25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable members will be pleased to know that we have present in the gallery a party of members of the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, accompanied by four local government councillors from the Territory. 1 am sure the House would want to extend to these honorable gentlemen a very warm welcome.
Honorable members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. BOSMAN presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of St. George praying that particular steps be taken by the Government to lessen the noise emanating from aircraft using the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Petition received and read.
Mr. BRYANT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section J 27, and the words discriminating against Aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Petition received and read.
Dr. J. F. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social services and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr. Stewart, Mr. Costa, Mr. James, Mr. Jess, Mr. Devine and Mr. Jones.
Petitions severally received.
– I have given considerable thought to the question as to whether, having regard to the forthcoming general election, a tentative date for which was indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) last week, I should issue my writ for the election of a member for the electoral division of Warringah to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. J. S. Cockle. Administrative arrangements necessary for the holding of a by-election in Warringah would prevent a poll before 1st October. In view of this, and having in mind the expenditure of public money which would be involved, 1 am of opinion that the filling of the vacancy should await the holding of the general election and therefore 1 do nol propose to issue my writ. There are precedents for the decision which I have reached. As honorable members will be aware, there is no constitutional or statutory provision requiring the Speaker to issue a writ for a by-election within any prescribed period.
– I ask the Minister for Army: Is it a fact that the Swedish Government has banned the sale and export of weapons and ammunition to Australia because of our involvement in the Vietnam war - the undeclared war? Does the ban mean that Australian soldiers in Vietnam will be left without ammunition for one weapon, the Carl Gustav anti-tank weapon, with which they are equipped?
– I understand that there was such a report in one of the papers this morning. 1 have not seen it. 1 shall see if there is any information that can be made available.
– I think there will be a report in this afternoon’s paper. I am just anticipating.
– L can assure the Leader of the Opposition on one point: There are ample supplies of ammunition for this particular weapon in Vietnam at the present point of time. In actual fact, the weapon has not been used in that theatre, although it is present there, lt is primarily an anti-tank weapon, although it has other uses, but there has not been a requirement for it at this point of time, and there are alternative weapons in the Army which do the same job.
– I ask the
Minister for Social Services whether married pensioners, for reasons of travel, temporary separation, being patients of different doctors, or for other reasons, can hold seperate medical cards. If so. what is the procedure for them to obtain the additional card?
– I am afraid that 1 cannot give a direct answer to the honorable member. I shall have an investigation made and advise him.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Liberal Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales are appalled by the effect that his Budget will have upon the economies of their States, leading to increased taxation in those States and higher costs of living generally? If the right honorable gentleman is aware of the charges being made by the liberal Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales, does he intend to make a reply to those charges or does he believe that the charges are justified?
– I can answer the question simply by saying 1 believe the charges are totally unjustified. The simple fact is that the difference between our receipt s and expenditure this year will be $533 million and, after borrowing, our cash deficit will be of the order of $270 million. So we face the problem of a big increase in taxation or of giving some stimulus to the economy. We decided we would give a stimulus to the economy and avoid an increase in taxation. If we had wanted to help the States any further, it would have meant an increase in taxation. As I see if, if there was one criticism made of the Budget - and there have been criticisms both ways - it was that we did nol reduce taxation on this occasion. I find it difficult to believe that that argument could be sustained. Equally do I believe it to be false that we could have made any further concessions or any additional grants to the State Governments. ] have seen the arguments that have been put forward by Sir Henry Bolte. In particular, I saw the argument that we would have a surplus in our accounts and not a deficit. I fail to see how any person who understands the normal laws of arithmetic could possibly have come to this conclusion. What he attempts to do is to show that approximately $489 million which is being provided by the Commonwealth to the State Governments for works and housing should not be taken into our cash accounts. The simple fact is that we expect to have this deficit of $533 million as between receipts and expenditure. We expect also that there will be net loan raisings of $150 million, and, so far as we are concerned, most of the remainder of the money will be a cash deficit. If Sir Henry Bolte’s argument were correct, it would mean that he and the other Premiers wanted to accept full responsibility for the $489 million. The fact is that we and not the New South Wales or Victorian Government have to take the responsibility for it. This is a procedure and form of presentation of accounts that has been in operation for very many years. The fact is that, as we estimate the problem today, the Commonwealth has to find $270 million by temporary borrowings and no amount of tautology or political argument can overcome that fact.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he has seen reports in the Press giving publicity to suggestions that the carriage by road of naval missiles from the Royal Australian Navy armament depot at Kingswood through populous areas of Sydney to be loaded on board warships in the port of Sydney will involve a risk to the public. I ask further whether there is any substance in these suggestions.
– I think the report arose out of some evidence that was being given before the Public Works Committee which was investigating a proposal for some building work that is to take place al this depot. First of all, I want to assure the honorable member, and to state for the benefit of members of the public concerned, that there is absolutely no danger involved in these movements, lt appeared from the report that the Navy had some new idea about establishing an ammunition depot. In fact, this particular depot was used during the Second World War by the Americans. After that, it was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force and has been used by them ever since. There have been frequent movements of munitions and stores between the points mentioned during that time.
– In time of peace?
– If the honorable member will allow me I can explain why this is done during times of peace, too. lt is done because we prepare for war in times of peace. The honorable member should realise that it is a basic requirement in designing armaments that they be made in such a way as to ensure complete safety while they are being stored or transported. They are not capable of any explosive action until they are in their operational environment, either in a gun or on a launcher. Further checks of all these stores are made at frequent intervals by experts in explosives at the storage depot and, in respect of the route by which the stores are carried, frequent electromagnetic checks are carried out. I think it should be realised, too. that the missiles are able to withstand very great stresses when carried in ships, even ships in action. Sailors handling these missiles live with them every day on board ship in all sorts of conditions and honorable members will therefore realise what little danger there is in them.
The carriage of all explosives by all the Services is conducted under the Commonwealth Explosives Act, which is administered by my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In addition, naval regulations relating to explosives and magazines apply. It has been said that the depot could be moved to a remote area. I want honorable members to realise that the naval complex in Sydney - which is (he main area - could be moved only at tremendous expense, as honorable members probably appreciate. It is intolerable to think that the main naval complex should be far removed from the ammunition depot, particularly in time of war. Ships would have to sail unarmed to a point where they could replenish their armament.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Air been drawn to reports during the last two days indicating that the Fill aircraft has failed to come up to expectations in current trials, in that it has insufficient speed and, when loaded with a full complement of armaments, needs a semi-circle of approximately 100 miles to make a turn of 180 degrees? In view of continuous criticism of this aircraft from both the United States and the United Kingdom, and the published statement that a committee of the United States Congress is contemplating a re-examination of the entire project, has the Minister or the Government any second thoughts on the wisdom of purchasing this aircraft of unknown final performance which is now estimated to cost an unknown amount above the present known figure of about $9 million each?
– The honorable member has asked many questions on this subject in the past and his question today is in line with some of his previous efforts. In. answer to the last part of his question, the Government is still satisfied - more than satisfied - with the performance figures we ; are getting on the FI I I aircraft. The honorable member asked about the speed of the aircraft. During the recess he would have seen reports that this aircraft has now flown at two and a half times the speed of sound; that is L665 miles per hour. That is a fair speed. Some reports have said that it is too slow and that it can be caught by, say, a MIG21 aircraft. If the honorable member cares to do so, he can ascertain in the Library that the top speed of a MIG2I aircraft is not more than twice the speed of sound. When loaded with air to air missiles, its top speed is about one and a half times the speed of sound. Therefore, it would seem that the FI I I aircraft has a fair chance of being able to go a good deal faster than a MIG2I aircraft.
Reports have been made in the past by critics of the Fill aircraft, mostly in the Press and by aircraft manufacturers who did not get the order. There will continue to be reports of this nature in the future, but we have in Washington at present officers of the Royal Australian Air Force, some of whom have flown this aircraft and who provide me from week to week with reports of the progress of the trials. I believe that the reports I get from those officers are more reliable than the reports I read in the Press, such as the “ Daily Telegraph “ of Loneon. I am therefore still completely satisfied with reports of the performance of the Fill aircraft during its trials, and that its development is more than in line with the original specification. I am also satisfied that we are getting an aircraft of which we can be completely proud and which will do the job required of it.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industry T refer to the intensive propaganda campaign against the present quotas for margarine manufacture in Australia. I ask: What is the position in this matter having regard to the existing margarine quotas imposed under the present laws of the States?
– The matter has, of course, gone through the courts. Marrickville Margarine Pty. Ltd. has been found to have contravened the law of New South Wales by exceeding ils quota. The High Court of Australia remitted this matter to the Central Court of Petty Sessions of Sydney for penalty but the case was adjourned pending a possible appeal. However, the appeal was not allowed and the case has now been referred back to the Central Court of Petty Sessions for determination on the 25th of this month. The issue of quotas is entirely a matter for the New South Wales Government. I understand that the question of the extension of quotas is being held up pending a final determination by the court.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. What is the reason for the sensational manner in which the Canberra Police authorities have released information concerning the formation of a riot squad, with references to developing tendencies in Canberra which make this necessary, with itemisation of the names of the police officers involved in the squad and with illustrations and references to machine guns, armour and tear gas? Why should a world image of Canberra - easily the world’s most orderly capital - be projected which suggests it needs to be kept in order by these methods which have never been called for in Australian or Canberra’s history and are not likely to be?
Mr. ANTHONY__ I am sorry if the honorable member has interpreted the release of this information as being sensational. The Department is merely showing to the Canberra people that we are keeping up to date with police equipment in the larger cities in Australia. It is quite common knowledge that police forces are provided with riot equipment. Canberra has never had this equipment before, but with the natural growth of the city it is necessary to make provision for any type of circumstance that might arise here. It is no use having a circumstance arise and the police force being unable to cope with it. We are merely making progress with our police force and keeping pace with the development of the city.
– I ask the Treasurer whether local government bodies in New South Wales are having difficulty in securing an even reasonable share of their loan allocation of about $20 million. Is it a fact that local governments have been required to shop around for any isolated pools of credit now drying up? Will the Treasurer take into account the potential lag in the provision of vital and urgent basic services for housing and industrial development in the largest Slate of the Commonwealth?
– 1 pointed out in the Budget Speech that this year the Government faced a very large deficit. I also went on to point out that the Government felt that loan raising this year might dry up considerably. In addition, I pointed out that interest rates were increasing abroad. As an illustration, we have taken responsibility for the redemption of well over $100 million of State loans overseas this year. As to local government and semi-governmental authorities, authority was given at the Loan Council meeting for the raising of the funds approved by the Loan Council. I believe that on the present estimates, and as far as we can gauge - and I have said that trying to gauge loan raisings is a hazardous occupation - a very substantial part of the loan requirements of those bodies will be met. We think it will be difficult to raise the full amount, but it is still a little too early to make positive forecasts. Of this we can be certain; We have given the approval for the loan raisings and if it is within the capacity of the community to provide the money at the going rates of interest it will be done. I cannot give any more positive forecast than that. We hope that the loan raisings will be succesful. If I can finish on the last note, I also said that as far as housing is concerned we are prepared to make a maximum contribution and will do all we can to ensure that commencement of housing is kept at what we would regard as an optimum level.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Has he received requests from local authorities on the tablelands behind Cairns seeking the establishment of television in their area? Could not translators be used to relay television programmes from Cairns to the tablelands? If they could, would the Minister, before accepting a diplomatic post, consider the requests of these local authorities?
– I am interested in the honorable member’s comment about a diplomatic post, because I think my record of two trips to Tasmania and one to New Guinea represents the smallest overseas tripping of any Minister. In relation to television on the tablelands of north Queensland, I did arrange some time ago that there should be a temporary station at Cairns. Of course this station would be of much lower power than a permanent station would be. It would therefore not be possible to give effective transmission by translators from the temporary Cairns station for the benefit of the people on the tablelands. I hold out no hope of satisfactory television on the tablelands until we are able to have a permanent installation, either a national or a commercial station, at Cairns.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: Is be aware of recent cases of embarrassment when United Kingdom migrants, advised in London that registration as builders or painters on arrival in Australia would be routine, have discovered that they do not qualify for acceptance by local registration boards? What steps have been taken to provide up to date information on such matters to all interviewing officers overseas? Will his Department endeavour to assist aggrieved migrants to overcome their registration difficulties?
– This was something in which I took a particular interest during my visit overseas last year, because I wanted to investigate the stories that come out from time to time about people who leave the United Kingdom with certain qualifications and are aggrieved because when they arrive here they are not accepted for registration. By arrangement with the Department of Labour and National Service we have people who are seconded from that Department who understand the employment position in Australia as well as the trade standards required. They interview people who have trade qualifications and endeavour, as far as possible, to give them the information concerning the situation in Australia. I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in the matter. 1 would like to have details of any cases that he may have so that we can study them back to the source, but 1 want to emphasise that time and again when complaints have been made and the files have been reviewed it has been found that there has been a misunderstanding, and it has not been the fault of the Department.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that Mr. Duckmanton, General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has agreed to drop the words “ conscripted “ and “ conscript “ from A.B.C. broadcasts? If so, what justification is there for this censorship? Has it been inspired by the Government which is alarmed at public reaction to conscription and is ashamed of its actions? Furthermore, does it mean that political broadcasts over the A.B.C. in the coming election campaign will be censored and these words deleted?
– I have told honorable members on many occasions that the A.B.C. has complete autonomy in its operations. I do not interfere with the A.B.C. and no member of the Government interferes with it. Any decision made by the Commission is its own decision.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. 1 ask: Is the Minister aware that certain rural municipalities in Victoria are complaining of a decreased allocation from the State Government for road purposes, while at the same time the Commonwealth Government is annually increasing the allocation to the States through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act? ls the Commonwealth rigidly adhering to payments to the States as set out in the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation and, in fact, will S750 million have been paid to the States by the end of the five year period of the current legislation?
– The figure stated by the honorable gentleman is correct. An amount of S750 million will have been paid to the States by the end of the current five year period and it will have been paid according to the formula which was agreed to by the State Premiers at the beginning of the five year period. I can understand that some municipalities within States will not each year receive the same amount as they received in the previous year because the State Governments are responsible for allocating to municipalities what they consider to be a reasonable proportion of the aid road funds. Obviously no municipality could expect to receive the same amount each year, if in fact it had satisfied portion of its road requirements by a grant in a previous year. The State Government has the job of making decisions in this matter and it is no responsibility of the Commonwealth.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport confirm the report that Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. has successfully tendered for the construction of three tankers for R. W. Miller (Holdings) Ltd. at the Whyalla shipyard? Has he received any pressure or representation to reopen tenders for the express purpose of taking some part of this contract away from the South Australian yard? If the contract has been entered into, will he give an assurance that he will not permit any interference with it?
– The situation with regard to the Press reports regarding the ordering of three tankers is that the R. W. Miller company has expressed a desire to order three tankers based on a tender price submitted by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd last February. Tenders for the tankers closed in March. Negotiations are now taking place to ascertain what increase in the price will be made. When that is known we will know whether the R. W. Miller company is willing to pay the escalated price.
– My question to the Minister for the Army relates to the sociomilitary role of Australian forces overseas today and, more particularly, to those in South Vietnam. Is the Minister satisfied with the extent of civilian medical aid and other aid of the type handled by Australian battalions in the Phuoc Tuy area? ls there any ease for further aid until our forces clear larger areas compared to the somewhat limited areas dealt with already? Is it the intention of the Government further to increase the scope of this aid when larger areas are cleared? Finally, what types of aid are applied by our forces in these areas at present?
– At the outset. 1 should like to emphasise that military security must be established over a particular region before there can be any worthwhile result from attempted aid. There have been suggestions that aid could be quite radically expanded in certain areas and that this, in a sense, would be a substitute for military clearing and security measures. It is not a substitute because if aid precedes security activity it will be largely destroyed as a result of subsequent Vietcong activity. A great many things can be done in the specific area of responsibility by the task force in Vietnam and I believe the greatest good can come in the initial phase from a number of small things that might appear, of themselves, to be not particularly important but which are certainly important to the people who might have been without them for a long time. For example, there are many household articles that we have in our kitchens and take for granted but which people in many of the Vietnamese areas are quite without.
Refugees come into an area that is secured if they know that security will be enduring as distinct from the areas that are dominated by the Vietcong. They often come without household possessions of any kind and therefore there is a requirement to provide them with these articles. I am very glad that the’ Returned Servicemen’s League on an Australia-wide basis is co-ordinating an appeal by the League and by other interested bodies for household goods of all kinds. A shopping list, as it has been called, has been established for things that are needed in areas in Vietnam. These are not the only things that are being done. Dispensaries and medical services are a first requirement. In one village which our troops entered within quite recent days, it was fairly evident thai there had been no medical attention in the lifetime, probably, of many of the people living in that village. This was a village which had been dominated for a long time by the Vietcong. The task force headquarters has adopted, in a sense, an orphanage in the Saigon area.
Honorable members may have seen reports that baby food is being sent to it. One company in Australia has generously donated a large supply of baby food for this particular orphanage. There is one project for which at the moment we are seeking some active support. We are trying to find support for what is called a “ military academy “. This is an academy which provides normal education for boys aged from about 12 years to 17 years. A small military content - only about 10 to 15 per cent. - is involved in the education. This academy has run down over recent years because of lack of resources. About 1,500 children are involved. We are seeking ways and means of getting some additional help from Australia for this academy. The only other thing I should like to say-
– Write it out.
– Some honorable members have spoken a great deal about the need for social and political aid and I should have thought they might have been interested in some of the things that the Army is trying to do within its own specific area of responsibility. The one final point I should like to make is that any aid that is given in these areas must be conducted at such a level that the local administration will be able to continue and even improve the services after conditions have been established in which we need no longer be there.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can he explain the delay in the presentation to himself and to the House of the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30th June 1965, which he presented to the House yesterday? ls he aware that the information contained in the report is outdated? Did the last monthly report of the Authority show that shipowners caused the loss of 1,197 man hours compared with the loss of 254 man hours caused by waterside workers, a completely different story from that contained in the annual report?
– I will inquire into the precise circumstances involved in the submission of the annual report. However, as the honorable member knows, there is a continuous stream of up to date reports coming from the Authority. His quotations from the last report are substantially correct and it is pleasing to note the very big improvement that has taken place on the waterfront. This has meant a great deal to the Australian economy.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service refers to the decision of the Government to call up for national service training certain unnaturallised migrants and the disapproval of this policy that has been expressed by some sections of the Greek community. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report stating that a 22 year old Greek, who was called up for national service training in Greece in October 1964 and who has since twice refused to bear arms on the ground that he is a conscientious objector, has been sentenced to death by a court martial in Athens? Will the Minister say what action would be taken by this Government against a migrant who was called up for national service training and who claimed to be a conscientious objector?
– I did see a report in the Press about the Greek system of handling conscientious objectors. I must say that, if the report is true, it does seem to test conscientious belief to the extreme. However, we have established a somewhat gentler system in Australia.
– You starve them to death.
– It has been on the Statute book since 1951 and at present there is no particular concern, to change it.
– You are giving young White great consideration.
– Order! 1 point out to honorable members that interjections are out of order and there is the very grave risk of prolonging the answer.
– It would be unfortunate if the impression was created that large numbers of the Greek community wished to avoid the national obligations that are accepted by other inhabitants of the country that they have adopted. I am sure that large sections of responsible Greek opinion would resent a lot of the publicity given to the dissentients. It is by the nature of things that, if the fringe dissentients get the publicity, the vast majority of good, solid, healthy minded citizens pass unnoticed. It is particularly satisfactory to recall, as I am sure many of the Greek community do, the fact that was drawn to our attention by a former Greek consul in. Sydney and that there is a large part of the Greek community which remembers with gratitude the 4,500 Australian casualties suffered in World War II in the defence of Greece. 1 deplore the fact that all the publicity is given to those who might object. Indeed, the system of call up may sort out those who will make desirable long term settlers in Australia and those who will not.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the recent findings of the Australian National Travel Association after a two year survey, that tourism could be worth $206 million a year to Australia by 1975 and in view of the urgent need for co-ordination of and financial aid to tourist activities throughout Australia to exploit this huge potential, will the Prime Minister consider setting up a Federal Department of Tourism, say within the Department of Immigration, with the Minister having the dual title of Minister for Immigration and Tourism?
– The Government recognises the importance of a growing tourist industry for Australia, and the contribution that this can make to our earnings of overseas exchange. Year by year, in my experience as Treasurer anyhow, we have been increasing the provision which has been made for publicity purposes associated wilh the encouragement of tourism. A substantial lift has occurred again this year in the vote for these purposes. Inside their administrations, the State Governments have ministerial responsibility in relation to tourism attaching to particular persons. In a federal sense, the tourist industry functions either under the administration of my own Department or under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry. Whether some change in the administrative structure with a view to giving greater drive to tourist policy and arrangement is justified is a matter of policy. I welcome the suggestion that the honorable gentleman has made as subject matter for further consideration by us.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the reason why Mr. Russ Tyson severed his association with the Australian Broadcasting Commission is that he was disinclined to include Beatle items in his programme? Is the Postmaster-General aware that in this regard Mr. Tyson has the support of countless appreciative listeners throughout Australia?
– I am not aware of the reasons why Mr. Russ Tyson left the A. B.C. His appointment was purely a matter between himself and the Commission. I have not made any inquiries as to why he left the Commission.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Grey. If the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. confirms its original tender price for the construction of ships for R. W. Miller (Holdings) Ltd., will the Minister give an assurance that he will not yield to the pressures applied by Liberal and Country Party Governments in other States which, fearful of the McMahon Budget and rising unemployment, now seek to take the work from the Labour controlled State of South Australia?
– As far as I am aware, the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. price which Mr. Miller now seeks to have for the tankers of R. W. Miller (Holdings) Ltd. was the lowest tender called in open competition. It is really an extension of that tender that is being sought now. As far as the Australian Shipbuilding Board is concerned, unless there are very special circumstances the lowest tender price is normally accepted.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. As Britain has a defence treaty presently with Malaysia and apparently is slowly withdrawing from that area, would it be expeditious for Australia to negotiate a defence treaty with Malaysia because the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the A.N.Z.U.S. Agreement might not apply in that area?
– Mr. Speaker, the official position of the British Government is that it will stay in the area as long as its forces are required in the area by the Governments concerned. As far as Australia is concerned, at a time when Malaysia was under attack, we associated ourselves by an exchange of letters with the British defence agreement. We did not find it necessary to go any further than that in order to give defence aid to Malaysia. At the present time, we certainly see no reason to enter into treaty negotiations in respect of either Malaysia or Singapore.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party. Are he and his Party all the way with L.B.J.?
Question not answered.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What studies are being carried out by the Department of Labour and National Service on the progress and effects of automation in industry? What specific liaison exists between industry and the Commonwealth Government? Is it intended that progressive informative reports be given to the Parliament on this vital development?
– For some time past officers of the Department of Labour and National Service have given considerable attention to technological change and its effects. More recently we have begun to establish a new section and recruiting for it is under way at present. We appreciate that only first class people would be adequate to undertake this kind of work. The permanent head of my Department recruited two officers in England while he was there recently and we hope before long to complete the staff. The honorable member for Franklin referred to liaison with industry. Such a team working on the effects of technological change can do its job only by keeping in intimate contact with industry, trade unions, labour and others concerned. This goes on at present in a large way in my Department which has a very broad band of contact at all levels with industry and labour. As far as reporting to Parliament on this matter is concerned, that suggestion certainly will be given thought. As the honorable member will know, my Department publishes a great deal of information dealing with industrial and labour problems such as safety, lighting and the activities of productivity groups which are operating on a very extensive scale. Certainly, if this kind of work is to be useful it can be made effective only by being publicised and widely distributed and becoming known. We shall give consideration at the appropriate time to the question whether a special report to Parliament is desirable.
– The Treasurer will be aware of the many requests he has received from honorable members on behalf of local government organisations seeking relief from payroll lax. ls there any hope that in the near future the Government will afford relief to those organisations? Can he make a statement on this matter so that honorable members may be able to pass on to local government authorities what the Government intends to do?
– The agreement with the State Governments with regard to taxation reimbursements was made on the understanding that there would be no further approach to the Commonwealth Government to have the basis on which the reimbursements were granted altered. Included in the matters that were considered when the Commonwealth and States were deciding the total amount was the payroll tax that had to be paid by the various local government authorities. Some time ago at a Premiers Conference, the Commonwealth Government raised the question whether the States would like the payroll tax to be rebated or not to be paid by the local government authorities and then have an adjustment made so that the Commonwealth Government would not have to make any proportionate adjustments with the State Governments. The State Governments preferred the then existing formula to prevail so we have met their wishes.
The incidence of payroll tax has been considered over and over again. At the present we do not feel that it is within our financial capacity to reconsider our decision, and we have conveyed this view to any local government body which has asked us for an opinion on this matter.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Eighty-first Report - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General - Financial year 1964-65.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Following our examination of the Auditor-General’s Supplementary Report, we decided to confine our inquiry to the Canberra Community Hospital and, as the Hospital had previously been examined by your Committee in I960, we felt that the present inquiry could, with advantage, be widened to include matters beyond the immediate scope of those referred to by the Auditor-General. The evidence submitted to your Committee showed that since I960 substantial changes have occurred in the Hospital’s interna] administration and the Hospital itself has been enlarged in response to the needs of a rapidly growing population in the Australian Capital Territory.
Although four amendments have been made to the Canberra Community Hospital Ordinance since 1960, your Committee is disturbed to find that the Ordinance requires redrafting to convert it to a modern piece of legislation and that the Department of Health has not yet given attention to such a revision and to the resolving of basic policy issues which must evidently precede it. Your Committee is also disturbed to find that the bylaws which relate to the domestic daily operations of the Hospital are seriously out of date and are inconsistent with the Ordinance. Early positive action is required to recast the bylaws in association with the redrafting of the Ordinance.
Your Committee commends the investigation being undertaken by the Department of Health to minimise delays and provide closer liaison to ensure that Hospital staffing matters are discussed at an early stage by the various authorities concerned. We are disturbed, however, by a suggestion made that copies of staffing proposals and the Public Service Board’s advice on them should pass informally between the Hospital Board and the Public Service Board. Your Committee feels that such an arrangement could prove embarrassing to all the parties involved. Your Committee believes that the employment by the Hospital of dietitians and nursing sisters to conduct sectional stocktakes should cease and that such officers should be used only to assist administration officers engaged in stocktaking to identify unfamiliar items of equipment.
Your Committee is not satisfied with the present form of the Hospital’s Asset Register. No control account is maintained as part of the Register and the removal of cards for hand posting must inevitably lead to inaccuracies. Additional machine facilities for the purpose of maintaining the Register are required urgently. We believe that the Hospital administration has been at fault in failing to implement more strenuous remedial measures than it took when faced with the discrepancies revealed in evidence. In this regard, your Committee will examine the reports of the Auditor-General for 1965-66 and, depending on the state of affairs reflected, will have further discussions at an early date with the Auditor-General on the financial administration of the Hospital.
It is clear that an unwise decision was made in authorising the construction of cubicle type private wards at the Hospital. Their proposed conversion to single rooms at a cost of$ 12,000 will result in unnecessary temporary inconvenience to the Hospital and will also prove more costly than would have been the case had they been designed as self contained single rooms initially. The evidence shows that, on the basis of its present services, the Hospital is, in effect, a large private hospital operated by the Government. The claims made in relation to hospital medical services indicate that some aspects of the present services provided by the Hospital call for review.
Your Committee regards as most unsatisfactory the failure of the Department of Health to make known its plans for the construction of the Woden Hospital until the details were announced to us during our inquiry. Although the Canberra Community Hospital Board has been represented on the Hospital Planning Committee, an advisory committee to the Minister, the Hospital Board has been unable to ascertain the decisions made by the Minister arising from recommendations made by that Committee. This has created uncertainty for the Hospital Board as to the services which it will be required to provide in the future.
During our inquiry it was claimed that the Hospital Board should be made autonomous. Whilst the question of autonomy is a matter of government policy, your Committee feels bound to observe that the evidence submitted during this inquiry strongly suggests that the present form of hospital control is not con ducive to the provision of a high standard of hospital administration in the Australian Capital Territory. Your Committee therefore feels that careful consideration should be given to the question of whether a greater degree of recognition might be accorded the Canberra Community Hospital Board in line with the position relative to hospital administration in the States of the Commonwealth. I should mention also that in respect of the Eighty-first Report your Committee has been able to make available for the use of honorable members, for the first time since 1956, printed copies of the minutes of evidence on which the report is based. I commend the report to honorable members.
Ordered to be printed.
.- I move-
Thatthe unfettered right of age, invalid and widow pensioners to choose whetherto receive their pension payments in cash or by cheque be restored.
This is a matter of human rights.It is a matter of rights because ever since the inception of the system pensioners have had the right to receive their payments by cash. It is now proposed to take that right from them. In fact, a number of them have been deprived of that right already. The announcement of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) states specifically that the Department of Social Services proposes that within 12 months every pensioner, without exception, shall receive his payment by cheque. J know that in subsequent statements the Minister has retreated from that position; but that was the original announcement that he made on 21st or 22nd June. It is therefore a matter of rights. It is a matter of human rights because matters affecting old people, sick people and widows are particularly human problems. SoI put the matter on that ground.
Winston Churchillreminded us to beware of a State in which nobody counted for anything except the politician and the official. In a modern, planned society we are always facing the danger of that state of affairs. I believe that ordinary citizens are being pushed around by officials today far more than ever before in our history. This state of affairs is bad and ought to be resisted at every stage. This is an opportunity to resist it. If we believe, as we all say we do, in the superiority of the individual over the state, then we have regard for individual rights. If we believe in the master state - and none of us here will say that he does - then we will agree that the citizen has no rights against the machine and the official. The whole principle of parliamentary democracy as I understand it is rule by the majority based upon a recognition of the fundamental rights of the minority. The rights of the individual and of the minority are as essential to the working of a democratic parliamentary system as is the right of the majority to elect the government. I put the matter first on those high grounds of principle.
Secondly, I put it on a very practical ground, that is the injury to decentralisation which will be brought about by the rigid application of this decision. In this regard 1 have consulted with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr, Duthie) who, as the House knows, has always taken a foremost part in promoting the cause of decentralisation. He has put to me facts which have been presented to him by the Non-Official Postmasters Association in Tasmania. The non-official postmasters have expressed to him great concern at the change from cash payment to the cheque payment of pensioners. Already the income of the 8,000 non-official postmasters and postmistresses in Australia has been slashed by the installation of automatic exchanges. The income of these people, as the honorable member for Wilmot has pointed out to me, will now be further reduced by the changeover from cash payment at post offices to cheque payment. As a result of this decision by the Department of Social Services, many of these people will have to resign and people in isolated areas will lose entirely their post office facilities.
This is borne out by many letters that I have received. I should like to quote from one which has come to me from a small area - I shall not name it - a few miles out of Cooma. 1 shall make the letter available to the Minister for Social Services. The letter reads -
We know only too well out here in the country, over 15 miles from Cooma, our nearest town, what a hardship this-
That is, payment by cheque - will be for the pensioners, as lt means having to travel to town often in freezing conditions, to cash their cheques. We know that many of these aged people, having no cars of their own, find it very inconvenient to do this. Previously they were able to obtain their pensions in cash at the local village post office, and at the same time, fix their accounts such as butcher’s, baker’s, electricity, etc. by postal order or money order, and thus save trips to town.
This decision, if carried, will also mean the loss of many units to the local post offices where payments in cash are made, probably closing some and will result in further hardships to the country pensioners and residents generally. Previously, in this area served by a mail route from Cooma to Jerangle and branch services to Tuross and Badja, we had seven non-official post offices. Now only three remain. The continuous cutting down of business at these small offices by the Departments is detrimental, and if an automatic exchange was established in this area, these small offices must close, as l).c small amount of business would not pay anyone to look after them. This would mean people in this area, . travelling 30 or 40 miles to Cooma to transact their postal business.
This is quite a serious problem in country districts. It is particularly serious in isolated communities. The Government ought to be doing everything possible to keep these offices in existence and should not do anything to make their task more difficult or which will lead to their destruction.
As I have said, the original statement by the Minister gave no indication that any exceptions would be allowed. He made it on the 22nd June a few hours be. ore he left Australia for an overseas journey. He announced the start of a programme which over the next twelve months should result in all pension payments being made by cheque. No exception. No provision for hardship. The plan was that all payments were to be made by cheque. The statement read as follows -
Mr. Sinclair explained that those pensioners still receiving payments at Post Offices would, over the next twelve months, receive a letter advising them of the transfer to cheque payment after the expiry of their book of orders. The Social Services Department would assist pensioners to overcome any difficulties presented by the change in payment met hods.
In other words, the pensioners were served with a notification - not given a choice - that they were going over to cheque payment whether they liked it or not and that the most the Department would do would be to assist them to overcome any difficulties presented by the change in payment methods. The change, therefore, was to be made. All they were to be given was some assistance in overcoming the difficulties. This contrasts quite extraordinarily with a statement which the Minister has issued since public protests on this matter began to grow. On the 12th August, the Minister issued a statement in which he said -
Of the 16,000 pensioners in all States who have so far been asked to change over to payment by cheque only 500 have asked the Department to continue payment by orders cashable at Post Offices.
They were never asked how they wanted payment to be made. They were never given a choice. They were informed that the system would be changed. What the Minister has received is 500 protests from these people - 500 applications for payment in cash from 16,000 people. Who would protest? Who would seek the change, unless he were a very strong minded citizen, when he was informed of a departmental decision? 1 know the general terms of the letter which the Minister or his Department caused to be sent to these pensioners. I have been awaiting its precise terms and it has just come to me from the Minister, now. It was sent out in June and July. It stated -
In the early days of the Australian pension scheme all payments were made at Post Offices, but now 86 out of every 100 pensioners receive their payments by cheque.
The continued use of an alternative method through Post Offices causes administrative problems for the Department and after a thorough investigation the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts recently recommended that in the interests of efficiency and economy the Department should adopt a uniform method of payment by cheque.
I interpolate here that I quite understand that the Public Accounts Committee, which deals with aspects of departmental efficiency and economy, recommended that change for those reasons; but I also know that my Opposition colleagues on that Committee did not agree with the recommendation. I proceed with the letter - lt has therefore been decided-
There was no question of their being asked - to use cheques as the standard method of payment and when your current order book expires future payments will be made by cheque posted to your home address each fortnight. In the meantime you should continue lo use your current order book until all orders have been cashed.
Although the general rule will be to pay only by cheque it is realised thai there may be a few cases where this would give rise to difficulties. If there are any special problems in your case you should inform the Department immediately so that consideration can be given to means of overcoming them.
Consideration would be given, not to making payment in cash, but to overcoming the difficulties. The letter continued -
The change in method of payment will not cause any delay in the payment of your pension instalments . . .
Why is the Minister delighted that only 500 people out of 16,000 have written to him requiring payment by cash after receiving a letter like that? They were given no alternative. The second letter has been sent out during the present month. I will not quote from it because obviously the Minister could not yet have had replies to that letter.
But let us consider the matter on the grounds that the Minister now puts, that payment by cheque will be continued where special circumstances warrant it. In the first place the right is taken away. The pensioner is made dependent upon the grace or whim of an official. No matter how sympathetic the official may be, the fact remains that the right is taken away. In the second place, how sure can any of us be that a genuine case, with really serious grounds for the continuation of cash payments, will be sympathetically considered by the Department and agreed to? I shall give the House now an actual case. It concerns an old lady whose name I will not mention. The Minister knows where she lives. She is 90 years of age and lives in a very remote part of New South Wales, many miles from the nearest store. She is crippled with arthritis and is immobilised in her home. Her sight is nearly gone. In her case no choice was offered. Her case was put to the Department in Sydney and all the facts were carefully explained. I do not know that there could be a case of greater hardship than this. Here we have an old lady of 90 years, crippled, nearly blind, living alone many miles from the nearest post office or store. The reply to representations on her behalf came on 4th July, lt was signed by A. W. Cox, Director of Social Services in Sydney, and it read -
Careful consideration has been given to your recent request concerning the method of payment of your pension, but as the Department is unable to accept that (here arc any exceptional circumstances in your case, payment will be made by cheque as previously advised.
Yet the Minister is astonished that not more people protest or complain or seek an alteration of the arrangements. Since then 1 agree that there has been a re-thinking by the Department, but the only satisfactory rethinking will be a re-thinking which preserves the right. Let the Department continue to endeavour to persuade people to go over to cheque payments. As the Minister knows, the Department has been actively endeavouring to persuade people to accept this change for a long time, but there are still in Australia more than 100,000 pensioners who have resisted all the persuasions of the Department because for their own reasons they prefer payment by cash.
Let us look at some of those reasons. I have put the case of the old lady. There are many cases of that kind involving actual physical hardship. The old lady 1 have mentioned has been getting payment by cash because the postmistress who runs the mail car brings the money out to her and her business is all attended to for her. One of the reasons why old people object to cheque payments is that they are unaccustomed to cheques. They have never had bank accounts and they do not understand them. They are upset by them. They are frightened of them. They are, if you like to put it that way. set in their ways. They have done business by cash all their lives and all that they ask in the few years left to them is that they be not disturbed in their habits. They are accustomed to the routine of cash payments.
Secondly - and this applies in remote country settlements and small villages - there is actual difficulty in cashing cheques. There is the general store which often is also the non-official post office. The Department of Social Services says: “ You must receive your payment by cheque.” The Post Office says to the postmaster or postmistress: “ You must in no circumstances cash these cheques.” At present the nonofficial postmaster or postmistress is receiving, as part of the revenue of the office, a commission on the amount of money involved in the cash payments. Now the obligation will be on the storekeeper to keep his own supplies of cash, to oblige the Department, so that he can change these cheques into cash, and many small storekeepers will simply not have the money to do this. They have told me, and I am sure you would agree, that if 20 pensioners came in and each wanted payment in cash this would very severely tax the resources of a country store. These small storekeepers should not be expected to carry out such operations on behalf of the Department.
