking to reduce the over-tonnage of Australian flag tankers in the coastal trade.
That part of the article is the main reason for my rising. The article continues - “ We are confident that in accordance with the declared policy the Government will correct the matter in the near future”, Mr. Miller said in his company’s interim report.
I will not read the whole of the article, because it is lengthy, lt goes on to say that Mr. Miller is complaining that, in his opinion, there are too many Australian flag tankers on the coast and that his reasoning is that the tankers have been allowed to operate on the coast by arrangement with the Government. The House will be aware that the Miller organisation has three tankers trading on the Australian coast. By his initiative in breaking in on this trade by first bringing the “ Miller’s Canopus “ to Australia, R. W. Miller forced the oil combines to bring their own tankers out to trade on the Australian coast, with Australian licences. The article implies that if the over-tonnage is allowed to continue Mr. Miller will have to take some of his tankers out of the trade.
I have not spoken to Mr. Miller. When I saw this article in the “ Australian “ I rang the Melbourne office of R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd., stated that I had seen the article in the paper and asked whether it was true. I was told that it was true. I then asked whether it was a fact that Miller’s ships had been laid up for varying periods. I was told that they had been laid up. The article continues -
A typical example was the recent permit to the British Petroleum Company’s tanker “British Corporal “, Mr. Miller said.
On March 17, applications were made for a permit for “British Corporal” to load 800 tons of automotive diesel oil at Portland, Victoria, for Devonport and Bell Bay and also a cargo of 12,500 tons of petroleum products from Melbourne to Port Lincoln and Port Pirie, he said.
A single voyage permit in respect of the automotive diesel oil was issued, but a decision on the full cargo of 12,500 tons was deferred, he said, pending further information on the likely date on which the Mobil Australian-flag tanker, “Australian Progress “, would be able to resume service after overhaul.
The position is that if ships normally operating on the coast are not available, a foreign owner may make application to the Government for a single voyage permit. I would not like to see the position get to the stage where Miller, who pioneered this trade, was forced off the coast. I know very well that the Government stated that Millers ship would be allowed on the coast on condition that a firm order was given for the building of a tanker to replace it.
There is only one Australian firm other than the Miller organisation carrying oil on the coast. That is the Ampol Petroleum Ltd. That organisation has one tanker operating on the coast and I understand that it is to bring in another - the “ P. J. Adams”. This could cause a little embarrassment because that tanker entering this trade could mean that at some period of the year there would be 13 tankers operating on the coast. The other companies such as Shell Company of Australia Ltd., B.P., Australia Ltd., ESSO Standard Oil (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. and Caltex Oil (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., are not Australian companies in the true sense, because their parent organisations are outside Australia.
If this state of affairs continues to the point where Miller is forced out of the trade, it will be a bad thing for Australian coastal shipping. I am not here to fight a case on behalf of Miller’s business interests, but I do admire Mr. R. W. Miller for starting this operation. The maritime unions of Australia had been trying for many years to get Australian tankers on the coast. Australian tankers are now operating on the coast, and it would seem to me that an attempt is now being made to squeeze Miller out.
Some three or four weeks ago, the “ R. W. Miller”, one of the Miller tankers, could not get a cargo of oil. She was therefore forced to load a cargo of grain and go off the coast. That ship is now on its way back to Australia. Is the Minister able to tell us that there will be full employment for the 12 tankers that now operate on the coast? I think that all the oil companies should get together with the Government with a view to finding out what our actual requirements are. It is wrong to say that as soon as a Miller ship is off the coast, an urgent cargo could suddenly be required for Tasmania. What happens is this: Customs officers are employed where oil tanks are situated around Australia. On every day of every week these Customs officers take a dip of the tank. So, the amount of oil that is stored in Australia is known daily. These dips are taken so that the Government is able to find out how much duty will be due to it when the oil or petrol carried by these ships is sold. So. it is not hard to discover how much oil is in Devonport or Portland, or how much petrol is somewhere else because these dips are being taken continuously.
The argument could be put up that because a few more oil refineries are being built in Australia the trade is not as great now as it was when the original permits were issued. If this is the case, it is up to the Government to say so. If the Government does this, then it must say: “ We do not need 12 tankers on the Australian coast. We need 9 tankers only.” If this were the case, a company might wish to get rid of a tanker. If Miller has not jobs for his tankers he has no option but to dispose of them. Miller is then in the position of having brought these tankers to Australia and being unable to get rid of them until the Minister for Shipping and Transport says he can. I see that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is smiling but he knows that an operator cannot sell ships out of Australia even if he wants to. Is that not right?
