26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr Denis James Killen made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Moreton, Queensland.
– f have to inform the House that the Honourable C. R. Kelly, Minister designate for Works, was this morning sworn in as Minister. This followed the passage of the Ministers of State Bill through both Houses of the Parliament last week. The arrangement whereby Senator Gorton administered the Works portfolio and the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Freeth, represented him in this chamber now ceases. As foreshadowed in my statement to the House on Tuesday last, Senator Anderson, the Minister for Customs and Excise, will represent Mr Kelly in the Senate. I also take the opportunity to inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, left Australia on Saturday last on a brief official visit to New Zealand. He will return on Friday next, 3rd March. During the Minister’s absence, the Minister for Social Services, Mr Sinclair, will act as Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. By way of introduction I say that we Tasmanians are deeply grateful to the mainland States for their wonderful generosity in supporting the appeal to help the rehabilitation of our people and economy, which were affected by the disastrous fire on 7th February. Is it not a fact that the Federal Government intends to match dollar for dollar the contributions made by the Tasmanian Government? As a special effort in a major disaster, will the Prime Minister, if asked by the Premier, consider having the Federal Government match dollar for dollar the total amount of cash donations for relief from all sources, now amounting to $2,800,000, as the capacity of the Tasmanian Government to give large direct grants for relief is limited by comparison with the capacity of the governments of the mainland States in similar disasters within their boundaries?
– In expressing the appreciation of Tasmania the honourable gentleman is echoing the statements of appreciation which have come from the Premier and other prominent Tasmanians in relation to this matter. I know the honourable member will be first to acknowledge that the Commonwealth Government has from the outset tried to be as helpful as it could be on these matters. His introductory comment might give a misleading impression that our assistance is confined to a $1 for $1 contribution. This contribution applies only in respect of the special relief fund for hardship cases which has been set up by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments. As I said in the statement issued at the time of the Premiers Conference, in respect of matters of rehabilitation, industrial re-establishment and in the housing field, Commonwealth assistance will be partly by loan and partly by way of direct grant. Even in the case of voluntary donations by private citizens, to which he has referred, he will be aware that my colleague the Treasurer has already announced that all these donations will be deductible for purposes of taxation. It would be not unreasonable to say that on an average about one-half of the total amount thus donated represents revenue foregone by the Commonwealth Government. So I think it will be found that what we have done goes, if anything, beyond what he would urge us to do.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing say why fixed deposits with both Government and private enterprise savings banks are classed as acceptable savings for the purposes of the homes savings grant legislation whereas money lent to the Commonwealth Government through investment in series K bonds is not so regarded?
– This matter has by now quite a history. It was made clear by the Government when the proposition was originally put to the country in the 1963 election that eligible savings would be those in prescribed accounts and in land for a home. These accounts were those which contributed to long term loans for housing. This policy was made clear and the accounts in which moneys could be put were made known far and wide. Also, a long interim period was allowed during which those with investments in bonds or in almost any other form of saving could transfer funds into designated accounts. I repeat that the purpose behind this policy is to channel funds into accounts in institutions which directly contribute funds for housing.
– Will the Minister for the Army release the total casualties of Australian troops in Vietnam in the last three months and the casualties for the three months immediately preceding the general election?
– Yes, I will release these figures, although ‘release’ is perhaps the wrong word because they have all been published anyway. I shall take out the analysis requested by the honourable member and also shall add to it the total casualties for the time that the task force has been there and for the time in which the First Battalion was there in the year previously.
– Can the Minister for the Army advise us of the purpose of the visit to Australia by General Paul Freeman, Commander of the United States Continental Command, who is one of the senior Four Star Generals of the United States of America?
– This visit arose out of United States participation in the last Chief of the General Staff’s exercise in August of last year. At that time several United States senior officers from Vietnam came to Australia and participated in the exercise. They were impressed by Australian training methods, and the performance of the task force and, previously, the battalion group in Vietnam. Thereafter there was close correspondence between General Johnson of the United States of America and General Daly, and a proposal came from the American side suggesting that General Freeman visit Australia to see our training establishments. I believe that this was flattering to the Australian Regular Army. It is something in which we are extremely happy and willing to acquiesce. The Army as a whole, I believe, should take it as a compliment that so senior an officer has sought to come to Australia for this purpose.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has he seen reports of drastic reductions by major Australian universities in the number of postgraduate students and in stipends and facilities for research workers? Is this due to a deadlock between the Federal Government and the State governments over the disbursements recommended by the Australian Research Grants Committee for the 1967-69 triennium? Has this dispute resulted in the refusal of the Federal Government to pay to universities in four States its share of grants for general research? In view of the urgent need of industry for research workers and of the universities for qualified staff, will the right honourable gentleman use his initiative to resolve the deadlock and ensure that adequate funds flow to the universities for postgraduate research?
– I do not know that offhand I shall be able to give the honourable gentleman a completely authorative answer. My recollection does not run along the lines of the circumstances that he has put to the House. I am aware that after discussions with the States it was decided that the total sum recommended for disbursement during the triennium would not be provided. This decision arose largely from the difficulty that the States considered they had in providing their proportion of the funds to be supplied. It is my recollection that the outcome was the product of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. I shall put the question to my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, and get a complete answer for the honourable member.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. My information is that individuals are finding it difficult to establish claims for loans from the 850m fund made available for farm development loans by the Government through ordinary banking channels. Will the Treasurer inform me how much of the fund has been allocated? If necessary, will further sums be made available?
– During the last few weeks we have had discussions with representatives of the banks about the Farm Development Loan Fund. They have informed us that there appears to be some reluctance on the part of farmers to avail themselves of the benefits of the banking system and to obtain from the Fund loans repayable by instalments. Money is available. More than $50m was made available by . the banking system. At present something like $9m has been advanced and substantially more - probably about $15m - has in fact been committed. We asked the representatives of the banks to make further inquiries to ascertain why farmers would not take advantage of the development funds so offered. So far the bankers have not been able to find an answer for us. I can assure the honourable gentleman that money is available. The banks have informed us that they are willing to land, but all potential borrowers do not appear anxious to take the money.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Is it a Commonwealth offence to defile the Australian flag? ls it a Commonwealth offence wilfully to burn or destroy an Australian flag in public? If so, what are the penalties? If there are no penalties provided in the existing legislation, will the honourable gentleman introduce a bill making such acts punishable by a Commonwealth court of law?
– It is not an offence against the law at the present time to burn an Australian flag. Whether any change should be made in the law is perhaps a matter of policy, but one could express the view that in the past we have been able to count on the good sense of the Australian people and their sentiment for their flag to ensure that the flag is given proper respect. Isolated acts that may have been committed recently do not seem to constitute a case at the moment for making a specific law about this matter.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that the Seamen’s Union, under Communist leadership, is holding up the ship Boonaroo’ which is required to take urgently needed war supplies to our fighting forces in Vietnam. Can the Minister say what steps are being taken to overcome this situation so that the ship may sail as scheduled?
– Some time ago, it came to the knowledge of the Government that Mr Elliott, the Federal Secretary of the Seamen’s Union, had been saying that there was no chance of members of the union sailing war supplies to Vietnam. About a week ago yesterday, I wrote to Mr Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, expressing our fear that there would be further delay and frustration about the sailing of this vessel “Boonaroo’, and stating that it was highly important to the Government and to our forces in Vietnam to get the ‘Boonaroo’ away on time. I also told him that we hoped and preferred that war supplies would go to Vietnam in Australian vessels, manned and sailed by Australian seamen, but that if these cargoes were to be subject to frustration and delays of various sorts it would become necessary for us to commission the ‘Boonaroo’ and other merchant vessels in the Navy and use naval crews to man them.
The ‘Boonaroo’ has been held up already in the port of Melbourne on its way to Point Wilson. All parties concerned, of course, have known about this situation for some considerable time. Just before lunch, I received advice from Mr Monk that the ACTU did not support industrial action involving the holding up of supplies for Vietnam. He added that the ACTU believed that Australian merchant vessels should carry these cargoes and thai they should be manned on a voluntary basis by Australian seamen, subject to certain conditions of an industrial character, rather than by Service personnel. The ship ‘Boonaroo’ will post another sailing date this afternoon. This will probably be tomorrow morning. If the crew is not forthcoming, and if the ship does not sail, it will be necessary for the Navy to commission and man it. I hope that the crew of ‘Boonaroo’, when facing any conflict of loyalties which may arise, will follow the Australian flag and not the hammer and sickle.
– Have members of the Prime Minister’s Department and the band of experts who specifically advise the Prime Minister recommended that, in addition to themselves, only one Rhodes Scholar and one former editor of the ‘Age’ are necessary to provide him with ideas that will enable him to carry out his duties with reasonable efficiency or will the appointments be made as the direct result of a recommendation by the right honourable gentleman himself who may be, in this matter, a little overconfident?
– -The honourable member for Scullin should be the best judge of whether I was over-confident because I managed to secure a record majority against his Labor Party without the assistance of the two gentlemen to whom he has referred. If any consequence of a happy kind flows from these appointments, I hate to think what the state of the Opposition will be after the next election. I assure the honourable gentleman that while he and his colleagues have been deprived of the responsibility of government for a very considerable time Australia has been growing very rapidly in international influence and industrial development as well as in other directions. The arrangements that have been made for appointments to my staff have been made, not to fortify my position politically but with the idea of improving the standard of achievement that can flow from the Prime Minister’s Department and the Government generally.
Mr Bailey, I am happy to acknowledge, is a distinguished Rhodes Scholar and the son of one of the most distinguished members of the Public Service Australia has produced - Sir Kenneth Bailey, formerly SolicitorGeneral and now High Commissioner in Canada, who also was a Rhodes Scholar. Mr. Bailey replaces my former Private Secretary, Mr Jennings - himself a very efficient officer. Mr Jennings has been with us for four years. As honourable gentlemen are aware, it is not normally regarded as desirable to retain in a position of this kind for too long a regular member of the Public Service. To do so is not fair to the officer concerned. It does nothing to maintain his associations or enhance his opportunities for promotion within the Service. I am happy to have this opportunity of saying a public thank you to Mr Jennings, who served Sir Robert Menzies and me with great capacity. I am quite certain that Mr Bailey will do the same.