– But most storekeepers all over the country do this.
– I know they do. I very much admire what they do. All I arn saying is that they should not be compelled to do it when it involves considerable difficulty, which difficulty will increase when all pensioners are transferred to the cheque system. In some cases a charge is made for cashing the pension cheque. Even with the latest increase the pension remains a smaller proportion of the average Australian wage than it was 17 years ago, and the loss even of this small charge is quite important to the pensioner, and I put that ground to the Minister.
Thirdly, there are many people who do not wish it to be known that they are pensioners. They do not want their neighbours to know that they are receiving the pension. Some go to the extreme length of arranging for their order books to be cashable at post offices in places away from their places of residence, and they travel to those places every pension day to receive their pensions. You may say that this is silly, that there is no loss of dignity in receiving a pension, but this is the way such people think. It is a matter of human dignity with them, and they ought to be allowed to preserve their human dignity in the way they feel appropriate.
Then there is a fear entertained by many pensioners, and it is a very real fear. While they have an order book they can be sure that they will get their money on pension payday; if they have to rely on cheques they fear that the cheques will be delayed in the post - and not a pension day goes by but this happens - or will go astray in the post - and not a pension day goes by but this happens - or that a cheque will be misappropriated. Some of the saddest cases, of course, are those in which some other person, either known to the pensioner or unknown to him, grabs a pension cheque, signs it and gets it cashed, and the pensioner faces great trouble and difficulty before the matter is resolved.
Then there is the final reason why many pensioners like cash. They are accustomed lo the social custom on pension day of going to the post office, meeting their friends, cashing their cheques, having a cup of coffee with them or something else if they prefer it, and going on to a meeting of their pensioner association.
The Minister may say - and I am sure he will say - that wherever there is a genuine reason the Department will view an application sympathetically. I. have already put a case - and there are many others like it - where the most genuine reason has been rejected, and no matter what instruction is now given through central office to deal with these matters sympathetically because of the public protest that has been aroused, we cannot be sure that such a sympathetic attitude will be continued after the public protest has died down. The Minister speaks of a genuine reason. He says that no pensioner who has a genuine reason for preferring payment at a post office will be compelled to accept payment by cheque. Who is to be the judge of the genuineness of a reason? Surely the pensioner should be the judge of the reason why he wants cash instead of cheque. Surely, therefore, the Department, if it really believes this, and the Minister if he really believes this, should allow the decision to remain in the hands of the pensioner.
But the Minister refers to genuine reasons. I quote from a letter of the DirectorGeneral of 28th July, in which he says -
In general, where the pensioner stresses circumstances such as extreme age. immobility or remoteness, cash payment through the Post Offices will bc continued.
So he has to show not merely old age but extreme age; not merely difficulty in moving but inability to move or, finally, remoteness. They are the only factors enumerated by the Director-General for which cash payment will be preserved.
– Pride and dignity do not count.
– Other considerations, as the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, such as pride and dignity do not count. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this matter. I have already sent to him more than- 200 letters and signatures from people in my electorate alone. These were the result of one statement by me over the air setting out this problem and inviting people concerned to write to me about it, and one reminder that 1 gave the following week. They are the only efforts I have made. I have here a further 250 letters and signatures which 1 now hand to the Minister. I thank him for accepting them and I trust that he will consider them.
– is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has brought before the House today a motion which in effect canvasses the subject of whether the Department of Social Services is a sympathetic department and whether, as I understand the motion, it contravenes the high grounds of moral principle which the honorable member first enunciated when he was stating his case. No honorable member of this House would deny the facets of the high grounds of moral principle which the honorable member staled in the first part of his case. The right of an individual to have his case heard and to ensure that, if he is in a minority, both his interests as an individual and the interests of the minority are preserved is vital to our democratic way of life. It is because of the necessity to protect the rights of the individual that the Department of Social Services constantly takes such care in reviewing to every possible extent the full details of the many cases that come before it.
– What about the 90 year old woman?
– The honorable member refers to the 90 year old woman. 1 have just been handed a note which advises me that this woman has been told that her right to have her pension paid by order has already been approved. This has been done even though she could have had her cheques cashed by the person who now cashes her order.
– Her case was rejected, as my letter shows, and it was only after my persona] representations that the position was altered.
– As 1 understand it, the letter which the honorable member read to the House and which was sent to this pensioner by the New South Wales Director of Social Services pointed out that, if the pensioner felt that she would be sufficiently adversely affected., she could again contact the Department of Social Services.
– Read the letter.
– The honorable member has already done so. 1 am sorry about the statement 1 made; there is no qualification in this letter, but in fact :my pensioner at any stage has a right of appeal either to an officer of the Department or to his local member, .in this instance the local member happens to be the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. This is one of the ways in which in our democratic system the rights of the individual are preserved. This is one reason why 1 say that the grounds of high moral principle upon which the honorable member initially tried to base his case have no substance.
In the time available to me I would like to run through the case presented by the honorable member and provide some answers to it. First I would like to assure the House that the Department of Social Services is a sympathetic department. It operates in every instance to ensure that all persons in the community, be they pensioners or persons who may al some stage become entitled to pensions, have the right to approach officers of the Department or, if need be, their Federal member and. through him, the Minister, to ensure that their rip,h’s are protected. Every consideration is given to ensure that a person’s legal right to a pension emolument or, as in this case, to a particular method of pension payment, is preserved. As for the Department itself, there is no basis whatever for asserting that its officers are not prepared- to deal sympathetically with the claims of individual pensioners.
Beyond those remarks I wanted to tell the House something of the processes of the payment by cheque of social service benefits and to explain why this change in the method of payment was first advocated. When pensions were first introduced all payments were made by cash through post offices. In 1930 the Scullin Government introduced a system of payment by non- negotiable cheques. In the 1930’s the banks were not very popular and very few pensioners elected to receive payment by cheque.
– They had an alternative - a right of choice.
– Yes, they elected. Very few pensioners elected to receive payment by cheque. In fact, only 9,000 of the 200,000 pensioners at that stage received payment by cheque. In 1932 the right of election was denied them. In other words, the Scullin Government said: We will not give you an election. We will not let you receive payment by cheque. “
– Does the Minister say that was the Scullin Government?
– I may be wrong about it being the Scullin Government in 1932. In 1932 the right to receive payment by cheque was taken away from pensioners. In 1939 Sir Frederick Stewart, the Minister for Social Services in the Liberal-Country Party Government, directed that payment by cheque should be a free alternative. Without any persuasion by the Department, payment by cheque gained steadily in popularity during the following years. I have figures to show that at this stage a big percentage of pensioners are already receiving payment by cheque.
– And they prefer it.
– They prefer it. The figures show that 85.6 per cent, of age and invalid pensioners receive payment by cheque; that 86.2 per cent, of allowances lor wives are paid by cheque; and that 84.4 per cent, of widow’s pensions are paid by cheque. So at this stage a big percentage of pensioners have elected to receive payment by cheque. Last year the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts conducted a general inquiry into the operations of the Department of Social Services and recommended that, for reasons of economy and efficiency, the Department should encourage the use of cheques in payment of all social service benefits. As a result the Department decided progressively to encourage pensioners to receive their payment by cheque.
Let me endeavour to point out to the House some of the advantages of being paid by cheque. First, a cheque is a private instrument. The fact that a pensioner receives a cheque is a matter personal to him alone. He receives it in his letter box or in his post office box. Wherever he receives it he does so without anybody’s knowing that he has received it. In other words, he does not -have to stand in a queue with other people and present his . order book for payment. He is able to receive his pension benefit within the privacy of his home. Secondly, there is the advantage of convenience. A pensioner may cash a cheque whenever it is convenient to him to do so. It is not necessary for him to go to the post office on a prescribed pension pay day. He is able to present his cheque whenever it suits his convenience. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro mentioned a very deserving case of a person who lived in an isolated country community in his own electorate. There are many people like this who, because of climatic conditions, find it very difficult to go to the post office on the day when their order books are required to be presented for them to receive their pension payments. With cheques, they are able to go whenever they want to do so. A cheque is a valid instrument which can be transferred on any day. It does not have to be presented on a pay day. It can be paid in and converted into cash whenever a pensioner desires to do so.
Then there is the question of efficiency as far as the Department is concerned. When pension rates are increased in terms of amending legislation, as they have been and as they will be as a result of the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) last Tuesday night, it is possible immediately to give to the pensioner by cheque the advantage of the pension increase. In addition, within the operations of the Department it is possible to use high speed machine methods to process cheques. This cuts down the cost of operating the Department itself, and it has been estimated that if the 115,000 pensioners who are presently receiving their pensions under the book order system were to transfer to payment by cheque, there would be a saving of approximately S200.000 per annum to the Commonwealth Government. In turn, this would mean that more funds would be available to provide more social service benefits to social service beneficiaries. Beyond this, there is the question of pro tection. The honorable member has explained to the House his own fears about misappropriation of cheques and how it might be possible for a person to endorse and cash a. cheque and for the pensioner to be denied the opportunity to receive his pension.
– Not denied, but put to trouble and delay.
– The honorable member uses the words, “put to trouble and delay.” The Department in any such instance, of course, rectifies the deficiency in the hands of the pensioner. Beyond this, the book order system involves the pensioner in having in his possession a bundle of orders. There are 26 in all when the book is first issued and these amount to a considerable sum. If the pensioner should lose these, he is going to bc in a far worse position than when he loses one cheque. In terms of security and protection of the rights of the individual pensioner, I frankly think that the book order system leaves much to be desired when compared with payment by cheque.
In terms of the administrative problems that were raised by the honorable member, there is a number of facets that I should like to explain to the House. He suggested that by the change from the book order system to cheques the Commonwealth Government is in fact contravening the principle of decentralisation that those of us on this side of the House espouse. He mentioned non-official postmasters in particular. He explained, by reference to a letter relating to some suggestions from Tasmania, that non-official postmasters were concerned that this might be another step towards their progressive economic deterioration, if one likes to call it such.
I, like the honorable member, have many very worthy non-official postmasters within my own electorate. I am very conscious of their problems, but I would assure the honorable member that in fact most nonofficial post offices have a savings bank agency. When cheques are paid into a savings bank through a post office and when withdrawals are made from a savings account through a post office agency, the local postmaster receives a commission. In other words, if the pensioner is to receive his cheque and likes to pay it into a savings bank account, as many already do, and as many who will possibly transfer to receiving their benefits by cheque will do, presumably he will be paying his cheque into a savings bank account. He will be making his withdrawals from the account and, in fact, the postmaster will be getting the benefit of this commission. I am not sure of the comparison in rates of commission, but 1 understand there is a favorable advantage in the commission paid by the savings bank over that which postmasters would otherwise receive through the negotiation of book orders. So, in fact, the postmasters themselves may well be in a belter position if all pensioners receive their payments by cheque than they were in before.
Let me turn to the other arguments that were put up by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. 1. would explain that, in terms of cashing a pension cheque, if a storekeeper, for example, charges a commission, that is purely a matter between the storekeeper and the pensioner: but the pension cheque itself when negotiated by the bank is not normally debited against the storekeeper’s account. Even when exchange was chargeable some years ago, pensioners’ cheques were in fact excluded. No exchange is payable either when the cheque is negotiated through a savings bank or when it is negotiated by a storekeeper and paid into his own bank account. This means that all pensioners in fact should be able freely to negotiate their pension cheques without there being any debit or any commission by the storekeeper or any other person.
– That is quite true, but the storekeeper has the right.
– The storekeeper has the right. If a storekeeper likes to charge 7s. 6d. per lb. of butter, he has a right to do so. This is a matter of the preservation of the rights of the minority and the individual that the honorable member was speaking about. In other words the storekeeper has the right, if he so desires, to do many things. This is one of the things he has the right to do. lt is a matter between the storekeeper and the pensioner. If one storekeeper says, “ I am going to charge a commission on the cashing of this cheque “, the pensioner has the right to say, “ I will not give you my business “ and go next door.
– There is no store next door. The Minister knows that.
– There are many places today in country towns. In fact, there are very few country towns where facilities are not available for every member of the local community to have access to more than one store. There are mail trucks that bring out produce and goods from a town. The honorable member knows that very few people have not access to more than one store. There are some instances and I appreciate that in those instances this does make it difficult. But the storekeepers themselves have no greater rights than have the pensioners. The pensioner may say, “ I am going somewhere else “, just as the storekeeper may say, “ 1 am going to charge you commission “.
In fact, the Department of Social Services has issued two letters to pensioners. I want to make it clear to the House that although, as 1 explained in my Press statement, 16,000 pensioners have been notified of the change to date and it has been suggested to them that they should in future receive their payments by cheque, only 500 of them have replied. The honorable member has spoken to the House about public protests starting to grow. In fact, if one is to gauge the extent of public protests by the number of letters that are written and by the number of representations that are received, there have been very few public protests. The honorable member referred to a petition that he presented to me. I have not had an opportunity to go through this petition, but I was interested to note that 119 people signed the first substantial petition given to me by the honorable member. Only six of these were in fact pensioners; so that of the 119 people who signed the petition there were only six who were directly affected. I am still not denying the fact that every pensioner has the right, and must retain that right, to contact the Department or his local member if he feels that this change is going to affect him detrimentally. However, I assure the House that this change is not designed to affect the pensioner adversely. The system of payment by cheque is a normal way of carrying on business. The Commonwealth Government must, in its administration of the many phases of beneficial legislation which it has introduced, adopt modern business methods.
Payment by cheque is a normal, acceptable way of making payment from one organisation or individual to another, and 1 feel that the pensioners are going to be better serviced in future by receiving their pensions by cheque than they have been by the old method of receiving payment on presentation of their order books at the local branch of the Post Office. They have the right to approach an officer of the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and to retain their payment by the order book method; but 1 feel that they will be better serviced through payment by cheque and will find that all those fears and apprehensions that have been expressed on their behalf by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are not justified.
.- I think the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) has misunderstood the case put to him by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I do not think he has done this deliberately. The Minister has made out a case for the acceptance of the cheque system. The Opposition does not quarrel with the payment by cheque to a pensioner. We acknowledge that the great majority of pensioners who are today receiving social service payments of one kind or another prefer lo receive those payments by cheque. So the Opposition does not dispute the contention of the Minister in this respect. But we believe that even the minority have a right in this case. There exists a system by which those who receive a social service payment of one kind or another may receive their payments each fortnight by way of a money transaction upon presentation of their order books at a post office. The Opposition believes that those pensioners who receive payment in this way ought to be able to continue under that system if they desire to do so.
The Minister has tried to justify the change from the order book system of payment to payment by cheque. It is true, as the Minister has said, that approximately 86 per cent, of those who are today in receipt of a pension payment of one kind or another receive that payment by cheque. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has referred to those who have protested against the direction of the Department of Social Services to change the present system and to make payments entirely by cheque. 1 do not want to canvass the arguments already put by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in this respect but, obviously, the points that he has placed before the Minister relating to difficulties that will apply in future as a result of this decision by the Department ought to be considered.
Again, we do not deny the Ministers contention that the Department of Social Services is a sympathetic department. J believe that all honorable members have had occasion to appreciate the sympathetic treatment they have received from the Department of Social Services on matters that have been referred to it by them, lt is true that the pensioner has the right of appeal to the Department of Social Services through either the Director-General, the Director in a State, or the Minister himself; but this is not the position that concerns the Opposition on this occasion.
We believe that if a pensioner writes to the Department of Social Services protesting because a direction has been issued that his or her payment will be made by cheque in future and that the pension order book will be cancelled, it will be an officer of the Department who will decide whether that appeal ought to be upheld or dismissed. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred this morning to the case of a very aged person who protested to the Department of Social Services against the fact that in future her payments would be made by cheque instead of in the way to which she had been accustomed, that of being able to receive her pension payment through a post office upon presentation of her order book. This was the normal method of payment available to her over a number of years. In this case the departmental officer said that the appeal had been disallowed and that in future payment to her would be made by cheque.
There are today more than 110,000 pensioners who receive their pensions under the order book system. We suggest quite sincerely to the Minister that these pensioners are entitled to the same consideration from the Department in the future as they have received in the past. In our opinion, it is not sufficient for the Minister merely to argue to this House that the payment of pensions by cheque is a better method than payment by the order book system.
This is not the point. The real question at issue is the right of individuals to continue to have their pensions paid by the order book system.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to the difficulties that will confront pensioners in remote country districts who, in future, will be obliged to receive their social service payments by way of cheque. Again I do not want to canvass all the arguments that have been, used in this respect by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro; I merely want to say that they are valid arguments and ought to be accepted by the Minister.
The Repatriation Department has for many years accepted the principle of payment of war pensions and service pensions by cheque. In addition, it has a system of paying pensions into the bank accounts of pensioners. So far as I am aware, there is no intention by the Repatriation Department to change this latter system which has applied for many years. But. merely because the Minister for Social Services and his Department believe that payment by cheque is a more appropriate form of payment of social service benefits, the Department of Social Services has decided that those who have hitherto received pension payments under the order book system will no longer be paid by that method.
We contend, and properly so, that this will create hardships for many pensioners. Over the years they have been accustomed to receiving their pensions in cash upon presenting their money order books at nonofficial post offices each fortnight. The Minister has not given one valid reason why this system should not continue. Surely it is not sufficient for the Minister to say that the change will make it easier for the Department to make these payments every fortnight. Surely this is no justification for ignoring the rights of more than 100,000 pensioners. Nor is it justification for dismissing the arguments that have already been presented by pensioners to the Department of Social Services and to the Minister in the form of protests pointing out how difficult it will be foi them in the future.
– Order! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) agreed to -
That the time for discussion of notices be extended to 12.45 p.m.
– In the opinion of members of the Opposition, there is no justification for the Government to refuse to make payments to pensioners by money order book. The Minister has said that it is quite a simple matter for a pensioner to have his cheque accepted by opening a savings account with the Commonwealth Savings Bank at a non-official post office. But this is not always convenient. The Minister should appreciate that many pensioners live in very remote areas and they would find it extremely difficult to get to a non-official post office. They prefer the present method of being paid in cash on presenting a money order book, lt suits them to receive their social service payments in that way.
I do not deny that every case placed before the Department of Social Services for payment by money order book in future will be examined sympathetically by the Department. But who will make the decision? An official in the Department will decide, and there is no redress in these circumstances, as the Minister knows. In future, irrespective of the difficulties which may be placed upon the pensioner as a result of the changed method of payment, the money order book will be withdrawn. The Opposition does not believe that there is any justification for the decision made by the Minister and the Department to change the method of payment.
For a great many years in this country pensioners have enjoyed the right to receive their social service payments by money order book, if they preferred to do so. Now the Government has made an arbitrary decision to withdraw that right in favour of payment by cheque in future. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has also referred to the difficulties that accrue to a pensioner in some circumstances when a cheque is issued. Cheques go astray. Cheques are misappropriated. The Minister must be aware of the number of protests made to his Department as a result of misappropriated cheques. I have a protest in front of me now. Who loses as a result of a misappropriation? In my opinion, two people lose. A pensioner loses immediately because he or she must then wait until another cheque has been issued. The Minister fully understands the inquiries that must be made in this respect and the amount of correspondence that must take place between a pensioner and the Department before another cheque can be issued. Secondly, a person who, with the best intentions in the world, cashes a cheque, very often is a loser. What does the Minister intend to do about this position?
Recently in my home city of Launceston a group of people made a deliberate practice of misappropriating cheques. In every case of misappropriation a pensioner was inconvenienced and in every case a storekeeper lost. What does the Department of Social Services intend to do in these circumstances in future when it is planned that every social service payment will be made by cheque? This will present difficulties. It has presented difficulties in the past and I suggest that the Minister should carefully examine this matter. 1 repeat that the Minister has not concerned himself with the problem. The issue of a cheque for a social service payment can create many difficulties if it is misappropriated. Inconvenience is caused to a pensioner, as I have pointed out. I am aware that the Department will be sympathetic to a pensioner whose cheque has been misappropriated, but the rights of other people in the community have to be considered. 1 suggest that this is a matter that the Department could very carefully consider if it intends to pursue the policy of making payments only by cheque in the future.
The Opposition believes that even at this lute stage the Department of Social Services ought to reconsider its decision. If a pensioner believes that he or she should continue to receive a pension payment by money order book, that right should continue to be extended to that pensioner. Nothing that the Minister has said this morning in answer to the honorable member for EdenMonaro has convinced me that the Department has made the right decision or that there is any justification for withdrawing from a pensioner the right to use a money order book in the future in the way he has enjoyed that privilege in the past. Nothing has been said by the Minister to convince me or any member of the Opposition that there is any justification for the new policy. I am not convinced that because in future a pensioner will have the right to appeal to the Department of Social Services if he is not satisfied, or to his Federal Member or the Director-General of Social Services, there is any likelihood that the decision of the Department will be varied. I have in mind extreme cases where hardship will apply. 1 listened this morning to the Minister’s explanation of the basis upon which a decision will be made by the Department in future in cases where difficulties arise. If the case placed before the House this morning by the honorable member for EdenMonaro can be accepted as an average cass that will be placed before the Department in future there is very little likelihood that on appeal a pensioner will be able to have his pension payment restored to the method of a money order book and to have payment by cheque cancelled. We believe that the Minister ought very sympathetically to consider the motion moved this morning by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He ought at least to consider the rights of the minority in this country. He ought to understand that a great many pensioners prefer to receive their social service payments by order book and have protested in one way or another to the Department because that right has been withdrawn from them.
This morning the honorable member for Eden-Monaro presented to the Minister a petition on behalf of a number of people protesting against the change in policy. On behalf of the honorable member for EdenMonaro 1 produce another petition which contains the names of approximately 200 people who are also protesting at the decision that has been made by the Department to withdraw a fundamental right that has been enjoyed by pensioners for a great many years.
.- In the remaining moments of this debate I shall have the opportunity to answer only some of the points raised by Opposition members and to highlight certain other essential points relevant to the motion moved bv the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The first point I should like to make is that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) can be assured that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) did not misunderstand the resolution. He has highlighted the humanity and the understanding of the Department of Social Services. He has brought this out emphatically, and this, of course, is the crux of the motion.
We must recognise that the new application form recently printed will provide a clear statement that the benefit will be paid by cheque. All of us, as members of this House, have become accustomed to the alternatives of payment by cheque or by order book. Over the years. I have assisted gladly many hundreds of our constituents to apply for this benefit, and I have taken the opportunity to explain the benefits of payment by cheque. T cannot remember one case in the whole of my 11 years’ experience in which the applicant has asked for payment by order book. That highlights the value of the explanation.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro emphasised at the beginning of the presentation of his case this morning that we were taking something away. He emphasised that, in his assessment, it was a ghastly thing to push people around. I fail to see that anything is being taken away really when it is being supplanted by protection and convenience. I want to re-read a paragraph of the official circular that has been sent to pensioners. It is as follows -
Although the general rule will be to pay only by cheque it is realised that there may be a few cases where this would give rise to difficulties. If there are any special problems in your case you should inform the Department immediately so that consideration can bc given lo means of overcoming them.
What disturbed me this morning was that the honorable member who proposed this resolution said that not until this morning bad he seen that circular. I would have imagined that the first thing that he would have asked an aggrieved constituent would have been that he be shown the circular. That would have been the first thing to discuss with the Department of Social Services.
– I did not say that I had not seen it. I said that I was well aware of its contents.
– The inference was that the honorable member had not seen it. I would imagine that that would be the first prerequisite of an understanding of the whole situation. Concerning the point made about decentralisation, time will permit me to say only this: It was said that our friends who are in charge of non-official post offices around Australia will lose their commission in respect of the order books they handle. In most cases they will be compensated by the commission they will earn as more and more of our friends who are receiving these benefits will open a savings bank account with the same non-official postmasters. The history of the method of payment has been amply demonstrated by the Minister.
I conclude my very brief remarks by pointing out that when this matter was investigated by the Public Accounts Committee one thing that was regarded as paramount was the humanity that is being applied again and again in all the procedures of the Department in meeting, interrogating and assisting the hundreds and thousands around the Commonwealth who are desirous of receiving these benefits. We, as a parliamentary committee, were pleased to be able to underline this. In paragraph 480 of the Public Accounts Committee report, taking into account the necessity for humanity, it was pointed out that - . . on balance, these factors, together with the evidence presented that relatively few cheques go astray, would seem to indicate that the Department should increase its endeavours to obtain a system of uniform payment of pensions by cheque.
The Department adopted that recommendation, but has retained all the humanity and all the understanding that can be read into the third paragraph of the circular to which I have referred.
– Order! The time allotted for precedence of general business has expired. The honorable member for Swan will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1 7th August (vide page 151), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- In examining this Bill it is worthwhile to make a preliminary excursion into the background of Australia’s foreign trade today, and in that regard the activities referred to in the report of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), resulting from his recent overseas visit, is worthy of consideration. It is very obvious that he is concerned about the adverse effect on Australia of a combination of Britain’s entry into the European Common Market and the possibility of the failure of the Kennedy Round of tariff talks under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That being so the question of Australia’s trading position becomes of the utmost importance and in that regard it is obvious that behind this measure is the hand of the Australian Country Party. If Australia is affected in the way that obviously is feared it will mean that we will be faced with the need to attempt to enter a number of regional trading blocs. We will enter on adverse terms. For that reason the Government, for the first time, has had really to face up to the general question of the impact of overseas shipping transport costs on the Australian economy and on the Australian farmer and the Australian manufacturer.
There is an inside story to be told in all these matters, because right at the present time we have a battle going on in Sydney with representatives of the overeas shipping conference. There are three leading directors of major British shipping lines in Sydney, who are threshing it out with the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee as to whether or not there will be another increase in shipping freight rates from Australia under the formula of the existing conference agreement. Shipping conferences, as the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) has said, have been in existence for pretty well 100 years in relation to shipping throughout the world. At the present time the point at issue is whether or not there will be a 7.2 per cent, increase in the freights payable under the conference formula because of claims based on the performance of overseas shipping as between Australia, Britain and the Continent of Europe during the year 1965-66. These claims follow closely upon an increase of some 6.6 per cent, in the previous year. Compounded together they make an extra impost of something like 14 per cent, on Australian exporters and they are ‘being roundly and firmly resisted, and rightly so.
The grounds of the resistance are many. In the first place it is suggested that because of the nature of the shipping conference in the past there has been a premium placed on inefficiency. Too many ships are attempting to go to too many ports for cargoes that are too small. In addition to that there is an in-built formula which gives, under the terms of the conference agreement, an 8 per cent, return on capital employed even to the worst, the most inefficient, the most slovenly and the most careless of the operators. There are, of course, some 23 snipping lines in the main conference, 14 of them being British and 9 Continental. Under the terms of the conference agreement - and the current negotiations will be the last under the present formula - all sorts of things can be dragged in in justification of an increase. The main ground of objection on the part of the Australian exporters is that ever since 1962 there have been repeated requests to rationalise the operations of the overseas shipping lines. There are some 120 ships engaged in the overseas export trade between Australia, the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe. As a matter of passing interest - and I will deal with this in more detail later - it has been suggested that under the containerisation scheme it will be possible for 30 major container ships to carry the same cargo mora efficiently and more quickly and with consequent savings in cost.
In 1964, and this seems to be the. gravamen of the argument being used by the F.E.O.T.C., the possible economies of rationalised shipping were computerised and are of the order of 12.5 per cent. The argument based on that runs further that unless and until these economies are made and the major programme of rationalisation is put into effect this year, it will not be possible to determine whether or not there ought to be an increase in freights. Tha argument, briefly, is that the 12.5 per cent, economies achieved under rationalisation would themselves offset the losses which have occurred. At present the formula under the agreement places an absolute premium on inefficiency. It does not matter what the line is, it has an in-built capital return. I listened with interest to the strictures of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) last night when he wept tears of blood with regard to the profits of the P. & O.-Orient line. He quoted a figure of 2.9 per cent. Wherever those figures came from - and they could be correct in respect of the company’s world trading results - they certainly do not apply to its trade with Australia.
The Bill is a legal hybrid. It is still part of the Trade Practices Act, but with very great distinctions. As a matter of fact I have always felt that the 1930 amendments of the Australian Industries Preservation Act were something of a legal excresence, but they had to be fitted in somewhere and that was the choice of the Scullin Government. In regard to the operations of the restrictive practices as such, the field is very much wider and the administration is entirely different from that relating to restrictive practices within Australia. Perhaps this measure might more correctly have been named the “ Overseas Shipping Contracts Supervision Act “, because that is precisely what it does. Ne.w concepts are introduced. There is a new, method of registration; -there is to be a new. type of shipping agreement and the restrictive practices tribunal is limited in its function exclusively to the consideration of such matters as may be referred to it by the Government.
We do not object to the Bill. We would prefer to have seen the registration secrecy provisions waived, because these matters are of great interest to the Opposition, which represents 46 per cent, of the electors of Australia. The teeth of the Bill are in proposed new sections 90m and 90p and those are to be highly commended. 1 noted with interest the amendments circulated in the name of the Minister in relation to section 90n and if would appear almost to put the shipping combines on a good behaviour bond, because the concept of good behaviour is stretched almost into the foreseeable future. That is not a bad amendment and it is one which 1. think would be acceptable to the Opposition. Another interesting concept in the Bill is the definition of “ overseas cargo shipping “, because it obviously contemplates shipping in the broader sense of the term and not only the carrying of goods on water but also their carriage from a point in Australia by land and then by sea to a point overseas. It is true, of course, that constitutionally the operation of the Bill must be limited to goods exported from Australia, lt is very good that the Government has grappled with the problem of representation by its proposed statutory requirement for an officer to be appointed to answer for the sins of omission or commission of Its overseas principals. The emphasis that is placed in proposed section 90n on efficient economical and adequate operation is also to be commended because the whole framework of that section is designed to keep continuous surveillance on the operations of shipping as between Australia and overseas. For the first time the Government is really showing some signs of coming to grips with a problem which has been a national scandal.
As 1 read the Bill it also contains within it what might be called the charter for possibly an Australian national shipping line. That is within the definition of “ Australian flag shipping operator “. In respect of other matters, the general idea of new groupings emerges in the definition of contracts that are liable for registration. We have had Sir Alan Westerman, quite openly at a recent conference on containerisation, laying down the law in no uncertain terms and saying that the writing is on the wall for overseas shipping conferences in their present form. He said that we have tolerated inefficiency too long and, if I recollect his words, he welcomed efficiency driving out inefficiency. The new groupings could be of a very different form and of a very different type from those under the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee. The record of the F.E.O.T.C. is chequered, to say the best, and new groupings are possible and are certain because we are coming now to a new age in shipping. There has been a revolution in world shipping, lt is a revolution of size with all the economies of major freighters and major liners and, further than that, all the economies of containerisation. It is obvious from the Bill that this is contemplated by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Before going on to that aspect, let me touch on the disarray of the Government, if 1 might put it that way, in its relation to Australian transport problems. If I may quote the old French saying, it is not the skin which itches but the man underneath. Here we have a bill which is good in itself, but it certainly does fail to set the Government’s own house in order. We have the spectacle of no less than six different portfolios under six different Ministers who all, in some way, are directly or vicariously interested in marine transport. We have in (his case the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Minister for National Development and even, to some extent, the Minister for Civil Aviation. These duties should be coordinated. There is a very real need for all these activities to be integrated in one major portfolio of transport. In addition to those separate ministries we have the tragic spectacle of six States with six separate sets of sovereign powers. We have also the four Territories and, for good measure, we have about 30 national port authorities. The comments made by Mr. Ramsay of the Department of Trade and IndusTy are most interesting in this regard. I quote from the Financial Review “ of 24th February this year. Mr. Ramsay said -
The whole trouble in the past is that shipping ha» been considered as a series of marc or less disconnected operations - shipbuilding, shipowning, liner operation, stevedoring and so forth. lt is useless lo build a ship and then worry about operating it efficiently. . . .
The Lime to think about stevedoring difficulties is al the drawing board stage of shipbuilding.
Only when we begin to think of shipping as a single integrated opera! ion from exporter to importer shall we make any progress and only then shall we be able to see an end to the everrising spiral of costs.
To return to my theme of containerisation, shipping conferences are under threat from two distinct sources. One is the aggregation which is occurring of certain major shipping interests overseas into two container firms which definitely plan to have container ships coming to Australia by mid- 1 968. They are Overseas Containers Ltd. and Associated Containers Ltd. The first of the major shipping interests and the major influence is the P. & O. -Orient Line. Even with its mammoth resources it has been necessary for the company to enter into a consortium with other shipping interests. I understand that the capital involved to establish containerisation is of the order of S400 million to S600 million. Whatever the figures may be, it is obvious that those two combines will, in their turn, either swallow or destroy other members of the present conference. I understand that the continental lines are looking askance at the proposals of the British firms which are a major driving force in containerisation. I will leave them to settle their own internal problems. But we want to see that the maximum benefit from containerisation is passed on to the Australian producer and the Australian manufacturer. I think the Bill has this in contemplation.
The other threat to the conference obviously emanates from the Bill itself in which there is an obvious intention to have new groupings of shippers. In regard to containerisation let us examine also the ports of Australia. They are, in the main, in a shocking state because of the fragmentation of authority and because of the financial limitations of the respective States. There is no alternative other than for us to have a national Minister for Transport, a national plan for shipping and transport and a national port authority. At some stage, somewhere along the line, there will be the need for a conference between the States and the Commonwealth to see what can be done in the way of ceding and receiving powers for this purpose. This has to be approached on a national basis. There is no alternative.
The best illustration of my argument is the port of Sydney today where we have about 130 wharves which were designed in the days of sailing ships when they were served by horses and drays. We have a city which has been built right up to the water’s edge. Now we face a new era in a shipping revolution of containerisation, an era in which it is necessary, if the opinions of overseas authorities are to be accepted, to provide anything from 15 to 20 acres for each container wharf. Unless there is major capital expenditure and the destruction of buildings, the provision of that area is impossible in a large part of the port of Sydney. To intensify the situation, there are only about 37 wharves which have even a rail connection.
The best that the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales is prepared to do in Sydney today is to construct two container wharves on an area of about 20 acres at While Bay to serve those wharves. The assembly areas must be of that order because, to provide for assembly space for the various containers which are loaded into these specially designed ships, 20 acres is the minimum area considered to be effective. Even to serve that area, it will be necessary to use a reclaimed area of 40 acres in Homebush Bay to assemble further containers and to bring them around to White Bay by barge or lighter. That is the position in the port of Sydney al the present time. We have in Sydney the best harbour in the world, but one of the worst ports. It is old, it is antiquated and it is inefficient. I do not want to cast stones at anyone for past mistakes but the port of Sydney is incapable of handling containerisation when it comes. In Melbourne, for various reasons, the people concerned are able to start to cope with the problem. I understand some six or eight wharves are under construction there for that purpose. Containerisation is part of the new revolution in marine transport today and it is to be a conveyor belt job. A container will be filled at the warehouse, it will be taken to an assembly wharf, loaded onto a container ship and taken overseas. It will be similarly treated on arrival.
At the present time Botany Bay is being examined as a possible alternative to the port of Sydney because in addition to the problems of rail connections there is the overriding problem of traffic congestion within Sydney itself. Some of the major wharves cannot be served during ordinary business hours because of traffic congestion. In that regard attention should be given to the relief which could be provided by the port of Kembla because quite an amount of traffic coming from the rural industries of western New South Wales over the Blue Mountains and the Riverina could be easily diverted to the virgin area of Port Kembla where there is every possible advantage of depth of water, rail connections and the possibility of development unimpeded and without the cost of resumption. It would be prepostrous to suggest that the whole of the traffic of the port of Sydney could be diverted, but substantial relief could be given and must be given because the port of Sydney in its present state, and even with the contemplated two container berths, cannot handle the impact of what is coming.
In addition to this aspect I want to deal particularly with the steel industry because there is a distinct relation between port size and depth and the location and trading prospects of steel works. It is most interesting to refer to the Australian edition of American “Time” of 12th August last in w”hich it is stated that there is serious trouble in the western European steel industry and that the steel firms which are emerging and winning in the competitive market are those which are located near major sea pons. All the traditional steel firms in the Ruhr Valley are finding that they are being seriously affected in the open competitive market by their remoteness from marine transport. At present one Dutch firm - -Hoogovens - is situated at Europoort where 80,000 ton ore ships can come in and unload.
Similarly, we should look seriously at the needs of the Australian steel industry for competitive export. Neither the port of Kembla nor the port of Newcastle is capable of accommodating ships of anywhere near 80,000 tons. We can take it further than this. With the development of containerisation the ports of Australia generally will not be capable of handling the huge ships that will come here. Iron ore carriers will be coming to the Western Australian iron ore ports, which are in a separate group, and these carriers will not be capable of coming to any of the orthodox and traditional 10 major ports scattered around the coast of Australia.
The whole position must be approached on a national basis. We on this side of the House fully support the terms of the Bill in its present form. We say it is long overdue, but we feel that in its application for the first time the Government will be coming to grips with the problem. The provisions in proposed section 90n relating to the requirements of efficiency and economy are greatly to be welcomed because one of the greatest tragedies in Australia’s economic history has been the extravagant, inefficient and stupid port relations concerning marine transport in this country and overseas shipping combines.