– Permission has to be obtained. I am not growling about that. If it is good enough for permission to be obtained to bring in a second hand ship, then it is only fair that permission should be obtained to take it out. That is the way I see the position. The company to which I have referred has done much for the maritime unions in this country. When the Government allowed these tankers to come into Australia a breakthrough was achieved. I would not like to see this company forced out of this business so that the big oil companies can drift back to the position they were in when we had tankers on the Australian coast manned by foreign seamen, and ships flying flags of convenience from all over the world.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, at the outset I thank the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) for the courtesy of letting me know that he intended to raise this matter tonight. He corrected something about which I chided him yesterday. The question of whether or not there is over tonnage on the Australian coast is quite a difficult one. It is a matter of judgment. I would not expect the honorable member to be prepared to accept the unqualified assurance of one interested party in this case that there is overtonnage without looking at all the circumstances.
– That is fair enough.
– This, of course, is what the Government is trying to do. The House will be aware that an Australian flag tanker has absolute priority. If there is undertonnam - in other words, if there are insufficient Australian flag tankers to carry the cargoes that are offering - an independent operator can charge what freight rates he likes. Therefore, it is somewhat to the interests of an independent operator to have as little tonnage as possible on the Australian coast. I think that is indisputable.
If there is overtonnage, the first person who will not receive cargoes is the independent operator who is charging higher freight rates. I leave entirely aside the question of whether these rates are excessive or otherwise. If the freight rates are higher, in fact, than the other oil companies are charging for their tankers, then that operator will be first to lose cargoes. These are the simple elementary facts of commercial life. So, the Government has to arrive at a situation where it can gauge the tonnage required so that, first, one operator cannot hold the trade at ransom and, secondly, as far as possible, all ships will be reasonably employed. If the Government does strike a precise figure then nobody can expect that all the tankers will be fully employed aH the time because in that situation there would bc an undertonnage al peak, periods and an overtonnage at other periods.
To illustrate his case the honorable member for Batman cited the issuing of a permit for the ship “ British Corporal “. I think it is important that the House should understand precisely the circumstances in which that permit was issued. The supply of petroleum products to Hobart was the reason for the issuing of the permit. Mobil Oil Australia Ltd. had intended to use its licenced ship - its Australian flag ship “Australian Progress “ - after that vessel came out of dock. As honorable members will know, oil companies arrange their shipping programmes some time ahead and the “ Australian Progress “ was due to come out of dock and to go into operation on 12th March. Ironically enough, until today this vessel was still not available because of a strike by iron workers employed by Storey and Keers who were doing the work on the ship. So one Australian flag ship was not available which was expected to be available. The position was that no other Australian flag ships were available at that time as far as could be ascertained, and the “ British Corporal “, a foreign flag ship, was given a permit after an inquiry had been made into fuel supplies at Hobart and the urgent need to get fuel there was ascertained.
At Hobart 4,577 tons of premium motor spirit and 2,400 tons of regular grade motor spirit were to be discharged. Stocks were very low and were expected to become exhausted on 31st March. Stocks in other storages around Hobart were down to one or two weeks’ supply. Those were the conditions under which this permit was issued. Ironically enough, because the “ Australian Progress “ had been held up by a strike of iron workers the Seamen’s Union of Australia in Melbourne struck to prevent the “ British Corporal “ from taking supplies to Hobart. In order to resolve the urgent situation which existed in Hobart the British Petroleum Company of Australia Ltd. rerouted its ship “ B.P. Endeavour “ from its normal scheduled voyage supplying petroleum to Melbourne.
The whole result of all this mixed up operation was that the tanker programme around the Australian coast was thrown out of adjustment and 21 days tanker time has been lost. A serious situation exists in Port Lincoln and Port Pirie. I understand that in one of these places the supply of lighting kerosene is due to become exhausted today and that automotive diesel oil will run out on 10th April unless arrangements can be made to get supplies to these ports. This has something to do with the question of overtonnage because R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. was advised when the normal shipping programme was arranged that under this programme there was not a cargo available for his ships. A lot of matters enter into this situation. The freight rate R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. was charging was a matter of dispute between the company and the oil companies, but the plain fact is that as soon as a situation arose that had not been foreseen and one tanker dropped out of the business there would have been a cargo available for the R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. ship had it still been available.