Mr Sinclair has been engaged by my Department on a part time basis. Those who know him will agree that he is very able in a variety of directions. He is a man of character and ability. He has a distinguished war record. During his term as editor of the ‘Age’ he impressed all of us with his common sense and strong Australian patriotism and realism. There is in the Prime Minister’s Department a variety of matters which cannot conveniently, nor I think even appropriately, be dealt with by a regular member of the Public Service. For example, one of the first areas to which I am directing Mr Sinclair’s attention is what I might broadly term the ‘cultural activities’ of my office - those activities which for a long time I have felt should have been disposed of but which, due to the urgencies of the day to day running of the Department, have not been effectively dealt with. In the fullness of time we will establish here in Canberra a national gallery. We have problems associated with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Performing Arts Council and matters of that kind. There is a whole range of cultural problems associated with television and radio. Those are illustrations of the kind of work on which I hope to have Mr Sinclair’s reflective contemplation and some useful advice. But this is by no means the limit of the range. I am sure that he will be of strength to the Administration and helpful not only to a government on this side of politics. I hope that he gets a taste for the life and will be available for others who may succeed us.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. I should like to say that I do not agree with the substance of his reply to an earlier question asked by the honourable member for Watson. 1 refer to the advertising campaign in which the chief opponents are ‘Daisy’ and ‘Mrs Jones’ and in which the producer of a cheap and nasty substitute for an Australian health-giving foodstuff-
-Order! The honourable member is close to contravening the Standing Orders.
– This producer is using the Australian national flag as an advertising gimmick.
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral look further into the question of bringing in rules to prevent unprincipled people from using the Australian flag as an advertising gimmick?
– The treatment of the Australian flag, as I emphasised before, is not a matter that one can prescribe simply by writing down a command in an Act. It is a matter for the minds and hearts of the Australian people. I will look at the possibility of controlling the use of the flag in advertisements. This perhaps raises a different consideration: the commercial use of the flag is another matter. As to the law, perhaps I could add to my previous answer by saying that if the treatment of the Australian flag is such as is likely to lead to a breach of the peace there may be a legal means of preventing it.
– Is the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry aware of world-wide overproduction of crude oil and resulting fierce price-cutting by producing countries? Are international petroleum distributing firms continuing to charge their overseas subsidiary companies in Australian prices for imported crude oil far in excess of true market rates? Does the Government of the Republic of India, in order to conserve foreign exchange and to counter this price racket, act as purchasing agent at true world prices for all imports into India of crude oil for firms operating therein? Will the Minister consider similar action in relation to this country’s imports?
– I do not know the details of what is done by the Government of India about the importation of crude oil. I do know that the Australian Government has implemented a policy to encourage the discovery and exploration for further discovery of crude oil deposits in Australia. This policy has been directed to trying to develop what are without doubt wonderful potentials for the future. As to the substance of the remainder of the honourable gentleman’s question, I shall be happy to look into it to provide him with a detailed answer at a later date.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question supplementary to an earlier question asked by the honourable member for La Trobe about General Freeman’s proposed visit to Australia. Is it a fact that Australian troops in Asia are held in high respect by United States, South Vietnamese and Vietcong troops because of their prowess in jungle warfare? Also is it a fact that the Australian Army has decided to confine Australian training to jungle tactics and therefore has concentrated on jungle training? ls it a fact that other countries are compelled to train their troops for fighting in various kinds of country other than jungle terrain? If these are facts would they be among the considerations leading to General Freeman’s decision to visit the Australian jungle training school?
– I suppose the simple answer to the honourable gentleman would be yes on all counts. Our troops have given a magnificent account of themselves in jungle guerrilla warfare. It is equally true that the Australian Government expects, to the extent that can be foreseen at the moment, that wherever our military forces are to be engaged it will be in a jungle environment. For that reason, of course, training has been leaning heavily in the direction of jungle training, and hence the high degree of specialisation of our military forces. The United States of America has widespread global commitments and to give flexibility to its military organisation its troops have to undergo a wide range of training. To a very large extent this has precluded the degree of specialisation that has fortunately been available to us.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. It concerns the delay in delivery of letters posted by social service and employment offices to pensioners residing in West Sydney who, when they inquire about the non-delivery of such letters, are informed that they were posted on certain dates. Due to the delay in the receipt of pensions, some of these people have been unable to pay their rents, and the hostels or landlords involved have frequently denied them their rooms. Can the Minister make available a special inquiry desk at the social service office in West Sydney to help these pensioners in their inquiries, as my secretary and I cannot help them in the present circumstances?
– This is the first complaint of this nature that 1 have heard. I would like to say that some of the comments or criticisms that have recently flowed through the news media have been gross exaggerations. I do not believe that people in the honourable member’s electorate, or in Australia generally, are suffering to the extent that the honourable member has suggested or, indeed, in the way that has been suggested in other quarters. There has been very little delay in the delivery of mail. Only last week, in answer to a question, I gave honourable members an indication of the position. The mail handling situation is constantly under review and we arc endeavouring to improve it.
People sometimes tend to think that this is the only country that has problems of this kind. I know of many other countries which have similar problems to ours because of a considerable increase, year by year, in the volume of mail. Indeed when the electronic mail handling equipment which we are installing in Sydney is performing in a fully satisfactory manner many other countries will place orders with an Australian firm for this kind of equipment. I believe that we are quickly overcoming the problems associated with it, and if I understand the Australian people I believe that they will be patient with some of the immediate difficulties that we are experiencing. I mentioned last week that thirty letters a day had been destroyed. If I remember rightly the number was reduced to fifteen on Friday, to four on Saturday and to two yesterday. I believe that this shows a real effort being made by the Post Office engineers to overcome the difficulties. I hope the number of letters destroyed will soon be reduced to nil.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It follows a statement released by the Minister recently relating to the fitting of safety belts in motor vehicles. I preface it by reminding the Minister that sales tax is not applied to the purchase of safety belts if they are purchased as separate items.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. 1 draw your attention to the fact that a similar question to the one being asked by the honourable member for Wimmera is on the notice paper.
– What is the number of the question?
– It is question 9.
-The question being asked by the honourable member for Wimmera is in order. Question 9 relates to sales tax. This question refers to the fitting of seat belts in cars.
– I was saying that I preface my question by reminding the Minister that sales tax is not applied to the fitting of safety belts if they are purchased as separate items.
– I rise to order again. The question being asked is, practically word for word, the question that is on the notice paper.
-The honourable member will ask his question.
– I continue and ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: In the interests of safety, by encouraging the fitting of these important devices, will the Minister consult with the Treasurer with a view to ironing out this rather small bur nevertheless important anomaly?
- Mr Speaker, it is quite true that ministers for transport in the various States and myself, at a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council last Friday, agreed that the fitting of safety belt anchorages and safety belts should be made compulsory in motor vehicles first registered after a certain date. It would appear, as the honourable member suggests, that if sales tax has to be paid on anchorages and belts fitted compulsorily then there is some anomaly. But I would point out that when this exemption from sales tax was first introduced it was designed to encourage owners of existing motor vehicles voluntarily to fit safety belts and the necessary anchorages. Even after this new regulation is drafted and is adopted by the States there will still be the need to encourage owners of vehicles to fit safety belts. I will be quite happy to discuss with the Treasurer the question of sales tax exemption but I would point out to the honourable member that there is a wide difference between encouraging people voluntarily to fit safety bells and compulsorily requiring people, as a safety measure, to do so after a certain date. Once you got into that realm, all kinds of anomalies would crop up if you gave exemption to something that came with the car. There might be the problem of whether brakes should be regarded as a safety feature and, therefore, require exemption from sales tax. I do not think there is an easy answer to the removal of the anomaly which the honourable member has mentioned.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. 1 am informed that under Government regulation DDT spray will be banned from use by cattlemen for the eradication of buffalo fly in the cattle industry. Will the Minister confer with the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to see whether priority can be given to research for a suitable substitute with equal value? If that is not possible then the cattle industry will be greatly affected in the near future, particularly in the York Peninsula where the buffalo fly is prevalent. Will the Minister consider permitting the use of DDT in this area or supply information concerning any method of controlling this pest which does not necessitate use of DDT products?
– I have heard nothing of the matter addressed to me by the honourable gentleman but I will be very glad to look into it to see whether anything helpful can be done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence in his capacity as representing the Minister for Supply. Is there any truth in the reports that the Australian Government is at present having discussions with the Russian Government with a view to setting up in Australia co-operative tracking stations for tracking geophysical satellites?
– There has been no approach to the Australian Government officially on this matter. I think that a long time ago there were some conversations between representative members of the respective academies of science, but they did not result in any official approach. The Government knows nothing of it.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs, whichever is the appropriate Minister to answer it. Has the Minister noted the statement of the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, that American troops would step up the war in Vietnam in the coming year and the battle for the support of the people would take a back seat? Will the Minister say whether the statement was made, and if it was made whether it is United States policy for tha conduct of the war? Was this matter discussed with Australia, and if such a policy were decided upon would it be discussed with Australia?
– The Australian Government enjoys a very high degree of confidence at all levels with the United States Government. The statement ascribed to General Wheeler is nol one that has come under my personal notice, and it certainly is not a statement that has the status of a declaration of policy by the United States Government. Consultation between the two governments, I assure the honourable member, is very close.
– My question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport is supplementary to one asked by the honourable member for Wimmera. Can the Minister tell me whether if the States are successful in having all cars compulsorily fitted with seat belts they will then take steps to pass legislation to make it compulsory to use them?
– It was decided by the State Ministers that the first essential step was to have cars fitted with safety belts. It is very difficult to police the actual wearing of them, but it was thought that with the strong inducement of having the belts there a good step forward would be taken. As the honourable member will realise, there are many difficulties associated with compelling people to wear safety belts or compelling them to wear them in such a way that they are effective, because they can be done up loosely or ineffectively. There would be many loopholes in legislation passed to compel people to wear them. It is thought that it is better to rely on the good sense of people to protect themselves as far as possible in this manner.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Have twenty members of the lines staff been retrenched in Brisbane in the last few days at a time when unemployment is causing some concern? Have these dismissals been brought about by lack of funds or are all telephone installations up to date? Will the Postmaster-General review the position with a view to offering these men reemployment in the near future?