– M’ay I say at the outset that I find myself in considerable agreement with some of the things just said by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor). In one respect I would go further than he does. He spoke of the necessity for co-ordinating the export-import process in a transport scheme for shipping. I think we need to go further than that. We need to see that what is done in respect of shipping coordinates also with our rail and road transport. I do not think it is necessary for the
Federal Government to take over these services. If we talk about a national scheme we should think rather in terms of the Federal Government providing the necessary advisory services rather than its taking over the enterprises that are at present conducted by the States. There is a co-ordinating function, and 1 believe this should be undertaken by the Federal Government. It is a little difficult to know exactly where this question of transport ends and the question of trade begins. This type of ambiguity and uncertainty undoubtedly is responsible for the division of shipping functions between various Ministers.
I also find myself in agreement with (he honorable member for Cunningham concerning the obsolescence of the port of Sydney for the carrying out of its functions in the new stale of affairs that is emerging. Questions of internal city traffic, flat space behind the wharves, depth of harbour channels - it is not easy to deepen further the channels in Sydney Harbour because of rock bars and other conditions - and rail access to the wharves all add up to the fact that Sydney is incapable of becoming a major freight port in the modern sense of the word. I think, as does the honorable member for Cunningham, that we may have to look elsewhere, and particularly to Botany Bay, to provide the necessary services for New South Wales on an efficient basis.
J have not seen the figures or details relating to the present New South Wales Government’s proposal which, J understand, it took over from its Labour predecessor. The honorable member for Cunningham, who was a Labour member of the State Parliament, will know more about this than 1 do. I am a little unhappy about these inherited plans that the present Maritime Services Board is taking over, lt is a proposal to spend large sums on the port of Sydney. It would seem to me that smaller expenditure could achieve a quicker and better result if applied to the development of Botany Bay. Honorable members will remember that the extension of the runway for the Sydney airport can be used as a breakwater. If so used, it would very much reduce the costs of providing in Botany Bay the safe, secure and efficient port that cannot be provided in Sydney. I do not think it is appropriate at this moment to go into detail, but since the honorable member for Cunningham raised the matter I thought I should mark some measure of agreement with him.
I believe that a strong hand is needed in this present period of development because of the impact of containerisation which represents a revolution in shipping. lt is a revolution which should be extended by the proper use of containers to both rail and road services. Containerisation will mean that much of the shipping that comes to Australia at present is obsolete. I remember in 1960 when I was in the United Stales of America. I inspected some of the early shipping containerisation practices which were developed, I think by the Grace line in the first place and subsequently were taken over by the Maison line. There are tremendous savings to be made from containerisation. There can be tremendous cuts in the bills that are now being borne by Australian primary producers, by Australian mineral and metal producers and by Australian importers of goods. It is essential that there should be some kind of overall co-ordination of the methods and the present bill. I have no doubt, has this in mind.
Having said that, may I make two other remarks’? I am not altogether happy - in this I share the doubts of my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) - about certain authoritarian provisions of the Bill. I realise that in this situation some strong authority is needed, but I do think that we are perhaps tending to turn too much over to the Executive. I would have hoped that the disposition of the Tribunal would have been more carefully defined. I am unhappy on just one small technical matter that arises with proposed new section 90n, and 1 hope that the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) will be able to set my doubts at rest or even accept a small amendment, which I believe does no more than set out and define the proper purposes of the Government. If honorable members will look at proposed new section 90n of the Bill and at paragraph (c), they will see that the Governor-General - that is to say, the Cabinet - may disapprove an agreement if he is satisfied after consideration of a report to the Minister by tha Tribunal that certain things have happened. I should like the Attorney-General to consider adding after the word “ Tribunal “ tha small phrase “ recommending such disapproval “. I think this is what the Government has in mind and I do not think it would do anything else. However, it is possible, for instance, that after a reference to the Tribunal the report from the Tribunal to the Minister might not recommend such disapproval, but nevertheless it would be technically possible under the Bill for the Government to impose some kind of penalty, almost, that is not recommended by the Tribunal. 1 am fully aware, of course, that proposed new section 90zb provides for publication and this is some kind of safeguard. But 1 am not convinced that it is a sufficient safeguard.
This is a technical matter, lt is not one that I would press to the last ounce, but I would ask the Attorney-General, if he would, to look at the possibility of including the words I have mentioned. After all, they do no more than ensure that the Bill will conform with what the Government intends to do under it. 1 believe it is always desirable to try to prevent any unintentional loopholes for abuse creeping into a bill before us. Perhaps the Attorney-General will bc able to reply to me on this point and set my doubts at rest or even accept this small technical amendment.
There is one other matter to which I would refer. It is an omission that has rather surprised me. 1 had hoped and expected in this situation to hear some words from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). This arises because of a speech made last night by the honorable member for Moreton. Let us not put too fine a point on it. The honorable member for Moreton made a statement which he substantiated by facts that would, to me at any rate, require a lot of explaining away. He gave facts. He said something which I think impugned the veracity of the honorable member for Werriwa. I was hoping that there would be some explanation and that the honorable member for Werriwa would stand up in this House and explain how the honorable member for Moreton had misinterpreted him or how the rather drastic implications made against him by the honorable member for Moreton were in fact unjustified. Well, we have heard nothing from the honorable member for Werriwa so far. Perhaps during the course of this debate or during the Committee stage he will be here, and 1 am sure honorable members will give him every opportunity to make his explanation and to defend himself. Quite serious charges have been levelled against him and, prima facie, the charges appear to be substantiated by quite conclusive evidence, but there has been no answer to them except silence. Nobody can answer these charges except the honorable member for Werriwa and 1 hope that he will take the opportunity to do so. Unless he does, a quite substantial slur will remain on his honour and veracity. Let me look at what the honorable member for Moreton said. I do not think that these charges should be simply left in general; I think we should be particular.
– I take a point of order. Mr. Speaker. What relevance has this statement to the Bill before the House?
– Order! I think we will hear the honorable member.
– I have heard him muck raking for years.
– I am sorry that I have once again wounded the delicate sensibilities of the honorable member for Scullin.
– Order! I point out lo the honorable member that he cannot revive a debate that occurred last night.
– This is a continuation of the same debate. I simply follow my general practice of referring to statements that were made previously in the debate. This is quite relevant, because it is the same debate. My friend the honorable member for Moreton referred to an incident that occurred in this House on 7th December 1965. At that time my friend had submitted to the House a proposition that an appeal should be allowed in respect of certain determinations. The question was raised in this House as to whether the Law Council of Australia supported such a proposition. At that stage the honorable member for Werriwa said -
The honorable member for Moreton referred to decisions of the Law Council of Australia. I have the document here and it does not bear out his representation of it.
The document is in my hand. At least. I presume it is the document from which the honorable member for Werriwa quoted. I will read exactly from the document, ft is dated December 1965. The Law Council said -
There does not appear to us to be any valid reason why the Review Division should not have power to receive fresh evidence and to decide finally the whole of the subject matter. We consider that there should be a full appeal on questions of fact and law and that the Review Tribunal should have full’ discretionary power to receive * further evidence upon questions of fact.
This, to my way of thinking, seems to substantiate entirely the view put forward by my friend from Moreton in regard to the opinions of the Law Council of Australia. His amendment which was then before the House and which he thought had the support of the Law Council did call for this appeal. Yet, the honorable member for Werriwa stood up in this House and said: “ I have this report in my hand, and it does not bear out what the honorable member for Moreton has said.” This is rather strange. There may be some explanation -of this statement. I am quite ready to hear from the honorable member for Werriwa any explanation of these apparent discrepancies. But if there is no explanation one can only suppose that the honorable member for Werriwa has misrepresented the report to us. The honorable member for Werriwa is a lawyer. He must know the plain meaning of the words of the Law Council.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is a very good lawyer.
– Yes. He is a very good lawyer. He is a very competent lawyer. He must know the plain meaning of words. Why then did he give the House - and he said he had this report from the Law Council of Australia in his hand - a version which was the opposite of the fact. I do not think that we should condemn the honorable member for Werriwa unheard. He has the right to be heard. But the House also has the right to expect to hear from him. When something is said which impugns the veracity of an honorable member in this way, I think the honorable member concerned has a duty to let the House know the facts. If he has a defence, let it be heard. Let the House give him every opportunity to defend himself. Indeed, let the House be generous in any judgment that it makes upon him.
If this were an isolated instance from my friends on the Opposition side, perhaps it could pass over. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated instance. I would like to hear during this debate or during the committee stage of the consideration of this Bill from my friend, the honorable member for Werriwa, in his own defence on the prima facie charges that have been made by the honorable member for Moreton which, unless they are answered, must remain a conclusive indictment of the honorable member for Werriwa.
– I rise to support the Bill and to throw my lot in with that of my colleague, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) and also, on certain grounds, with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I heard part of the address given last night in this House by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I refer especially to the closing stages of his speech. The honorable member for Moreton had this to say -
This Parliament has no power to legislate with respect to the shipping of goods to Australia, that is to say, it has no power to legislate with respect to the freights which will be charged. There is, 1 believe, a very real risk that if the legislation is used clumsily or mischievously by some government in the future, a shipping company would say: “ As far as we are concerned, we are not prepared to go to Australia.”
– And hold us at ransom.
– As my friend from Watson says: “ And hold us at ransom.” Whether we like it or whether we do not, these remarks are perfectly true. This Bill, as I see it, is really an argument amongst those who are legally trained. I do not intend to stand here and try to show my legal friends a few points on this Bill. It is a legal Bill. From my own experience in the shipping industry 1 think a good deal of stormy weather will have to be sailed through before this Bill comes to fruition. I will say something about that later on.
I think that the thing that started the ball rolling in connection with this Bill happened in March 1964 when, according to the Press, certain papers were seized on the instruction of the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden). His Department examined those papers. I hope that the Attorney-General will have something to say about that matter and will explain to the House exactly what took place. 1 have been studying these affairs for some time. The House may recall that in 1963 - I think that is the correct date - a shipping line known as the Meyer Heine Line started operations between Australia and South America. That was the company that called itself the Australian overseas shipping line. A man came from Norway and a proprietary company was formed in Melbourne. 1 paid the required fee - 10s., J think - and went to the Registrar of Companies and had a look at the names of the people who were directing this company. From what I can understand, there was a complaint from the Meyer Heine Line that it was being discriminated against by a conference line trading through the Far East. That complaint caused the Attorney-General to take action. If this is not so, I hope that the Attorney-General will explain the matter to the House because a number of people are interested in it.
Might I remind the Attorney-General, who has returned to the table, that 1 am speaking about the Meyer Heine Line and a report by the Press of the seizure of some papers. Actually, I think the AttorneyGeneral requested that the papers of one of the conference lines be delivered to his office. I found this company to be a company of straw - to use an accountancy term. The company was set up with practically no capital. It chartered a couple of Norwegian ships and with the subsidies from this Government commenced trade between Australia and South America. Then, for some reason - I do not know what the reason was - the company went out of business. The Government then transferred the subsidy to a Japanese line which is carrying out this trade now. We on this side of the House say that, in any case, this should not have been necessary because we should have had our own ships trading between Australia and South America.
In order to get something moving, the Government saw fit to bring overseas interests in to start this line. I am rather interested to recall that according to a statement that appeared in the Press in March 1964 the P. & O. -Orient company pointed out some of the things that could happen. The conference line that was concerned in the action taken by the Attorney-General was, I understand, a P. & O.-Orient subsidiary trading between Australia and Japan.
In its annual report, the P. & O.-Orient company said -
All lines serving Australia were concerned about the possible effect of new legislation which is under consideration in Australia on restrictive trade practices.
The proposed legislation is essentially concerned with Australian domestic trade, but unless special exemptions are made for international shipping services, the risk will arise of serious conflicts of jurisdiction and of interests between Australia and other countries with which liner services are maintained.
This is most important - already exist potentially between Australian and the United States legislation, and create serious difficulties for the lines concerned.
The position of owners attempting to provide shipping services could be made impossible.
Let me say at the outset that 1 want to see an Australian line established as soon as possible but until we do have an Australian line we must bear in mind the importance of the concluding words of the report. I shall repeat them -
The position of owners attempting to provide shipping services could be made impossible.
If the position of owners is made impossible the only ones who will suffer will be the people of Australia, particularly the primary producers. I have said already that 1 have no legal training but I can see dangers ahead and I am glad thai the Government has made a start in meeting them.
How do we get over restrictive trade practices? I have said in the House on previous occasions that the cheapest thing to own in a line of ships coming to and going from Australia is the ships themselves. When an overseas ship arrives in Australia we - that is, the Parliament of Australia because the Bill throws the responsibility upon us - have some say in what happens. But what happens before the ship gets here? First of all, long range arrangements must be made so that the ship will be assured of suitable wharfage space. Then the agents for the shipping company must have a long line of trained men who are capable of going around the country canvassing various people to provide the cargo for the ship. That is what happens. We have been shipping goods out of Australia for 100 years or more and the shipping companies have been canvassing for cargo for a long time. This is a free world and a man can please himself whether he ships by the Black Ball
Line, the Red Ball Line, the Red Funnel Line or any other line. The important thing is this: Where does the restrictive trade practice start and where does it finish? So much is wrapped up in this, having regard to the legislation that is necessary al the Commonwealth and State levels. Who is to get the cargo? When will the cargo come down? Those are some of the questions which arise.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) said in the House the other day that he was pleased there would be some rationalisation of shipping in Australia. That is most important. Sometimes a country can have too many pons. We in Australia are apt to create a lot of small ports to meet special purposes. I have in mind some of the ports in South Australia which were created to handle the loading of only wheat or barley. We create a port, then set up a board and the board members say: “ We will ship other commodities.” In the result it is sometimes necessary for a ship to call at several ports on the coast to get a full load. All of this is very costly. lt is very hard to see just where one starts and where one finishes. For instance, 1 think there will be some consternation in Tasmania in the coming apple season because, according to Press reports, our apples may not be required on overseas markets. A lot of people think that a ship goes to one port and fills with apples, another ship goes to another port and fills wilh meat and a third ship goes to a third port and fills with some other commodity. That is not the case. The ideal is to have several different cargoes in a ship because when a vessel loaded with one commodity discharges its cargo it could create a glut, and if we created a glut we would not be doing the best thing for the primary producers of Australia. Instead, we would be doing them harm.
I do not know where we stand in relation to planning shipping services lo Australia because, in terms of this Bill, we have no say in that. As I see it, the only control that we have under the Bill is that which may be exercised when ships arrive here. We theo have the right to say. “You may be engaged in some restrictive trade practice and we have the right to step in.” In his second reading speech, the Minister referred to the setting up of a tribunal to make determinations, on a case by case approach, as to whether particular agreements or practices are contrary to the public interest. He went on to say -
In making its determinations the Trade Practices Tribunal is required to take into account, amongst other things, any undertakings the parties may be prepared lo give to safeguard the public interest.
Let me repeat the final few words -
I should think the words “ may be “ could entail a lot of legal argument amongst people versed in the law. The Bill does not use the word “ shall “, it uses the words “ may be “. This is a very important aspect. How will we compel, say, a Norwegian company, which has been given the right to trade in Australia, lo go to an Australian court of law and produce certain facts? Obviously the Attorney-General has given this aspect some thought because he used the words “ may be “. What would happen if the company concerned said that it was not in a position to give the required information? In many cases it would not be in a position to give it. 1 point that out to illustrate the difficulties that lie ahead. However, we must not run away from our responsibilities. We must make an attempt to meet them because in the years to come we have a lot to face up to in the field of trade.
Mention was made that Britain may shortly enter the Common Market. That seems to be imminent because there has been a shuffle in the British Cabinet and a Minister who is pro-Common Market has been given the job of prospecting Britain’s entry. It would appear that Britain is contemplating joining the European Common Market at an early date.
The Minister also told us in his second reading speech about the various types of ships which come to Australia. He mentioned tramp ships and cargo liners. I do not know what vessels he covers in the category of tramp ships because the tramp ships of today are totally different from what we regarded as (ramp ships prior to the Second World War. I think it is fair to say that at present there are not many tramp ships of the earlier kind left. Before the war, a ship would tramp all over the world - that is why it was called a tramp - to pick up a cargo, lt would go light to, say, Vladivostok, load a cargo there and take it all the way back to Britain. But that does not happen these days. So the old significance of the words “ tramping “ and “ tramp “ in shipping has gone by the board. At present, about six ships carry practically the whole of the wheat shipped from Australia to China. They go north from Australia loaded, return light and repeat this process until the season is over and the contract concluded. When I was piloting out of Melbourne I found that the same few ships were on the wheat run from Geelong to China until the contract was finished. Arrangements are made for those ships to engage in that trade for a certain time. The vessels may be described as tramp ships, but they do not carry out the functions of tramping. They are in a regular contract trade until the contract is finished.
The Attorney-General spoke of tramps and cargo liners, but he made no mention of oil tankers in that connection. If ever there were a restrictive trade, we could say that it applies at present to the vessels operated by the oil companies. Regardless of where oil is transported around the Australian coast, the prices of petrol and oil are the same all along the coastline. Whether one buys Golden Fleece, Vacuum or Shell products or whether the crude oil came originally from the Persian Gulf and was refined in Australia or from Sumatra and was refined here, the prices of oil and petrol are the same all along the coast. So it appears that the oil interests get together and decide what the public will pay. 1 think that the Minister will appreciate the difficulties that lie ahead if an attempt is to be made to get shipping interests, many of which have vessels registered in Liberia and similar countries, together around the table and to tell them that they have been doing something contrary to our laws governing restrictive trade practices and that they must stop these activities.
The Bill contains the description “ Australian flag shipping operator “. Many people do not understand the real situation. Sir. It must be clearly understood that in international law there is no such thing as an Australian ship. This is because there is no Australian shipping register. Every ship that is built in Australia or registered by an Australian owner goes on the British Register of Shipping and is given a British call sign. Therefore, technically speaking, all our vessels are British ships, not Australian ships. I believe that the Minister when he uses the expression “ Australian flag ship “, means a ship that flies the Australian flag, and I believe it is quite right that such a ship should be regarded as an Australian vessel, but, funnily enough, after all these years of progress there is still no such thing as an Australian ship. I have been lucky enough to command an Australian built ship, and I know that all such vessels go on the British Register. I understand that something will be done about this situation. I sincerely hope that something is done, because it is time we put our own affairs in order.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to mention the modern development of containerisation. This modern trend is about to come lo Australia. This matter has been mentioned by previous speakers. Containerisation is coming. and it is coming fast. The honorable member for Cunningham said that Botany Bay would be an ideal place for the construction of facilities for container vessels. He was supported by the honorable member for Mackellar.
– I was not forgetting the claims of Port Kembla.
– Port Kembla must be considered, too. 1 foresee many difficulties in the provision of the required facilities. We have become caught up with our own rules and regulations about interstate trade. We have a multiplicity of harbour boards and authorities that make their own regulations. What is to happen when the operators of container ships say: “ Before we will operate to Australia and spend any money there, we want a site to build the terminal”? That is the sort of thing that will happen. Similar things have happened in the past. In Brisbane, for example, one shipping company has a lease of a wharf for 40 years and others have leases extending over shorter or longer periods. The operators of container ships will have to be given leases of land for the construction of terminals. So it could be said that we shall ourselves help to promote a restrictive trade practice. Then again, there are people who believe that if a government takes over the function of providing terminals it will be charged with pursuing a programme of socialisation. I point these things out because the subject is very complex.
I believe that there must be a move to provide facilities at Botany Bay, where there is room for the kind of terminal facilities required. I suppose that it would not have been necessary to move these activities to Botany Bay if our forefathers who settled Sydney had decided that all the land along the waterfront would be reserved for shipping purposes. But in the early days, nobody visualised the rapid development and spread of population and activities that have taken place. The manner in which development has taken place has made it impossible to establish terminal facilities on the harbour foreshores in choice parts of Sydney such as Vaucluse, Rose Bay and the suburbs around Middle Harbour. The authorities cannot now tear down all the houses along the foreshores in those suburbs in order to construct wharves. As the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Cunningham have pointed out, plenty of land is available for terminal facilities along the shores of Botany Bay. I believe that that land should bc put to its proper use. However, all this gets somewhat away from the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The problem is one for the New South Wales Government, not directly for this Parliament, though we here become involved in it because we are responsible for Australia’s overall trading arrangements.
I leave matters there. Sir. 1 hope that the Attorney-General will tell the House what he concluded when he looked at the documents that were commandeered in Sydney. Were they in order? Why were they commandeered? Did they disclose a breach of our laws?
.- I do not want to go over all the ground that has been traversed by earlier speakers in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The discussion has ranged over a fairly wide field embracing the sea, ports, harbours, trade relations, monopolies and combinations of shipping companies, and the like. My own assessment of the Bill is that it will remain on the statute book largely as a gesture of good will. I do not believe that it will be powerful enough to achieve what it is supposed to do in the way of curbing the restrictive trade element constituted by the huge shipping companies that trade between Australia and overseas. in a sense, it is a tragedy that we need to have this kind of legislation. Its introduction demonstrates again the great weakness from which we in Australia suffer because we do not have our own overseas shipping line. I am not an expert on shipping as is the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), though I have for years studied it, but that is how matters look to me. As a practical layman considering the issues raised by this measure, I see its introduction as serving only to emphasise the great loss that Australia sustains by not having its own overseas shipping line. Were such a line in existence, this kind of legislation would not be required. Why has the Government considered it necessary to introduce this measure? Obviously, the Administration considers that grave miscarriages of justice are being perpetrated by the shipping companies that transport goods from Australia to other countries. We in this country can deal with overseas shipping only at this end of the journey. We have no control over shipping on its way to Australia. We can deal with it only in Australian ports when it is loading cargoes for shipment to other countries.
There is one very serious element in the plans of the shipping companies for the future. In an endeavour to reduce costs, the shipowners of the Conference Lines have had a brainwave and are considering reducing the number of Australian ports at which their ships will call. This could come within the scope of this Bill because if implemented it will restrict the trading facilities at this end of the world.
I want to talk about this matter for a few minutes. When 1 have done that I will sit down. This is a vital matter, especially for my home State of Tasmania. These companies envisage bypassing the smaller ports in Australia, at which they are now collecting a variety of cargoes, and concentrating on a number of selected big ports. This is the proposition that is now coming forward for discussion among all people interested in trade between Australia and overseas countries. Our primary producers are talking about it at their meetings in Tasmania. Marine boards in Tasmania are worried, having spent millions of dollars on port improvements. Naturally, this would reduce the costs of the shipping companies because their ships would not have to travel so far or spend so long in port.
But this is the rub: Who will pay for the transport of primary products and manufactured goods from port A to port B when a ship used to call at port A but in future will call only at port B? The exporter will have to pay for the transport of the goods to the central port, whether by rail or road. That will be an added cost on the exporter, who will pass it on right down the line to the ordinary producer in Australia. So we will have greatly increased costs at this end of the world in order to help the big shipping companies to reduce their costs on overseas voyages by reducing the time their ships spend on Australian ports.
Tasmania could be bypassed as a result of this brainwave. That is why I am bringing this matter forward. This Government has a bounden duty to my home State to see that none of the big foreign shipping companies trading between the United Kingdom and Australia decides to use Melbourne as the central port for Tasmania and thus forces us to transport Tasmanian goods across Bass Strait to Victoria by the “ Princess of Tasmania “, the “ Bass Trader “ and other vessels just to suit them. The added cost of this arrangement would be crippling to Tasmanian producers and exporters. This point has not been raised previously in this debate. When these shipping companies start talking about reducing costs, what is Tasmania to them? It represents only a few thousand dollars worth of goods compared wilh the cargoes that they can collect at the mainland ports.
We know that their ships now come to Tasmania for fruit and I believe that trade would continue. For instance, the Port Line ships and the other ships that collect our apples and pears would still do so. They would continue to call at Hobart and Port Huon in the south and Beauty Point and Inspection Head in my electorate in the north, and collect apples and pears. But what about the rest of our production? What about our minerals and our agricultural exports that they now pick up at Burnie, Bel! Bay and Beauty Point? They might decide to cut out those ports and call only at Hobart, or only at Melbourne for all exports o:her than apples.
I would appreciate the Attorney-General keeping these matters in mind in relation to any moves by these companies to rationalise or reduce the number of ports at which their ships will call. I believe that this would be a disastrous policy for Australian exporters who are fighting a losing battle against rising costs. If it means that our primary producers will have to pay more to transport their products to a central port, bypassing ports at which ships have called traditionally, it will be the death knell of great sections of our primary production. Even now these sections of primary industry are screaming for assistance from this Government to help reduce costs. This is a serious matter which can properly be raised in a debate on a bill such as this.
The Government must watch these overseas shipping combines and their plans. They have been able lo ride over the Government like a steamroller ever since it has been in office. They have said by how much tho freight rates will rise. We have had no say in that at all. To my knowledge, not on one occasion has the Government been able to reduce freight rates that have been decided by the overseas shipping companies. We have delayed increases, but the Government has never been able to reduce freight rates or to prevent them rising. From the point of view of our primary producers in particular, we do not want any increases in the cost of getting goods loaded on to overseas ships in Australian ports. I just wanted to put that point of view to the Government in the hope that it will be a watch dog as this big plan starts to take shape. It has been concocted in the offices of the shipping combines in London. What do they care about John Smith, the little farmer in the north west of Tasmania, in the electorate of my friend, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), or at Deloraine, Westbury or Campbell Town in my electorate? All they are thinking about is reducing their costs, whatever might be the effect on the little primary producer or the big primary producer in Australia.
– in reply - I am very pleased with the reception that this Bill has received from the House. There has been some analysis of it by some speakers. Other speakers have played politics and other speakers again have expressed themselves on matters which concern them and which relate to the future. But 1 believe that everybody has recognised the sheer magnitude of shipping from and to Australia. Australia is a major trading country. She has, of course, a very real need to lift her cargoes. She also has a very real need to receive from overseas imports of goods that she wants. The great majority of those goods are imported by ship - in fact, by a great number of ships. Therefore, I should like immediately to dispel the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie); namely, that if we had our own shipping line we would not need this legislation. With respect, that is an ill conceived thought.
– Because the number of ships that is necessary to lift the cargo from Australia and to bring imports to Australia runs into hundreds. So an Australian shipping line would not dispel all of the need for this legislation. I hope that we will see the day when fully Australian owned ships operate from Australia. But, notwithstanding that event, I believe that this legislation is necessary.
This Bill was very carefully drawn, lt was drawn with a recognition of a number of factors, three of which are dominating ones. The first is that to which 1 have referred already - the sheer magnitude of the volume of goods to be lifted. The second is Australia’s trading position in the world. The third, which is a matter of great importance, is that when we speak of overseas shipping we must inevitably draw into our minds the reality that two governments and two jurisdictions are involved. There is the country of export and then there is the maritime nation. Every country that seeks to deal with overseas shipping must recognise the reality that two jurisdictions and two governments are involved. The Bill has been very carefully drawn having regard to that reality. I referred to that matter in some detail in my second reading speech. Therefore, I shall not pursue it now except insofar as it is necessary to do so to deal with some of the points that have been made during the debate.
The Bill recognises that effective conferences, that is closed conferences, with adequate safeguards are desirable, indeed essential, if Australia’s shipping services are to be efficient, economical and adequate. A closed conference system permits of greater efficiency in that vessels in a particular trade can be programmed to lift the cargoes that are offering with a minimum of vacant space and of overtonnaging. This might be a major factor in reducing shipping costs. For Australia’s refrigerated exports the tight programming of vessels is of critical importance. There could be chaos in the cold storage facilities and marketing opportunities could be missed if there was no guaranteed programme for seasonal exports.
I have said that there need to be adequate safeguards. Adequate safeguards are provided for in the legislation. The type of safeguard to which I refer is the need for negotiation between shipper bodies who will be recognised under the Act and the shipowners who are in conference and have registered their agreement. The negotiations must be meaningful. There is provision in the legislation which will enable these negotiations to be rendered meaningful by the provision of information from one party to the other. It operates reciprocally. There is another safeguard in the form of the need to have an efficient operator in the movement of cargo.
Provision has been made for reference by the Minister for Trade and Industry of matters contained in paragraph (c) of proposed section 90n to the Tribunal for report. The whole concept of the legislation falls into the category that shipping services provided to Australia should be efficient, adequate and economical. As was pointed out by speakers who have preceded me, the achievement of these things requires the investment of great amounts of money and it is desirable that any benefits which come from the introduction of new shipping techniques such as rationalisation or containerisation should be fairly shared between exporters and shipowners. There can be no real incentive to invest in or to introduce new shipping techniques if those who make the investment are denied their share of the benefits.
My good friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), spoke last night in this debate. If I may say so in a way that he will understand, characteristically he examined the Bill in close detail to see whether or not it accorded with his concept of these matters. We have had some good matured banter with each other and we disagree on certain, points. The points that were made last night by the honorable gentleman fell principally into an objection to the method envisaged in paragraph (c) of proposed section 90n, which provides for reference to the Tribunal. The honorable member says there will be no obligation upon the Executive to accept the recommendation of the Tribunal. This statement has a relevance to the point that was made this afternoon by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth).
The honorable member for Moreton suggested the inclusion of words to the effect that the Governor-General must be satisfied after receipt of a report from the Tribunal recommending disapproval. Let me make it clear immediately that the Bill makes use of the Tribunal strictly and solely as a fact finding body. The Tribunal will not have put on it any responsibility for forming opinions or making recommendations. As I. said, it is a fact finding body which will enable the Governor-General to consider the facts and to decide whether he is satisfied. As the honorable gentleman pointed out, the term “ Governor-General “ used in this sense means the executive government of the day. The legislation has been drafted in this way because of the matters 1 have already referred to - that is, that Australia’s trading position involves a very broad question of national interest, and that national interest of this magnitude can be determined only by the responsible executive government of the day.
The second reason, as I mentioned before, was the sheer magnitude of the operation of lifting Australian cargo to overseas ports. What is perhaps just as significant, if not more significant, is the situation created by the two jurisdictions. Without going into too much detail, let me draw attention to the difficulties which exist between the United States and the Government of Great Britain at this point of time. These difficulties have been referred to by another speaker. In the United States there is a regulatory body which has the power to make orders in relation to shipping. In making orders, that regulatory body cannot have regard to the broad range of national interest which a government can have. A government must be responsible to the entire electorate. It puts itself up for election at regular periods of time. This is not so with a regulatory board. Such a board must not have that responsibility imposed upon it. A regulatory body cannot have access to the full range of the components which go to make up national interest. Moreover, it is a subordinate body and is not capable of having discussions on a government to government basis. Only a government can have negotiations on a government to government basis. It was a recognition of all these factors which led the Government to the conclusion that, whilst it was desirable to have a fact finding process, the body which engaged in the fact finding process should not have cast upon it in any sense the duty to form an opinion or to make a recommendation.
I hope that the honorable gentleman will understand the way in which 1 have put the Government’s attitude. The explanation may not satisfy him, but 1 am sure he will understand that the decision was taken as a deliberate act of policy in an effort to avoid many of the pitfalls which have been experienced by countries which have left this responsibility to a regulatory agency.
The honorable member for Moreton went on to say that the provision that the Governor-General may be satisfied after receipt of a report from the Tribunal was not a desirable feature of the legislation. The circumstances which the honorable member contemplated was a report from the Tribunal in which it indicated that it had formed the opinion that the particular activity was reasonable and not against the public interest. From what I have said, it will be seen that the Tribunal will not formulate its report as an expression of opinion or a recommendation. It will report upon the facts. The facts will then be available for all to see. Any government making a decision would have to do so against the background of those facts, which had been exposed to the broad gaze of the public. As I said a moment ago, the honorable member took a situation in which the Tribunal had reported that the way in which the agreement was being interpreted and carried out by the parties was not against the public interest but in which nevertheless the Governor-General would deregister the agreement.
The first safeguard against that is the requirement that the report must be published. What the honorable gentleman did not put - but this is the real hub of the thing - is that the facts as reported upon by the Tribunal may lead to a general consensus that the agreement ought to be deregistered. But to avoid having a situation where a regulatory agency can bring about a position where there could be grave threat of interruption to the lift of the cargo, the Governor-General - which means the Executive Government - has to be satisfied; and there would be an opportunity for discussion on a government to government basis. The Australian Government would seek to persuade the governments of the maritime nations that it would be in the interests of both parties for them to seek to ask their shipowners to alter the manner in which they were giving effect to the conference agreement.
The final point made by the honorable member for Moreton was in relation to an appeal. Although he had strong arguments to put in relation to the general provisions for an appeal - I listened to them with interest, if I may say so - 1 think he will concede that in relation to the provision as it is now, with a sheer fact finding report there is no opportunity or reality for an appeal. It is a sheer fact finding provision. There could not, of course, be an appeal from the Governor-General.
The next point to which I wish to refer is that raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in his proposed amendment. I am sure the honorable gentleman will have realised from what I have said that the Government could not accept his amendment. It would not, in fact, be a technical amendment but would amount to a very significant change of policy to convert the Tribunal from a fact finding body into a body which would be asked to make recommendations. If the body were to make recommendations it would, of course, very materially limit the freedom of opportunity to negotiate on a government to government basis which has been built into the legislation at this point of time. I am sure that if the honorable member for Mackellar looks at proposed section 90x of the Bill he will see the way in which the Tribunal’s I unctions are set out and - I say this with respect - will realise that it would be an amendment which would not fit happily into the general scheme.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) raised two or three points to which I now refer. I regret that 1 am unable to say anything in relation to the Meyer Heine Line matter, lt is before the courts and I think it would be inappropriate for me to say anything at all about it. The other matter to which he referred was the risk of serious conflicts of jurisdiction. As I said, this is something which we have been to great pains to avoid. I hope I am not too optimistic in saying that we believe we have very successfully avoided conflicts of jurisdiction. The undertakings to which the honorable gentleman referred are to be found in proposed section 90ZA whereby the undertakings can be received by the Tribunal but only as a recipient of them. The undertakings must be to the satisfaction of the Minister for Trade and Industry and if the Minister is satisfied after the undertakings then he can end the reference.
The other point made by the honorable member for Batman is that there is no Australian ship register. With great temerity I disagree with him. I know that the honorable gentleman has a very fine record as a seafarer and I therefore do it with temerity. But as I understand the situation the reality is this: The registration in Australia is done pursuant to the British Merchant Shipping Act, but there is an Australian register and upon registering on the Australian register that ship will fly the Australian flag.
– Yes, but internationally the ship is known as a British ship.
– But it flies an Australian flag and is on the Australian register and must comply with the Australian manning scales. It is true that, for a ship to be registered on the Australian register, the requirement is only - if that is the appropriate word - that the ship be owned by a British subject. This means that it can go on the Australian register although the owner is not an Australian citizen, but the owner has to be a British subject.
– Does the Attorney-General think we should put a government line on the register?
– That is a matter of policy upon which people will have differing views. During the time this legislation has lain on the Table discussions have been held between my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), and his officers and the President of the Board of Trade and his officers on policy matters. There have been discussions between myself and my officers with our counterparts in England with the purpose of discussing the legislation in order to make it clear that each party had the same understanding of it. Those discussions have led to a situation where there is a good understanding of the legislation in Britain and by the British ship owners. I had the opportunity to talk to the British shipping chamber in London and there had most interesting discussions, the result of which, I am sure, disposed of a great deal of misunderstanding which had surrounded the provisions. Of course there were discussions also on a formal level and an informal level between a number of maritime governments. The Japanese made representations and discussions were held with Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland and Britain. Those discussions were most useful to the parties. I think it is fair to say that as a result of those discussions there is a relaxation of attitude by those other governments and they understand the problems which we face and the reasons why we have adopted this legislative plan.
In addition to those discussions, there were discussions with the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee, which is a partner of the shipowners in the Australia Oversea Transport Association structure of the Australia-Europe conference lines. The discussions 1 had with the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee representatives were most useful and I was most grateful to those people for making their time available for the discussions with me.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, honorable members will have seen three amendments circulated in my name. Amendment (3) is consequential on the acceptance of amendment (2). 1 think it would be a good thing if I were to deal with those amendments now and indicate to the House their nature. The first is to amend the definition of an Australian flag shipping operator. It was put to us by overseas governments that the benefit which inured to the Australian flag shipping operator was such that it should be made clear that it was in fact an Australian who would get the benefit of it and not a British subject who might not be an Australian citizen and who in fact might be domiciled overseas. That was accepted by the Government and the nature of the amendment is to provide that the person so defined who gets the benefit will be an Australian flag shipping operator who is operating with ships od the Australian register and being an Australian citizen or a body corporate incorporated by or under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory, so that the natural person or the artificial person, the corporation, is resident in Australia.
The second amendment is for the purpose of greater clarity. I noticed that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) saw this amendment and welcomed it. I am glad that he accepts it in that light. When the Bill was being drawn, proposed section 90n, paragraph (c) (ii), was the subject of consideration by the shipowners. This is the provision which sets out the duty of the Tribunal to look at an agreement, when that agreement or the manner in which it is being interpreted by the parties is referred to it for consideration, to see that it is contributing to the economy, adequacy and efficiency of shipping. It was put to us by the shipowners and by representatives of overseas companies that the Tribunal may wrongly believe that this fact-finding process may lead it to consider this matter only from the point of view of the Australian shipper and to exclude from its fact-finding process any consideration of the shipowner. This was not the intention when the provision was being drafted, and this amendment is being made in order to make that clear. Honorable members will sec the way in which it is drafted. It is to enable the Tribunal in this fact-finding process to consider that matter, so that the way in which it is phrased is this - (2.) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section, consideration shall be given to the need to ensure the continuing provision of services by way of overseas cargo shipping and, in that connexion, the conditions under which, on a long term view, shipowners may reasonably be expected to provide such services.