I repeat that the question of overtonnage is not an easy one to resolve. In addition. 1 understand that on at least two occasions proposals have been made to R. W. Miller by two oil companies at different times to take one of his vessels on a long term charter. The most recent, I understand, was for 12 months charter, but he was not sufficiently interested even to discuss price with the company. So it seems to me that many interpretations can be placed on his version of the question of adequate tonnage on the Australian coast. I say that this is not an easy question to decide offhand. The pattern is changing all the time. New refineries are coming on stream and more Australian produced oil is being made available. But my Department, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), undertook to make as comprehensive a review as possible of our original assessment of tonnage, and this is still in progress.
I ask honorable members: Do they really expect it to be a practical proposition for an operator on the Australian coast to be given an absolute assurance of cargoes without there being some control of freight rates? On performance, this would look as though freight rates could go completely haywire. Does anyone think it reasonable that a company doing its own refining on the Australian coast should be prevented from carrying its own cargoes in its own ships, provided it meets the conditions laid down by the Government? If this is so and if there does happen to be excess tonnage on the coast, to which oil company do we say: “You cannot carry your own products in your own ships? “. Again I say that, while the oil companies have their own tankers that meet the conditions laid down by the Australian Government, there is no easy solution to this problem. At no time has any operator, an oil company or anyone else, been given any guarantee that it can be assured of a cargo. All we have said is that we will do our best to ensure that there is no over tonnage on the Australian coast, and that is what the Government is doing.
.- The Australian Broadcasting Commission, in my opinion, is an organisation that has a very high standard in conveying news and information to the people of Australia. A feature of the Commission’s television programmes is “ Four Corners “, which is highly regarded by many people.
– It is a most popular programme.
– Yes. I am an unfortunate individual in that the heavy calls made on me by my electorate prevent me from viewing this excellent production. However, last Saturday evening, having had a heavy day attending an ambulance fete and other functions in the afternoon, I fortunately was able to view the programme “ Four Corners “ on Channel 2. One segment of the programme dealt with the two airlines policy of the Government. I want to speak about that feature of the programme, not about the policy itself.
As we all know, when “ Four Corners “ presents a matter of great Australian interest or some feature of Australian life, it is well produced and usually can be regarded as being factually recorded and reported. On Saturday evening I settled down to view the programme in comfort, knowing that I would be informed very well on the subject of aviation policy in Australia. The show commenced with the Boeing 727 landing on the tarmac and taxiing up to the magnificently built and well equipped Melbourne airport terminal while the announcer said: “ This could be a 727 landing at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth “. I know that this is an impossibility. It would be impossible for a 727 to land at Brisbane Airport and then proceed to a three storey, brick and glass, magnificently built and well equipped airport terminal building.
– Why do not the members from Queensland do something about it?
– The members up there have been doing a lot about it but so far have not met with success. You would know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the airport terminal buildings in Brisbane are wood and iron igloos which were built for the American Air Force in 1942. Brisbane is the only mainland capital which has airport terminal buildings of this type. The buildings in Adelaide and Perth are magnificent. The buildings at Melbourne beggar description. One might say that they are super in their beauty of construction and in the service that they provide to the people. In Brisbane there are just a number of buildings which have been painted periodically. A few trees have been planted and grass has been encouraged to grow to give something of a tropical appearance.
I am grateful that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has just come into the chamber. I ask him whether he will use his endeavours - and I know that he does not direct the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do things - to see that the A. B.C. show “ Four Corners “ returns to factual lines. I want to see the A.B.C. maintain its very high reputation for factual reporting. The reporter on that show glossed over the failure of the Department of Civil Aviation to build a modern airport building in Brisbane. This failure is a great handicap to Brisbane, the tourist capital of Australia. The present buildings are architecturally repugnant, aesthetically repulsive and ill equipped. I am limited in my time tonight, so I cannot state all the things that are wrong with these buildings at Brisbane Airport. I am not raising this matter to bring it before the Minister for Civil Aviation. That will take place in due course. But as everyone respects the A.B.C. for its behaviour in the past, and because it provides great news and information services for the Australian people, I want to see its reputation maintained. I hope that “ Four Corners “ will take an early opportunity to correct this wrong impression. I cannot refer to it as damage because no more damage could be done to Brisbane than has already been done by the Department of Civil Aviation, but I hope the Australian Broadcasting Commission will not repeat this blunder of conveying false information to the Australian people. The Department of Civil Aviation could best get the A.B.C. out of its dilemma by erecting new airport facilities in Brisbane.