– The persons to whom the honourable member refers were appointed temporarily to the staff of the Post Office in July last year. It was indicated to them at that time that there would be employment for them for one month only. Their employment has been continued in the months since then to the point of time when the Post Office did not require their services any further. I think that in the circumstances the fact that we have employed them for so long is an indication of our desire not only to assist them but also to achieve the work result which we set out to achieve. I am sorry, but this was a circumstance which was anticipated at the time when they were given one month’s temporary employment by the Department-.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the continued interest of honourable members and the public generally in foreign investment in
Australia, can the Treasurer give the House any relevant extracts from the report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Banking and Finance, which was submitted to the Parliament of that country in 1960? Does the report of the Commission indicate that overseas investment in Canada will tend to accelerate development there and make Canada a net exporter of capital rather than an importer?
– If my recollection holds good, the report of the Royal Commission runs into several hundred pages. If the honourable gentleman would like me to obtain extracts of those parts relating to private capital inflow and its impact upon the Canadian economy, I will be only too happy to do so, provided they are not too large. However, I can say to the honourable gentleman that the Royal Commission did report that it favoured the movement of international private capital into Canada. It found that production was substantially increased as the result of this movement and that as production increased, normally the increase in capital and in production helped to solve the balance of payments problem and in time would solve it completely. There is one other matter to which I would like to draw attention. The Commission also pointed out that it should be the objective of the Canadian Government to encourage increased Canadian equity in foreign investments. This is also the policy of the Australian Government and I hope to see capital investment by Australians increase commensurately with the increase of international capital movements.
– by leave - In reply to a question asked in the House on the opening day of Parliament by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) referred to understandings which had been reached between the Commonwealth and Victoria in regard to the disposal of natural gas which had been discovered in offshore areas adjacent to south-eastern Victoria. The Prime Minister indicated that the Government, by agreement with the Premier of Victoria, would make available the contents of the letters which had been exchanged between them. To put the matter into perspective I should mention that in addition to the general discussions with all the States on the content of the proposed uniform offshore petroleum legislation, the Commonwealth has had discussions with Victoria concerning, firstly, the granting of production licences to BHP-Esso over the Barracouta and Marlin fields; and, secondly, the interstate sale and supply of natural gas produced from those areas.
As to the production licences granted to BHP-Esso, as indicated by the Prime Minister in his announcement of 29th December last, the Commonwealth has agreed that Victoria should proceed to grant licences in advance of the introduction of the joint common code legislation. The terms and conditions of the BHP-Esso production licences were outlined at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Mines Ministers and Attorneys-General in Adelaide on 25th January 1967. On 2 1st February the Victorian Government introduced a Bill to enable the production licences to be granted. When the comprehensive joint offshore petroleum legislation is introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament the legislation will include provisions providing Commonwealth legislative support for the production licences now to be granted to BHP-Esso.
On the second matter of the arrangements for the disposal interstate of natural gas from the areas subject to the BHP-Esso production licences, there have been discussions between the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier and other Commonwealth and State Ministers. In these discussions, the Commonwealth and Victoria had the common objective of encouraging interstate sales. On the other hand, it seemed fair that Victoria should not be put at a disadvantage in relation to an interstate purchaser in respect of these discoveries. Moreover, adequate reserves must be available for BHP-Esso to effect delivery of gas to Victoria under contractual obligations already existing. It was also recognised that account would have to be taken of the cost of transmission of gas to interstate markets and that in consequence the city gate price of gas in those markets could be higher than the city gate price to the Victorian markets. This sort of differential will indeed apply within Victoria itself.
The result of the discussions appears from the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and the Premier, which I now lay on the table of the House. The Commonwealth will have full opportunity to make its voice heard and will satisfy itself that the requirements specified in the letters will be observed. We have, in any event, made it clear in our discussions with Victoria that the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers are fully reserved. 1 think I should correct an impression that appears to have arisen in some quarters that the Commonwealth has somehow abandoned its constitutional authority and responsibility in connection with offshore petroleum. Any such impression is quite erroneous. When the question of constitutional authority over offshore petroleum first came up as a result of moves to explore Australia’s offshore areas, the States asserted that jurisdiction over these offshore resources rested with them. The Commonwealth on the other hand held firmly to the view that jurisdiction rested with it. Moreover, some oil companies indicated that they would not be happy about the legal effectiveness of titles granted to them unless these had Commonwealth legislative support.
In 1965, the Commonwealth and State governments reached agreement that, in the national interest, they should endeavour to avoid litigation by co-operating in a scheme of joint uniform legislation covering exploration for and exploitation of petroleum on both the sea-bed beneath territorial waters and the sea-bed of the continental shelf beneath the high seas. Under this scheme, the conflict over constitutional powers was put aside but without prejudice to the respective standpoints of the Commonwealth and the States.
When I announced the general principles of the offshore scheme in November 1965 I remarked that the ability of the States and the Commonwealth to reach agreement on this matter was a tribute to the strength of our Federal institutions. The discussions between the Mines Ministers of the States and myself and the AttorneysGeneral of the States and the Commonwealth Attorney-General have been characterised both by frankness and by a demonstrated willingness on the part of all to set their minds to achieving a national solution to the orderly and effective development of these natural resources. The scheme which is now coming to fruition will be, I believe, unique in a nation where there is a federal system of government. Already the scheme has aroused interest in other countries of the world. It is my firm belief that the arrangements on which the States and the Commonwealth have reached practical agreement and which are now being finalised for presentation to Parliament, will be in the best interests of Australia.
I present the following papers:
Off Shore Petroleum, Uniform Legislation -
Disposal of Natural Gas Discovered in Bass Strait-
Exchange of Letters dated 16, 21 and 23
February 1967 between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria:
Ministerial Statement dated 28 February 1967- and move:
That the Housetake note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 February (vide page 1 54), on motion by Mr Munro:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I call the honourable member for Flinders and remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to speak with a sense of humility and pride -humility in the wake of those great men who as members of this House have shaped the course of our national history, pride in the reflection that this home of legislative debate represents human liberty in the purest form yet devised.
I am conscious of the honour that my constituents have conferred upon me, for Flinders is an area with a proud history dating back to 1797 when the explorer
George Bass sailed into Westernport Bay during his attempt to prove that a strait existed between the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land. Today, its fast growing tempo of population and development mirrors the rapid expansion of the modern Australia. Well known for the magnificent beaches and holiday resorts which characterise the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island, the electorate is a major contributor to the national wealth through its many long established primary industries and an increasing degree of industrialisation, highlighted in the recent completion of the $30m refinery of BP Refinery (Westernport) Pty Ltd, while ahead there is great potential in the development of Westernport as an auxiliary port for Melbourne.
My predecessor, Major Robert Lindsay, represented the electorate for the past thirteen years and I pay tribute to the record of faithful service which he established during this period. I am mindful of the responsibilities that service to the Parliament and the people of Australia involves, for I believe that we are privileged in living in a period of stirring and untapped opportunity in all facets of the national life, and our responsibilities are proportioned to the boundless opportunities before us.
As the early American democrat, Andrew Oliver, said in Boston, United States of America, more than 160 years ago:
Politics is the most hazardous of all professions. There is not another in which a man can hope to do so much good for his fellow creatures. Neither is there any in which, by mere loss of nerve, he may do such widespread harm.
Nor is there another in which he may so easily lose his own soul. Nor is there another in which a positive and strict veracity is so difficult, but danger is the inseparable companion of honour. With all the temptations and degradations that beset the politicians it is still the noblest career any man can choose.
This I believe, Mr Speaker, and I shall endeavour at all times to maintain the dignity of the Parliament, to uphold its traditions and to give of my best in the collective contribution of members of this House to the further development of an ‘Australia Unlimited’.
The world and we have entered the last third of a century that has been a significant marker in the pages of human history - an age of revolutionary change, rapid, radical and cumulative, in which the rate of change itself has accelerated faster than men had over dreamed possible. All humanity has come within its ambit. It has affected all peoples, nations and languages and no aspect of human life has remained unaltered. For since this century’s beginning a time of tempest has seemed to come upon the continents of the earth. The masses of Asia have awakened to strike off the shackles of the past. Great nations of Europe have waged their bloodiest wars. Thrones have toppled and their empires have disappeared. New nations have been born and we have been witness to vast technological revolutions in the techniques of modern industry. For our own country it has been a time of recurring trial. We have grown in power, affluence and responsibility. We have passed through the anxieties of depression and we have fought alongside those nations which have sought to secure peace in the world, from the first and second world wars through to the present conflict in Vietnam. We have become a strong partner in the new Asia and we have shown that our commitment to the countries in this region is a matter of policy and action - not of rhetoric.
Everywhere in evidence are the signs that there is unprecedented challenge in the years ahead, for our reach into the future can be creative and productive; against poverty and disease, against ignorance and suspicion. Where the last third of the twentieth century will take us, no one knows. But we do know that we now have the knowledge, the tools and the scientific and industrial potential for making the world a better place than it has ever been before. At such a time in history we who are free must proclaim anew our faith and I refer to those principles and moral foundations upon which I believe the good society should be founded.
This is the philosophy of Liberal democracy, which recognises as fundamental the God-given sanctity of human life, the inherent worth and dignity of the individual and the need for the fullest development of individual capacity and human imagineering. It emphasises that there can be no national progress except through the efforts of the individual, that life should be free and its horizon wide and that in the famous phrase: ‘The ship exists tor the sake of the passengers.’ And so in the economic realm we are supporters of free enterprise, not enterprise free of social obligation, but free enterprise in the sense that lt embraces free choice, reward for skill and effort and encouragement to grow and to be self reliant and strong.
We must at all times ensure that we are never deprived of that traditional freedom of enterprise which is society’s dynamic motivating force. This warning was sounded in 1859 by the political philosopher John Stuart Mill whose words are pertinent to today’s political context:
A State which dwarfs its men in order that they may b: the more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes will find that with small men no great things can be really accomplished.