I believe those two amendments to be most desirable. The third follows the second, and I believe that the Bill as amended will make a major contribution to the Australian economy.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
.- I have a few very quick comments to make. 1 am grateful to the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) for his very lucid exposition of the Government’s thinking in relation to proposed section 90n, paragraph (c), but I am sure that he will understand me if I excuse myself from agreeing with him. 1 do not support the philosophy at all. I am intrigued by my friend’s advancement of the proposition that the Tribunal is, in relation to proposed section 90n, a fact-finding body. To that extent I was in error last night when 1 said that a party, that is a group of shipowners or a conference, could argue before the Tribunal, because as I now look at clause 90x it appears that section 76 of the Act does not apply, and section 76 provides for representation. 1 submit to the honorable gentleman that it is quite unfair that this Tribunal will make a report upon a set of facts, yet those who are vitally affected by the facts will not be in a position to argue the matter.
– Yes, they will be. Look at proposed section 90z.
– Then why make the exception in 90x? If we look at sub-section (2.) (c) we find that this provides -
Sections 76, 77 and 79 of this Act do not apply.
This frankly puzzles me and I have tremendous reservations about this clause. I feel that it is quite futile to refer something to the Tribunal and then, no matter what the Tribunal may say, to put the Government in the position of making up its own mind. I do think some heed should be taken of the report handed in by the Tribunal. I confess I am not consoled by reflecting on the provision in the Act that the Tribunal must make available a report. There seems to me to be a gap. I do not press the matter but I hope that the honorable gentleman, between the time when the Bill leaves this place and when it gets to another place, will look at the argument I have advanced, and if the Government feels so inclined it may make an appropriate alteration.
I share the doubts expressed by my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), in relation to this matter. Like him, although I am grateful for the explanation given by the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), I am not entirely convinced by it. If what he says is correct about the nature of proposed section 90x - and I take it that it is correct - it seems to me that the clause is rather badly and confusingly drafted. If the function of the Tribunal in regard to this matter is simply to make an investigation of the facts, why is that not said? Proposed section 90x refers to an inquiry and a report. In a lawyer’s mind there may be a difference between a report and a recommendation, but it seems to me that the word “ report “, unless it is otherwise defined by the Act, necessarily connotes a power to make a recommendation if the Tribunal feels so inclined. If the Minister is correct in his statement of the Government’s intention that the report should not in any case have a recommendation attached to it, then that should, I think, have been put into tha legislation so that we would know where we stand.
That is the first matter to which 1 direct the attention of the Committee. If the Attorney-General’s statement of the Government’s intention is a correct statement, and I am sure it is, then the drafting of proposed section 90x is a little sloppy and imprecise. I do not like a position in which this Parliament is called upon to pass legislation which contains this kind of ambiguity If the word “ report “ in proposed section 90x necessarily excludes the possibility of a recommendation being attached to that report, then I feel the provision should say so.
But let me go back to this matter of proposed section 90n to which 1 was addressing my remarks earlier. I am not in the least perturbed about the operations of this provision under the present Administration. I do not feel that the present Administration would be likely in any respect lo abuse its powers under this provision. But this Parliament is passing a Bill which is to apply not only to the present Administration but to all future Administrations unless and until the Bill we pass is amended by a subsequent Parliament. I do not think it is right that the Parliament should be parting permanently with its powers in the way that I suggest it would under this provision. Let us consider what will happen in the operation of it. Let us suppose - and this has no relevance to the present situation - that there comes to the occupancy of the treasury bench a government having some kind of totalitarian pretensions. What would such a government be capable of doing? Under proposed section 90x it would be able to refer to the Tribunal for inquiry and report any matter which it had it in mind so to refer. It could ask the Tribunal to inquire into any agreement which might be incurring displeasure. The Tribunal would then make a report. The report might be factual. It might, in its body, contain no indications of impropriety with regard to that agreement. The report would come before the government and, because it had received the report, the government would be empowered under the Act to take action which would be entirely contrary to the tenor of the report. This is something which the present Government would neither contemplate nor perform, but I do not think we should completely ignore the possible actions of future governments, however academic this may seem at present. It should be a principle of parliamentary government that we do not part with the power to make judicial recommendations of this character. These are almost judicial recommendations. A government will be able to say with regard to any agreement of which it disapproves: “ We do not like it; we make no further reference to Parliament; we make no further reference to a court; we make no further reference to any law. In our absolute discretion we do not like it and that is the end of it.” That is a bad kind of principle for this Parliament to be sanctioning.
There is no point in my pressing an amendment. I know that my friends in the Opposition, who are basically totalitarian minded, will be very glad to have any provision of this character in the Act. They would not support an amendment. They like to repose absolute arbitrary powers in the hands of a government. This is their principle and we would not expect them to vote against it. I do not. So. unless I can persuade the Government by these soft, mellow and, I hope, honeyed words to take a different view of the matter, it is quite futile for me to press an amendment here. But I would like to be on record as saying - perhaps I may be heard in some other place at some other time regarding this matter - that it is bad and wrong for this Parliament to be writing into an act arbitrary powers of this character to be exercisable by a government without reference in the future either to the courts or back to this Parliament.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) will,I am sure, have looked at section 76, in the general provisions, which provides for representation, and will have seen that it is not appropriate in this sense. He will have seen also that proposed section 90z makes provision for representation but in an appropriate way. I am sure that he will be satisfied with that explanation.
I ask for leave to move the three amendments circulated in my name. They refer to clause 8, which reads in part -
After Part X. of the principal Act the following part is inserted: - “ Part Xa.- Overseas Cargo Shipping. ” Division 1. - Preliminary. “ 90a. In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears -
Australian flag shipping operator ‘ means -
for the purposes of the making of an order under section 90n of this Act - a person who carries on, or proposes to carry on, operations by way of overseas cargo shipping between any ports between which any of the outwards cargo shipping to which the relevant conference agreement relates is carried on; or
for the purposes of the making of an order under section 90u of this Act - a person who carries on, or proposes to carry on, operations by way of overseas cargo shipping between Australia and the port or ports to be specified in the order, being a person who normally uses, or proposes normally to use, for the purposes of those operations, a ship or ships registered in Australia and no other ship; “ 90n. The Governor-General may. by order, disapprove a conference agreement, whether or not particulars of the agreement have been furnished to the Clerk, on a ground specified in the order, being one of the following grounds: -
that a party to the agreement has, with out reasonable excuse, failed to comply with section 90d of this Act;
that there has been a failure to comply with a request for the giving of an undertaking made by the Minister under the last preceding section in relation to the agreement;
that the Governor-General is satisfied, after consideration of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal, that -
there has been a failure to comply with an undertaking given under the last preceding section in relation to the agreement;
the agreement, or the manner in which it is being interpreted or applied by the parties, or the conduct of, or the provision of facilities by, the parties in relation to outwards cargo shipping to which the agreement relates does not have duc regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to he efficient, economical and adequate; or
the agreement, or the manner in which it is being interpreted or applied by the parties, or the conduct of the parties in relation to matters to which the agreement relates, is preventing a person from, or hindering a person in, engaging efficiently, to an extent that is reasonable, in overseas cargo shipping in relation to which he is an Australian flag shipping operator. “90u. - (1.) Subject to this section, the Governor-General may, by order, declare a shipowner to be, in relation to outwards cargo shipping to any port or ports specified in the order (in this section referred to as ‘the relevant shipping’), a shipowner to whom the next succeeding section applies. “ (2.) The Governor-General shall not make such an order except on a ground specified in the order, being one of the following grounds: -
that the shipowner has, without reason able excuse, failed to comply wilh section 90d of this Act;
that the shipowner has failed to comply with a request for the giving of an undertaking made by the Minister under the last preceding section in relation to the relevant shipping:
that the Governor-General is satisfied, after consideration of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal, that -
the shipowner has failed to comply with an undertaking given under the last preceding section in relation to the relevant shipping;
the conduct of, or provision of facilities by, the shipowner in relation to the relevant shipping does not have due regard to the need for services by way of overseas cargo shipping to be efficient, economical and adequate;
the conduct of the shipowner in relation to overseas cargo shipping between Australia and the port or ports to be specified in the order is preventing a person from, or hindering a person in, engaging efficiently, to an extent that is reasonable, in overseas cargo shipping in relation to which he is an Australian flag shipping operator; or
a conference agreement to which the shipowner . was a party, being an agreement that related in whole or in part to the relevant shipping, has been disapproved under this Part and the disapproval has not been revoked.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. C. Haworth). - There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendments (by Mr. Snedden) agreed to -
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Snedden) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 65), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill seeks authority for the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) to borrow$1 20 million to be advanced to the States in the current financial year in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act 1966. At first blush $120 million seems to be a quite large sum of money but it is probably best to get the matter in perspective by seeing how many houses can be built these days for $120 million. I will do that in a moment. First I would like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in other places the Government has claimed that this expenditure on housing will provide some sort of stimulus to the housing industry. But I would remind the House that the total provision for housing this year by the Commonwealth will be about $12 million less than was provided last year. This is because, as is pointed out in the Budget papers, this year the allocation for war service homes will fall by $12 million. The note in the Budget papers relating to housing, under the heading “ Capital Works and Services “ reads -
The estimated decline of $11,750,000 in expenditure in 1966-67 is the net result of an expected decrease of $12,000,000 in expenditure on War Service Homes - resulting from the continued decline in the rate of receipt of new applications for loans and the elimination of the backlog of applications. . . .
It is obvious that expenditures approved by this Parliament will build fewer houses in 1966-67 than would have been the case in the previous financial year. Another matter to which I would like to draw attention is the fact that building costs have increased out of all relation to price increases generally. For the benefit of honorable members I cite an article which appeared in the “ Financial Review “ of Tuesday, 16th August 1966, containing a summary of a paper delivered by Dr. Mendelsohn, Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Housing. He pointed out that between 1961 and the present time average home costs have increased by 20 per cent. The article states -
Dr. Mendelsohn said that in June 1961 the average value of new houses commenced throughout Australia was $6,840. By June 1.965-
That is, four years after -
This had risen to $8,234.
In other words, in the four year period from 1961 to 1965 the average cost of housing had risen by 20 per cent., which means that we would now need to have $1 20 million to build the number of houses that cost $100 million in 1961. It is interesting to look at the document, circulated with the Budget, entitled “ Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1 966-67 “, which on page 49 under the heading “ Table 39 “ - shows the allocations under Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements from the beginning of the operation of that scheme in 1945-46 up to and including the potential allocation this year of $120 million. It shows that in 1961-62 the allocation was $100,800,000. That is now to be increased to $120 million. I merely point out that in 1966-67 $120 million will build only the same number of houses as could be built for $100 million in 1961-62. It is rather astonishing that with the average cost of houses at over $8,000, that rather large looking sum of $120 million, in essence, will build only between 12,000 and 15,000 houses.
I must confess that I was a little shocked to read in the latest issue of that very interesting publication “ Newsletter of the Housing Industry Research Committee “, dated July 1966, that of every 100 houses completed in Victoria in 1965, 73 were in the cost range $6,000 to $10,000. Only seven houses out of 100 cost less than $6,000 and 20 out of 100 cost $10,000 or more. This gives some idea of the rather large investment that is required now to purchase a home of a reasonable standard. In terms of averages in other States, the position is a bit better. Building costs in some of the smaller States, apparently, are a little less than those in Victoria - or the standards demanded are not as high. I am not quite sure which it is. For the rest of Australia, out of every 100 houses, 57 were in the cost range $6,000 to $10,000, only 23 could be built for less than $6,000, and 20 - the same number as in Victoria - cost $10,000 or more.
We talk a lot about something that is called the deposit gap - the difference between the sum that various financial organisations will advance for the building of a home and what the person who wants to build in fact has. But what we do not seem to realise is that in the community there is another sort of gap that might be called the “ economic circumstances gap “. It is time that the situation was reviewed. In my view, we are getting to the stage in Australia where considerable sections of our community that need houses are finding it very difficult to get them. New families - people in the average income range of about S50 to $54. who are setting up homes and, in the course of a few years, have one or two young children - are finding it increasingly difficult to have their needs satisfied by the present provision for housing finance. There is not in Australia at the moment anything that could be called a low income housing scheme. In many respects, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been perverted from its original intention and, to some extent, it has become a vessel to make it easier for the middle and higher income brackets to get houses, at the expense of the lower income groups. That is not just a novel theory of my own. Let me refer to the “ Current Affairs Bulletin “ that was published on 20th January 1964 - published, I might mention, with a certain amount of subsidy from this Parliament. The subject of this particular issue was stated as “ Housing Finance and Policy “. The writer on this subject states -
In I9S6 the policy of stimulating individual home ownership gained in importance wilh the revision of the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Some of the funds formerly available for the building of rental dwellings were diverted to societies for the erection of owner occupied housing, while the States themselves gave increasing emphasis to the erection of dwellings for sale.
The writer goes on to say -
Viewed as a “ lobbying “ triumph by some sections of the community, this change has had consequences of far reaching importance. Many people who are genuinely in need of a subsidy are not being catered for; many who do not need one are getting one.
I would suggest that they are the kind of things that should be being looked at at the moment. In essence, those people who are fortunate enough to be able to borrow in terms of the 30 per cent, allocation of the $120 million - which is S36 million - do so with the aid of a subsidy relative to certain other buyers in the community. When things of this sort exist, at least they ought to be recognised for what they are. By reason of the fact that this money is advanced at 1 per cent, less than the ruling bond rate, the people who are fortunate enough to qualify for the S36 million are able to be given terms more favourable than those that are available to some other sections of the community. The writer in the “ Current Affairs Bulletin “ at an earlier stage pointed out that there are groups in the community which, at the moment, find it difficult to build houses, not only because of the deposit gap but also because of what I have called the “ economic circumstances gap “. He stated -
Those who cannot command sufficient capital to acquire the houses they desire fall into three classes.
The first class comprises those whose income is sufficient to service a reasonable debt but whose savings are not enough to meet the initial cash deposit required. That is the typical deposit gap case. The second group are those who may have a reasonable cash deposit but who would find difficulty in meeting repayments on the remainder. They find difficulty by reason of their average weekly income. The third group he mentions are those whose incomes and savings are both deficient. I would suggest that this group is much more significant in the Australian community than is sometimes allowed for. At the moment, that kind of group is not catered for at all in the provision of finance by any institution in Australia and in my view it is the deadweight, as it were, upon activity generally in the building industry as far as housing is concerned.
What the statistics that are published do not show is that if 80,000 houses are being built then necessarily 80,000 of those people most in need of houses are getting them, and I suggest that reliance merely on aggregate figures all the time is insufficient. Dr. Mendelsohn says this -
Both Government and private researchers had attempted to forecast future demand for housing in Australia and also to estimate housing needs or requirements.
I suggest that it is impossible in Australia to estimate accurately the housing need or requirements. The only test that seems to be applied - and 1 suggest it is a very harsh one because it excludes from consideration perhaps many genuine people - is the aggregate number of houses which are being constructed in the course of a year. No attempt is made to show that if certain other people in the community who really want houses had some machinery by which finance could be made available to them at reasonable terms they might well swell that figure to something like 100,000 houses for the year and it would not be fluctuating round the 80,000 mark, or whatever the figure has been in recent times.
At the moment, there is no means of assessing the hidden need - the gap caused by economic circumstances. Just what this gap might be I think can be deduced to some extent from the figures that were associated not with the recent census, which are not yet available, but with the census taken in 1961. They showed that in Victoria there were nearly 50,000 dwellings classified as unoccupied. At least those figures disclose that some people have more than one house or that some of the houses that have been built have been erected not so much because of need but because of the financial ability of some sections of the community who may like the beaches and the hills, to buy a second or even a third house.
What the figures do not show is that many people are today living in what are called sub-standard houses. Whilst the problem of sub-standard housing is not peculiar to Sydney and Melbourne alone, I do suggest that it is mainly in those two great cities that we have what are popularly described as slums. In those areas there are houses which people live in not because they choose to do so but because their economic circumstances prevent them from having anything very much better in which to reside. The 1961 census showed that in Victoria there were 781,000 occupied dwellings, of which slightly less than half were owned outright. It disclosed that one-quarter of these houses were being purchased by instalments and that slightly more than one-quarter of them were tenanted. In other words, the census disclosed that in Victoria something like one out of every four occupiers was a tenant.
Sometimes there is great glee in statistical circles at the fact that statistics show that the proportion of home ownership in Australia is the highest in the world but very little attempt is made to show that there are still 25 per cent, of the people in Victoria who are tenants. Some of them may choose to be tenants. There are always people who would much prefer renting a home to owning one; but I suggest that many people are tenants merely because they have no way out of what is in many respects an unsatisfactory dwelling. The census disclosed that 1 17,000 out of something like 190,000. or two-thirds of the tenanted houses, were in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. An analysis was then made of the rent that was being paid for many of these houses. It was found that many of the people in them were paying over eight dollars a week. Amongst them were 36,000 who were paying 10 dollars a week rent.
I suggest that here we have to make some sort of assessment as to relative costs, and I repeat that only seven houses out of every 100 built in Victoria were built for less than $6,000. In other words, 93 per cent, of the houses built in Victoria cost more than $6,000, exclusive of the land. In addition to paying $6,000 for the house, people have to buy a block of land, and land values have skyrocketed in both Sydney and Melbourne. So there is not only the problem of paying $6,000 cash to erect the dwelling on a piece of land, there is also the problem of buying the land.
After all, would a person in the low income group choose to pay $10 a week rent if there were available to him some scheme under which by paying an instalment approximating a reasonable rent he could obtain an equity in and virtually become the owner of a house? For the purposes of my argument, let us take a house costing $6,000. At the moment, unfortunately, unless a person is one of the privileged groups he probably would not be able to borrow that S6.000 for less than 6 per cent. Therefore, his interest commitment alone, without any amortisation of the capital sum of $6,000, would be a minimum of $360 a year. If an amortisation component were added, his commitment would be something over $400 a year or more than SS a week.
Sometimes I ask people quite seriously: “ How would you like it if your weekly
Income were only $50 and out of that $50 you had to support yourself, a wife and two children? Would you not be feeling the pressure of a weekly payment of from $8 to $10 by way of either rent or instalment on your home?” Then, of course, the person who owns his home has the added burden of paying rates which, on the average, would probably add another $2 or S3 a week to the overall costs. Surely we should reflect at times upon the fact that there are within the community decent Australians who are trying to evolve a reasonable living standard and who are receiving only what is called statistically the average wage, which, at the moment, is about $54 a week. If there is an average then there are many who are receiving below that average. The wages of some are above the average wage, but there are many below it. A perusal of the statistics presented with the Budget will disclose that there are many who are in receipt of $50 a week and less. What is done in Australia for that particular group at the moment? I suggest that nothing is done.
Let us study the position of the Housing Commission. I am glad that my friend has mentioned it. By way of illustration I refer to the silver anniversary issue of the reports of the Housing Commission of Victoria. I think that happy event took place in 1961 or 1962. The report states -
In accordance with section 4 of the Housing Act the objects for which the Commission was constituted were -
the improvement of existing housing con ditions and
the provision of adequate and suitable housing.
What have most of the housing authorities become? They have not become slum clearance organisations. Primarily they have become landlords and in my view they were never intended to be landlords. They were intended either to provide modern housing at subsidised rentals or to clear off the face of society those social scars that are called slums. The provision of finance for either purpose is grossly inadequate.
I point out, for instance, the situation in New Zealand. New Zealand is blessed or cursed, according to whichever way you care to look at it, with a non-Labour government. In that country there is a system which is called the 3 per cent, system, lt is applicable to any person whose average income annually ls £NZ1,000 or $A2,500, or less; that is $A48 a week or less. Many families in Australia are in that category. If they were living in New Zealand they would be able to get home finance at 3 per cent. No such scheme exists in Australia, or anything like it. All that exists in Australia is the right of people to continue to live in sub-standard housing because there is no machinery for them to get out.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell), who is attempting to interject, does not happen to live in an industrial area, as I do. Probably he lives in one of the feathertail areas and does not know what a slum is. He may think that it is a chicken coop. I know what slums are and so does my colleague who follows me in this debate. Many people are living in unsatisfactory housing, not because they want to, but because they have no choice at the moment. They are victims of economic circumstances. I challenge any honorable member opposite to suggest that the present provision of housing finance in Australia does anything similar in value to the scheme which operates in New Zealand, either in respect of deposits or weekly repayments.
– I am suggesting that the honorable member is not doing justice to his colleagues who were formerly in government in New South Wales.
– I am not arguing that in some respects some housing authorities have not done a reasonable job, but they are doing an inadequate job because they do not have adequate finance available to them. Would the honorable member argue that the New South Wales Government - either the present Liberal Government or the previous Labour Government - had all the finance it would like to have to do the sorts of things I am suggesting ought to be done? In addition, less money is available now to State Governments because 30 per cent, of the amount that formerly went to them now goes to another section of the community. I am not suggesting that perhaps that change should not have occurred, but at least additional provision should have been made for State housing authorities. Additional finance should have been made available to them. It should have been made available to them to lend, and Victoria is doing quite a good job in this respect, but its progress is too slow in terms of the present needs. I have seen figures published in Victoria which show that it will be another 30 years before the existing slums are cleared. Goodness knows in what time the other problems associated with housing will be solved.
In my view the community is facing a cataclysm in the future. 1 refer particularly to people who, ten years ago, might have been able to finance the purchase of a house but who, in the next 10 years, will not bc able to do so unless control is placed on building costs or something is done to subsidise interest rates or to peg land values. It is a collective problem with all of those aspects involved - high land values, high interest components and high building costs. In the last few weeks the prices of copper and steel have risen, which will aggravate housing problems. It will make the situation even worse than Mr. Mendelsohn suggested. A rise of 20 per cent, in four years is bad enough. That is an average increase annually of 5 per cent., which takes any value whatever out of the benefit which the Government claims is gained from the housing grant of £250. I do not wish to decry that grant, but the community as a whole would have been better advantaged if building costs had been held reasonably firm in Australia over the last four years and not allowed to gallop, as they have done. On the one hand the Government gives a subsidy which in real terms is taken away with the other hand by rises in costs that the Government makes no endeavour to control.
I am not suggesting that the New Zealand housing scheme is a fair one, but I am suggesting that in Australia there is a very real deficiency, a gap that has never even been looked at. I refer to the hidden problem of submerged poverty. I suppose that people do not like having their circumstances referred to in that way, but I know plenty of people who are paying excessive rent, not because they want to stay in rented houses, but because there is no road out for them. Nothing is being done at the moment at State or Commonwealth level to alleviate the distress those people face. That is the sort of thing we should be looking at when the problem of housing comes before us.
Sometimes money is pumped into the economy to build houses in order to stimulate the economy. A lot of steps should be taken, irrespective of whether they stimulate the economy. They ought to be taken because they concern matters of real justice. Why should slum clearance, which is a real enough problem in itself, have to wait until the economy needs stimulating? Surely these problems should be approached for -their own value. I do not believe that pensions ought to be increased because this gives a lift to the economy. Pensions ought to be increased because certain people in the community do not have adequate income. Many people in the Australian community at the moment have income which is inadequate to give them proper housing standards to which sometimes we glibly give lip service. I hope that these problems occasionally will be looked at.
Housing problems do not exist for those people who are comfortably housed. Housing problems exist only for those people who are either not housed or are inadequately housed. In the city of Melbourne there are probably at least 60,000 sub-standard houses which collectively have within them about 200,000 people; “ 60,000 husbands, 60,000 wives and 80.000 children. Nothing that is being done here today will solve their problem, in the short term. They may be in the queue in 1976, but surely we ought to be looking at what is their difficulty in 1966.
If the building industry were working at full capacity it might be necessary to say that nobody could have a second house until everybody who needed a first house was satisfied. I do not think we have got to that stage. At the moment the housing side of the building industry has declined. All that has kept the building industry from a slump is the fact that non-housing figures have increased. We are building banks, insurance offices, and public works but we arc not building as many houses as we should be building. In my view, one of the contributing factors to the decline in housing figures is that the people who need houses have been priced out of the market.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has made some valid points but he is astray in others that he has made. He referred to the 30 per cent, of housing loan funds that are obtained by building societies. He must rememberthat the people who purchase a home through building societies have to pay a higher interest rate - I think up to53/4 per cent. - than those who purchase their homes through housing commissions. I will deal with that later. The honorable member made great play on housing costs and referred to the fact that in Victoria houses costing up to$10,000 were being erected. I suppose that position is inevitable because of the desire of people in better circumstances to have a home to the value of $10,000. His averaging theory therefore proves nought.
In New South Wales the great difficulty of pricing people out of homes and the ability to purchase them has resulted from the socialistic legislation brought in by the previous Government in that State. I refer first, to the activities of the Cumberland County Council and, Secondly, to the activities of the State Planning Authority. In the electorate of Mitchell in 1951 a person could buy for £250 a block. With the advent of the Cumberland County Council the price of land has gradually gone up and now a person cannot purchase a block in that area for under $3,000. This change is attributable to the Cumberland County Council and the State Planning Authority. Land is in exactly the same position as any other commodity; the law of supply and demand applies to it. Suppose a person owns acres of building land which is near to a railway station and is zoned as green belt or rural land. Despite the fact that the land has all the facilities of gas, electricity and water, it cannot be subdivided and, as a result, a scarcity of land is created. There are thousands of blocks of land in the green belt zone. Some of this land was cut up and roads were built there as far back as 1890, but this monster - the State Planning Authority - keeps it in this zone. I suppose that the owners would be pleased to sell blocks of this land at about $200 each. In some cases purchasers would have to make do with a tank water supply but it would be much preferable for young people on low incomes to purchase such land and build homes on the blocks rather than put a noose around their necks by buying land at from $3,000 to $5,000. I repeat that in New South Wales our great difficulty has been brought about by the socialist legislation of the Cumberland County Council and now of the State Planning Authority.
– All the members of the State Planning Authority are Liberals.
– They are exhibiting poor Liberal philosophy. If they are Liberals they are not carrying out the platform of the Liberal Party.
As stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) the Loan Housing Bill (No. 2) 1966 seeks authority for the Treasurer to borrow $120 million, to be advanced to the States during 1966-67 in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Agreement Act 1966. The advances of $120 million, together with supplementary advances for the provision of dwellings for members of the Armed Services, should permit the State housing authorities, the building societies and the other approved institutions that share the advances under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to provide approximately 16,000 dwellings in 1966-67. The distribution of$1 20 million between the States, and the estimated supplementary advances to be made to certain States for the provision of Service housing, will be as follows -
The advances will be made to the States under the terms of the 1956-66 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement be tween the Commonwealth and the States. This Agreement consists of the 1956 Agreement as extended and amended in 1961 to form the 1956-1961 Agreement, which provided for advances to continue to be made to the States until 30th June 1966, and as further extended and amended with effect from 1st July this year. The latter extension and amendments were approved by the Parliament in May of this year with the enactment of the Housing Agreement Act 1966, which authorised the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement to that effect with each State. The form of the 1966 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was incorporated in the Act and provides for advances to be made to the States for a further five years from 1st July 1966 under the terms of the 1956-61 Housing Agreement as amended.
The 1966 Agreement provides that it shall come into force with each State when it has been executed by the Commonwealth and the State concerned, and the State has obtained either the prior authority or the subsequent approval of the State Parliament to the execution of the Agreement by the State. These formalities must necessarily take some time to complete. In the meantime section 5 of the Housing Agreement Act 1966 permits advances to be made to the States on the same terms and conditions as those that would apply if the new housing agreement were in force.
Whilst it is true that fewer new houses and flats were commenced in 1965-66 than in the preceding year, statistics of commencements during the first half of 1966 reveal a rising trend that is expected to continue. When the decline in home building activity became apparent in 1965 the Commonwealth took effective action to have more finance provided for both private and government built homes. The Reserve Bank asked the savings banks to explore ways of increasing their lending for housing. The savings banks agreed to increase their rate of lending during the first six months of 1966 by at least $24 million above the rate at which they had been lending during the last six months of 1965. Then in March 1966, the Loan Council, on the initiative of the Commonwealth, agreed to increase the 1965-66 loan programme by a further $15 million, all of which was allocated to the States for housing under the Housing Agreement. There are encouraging signs that the downward trend is being reversed. Following a fall in the number of dwelling commencements in the December quarter of 1965 there were successive increases in the March and June quarters of 1966.
The Government does not regard housing as a residual factor that can reasonably be allowed to fluctuate as the play of economic forces would dictate. It recognises that although some degree of fluctuation is inevitable the housing of the people is a social function and should be so treated in determining government action. The level of housing should rise at a steady rate as needs increase. At the same time, pressures on resources, which would have the effect of raising housing costs, must be avoided. If costs go up rapidly this will defeat the objective of a supply of good dwellings at moderate prices. In New South Wales we have a waiting period of five years for people on low income who want homes. I think that list should be re-examined because people who five years ago were on low incomes are now receiving much better incomes and in New South Wales we have the position where people now in an affluent circumstances, earning big wages, are still occupying Housing Commission homes to the detriment of the present low wage earner. We of the Government Members Housing Committee were disappointed that we did not have a conference with the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in regard to these matters because we know that there are many people, who should have vacated them, still occupying Housing Commission homes that people now on low incomes could occupy. I have no quarrel with the person who has contracted to purchase a Housing Commission home living in it. That is his right and his good fortune, but I do take exception to the person who is now on a much bigger income than when he obtained a Housing Commission home remaining in it to the exclusion of the young married couple on a lower wage. It is time that a conference between the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and the New South Wales Minister for Housing was held, to revise this huge waiting list. This is where I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). There are many worthwhile young married couples living with their in-laws, which is not good, and in many cases their marriages will break up simply because, owing to their circumstances, they cannot rent homes or erect homes. It should be the duty of every member of this House and every member of the New South Wales Parliament to do what he can to get these young married people homes in which they can reside apart from their in-laws.
I want now to deal in more detail with the Housing Agreement of 1955-1966. Clause 6 of the Agreement requires the States to divide the advances of loan funds they receive from the Commonwealth each financial year in two parts. One part is to be used for the erection of dwellings by the State housing authorities for rental or sale primarily to families of low or moderate means. The other part, which must be at least 30 per cent, of the advances made, is to be used to provide loans for persons seeking to buy or build their own homes privately through building societies and other approved institutions. For the purposes of such loans each State is required to maintain a Home Builders’ Account, the operations of which I will deal with more fully. In the 10 years ended 30th June 1966 the total amount of loan funds advanced to the States for housing was $866,822,000, of which $267,882,700 was allocated to Home Builders’ Accounts and $598,939,300 was allocated to the State housing authorities. The total amount lent to building and housing societies and other approved institutions from the Home Builders’ Account, however, was over $300 million.
From time to time we hear criticisms to the effect that the Commonwealth allocation for housing is inadequate. I. think we would all like to make more money available, but the allocations to each State under the Housing Agreement are not decided by the Commonwealth. After a general survey of financial resources each year the Loan Council fixes an overall limit to the total works and housing borrowing programme for the ensuing financial year and each State nominates the amount it requires for housing. With the approval of the Council the total amount nominated for housing forms the Commonwealth’s share of governmental loan raisings for the year and is made available by the Commonwealth to the States under the Housing Agreement. The Commonwealth also allocates funds for housing in ways other than under the
Housing Agreement. It makes tax free grants to young couples - these amounted to more than $13 million in 1965-66 - under the Homes Savings Grants Act; it subsidises homes for the aged and infirm and provides housing and finance in the Territories under its control. It also provides loans under the war service homes scheme for the erection of dwellings for serving members of the armed forces. The total funds made available by the Commonwealth for housing from all sources in 1965-66 totalled $248 million.
We hear a further criticism that States should not be forced to divert 30 per cent, of the advances under the Agreement to building societies. The end results of the moneys made available to building societies and other approved institutions through the Home Builders’ Account compare very favorably with those that would have been achieved had the moneys been used by the State housing authorities. The States are required to repay the Commonwealth’s advances over a 53 year period whereas the building societies are required to repay loans from the Home Builders’ Accounts over a far shorter period which, I think, is generally about 25 years. As a result the repayments made to the Home Builders’ Accounts each financial year exceed the payments made from the Accounts to the Commonwealth and the excess is available for relending to societies. An actuarial computation has shown that the advances allocated to the Home Builders’ Accounts are used about twice during their 53 year period.
The building societies and other approved institutions require larger deposits than the State housing authorities require from purchasers. This means that a given sum of money advanced under the Housing Agreement and allocated to the Home Builders’ Accounts will finance the construction of more houses than the State housing authorities can erect with the same sum. For the ten years during which advances were made under the 1956-61 Agreement up to 30th June 1966. the combined effects of, first, the revolving nature of the Home Builders’ Accounts and, secondly, the larger deposits required by building societies were considerable. The Commonwealth advanced $573,867,120 to State housing authorities with which the authorities provided 92,067 dwellings, the average advance per dwelling being $6,233. The Commonwealth advanced $267,882,700 to Home Builders’ Accounts with which 51,497 dwellings were provided, the average advance per dwelling being $5,202. Thus, on the average, one house was provide for every $6,233 advanced to State housing authorities for civilian housing whereas one house was financed with every $5,202 advanced to the Home Builders’ Accounts. To make the comparison in another way, every $10 million advanced to the Home Builders’ Accounts provided 317 or 20 per cent, more houses than the same amount of money advanced to State housing authorities. The advantages of the Home Builders’ Account arrangement will become even greater in later years as the repayments to the Accounts increase. 1 refer now to the Home Builders’ Account. Clause 16 of the 1956-66 Agreement provides for the operation of Home Builders’ Accounts to which the States are required to place at least 30 per cent, of the loan funds received under the Agreement. All moneys available in a State’s Home Builders’ Account are to be used to provide finance to persons seeking to buy or build their own homes by means of loans to building and housing societies. However, the Commonwealth Minister may approve of loans being made to institutions other than these societies in a particular financial year. The terms and conditions on which the moneys in the Home Builders’
Account are to be made available are to be agreed between the appropriate Commonwealth and State Ministers. Clause 16 of the 1956-66 Agreement incorporates an amendment to the 1956-61 Agreement provisions to permit a portion of the moneys available in the Home Builders’ Account to be allocated to approved State Government lending institutions for lending to persons in rural areas where there is no building society and in which it would be difficult to form and administer one efficiently. This amendment will dispense with the need for a State Minister to seek the approval of the Commonwealth Minister each financial year to allocate moneys for these purposes from the Home Builders’ Account to an institution other than a building or housing society.
We hear further criticism along the lines that the provision of funds to building societies and other approved institutions from the Home Builders’- Accounts dried up the finance that was being provided by lending institutions to the building societies. If this was correct there would have been a reduction in the private loans to building societies from the time the Home Builders’ Accounts arrangements were introduced in 1956-57. Figures for New South Wales and Victoria are available for the full period and for the six States for the past five years. The position in New South Wales and Victoria for the years 1955-56 to 1959-60 is as follows:
Between 1961-62 and 1965-66 the total level of lending by financial institutions to terminating building societies in the six Stales increased by 41 per cent. I refer now to interest. Clause 9 of the 1956-66 Housing Agreement states that the advances shall bear interest and it provides the manner of ascertaining the rate of interest. The rate of interest is 1 per cent, below the Iona term bond rate at the date of an advance being made. For example, on 13th April 1965 the long term bond rate became 5± per cent, per annum and advances since that date attract interest at 4i per cent, per annum. I remind honorable members that the State Housing Commission of New South Wales sells homes on a deposit of £50 and charges interest at the rate of 5 per cent, over a period of 45 years.
Another criticism is that the Commonwealth should charge lower interest rates. The successive Housing Agreements have consistently envisaged a rate of interest which is tied to the rate of interest on Commonwealth securities. The 1945 Agreement provided for a rate of interest not exceeding the long term bond rate. Since 1st July 1956 all advances have been made at 1 per cent, below the long term bond rate. Over a 53 year period interest at 4i per cent, on a loan of $8,000 would total about $3,593 less than if the rate were 5i per cent, per annum. Some people say that the 1945 Agreement was better. The Chifley Agreement of 1945 placed practically its entire emphasis on rental housing. In recognition of the fact that many families of low and moderate means desire to own their own homes, the present Government entered into Agreements whereby the States could sell, on liberal terms, dwellings constructed under the Agreements and also eased the harsh terms applicable to the sale of dwellings built under the 1945 Agreement.
Another criticism is that the Commonwealth forced the present Agreement upon the States on a take it or leave it basis. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Agreements entered into by the present Government were freely negotiated with the States and were the result of negotiations between the Housing Ministers and housing officers of the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth’s proposal earlier this year to renew the 1956-61 Housing Agreement for a further five years, with some amendments, met with a generally favorable reaction from State Housing Ministers.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin), who has just resumed his seat after delivering a dreary monologue, reading from a report, criticised the remarks of my friend, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). He gave the House information about land prices in New South Wales and attributed the situation to a socialist government policy. I inform the honorable member that there has been a Liberal Government in Victoria since 1955. It would be unparliamentary to offer to bet with him, but I am witling to say that he could not get a decent block of land in a decent area in Melbourne for under 55,000. I live in a working class area and in Footscray a block of land not far from my home is being offered for £4.000 or $8,000. This block has a frontage of 50 ft. and a depth of 100 ft. Such is the position under a Liberal Government.
The honorable member sought in some ways to try to glamorise the socialistic tendencies of the State housing authorities - and they are socialistic tendencies - but at the same time he tried to write down the socialistic policies of the New South Wales Government. I think it would be wise to examine what has happened since the Commonwealth Government amended the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1956. The original Agreement came into force in 1945 and was for a period of 10 years. It provided for loans to the States at 3 per cent, interest over 53 years. Under that Agreement, house rents were based on a figure that would return sufficient money to the States to meet the repayment to the Commonwealth of capital costs, interest, the cost of maintenance, administration, rates, taxes, insurance and the like. The 1945 Agreement provided families with an income equal to the basic wage with rent rebates. It stipulated that not more than one-fifth of the income of the tenant could be demanded for rent, regardless of what the State considered to be an economic rent. Honorable members opposite might have some compassion for the people they suggest should be moved out of housing commission homes so that other people could move in. The losses incurred under the original scheme were met by the Commonwealth and the States on a threefifths and two-fifths basis respectively.