.- On a number of occasions I have had to direct the attention of this House to extensive damage along the foreshores of Botany Bay in the vicinity of dredging operations by Commonwealth Government authorities. Probably the most extensive damage of all occurred last weekend. The situation became so dramatic that on Sunday several metropolitan radio stations broadcast appeals for volunteers to go to Brighton Beach. They suggested that the volunteers should take a spade to try to save the long concrete promenade that extends along the beach and also the new clubhouse at Brighton-le-Sands.
– Did the honorable member go?
– I was not in the vicinity or I would have been only loo glad to do so. Most people are aware of my interest and of the representations I have made in this matter. 1 only wish the Government was as responsive and sympathetic. 1 think 1 have dealings with all the Ministers in this Government but none has been so dilatory in his response to representations as the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). 1 do not say that on only one or two counts. Lately I have made persistent representations to the Minister informing him of what would happen along the Botany Bay foreshore both to public and private property. I have made representations to the Minister and have referred to the matter in this House on Grievance Day and at other times, only to find the Minister for Works replying to a Government supporter without having had the courtesy to respond to my written representations on this subject. I have had to go to the Minister and ask him to give me a copy of his reply.
I emphasise that the damage last weekend caused grave anxiety to many residents in this area and on Monday I sent the following urgent telegram to the Minister for Works -
Extensive and devastating damage occurred over week-end along Botany Bay foreshore near Brighton-le-Sands. Beach cliff now within three yards of public footpath. Emergency action taken by municipal authorities to save public buildings. Situation demands urgent action by your Government Please advise me of any immediate plans.
This is not a joke, as honorable members and the Minister would see if they visited the area. But despite protracted negotiations, I am not aware of the Minister having once visited this area. The damage is so extensive that the Rockdale Municipal Council asked the State Government to sue the Commonwealth Government for St million for the extensive damage that had occurred up to a couple of months ago. Since then much more extensive damage has been done and last week was the worst of all.
The Commonwealth Government stated in response to representations by me some months ago that it was not within its power to make any kind of assistance available to repair the damage until it could be proved that the Commonwealth was responsible for it. Damage continued for month after month in one storm after another. Erosion along the beach front took place to a depth of more than 100 feet and the beach cliff has now receded to a point almost immediately alongside Grand Parade, a much used public road in Brighton-le-Sands, which runs through the busy shopping centre there and on to Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I told the Minister about this, but he was adamant that until the Wallingford Research Laboratory in England had provided a report that would indicate whether the Commonwealth’s dredging operations were to blame for the damage, the Government could accept no responsibility. So damage along the beach front has continued for nine months and the parklands have been denuded and almost eroded away.
There is a danger to public health also. Garbage was buried and covered with topsoil in order to protect the beach and the park against erosion. However, the topsoil has been eroded away and garbage now floats along the foreshores of Botany Bay in the vicinity of hundreds of homes adjacent to the beach front. Not only is there danger to the public because the beach cliff, which drops about 14 feet, is right alongside the roadway and a busy public footpath, but also there is now a health danger because the garbage buried in an attempt to prevent erosion has been uncovered. As I have said, so far as 1 know the Minister for Works has never inspected the area to see the problem that exists there. Relief measures are needed urgently. The Minister maintained that the Government could not accept any liability until its responsibility had been proven, even after 1 had organised a petition which was signed by residents throughout the area in their hundreds and which was made available (or signature through Returned Services League clubs, the local sailing club, the local fishermen’s club and various other public organisations in the district. But then it became known to the Minister through representations by Government supporters that there was anxiety among the local residents and disgust at the Government’s lack of action. This knowledge persuaded the Minister to say: “ Without accepting any liability or responsibility, we will take the action that is most urgently required “.