This is no plea for a return to laissez-faire. The Liberal spirit with its assertion of human values and its recognition of the supreme importance in social affairs of the human personality recognises that man can reach the full ambit of his powers only within the organised community, while within that community freedom has no value unless it is open to all and the conditions necessary for enjoying the fruits of freedom are universal. What is required therefore is a balanced society with a partnership of representative government and private enterprise working toward the preservation of personal freedom and the progression of human well being.
The late President Roosevelt listed four freedoms confronting the world: freedom of speech, freedom to worship God according to one’s beliefs; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. The fulfilment of these freedoms is still at issue around the globe and will depend I believe on what could be termed the fifth freedom of individual commitment to community development - a dedication to the overall cause of community development in the national and international interest. Within this fifth freedom there are many vistas and challenges, and yet few more important than that of economic growth which is an indispensable pre-requisite for the building of a better society for ourselves and other nations around the world, particularly in South East Asia.
In the realm of economics I believe our major national objectives should include: the pursuit and maintenance of full employment; a high rate of economic and population growth; increasing productivity; external viability and internal stability of costs and prices; a rapid increase in living standards with maximum economic stability; the establishment of a diversified and balanced economy including an optimum use of natural resources and a fast moving development programme; and the bringing down of such social legislation as will ensure a decent and reasonable standard of economic security and material well being for all responsible citizens, lt is undeniable that the last eighteen years have seen in large measure the realisation of these objectives, and that this period has been one of economic expansion and prosperity unequalled in Australia’s history.
Large scale developmental projects have been undertaken, many new manufacturing industries have been established, the labour force and population have been supplemented by a heavy flow of migrants, and a large amount of capital investment has been received from abroad. The real achievements are impressive enough and yet of course there have been attendant problems. lt has been necessary to take remedial action to check inflation, to correct balance of payments difficulties and to control the level of imports; skilled labour has often been in short supply. The lesson learned is that it is possible to achieve growth through stability and not necessarily at the expense of stability. Some of the growth may have been fortuitous. Nevertheless it has been amply demonstrated that changes in fiscal and monetary policy can have a marked impact on the overall economy and should be employed with appropriate flexibility to achieve the objective of economic growth without inflation.
Tn the long term it is inconceivable that Australia could fail to prosper and go rapidly ahead, particularly in the light of the succession of remarkable mineral discoveries which have made this country one of the richest sources of mineral wealth in the world. In the short term the Australian economy enters the new year in sound balance and with the well based expectation of a resurgence of economic growth following the subdued performance of 1966.
The prospects for record export earnings in the current financial year are particularly good. There is a likelihood of a record wheat crop, while major expansion in mineral shipments and rising exports of manufactured goods will give depth and diversification to our export range. The drought, which was one of the essentially inhibiting factors in 1966, is now confined to a few isolated areas, although its effects will be felt for some time to come. There are already some encouraging signs that an economic upturn is at least on the way. In particular, business confidence, depressed throughout the greater part of 1966, appears to be returning. An indication of this is to be seen in the December 1966 survey of industrial trends conducted by the Chamber of Manufactures and the Bank of New South Wales. They report that ‘a special feature of the survey was a sharp increase in the number of manufacturers expecting the general business situation to improve during the next six months.’
The major area of concern is the need for a lift in demand in the Australian home market, for while business leaders may be optimistic at the prospects ahead a large cross section of manufacturing industry continues to operate below capacity. Fortunately, there are now some pointers to a revival in consumer spending. Registration of new motor vehicles, seasonally adjusted, rose strongly in the November/December 1966 period, and there are indications of a revival in private dwelling construction.
There is a sound expectation of increased spending by the rural sector. Farm income, boosted in the coming months by a record wheat crop of around 400 million bushels, should top Si, 200m in 1966-67. This represents an increase of about 24% over the previous year, and a partial recovery to the pre-drought level of SI, 298m in 1964-65. Additionally, there is a possibility of increased spending by consumers following the estimated SI 00m to $120m annual increase in the national wages bill stemming from the December interim wage margin decision which increased the fitter’s margin by $1-10. These factors point to increased buoyancy in 1967, and the need for a marginal stimulus to consumer demand will be met by the Government’s recent decision to grant additional funds to the States, and increased defence expenditure, the internal economic effects of which have still to be felt.
But if the horizons of Australia’s economic position are bright the same view cannot be taken of the continuing problems facing the countries of South East Asia who are still very much in need of foreign financial aid if they are eventually to reach the point where economic growth becomes self-sustaining. There can be no greater challenge today than the need to bridge the widening gap between the rich and poor nations of the world. Australia, for both altruistic and economic reasons, has long recognised the need to encourage and promote the development of the countries of South East Asia because of a growing awareness of our role as a partner in the new Asia.
We have trained some 25,000 Asian students in our schools, technical colleges and universities; we have played a leading part in the initiation of the Colombo Plan; we have made a major contribution to the recently established Asian Development Bank; we have markedly increased our trade and investment programmes with countries in this area; we spend some 0.64% of our national income on official economic aid, with only four countries devoting a larger percentage of their national income for this purpose. This is a creditable story of increasing responsibility and commitment, but much remains to be done. Whilst the solution to the acceleration of Asian development lies basically in the trade, investment and productivity fields, a more generous aid scheme will help build a better basis of co-operation with our neighbouring countries.
What is more important, we cannot stand aside and absolve ourselves from responsibility simply because our commitment compares favourably with that of other countries. An increase in aid funds to 1% of the national income as a general standard formally adopted by the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development, would still be a small enough contribution. Both common sense and common decency demand that we be generous and encourage other high income countries to do the same. Non-governmental channels such as Community Aid Abroad, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, the Overseas Service Bureau and the churches provide a not insignificant amount of overseas aid, estimated at something over $6m in 1965-66. This magnificant contribution should be recognised and encouraged by the Govern ment in allowing donations to these organisations as tax deductions.
In the field of social services the most effective and far reaching policy measures have been introduced by Liberal governments which have been responsible for the innovation of age and invalid pensions, child endowment, homes for the aged, and the national health scheme. The means test has been considerably eased on four separate occasions and in 1960 the Menzies Government introduced a new concept by merging the old income and property means test and liberalising other provisions. In fulfilment of its election promise, the present Government will raise by $156 the amount of allowable means for both single persons and married couples. This is an impressive record of care and concern for the needy in our community.
However, notwithstanding the progressive liberalisation which has been effected in the means test, I am sure that honourable members on this side of the House will recognise the need for a vigorous review of the disabilities which still exist in the present system. This issue is of critical significance in the Flinders electorate because of the large number of retired people living in the Mornington Peninsula and I refer to it because of the many representations made to me. It is anomalous that persons in the older age group, many of whom are among this country’s best citizens, should be debarred either by virtue of their past thrift or their desire to continue in gainful employment, from a full share in the pension to which, as taxpayers, they have contributed. In particular, the person who seeks to make provision for his old age through superannuation or insurance, is placed in the invidious position of watching helplessly as his savings are eroded by inflation which is not only not of his making, but which, by his saving, he has sought to prevent. He can rightly complain that with the high rate of taxation plus his superannuation contribution, he has paid for two pensions but is in receipt of only one.
With all the calls on the Government purse, complete abolition at this stage is clearly not a realistic proposition. However, I do believe that the Government should give early attention to the case for further amelioration of the existing provisions, while at the same time recognising that the salient consideration in social service legislation should be to make adequate provision for the basic needs of the pensioner.
I draw attention here to several areas in which liberalisation could be usefully made. As Professor R. I. Downing has pointed out, the pension payable to any person is reduced by the full amount of any income received in excess of the income means test. It therefore imposes a 100% tax on any income in excess of $7 per week up to the $20 per week when the pension is eliminated. This leaves scope for saving and earning by people below or above this range. But it acts as a strong discouragement to working or saving in order to provide income within that range. A partial remedy would be to reduce the pension by only a fraction of any extra earnings or income - say by 10c for every 20c or 30c in excess of the limit.
Consideration should also be given to exempting investment in government bonds or bonds of semi-government authorities from what is counted as ‘property’ and to exempting superannuation or private pensions from what is regarded as ‘disqualifying income’. Both of these measures would require the application of some upward eligibility limit in order to ensure progression on the basis of need. There are, of course, many alternative avenues which could be taken. What is required is that the Government should indicate the lines it intends to follow and so enable an informed public opinion to crystallise.
Mr Speaker, I have no doubt that in these and other issues we as a nation have the capacity to solve the challenges which face us. I look forward optimistically to the Australia of the future for I believe that the human mind, if it accepts responsibility and is allowed to exercise free judgment, will evolve an improved social order, with the individual, his encouragement and recognition, the prime motive force.
- Mr Speaker, despite our differences of a few moments ago, I take this opportunity of congratulating you on your elevation to your high office. However, I sincerely hope that you do not hold office after the next general election, when, I trust, we will have a Speaker from a Labour Government. I would like to reply to some of the remarks made last week by the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes). Most of his speech was devoted to amendments that he would make to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He wanted the Act amended to ensure that wage fixation caused no undue disturbance of price stability. His remarks seemed to indicate that he supported prices control but in reply to an interjection by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) he said that he advocated no such thing. He is clearly following the Liberal line of being prepared to fix wages but not prices. The fact is that we already have prices control. Lt just depends on who is the controlling body. Employers, for instance, are prepared to use the arbitration machinery to fight the workers’ claims for increases in wages. If the employers win, all is well with them; but if they lose they meet behind closed doors and decide to increase prices and so the workers in actual fact are no better off.
Why should this be so? Why should the employers not be required to justify raising prices in the same way as the worker must justify an increase in wages? The Brand Liberal Government of Western Australia has legislated to remove the right of the State Arbitration Court to adjust the basic wage quarterly in accordance with the cost of living figures. Here is another Liberal attack on workers’ wages. With cost of living adjustments the workers know that the pay packet each quarter will purchase at’ least as many goods as it purchased the previous quarter. Now it does not do so because there is always a time lag and the workers’ wages are continually behind the cost of living. We should remember that quarterly cost of living adjustments were introduced in the late 1930s at the behest of the employers when prices were falling. Employers want it both ways: they want the adjustments removed now that the prices are increasing. lt would be difficult for any speaker to confine his remarks to the contents of the Speech of His Exellency the GovernorGeneral. The outline of the Government’s programme for the first session of the Twenty-sixth Parliament needed only a few lines: there was plenty of padding but very little substance. In part of the Speech the statement was made that home ownership is in the interests of both the individual and the community. Then the Speech went on and hinted at some of the things it is proposed to do to ease the housing situation. The facts are that merely lip service is being paid to the housing problem. The shortage of houses for purchase and rental has never been worse than it is at present. The provision of houses is not keeping pace with the needs of the people. The situation has deteriorated desperately in Western Australia. Sufficient funds are not being provided by this Government for the State Housing Commission. The State Government itself has worsened the position by offering British tradesmen houses ahead of those who may have been on the waiting list for houses for months, so the waiting period is now about two and a half years and it is getting worse as time passes. Because the population is growing, more houses must be built every year so that everyone will have somewhere to live, otherwise the shortage of houses will force up prices and rents. This is what has been happening for years.