In 1956, a new Agreement was introduced by this Government, lt was for a period of only five years. This increased the interest rate to 4 per cent, and provided that 20 per cent, of the total money allocated to the States during the first two years and 30 per cent, during the remaining three years should be given to housing societies. The Government repudiated the rent rebate system and wrote into the 1956 Agreement that all losses sustained through the rent rebate system should be borne by the States.
This drastic departure from the principles of the first Agreement was effected despite the fact that conditions in the home building industry were steadily becoming worse. In 1956 one could read a Press headline like “ 12.000 in Housing Queue “ and an article which stated -
Twelve thousand Victorian families are in the queue waiting to rent Housing Commission houses and flats.
Slightly more than 2.000 will bc lucky this financial year.
Of the 10,000 who miss out, many may not have houses for years. Some may never gel them.
The Commission is building 20 per cent, fewer houses and flats this year than last year.
Next year will be the same.
In each of the three following years the Commission will build 30 per cent, fewer dwellings.
This state of affairs was brought about by the interference of the Commonwealth Government with the conditions of the original Agreement. Thus, at a time when the home building industry, particularly the State housing authorities, needed urgent help the Government saw fit to reduce the aid for housing and added further responsibilities to the already overburdened States. It is true that this unwarranted departure from the first Agreement has been reflected in the trials and tribulations that the home building industry has suffered ever since. The total effect of this change was to increase the rents of State housing tenants and to open up a new source of finance to housing societies at the expense of State housing authorities. In fact, the action taken by the Government also represented a vicious injustice to widows, pensioners and low income families who were receiving their shelter from the State housing authorities. Such were the implications of this injustice that on 27th October 1960 Mr. J. Gaskin, then Deputy Director but now Director of the Victorian Housing Commission, was reported in the Press as follows -
The Housing Commission was only now examining applications for metropolitan tenancies made early in 1957, the Deputy Director, Mr. J. P. Gaskin. said yesterday.
The trend in the country had been that where stable industries had developed, waiting lists were now up to two years, he said. Mr. Gaskin was being questioned by the Parliamentary Committee on the Distribution of Population about how the Housing Commission would fit into plans for decentralisation.
He said the Commission, at present, did not have the money to satisfy the demand that would come for houses with new industries in country areas. Funds made available to the Commission had been substantially reduced in recent years, and diverted to other channels. Expansion could be achieved only at the expense of a decrease elsewhere in the housing programme.
In other words, the interference of this Government with the former Housing Agreement deprived the country of some measure of decentralisation. Such was the tender concern of this Government in 1956 and in 1960. Extending the effects of the altered 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement still further, we find that in relation to the money allocated to the building societies, instead of helping them it had the opposite effect. The honorable member for Mitchell, who has been a bank manager, should know this. For instance, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank in Victoria decreased their loans to housing societies and still consider co-operative societies and the like their competitors. In fact, in 1959 the Federation of Housing Cooperatives in Victoria when referring to the 30 per cent, direct aid stated -
The advent of this system of Government lending has been accompanied by diminishing of funds from private sources.
Clearly the financial alteration introduced by this Government aggravated still further the plight of the lower income group to the benefit of those in the high income bracket. As it was in 1956, so it is today. We still see the Government failing to realise that the injection of additional finance for housing is failing to reach those whose need is the greatest - the low income group. Further, the Government interference of 1956 reduced the building activities of the Victorian State Housing Commission from 4,152 home units in 1956 to 2,300 units in I960, a decrease of 44 per cent. On the other hand, it increased the number of unfortunate home seekers for Housing Commission homes from 12,000 in 1956 to 17,500 in 1960, and there are still thousands on the waiting list of the Victorian Housing Commission. In addition, the demands in those years for money for slum clearance and reclamation were as rampant as they are today, but the Government turned a deaf ear to them and is still turning a deaf ear to them. In fact, it is true to say that the Government has made the home building industry a political football. That is evidenced by the various measures taken by the Government in recent months. It has introduced the £250 subsidy scheme, has established the Housing Loans Guarantee Corporation and has formed the Department of Housing. I do not say that these measures are not steps in the right direction. I think they are, but they have not solved the housing problem.
The Government in conjunction with the Reserve Bank, uses the housing industry as the means to slow down or speed up community spending. The honorable member for Mitchell, who was a bank manager, should know that. The Government through statements made in this House tries to project the image that it encourages home building. The second reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) when introducing the Bill and the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) are instances of its efforts to do this. But outside the House the Government issues instructions to restrict the flow of funds that are needed to carry out a positive programme. Despite the fact that many home builders go bankrupt because of factors outside their control, the Government does not seem to realise that the housing industry is socially desirable, politically desirable and economically essential. It does not attempt to stamp out the legal usury in which extortionate interest rates are charged on money lent for housing purposes. It does nothing to prevent extortion. Recently, the Melbourne “ Herald “, under the heading “ City moneylender charged at 47 p.c. rate “, had this to say -
The Herald records here today the story of a Melbourne couple who were charged at a rate of 47.61 per cent, interest.
They would have paid $440.40 interest on a loan of $600 if they hod not, on Herald advice, consulted a solicitor.
The solicitor has been able to save them $387.80.
So much for the concern of the Government about these matters.
Conditions in the home building industry over the past 10 years clearly reveal the need for a national housing plan protected by a policy that cannot be interfered with by economists or politicians. Perhaps the tragedy of the home building industry is that it does not speak with one voice. It is not like the oil industry, the motor car industry or other similar industries which speak bluntly to the Government and make their demands in a pretty hard way. They are not ignored, at least not by this Government.
The policies of the Government have caused the housing industry to live from day to day. It has no idea when the next grant of money will be made or what the amount will be, once the current allocation cuts out. The effect of this stop and go existence is that the housing industry goes from chaos to boom and from boom back to chaos, with consequent harm to all concerned. This is revealed by a study of the history of the housing industry since 1955. On 24th November 1965, the “Australian Financial Review “ had this to say -
Housing continues to be one Achilles heel in the Federal Government’s economic policy. The other is consumer spending as reflected mainly in the motoring industry so far.
The ominous prospect for housing is outlined in the decline in October’s approvals . . . which sets the pattern for actual housing starts in the months ahead.
At least as unnerving as the trend of these figures, however, have been some of the Government statements about the housing industry in the last few days.
The Prime Minister’s written reply a week ago to a question upon notice about trends in the motor and building industries were those of a man who had bought his home and forgotten all else. “ At present no general weakening of demand seems to be indicated,” Sir Robert said.
The Minister for Housing, Mr. Bury, is more aware of the danger of present trends . . .
But Mr. Bury’s is an odd portfolio. In an answer to a question on November 12 -
Incidentally, I asked the question -
Mr. Bury admitted that he was carefully watching the trends - but that there was little he could do about them. This pathetic message is worth recalling: “ Of course, I am well aware that there has been quite a severe drop in housing, particularly in Victoria - Victoria is the worst State in this respect - and to a lesser extent in South Australia. Elsewhere any decline has been of very small proportions. Moreover, this decline is from record high levels. As far as action is concerned, the honorable member will be aware that it is extremely difficult and complex for the Commonwealth to take action in any one particular State. “ Although the flow of finance for housing comes under the watchful eye of my department and myself, it is a matter which has very widespread bearings on other activities of the Government and it lies very largely outside my departmental jurisdiction.”
The article goes on to say -
All care and no responsibility at the brave new Ministry of Housing!
It does suggest that the Government does not have any control over these matters.
The article continues -
This raises another question about the Prime Minister’s written reply last week about trends in the economy. “ No credit restrictions have been applied by Commonwealth authorities to housing funds nor is it iiic current intention of the Government to apply such restrictions.”
The only conclusion is (hat the Reserve Bank is noi a Commonwealth authority, which might be une in a legal but not in a practical policy sense, a fact which has been acknowledged by all the post-war Banking Acts, which emphasise that in the last resort the responsibility for policy must bc the Government’s, not the Bank board’s.
So we should not believe that the Government does not have any authority to overcome some of the deficiencies in housing finance now present in the community.
In relation to finance, it is interesting to note that two years after the 1956 agreement and prior to the 1961 agreement, the savings banks of Australia were owed $456 million, largely on housing mortgages. At the same time, hire purchase companies were owed $470 million for cars and consumer goods. This comparison shows how the Government has allowed colossal amounts to go into one avenue of trade outside home finance, to the detriment of home finance, and is still allowing this to continue. The money loaned by hire purchase companies exceeds the sums advanced for housing by what is regarded as the biggest source of funds for home finance - that is. the State savings banks of Australia. As it has been over the past 10 to 12 years, so it is today. The result is that countless people cannot proceed with plans to build a home because finance at rales of interest they can afford is not available to them. This was revealed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The deposit gap and the extortionate interest rates form the insurmountable wail that shuts out the low wage earner from the home purchase market. This is revealed in an article appearing in the Melbourne “Sun” as recently as 27th May 1966. It states -
Reporter Trevor Sykes walked town this week to look for housing finance. His survey revealed housing money is scarce and dear.
Housing finance is available in Victoria - but it’s harder to find than fresh Sunday bread.
Broadly speaking, the situation is that the banks will lend money only to people who can put up a relatively large deposit, the finance companies will lend money at very high interest rates, and the Housing Commission will help those who are almost desperate.
I invite the honorable member for Mitchell to read of the approaches made by this young fellow to the various banks, finance corporations and so on and to note the answers he received. This will give the honorable member some idea of the plight of people who seek finance for home building. The tragic position of the low wage earner is clearly revealed in the publication “ Victorian Housing Today and Tomorrow “. Referring to the incomes of tenants of these homes, it says -
The income ranges of the various groups indicate that home ownership has been achieved more readily by those in the higher bracket.
This confirms the remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The publication continues - lt is, however, significant that in the home ownership group 11% are earning less than £19/5/- per week and a further 22% less than £24 per week.
The other feature of note is that 50% of the Housing Commission Group are earning less than £19/5/- per week.
On 16th September 1965, the Melbourne “ Sun “ had this to say under the heading “Low-cost Home Buyers ‘Outed’.” -
Demand for low-priced housing in Victoria has almost “collapsed” according to the Housing Industry Research Committee.
In its latest newsletter, the committee quotes figures showing that 28 per cent, of Victorian homes built in I960 cost between £2,000 and £2,999.
But by last year the under-£3,000 made only six per cent, of thc total.
The article goes on to say -
The potential buyer of low-cost housing quite obviously has not just vanished overnight. . . .
He still exists - but his demand is being felt less and less in the private sector of the market because his deposit gap problems have been gelling bigger and bigger.
He has been unable to command the finance he requires because he has been unable lo meet the current conditions of the lenders.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, it is pretty evident that despite the injections of credit into the housing field that this Government has made, this credit is not reaching those who need it the most. This is because of the fact that they cannot meet the terms on which it is offered.
It would appear that for the low income wage earner there has never been any hope. 1 do not think that this latest injection of credit into the housing field gives to the low income wage earner any great aspirations or inspirations. It does nothing to raise the hopes of elderly citizens in our community either. In this regard, let me refer the House to a brochure issued by the Victorian Housing Commission entitled “ The Problem of Housing Victoria’s
Elderly Persons “. This document says in part -
The Housing Commission believes that the only solution available is for the Commonwealth Government to provide assistance by means of financial aid.
At the moment there are two, and only two, avenues available for dealing with the increasing number of elderly persons requiring help in this direction.
By Charitable organisations, churches or municipal councils, who build homes for the elderly and receive a £2 for £1 capital subsidy from the Commonwealth Government.
By the Housing Commission, Victoria, which
Constructs flats from loans provided under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement, repayable with interest over a long term, and
Subsidises the rental received for these flats from its General Revenue account. There is no assistance from either the Commonwealth or the State in regard to this subsidy.
It is apparent that at present the low-income group of the community is subsidising the provision of housing the State’s Elderly Persons.
This is very significant, Mr. Speaker. It is apparent from what I have read that wage earners in the low-income bracket are subsidising the provision of housing for elderly persons in Victoria. This is another burden that the policies of this Government has thrust on the shoulders of the low-income group. The document shows that 4,165 elderly persons need homes in Victoria. That is the figure from the application list as at 1st January 1966. It goes on to say -
A sober assessment of this position is that between £9 and £10 million is now required to deal with the situation promptly.
Mr. Speaker, irrespective of age or economic circumstances, every person has a right to a decent home. The cost of living in a home either for rental or purchase should be within the capacity of the economic position of all individuals, as indicated by the policies of the New Zealand Government. In fact, the housing situation in relation to demand can be simply stated. Our population is growing at the rate of about 21/2 per cent, per annum. The increase in the age group seeking homes will continue to expand year by year. In other words, the building industry has an ever increasing market. It is estimated that by June 1967 Australia will have a work force of approximately 5,500,000. This work force must have an impact on the already aggravated housing problem. This increased work force must create an ever increasing demand for homes. Also it will provide a greater market for labour to erect these homes.
It is further estimated that in the 10 years from 1956 to 1966 the numbers of the 20 to 24 year age group will increase by 55 per cent. This increase will be carried on, of course, into the 25 to 29 year age group. Therefore, it is evident that the demand for housing will expand at a greater rate than the general increase in population. It follows also that these factors show clearly the urgent need for a national housing plan that can mobilise men and materials and so step up the erection of homes to a figure greater than has been the case in recent years.
In a country that has developed hire purchase for many things of far less importance than housing, it is hardly reasonable to argue that similar techniques could not be applied to the housing industry itself. To achieve this, the Government should support the State Housing Authorities and building societies with sufficient funds to enable them to finance home builders on liberal terms both as to the minimum deposit required and as to the rate of interest required. In this regard, home seekers with incomes below a certain level should be given preference. I believe that the facts that I have set out show that the 1966 Commonwealth State Housing Agreement does not meet the urgent housing needs of the State instrumentalities; nor can it help to any great degree the private sector as it relates to the low-income wage earner.
A new approach to our housing problem is essential. Funds must be adequate to meet the demands made on State authorities. There must be a programme for slum reclamation based on Commonwealth Government assistance. The care of our elderly citizens is not a responsibility that should be borne by States, councils, charitable organisations and low income wage earners. A national responsibility is involved here. It is a responsibility that this Government must recognise. In addition, the sources of finance for the private sector must be made more liberal and the system of flat interest rates abolished. Finally, it is imperative that the provision of housing for the low income groups must be a top priority. This is a situation that the Government can no longer ignore.
My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, referred to an article that appeared in the “Australian Financial Review” last Tuesday. He also informed the House of the 20 per cent, increase in the price of homes between 1961 and 1965. As he said, the price of copper and the price of steel have gone up. The basic wage has gone up also. No doubt, we will find that since this article was written a greater increase has taken place in the price of housing. But the article does say -
In 1964-65, Government financed probably a little under 34,000 dwellings.
Banks and life-assurance companies financed about 36,000 dwellings.
The remaining quantities were doubtful, but the various forms of building society and other “ private institutions “ probably accounted for about 15,000 dwellings.
This left a large “ unknown “ which included dwellings financed from different loan sources and dwellings financed without loans.
I shudder to think what some of those people must be paying in this large unknown sector by way of interest rates. These would be the people in desperation who had to bind themselves down to these financial societies. The minute that they bind themselves down to exhorbitant interest rates and heavy repayments they make themselves the slaves of the financial institutions for the rest of their lives.
Mr. Speaker, while all will welcome the injection of this finance into the home building industry, the survey that I have made shows quite clearly that contrary lo the glowing account that the Minister and the Treasurer try to project on behalf of the Government for the manner in which it has handled the housing problems of the people of Australia, indisputable facts prove that the record of this Government in relation to housing is a very dismal one. It is a record that has provoked intense criticism from all sections of the community. It is a record that richly deserves the criticism that it has provoked. The solution to Australia’s housing problem lies largely in helping those who need help and providing those who need that help, particularly those in the lower income wage group, with an interest rate or with money that their pay envelope can afford.
.- In the closing stages of his speech the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) mentioned people who borrow from unknown sources and the high interest rates they are forced to meet in repayment of the loans. To do this many of them are forced into circumstances that bring about very undesirable social conditions. There are cases where both husband and wife have to go to work to bring a dual income into the home. A recent survey indicated that in Australia 146,000 people are holding down two jobs. I know of one employer who said that if one of his workers was not so tired by the time he finished his week’s work that he had to rest during the week-end and, instead, took another job over the week-end, that worker would not have a job waiting for him on the Monday because the employer insisted on getting a full week’s work from his employees. The fact that ordinary workers have to put in time over the week-end leads to an undesirable social practice.
Some time ago 1 visited certain South American countries with a parliamentary delegation. I was astonished to learn that public servants, people whom one would expect to have a reasonably high wage, were holding down two or three jobs because wages were so low that it was necessary to have more than one job in order to get a living. 1 would hate to find conditions of that kind in Australia.
– Those people have a socialist government.
– They do not have a socialist government of the kind that we would give them otherwise they would not need more than one job. The fact that 146,000 Australian workers are holding down two jobs should not give any Government supporter cause to feel any pride, particularly as the Liberal and Country Parlies have been in office in this country for nearly 17 years. The fact that so many people are doing two jobs illustrates that when people want something they are prepared to make sacrifices to obtain it. But why should there be a need for them to make these sacrifices?
In his second reading speech the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) said that Si 20 million will be allocated to the States in the current year for housing and that this amount is a record. That is true. The amount is a record but I doubt very much whether a record will be set by the number of homes constructed. I shall deal only with Queensland because 1 know a little more about that Stale than 1 do about other States. On 2nd June 1966 immediately after the State election the Queensland Government, in fulfilment of an election promise, increased the maximum loan that would be made available by the State housing commission and the building societies to §8,000 provided the loan did not exceed 80 per cent, of the valuation of the home and land, $7,000 provided the loan did not exceed 90 per cent, of the valuation of the house and land. Now let me compare the amounts made available last year with the current proposal. Last year when the maximum loan was $7,000 some 1,214 homes were constructed out of an allocation of $8,497,000. Although the maximum loan will be increased by $1,000 to $8,000, only 1,132 homes will be constructed out of an allocation of $9,060,000. In other words, although the allocation will be increased 82 fewer homes will be built, so no record will be set in Queensland.
I turn now to building societies. Most building societies with which I have had some contact in recent limes have completed the allocation of funds to their members by January. This means that the people engaged in the construction of homes for the building societies have had to find alternative work from January to June. The result has been a drift of tradesmen from home building and a general loss of work. When funds become available again the contractors have to try to re-build their work force.
The general funds that are made available to building societies leave much to be desired. The amounts which have been allocated are the amounts which have been nominated by the Premiers at the Loan Council meetings. Here, Mr Speaker, 1 wish to make a comparison between the State of Queensland and your own State of South Australia. Queensland, which has almost half a million more people than has South Australia, will receive an allocation of $9,060,000. Your State of South Australia will receive $20,750,000. That shows that South Australia is at least doing something. I admit that not only the present State Government but also the previous one did much more in the field of housing and made more use of the funds available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement than did
Queensland. Although Queensland is larger than South Australia it has only half a million more people. While, perhaps we cannot blame the Commonwealth for the amount which is being allocated to Queensland, I feel that the Queensland Government itself has something to answer for in the use it is making of the funds which have been provided. 1 believe they could have been used to far greater advantage.
Most State housing commissions have now changed from their original purpose of providing cheap homes for rental to building homes for sale. In fact, the majority of homes being erected by most of the State housing authorities are being built for sale. This brings us to the point that many people because of their economic circumstances are not in a position now, nor will they be for some time, to purchase a home so they have to rent one. Rentals charged for private homes are far in excess of rentals charged by the State authorities but the people in necessitous circumstances to whom I have referred have to pay up to $16 a week rent. No tradesman with a family can pay so much in rent. Other people such as pensioners and aged persons are also in difficulty in meeting these high rentals because their earning capacity is limited so they look to the State housing authorities for cheap rental homes and, in certain circumstances, a rebate on the rental such as was envisaged when the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was introduced by the Chifley Government.
I am pleased to support any bill which makes funds available for housing, and although I support this Bill 1 believe that it leaves much to be desired. I repeat that while the amount being made available may be a record, the number of houses which will be constructed will fall far short of a record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, as honorable members will be aware, the Trade Practices Act 1965 establishes an office of Commissioner of Trade Practices. The Commissioner has considerable responsibilities in the administration of the Act demanding that he have capacity and judgment. He will bc responsible for keeping the Register of Trade Agreements provided for in section 40 of the Act. He will be responsible tor forming opinions as to whether particular agreements and practices are contrary to the public interest. He will be required to consult with parties to such agreements and practices if they wish it. Failing successful consultations he will bring proceedings in the Trade Practices Tribunal. Of course, the Tribunal alone is responsible for the determination of the question whether an agreement or practice is contrary to the public interest, and it is within the principles it establishes that the Commissioner will form his opinion.
The Commissioner will at once set about establishing the organisation and securing the specialised staff he will need to help him discharge his functions. Considerable preliminary work has been done, but it will necessarily be a few months yet before the Act can be proclaimed and the Commissioner is able to operate fully as the legislation requires.
– by leaveMr. Speaker, I thank the House for its indulgence. I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) on the appointment that he has made and I congratulate the appointee also. I have known him since we were at the Law School at the University of Sydney together. While there and in subsequent years, I have had many opportunities to form the same high opinion of his qualities and qualifications as the AttorneyGeneral has set out in his statement. I compliment my contemporary - a somewhat younger one - on his appointment to the fascinating pioneering job which he has undertaken. Would it be appropriate for me at this stage to ask the Minister when he expects the Trade Practices Act to be proclaimed?
Mr. SNEDDEN (Bruce- AttorneyGeneral). - by leave - Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the concurrence of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in my opinion of the qualities of the man who has been appointed to the office of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. On the other matter, I am bound to say that although I would like the Act to come into operation this year, I am not at this stage able to say that it will. I have already said that it will not be proclaimed for some months yet. At this time, I would not like to say anything that would suggest the exact date, because there are still the recruitment of staff and the drawing up of regulations to be undertaken. A lot will depend on the facility and rapidity with which those drafting and policy tasks can be completed.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, naturally, having regard to the course of current events, a considerable part of my statement to the House tonight will concern Vietnam, China and Indonesia; but first I shall say something about the South East Asian region as a whole.
I submit that Asia has to be seen as part of the total world picture. Our own security cannot be isolated from relations between the great powers. Our economy is linked at almost every point with the economic activity of other continents. The basic problems of peace, and particularly the problems of nuclear armament, are global. Principles of international conduct have to be applicable in all parts of the world and nol only in selected quarters. Consequently, in world economic discussions, in our external aid programmes, in security matters, in discussions on disarmament and in our work in international organisations, we have taken no narrow approach. Australia is concerned with the sort of world in which we live, because only in a world that is free, prosperous and secure can we ourselves be free, prosperous and secure. We are an aligned nation because that sort of world is a matter of contest at present. Our objective is not the contest itself, but to help build a world in which we can live.
At the outset, I want to stress that our policies in Asia are the result of this view. We are seeking positively to promote stable and progressive conditions in this region, through the national efforts of the countries in the region and through international co-operation. In some cases, we have found ourselves in armed combat because the conflicts were unavoidable if we were to remain true to our national interests and the principles for which we stand. We have found ourselves involved, for example, in the fighting in Vietnam because our own national assessment is that the wrong sort of outcome there not only would destroy the future wellbeing of the people of Vietnam but also would threaten and, perhaps, make impossible the achievement of a peaceful and prosperous South East Asia, free from threat. The wrong outcome would affect directly the security and the confidence of many neighbouring nations. The wrong outcome would have far reaching effects in the prospects of world peace. Thus - and I use the word “ thus “ because I mean “ because of these consequences “ - it would threaten Australia herself.
A point was reached where the Australian Government decided that, in our national interests, we should commit forces in Vietnam. So far from being dragged into Vietnam by the Americans, the Australian Government has been glad and reassured that the United States has been prepared to undertake such heavy commitments as it has undertaken in support of international security in a region where our own danger is immeasurably greater than any danger to America and where the stake in peace is far more fateful for us than for them.
Just as in Indonesia, confrontation had to end so that we can all co-operate on important tasks of reconstruction, so too in Vietnam the resort to force must be ended so as to allow greater effort in the tasks of helping to build the future Asia. Fortunately, the Americans take the same view, and President Johnson has made mammoth pledges of aid which will greatly stimulate and sustain national and international programmes for economic development in the region once peace is established.
There has to be great diversity in our Australian approaches to Asia, just as there is great diversity of interests among the countries of the region. We cannot take one course only, but we have to be careful to see that each line of action leads in the same direction. For example, social aid and economic aid, as I have indicated, are essential. But, by themselves, they are not enough. Some of the economic assistance that Australia has given in Vietnam in the past has been deliberately destroyed by Communist guerrillas and, unless military measures provide a shield behind which economic reconstruction and development can take place, many useful efforts at promoting welfare would not be started and some of those that have been started would have to be abandoned. We cannot succeed by military measures alone; but neither can we push ahead with peaceful growth without military measures also being taken to make men and women safer from death and terror.
Again, we have to pursue our objectives through a number of organisations, partly to cover the different fields of activity and partly to take account of differing memberships of those organisations. There is, for example, the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East - a regional organisation of the United Nations - to which Australia attaches very great importance. E.C.A.F.E. comprises countries of differing ideologies, including the Soviet Union, and offers the opportunities that come from its comprehensiveness. There is, too, the Asian Development Bank, membership of which is open to all members of E.C.A.F.E., and which is just coming into being, with Australia contributing initially SUS85 million. Then there is the South East Asia Treaty Organisation - which held its annual Council Meeting here in Canberra in June - comprising countries of the region which have chosen to come together in an alliance against aggression. There is also the security arrangement between Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Malaysia. Then there is A.N.Z.U.S., which is a most vital element in Australia’s security. There is also our particular association with Britain which is none the weaker for not being enshrined in a treaty. Then there is ASPAC - the Asian and Pacific Council - representing nine countries of the region, which mct in Seoul in June. All of the associations that I. have mentioned are associations of which Australia is a member and in which we carry on a wide diversity of activities to meet a diverse situation. In addition, there are other bodies, such as the Association of South East Asia - which is referred to as “ A.S.A.” - comprising Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, of which Australia is not a member. In addition, there are bilateral pacts between various countries of the region.
This leads me to submit that we should not look for one single structure and only one viewpoint in South East and Eastern Asia. Countries do not normally have completely identical foreign policies, and consequently they can pursue certain common objectives while recognising that for various reasons they will not have identical objectives on other matters or be able to act in concert on all things. Some countries may prefer one method to another, or their choice of method may be limited by their circumstances. For example, one of our neighbouring countries - India - is a nonaligned power. It does not wish to be associated in S.E.A.T.O. Yet, as explicitly stated in the joint communique between the Indian Minister for External Affairs and myself in March of this year, India and Australia each has an interest in the maintenance of both countries as independent, progressive nations and each has an interest in the advancement of the whole of the region of South and South East Asi’a and in the preservation of the national independence of the states of the region. India has been, and continues to be, the victim of aggressive policies of Peking, which are a threat to the whole of South East Asia. Australia and India co-operate and understand one another very well. But we are not bound together by any formal alliances; nor do we accept one another’s views on all questions; nor is it necessary that we should do so.
I refer again to ASPAC, lt came into being in June as a result of the meeting in Seoul of Ministers from Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of China, the Republic of Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, with an observer being present from Laos. This represents a very considerable body of Asian opinion - all the countries of eastern Asia north of the equator except Cambodia which, for reasons which the Australian Government fully comprehends, does not wish to participate. The formation of ASPAC was a very impressive move and one that deserves attention. All these countries have come together in this way. The objectives they wish to serve are wide and dynamic - to promote co-operation in many fields so as to help economic progress and build up a greater sense of regional identity and understanding. This month the diplomatic representatives in Bangkok of the countries represented at the Seoul meeting will meet to discuss practical ways of giving effect lo some of the thoughts that were expressed at the meeting in Seoul.
The result of these and other moves is, I think, the emergence more than ever before of a consciousness of our common interests and the identity of our hopes in South Asia and South East Asia and the Western Pacific. Australia plays a full part. Australia is accepted by the other countries.
Australia is glad to be working with them. Against that background, 1 shall now say something in more detail about Vietnam, China, and Indonesia, taking them in that order.
The military situation in South Vietnam has improved greatly during the past year, although it is difficult at present to see it as being other than a very lengthy struggle. The Communists are continuing their build up, and their total strength, both guerrilla and regular troops, is now believed to be more than 250,000. North Vietnam is still infiltrating personnel and supplies to the south by land through Laos and the demilitarised zone and, to a lesser degree, by sea. It is estimated that infiltration of personnel from the north is currently about 4,500 a month. Allied forces, on the other hand, are continuing their expansion and consolidation and. in addition to South Vietnamese Government forces, there are more than 320,000 troops from six countries engaged in the struggle. Improvements are being made to the logistical and administrative structure within South Vietnam for the successful conduct of operations.
Allied operations on land and sea and in the air have kept the Communist forces off balance, restricted their capacity to supply their forces, reduced their control of the rural areas, and lessened their ability to conduct offensive operations. The improvement of security also requires measures other than armed engagement with the enemy. Local security has to be strengthened by police and paramilitary forces and by creating a stronger attraction of the people towards the administration - for example, by restoring or creating social services and opening the prospect of a more satisfying life once terror is removed. These are heavy and laborious tasks.
The use of allied airpower in the Vietnamese conflict has been closely supervised at the highest policy levels. Severe target limitations have been imposed on United States Air Force and naval aircraft operating over North Vietnam and South Vietnam. It should be emphasised once again that the bombing of North Vietnam has been directed exclusively against military targets, particularly lines of communication, both road and rail, and supply depots, which are providing support for the Communist effort in the South. Industries, harbours, centres of administration and sources of food production have not been attacked. These air strikes have been gradually intensified to increase the cost and effort to the North Vietnamese of continuing their aggression in South Vietnam. In South Vietnam the use of airpower has played an important part in the successes of our ground forces, and once again I stress that this airpower is carefully regulated to minimise the risk to non-combatants.
Although from what I have said it will be plain that the Vietnamese Communists have now been denied the possibility of military victory, that fact only opens the way to a new phase of the struggle. We all see that what has to bc achieved is a viable, healthy society in South Vietnam through the progressive restoration of government control, through economic and social advances, through the strengthening of the administrative structure and through political reforms in keeping with the community’s own needs and wishes.
The present leaders of South Vietnam - they have been much misrepresented - are realistic and purposeful men, nationalist in outlook, who have expressed an awareness of the need for reform and development. We who are their allies should recognise that they face enormous problems of reconstruction and consolidation, and of developing national cohesion in the face of armed attack and a brutal campaign of terror. Do honorable members know that since the beginning of this year alone the Vietcong have murdered some 2,000 officials, teachers and other innocent civilians, apart from the death and destruction caused in actual fighting? They have been delibeate and malignant murders. Despite the disruptions of war and insecurity, despite political unrest and inflationary pressures, the leaders of South Vietnam have come well through a most difficult period and have demonstrated a clear resolve to press ahead with needed reforms in many fields.
The political turbulence of recent months has now abated, and the Government has moved ahead in establishing the foundations for more representative and broadly based institutions. For the present transitional period, the National Leadership Committee has been expanded to include ten civilians representing important social, religious and political groups, in addition to the ten military members. An Army People’s Advisory Council comprising 20 Army officers and 60 civilians also has been established to act as a consultative organ. National elections are to be held next month for a constituent assembly of 117 seats. This assembly will draft a constitution, as the first step in a programme of constitutional development designed to establish permanent representative institutions.
As 1 have said before in this House, we would naturally expect that in a situation of such intensive military activity, in which so much of the nation’s human resources is directed towards the war effort, the Government of South Vietnam would possess - as indeed it does - a strong military flavour and influence. We should appreciate that there is also an appreciable and effective civilian participation in the running of the country. That fact is all too often ignored by the critics. It is well to have proper regard to these facts and a fair appreciation of the tremendous difficulties in trying to shape a modern nation from a complex grouping of regional, religious and political interests, while at the same time maintaining a vast war effort and seeking to promote economic, social and administrative reform.
On the economic side, the Government of South Vietnam has taken wide-ranging measures, including devaluation of the currency - they have been introduced on advice from the International Monetary Fund - to help stabilise the economy and combat inflation. lt is too early yet to assess the effects of these steps, but they are an earnest of the Government’s determination to deal vigorously with its economic difficulties.
Of still greater importance for the long term is the South Vietnamese Government’s ambitious programme of what it calls “ revolutionary development “. The aim is to improve and extend security in rural areas, to assist the villages and hamlets to make economic and social progress and to manage their own local affairs, and to instil a spirit of confidence and loyalty in the population as a whole. In pursuit of these aims, Mr. Speaker, an intensive programme is in operation for training teams consisting of 59 members including specialists in all aspects of community development. Perhaps some honorable members of this House have seen some of the work being done in the training of these teams. The first group of some 4,500 cadres graduated in May this year under the new programme. Others have followed. The aim is to try to get more than 30,000 cadres into the field by the end of next year to carry on this programme of revolutionary development.
In support of the Vietnamese efforts, the vast United States civil aid programme is forging ahead with strong emphasis on health, education and economic development. To this must be added the efforts, necessarily modest by comparison with the great effort of the United States, of many other countries, including Australia. Australia itself has a civil aid programme in Vietnam with projects such as the provision of surgical teams, the construction of town water supplies, the publication of primary school text books, and the equipment of technical high schools. In this way I think we are making a distinctive Australian contribution. The Government will continue and will expand these efforts on the civil side.
I recall these developments not in order to raise a sense of optimism or complacency about the situation or about the immediate prospects in Vietnam. We should not be complacent about them. We have laborious tasks ahead. My purpose is to suggest that the day to day reporting of events and incidents - and there is a natural tendency to take the news item as the one that is most worth reporting - must be seen in the broader perspective of the immensely complex and difficult process of building an independent, viable nation in an area which has been made a testing ground by the Communists for the theory of so-called “ wars of national liberation “.
Unfortunately we must recognise that the present outlook is for a long and hard struggle. We should not allow the complexities or the details to obscure the essential reason for this grim prospect’. What is the essential reason for this grim prospect of a hard and laborious struggle? The plain fact is that Hanoi still shows no disposition to turn away from the path of aggression. Recent statements by the Communist leaders of North Vietnam, as well as by the Chinese Communist leaders, continue to reject absolutely all efforts towards peace, including those put forward by neutral and non-aligned countries and also the United Nations. The North Vietnamese leaders, with the full support of Peking, continue to demand a settlement which would be solely and exclusively on their own terms, and which would represent a complete success for their aggression. These terms on which they insist are well known: The internal affairs of South Vietnam, they say, must be settled in accordance with the programme of the “ National Liberation Front “; the Front must be recognised as the sole representative of the South Vietnamese people. This, when you analyse it, is a demand for unconditional surrender by the people of South Vietnam. Yet while taking this stand the authorities in Hanoi also contend that they seek a return to the 1954 Geneva Agreements, and those Agreements contain no reference whatever to the “ Front “ or its programme.
The Chinese Communist leaders have gone still further than the North Vietnamese. They have gone so far as to suggest that calls by the Soviet Union and other powers for an end to bombing attacks on North Vietnam conceal a sinister “ plot for peace “. I suppose that the Soviet Union has been vilified by Peking as much as we ourselves have been vilified. The Chinese Communist leaders have also described the Geneva Agreements as being “ torn to shreds “, and they have rejected suggestions for a settlement of the Vietnamese question on the basis of those Agreements.
All this is not a matter for contention; it is a matter for profound regret. It was th-j great value of the Geneva Agreements of 1954 and 1962 that they represented a common effort by the great powers to bring about an internationally agreed framework of security in the area. A return to the basic provisions of the 1954 Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam, and compliance by North Vietnam with the Geneva Agreement on Laos, could provide a starting point for the attainment of a just and stable settlement in Vietnam which would accord with the legitimate interests of all the powers concerned.
Sir, sometimes it is suggested that a solution might be found if the Vietcong and the National Liberation Front could be made parlies principal to negotiations and included in a coalition government. This approach, I submit, ignores that the Front has no international status - it is not a country - and that it is in fact a subversive movement directed and supported from the North with the aim of forcibly imposing a totalitarian Communist regime on the South Vietnamese people. This approach also ignores, more seriously, what Hanoi and Peking have themselves said about the conditions for a settlement. Yet it has always been clear that there would be no difficulty in obtaining any views that the Vietcong may have, distinct from the views of North Vietnam, in the course of negotiations.
The other proposals concerning a coalition government require careful examination. The history of attempts at coalition with Communists in Europe is disheartening and the history of attempts at coalition with Communists in Asia is wholly discouraging. The rigid Communist regime that rules North Vietnam today itself began life as a “Fatherland Front” ostensibly balancing Communist and non-Communist clements. What happened? There is no non-Communist today with any position of authority in North Vietnam. Many who tried to work with the North Vietnamese Communists originally are in fact now living and working in South Vietnam. As another example, in Laos the Communists were given a place in the Government of national union, but when they found they could not dominate it they withdrew into the Communist controlled region of the country and resumed guerrilla warfare, sheltered and supported by troops from North Vietnam. So, is coalition the answer?