What about the predicament of all the private citizens whose homes have suffered damage from sand blast and who have been inconvenienced by the lack of public facilities on the beach because of damage to the swimming enclosure, the parklands and the enclosure in Cook Park. All these facilities have gone, but the Commonwealth still refuses to accept any liability in the matter. All that it could be persuaded to do was to agree, without prejudice to any ultimate responsibility that it may or may not have, to make $5,000 available to the local municipal council for the most urgently needed repairs along the promenade on the Brighton beach front. It has promised also to make up to $10,000 available for urgent work in Cook Park. But this is not good enough. Although the Rockdale Municipal Council estimated that $1 million would be needed to repair the damage, the Commonwealth so far has agreed to provide only $15,000. What good is SI 5,000 when the estimated cost of repairs is $1 million?
I am concerned not so much about the repair of the damage to private homes from sand blast and other causes. What I am really concerned about is the Government’s taking so long to deal with the problem. How much more damage must be done to private property and to the public facilities in this lovely district before the Government can be persuaded to accept what is obviously its responsibility, as anybody would agree? Tonight, I have not detailed all the damage that has occurred. I have said nothing about the siltation of Cooks River, which causes damage to boats as they are taken to and from the BrightonleSands fishermen’s club. I have said nothing about the problems experienced by fishermen in navigating Botany Bay itself and the approaches to Cooks River.
The seriousness of this matter has been brought to my notice and I have brought it to the notice of the Minister for Works, but, somehow or other, he has not seen fit even to do me the courtesy of acknowledging my representations weeks after I have made them. Though I sent him an urgent telegram directing his attention to the great dangers to residents and public property in the area, he has not even done me the courtesy, through a whole week of the parliamentary sitting, of acknowledging that telegram in which I made urgent representations on behalf of the local residents. That is why I feel so strongly about this matter. It is all right for the Minister to laugh about it, but if he goes there and talks to the residents he will soon have the smile wiped off his face.
I have asked the Government and I have asked the Minister to give me a copy of the main recommendations and findings of the Wallingford report now that it has been furnished to the Government. What did the Minister say? He wiped me off indifferently. He said: “ The report belongs to the Maritime Services Board. If the Board likes to make it available to you, well and good, but I am not going to do anything about it.” That is the effect of the reply which the Minister gave me, despite the fact that Commonwealth money has been used to meet half the cost of the research. I think that as the member for the district 1 am entitled to receive a copy of the main findings and recommendations of the Wallingford report.
– There is only one thing that I want to say in relation to this matter. The Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) has done a considerable amount of work in relation to this matter. It culminated yesterday in a conference between the representatives of the Commonwealth Department of Works and the Maritime Services Board. The conference was held in Sydney. I understand that certain recommendations in relation to the matter have already been submitted to the Minister for Works.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.47 p.m. until Tuesday, 19th April 1966, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
Interstate Rail Traffic. (Question No. 1885.)
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The standard gauge line between Melbourne and Wodonga was opened for goods traffic on 3rd January 1961. There has been a significant increase in the tonnage of freight carried between New South Wales and Victoria since that date. Taking 1960-61 as the base year (the last full year before completion of this standard gauge line), the increase between 1960-61 and 1964-65 for freight from New South Wales to Victoria amounted to 68.4 per cent., and from Victoria to New South Wales 91.1 per cent.
This standard gauge line was opened for passenger traffic on 16th April 1962. Detailed statis tics of interstate passenger movements are not maintained by all State Railways. The only statistics of passenger movements on this standard gauge line which are available cover southward movements, namely -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What was or will be the opening date, and what is or will be the operating authority, the site and the range of each radio station in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
January, 1965. The application was refused on 12th January, 1966.
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many telephone applications are outstanding in (a) each State and (b) Australia at this date?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
When assessing the number of waiting applicants for telephone service, the Post Office employs four categories descriptive of the stage a particular application has reached towards being satisfied. The four categories are -
Deferred Applications: Those applications where service cannot be offered pending major extensions of plant.
Applications under Engineering Investigation: Those applications which are being examined to see whether service can be offered or the application has to be deferred.
Quotations with Public: Those applications on which terms and conditions of service have been offered to the applicant but his acceptance is still awaited.
Connection of Service Proceeding: Those applications where terms and conditions have been accepted by the applicant, the necessary telephone order authority has been issued and the work has not yet been completed.
Unsatisfied Demand is assessed at the end of each calendar month.
The position as at 2Sth February, in each State and in the Commonwealth, was as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660331_reps_25_hor50/>.