Master builders say that they can build more houses and that building materials can be supplied, but the bankers say that not enough money is being made available to home buyers. The fault lies with this Government. It decides how much and at what interest rate money will be made available to home builders. The shortage of money and its high cost are the result of this Commonwealth Government’s decisions. The Australian Labor Party believes that the interest rate on housing loans should be not more than 3i%. It believes also that housing loans should be made available for 95% of the price of the house. These two items alone would save the home buyer the equivalent of more than the price of a house in interest payments. The Australian Labor Party believes that the complicated, costly and sometimes heart-breaking negotiations that home buyers have to go through to get a house designed, supervised and financed should be simplified and their costs cut. These services should be provided as part of the loan finance. Building a house is hard enough, but added to this the home builder finds the cost of residential land an extra burden.
The price of building-land, as we are al] aware, has risen beyond all reason. Speculation on a massive scale has taken vast tracts of land out of the market to be sold progressively at prices little short of robbery. The Australian Labor Party says that building land should be made available to home builders at prices near to the actual cost of development. We further believe that enough suitable homes must be built for rental and that people with families who cannot afford the normal prices should be helped by subsidy.
In the Governor-General’s Speech was a statement that the Government had decided to liberalise the means test for age, invalid and widows pensions. The amount of the allowable income will be increased, so it was said, by $156 per annum both for single persons and for married couples. It is not very clear what is really meant by that statement. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) has not made that clear yet. Does it mean that single persons will be allowed to have an additional $156 per annum in allowable income and a married couple between them will be allowed only an additional $156 per annum? If this is not so the Minister should make a statement saying what is actually meant in the Governor-General’s Speech. If the interpretation I have suggested is correct then a single pensioner can have a separate income of $10 a week and a married couple a separate income of $17 a week. There is no incentive here for pensioners to marry; they are better off financially living together as single pensioners. This is discrimination against married pensioners. This Government was responsible for reducing the value of the married couple’s pension as compared to the single person’s pension. Now it proposes, if my interpretation is correct, to further discriminate against the allowable income of a married couple as compared to the allowable income of a single pensioner.
The liberalisation of the means test is a step in the right direction because since 1954 the allowable income has remained at $7 a week when it was the same amount as the rate of pension. That is, the pension was £3 10s a week and the allowable income was £3 10s a week - or, in today’s currency, $7 a week. This Government stands condemned for not indicating its intention to abolish the means test. Abolition of the means test was planned by the Chifley Labor Government and it would have been an accomplished fact by 1957 had that Government remained in office. A fund had been set up for that specific purpose, but we know that the amount in the fund was placed in consolidated revenue when this Government came into office. The present Government pays only lip service to the objective of abolishing the means test. We often hear it suggested that the Government or individual members opposite support the abolition of the means test. As a matter of fact Mr Menzies, as he then was, in 1949 said that he would get rid of the means test. The proposed liberalising of the means test referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech still leaves many pensioners in a worse financial position than they were in in 1954. In 1954 the allowable income represented about 30% of the then basic wage. This so-called liberalisation of the means test still leaves the allowable income of a single pensioner at about 30% of the basic wage, so it cannot be said that the means test is being liberalised when in fact for single pensioners it is to be the equivalent of what it was in 1954. However, if my interpretation of the wording in the Governor-General’s Speech is correct, what is the position of the married pensioner couple? In 1954 each married pensioner was allowed to have a separate income of $7, which was about 30% of the basic wage. Under the so-called liberalisation of the means test each of a married pensioner couple will be allowed to earn $8.50 which is about 25.91% of the existing Federal basic wage. If the Government’s intention is to further discriminate between the single and married pensioners I hope the Minister will have second thoughts and in the amending legislation will provide for the married couple to have as permissible income twice the amount allowed to the single pensioner.
The Australian Labor Party believes in justice to retired persons. Even with the proposed amendment these people will continue to suffer at a time when the standard of living of the community is supposed to be progressing. There is a lot of talk about shortages in the work force, but here is a source of labour, much of it skilled, which is available and willing. The benefit of this labour force to the Australian economy would offset the cost to the Government of easing or abolishing the means test. With the easing and abolition of the means test these people could earn; consequently they would pay taxation. The administrative costs of the Department of Social Services would be reduced.
The abolition of the means test would assist the many thousands of loyal public servants who have paid large amounts compulsorily into superannuation funds. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). As the honourable member said, if I remember correctly, these people are paying twice: they have had to contribute to the National Welfare Fund by way of taxation, but because of the means test they cannot draw from that Fund. In addition, they have been compelled to take out units in superannuation funds in accordance with their salary ranges. The means test is a most frustrating and annoying problem with which retired people are faced. It makes a mockery of thrift and denies age pensions to those who have saved during their lives.
The abolition of the means test is not an impossible objective. Since 1958 age pensions have been paid in New Zealand to all those over the age of sixty-five, irrespective of incomes or assets. In Canada there is no means test for persons over seventy years of age. There is no means test in the United Kingdom for men over the age of seventy or for women over the age of sixty-five. Every member of this Parliament, including the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who. is now sitting at the table, has been guilty of advising aged people how to reduce their assets in order to qualify for the age pension. We know that many people have gone on world tours in order to reduce their assets and enable them to apply for the pension. They have spent money needlessly in order to qualify, and this course has been forced upon them by the means test.
Psychologically the means test is bad because it does not encourage thrift. Figures were quoted by honourable members on the other side of the House during a recent debate which showed that a married man would be foolish to save, before reaching pensionable age, more than $8,080 unless he could be sure of retiring with more than $30,770. Similarly, a single man would be foolish to save unless he could be sure of retiring with at least $17,500. It was pointed out that if a person retired with less money than this he would have to invest at a high rate of interest - and take the risks involved thereby - or be worse off than a person who had qualified for the full pension plus the allowable income.
The Governor-General also referred to shortages of skilled labour. He said:
Shortages of skilled ‘labour continue within industry, and my Government has fostered apprenticeships and promoted industrial training schemes in its efforts to overcome these shortages.
It is true that there has been some shortage of skilled labour, but in most fields this problem has been largely overcome. The fact is that unemployment is continuing to increase. There were 78,308 persons registered for employment at 28th January 1966, according to the reports of the Department of Labour and National Service. Twelve months later, on 27th January 1967, the number of persons registered was 88,965. This showed an increase of 10,657 over the twelve months period. The number of job vacancies registered was 58,860 on 28th January 1966 and 49,854 on 27th January 1967, showing a decrease of 9,006. These figures are taken from departmental records and it cannot be said that they are influenced by seasonal fluctuations because they are for comparable periods in the two years. Over the same period the number of recipients of unemployment benefit increased by 5,421.
I am afraid that unemployment is increasing year by year and that it will continue to increase. There is no doubt that technological change will have an increasing effect upon unemployment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) believes that full employment will continue as technological change takes place. He expressed this view in different language in the Australian Council of Trade Unions seminar on automation in Sydney on 12th October 1966. Why does the Minister hide his head in the sand? He says that automation will not create any difficulties and that our work force will be absorbed. Why does he think that of all the countries in which automation is being introduced Australia will be the only one to escape its repercussions? It is true that the Minister is establishing a section of the Department of Labour and National Service to deal with automation but if it follows the policy of this Government it will not be of much value to working people.
Automation has become a solid reality in the United States of America, an awesome fact of industrial life that worries the trade unions and some employers more and more. To Americans there is not the slightest doubt that automation is, as the late President Kennedy said, ‘the major problem of the 1960s.’ The United States Department of Labour has estimated that 1.8 million workers are being replaced each year by new machines and computers, while at the same time a million additional workers are entering the labour market. Despite a 40% increase in manufacturing output in the last decade, total manufacturing employment has failed to increase. In industry after industry there, is declining employment paralleled by increasing production. It is considered sound business to install expensive machinery and to dismiss more costly workers. The Minister has the idea that a similar situation will not develop in Australia, but we can see it beginning to happen already. Few industries can be immunised against the march of the new technology. Just as the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century completely changed industry, so the automation revolution has moved into American industry with explosive energy. There is a difference, however, between the two revolutions; workers’ organisations were weak during the Industrial Revolution while today they are strong. Unions know better than to believe that the new technology will create jobs. Automation is specifically intended to destroy manual labour and it does so. As it has done in the United States, so also will it do here.
The machines of the first Industrial Revolution supplemented or augmented man’s muscle power. The new machines replace not merely man’s muscle power but also his brain. The new machines and computers can work with precision and speed that no human being can match. Throw a switch and the computer does what it is told, lt does not get sick, it does not ask for overtime or higher wages, it does not need annual leave or long service leave. True, it breaks down occasionally and we have had recent examples of this in connection with sorting machines used in the Post Office.