For years the South Vietnamese Government armed forces, and millions of the people, have at great peril resisted the Communists. Surely their views are of great importance. Would the advocates of a solution by coalition expect the Government and people of South Vietnam to drop their fears of the Communists who for years have engaged in brutality, terrorism, and assassination as part of their political tactics? What conditions and guarantees would be necessary before the non-Communist leaders of the South could have any real confidence that the highly organised and tightly knit Communist apparatus would abandon its revolutionary aim for a unified Communist Vietnam? Would the Communists in any coalition arrangement expect the South Vietnamese army to absorb the tens of thousands of Communist troops and guerrillas? Would the Communists, in their turn, yield up their arms and trust there would be no reprisals against them? These questions are posed not to dismiss these issues, but rather to indicate the gravity and the complexity of any suggestion that the answer is a coalition government. The Geneva Conference drew a line which for a while had the effect of geographically separating the Communists and the non-Communists in Vietnam and it provided for unmolested movement for those who wanted to live on the other side of the line. In my view no other practical starting point has yet been devised. It is no use putting forward the idea of a coalition as if it provided a readymade solution, as if it were a realistic alternative policy, as if the pronouncement of such ideas did away with the need for resisting the armed aggression.
In the same way, Sir, appeals to have recourse to the United Nations completely ignore that Hanoi and Peking have repeatedly rejected the right of the United Natrons to concern itself with the Vietnam question.
We are all quite understandably distressed at the failure to bring peace to this troubled area. We all wish earnestly for an end to the fighting and for a just and durable settlement - and it must be a just settlement and a settlement that will last. But it is not enough simply to urge negotiations. We must have a realistic appreciation of the difficulties which we face and the consequences - both for the South Vietnamese, for ourselves and for our allies - of yielding ground where our own vital interests arc concerned.
Our aims are limited but they can and must be achieved. We are not out to destroy the North. We seek only to deter aggression. We want a situation in which North and South can co-exist in peace, and, from that starting point, work out their relationship with each other. We want a situation in which the South Vietnamese can decide their future for themselves.
That is the Australian point of view on South Vietnam, and I know from personal contact and personal conversations that our actions and aims in Vietnam are understood and respected by the non-Communist countries of South East Asia. Our relations with these nations grow steadily closer in many fields - military, diplomatic, economic and cultural. Some of them are wilh us in the military struggle. In recent months Korea has doubled its military commitment, Thailand has sent its servicemen, and the Philippines has decided to send an engineering battalion and supporting troops. Others have given support in various ways. To the countries of South East Asia our commitment in South Vietnam has made clear - as did our efforts in Korea and Malaysia - that Australia does not squib, that Australia is ready to make sacrifices and incur casualties for the national survival of those who seek our aid to defend their freedom against aggression.
I turn now to China. As I have said many times before, in this House and elsewhere, the great question facing Australia and the other nations of the region is how to live with Communist China. For example - and I am referring to this little bit of history because there has been so much misrepresentation of the Australian Government’s views regarding mainland China - talking in London on 12th November 1964 - and the. speech was widely reported in Australia - I said that, in order to establish in Asia the sort of conditions under which Western Europe has developed in the past few years, we must first establish the same sort of detente with the power that is the major cause of fear among the nations of Asia today. 1 have developed this theme of on a number of occasions, for example in Adelaide on 2nd September 1965, when I said -
The rest of the world, and not China’s neighbours alone, have an immense problem of finding a way in which to live with China. No one but a fool would think that China can be ignored, or destroyed or reduced, or forced to become something else other than China. The problem is to come to terms so that China and other nations can live alongside each other in the same world. Whether or not China will fit into a peaceful and progressive world will be the major problem of diplomacy in this generation, and the handling of events in South East Asia at the present time is part of the application of that diplomacy. This is not a problem that we can expect to face in ten years’ time. It is one we face now. South East Asia today is a testing ground in more ways than one.
I reassert those words today. Looking back on it, perhaps the word “ problem “ was not happily chosen for it suggests that there may be a single and exact solution as in mathematics. Of course honorable members realise that international affairs is not like that. Rather than think of the solution of a problem, we must think of adjustment bringing changes in attitudes, in policies and in conditions, and thus in the relationships between China and neighbouring countries and between China and the other great powers. We have to work for many things. We have to try to bring the Peking authorities to see that direct and indirect aggression will not succeed and that if persisted in, it can work only to China’s own disadvantage. We have to try to bring about greater regional cohesion among the countries of South and South East Asia and the western Pacific so that they will be better prepared to play their part in maintaining the common security and in promoting economic advances. Wc have to try to make plain both to Communist China and other countries what arc the limits beyond which policies cannot be forced by one nation in disregard of others and lo reveal those places where it will be to the common advantage and politically practicable to reach some understanding. Obviously these things will take a long while to work out, and we cannot expect them to happen quickly. Moreover, we should not think of a static international society. Conditions will change both inside each country and in the world. In respect of China we should be ever on (he watch for the opportunities that change may bring rather than aggravating the present strain by trying to force openings that are firmly shut against us.
Recognition of Peking is not a key that is going to open all doors, nor is admission to the United Nations such a key. Let us suppose that we were to recognise Communist China and give it a seat in the United Nations. Would that remove the great substantial problems that we know exist today? It has been argued that there would be opportunities for closer contact, and that in the United Nations Peking would be in a body where she had accepted certain obligations and where she could be made accountable. I do not sweep those contentions aside, but I submit that their weight can be exaggerated. Looking at the matter realistically, against the evidence of the past few years, can one really believe that taking a seat in the United Nations would mean much in practice in the conduct of Peking’s policies? But indeed, apart from what we may think, Peking itself has in effect imposed unacceptable conditions for diplomatic recognition and its claims for a seat in the United Nations stand against a background of virulent attacks by Peking on that body.
The Chinese Communists insist that recognition of Peking means recognition of its sovereignty over Taiwan and abandonment of the Government of the Republic of China. Could we agree to that? Of course we could not. On Taiwan there are 13 million people, who do not want to come under Communist control. On Taiwan great economic progress is being made. The Republic of China is participating constructively and peacefully in international affairs and in international bodies, and is playing an honourable part in the international community. Some persons - I am not one of them - have said that the overriding objective is to come to terms wilh Communist China with its 700 million people and its great actual and potential power, and that we should not allow Taiwan to stand in the way. According to these persons, if Taiwan has to be jettisoned in the interests of a settlement with Peking, so much the worse. That is an argument which I find repugnant, and which the Australian Government will not accept. Could any Australian accept the argument that a political entity of nearly 13 million people - that figure is something to keep in mind - is unimportant or should be sacrificed to satisfy the imagined interests of others? Australia, like the majority of member states of the United Nations, has itself a smaller population than Taiwan.
Our determination that the Government of the Republic of China and the people on Taiwan should not be abandoned has been underlined by the decision which the Australian Government has recently taken to reopen our embassy accredited to the Republic of China. This does not mean any formal change in relations between our two Governments, because diplomatic relations have existed throughout and a Chinese Embassy as all honorable members know has been maintained all the time in Canberra - since about 1942 I think. The presence at Taipeh of an Australian ambassador, in addition to underlining the points 1 have just mentioned, is necessary for the conduct of our own affairs in a country where economic progress has led to a rapid expansion in trade and travel and it will also facilitate the growing co-operation in international organisations for economic development and political co-operation of which the Republic of China and Australia are both members. Indeed, the lack of representation in Taipeh was a gap in our effective participation in the diplomacy of the region. We have now filled the gap.
I have referred to the admission of Communist China to the United Nations, and said that, in my opinion, many persons exaggerate the possible advantages. 1 think we should view Communist China’s admission to the United Nations against the background of a statement by the Communist Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, Chen Yi, on 29th September last year. He said that the United Nations must undergo a thorough reorganisation and that, among other things, it should cancel its resolution condemning Communist China and North Korea as aggressors and should adopt a resolution condemning the United States as the aggressor - in other words, he demanded the reversal of a position which the Australian Government, with the support of all parties in this House, adopted when the Republic of Korea was invaded in 1950. He called for the expulsion from the United Nations of all - I quote his translated words - imperialist puppets “. Expel the imperialist puppets, he said, before China would come in. No doubt he included in that term many countries friendly to Australia and working to keep themselves out of Chinese influence.
This review of the Chinese attitude leads me to stress another point. Some of those who call for recognition of Communist China and its admission to the United Nations bring all their pressure to bear upon other governments and they call for all the concessions to be made by others, but call for no concessions to be made by China. We are the ones that they call on to recognise what are termed the realities of the situation. We are called on to reach friendly relations with Peking by. in effect, giving the Communist Chinese everything (hey ask for. That is neither realistic nor just. Surely Peking must also make moves. It cannot be a one-sided affair. Peking surely must make moves that indicate a readiness to live in harmony with its neighbours, and to accept international obligations and enter into arrangements for their effective performance. The need for Peking to do something along these lines is, I submit, not recognised widely enough by many of those who want to move towards a better relationship with Peking.
The Australian Government has been proceeding in accordance with the ideas I have expressed. We have not, on the one hand, recognised Peking, as has been done by some other Governments, who have, 1 am afraid, gained neither goodwill nor influence in Peking as a result. Nor have we followed the United States, which for many years maintained an almost complete ban on trade and private contacts with Communist China. Australia has not recognised Peking, and we have actively resisted Chinese Communist aggression and expansion when it has occurred - with military force’s in Korea and Vietnam, and with military equipment and other assistance to India when it was treacherously invaded in 1962. But while we have done that in resisting Chinese aggression, we have not sought to cut off all intercourse. Private Australian citizens have been able to visit the Chinese mainland. Trade has been permitted provided that it was not in items viewed as having strategic importance. We have clear objectives. We recognise the necessity of trading to come to terms of peaceful existence alongside China and also we recognise the necessity of resisting Chinese aggression and Chinese attempts to intimidate its neighbours, but we have not been rigid in working out this policy or in steering this difficult course.
The question of Chinese representation will probably arise in the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly, and the Australian delegation will be guided by what I have just outlined to the House. We are in addition playing our part in strengthening countries of the region adjacent to China - helping to strengthen them so that they can resist aggression, and co-operating in regional and bilateral associations, as I have outlined earlier. This is no sterile negative policy Australia is following; it is realistic and positive. We know Communist China is there; we want to live with it, and we are willing to explore new ways of doing so; but we are not prepared to fall flat on our face before it - and this is the point on which we differ from members of the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interject. He will be expecting courtesy to be extended directly to the honorable member for EdenMonaro. I hope that he will recognise that the Minister is entitled to a courteous hearing now.
– Communist China, too, has its problems. A great purge is going on, reaching to high levels in the Chinese Communist Party; there have been divisions at the highest levels of leadership; educational institutions have been closed to provide a period for eliminating teachers who are asking awkward questions; technicians and scientists are complaining about the amount of time they have lo spend in undergoing political indoctrination. In their own published statements the Peking authorities assert that there is widespread dissent from some of their policies and practices. All this is happening after 20 years of Communist control on much of the mainland, and the fact that it is happening is a warning not to paint mainland China in too rosy tones, or to see it optimistically as a pattern for underdeveloped countries.
I turn now to Indonesia. On a visit lust week I found in Djakarta a genuine friendliness and respect for Australia. Now that the confrontation of Malaysia has ended and the sole source of disagreement between us has been removed we look forward to close co-operation with Indonesia on matters affecting our bilateral relations and the South East Asian region. The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Malik, has already publicly expressed his view that Australia and Indonesia share a large measure of common interest.
The major problem facing Indonesia at the moment is economic rehabilitation. The Indonesian Government leaders are well aware of the urgency of this task and of the difficulties involved. Australia is sympathetic and willing to assist constructively. One of Indonesia’s major problems is that it is at present unable to meet payments falling due on the very large foreign indebtedness which has been accumulated in recent years. Australia is not a creditor of Indonesia, as all our past aid to that country has been given in the form of outright grants without creating any debts, but we are taking a close interest in discussions on arrangements to reschedule Indonesia’s payments on her foreign debts. The new Government in Indonesia has recognised the need to draw up an economic rehabilitation programme and in this connection we hope that early consultations between the International Monetary Fund and the Indonesian Government will lay the foundations for the reconstruction of the economy. We particularly welcome Indonesia’s application to rejoin the Internationa] Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Apart from the wider question of long term rehabilitation of the economy there is an immediate and urgent need to revitalise industries and basic services. I informed the Indonesian leaders that we shall provide new aid under the Colombo Plan in the form of certain essential raw materials such as carbon black for tyre manufacturing and spare parts for Australian vehicles and machinery already in use in Indonesia.
Another matter which we discussed was the important one of our co-operation in New Guinea. We noted that our joint surveying teams were making good progress in the demarcation of the border between West Irian and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Indonesian Government gave me an assurance that Indonesia will honour its obligations under the 1962 agreement with the Netherlands to hold an act of ascertainment in West Irian by 1969 or earlier.
The agreement terminating the hostility which has existed for more than three years between Indonesia and Malaysia was signed in Djakarta on 1 1th August. I am sure that this development, already warmly welcomed by the Australian Government and by our Prime Minister, is welcome to all members of this House, and indeed to every section of the Australian community. In all the circumstances this must be seen as a sensible and honorable settlement, and a framework for co-operation between the parties who have negotiated the agreement.
A point of direct concern to ourselves is, of course, that the shooting is to stop. The Malaysian and British Governments are already in consultation concerning the withdrawal of British forces from East Malaysia and we are, through our association with the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement, a party to these discussions. As my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) has already stated in public, Australian troops will phase out of East Malaysia in accordance with arrangements worked out with the Malaysian authorities.
Wc can take heart from the fact that a settlement has been reached, and pay high tribute to the wisdom and statesmanship of those directly concerned with it. Moreover, the ending of confrontation is only one - though doubtless the most important - in a whole series of interrelated events of an encouraging kind in South East Asia. Since I made my last report to the House on 28th April the Philippines has established diplomatic relations with Malaysia and has recognised the Republic of Singapore. Indonesia has also recognised Singapore. The Foreign Ministers of the member countries of the Association of South East Asia - Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia - have met in Bangkok to set the seal on the revival of their organisation as a vehicle for regional co-operation. I will not try to predict what these and similar processes will lead to, but the point stands out most clearly to my mind that there is, in the minds of a growing number of responsible leaders, an optimistic consciousness of the need to work together in peace for the good of all their peoples. Another development in this direction is the indication of willingness on the part of Cambodia and Thailand to accept a representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to help lessen tensions between them.
What I believe is happening is that Asian countries themselves are purposefully trying to do away with the old frictions left over from colonial times and the new frictions in the period of adjustment among newly independent neighbouring countries. They are themselves erecting their standards of conduct for good neighbourly relations in the region. They are the ones who know that stability and security in the region are essential conditions for internal progress and a better life for their peoples. They are judging whether a neighbours conduct is detrimental to regional stability. An unstable neighbour, or a neighbour which generates instability abroad, is going against the spirit which is now prevailing in the region. This is also the Australian outlook. We will use all opportunities to work with them for effective regional co-operation.
The last topic to which I shall refer, Mr. Speaker, is Africa. Although Asia and the Pacific are the areas of most direct and immediate concern to Australia, we cannot be indifferent to events in the rest of the world or to some of the conflicts being worked out elsewhere. In Africa since the Second World War a large number of countries have emerged from colonial rule to independence. Several of these countries are members with us of the Commonwealth of Nations and all are members of the United Nations. Not unexpectedly the newly independent nations have faced considerable strain and stress. They have had to bear the international responsibilities that go with independence. They have had to grapple with the tasks of developing their resources. They have had to compose their communal and tribal divisions, and they have had to tackle some immense social problems. In some countries the strain has produced conflicting bids for political power and internal strife. Africa is still under considerable strain. That strain has probably been increased because the rivalries of the outside world have also been imported into the continent. Today, the instability of Africa has become a matter of deep concern to many nations outside Africa who appreciate both how high are the aspirations of its peoples and how great are the difficulties ahead of them.
Furthermore - let us face this frankly - in Africa, the racial antagonisms that are the ugliest impediment to human welfare wherever they arise present themselves starkly and dangerously, not as a series of incidents but as a perpetual contest. That contest, too, is carried from Africa into all forums of the world. At the present time two of these African issues are posing questions of particular urgency.
The Rhodesian question is certain to be a subject of discussion at the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London next month. Australia regards the United Kingdom as still having sovereignty over Rhodesia, and at the request of Britain, we have taken various steps, including drastic restrictions of imports from Rhodesia, to try to induce the regime under Mr. Ian Smith to return to constitutional government. We continue to believe that the objective should be a government in Rhodesia responsible to all the people of the country and with effective safeguards for ali elements of the population, European and non-European. We are opposed to the use of force in Rhodesia both because of the practical difficulties of bringing force to bear and because of the human suffering and material damage that its use would cause. But we cannot close our eyes to the explosive situations that will build up in Rhodesia and elsewhere in Africa and the world if no practical possibility of peaceful transition appears.
The other question under notice - -South West Africa - has come more prominently before us as a result of the decision of the International Court of Justice on 18th July. This judgment has aroused particular interest in Australia because the President of the Court is an Australian, Sir Percy Spender, and because he had the responsibility, as President, to exercise a casting vote when the Court divided equally.
I want to make this quite clear on behalf of the Government: Although Sir Percy Spender is an Australian, he did not give his decision as a representative of the Australian Government. In our view, it would have been improper for him as a judge of the Court to seek advice from the Australian Government or consult us in any way and, in fact, he did not do so. Nor did the Australian Government seek to give him instructions or to discuss the case with him. It would be quite alien to our way of thought for an Australian Government to intervene in any way, formally or informally, with the judge of a court in the exercise of his jurisdiction. Sir Percy Spender acted as an individual in discharge of his responsibilities as he saw them. The decision was not a matter in which the Australian Government could participate in any way. Whoever from Australia might sit on the International Court of Justice, now or in the future will, I am confident, reach his conclusions honestly, on the basis of the law
F9056/66- R- lt) as he sees it, and without fear and without expectation of favour from the Government of Australia.
The Court, in its latest judgment, did not express a view on the substance of the question of South-West Africa. The Court, instead, gave a ruling on a narrower point, namely, on the standing of Ethiopia and Liberia, as members of the former League of Nations, to raise questions in the Court about the performance of a mandate held under the League. The Court has in its latest decision held that the rights previously resident in the League of Nations had not devolved on the individual states that were members of the League at the date of its dissolution. The Court placed itself at the point of time when the mandate system was instituted. As part of that mandate system, member states of the League could take part in the administrative process only through their participation in the League organs, not as individual states. They had no right of direct intervention relative to the mandatories; this was the prerogative of the League organs. That is the view that the majority of the court held.
– I touch on the fringes of that in what I am going to say next. This is a legal question on which I would not like to deal with the finer points, but I do touch on it in what I am about to say now. From what I have said about the nature of the Court decision, it will be seen that the International Court of Justice ruled on a legal point, and did not rule on any issue concerning the present or future administration of South-West Africa. On some of these substantial matters - and this answers in part the question raised by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) - the Court gave advisory opinions in 1950, 1955 and 1956 at the request of the United Nations General Assembly. These advisory opinions were, in brief - and I must necessarily be brief - that the mandate continues from the League of Nations to the United Nations; that South Africa cannot alter the international status of the territory of South-West Africa without the consent of the United Nations; that South Africa continues to be bound under the mandate to accept United Nations supervision, to submit annual reports, to transmit petitions to the United Nations General Assembly and to promote to the utmost the material and moral wellbeing and the social progress of the inhabitants. Those were, in brief, the advisory opinions given by the Court, on reference, from the General Assembly.
As far as the Australian Government is concerned we adhere to the views which we have expressed both privately to the South African Government and publicly on several occasions. Australia’s attitude is governed by the fact that we regard Southwest Africa as a non-self-governing territory within the meaning of the Charter - one in respect of which there are specific international obligations. Consequently, the principles applicable to such territories apply to it; in particular, the need to advance towards genuine self-government, the acceptance of the doctrine of selfdetermination, and acceptance of the principle of advancement towards equality of status among all the inhabitants of the territory.
Mr. Speaker, in this statement I have attempted to deal with only four of the major groups of the foreign questions now engaging the attention of the Government. It will be obvious to honorable members that there are many other fields of study in which we are engaged and there are many other problems which are on our mind. At the same time as we are giving attention to the various groups of problems I have outlined, we are keeping closely under notice events in other regions, particularly in Europe, both Western Europe and Eastern Europe. In the international economic field, we are continuing to try to play a constructive and enlightened part. In the United Nations and its specialised agencies, and in bodies such as UNCTAD, the International Monetary Fund, and the Development Assistance Committee, to which Australia was recently admitted, we are continuously engaged in studies and discussions. In the field of international aid for less developed countries, we are playing a role of some influence. I will not have time to speak on these matters tonight.
Looking broadly over the whole scene, I ask myself, in conclusion, what it is that we and so many other nations are seeking. Having asked that question, I see throughout the world a common need and a common search by various paths for security, for freedom from threats of aggression, for freedom from the domination by other powers, for opportunity for social and economic advancement and the peace of each of our countries and the welfare of our own people. These are our own hopes and the aims of our own foreign policy and they are shared by many others. Surely every honorable member shares those hopes. It will be the purpose of our foreign policy to do nothing that imperils those hopes and aims and to work with others to achieve them. The Government firmly believes that the policies and actions I have described tonight are necessary and right and that they serve the interests of Australia, both the interests in our own security and progress and our interests in the peace and security of the world.
I present the following paper -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 18th August 1966- and move-
That the House take note of the paper.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motton (by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) making his speech without limitation of time.
– The import of the speech of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is as painfully clear as its verbosity was painfully long. The Australian people are to be unalterably committed to interminable war; that is the whole import of the Minister’s speech tonight. While the Holt Government remains in control of the nation, peace is always to be a mirage and never a reality. The Minister said that he expects a lengthy struggle with both sides continuing to build up their forces. That is the best hope he can give to the Australian people tonight. He describes the prospect ahead of Australia as being for heavy and laborious tasks. That is the policy of the Government; that is the proposal which it puts to the Australian nation for its future.
What this policy involves is unmistakable. Conscription is to be increasingly applied to despatch evermore thousands of young Australians to the jungles of Vietnam. There is no other interpretation of what the Minister has said tonight, because the pattern of this thing is already woven. As the American commitment increases - and it is being increased - so according to the pattern will Australia’s commitment increase. The Government gives no assurance whatever on this point. It gives no assurance whatever that there will ever be an end to this process while it is in government. Indeed, the Minister goes on record as saying that Australia is ready to make sacrifices and incur casualties, apparently without limit. He puts no limitation upon it, so that Australian families are to be conditioned to the anxious reading of casualty lists as a newspaper feature in 1966, 1967, 1968 and so on without end.
All the welfare measures in this country are to suffer through the insatiable demands of the war Budget. That was very plainly indicated in the statement made to the House by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on Tuesday night last. A study of that statement shows how greatly the welfare provisions of this country have already suffered* through the war Budget. Judging by the Minister’s speech tonight, all that the Australian people can expect from this Government is more of the same kind of thing; more laborious burdens, an ever lengthening struggle, a continual build up of forces, and a continuing series of casualty lists of young Australians lost in the jungles of Vietnam. I say that broad indeed is the path along which the Holt Government seeks to drag the Australian people towards nuclear destruction. The end and inevitable result of the policy outlined by the Minister tonight is World War III. The war in Vietnam is already approaching the point where it becomes a war of endless killing, a suicidal war of human extermination, and the Government is going all the way.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) has already made it plain that this Government is now in the grip of forces which are beyond its control. The Government is under outside control and is no longer able to formulate or carry through a policy of its own.
– That is the Labour Party.
– That is this Government. I will show the honorable member. It has handed over Australia’s destiny and has signed a blank travel warrant to go all the way, no matter where it leads and no matter whether it is a one way ticket. Tonight the Minister has spelled this out further for us. Without any qualification he has declared support for the Governments of Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa and of Air Vice-Marshal Ky in Saigon. He said not one word in qualification of his support of both those Governments, and both of those leaders are open advocates today of launching an all out war against China to which, of course, we would be committed. Both leaders are determined to force the West into an outright invasion of China, to which again we would be committed. The Minister has declared his outright support of both leaders and their Governments without one word of qualification. They have left no room whatever for doubt about their intentions, and the Minister hails them as our allies. Tonight, in expressing the Government’s support for them, the Minister has not said one word in repudiation of the desperately dangerous courses to which they are endeavouring to commit us and the whole of the Western world. Indeed, the Minister is no longer in a position to repudiate them, much as he personally might wish to do so; and I think probably he would wish to do so. Indeed, it is no derogation of the Minister or of his good intentions to state plainly a fact which has to be recognised, that he is now merely an amiable figurehead; a man without power. He has no power whatever any longer to shape the course of Australia’s foreign policy. While the Minister is still free to prattle as he will, and he prattled to us tonight, Australia’s foreign policy today is shaped for him, and not by him. In this respect, the Minister resembles President Sukarno of Indonesia, with whom he exchanged jokes and songs at breakfast the other day in Djakarta. Both men today are without power and are allowed to prattle, but are no longer in charge of the Governments which they represent.
The Minister may contradict me if he thinks I am wrong, but I know that he would cheerfully have cut out the Prime Minister’s tongue when the Prime Minister declared in Washington: “All the way with L.B.J.”. The Minister would cheerfully have cut out the Prime Minister’s tongue because the Prime Minister of course in that little verse most injudiciously revealed the fact that the Holt Government no longer has any policy of its own in foreign affairs but is tied completely to American policy; and not the policy of President Johnson. It is not the personal policy of President Johnson. It is the policy of his advisers, among whom in recent months the hawks have gained an undoubted ascendancy. That is the policy to which we are committed; the policy of those people who control policy in America, and not the personal policy of President Johnson.
It is clear from all the information we have that President Johnson was persuaded against his own personal inclination to escalate further the war in Vietnam by repeated bombings of the areas of Haiphong and Hanoi. These men who control the American policy, to which we are committed, are dangerous men allied with the most violent reactionary organisations in that country. They are men who are prepared, if the North Vietnamese forces do not now surrender, to escalate the war even further until Vietnam is pulverised and. its people exterminated, or until they bring about the nuclear holocaust of World War III and the cry of destruction of Communism becomes the anguished cry of the destruction of humanity. These men no more speak for the people of the United States of America than does the Holt Government - which is the pawn of these men - speak for the people of Australia. The Holt Government does not represent the people of Australia, and the people who are committing America to its course do not properly represent in any way the people of their country’. Indeed, there are far wider expressions of doubt in America among responsible people - not Labour people, but people in all walks of life in America - as to the wisdom of the course America is following than there are in other parts of the world. The opposite numbers of these violent and bloody men are among the members of the Government parties in this Parliament.
– That word bloody “ is not very nice.
– They are violent and bloody men. The opposite numbers of the men I have described sat behind the Minister when he spoke tonight. They did not care very much what he said because they knew that whatever he said the real power rested with them and the interests that they represent in this country. Of course the Minister knows that also. He knows that his own position in the Government is now in danger and that all he needs to do is to speak out and say what he really believes and he will lose his portfolio. To give the Minister credit, I am sure he would like to dissociate himself from these people who sit behind him - these dangerous men of war - and repudiate them, but he cannot do it and I fancy that he dare not try because he is tied hand and foot to them.
The political views held by these powerful controllers of the Government, represented by men who sit on the back benches as well as those who sit on the front benches of the Government side, are Fascist in character.
– Break it down.
– They are those of the John Birch Society; they are those of the League of Rights. Has that League no friends and supporters in this Parliament? Of course it has. They are also those other bodies masquerading under similar titles. Their character is totalitarian, oppressive and repressive, and they control the Government of this country today. Those are their political views.
The military views that these people represent in the Parliament of this country are those of preventive war, which is described by their generals. It was to be launched against Russia yesterday and now against China. Preventive war means the sudden, unheralded launching of nuclear attack on key points throughout Chinn causing ruin and annihilation in the place? where the attack is launched. That is the preventive war which these people and the interests they represent seek. It is a wicked course which must be regarded as sheer insanity by normal people but it has its supporters amongst those who sit behind the Government members in this chamber tonight.
– The honorable member should look behind himself.
– I know the honorable member would like me to look away from him, but I am looking straight at him. We have heard these people in this place go as close as they dare to the outright advocacy of unheralded nuclear attack upon China. Those are their military views.
The financial views which these powerful controllers of the Government represent are those of the Wall Street adventurers - men without compassion, men without human feeling to whom the cause of peace is a loss of profit, men who deliberately seek to maintain a war ferment in the world to maintain the prices of their stocks. The evidence of this can be found in any financial journal which any honorable member cares to study. These men are determined that there must not be a peaceful atmosphere in the world.
– Tell us what Charlie Jones said in Caucus.
– I am telling the honorable member a little bit about himself. These are the people whom the Australian electorate will elevate to unchecked power in this country if it returns the Holt Government for a further three year term. At present they are held in check by only one factor - the necessity to win the election. Once the people give them power for another three years it will be too late for the people to speak again. The interests which I have described will have complete control of the course of the Australian Government and the fate to which the Australian people can be committed. These people are not Australians in any true sense. Their interests and outlook are unAustralian and the Australian people dare not trust them. The price of risking trust in them is the risk of war, desolation and death. The course to which these interests are driving the Government is utterly opposed to the true interests of the Australian and the American people alike.
The extent to which the Australian Prime Minister is the servant of these people is clearly shown in his recent statements and travels. In Saigon he said in effect: “ Marshal Ky is the man for me “. Marshal Ky is the man who declared Hitler to be his idol as a national leader and the Prime Minister expressed his admiration of him. Marshal Ky announced that if ever a freely elected government comes to office in Vietnam and it does not suit him, he and his friends will crush it. The Minister for External Affairs knows that he said that. The Prime Minister expressed admiration for him. Marshal Ky seeks the extension of the war for the invasion of North Vietnam and then the launching of an attack on China. Marshal Ky shoots or gaols any Vietnamese who dares openly urge the settlement of the conflict in Vietnam by negotiation. To urge such a settlement is an offence punishable in South Vietnam by death or imprisonment. The Minister dare not contradict what I am saying because he knows it to be true, and the Prime Minister expressed his admiration of that man.
– I do contradict it.
– Does the Minister say that the people in South Vietnam are able to hold meetings and to publicly express and advocate unconditional negotiations with the Vietcong and with North Vietnam? Does he say that?
– I disagree with you.
– All right. Let us turn from Saigon to Washington. With whom did the Prime Minister choose to spend his week-end? He chose to spend the week-end with his close personal friend. Judge a man by the company he keeps. His friend in New Jersey was a multimillionaire, an international character so sinister that he is credited with being the inspiration of Fleming’s character “ Goldfinger”. If honorable members have any doubt about that let them read an article in the “ Financial Review “ of three weeks ago which gives a full statement about this man. It tells of his interests and particularly of his immense mineral interests. He is continually seizing further mineral empires wherever he can obtain them in . every country.
What did the Prime Minister give as a parting gift to his multi-millionaire mineral friend in New Jersey? Of course, he wanted to give him some considerable present, some suitable further contribution of Australian mineral resources, but I am told that when a cable message was sent to Canberra, the answer given was that unfortunately this Government had given away so much already that there was nothing worthwhile at the moment that the Prime Minister could hand to his millionaire friend. And so he went on. Of course the Prime Minister, in Washington -
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I direct your attention to the Standing Order which states that all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on honorable members shall be considered highly disorderly. I ask you, Sir, to act.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that he might be careful in respect of some of the implications that he is making during his speech. Inferences drawn about people outside the Parliament are the honorable member’s own responsibility, but there have been moments when I think he has gone beyond the bounds of the Standing Orders. I ask him to be careful in his implications.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I need no lecture and no sermon from you. If anything I have said has offended the honorable member who rose in his place, I withdraw it.
– It certainly offends me to hear the honorable member imputing some improper motive to the Prime Minister, who is so highly respected in this House and in this country.
– I have withdrawn. I have stated that if anything I have said offended the honorable member in any way I withdraw it.
The Prime Minister then went on to recite his little verse: “ All the way with L.B.J.”. One of the journalists who was travelling with him - a very distinguished newspaper man and broadcaster - stated that the little poem was recited by the Prime Minister in a moment of ecstasy after receiving a 19-gun salute. That led to another little poem being written by a celebrated poet - more celebrated as a poet than the Prime Minister - Joan Lynrayn and published as follows -
If the P.M. can say That he goes all the way On a 19-gun salutation What would have transpired Had L.B.J, fired A 45-gun detonation?
My imagination boggles at the prospect.
I would like now to deal with some of the other points made by the Minister in his speech here tonight. He referred at first to Australia’s foreign policy in Vietnam as being an independent policy framed by this Government in the interests of this country. He went on to say: “Fortunately the Americans take the same view “. Surely even the Minister is not naive enough to believe that the Australian people will accept that Australia would have sent forces into Vietnam unless the American Government had done so. Surely he is not naive enough to expect the Australian people to believe anything except that we have followed America in that respect and that we sent our forces into Vietnam because the American Government wished us to do so and congratulated us on our action when we did so. The Minister struck a very important note when he said that countries do not normally have completely identical foreign policies. Of course they do not normally have completely identical foreign policies, but we have a foreign policy completely identical with that of America.
– That is not so.
-The Minister denies it. I will ask him again in a moment to deny it. When the Prime Minister - the Minister’s leader - was at his Press interview in Washington he was asked by an astounded correspondent, “But surely, Mr. Prime Minister, is there nothing whatever that you object to in America’s foreign policy?” The Prime Minister replied: “Nothing whatever”. The correspondent reeled away. He went back to his office and said he had never heard any thing like it in his life from a national leader. He has been given two months off with a nervous breakdown as a result of that happening.
The Minister made two important points indeed when he stressed the need, not for military action alone, but for restoring or creating social services and opening up the prospects of a more satisfying life for the people of Vietnam, and again when he said -
What has to be achieved is a viable, healthy society in South Vietnam through the progressive restoration of government control, through economic and social advance, through the strengthening of the administrative structure and through political reforms in keeping with the community’s own needs and wishes.
That is a pretty exact statement of the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. I put it to the Minister that his statement of these needs is an admission that these conditions do not exist in that country today. I put it to the Minister and to the House that the utterly hateful system of Communism develops in conditions of disease, despair and misery and that these have been the conditions of the Vietnamese peasantry ever since the French first invaded and conquered the country. The Minister comes along late with this idea.
The cardinal mistake made in this whole business has been the American and Australian opposition to the legitimate aspirations of the Vietnamese people to have their own government, control their own lives and remove the oppression from which they have suffered. The cardinal mistake has been that instead of aligning ourselves with genuine nationalist elements in that country seeking a democratic form of government and the overthrow of tyranny, we have from the beginning backed autocratic, reactionary and oppressive regimes.
The Minister spoke of the need for a return to the 1954 Geneva Agreements. Who broke the 1954 Geneva Agreements, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Those Agreements were made between two parties, the French and the Viet Minh. Bao Dai’s Government was not even recognised as existing. This emperor of the casinos was shown then for what he was, a puppet of the French, and the Agreements made and signed by two parties only, the French and the Viet Minh. It was supposed to put an end to a colonial war of liberation, an end which was brought about by the successful besiegement of Dienbienphu; and the conditions laid down by the Geneva Convention, to which the Minister seeks a return, were, first of all, that a line to be drawn at the 17th parallel be regarded purely as a military demarcation line. It was not to be regarded as in any way establishing two countries or as having any political significance whatever.
– The declaration in regard to that line was not signed.
– When I have finished what I am saying on this point I will come back and tell the honorable member the facts on that. But let me deal with the Geneva Agreements first. The honorable member has a little knowledge and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I will explain this to him if he will only give me time. The Agreements provided for the demarcation line to be a temporary military line. The line had no other significance. They provided that entirely free elections under international supervision should be held by July 1956 to create a united Vietnamese Government.
– On both sides.
– On both sides, that is right. The honorable member will recall what happened. There were two parties to the Agreements, the French and the Vietminh. In one of the most extraordinary imperialist manoeuvres the French withdrew from Vietnam just before the deadline when the Agreement for the election had to be made and Bao Dai, and Diem as his Prime Minister, repudiated the Agreement entirely. They said they would have nothing to do with it and America, from that moment, supported it. So why does the Minister say that there should be a return to the 1954 Agreements? Of course there should be a return to the Agreements. There should never have been a departure from them. The departure from them is the real cause of the continuing war in that country.
I now return to the point raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) who said that the declaration was unsigned. The decision on the declaration was taken by a voice vote and the delegate of each nation expressed his view for or against the declaration in open conference. So the question about its not being signed does not arise.
– Who was against it?
– The American Government did not give its adherence to it by voice but made a separate declaration in which it declared, without reservation, that it would abide by the spirit and form of the Agreements and declaration and would do nothing to upset them.
– Unless there was aggression.
– The honorable member refers to aggression. If he will study the reports of the International Commission
– I have.
– Then the honorable member will know that the Commission, particularly in its sixth report and also in its various other reports, while finding faults on both sides declared that the chief breaches were committed by the Saigon Government.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– It is not true.
– Honorable members opposite say that that is not true.
– Will the honorable member quote from that report?
– Yes, 1 will quote from it specifically. I have not the document in front of me, but I am quoting from the sixth report of the Commission. If the honorable member cares to read the document he will find that what I have said is entirely correct. If what I have said is not correct and he will bring forward the evidence, I will cheerfully apologise and withdraw.
– The honorable member is nuking the statement. Surely he oan bring forward the evidence.
– I am perfectly sure of my facts. The other point made continually by the Commission was the surreptitious breach of the Agreements in bringing into South Vietnam American armaments. Those were the conditions which brought about the end.