Press a button and the machine can even translate from one language into another. The trade union movements in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom and in Australia are not opposed to automation; their opposition is to the methods by which automation is introduced. Labor believes that just as an employer has a property right in his plant - in his machine -so a worker with years of service has a property right in his job which cannot be ignored. What the unions fear most is what was described by the full Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in the 1 947 standard hours inquiry as ‘the historic role of employers to oppose the workers’ claim for increased leisure.’ The employers are not alone in this approach. The attitude of this Government is along the same lines and it is typical of this Government’s attitude towards the claims of the workers. The unions in the United States of America, as in Australia, aTe demanding a 35 hour week. Some have already won this claim. The electrical workers union won a 25 hour week for its New York electricians. United States unions are also demanding at least one year’s severance pay for workers who become redundant. They are demanding longer vacations and a lowering of the retiring age to 60 years. Major research is now being carried out in the United States and the United Kingdom into the social and economic problems being created by automation. It is hoped to prevent the new technology becoming a blight on human hopes and aspirations. The late President Kennedy summed up the situation well when he said:
There is essential thinking and planning which we must do in order to make automation the servant rather than the master of the American people. s
What planning is going on here? There is none. Claims are made that automation will not create unemployment. In some industries there are no outright lay-offs due to automation, but the work force is gradually being reduced. In the United States this is known as firing by not hiring. We know that in Australia employers may not be putting off workers when they introduce new machines, but neither are they replac ing workers who reach retiring age or who leave their employment. Consequently, the workers who should be taking these jobs are not getting them. The claim made is that new techniques allow the production of new materials and thereby create employment. What happens is that the new materials replace the old but with less labour. An example was given at the International Congress on Human Relations. Dealing with automation, it was pointed out that ‘to employ labour to build tractors may improve our employment position in factories, but is more than balanced by the fall in employment on farms because of the use of tractors’. That is the illustration which was given and that position is fairly general.
One problem associated with automation will be the ways and means of income distribution to enable the products of the machines to be bought. In some industries in the United States there is provision for a thirteen week vacation with full pay every five years for long service employees. Kaiser steel provides thirteen weeks vacation with fourteen weeks pay every five years for 75% of its employees. Other Kaiser employees with two years’ service are entitled to seven weeks’ leave with eight weeks’ pay. In the ‘Labor News’, an American journal, there is an article headed Humanising technological change’. It refers to automation and other changes in technology which are pushing productivity to new heights. In another section, under the sub-heading ‘Maximum education’, it refers to maximum education being needed to educate people as a result of automation. The article states:
Another area in which automation makes national action especially urgent is the field of education. The demands made upon education by our changing technology are greater than those imposed upon almost any other institution in American life. Now, more than ever before, every child, every worker, every citizen, must be educated to the limit of his ability. Without adequate education, people cannot function effectively in an age of automation.
Our education system cannot function properly because there is not enough money available for education. We on this side of the chamber believe that there is a crisis in education in Australia. We feel that there should be a more vigorous programme to train qualified teachers in order to improve the standard of education in Australia.
There is ample evidence to show that there is a crisis in education. Education deserves more of our resources. Money should be spent on education rather than on the construction of luxury flats, luxury hotels and prestige buildings, as it is being spent at present. Some of this money should be diverted for the construction of schools, hospitals and the like.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
Mr HOWSON (Fawkner- Minister for
Air) [4.14] - I move:
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966. These proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by section 273ea of the Customs Act, the tariff changes published by Gazette notices on 15th and 20th December 1966 and 13th January 1967.
Proposals No. 2, operating from 16th December 1966, provide for temporary duties arising from a report by the Special Advisory Authority on certain coated fabrics. The Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action was necessary to protect the local industry against imports in that the Australian manufacturers of coated fabrics were at a considerable price disadvantage compared with imports.
Man made fibre fabrics are by far the most important fabrics at present used by the Australian manufacturers of coated fabrics. The Authority therefore considered that, as a holding measure, the Australian coaters’ position would be protected if urgent temporary assistance was confined to fabrics containing not less than 20% by weight of man made fibres. Accordingly, temporary duties of 471/2% ad valorem or 25c per square yard, whichever rate returns the higher duty, general, and 371/2% ad valorem or 25c per square yard less 10% ad valorem, whichever rate returns the higher duty, preferential, as recommended by the Special Advisory Authority, have been imposed on coated fabrics where the base fabric contains 20% or more by weight of man made fibres.
The temporary duties, the ad valorem equivalents of which are approximately 60%, general, and 50%, preferential, are in addition to the present ordinary duties of 71/2%, general, and free, preferential. These temporary duties will bring the amount of duty payable on the coated fabrics concerned to about the same level as those applying to the man made fibre fabrics used in their manufacture. The Tariff Board is examining the protective needs of the industry under the general textile reference, and the temporary protection now imposed is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Tariff Board report.
The remaining changes in Proposals No. 2 concern semi-trailers and parts therefor, spraying appliances and egg whisks or beaters. These amendments are of an administrative nature to improve the translation from the Customs Tariff 1933-1965 to the new tariff based on the Brussels Nomenclature which operated from 1st July 1965.
Proposals No. 3, operating from 21st December 1966, and Proposals No. 4, operating from 16th January 1967, are consequent’ on the reports by the Special Advisory Authority on butyl alcohols and butyl acetates and on certain ethylene oxide derivatives. In both reports the Special Advisory Authority recommended temporary duties to counter disruptively low-priced imports.
As regards butyl alcohols and butyl acetates, the Authority recommended temporary duties of 90% of the amount by which the landed duty paid price of the goods is less than $310 per ton in respect of isobutyl alcohol and acetate and $350 per ton in respect of other butyl alcohols and acetates. For ethylene oxide derivatives the temporary duties us recommended by the Special Advisory Authority are 90% of the amount by which the landed duty paid price of the goods is less than an amount ranging from $385 per ton for imports of ethanediol to $560 per ton for imports of ethylene glycol monobutyl ether.
The temporary protection now applied is holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the Board’s report. A summary of the tariff alterations covered by the Proposals is now being circulated to assist honourable members in their examination of the Proposals. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– Pursuant to statute I present the following reports by the Special Advisory Authority:
Butyl alcohols and butyl acetates
Ethylene oxide derivatives.
Ordered to be printed.
– I call the honourable member for Corangamite. I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as another new member I should like to add my congratulations to the many which have been offered to Mr Speaker and to you on your elevation to your high and responsible offices. Today I am very conscious of the outstanding record of service given by my predecessor, Mr Dan Mackinnon, not only to the electorate of Corangamite, but also to this Parliament. In addition, he had a gift for speaking and writing clear, concise English and he has set therefore a very high standard for me to live up to. I am sure that all honourable members will join in wishing him well in his new appointment as Australian Ambassador to the Argentine.
On several occasions in this House Mr Mackinnon spoke on the problems facing the man on the land, and it is one aspect of this subject that I should like to discuss. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) recently spoke eloquently on how vital was the need for Australia to make the best use of scientific knowledge in industry. I fully agree with what he said. I believe that the need is equally vital for our rural industries, because Australia still relies heavily on her primary industries for export income. I propose to speak on the prospects for increased production, with particular reference to the value of extension services.
It will be remembered that in his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) announced that the Government would increase the amount available for rural extension services from$1. 4m by an extra $4m. I thought at the time that this was the most welcome news that primary producers had heard for some time, because it is my firm conviction that extension work in its broadest sense is probably the primary producer’s most valuable weapon in his continual battle against rising costs. This conviction has been reached, not only as the result of personal experience of the benefits this work can bring, but also by watching its effects on other primary producers and by reading of its effects in other districts.
It has often been said that a breakdown occurs between the results of successful scientific research being made public and the adoption of the new techniques by the man on the land. A most interesting survey was done on this subject some time ago and I should like to tell honourable members of the results. A small proportion of farmers - about 5% to 10% - were prepared to try out new methods immediately and were called ‘innovators’. The great majority of these men were well established, in a strong financial position, and all possessed managerial ability well above the average. Next came the largest section - some 50% to 60%. The members of this group were well acquainted with all the latest scientific data available but preferred to wait and see how the ‘innovators’ in the district got on. In other words, before committing capital and labour of their own they wanted to see whether someone working under broadly similar conditions to their own could use the new knowledge successfully. If the result was favourable the members of this group then gradually adopted the ideas on their own farms. The survey made it clear that many in this group did not deserve criticism. Their resources were probably such that they could not afford to make any major error in spending money and therefore had to be certain that before embarking on any scheme it would succeed.
Incidentally, this reminds me of a conversation I once had with a young extension officer who was complaining that he could not get his recommendations adopted by farmers. This man said: ‘I can get a man to spend $100 for a $200 return but I cannot get him to spend $100 for a $120 return’. I pointed out to this young man that the farmer was not the fool he apparently thought he was. From bitter experience the man on the land knows that a substantial drop in the price he gets for his product - over which he generally has no control - adverse- seasonal conditions, or a combination of both, can very often turn a hypothetical return of Si 20 into an actual return of $80. To be widely accepted therefore, an extension officer’s recommendation must have a wider margin of profitability than perhaps the scientist considers necessary.
Members of the third section of farmers in this survey - a substantial minority - were largely unaware of the latest scientific advances and were extremely slow in adopting new or improved methods. Obviously it is to this section that a large proportion of extension work must be directed. The members of this section represent a huge loss of potential income and production, not only to themselves but also to Australia. Considerable work has been done in the United States of America in evolving methods to try to get the message across to such people, and I know that our authorities are carrying out similar investigations. However, probably not enough research of this sort is under way at the moment. Professor J. L. Dillon of the University of New England has defined this requirement as:
Research aimed at understanding and overcoming the barriers that retard the farmer from performing as well as he might in the face of an already given technological array.
This would seem to be a branch of extension work which could be a suitable recipient of Commonwealth funds. Primary producers here of course are very fortunate in having the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. In fact I think it would be fair to say that but for this Organisation primary industry could be in a bad way. One of the reasons for the success of the CSIRO in rural work has been its research farms, such as those at
Trangie and Gininderra. These farms help to bridge the gap between successful laboratory research and the adoption of the results of such work by farmers.
At the research stations primary producers can see for themselves how new knowledge is being applied and assess its economic implications. This naturally gives them more confidence to try the new methods on their own farms. This is extension work at its best, made possible very largely by funds allocated by the present Government. The ‘innovator’ farmers I spoke of earlier naturally take a keen interest in the work done on these stations. I have found that nearly everyone in this group personally known to me is either a member of a farm management club or employs a farm manager consultant, so obviously this sort of extension work is extremely important. A good many years ago when I first heard of farm management consultants, it appeared to me that they offered one of the best and quickest ways to increase profitable production in the higher rainfall and irrigation areas of Australia. My experience since then - much of it from a personal viewpoint - has confirmed me in that belief. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for their success is that owing to the strangeness of human nature a man is more likely to take notice of advice he pays for than of advice he gets free. I think that various surveys have now confirmed the fact that, on average, farms employing the services of a farm management consultant have a higher return on capital than those that do not. For this reason alone it would appear profitable for the Government to support work which has been proved to get results. It is estimated that some 5,000 primary producers all over the country are now benefiting from the advice of farm management consultants. Inevitably such work has a snowballing effect. In view of the growing influence and importance of farm management consultants - they have increased from one practitioner in 1956 to sixty in 1966 - it is to be hoped that some way can be found for them to participate in the new increased extension funds. I have a suggestion to make on how this may be done, which I shall mention in a moment.