I now come to a point in the Minister’s speech which to me is of essential importance. I refer to the point where, although his Government claims that it is willing to have unconditional negotiations, it lays down the condition that the Vietcong must not be a party principal to the negotiations. The reference I make is to page 6 of the roneo:d copy of the Minister’s speech. The Vietcong is fighting in this war. If the Government is prepared for unconditional negotiations, why does it impose that condition? Is there not fraud in the attitude of a Government which declares itself for unconditional negotiations and yet imposes conditions, or is ready to impose conditions, against the acceptance of one of the forces fighting in the war as a party principal in the negotiations? The Minister says that we want a situation in which the South Vietnamese can decide their future for themselves. How does he reconcile that with his proposal for a return to the Geneva Agreements which provided for free elections under international supervision throughout the whole of Vietnam? How can he reconcile his claim now that South Vietnam is a separate country and that he is backing free elections in South Vietnam only? How oan he reconcile that with his statement that there should be a return to the Geneva Agreements?
– Why not deal with the Labour Party’s policy.
– If the honorable member will spare me the time I will deal quite fully with Labour’s policy. The Minister has spoken about China and has referred particularly to the decision which the Australian Government has recently made to reopen our embassy accredited to Chiang Kai-shek’s Government in Formosa. There is great significance in that. The significance, of course, is that Chiang Kaishek’s Government is committed to a war of aggression against mainland China and that we are at this stage choosing to reestablish diplomatic relations with that country. The Minister said -
We have not, on the one hand, recognised Peking, as has been done by some other Governments, who have, I am afraid, gained neither goodwill nor influence in Peking as a result. Nor have we followed the United States, which for many years maintained an almost complete ban on trade and private contacts with Communist China.
That is the frankest and clearest expression of a government policy of a bob each way, an example of double dealing whereby the Government declares a country to be an enemy and refuses to recognise it but then proceeds to trade with it in goods which can be used for purposes of war, so long as it will pay for the goods sold to it. The Minister shakes his head. Does he suggest that we are not trading with Communist China in goods that could be used for war purposes?
– Does the Minister agree that China is giving immense aid to North Vietnam? Does that aid consist of textiles and foodstuffs? What are we selling to China? Wool and wheat. The Minister paints China as an implacable aggressor. He went on to say -
We know Communist China is there;
That is a statement with which I think we all agree; it is there. we want to live with it, and are willing to explore new ways of doing so; but we are not prepared to fall fiat on our face before it.
If you have an implacable aggressor you do not use those words towards him; you believe in no surrender and in fighting to the end, until you defeat the aggressor. Again the Minister is trying to have a bob each way. With the Minister’s statement about Indonesia, 1 am glad to say, I can express a considerable measure of agreement. What he said is moderate and reasonable in tone. I believe that in general terms the policy which he has expressed will be followed through and will bring success in our relations with that country. I express the pleasure of us all that the hostilities which existed for more than three years between Indonesia and Malaysia have at last ended. I make only one comment about what the Minister said about Africa. No matter how much I deplore the decision of the International Court of Justice, I cannot but agree with the Minister that Sir Percy Spender would act as an independent jurist and would not seek the opinion of the Australian Government. Nor, I am convinced, would the Australian Government express any opinion or endeavour to influence him. To believe anything else would be to seek to destroy belief in international justice. I think that statement is generally correct. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) was asking me to deal with the Labour Party’s policy.
– For the last three-quarters of an hour.
– I know that it has been for the last three-quarters of an hour. That was because the honorable member found that everything I was saying was very unpalatable to him. I think he will find the statement of Labour Party policy equally unpalatable because there is a headlong collision between the Government and the Labour Party on the Vietnam issue and only one jury can determine it - the Australian people. In the electorate of Denison, the honorable member will be putting Che Government’s view, which as I have explained is the view of the forces that control the Government, and the Labour Party will be putting a view which, if the Labour Party has the opportunity of fairly presenting its case to the Australian people, will receive their endorsement.
– There was a headlong collision on State aid. What has the Labour Party done about that?
– The honorable member is endeavouring to divert me to another subject. I know he does not like this and he does not want me to let the Australian people know clearly the policy of the Australian Labour Party on Vietnam. I would make two observations before giving this statement of policy. The first is that the hopes of our enemies that this policy will be altered are doomed to disappointment. This is a fully determined policy which has the unanimous support of the members of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party and of the Australian Labour Party throughout the country.
– Is it as unanimous as the Australian Labour Party’s policy on State aid?
– Let us deal with foreign affairs tonight.
– Is it as irrevocable as the policy on State aid?
– The honorable member for Higinbotham should try to take this. The Australian Labour Party opposes the sending of Australian troops to Vietnam and is especially opposed to the sending of conscripted troops. We believe that conscription for an unjust war is unjustified. We believe that this is not a war of aggression against Australia in which the safety of Australia is imperilled, and in these circumstances we do not believe that conscription of Australian lads for Vietnam is justified. Because we believe if is not justified, we believe these conscripts are in a special position.
– Was conscription justified in 1910?
– Conscription is justified in certain circumstances and the Australian Labour Party has never expressed an opposite view to the view I will now put.
– What did the honorable member think of the use of Australian troops against the Indonesian confrontation in Borneo?
– Let me finish the point I was making and I will deal with the interjection. I want to deal with one interjection at a time. In circumstances where the safety of the State is imperilled by naked aggression and where it is necessary to mobilise the total resources of the State so that the State can survive, then, regrettable as it is, every other consideration must be put aside until the State is saved.
– That sounds a bit late.
-“ A bit late “ says the young gentleman.
– I am nearly as old as the honorable member.
– The honorable member looks younger and he talks like a child. This is exactly the policy put into effect by the Curtin Government in World War II, but in this war in Vietnam there is no aggression against Australia. The safety of Australia is not imperilled. The Minister himself said as recently as last January - and, I believe he has said since - that there is no present danger to Australia of any kind. There is no total mobilisation of Australian resources. There has been no real attempt to gain volunteers for Vietnam. In all these circumstances, the conscription of 20 year olds is completely unjustified. Do honorable members opposite suggest that a real attempt has been made to get volunteers? No-one, from one end of Australia to the other, can volunteer for Vietnam. There is no possibility of anybody going to the recruiting depot and volunteering to serve in Vietnam When we were fighting in Korea we had a Korean force. A person could join it for two years. A person could enlist for service in Korea, but one cannot voluntarily enlist for service in Vietnam.
As to the question asked by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), my answer is that there was no conscription whatever for the struggle in Borneo to which he referred. An Australian Labour Government will therefore direct the Arm) to bring home without delay conscripted men who are already in Vietnam, acting with full regard to the safety and security of the Australian forces. That action will be in recognition of the fact, as I have explained, that the conscripted mtn are in a special category. The other men are there because they chose to join the Australian Military Forces. Our policy regarding other Australian forces in Vietnam is first, that we will have regard to the situation in Vietnam as it exists at the time that we become a government. Noone can foretell what that situation will be exactly,. and no responsible party would commit itself to a course of action without knowledge of the situation existing at the time of its becoming a government.
– A bob each way?
– No government whatever could give any statement other than that. This would be the first statement of any responsible party. We must look at the situation as it is when we become a government. We will also have regard, in everything we do, to the importance of maintaining future cooperation with the United States of America because the Labour Party believes that co-operation with the United States is of crucial importance to Australia in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Of course, it was a Labour Government that first called on America for help during the last war, and the Australian people have always recognised the value of the American alliance. I do not agree with any honorable member opposite who attempts to put any other interpretation on what we would do. While we will take no action without consultation with the United States - and consultation will be the precursor of any action we take-
– Will the United States determine the Labour Party’s policy?
– We will consult with the United States authorities as we properly should before we take any action, yet an Australian Labour government will work for and insist on the return of all Australian forces from Vietnam as soon as practicable. That is the difference between the Labour Party’s policy and the Government’s policy. We believe that no sovereign government has the right to give to any other government the responsibility for the disposition of its national forces. This is a crime against the Australian people committed by this Government. We need refer only to World War II.
– The Labour Government gave Douglas MacArthur-
– Order! The honorable member for La Trobe will cease interjecting.
– If the Labour Government in World War II had done what this Government is doing in this war an Australian division would have been sent to Burma and would have been lost there as the Eighth Division was lost in Singapore.
– I agree. My unit was part of that force.
– I thank the honorable member for agreeing with me. The British Prime Minister and the American President used every influence upon the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin, to obtain his approval to dispatching that force to Burma.
– It was Churchill, not MacArthur-
– It was Churchill and Roosevelt, but the Prime Minister of Australia took the view that the Australian Government must take the responsibility for the disposition of its own forces - the commitment of its own men - and it insisted upon the return of that division to Australia. In the light of history, who will dispute the decision and the need for any sovereign government to maintain the power of control over its own forces? The Australian Labour Party view is this - and the Labour Government will act in accordance with the following considerations: The United States Government should cease the bombing of North Vietnam, and the Vietnam operation should be converted into a holding operation. The Australian Government should itself take the initiative in further attempts to obtain a cease fire and to secure negotiations for peace in Vietnam. It is a disgrace to this Government that it is one of the few governments in the world that has taken no initiative whatever to secure peace. The cease fire should be on the basis of the military realities in Vietnam at the time - not this impossible condition that the North Vietnam forces and the Vietcong should all retreat behind the 17th parallel, lt involves the recognition of the Vietcong as a party principal to the negotiations. The Australian Government should support the Geneva Accords for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and non-intervention in the affairs of the area as a basis for peace.
Upon a cessation of hostilities, an Australian Labour Government would stand ready to provide forces for peace-keeping operations in South Vietnam under the auspices of the United Nations or such other agency as is established for this purpose. An Australian Labour Government would strive continually for a position in which the people of Vietnam could have government of their own free choice. An Australian Labour Government will be prepared to co-operate in the development of the area to strengthen the fabric of peace and freedom and to uphold the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, and to promote economic wellbeing and development.
We are in no sense less opposed to Communism than is the Government. The Australian Labour Party stands as the great bulwark against Communism in this country. If the Australian Labour Party ceased to exist, the Communist Party would gain immensely in power in Australia. It is because of the influence of the Labour Party that there has been a gradual and steady improvement in the living conditions of the Australian people. As a result, Communist candidates at elections invariably lose their deposits and rarely score more than two or three per cent, of the votes. We repudiate entirely the system of Communism; it is hateful and obnoxious in every way. But we say that you do not destroy Communism by what you are doing in Vietnam. You are killing people. You are killing tens and scores of thousands of people, but you are creating more Communists. You are arousing a bitter feeling, a bitter wave of resentment and hatred against the white man and against what the Vietnamese people largely believe the Americans and Australians to be - the logical successors to the French as imperialist aggressors against their country.
There is a good deal more I would like to say. An honorable member has asked me a question and I will answer it privately afterwards. However, as time is now running very short, I would like to quote from a statement of the Rev. Dr. Allan W. Loy, Assistant Principal of the Leigh Theological College at Enfield, Sydney. This is a magnificent statement and I would like to read it all, but it is too long. I will read some short extracts. However, I make the observation that the leaders of Christian churches throughout the world have appealed for genuine efforts for peace and have appealed for a reconsideration of the policies now being followed by America and Australia in Vietnam. As far as this Government is concerned, the appeals have fallen upon deaf ears. The recently elected Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Loane, stated that he would not support the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) with “ L. B. J. all the way “ because he does not believe in the blank cheque in which this Government believes.
– Would the honorable member say why there is not a United Nations force in Vietnam now?
– Both the Soviet Union and America have the power of veto in the Security Council. It is not possible to reach agreement there and I would say it is obviously impossible to reach agreement at present in the General Assembly, much as I would like to see that situation arise.
– That is a good answer.
– I thank the honorable member very much. Praise from him is praise indeed. I shall now quote from the statement by Dr. Loy. He said that if we follow the policy of the Government -
We must tell the South Vietnamese people that they cannot elect the leaders they want because they must be our shield against the monster of communism. Their women and children cannot live in the strength of their own country’s independence because we think that some destiny has determined that they must stand in the firing line of our security! All this is inevitably involved in the so-called ‘ domino theory ‘. It leaves out of account the fact that communists are persons, that God is for them no less than he is for us, and that we must live with them in the same human family.
In the light of the origin and history of the Vietnam conflict, any attempt to claim that this is a crucial struggle for freedom against slavery becomes absurd. There is much more justification for claiming that this is the struggle of the Vietnamese people as a whole against western intrusion and domination. Since the Diem regime fell, there has been a succession of no less than eight governments taking the stage in South Vietnam one after the other. What clearer indication could there be that they are little more than puppet governments of United States power and do not have the popular support of the Vietnamese people.
– Just who is this?
– I have already told the House that I am quoting Dr. Allan W. Loy who is the Assistant Principal of the Leigh Theological College, Enfield, Sydney. The quotation continues -
And in the light of this how shall we estimate Sir Robert Menzies’ claim that the Australian government was responding to a request of the South Vietnam government in sending troops there? We need have no question about how history will estimate it!
In the light of the origins and history of this conflict, any attempt on the part of the Christian ‘ West to claim that in Vietnam we are fighting ‘ atheistic communism ‘ and contending for the faith, becomes worse than absurd. We are not contending for the faith, we are fighting for our own ends - which cannot be justified when they deny the Vietnamese people their independence and freedom. To appeal to the Christian faith for the justification of this conflict would be the very essence of idolatry, i.e., elevating our own self-concerned ends into an absolute end that God himself must serve.
I conclude with two observations. The Government claims that our forces are in Vietnam to resist Communist aggression and that these forces would not be there except for the purpose of resisting Communist aggression. In 1954, John Foster Dulles made an agreement with the Australian Government. The agreement was for a grand alliance to launch a sudden and unprovoked air strike on the Vietminh forces that were besieging the French in Dien Bien Phu. Eight countries were to join that grand alliance. Australia was one of them. Consultations took place with Australia. The whole plan was kept entirely secret at that time.
– How many Wirraways did we have then?
– The air strike was to be made by America from land bases. At that time, the French forces were on the point of surrender at Dien Bien Phu. At that time also the Geneva Conference was about to meet. This was the time at which John Foster Dulles called the Congressional leaders of the United States of America together. They told him that they would not endorse his plan unless he obtained allies. Following this, he came to the Australian Government with his secret proposal for Australia’s support and, I believe, obtained it. There was no question then of Communist aggression. The aim of that plan, that unprovoked aggressive attack, was to restore French colonial power in Vietnam.
– How does the honorable member know this?
– How do I know it?
– I will give the honorable member all the sources.
– Well, give them.
– For a start, the honorable member might read Anthony Eden’s memoirs.
– Oh, save the mark.
– This plan was killed by the refusal of the United Kingdom Government to have any part of it and the disinclination on the part of the French to go along with it. But, as I understand it, there was no disinclination on the part of the Australian Government to join the grand alliance. Part of the plan was that the grand alliance was to serve united notice on Communist China that it had better keep out or else. The final observation I make is this. Over 60,000 Vietnamese civilians have been killed in recent times. This is a tragic and sad position. I am not excusing the Vietcong part in this. I believe that the Vietcong have committed many atrocities. I have no doubt about that. The other day, by mistake the Americans bombed a village. I am not blaming the Americans for the mistake.
– The honorable member does not think that?
– No. In war mistakes occur. But listen to what happened. A village was bombed because it was thought that Vietcong were concealed there. There were, I think, 170 or 180 casualties, largely old men, women and children. As it happened, no Vietcong were concealed there. The bombing was a mistake. But if there had been Vietcong concealed there that apparently would have been complete justification for bombing and destroying all the people of that village. The despatch from Vietnam proceeds with the statement that as soon as the mistake was discovered help was sent immediately to the village. Apparently if there had not been a mistake the women, children and old men would have been left to bleed to death. That is the Vietnam war in which we are fighting today.
– The malicious attack which has just been launched by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on a statement of policy by the Minister lor External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is something that I regarded as being beneath him. I hope that not only the electors of Eden-Monaro but also the people of Australia as a whole heard the alliance of the honorable member with what appears to me and to members on this side of the House as an extreme left wing attitude towards the foreign policy of this country. Many of the facets that were presented by the honorable gentlemen are reminiscent of the claim, “ Peace in our time “ and the statement, “ Peace at any price “. The honorable member apparently allies that attitude with a recitation of doggerel verse, a presentation by a local poet. He spoke in such a way that one wonders whether he could possibly be serious.
The Minister’s presentation tonight of Government policy was an outstanding coverage of a fair and accurate assessment of Australia’s situation in the world today and particularly in South East Asia. The honorable member chose to divert the attention of the House from the responsible attitude adopted by the Government towards the situation in Asia. In his statement the Minister explained that Australia is concerned about the kind of world in which we live, lt is only in a world which is free, prosperous and secure that we ourselves can be free, prosperous and secure. But what did the honorable member for EdenMonaro do? He said that he is prepared to give all this away. He is not prepared to pay the price to retain freedom, prosperity and security. The Minister went on to say -
In some cases we have found ourselves in armed combat because the conflicts were unavoidable if we were to remain true to our national interests and the principles for which we stand.
Perhaps at one stage in its history the Australian Labour Party did espouse principles of this nature but it is apparent from the outbursts of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro tonight that any such responsible attitude by the Australian Labour Party has long since vanished. I only hope that in the election campaign at the end of the year the Australian people will listen, observe and read something of the peace at any price policy espoused by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro tonight.
Unlike the honorable member, I do not have unlimited time. Accordingly I want to cover briefly a few facets of the situation in South East Asia which a few of us from this Parliament were able to see during the past month. The visit we made was part of the continuing policy of the Australian Government to ensure that as many members of Parliament as possible have an opportunity to see for themselves something of the situation and the problems which exist there. I think the first thing that one appreciates after arriving in the area is that there will be a long hard struggle to achieve peace. One of the leaders of a newly developing country in South East Asia told us that he looked into the future to a situa tion of Communist China developing into an even more powerful nation than she is now. That country has a political philosophy that ignores the rights of the surrounding independent countries.
This evening, the Minister for External Affairs explained the Government’s objectives with respect to China. Opposition members do not seem to be able to appreciate that it is possible to have limited objectives in terms of armed conflict. He said that we must first establish the same sort of detente with the power that is the major cause of fear among the nations of Asia today as has been established in Western Europe in the past few years. Members of the Australian Labour Party do not seem to be able to appreciate that the Australian Government’s attitude to Communist China and its participation in the struggle in South Vietnam are directed towards the limited objectives of establishing a policy of live and let live and of achieving for the people in these countries the freedom, prosperity and security that we in Australia enjoy today. 1 want to speak first of Thailand, Mr Deputy Speaker. That is an agriculturally fertile land of 30 million people, lt is known as the land of smiles and it is a country that ha,s been generously endowed by nature. Its water, soil and climate have given to the people there bounties that arc enjoyed by the people of few other countries. These are bounties that, unfortunately, are certainly not enjoyed in many regions of Australia. Politically, Thailand has an attribute that is quite notable. It has a monarchial system that functions in such a way that, wherever one goes, one finds in almost every house in even the smallest hamlets and villages a photograph of the King and Queen of Thailand. This system has given to that country a cohesion that unfortunately is lacking in many other countries in South East Asia.
Thailand is progressing slowly towards democracy. The drafting of a new constitution by the Constituent Assembly is well under way. But national development and progress towards democracy depend entirely on the presence in South East Asia of a strong power such as that of the United States of America. Indeed, we were told by responsible people in Thailand that if it were not for the presence in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia of the United States and its allies, including Australia, it would not be possible for Thailand to pursue its present policy of national development and that there would be no prospect at all of securing democracy in the future in Thailand. In terms of security, already pressures are increasing in the north eastern frontier regions of the country. Similar pressures exist at points on the Burmese frontier and also on the Malaysian frontier. If it were not for the presence in South Vietnam of the forces of the United States and the allied nations of the free world, including Australia, none of this development towards peace and prosperity in Thailand would be possible.
Certainly, a price is being paid economically for progress in Thailand today. The problems are complex and not easy to resolve. Peasants who have been given tractors to use in their fields do not return to the use of the water buffalo, which seems to be better suited to many df the farming areas in Thailand. When one has been shown all the advantages of a modern economy, it is difficult not to take unto oneself an exception to the use of means of tilling the soil that were followed by one’s forefathers for many generations. But Thailand is progressing nevertheless. Australia has provided a tremendous amount of assistance and this has been greatly appreciated by the Thai people. We were shown something of the road construction programmes that have been undertaken by the Australian Department of External Affairs with the assistance of officers of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. An outstanding job has been done by the officers of the Authority and by the various technicians, engineers and plant operators from Australia who have gone to Thailand to undertake these tasks. The Australian Army has also undertaken several aid programmes. The Army technical training school and the Rangsit vehicle rebuild workshop are both contributing to the upgrading of the Thai economy.
However, there are tremendous problems in many regions of Thailand. At Chieng Mai we wens taken to the hill tribes research centre. There we were told something of the people who live in the hill regions of the southern Himalayas. These people pursue a system of shifting agriculture which has changed little over the centuries. Unfortunately, this system of shifting agriculture has not brought to them anything of the advantages of modern society. The problems of these people are as much the problems of Australia and of the other developed countries of the world today as they are the problems of the Thai people. I am glad to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Australian Government and Australian personnel are performing an outstanding job in Thailand in assisting towards the understanding and comprehension of the problems of these people.
South Vietnam, unfortunately, unlike Thailand, is not a land of smiles today. Its population of 15 million is concentrated principally in the fertile Mekong Delta region and along the coastal plains. Unfortunately the people there are divided religiously, ethnically and regionally. But, although the people of South Vietnam are divided on many things, they are united in their dislike of the Vietcong, in their fear of the terrorist tactics that have been adopted by the Vietcong and in their determination to secure for themselves some form of progression towards the peace, prosperity and security which, as the Minister for External Affairs has explained to us tonight, has been the crux of the Australian Government’s foreign policy.
The Government there is progressing slowly towards democracy. As honorable members are aware, next month elections are to be held to appoint a constituent assembly from which a constitution is to be evolved. Although there has been much criticism by members of the Opposition, particularly of the so called autocratic regime that exists in South Vietnam, the Government there is not a one man band. Decisions are taken by a Cabinet. There are not only military personnel but also civilian personnel in that Cabinet. They are all responsible men. Many of them have been in government and other responsible positions for many years. Members of the Australian Parliament have met many of these men, and all of those who have met them have respected and admired their integrity, capability and sincerity to undertake tasks for the betterment of their country.
The one big problem in South Vietnam is that in the complex system of divisions that exists there it is necessary for the people themselves to learn- to live and to let live. The war is an unhappy affair. Fortunately, it has changed for the belter since June 1965. However, it has taken a severe toll of the people of South Vietnam and the forces of the Army. The regional forces and the popular forces of the Republic of South .Vietnam are performing a task towards ensuring some form of administra-live stability there. Tonight, the Minister for External Affairs told us of the plan for revolutionary development, which is aimed at ensuring the establishment of something of the normal civil administrative system in each of the village communities of South Vietnam.
One of the problems in South Vietnam is that where there is a military action it is not sufficient to have an immediate victory; it is necessary to follow up that Victory by establishing peace and security within the individual villages. Australians in South Vietnam- have .performed an outstanding task in the military and civilian fields. The men of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and .the .warrant officers, officers and other .personnel of the Australian Army technical training team have established a tremendously high reputation for Australia.’ This reputation is being maintained and extended by the 1st Australian .Army Task Force. The men themselves have a hard and difficult task to perform. Although most of the activity of the enemy is of a guerrilla nature, he is led and generalled by men who have been trained in North Vietnam. Many of his armaments come from Communist China and North Vietnam. His supplies come down the Ho Ghi Minh trail, many of them over the Laotian border, and through to the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces in South Vietnam. The enemy is not to be underestimated. He can be a hard and forceful foe. But the morale of the Australian forces is high. Those forces are performing their task with a technicalproficiency and a competency which are a source not only of pride to Australians but also of admiration by other allied forces in South Vietnam.
Not unnaturally, the economy of South Vietnam has been subjected to severe- inflation. We were told that in the last twelve months the degree of inflation was approximately 36 per cent. But steps have been taken, including devaluation of the South Vietnamese currency, to reduce the effects of this- inflation. However, the problem -is still severe, particularly .in the rural communities. Much has been achieved in the provision of civilian aid. The Minister for External Affairs has mentioned the Aus-: tralian surgical teams. These teams are performing a tremendous task. I am sorry that it has not been possible for the personnel to provide, not only medical assistance, but also a greater measure of medical’ training. These men are highly competent sur* geons and medical officers. A tremendous amount could be achieved if their skills could be used for education as well as for medical purposes.
Wc spent approximately a week in Malaysia. The problems being experienced there are basically of a racial nature. Fortunately, with the ending of confrontation we all ‘can look forward to a greater measure of peace and prosperity there. We hope that this peace and prosperity will extend to Sarawak and other areas of eastern Malaysia and that the underground Chinese organisation which has caused so much unhappiness in the past will cease its activities against the establishment of peace and security. We hope that the economic ties which now exist between Malaysia and Singapore will continue and that in the future Australia’s economic and social ties with both countries can be developed. We would like to see these countries enjoy the freedom, prosperity and security referred to by the Minister for External Affairs.
Australia, I believe as a result of the positive policy that has been adopted by this Government, has won tremendous respect in South East Asia. Australian people are highly regarded. The Australian as an individual has established for himself a relationship with Asians that seems to be quite unique amongst European people in the area. As I indicated a little earlier, (his attitude towards Australia has resulted directly from the positive policy that has been adopted by the Australian Government and which once again has been enunciated to honorable members tonight by the Minister for External Affairs. I hope that in the future that policy can be extended. There is every prospect that, by doing this, not only will Australia attain a ‘greater measure of respect in the countries of South East Asia but also those countries will have some hope of achieving the prosperity of which we have spoken.
In closing I would like to pay my compliments to the officers of the Department of External Affairs with whom we had contact during our sojourn overseas. These men are of a’ remarkably high standard. They perform an admirable job on behalf of the people of Australia and Australia is extremely well served overseas. Beyond this, the Australian personnel serving overseas are of a high calibre. They are doing their tasks with a sincerity and strength of purpose which is a joy to see and which again is establishing for Australians the respect and admiration of other people. Finally, to the other members of the delegation I would extend my thanks for the cooperation they gave to me at every stage throughout our journeyings and in this way helped towards the greater understanding amongst us all of something of the tremendous problems that lie ahead in the development of South East Asia.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is a certain delicacy about the diplomatic terminology of the Government. When the Mi’nister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) refers to China he calls it Communist China, and when the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) refers to China he calls it Mainland China. I presume the statements of the Minister for External Affairs arc designed to rally support against a possible enemy and the statements of the Mi’nister for Trade and Industry are designed to make acceptable in the country the sale of Australian produce to China. But whatever the explanation of this, the contention that China is the major force in Vietnam is something that needs to be established.
The Minister for External Affairs has told us tonight about the fears of China’s neighbours. He did not go on to tell us about the fears of China’s Communist neighbours. Mongolia, for instance, leans to Russia, although a Communist Slate, because ft fears incorporation in Communist China. I personally think that in all the confusions that there are about Vietnam one thing is reasonably clear. Ho Chi Minh does not desire Chinese troops in his territory. If he has Chinese troops in his territory on any largs scale his independence will be eclipsed.
As far as the statements of the Minister for External Affairs are concerned we are in the position that diplomatically we recognise Taiwan, militarily we assert that China is the enemy, and commercially we are closely associated with an entity called Mainland China which is apparently to be distinguished from Communist China. It is difficult to see in such a set of contradictions any state of urgency on the part of the Government; and I would remind the House that Australia alone over a number of years supplied to China - I presume to Mainland China - the rutile which is necessary for the manufacture of those elements which harden steel and render it immune to heat, and therefore usable in jet and rocket engines. So we played our part in assisting China towards atomic delivery systems.
There are a number of questions, however, left unanswered. I am not going to suggest necessarily that anyone can answer them. I am not making an attack on the Minister in this particular regard. But there is far too much dogmatism in this House about the whole position in South East Asia, and particularly in the utterances of the Government. I have a number of questions which I hope the Minister will endeavour to answer if he is going to exercise a right of reply. Is there any hope that the Government of South Vietnam can form the .nucleus of a government which can rest on the consent of the people of South Vietnam? The Government of South Vietnam appears to me to be the protagonist of a tripartite struggle. On the one hand it is fighting the Vietcong. On the second hand it. has had to suppress the Buddhists by military force. On the third count it profoundly disagrees with the philosophy of its western allies who accept the right of North Vietnam to exist, whereas the Government of Marshal Ky contends that an invasion of North Vietnam is essential. So there is a tripartite struggle in South Vietnam against the Vietcong, against the Buddhists and against the concept of its western allies.
The second question I would like to ask is this: Is there any reason to believe that the war being waged in South Vietnam is ideologically selective and that it inflicts any more damage upon people supporting the Communist cause than it does on those opposing it? Before the hostilities flared the
Communists of South Vietnam had a technique. They demanded in villages that leaders, teachers, literate people, anyone who might be distinguished, should distribute their literature or co-operate in other ways. These were ideological tests. Some 13,000 people who failed those tests - from the Communist point of view - have been done to death, many of them being the natural leaders. But one recognises, with ali the horror of this, that it is selective terrorism. It is the waging of ideological war. I wonder whether the counter today by the South Vietnamese Government is in fact selective.
I am reminded of what Father Augustine Ho said about the situation there when he spoke about the Vietcong sweeping through villages and conscripting teenage boys, and the government sweeping through villages and conscripting teenage boys, so that there were large numbers of families having sons in both armies, while their ideological commitment to either side was nil and the rate of desertions was extremely high. But I personally believe - and people have to stand up and say what they believe - that if the British in Malaya had endeavoured to counter the emergency situation with which they dealt by firing napalm into villages, Malaya would today be Communist. They sought at least to fight a selective war, and 1 wonder whether we are fighting a selective war in the situation which has developed in South Vietnam, because if we are not we arc achieving nothing.
The third question I would like to ask is: fs there any reason to believe that the ordinary people of South Vietnam understand what the powers intervening are trying to do in Vietnam? 1 ask this question because I seriously remind the Government of its own past. Wc remember when the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, Stood on the tarmac at the airport in Sydney and announced in effect that ‘ the Reds will be smashed at Dien Bien Phu “, and a day or so after in fact the French surrendered there. The policy of this Government was to attempt to restore French authority in Vietnam. Many of the people associated with the South Vietnamese Government of Ngo Dinh Diem were fighting against the attempt to restore French authority, and I would like to say to the Government that those who welcomed their policy, apart from their own supporters, included Ho Chi Minh, who certainly required that France should fight to restore her authority in order that he might revolutionise his people. Further, he hoped to produce a revolutionary situation in Paris as well. The kind of intervention that sought blindly to restore French authority was very much like the kind of intervention of the Holy Alliance.
That is the past, but what do the people of South Vietnam think, having seen European forces endeavouring to restore European authority, endeavouring in the past to establish Bao Dai as emperor and, as everyone knows, a puppet emperor? If our purpose is not clear to the people of South Vietnam; if it is not clear that we are trying to establish a government suitable to them and not a government suitable to us, what we are doing is like drawing a stick through water. 1 do not say this with any derision. I am not concerned to attack, but this is a situation in which I try to elucidate facts.
The next question I would like to ask is: Are we trying to do anything fundamental in South Vietnam or are we basically interested in the place as a region in which we have strategic concerns, because if that is our basic concern then to the people of South Vietnam we merely envisage their country as a cockpit? Since a guarantee has been given to Ho Chi Minh by President Johnson and echoed by the Minister for External Affairs that his territory will not be invaded, what inducement has he to. negotiate? 1 ask the question seriously. From an immune base he can send out forays across the border and. involve the Western forces and the forces of South Vietnam. He can stay behind his line, granted immunity, and still force a continuing occupation in South Vietnam. If in the last war Germany had been given a guarantee against invasion the war would be continuing now. Are we there on the basis of a consideration that anti Communism suits us or are we there because we believe anti Communism suits the people of South Vietnam? I ask this question because of our past support of the French.
Now I would like to ask one or two other questions, since China has come into this discussion to a quite extraordinary extent.
What is really the objective of China in South Asia and South East Asia? lt is clear that there are no Chinese in Vietnam. It is clear also that the Vietcong are not primarily motivated by a desire to invade Australia when we are speaking in terms of the defence of this area. But is the real objective of China the really great prize in the world - India? We all have been talking about the difficulties of economic aid in a war zone and this is without doubt, but India is not a war zone and ail the evidence is that India is moving to economic collapse. Before it gives any massive economic or social aid to India does the Government intend to wait until there is collapse or until the country is a war zone? Although the Government has contended that there is really not a commercial consideration in our relations with China but a delicate balance whereby we keep a door open to- talk to the Chinese, it appears to me that the net result of the Government’s efforts in Asia and its economic relations with India and China is to prove to Asia that Communist governments work economically and that democratic governments like India’s do not. I think that we could be giving considerable aid to India. I do not deride what has been done but I think that in the realm of the manufacture of fertilisers and in the diversion of some of this China wheat trade at sacrifice to ourselves there is a good deal we could do that would add to the security of Australia, because I believe that the real prize in Asia from China’s point of view is the disintegration of India.
I have said before that during the last war, when Yamashita had conquered Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, the Japanese Imperial General Staff vetoed his project of coming to Australia and insisted instead on a diversion of the thrust towards the British power base in India. Japan could not hold South East Asia until the British power base in India had been taken. In the same way I believe that if China succeeds in her project of disintegrating India into a number of small states, and especially in continuing to lull India from having any positive policy in South East Asia, the problems of holding South East Asia become very great Indeed. It may be that India is far more important than Vietnam in relation to the security of Australia in this world today. In any event, I feel that there is a need for a look at the Government’s policy in regard to India.
I do feel that there is a change in the trend of the Government but we need to look at the past, when this Government was totally opposed to the aspirations of all sorts of underdeveloped peoples. 1 need refer only to the Suez policy and I need refer only to the howls that greeted my colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, when he ventured lo say in this House that he believed in the independence of Cyprus. The independence of Cyprus came, and then everybody believed in the independence of Cyprus. But the aspirations of the people were undoubtedly not the concern of this Government and it certainly has a past to live down in ibis respect.
There are other problems in this area. Why has there been a reversion to Buddhism in South Vietnam, as a focal point of the allegiance of millions, including thousands prepared to risk the bullets of the army? Is it because in the absence of any government as a rallying point this is all that the people can turn to? The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) told us about the picture of the King and Queen of Thailand in every home, and he spoke about how Thailand had a real centre of allegiance and a rallying point. He might add delicately that Thailand is the only part of Asia not ruled by Europeans and the only part which did not have its institutions destroyed by colonial authorities, which may account for its present unity.
Negotiation, I think, from Ho Chi Minh’s point of view is a weapon to advance his power. I think there is not the slightest doubt that negotiating with the Vietcong, as Ho suggests, could at worst lead to a new partition and a further advance of Communist power. At best it would lead to the acceptance of a Communist government in South Vietnam, and negotiation is a weapon designed to this end. I am not advocating an invasion of South Vietnam, but I cannot see why the guarantees against an invasion are publicly issued and it is then expected that North Vietnam can be brought to the negotiating table.
A statement has been made that there will be a free election in Vietnam. I ask for serious information on this. Does the Government really believe that there is a prospect of conducting free elections in a war zone? -I hope that there is. We have never tried the experiment in our own history, so we do not know. It seems to me that this may lead to undoubted legitimacy of government in South Vietnam, but the conducting of elections is going to be very difficult. After all, the South Vietnam Government which’ exists today is not. the government that invited us originally into South Vietnam.
The Minister spoke about teaching China a lesson. What reason is there to suggest that China is being taught anything by the events in Vietnam? In what way is China endangered by what we are doing in Vietnam? In n.o way at all that I can see. If it be true that she-, is the main enemy in Vietnam, she is still fighting by proxy. Her own troops are not involved. Her economic assistance, if it is being given, to North Vietnam,, does not appear to be great. Military assistance in the form of weapons appears to have some significance, but I cannot see that it can be seriously contended that, hanging on in South Vietnam, as we and the United States are, has any particular effect on China at all. I- have not any doubt that when Stalin was leading China to fight in Korea he was fighting the United States by proxy. I cannot see that he had any regret at the involvement between China and the United States. In the same way, I cannot see any lesson, or any cause for regret to China at the involvement of the United States in South Vietnam. As far as I can see, if the guarantee against invasion that has been issued by the leaders of the West is serious, then the war in Vietnam can go on indefinitely.
.- This has been a quite incredible debate. 1 do not think anybody could have imagined that it would have taken the form that it has. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) made a very deliberate statement covering a very wide canvas, painting it with light and shadow, in some depth, and showing a full, appreciation of the complexities of the situation. I think that his was a statement that greatly impressed the House. He was followed, not by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), not by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), but by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). At the time, the Opposition side of the House was practically empty. *
– I rise to order. The statement by the honorable member that the House was empty is deliberately untrue and I ask that he withdraw it. “ Mr. SPEAKER.- Order! There is no substance in the point taken by the honorable member.
– The gentleman who took the point of order, I think,, was not present and therefore would not know.
– I rise to order. I was present in the House,, and the statement made by the honorable member is a lie.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it and say it was untrue. “Mr: TURNER.- I repeat that the Opposition, side of the House was practically empty. However, this does not matter. The speech that was made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was a speech of smearing, clowning and absolutely grotesque Statements. To begin with, he said that the Minister for External Affairs had not the ‘support of this side of the House. Nothing could be more grotesque than, that statement. The honorable gentleman is highly respected, and he has the full support of the Government, and of every member on the back benches on this side of the House. That such a grotesque statement should be made in a serious debate passes my understanding.
– That is not the only thing you do not. understand.