Another field of extension work is just starting in this country. It is the use of computers in agriculture. With the increased complexity of farming operations, and the vital need to have as much information as possible on the effects of many variables on any given enterprise, computers will eventually come to play a very important part in the making of managerial decisions. Computers are of course in use overseas for this sort of work, and one of the most dramatic results has flowed from their use in evaluing possible hybrid crosses in the broiler poultry industry in the United Kingdom. Hundreds of genetic variations can be fed into the computer, which will give the answer as to which is the best cross, thus eliminating the need for a long, involved and costly breeding programme.
In Australia some beef cattle-breed societies are now doing work on selection of sires for weight gain by computer, and the same thing is happening in New Zealand with fat lamb sires. However, the use of computers in agriculture is by no means confined to genetics. Recently I spoke to an American agricultural consultant who is engaged in a large cotton growing enterprise involving about 10,000 acres, with nearly all managerial decisions being taken after reference to a computer. I know that work is already being done here on the use of computers, particularly at the farm management centre at Armidale. Because of the cost and complexity of computers, they will probably find their most economic application at centres such as this. Data received at the centre from farm management consultants is processed by computer and evaluated by experts. The results are passed back to the consultants. The high speed of the computer makes it possible to spread the services of relatively few highly trained men over many thousands of farmers. Because of the wide dissemination of knowledge made possible by this arrangement, Government assistance to the centre would benefit a large and growing number both of consultants and primary producers and at the same time stimulate interest in the latest extension techniques.
One of the requirements for a centre such as ‘this is to have all information presented to it in a standardised form. We in Australia have much to learn from New Zealand in this respect. The publication Farm Accounting in New Zealand’ sets out la detail how to prepare farm records for computer processing. This in turn brings up the problem of educating accountants in the data needs of farm management analysis as distinct from purely taxation requirements. Here is another field worthy of investigation. For the farmer, however, having all the necessary information and advice on new enterprises or -improved methods is only half the story. Information or advice by itself will not increase production. In primary Industry, as in all forms of industry today, the demand for capital is constantly rising and it is extremely difficult to provide the capital from income. It is therefore very necessary to have access to adequate finance on realistic terms so that the advice of the extension officer can be translated into production. Obviously, requests for such finance will stand a much better chance of success if they are properly presented with a carefully documented budget, arrived at after a thorough investigation of all the facts. Here again the farm management consultant can be of great assistance to the primary producer in preparing his case. I think more and more people are realising this and taking advantage of the experience and skills that these men provide. This may be pertinent in view of a question asked by an honourable member earlier today.
The Government has clearly shown its awareness of the need for finance by making credit available through the Commonwealth Development Bank, the term lending fund and the Farm Development Loan Fund. The Government is to be congratulated on its decision to enlarge the scope of extension services. However, I believe that the decision is just the start. The closest consultation is necessary between the government departments, the primary producer organisations and other interested parties to ensure that the money is spent to the best advantage. Australia is short of capital and new depends to some extent on foreign capital for development. In common with most Australians, including those in the Government, I would like to see as much as possible of Australia’s development and industry in Australian hands. However, in order to maintain and increase our rate of growth, which is important not only for us but for the entire South East Asian region, we need more capital than is available locally. We have been very fortunate indeed that overseas interests have provided this for us. Perhaps ‘fortunate’ is not the right word: it is not just luck that these companies have been so eager to invest in Australia; it is the result of a long period of strong, stable and progressive government by the. present coalition.
However, it is still true to say, as I mentioned a moment ago, that Australia needs more of its own capital. To get this the gross national product must be increased. Therefore, a rise in the value of primary production, a major contributor to the gross national products, has implications far beyond merely improving the financial position of primary producers, important though that undoubtedly is both to themselves and to the economy. I should like honourable members to keep these wider implications in mind because I believe that the election undertaking of the Prime Minister intelligently and imaginatively applied will have far-reaching results and bring to the national economy benefits out of all proportion to the amount of public money involved.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 would like to congratulate Mr Speaker through you, and 1 would be pleased if you would convey to him my congratulations on his election to his position. I also congratulate you, Sir. I personally have always found you to be very fair. I echo the sentiments and congratulations of honourable members from both sides of the House on your election. I would also like to congratulate those honourable members on the other side of the House who have made their maiden speeches - unfortunately we do not have any on this side - and I look forward to hearing those new members who have yet to speak. I thank the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania for endorsing me as a candidate at the last election and the people of Braddon who sent me here for a further term. 1 associate myself with the expressions of loyalty contained in the motion before the House.
The Governor-General’s Speech referred to the bush fires in Tasmania. Although most of the damage was in the electorate of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall), I know that he will not object to my referring briefly to some of the occurrences in the area. He realises, as we all do, that a disaster of this nature is non-political. He realises, as do other Tasmanians, that I have family interests in the area and lived and worked there for some years before the Second World War. As soon as it was possible to do so, I went into the area. This was on the day after the outbreak of the fires, which, strangely enough, was Ash Wednesday. I worked in the area for the fortnight between Ash Wednesday and the resumption of the Parliament.
The fires extended over some ninety-five miles and varied in depth from as little as fifty yards to some twenty-five miles. They were the result of a combination of climatic conditions such as we may not see again for 100 years. At this time we had very low humidity, no rainfall for many weeks, the highest temperature for years with a maximum of 103 degrees and winds of sixty to seventy miles an hour with gusts to seventy-four miles an hour. Under these conditions, with the very strong winds, the fire raced with tremendous speed as the gases in the atmosphere seemed to explode and burn. The speed of the fire described by eye witnesses is almost beyond understanding; we had not thought it was possible for a fire to move so rapidly. I will give several illustrations of its speed. The workmen in the Cascade Brewery are very highly trained and have a very efficient fire fighting unit. They quickly went to their stations around the brewery and on the roof, waiting for the fire to come. Accounts I have heard reveal that the men were confident that they could contain the fire. Yet it was all over in ninety seconds, lt was miraculous that some of the men were able to get away from the roof top.
Another illustration relates to an incident in an orchard district. A lady went to mind two youngsters, a girl aged four years and a baby aged six months, while the people who were at the house went to Lucaston to fight the fires. It was very fortunate for her and for the children that she went out at lunch time to empty a teapot, because she noticed then that the fire was rapidly coming over the hills towards the dwelling. She grabbed the two children from their high chairs and made off as quickly as possible, running down through the orchard. The fire outstripped her on both sides and, as it did in this and other areas, seemed to go in streams - the Premier of Tasmania has asked the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to investigate this effect. The woman was running between the avenues of fire. The fire beat her through the orchard and her own house further down on the main road exploded and burnt before she was even half way through the orchard. The lives of some of the elderly people on this property were saved because they stopped in the middle of a pear orchard, turned on the overhead irrigation spray units and soaked themselves with water. One of the most remarkable features was that through one of the safe areas forty-five cattle came over a hill as though, by instinct, they knew where the people were. It was practically impossible for them to see, yet they congregated round the people sheltering in the middle of the orchard.
The speed with which the fire travelled must have been bewildering to the people and must have created considerable havoc for some time. Many tragic stories have come out of the fires, and stories also of great bravery have been told. It was fortunate that the fire occurred in day-time. The people affected by the fires have all said that they do not know what would have happened if the fire had occurred at night. It was fortunate also that it came at a time when most children were at school. I pay tribute to many of my former colleagues in the Education Department for the wonderful work they did in keeping the youngsters under discipline and control at this terrible time. One hesitates to think what would have happened if the fire had come in mid-January. for example, when the schools were closed and the youngsters were on holidays. Places like Southport, where seventeen shacks were wiped out within a matter of minutes, are crowded in January through the holiday period. Honorable members can imagine the tremendous loss of life which would have occurred had the fire come’ at that time. In many other places which were caught by the fire and which suffered similar damage it was fortunate that the fire happened in day-time when the youngsters were at school.
The death toll is now well over sixty people. Unfortunately, many people who lived through the fire will be affected for the rest of their lives. This creates a social problem which the families who escaped will have to bear for the remainder of their lives. For days after the fire people in the area were stunned and in a state of shock. It was difficult, even from the first night, to persuade them to accept some form of temporary accommodation. Here, again, one must thank many people. I pay tribute to the Tasmanian housing officials who immediately moved into the area and did what they could to arrange temporary accommodation. It was difficult to make people understand that their homes had gone and that they would have to accept temporary accommodation for the time being. The Red Cross did a remarkable job in the relief centres in which I worked. Even on the Wednesday, the day after the fire, relief supplies were coming through to the centres which had been established by the Red Cross. As one would expect, the supplies were very small at the beginning. Commodities like baby food had to be rationed to mothers, but on the Thursday, which was within a couple of days after the fire, relief supplies started to pour into the area
If I may give an indication of the way people reacted, employees of the Mount Lyell mines at Queenstown on the western coast of Tasmania quickly collected money, bought new blankets of very high quality and arranged for them to be freighted by road into the fire damaged area. On the Thursday morning we had the pleasure of distributing those blankets to the people. This is an indication of the spontaneous way in which contributions were made by the people of Queenstown in order to assist. But, of course, the people of Queenstown know the danger of fire because of the great fire at the mine early in the century when some forty people lost their lives. They know the suffering which fire can cause for families, and all mining people, not only at Queenstown but all through the west coast of Tasmania and throughout Australia, seemed to respond very quickly to an appeal to assist those who were less fortunate. There were contributions also from manufacturers. Huge quantities of Heinz baby food poured into the area. In addition there were quantities of canned vegetables, and individuals donated blankets, bed linen and clothing to enable the distribution of supplies to get under way. Again I thank the
Red Cross workers who organised the distribution in a highly efficient manner.