– Yes. The attitude of many members on the other side of the House passes my understanding. The honorable gentleman is perfectly correct. [Quorum formed.] This is an issue of the utmost importance. The Leader of the Opposition, has said that on this very issue being debated tonight he will nail his flag to the mast. We are on the eve of an election, the House is almost empty and the honorable member leading in the debate for the Opposition has clowned, smeared and made grotesque and ridiculous statements. Never has a great party sunk to so low a depth as it did tonight in the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro. The people will observe this situation.
As one would have expected, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made the best of a bad case, but the net result was to suggest all kinds of doubts whether Australia ought to be participating in Vietnam. This is no help to the people of this country, as I shall go on to show. 1 propose to deal first, in the short time have, with the importance of Vietnam to Australia. Secondly, I shall deal with its importance to the free world; and thirdly, with the importance of Australia’s attitude in this issue - little Australia with a popu*lation of 12 million people.
Why is Vietnam important to Australia? Many people in this country and many honorable members opposite speak as if the war in Vietnam were in Iceland or the island of Juan Fernandez; as if it were nothing that had any great relationship to Australia at all. Let us have a look at it from a geographical point of view. It is.no further from Darwin to Saigon than it is from Darwin to Melbourne. It is very close to us. It is much closer than it is, to the people in South Dakota or Oklahoma and much closer than it is to the people of Europe, lt is very close to us geographically and for that reason alone it matters immensely to Australia. Tt is not in Iceland; it is not on the island of Juan Fernandez.
Secondly, if our memories are not too short we might recall that the Japanese used Vietnam as a base for their attack - which was mainly a land attack - on Singapore, from which they seized Indonesia and threatened our very shores. Memories are short if we do not remember that Vietnam was important when invasion came closer to our shores than at any time in our history. Memories are also short if we do not remember that in our extremity when we faced grave peril, the Americans came to our aid, invited by a Labour Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin. This seems to be forgotten when consideration is given to the question of the importance of the American alliance to Australia. Our memories are exceedingly short if we do not remember that only a very short time ago Indonesia might have come entirely under the domination of Communist
China, right on our borders. So, I say thatthere is a variety of reasons for believing that Vietnam is of singular importance to Australia.
We are indeed isolated today. We do not have to our north the friends that we had. We are isolated in a way we have never been before. World War II completely altered the situation so that we need today the allies and the arras that we were able to neglect in the years before World War II. Of course,” European attitudes to Vietnam are quite understandable. Europe is not in the least interested in Vietnam. Why should it be? It is a long way from Europe to Vietnam. Yet’ we have quoted to us in this country and in this House the opinions of men in Europe who have no direct interest in Vietnam. Their attitudes are understandable. They do not want’ the United States to get involved in a war in Asia because it would not then be in a position perhaps to help them in Europe. They are concerned with Europe for the very reason that we ought to be concerned with Asia and the country that is close to our shores.
There are various American attitudes. Again it is understandable that some Americans are getting rather tired of being the policemen of the world. This burden was assumed by the British for a century. During and since World War II, the burden has been assumed by the Americans. It would be understandable if some Americans said: “This is a burden we should not carry alone “. But these are Americans, not Australians. We have to consider our interests in this matter. The honorable member for Fremantle - and I respect him - said that we are concerned in Vietnam with our own interests. Well, I suppose we are. I suppose every country is concerned with its own interests. For my part I am concerned with Australia’s interests and 1 make no apology for that.
– What were the Government and the honorable gentleman doing before World War II when the Japanese were raiding China? They never raised a finger.
– I played my part in World War II. Anyway, I have reached the conclusion that Vietnam is of paramount importance ro Australia whether or not it is important to Europeans or whether or not it is important to some Americans. To us it is of supreme importance and let us look at it from Australia’s point, of view. When we hear honorable gentlemen opposite say that we do not have a distinctive policy about Vietnam, I suggest that preci’sely the reverse is the case. We are aware of the great importance of Vietnam and our policies are directed because of that reason.
Secondly, I suggest that Vietnam is of great and tremendous importance to the whole free world whether this is recognised throughout the free world or not. This is a test case. Let me make it quite clear that i’t is a test case for the wars of liberation. I desire to quote from a speech by Mr. Lin Piao, the head of the army in China who has come very much into the forefront in recent days as the successor of Mao Tsetung. The speech from which I intend to read was made at t-he commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War against Japan. I shall quote just a few extracts. Mr. Lin Piao said - lt must be emphasised that Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s theory of the establishment of rural revolutionary base areas and the encirclement of the cities from the countryside is of outstanding and universal practical importance for the present revolutionary struggles of all the oppressed nations and peoples, and particularly for the revolutionary struggles of the oppressed nations and peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America against imperialism and ils lackeys.
This does not look like a little isolated civil war in Vietnam. Again he goes on -
Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called “ the cities of the world “, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute “the rural areas of the world”. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
That is a statement that has some authority behind it. To say that China is not interested r.nd has nothing to do with the war in Vietnam is, in the light of this statement, quite absurd and a view that is entirely untenable. This then is the importance of Vietnam to the whole free world and we are fortunate indeed that the Americans now recognise this even if the Australian Labour Party deliberately does not.
I come now to the importance of Australia’s attitude. We are a country of merely 12 million people. We have a small force in Vietnam. What would it matter if that force was withdrawn? lt is of very little consequence. What is the importance? The war was being lost in Vietnam 12 months ago. Our posts were being overrun, provincial cities were being threatened and reinforcements were being ambushed. Now we are no longer losing the war in Vietnam. Search and destroy operations are going on. Vietcong hideou!s are being destroyed: and it will be harder for the Vietcong to come back again if they want to do so. There is some degree of political stability in Vietnam. This may be irksome to honorable gentlemen opposite, but it is a fact. A programme of rural reconstruction is going ahead under immense difficulties, but it is going ahead. In other words, things are looking a little better, lt will be a long struggle, as the Minister said, and nobody has denied this. Well, if we are beginning to win the war, why is Hanoi adamant? The answer to that question is an answer in which the Australian people are greatly concerned. The answer was given by General Giap. North Vietnam’s CommanderinChief, in a book frequently quoted by the honorable member for Yarra fDr. J. F. Cairns). I refer to Fall’s “The Two Vietnams”. At page 113 there is given the answer to why Hanoi is adamant -
Giap’£ own best contribution to the art of revolutionary war was probably his estimate of the political-psychological shortcomings of a democratic system when faced with an inconclusive military operation. In a remarkable presentation before the political commissars of the 316th Division Giap slated: “The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. . . .
As is being advocated by the Australian Labour Party -
The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: He has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long drawn out war.”
And he does not control all the organs of propaganda, as Communist countries do -
In all likelihood public opinion in the democracy will demand an end to the “useless bloodshed,”
Where have I heard that before? - or its legislature will insist on knowing for how long it will have lo vote astronomical credits without a clear-cut victory in sight. This is what eternally compels the military leaders of democratic armies to promise a quick end to the war - “ to bring the boys home by Christmas “ - or forces democratic politicians lo agree to almost any kind of humiliating compromise. . . .
Or surrender, because you can put the Labour Party’s policy in one word - rather than to accept the idea of a semi-permanent antiguerrilla operation.
That is the reason why Hanoi is adamant. lt believes that democratic assemblies like this assembly will lose their resolution, and so it is that the people who profess to be against war prolong it. The people of Australia will have to speak soon on this issue and they will have to show resolution, which will have its effect in Hanoi, because this occasion is a lest case. This will be the first election in a democratic country where the resolution of the people is to be tested in the course of this war in Vietnam. So Australia is important with its small number of troops there, lt is a test of the resolution of the people of this country to continue and blunt the edge of Hanoi’s opposition, because the North Vietnamese hang to the belief that the democratic countries, Australia and then America, will not have the resolution to carry on. 1 just want, in the two minutes that remain, to quote some words from a rather strange source, which I will mention at the end. The passage typifies the Labour attitude -
In the name of peace the nation is made weak and unwilling to defend its vital interests. Confronted with the menace of superior force it then surrenders its vital interests. The pacifist statesmen justify their surrender on the grounds, first, that peace is always preferable to war, and second, that because the nation wants peace so much, it is not prepared to wage war. Finally, with its back to the wall, the pacifist nation has to fight nevertheless. But it then fights against a strategically superior enemy; it fights with its own armaments insufficient and with its alliances shattered . . . The generation which most sincerely and elaborately declared that peace is the supreme end of foreign policy got not peace, but a most devastating war.
That was written just after World War II. By whom? 1 ask the question because he has changed his view since - by Mr. Walter Lippmann.
.- I enter this debate at rather a late hour this evening. 1 should like to commence my remarks by saying very much the same thing that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) said at the conclusion of his remarks when he paid a tribute to the officers of the Department of External Affairs, both here and in South East Asia, who were so courteous to us on our recent visit as a parliamentary delegation to that part of the world. I feel that 1 am speaking on behalf of my colleagues of the Opposition when I pay a small tribute to the Minister for Social Services for the very fairminded and competent way in which he led the delegation. This, and the co-operation of members of both the Government side and the Opposition side, made for a very happy and very successful parliamentary delegation.
We are discussing Australia’s foreign policy as it has been expressed this evening by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) and supported by other honorable members opposite. The debate at the moment revolves principally round the war in Vietnam, where there is a complex situation. Some people have said that those who go there come back more confused than those who stay away. We were in Vietnam for six days. This does not make us experts on Vietnam, but it is a fact that if one has read on the subject before going there one can make some assessment on the basis of what is visible there. Also, of course, it is possible to tap the opinions of many people from all sections of the community who have been in Vietnam for a long time. My purpose for the next few minutes will be to canvass the situation in Vietnam as I saw it several weeks ago. First, in Vietnam there is as a government a military regime to which some civilian involvement has recently been added. 1 gained the impression from what was said to us that it is an honest government. I do not think it is a popular government because, naturally, not being a democratic government, it lacks that popular support which a government earns for itself when it has been democratically elected by the people. We were told that there was an increased stability in that country and that morale had improved by virtue of the fact that the present South Vietnamese Government had been in office for a period of more than one year.
As many honorable members have taken us back over the past, I think we should bear in mind the tragic history of Vietnam, the failure of the French to give it independence, the long war which ended at Dien Bien Phu, the support given by the United States to the Diem Government, the so called lost opportunity for nine years between 1955 and 1963 and the motley collection of governments which held office after 1963. The present South Vietnamese Government is the first since the Diem Government which has been in office for any reasonable period of time. It seems that to some extent this has improved the morale of the country and, as a result, there is an increased feeling of stability. I recognise that plenty of arguments can be raised against the statement I have just made and I hope to canvass some of them. [ suggest also that this might be a misleading concept and give a misleading impression, because obviously many initiatives must be taken by the Vietnamese Government if it is going to build the sort of society in South Vietnam that it claims it is its purpose to build. 1 refer now to the armed forces. We saw something of the South Vietnamese armed forces. We were told that they were quite capable of being good fighters. We were told also by the leaders of the Americans, the South Vietnamese and our own Australian task force that the Vietcong also were competent fighters. Much was made of the minority groups in Vietnam. It is a divided country. Having come from Thailand, where the Buddhist presence is so obvious, where one can walk along the street and see many of the monks in their saffron coloured rob,es, it came as something of a shock to find that one could stay in Vietnam for weeks and, I say quite truthfully, would not realise that there was a Buddhist in the country, because they are not obvious in the sense that they are obvious in Thailand. We gained the impression that the Buddhists were not such a significant section of the community as we had been led by the Australian Press to believe. I think the truth is that there is a great deal of tension in that country, there is a lot of dissatisfaction, and it is possible for people to work up a great deal of dissent without much trouble.
There is also, of course, the dissident Catholic group. This is a rather extreme group. It is very anti-Communist. Some 800,000 people came from North Vietnam after the Geneva Agreement and were settled by the Ngo Dinh Diem Government in villages as communities and they were led very often by their parish priest. No doubt because of their past experiences, and because they are living in an alien environment, they have clung together. They are completely opposed to any form of democracy in the community and to any form of compromise. It is obvious if the present government is going to turn itself at some time in the future into a popular government it needs to compromise between the various groups - religious and otherwise - in the country. There are also the sects - the Hoa Hao and the Cao Dai. We saw something of these when we went to Long Xuyen near the Cambodian border. That province was living in peace. Here was an indication of what could be done in Vietnam if the right policies were implemented in the future.
Of course there are the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese. One might well ask: Who are the Vietcong? One of the things I deplore, without under-estimating the Communist involvement in this situation, is that the Minister, members on the Government side and the Press generally, when they refer to the Vietcong habitually refer to them as Communists. I am not suggesting that there is not a Communist elite or Communist involvement in the Vietcong. From what we saw and from what one can read about this one would not be so foolish as to deny that. On the other hand, I think that lo refer to the Vietcong as being entirely Communist, and not to realise that the Vietcong are, in their mind, an independence movement and a movement fighting for the freedom of their country, is not to understand the problem, and to make it harder to bring about the political initiatives on which the successful prosecution of the war in Vietnam and the development of a free society may well depend. We had the opportunity at one of the Chieu Hoi camps of discussing with socalled rallyists their attitude to various things. We spoke to two young Vietcong. One of them came from the delta area not far outside Saigon. When we asked them why they had joined the Vietcong they said: “ We came from a Vietcong village.” lt was obvious they did not have an ideological, attachment but had been living in a village and had grown up in a village where they had known no other .administration and clearly they had associated themselves. with the Vietcong, perhaps in the same way that their fathers and elders had associated themselves with the Vietminh at some time in the past. When I asked one of these chaps what their purpose was and why they were in insurgency against their Government I was told that their purpose was to drive the Americans but of their country and to gain the independence for which they had previously fought against the French. I am expressing these opinions because they are based on factual statements made to us. I think it is important that people should realise the complexity of the. problem in South Vietnam at this moment. “Mr. Kevin Cairns. - What about the South Vietnamese army?
– I ‘ will deal with that in due course. When we look at the problem of who the Vietcong are. we can see that most of them are from South Vietnam. There is evidence of some North Vietnamese coming to join them and stiffen their morale in the adverse circumstances in which they find themselves. The Vietcong are equipped in part with Chinese weapons and in part with American weapons most of which were probably captured from the South Vietnamese forces. The balance of their weapons are very old including, of course, some Australian .303’s and a motley collection of other arms including some home made weapons of their own.
We were told that there were over 31 battalions of North Vietnamese in the country. The magazines “ Time “ and
Newsweek “ of this week claim that the total Vietcong and North Vietnamese strength in the country at the moment is 280,000. The information we have is that the number would be close to that figure. We spoke to some of these North Vietnamese. I had the opportunity of questioning three of these people and I asked what they were doing in South Vietnam. They said: “ We were told we were coming down here to restore the unity of our country and to throw out the Americans “. I asked them whether any Chinese were associated with the North Vietnam forces. They said that no Chinese were associated with these forces, although there were Chinese advisers at military headquarters and young North Vietnamese who had done well at military academies could perhaps go to China for further training. I asked them whether they liked the Chinese and they said they did not. It is obvious that the stories we have been told that all Vietnamese ‘have a traditional dislike of the Chinese are pretty true.
– Did the honorable member say that Chinese were at headquarters?
– They said Chinese advisers were at military headquarters. The North Vietnamese are almost exclusively equipped with Chinese weapons.
We must consider what the. problems in this unhappy country are. First, there is the problem of aggression from the North. 1 think the Government has an obsession with this element in the war. lt exists and anybody who has been there would be either foolish or completely dishonest to deny that it exists. But to make this the whole of the problem is an equally dangerous over-simplification of the situation. The American involvement of 292,000 troops at present - we are told that it will rise to 380,000 troops by the end of the year - is geared almost exclusively to the presence of the North Vietnamese. I think that the Americans have made an assessment that they can handle this situation in up to two years. That is to say, they can apply so much pressure to North Vietnam and to the North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam that a withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops will be effected. Whether this is true or not, the fact is that when such a withdrawal is effected the war will revert to an insurgency war. lt seems to me that the American forces are quite ill equipped to fight this type of war. They are ill equipped in the sense that they are not trained to fight an insurgency war. Wilh their masses of equipment, they are geared to fight North
Vietnamese and hard core Vietcong at battalion and regimental strength.
It did seem to me that at such a point of time, if their predictions are right - these are the predictions of the Americans, not mine - this war having reverted to an insurgency war, the Americans will have to re-train or certainly alter many of their ideas, as they were put to us.
– There is a South Vietnamese Army.
– That is true and L intend to deal fully with that point before I finish speaking tonight. What are the problems? There are the problems referred to by the Minister for Social Services who spoke about the 38 per cent, inflation that has occurred in the country in the last J 2 months. This is brought about by the fact that all these soldiers are spending their money in the country. One factor that quite honestly worries me is the way the economy of the country is geared to the presence of the American and allied troops. When one goes outside the American bases, one sees hamburger bars, CocaCola stalls and facilities of various kinds, such as those for car washing. When we see the situation in, say, Saigon, we realise that the problems of Vietnam do not exist only while these troops are there; they will exist also when the troops withdraw, because it will bs an enormous task for any country to try to get its economy back on an even keel when at present, in a state of war, its economy is geared to the presence of an enormous allied involvement.
My friend, the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), asked about the South Vietnamese Army. This is a very important point, because when one goes to Vietnam one realises that only the Vietnamese can win this war. Only they can establish an administration at village level. Because we obtain our news very largely through the syndicated Press, and much of this is the American Press, we tend to think of this as an American war. Of course, there is a large American force there. But in the last analysis the American and other outside troops are limited in what they can do. The French were never able to establish an administration down to the village level. The Vietminh and the Vietcong were able to do this by a multitude of means, and in the last analysis only the Vietnamese themselves can establish an administration at village level. So the war in its eventual stages will hinge very largely on what the Government of South Vietnam does. One cannot judge the effect of what they are attempting at the present time. Some people we met were quite pessimistic and said: “ Diem made no progress. These people are trying the same things and they are not making any progress either.” On the other hand, some people said: “ They are making a little progress “. Nobody that we met told us that they were making a lot of progress at this stage.
It seems to me that there is conflict in the country between the forces trying to move towards a democratic society and those that are trying to retain the present form of administration. This is mainly because they are frightened of democratic elections. 1 believe that because this will revert to an insurgency war, and is in no small measure an insurgency war at the present time, the political question cannot be disregarded and the Government should be attempting to develop guide lines towards the future society that it hopes to build in South Vietnam. It could do this best by instituting democracy at the local government level in the areas that are completely controlled and free of insurgent influence.
It seems to me also that the Government of the country ought to be paying some attention to the restoration of the rule of law. The Government cannot go on arresting business people and indicating before these people are tried that they will be executed, for instance, next Tuesday, as happened in one celebrated case. If the Government wants to win the support of the people to the rule of law, then it has to abide by its own law. I was concerned also with the complexity of the methods being used for anti-insurgency work, police field forces work and the like in various parts of the country. In my opinion if a programme of this kind is to be successful it ought to be fairly simple basically. One obtained the impression that a lot of people carrying out work for the United States and other bodies, no doubt well intentioned, were building little empires for themselves. There did not seem to be that co-ordination throughout the country such as the British used with police field forces in Malaya and which would win support.
What of the future in Vietnam? We had an assessment, both from the leaders of South Vietnam and the leaders of the United States forces. They believed that it would be a long war. We were told that they felt it could be up to two years insofar as North Vietnamese involvement is concerned and that it could then be up to 10 years before the insurgency war was brought under control.
– Does the honorable member still think that we should withdraw our forces altogether?
– My impression was that the next 12 months will be the testing time. The present Government has been in office for over a year and with the increased American escalation, there are a number of people prepared to change sides. I think a great deal will depend on the political initiatives carried out by the Government of South Vietnam and what it can do with civil aid and other such programmes within the next 12 months. This war cannot be won by military means. I subscribe to the views of my friend, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who spoke of the cruel way in which this war is being fought with napalm and the like.
Unfortunately, time will not permit me to cover some of the other matters to which I wanted to refer. I wish to say, however, that we visited the Australian task force. It is carrying on in the best tradition of Australian forces. The Australian forces are well led. Their morale is high. When we were there, the Australian forces had been in the country for about six weeks only. The members of the forces had a number of complaints. The principal one was in relation to mail. This is an economic problem. At the moment it is also a security problem because of the circumstances in which our forces are operating. On the other hand, in many ways the troops were much better off than troops operating in similar ecological circumstances in the Second World War.
I was asked by questioners on the Government side whether I feel that the Australian troops should be withdrawn. I would say this in conclusion: I do not think that Australia’s role in Asia is that of a military power. One thing I learned during the 3i weeks that I spent in South East
Asia was that there is a great constructive role to be played in relation to a civil programme. We have to prepare the South Vietnamese to govern, to carry out administration and the functions of public health, schooling and the like. I feel that Australia has a very constructive role to play. I would hope that Australia in the future will be able to play this civil role in South Vietnam when its troops are withdrawn.
Debate (on motion by Sir “Wilfrid Kent Hughes) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- There were several alarming articles in today’s “ Canberra Times “ but one in particular took my eye. In a question that I asked this morning I directed the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) to the matter. For the information of the House I shall read the article which appears on page 28 of the newspaper. It carries the heading “ Protest to A.B.C. A Ban on Word Conscripts ‘ “ and is in these terms -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has agreed to drop all reference to the words “ conscripted “ and “ conscript “ after a complaint from the Returned Services League, it was learned today.
A letter of complaint was sent to A.B.C. General Manager, Mr. T. S. Duckmanton, about 3 months ago, objecting to the use of the word “conscripted” in- an A.B.C. news broadcast.
The R.S.L. urged the substitution of the words “ national service “ and “ national service personnel “, an R.S.L. spokesman said.
The objection was lodged with the N.S.W R.S.L. Executive by its North Coast councillor, Mr. G. A. P. Patterson.
A letter was sent to Mr. Duckmanton by the R.S.L. and Mr. Duckmanton agreed “conscripted “ and “ conscript “ could be considered unfavourable to many people.
Particularly the Government. The article continues -
He agreed the A.B.C. would use the words “ national service “ and “ national servicemen “ when referring to 20 year olds called up for national service training.
News of the A.B.C. censorship came out at the 50th annual State congress of the R.S.L. in Sydney today when a delegate from Coffs Harbour, Mr. G. Mason, complained about reference to “ conscripted “ in one motion on the congress agenda paper. “ I thought we hud dropped all reference to the words ‘ conscripted ‘ and ‘ conscript ‘ “. he said. “’ The A.B.C. was asked by this league to drop their reference lo the words.”
This morning I asked the Minister whether he knew of this and he said that it was a matter for the General Manager of the A.B.C, Mr. Duckmanton. Sir Arthur Lee, National President of the Returned Services League, re timed from overseas recently. The “ Australian “ of 9th August 1966 carried a report with the heading “ The R.S.L. is a pressure group “. lt reported Sir Arthur Lee as saying -
Of course we are a pressure group. 1 would certainly not deny this.
We bring pressure to bear on the community, on right thinking political people and on the Government.
Well, I suppose that is a fair statement of the League’s aims, and it is probably entitled to take that point of view. What concerns me, however, is that it can bring pressure to bear on the Austraiian broadcasting services vo drop words from broadcasts by news commentators, lt evidently has the approval of the Government and the management of the A.B.C. This means, in effect, that the League has been able to bring pressure to bear on the Government to suppress news broadcasts which include words that are acceptable to everyone and explain precisely what is meant. How does one describe a man who is conscripted under this Government’s infamous legislation other than as a conscript? Webster’s “Third New International Dictionary” defines a conscript as a person enrolled into service by compulsion, or one who has been enrolled into service as by arbitrary complusion or by the dictates of the law. The word “ conscription “ is defined as the compulsory enrolment of men for service in the armed forces, and “ conscriptionist “ is defined as a person who favours or advocates military conscription. That’ would apply to every honorable member on the Government side. The word “ conscript is known everywhere and applies particularly to those called up for military service.
I suggest to the Government that pressure has been brought to bear through the R.S.L. to remove this nasty word which is causing the Government so much concern in the electorate. I think the action has been taken in order to stop criticism and to suppress what the Government knows is an unfortunate word and an unfortunate policy to have to defend. The word as it is applied today to some men in the Services is nasty, repugnant, unpopular, immoral and unjust. That is why the Government seeks its removal. The Government knows that the word has a terrific effect on the people who will vote against it for its conscription proposals.
Where will this suppression end? Will the Postmaster-General tell us whether every television station in the country is now to be asked to remove the words “ conscript “ and “ conscription “ from its .news broadcasts? Will the Government force the panel of journalists whom we see up in the Press gallery to leave out words such as these when reporting in the Press of this country what is said in this Parliament? Will these words be removed from the books which are being printed at present and which deal with the infamous policies of this Government with respect to conscription legislation? Are the managements of radio and television stations to be told to delete references to conscription from their broadcasts because the Government believes that conscription is politically unpopular and is hurting it in the electorates? This kind of suppression is dangerous and dictatorial and should not be tolerated in any community. It shows again the lengths to which this Government is prepared to go to prevent the people from knowing the truth about legislation of which Government supporters are quite rightly ashamed because it is the most unjust and infamous ever introduced in this country.
The Government is punch drunk, Mr. Speaker. We have the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) telling people what they are to eat. He says to them “ You cannot have margarine. The Government says that you must eat butter.” What do we find in today’s “ Canberra Times “? Let us look. On the front page, we see a photograph of a member of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force who looks like Ned Kelly. On page 9, under the heading “ Riot squad for A.C.T. formed by police “, appears this report -
A police riot squad has been formed in the A.C.T. equipped with tear gas, riot guns, submachine guns and armour.
On Tuesday and yesterday, the squad was trained in the use of the Thompson sub-machine guns at still and moving targets.
The police are now exposed to more danger, and wilh this equipment they can operate with much greater safety.
I point out these things to show that in addition to suppressing certain words in news broadcasts on radio and television - suppression that no doubt will spread to all news media and news commentators - the Government is trying to tell people what they shall eat and has introduced a police riot squad into the society of Canberra. This Government is now telling people what they shall read and what they shall listen to, particularly with respect to conscription. This kind of attitude cannot go unchallenged, Mr. Speaker. We should not allow it to go unchallenged. What will happen in the forthcoming election campaign when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other Opposition speakers use the words “ conscription “ and “ conscriptionists “ when discussing the policies of those who sit opposite in this Parliament? Will those references be deleted from speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition speakers? The Government has directed that news commentators shall not make such references. What justification has this dictator, Duckmanton, for telling the people of this country that they may not listen to what the Leader of the Opposition says if he uses the word “ conscript “? 1 say to honorable members opposite and to the Postmaster-General that if the Broadcasting and Television Act does not give him power to do something about this kind of censorship, it is time he brought in an amending measure to protect the rights of the people in our democracy, in which suppression of this kind should never be tolerated. 1 could understand the Government’s action if it had a case on this issue, but it has not. Throughout the country, it conscripts 20 year old lads and sends them away to die in a war in which we should never have been engaged, and then it wants to suppress any mention by news commentators of criticism of its actions. I suppose (hat Mr. Duckmanton sends for every news broadcast that is to be read by the Australian Broadcasting Commission announcers - ‘the Dibbles and others - and says: “ Let me look at your material. Take out those nasty, bit- ter words. Find a nice, polite name for the poor devil who has been conscripted by this Government to fight in Vietnam. Use any description . you like, but do not use the word ‘conscript’. The Government and the Returned Services League will not have it used, because they believe that it is a nasty word.” The action taken by the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is infamous and he deserves the strongest censure for it. The Minister should take action at this stage to have the Broadcasting and Television Act amended and he should at least say whether or not he agrees with this kind of censorship to which we are being subjected. If he says that he agrees with it, the Government stands condemned for suppressing in all mediums of publicity criticism of its actions containing descriptive words that everybody understands.
– Mr. Speaker, I shall not delay the House long. I think it is reasonable to say that so childish an exhibition as we have witnessed from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) this evening hardly calls for an answer by me. He asked me a question today and. I made it quite clear to him-
– If the Minister defends this, the end of liberty is in sight.
– The honorable member for Lalor only makes the exhibition much worse. I suggest that, if I were to do as has been suggested and amend the legislation, both honorable members - the one who has made the speech and the one who has interjected - would be the first people to object to any alteration of the legislation which gave me any right of censorship over the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The situation is that this morning the honorable member for Grayndler asked me a question on this subject and I told him that under no circumstances did I interfere with the authority given under the legislation to the A.B.C. to look after its own affairs.
Since he gave me notice, through the Whip, that he proposed to raise this matter tonight, I have made inquiries concerning this complaint. He has used a lot of words to say very little. The situation simply is that the news section of the A.B.C. had a deliberation on what words should be used in relation to this matter and determined that in general terms “ national serviceman “ or “ national service “ should be used instead of “ conscript “ or “ conscription “. But at the same time it appreciated that there were certain circumstances - particularly in relation to quotations from what somebody had said - in which it would be necessary to use one or both of these two words. The news section then approached the higher management of the A.B.C. who confirmed that view. This was not a decision made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission as such. It was made in the normal course of operations by the staff of the Commission.
The staff of the Commission having made this decision, it so happened that a letter was received from Mr. Keys, the National Secretary of the Returned Services League. Mr. Keys was advised by the Chairman of the Commission of the decision which had already been taken. However, the matter was put before the New South Wales Congress of the League on the basis that the Chairman of the Commission virtually had acceded to the League’s request. I put the record straight by saying that the decision was made in advance of the receipt of any letter from the Returned Services League. So there was no pressure from anybody in relation to this matter.
– It is a rotten decision.
– The honorable member may say that it is a rotten decision if he likes. But the point is that the people who made the decision are the ones who are entitled and authorised by this Parliament to make this sort of decision. I believe that it is unfortunate that a person in Mr. Duckmanton’s position - that of General Manager of the A.B.C. - should be vilified by a person such as the honorable member for Grayndler, because Mr. Duckmanton cannot stand up and defend himself in this place. But, of course, we are used to this sort of thing; and I am sure that Mr. Duckmanton, being in. a responsible position and having some knowledge of the conduct of certain members of this House, would be. quite prepared to excuse the honorable member for Grayndler for his attitudes and his statements in the House tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Australia is set up wholly to operate on this high grade oil?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Sugar. (Question No. 1728.)
n asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
I may point out that in its essentials this clause duplicates that included in the Agreement negotiated under the last Commonwealth Labour Government. lt will be seen from this and other clauses of the agreement that, as I said in this House on 21st April, the Queensland Government is the more direct instrument of authority in the industry. That is fitting because constitutionally the control of production is a State function. However the Commonwealthhas an implicit right as the other patty to the Agreement - with its own obligations - to express its views on matters of moment concerning the industry.
Sugar. (Question. No. 1729.)
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
That Government maintains its control by negotiating a small “allocation” for the New South Wales industry and setting “mill peaks” for the Queensland industry.
In the past - up to and including the time when the 1962 Sugar Agreement was negotiated - the combined total of the allocation and the mill peaks has been equal to the sum of home market requirements and our export quota under International Sugar Agreements plus a small margin to allow for a bad season. Any sugar made in excess of “mill peaks” (or the New South Wales “ allocation “) was made “ at producer’s risk “.
Under the. arrangement continued by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments when the “1962 Sugar Agreement was negotiated - an arrangement established many years ago and supported by Labour governments of the Commonwealth in their time - the price of sugar sold on the domestic market was set at a level designed to return to growers and raw sugar millers combined the average cost of production of sugar up to the aggregate of mill peaks and the New South Wales allocation.
The term “ mill -peaks “ now has a different connotation. In order to give the industry in 1964 and subsequently the assurance of saleability necessary to ensure production appropriate to the marketing opportunitieswhich had become available, and in circumstances where the exportregulating provisions of the International Sugar Agreement were no longer operative and where the industry was to become muchmore dependent on the unstable free world market price the Queensland Government has applied the term “ mill peaks “ to a much greater quantity than hitherto - 2,242,000 tons (including the New South Wales allocation) in 1965 season as against l,295,800tons in 1962 season. The Commonwealth has not been asked to extend to the increased quantity the cover provided for production costs under the arrangehient made earlier.’
n asked the Minister for PrimaryIndustry, upon notice -
What is the average retail price of Al refined sugar in each of the following localities - Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Mackay and Cairns?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Under the terms of the Sugar Agreement 1962, refined sugar is made available to wholesalers in capital cities and in the cities of Darwin, Launceston and Fremantle at a common price. Retail prices are not directly set by the Agreement but in practice are determined by customary retail trade margins and by competition between retailers.
The following table sets out an average price of a cross-section of recent retail sales in the cities named in the honorable member’s question.
The large supermarkets tend to “ set “ the retail price of sugar but I would emphasise that many small retailers would sell at a higher price and on the other hand many supermarkets sell sugar as a “ special “.
y asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
How many persons have visited and inspected the Snowy Mountains scheme during the past twelve months?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
During the past 12 months over 50,000 persons have visited the scheme on organised toura, each lour being accompanied by a specially trained conducting officer from the Authority. These tours have, in the main, extended for some 24 to 3 days and have involved the Authority in the provision of meals and overnight accommodation. In addition to these conducted tours, large numbers of persons have made visits of varying duralions in a more or less private capacity.
I would like to stress thai the Authority’s public relations programme is entirely self-supporting and (hat there is no charge whatever to the taxpayer as a result of members of the public visiting the scheme.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What was the level of Australian production of cottonseed oil, peanut oil and safflower oil for the last three years and what is the estimated level of production for the current crops?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Production details of these respective vegetable oils are not available from official sources. However, the following figures, in respect of 1963 and 1964, have been made available- from various trade sources and published in the Report on the Vegetable Oilseeds Industry in Australia 1964. Estimates for 1965 are also shown but it must be emphasised that these are preliminary departmental calculations only and are obtained by applying an arbitrary extraction rate to the respective crops of oilseeds.
Only very early estimates are available of the likely level of oil production from the 1966 peanut and cottonseed crops. However, it is estimated that the former could reach a level of 1,200 tons and cottonseed 5,000 tons, lt must be stressed that these are very early estimates and final figures could show a significant variance. Plantings of safflower are still in progress in Queensland and no realistic estimate of likely production will be available until October.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
It is true hat linseed production has been curtailed owing to a slackening demand by the paint industry as a result of the development and expansion of acrylic type paints. Nevertheless the industry is currently examining ways and means of furthering the orderly growth of the industry.
From figures I have supplied in reply to Question 1807 it is clear that the production of peanut, cottonseed and safflower is expanding. Soya bean on the other hand has encountered production difficulties but continued research into current agronomic problems of the crop in Queensland should, it is hoped, lead to an eventual break-through.
This working party prepared a draft report on the vegetable oil seeds industry in Australia in 1964 which was edited and approved by the 1964 conference. The 1966 conference is programmed to be held in Canberra on Thursday, 29th September 1966.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the net increase in the number of (a) primary, (b) secondary and (c) technical teachers employed in (i) government and (ii) non-government schools in (A) Commonwealth Territories and (B) each of the States in each of the last ten years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The following tables show the information available to me on annual net increases of fulltime teachers. In some cases the total of itemised annual increases differs from that which can be derived from the Commonwealth Statistician’s Bulletin: “Social Statistics: Australia No. 41 - Schools, 1965 “, because of different methods of collection.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many (a) infant, (b) primary and (c) secondary teachers (i) were in training in and (ii) graduated from (A) government and (B) nongovernment teacher training colleges in each of the Stales and Commonwealth Territories in each of the last ten years?
– The answer to the honorable member-is question is as follows -
The following tables show the information available lo me on the numbers of trainees in teacher training colleges and the output of these colleges. No statistics are available for nongovernment teachers colleges in the Slates.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
For Tasmania, the Annual Reports of the Education Department show the numbers of university degrees held by its teachers, primary and secondary combined, since the year 1961 only. These figures are: 1961, 463; 1962, 503; 1963, 517; 1964, 632.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Advanced Education scholarship scheme, comparable figures are not available for 1965. Open Entrance and Later Year awards are shown separately: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The Commonwealth Government has decided to provide assistance to enable Australian composers to make their work known. Each year a sum of money, initially $10,000, will be made available for the purpose of having composers’ original musical scores copied or printed in numbers sufficient for them to be played by orchestras, and to have these scores played by orchestras and recorded on tape for audition purposes, but not for commercial use. Arrangements for the administration of this aid have yet to be decided but they will be made known as soon as possible.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
New South Wales in both years -
Victoria in boths years - Intermediate Technical Examination.
Queensland in both years - Junior Public Examination.
South Australia in both years the Public Examinations Board Intermediate and the Intermediate Technical Examinations were used. In addition, the Public Examinations Board Leaving, the Technical Leaving and the Leaving Honours examinations were used in 1966.
Western Australia for scholarships taken up in 1965 the Junior Certificate was used, while” for those taken up in 1966 the Australian Council for Educational Research examination and the Leaving Certificate were used.
Tasmania - in both years - Schools Board examination.
The distribution of technical scholarships taken up in 1965 by type of course, and in 1966 by institution, is shown in the following table. A detailed distribution of courses in 1966 is not yet available.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) At the end of 1965 the number of applicants who were offered and accepted awards was 1,519.
There were 2,164 eligible applicants who declined or did not receive awards.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the number of places in (a) government and (b) non-government teachers’ colleges in Commonwealth Territories and in each of the States in each of the last seven years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The reply to question No. 1773 gives the available information on the enrolments of these colleges. There is no information available as to whether the number of places is different from the enrolments.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Can he say. how many (a) qualified (b) unqualified (i) lay teachers (ii) members of religious orders were employed in (A) primary and (B) secondary Catholic schools in each State ineach of the last five years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The statistics asked for by the honorable member are not available to me.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660818_reps_25_hor52/>.