After the fire victims had been housed, fed and clothed there came a period of tension among farmers and stock owners over the plight of their stock. Stock could roam anywhere as there were no boundary fences. In some places the only feed available was burnt sticks. Even the dirt had burnt and this I would never have believed unless I had seen it. In the middle of January in that area I was in a young orchard where two-year-old trees and been planted out, and when I went to the orchard to inspect the damage I saw that even the soil had burned. The destruction of the soil, vegetation and pastures caused by the tremendous heat had to be seen to be believed. But people quickly rallied. For a while stock owners believed that they would have to sell their stock at the sale to be organised on the following Monday, but it was obvious that if all stock was off loaded at the sale at the one time the farmers would have to accept reduced prices. I wish to thank people such as Mr Lloyd Bonney, who is a businessman at Cooee in the north western part of Tasmania, and Mr Darrel Barker, State president of the Rural Youth Movement in Tasmania, and his colleagues. When the plight of the stock owners was mentioned to Mr Lloyd Bonney he immediately made available a huge semi-trailer for which farmers such as Viv Green, L. T. Stubbs, Maurice Jones and Jock Davis readily contributed hay. I saw a semi-trailer loaded with 326 bales of hay in less than forty minutes by members of the Rural Youth Movement and made ready by Mr Lloyd Bonney and a driver for dispatch to the Huon, a journey of more than seven hours. I mention these features because they are good.
The fire brought out the very best in Tasmanians, the very best in families and the very best in neighbours. The feeling among people on the north and west coasts of Tasmania for the people of the south demonstrated the very best in human nature. If anyone had lost his faith in human nature, surely it would have been restored on an occasion such as this. Farmers in the fire stricken area were given fresh hope because when they saw the semi-trailers coming into the Huon area they knew that they could hold their stock and feed them and not have to off load them at depressed prices in the sale yards. They were given fresh hope also by the wonderful announcement by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, that houses would be built almost immediately. It was not long before fodder and special trains loaded with hay were coming in from districts from Redpa in the far north-west right through to Ouse. We were delighted to hear of the gifts and donations from all States of Australia and from overseas.
At a time like this one realises how important and valuable are light, power and telephone facilities. There was no power al all for some days in some of the isolated valleys which had been affected by the fire. People were cut off with no wireless and no television and could not get any news of relief centres which had been set up to help them. But relief workers moved from valley to valley to locate people and to arrange for them to receive assistance. In this respect the social service authorities in Tasmania did a very fine job. With no strings attached they immediately gave one week’s wages in cash to people who had been employed as ordinary workers. The Red Cross Society enlisted large numbers of volunteers who went through the devastated area on the first weekend after the fire checking on the needs of the local people. One had only to tell them that a certain person required a special mattress or that another person, because of some physical disability, required this or that. Within twelve hours utilities were on their way from Hobart with anything that was required to provide for the needs of special oases.
The devastation on orchard properties brought out the best in families and in neighbourly relations. The work of cutting poles so that telephone and power lines could be restored began immediately. This work had its humorous side at times. One can imagine the sort of situation that faced many people who went to burnt-out sheds looking for chain saws or axes only to find nothing usable. They had then to turn to their friends and neighbours and beg or borrow implements and equipment with which to cut and erect poles so that power supplies and communications could be restored. The sense of humour of the people enabled them to keep their balance through these difficulties. I pay tribute to the workers of the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission for the great work that they did in restoring power supplies in such very difficult circumstances. Normally in the affected area some 200 men are employed in maintenance gangs. We were able to increase the number by some 300 and to employ 500 men on the restoration of essential power lines in the area. We were greatly assisted by workers who came from the northern part of Tasmania and by employees of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and of several county councils in New South Wales. The services of employees were provided also by Instrumentalities in other districts and by private organisations such us the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. The additional men helped greatly to augment the maintenance gangs in the devastated district. I pay a tribute also to the Postmaster-General’s Department, and especially to the members of the line gangs lor the splendid work that was done in restoring telephone lines.
By the week after the fires it was possible to take stock of the damage and to assess its real meaning. The most tragic feature of it ail. of course, was the number of deaths. More than sixty people died. However, when one visits the area and sees at first hand the ravages that it sustained, one cannot help being thankful that there were not many more deaths. One wonders what people really did on that dreadful day of the fires. How did they get away from fires that caused such terrific devastation in so short a time. There were 1,400 homes destroyed and 2.000 families were left homeless. In all, 7,000 people were affected by these awful fires. Property damage totalled $30m and $15m worth of insurance claims were lodged. As was pointed out in this chamber last week, this represents the biggest insurance payout in Australia’s history, as it exceeds even the Si Om payout that followed the Townsville sugar fire of 1963. In the Tasmanian fires 25,000 sheep and 3,000 cattle were lost. Eighty bridges were burnt down. Honourable members can imagine the tremendous disruption to communications caused by this alone A total of 3,000 electric light poles were burnt and 1,000 telephones were cut off by the destruction of lines. Various industries were directly affected. These included the newsprint mill at Boyer, the Cascade brewery at Hobart, the carbide works at Electrona, the Safcol cannery at Margate and the Huonville factory of the Standard Case Co. Pty Ltd. It is pleasing to note that all the employees were taken back at all these establishments with the exception of .the Huonville plant of the Standard Case Co., where twenty workers have lost their jobs. No doubt these will be able to obtain work during the forthcoming apple season.
People in all walks of life and in all sections of the community acknowledge that Mr Reece, the Tasmanian Premier, displayed great leadership in this ordeal. We in Tasmania were pleased to receive a visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is acting as liaison between the Commonwealth and State governments. We were visited also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who represents the Tasmanian electorate of Bass. The visits by all these people helped to highlight the disaster and to make the Australian public generally more keenly aware of the troubles with which the residents of the devastated area were afflicted. These visits also did a great deal to reassure the victims and to let them know that relief was on the way - that help was coming and that gifts of various kinds were being sent to help them gel back on their feet. One wonderful announcement by the Premier did a great deal to restore confidence. This was the assurance that houses would be rebuilt wilh the help of the money paid out in insurance claims. This is to be done in this way: if a person’s home was insured for $4,000, the State will take that sum as a contribution to the cost of building a new home of Housing Commission standard, at a total cost of approximately $8,000.
There has been some criticism of this arrangement. Sir. This is because people whose destroyed homes were not insured are to be given assistance up to the same sum of S8.000. However, it must be remembered that the fires were a disaster completely beyond anyone’s control. These were no ordinary household fires. A log rolling out of the grate at night may cause a fire that destroys a dwelling. A home burnt down in that fashion may have been insured whereas a neighbouring home burnt down the following week by a fire resulting from an electrical fault may have been less heavily insured or may not have been insured at all. There is no conflict between the more usual circumstances causing the loss of a dwelling by fire and the circumstances of the recent catastrophic bushfires which were quite beyond man’s control. There should be no conflict over this question of all who suffered receiving the benefit of a new house regardless of whether the one destroyed was insured. However, the situation that has arisen emphasises the need for a compulsory insurance scheme to cover all according to the valuation of property. Furthermore, I believe that a worker who insures his home should be allowed to claim the premium as a tax deduction in exactly the same way as primary producers and others who insure income producing assets are allowed to claim premiums as deductions.
As I mentioned earlier, assistance was given by means of immediate grants from funds made available by the Commonwealth. The sum of $50 was available immediately to each man, a similar sum to his wife and £25 was payable for each child. These grants were offered, without any strings attached, to all who were burnt out. The Brighton Army camp was opened immediately to those who had lost their homes. I appeal now to the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to allow the continuing use of the camp to accommodate these people. I am sure he will appreciate the need for it to remain open to them until they are rehoused.
I now turn directly to the rural consequences of the fire disaster, with particular reference to the Southern Midlands and the orchard and farming activities of the Channel and Huon districts. The full extent of the losses is only now becoming apparent as the picture becomes clearer with the restoration of communications. It has been estimated that the market value of property, stock and crops destroyed was about $10m, but the replacement cost to most farmers would be between 50% and 100% more. The losses in this respect alone are staggering. I agree with the observations made last week in an editorial in the Tasmanian Farmer’, which stated:
The rural losses could well turn out to be the biggest part of the bill that has got to be paid.
Perhaps it is insufficiently realised that in very many cases complete and utter loss of farm houses, machinery and equipment, fences and livestock has occurred - in fact the total devastation of the property.
The editorial concluded with these words:
The fact must be faced that for the individual it is tantamount to starting off afresh with little hope of ever again getting out of debt unless the assistance available is generous.
The Prime Minister, in reply to a question asked last week by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, stated, so I inferred, that the people who suffered in this disaster were to be restored at least to the standard of living that they enjoyed before.
The apple industry concerns me greatly. The severity of the losses ranges from 8% to 10%. Overall a great deal of damage has been done. Much breaking down has occurred in fruit originally thought not to have been affected. The trees have been dehydrated and the apples are dropping long before the normal maturing time. Some orchards have suffered tremendous losses. In some instances, trees up to fifteen rows in from the edge of orchards have been burnt and scorched. Individual farmers have suffered losses far greater than is generally realised, I believe. No loans will be sufficient to meet their needs. We must remember that an apple tree takes up to ten years to reach its full productive capacity. So assistance must be given by way of straightout grants to apple orchardists. This problem must be faced. In conclusion I say that we in Tasmania are grateful to the people of the rest of Australia for the great help that they have given to us at this time of disaster.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I now call the honourable member for the Northern Territory and remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech.
– In this my first speech I should like to thank those in the Northern Territory and beyond who made it possible for me to be here. I am very conscious of my responsibility to all sections of the community to press continually for development and security in the north. - Before going any further, may I say that I have known the retiring member, Mr Jock Nelson, for the past twenty-six years, and that I also knew his father before him. I am fully aware of the respect he built for himself in Canberra and on both sides of this House during the seventeen years he represented us here.
The Northern Territory seat is a large one. Its area is 520,000 square miles. Its capital, Darwin, with a population of about 23,000 people, is right at Australia’s door to South East Asia. In the Darwin area, nearly 2,000 miles from here, security and communications should be two of our most important aims. It gives one a great feeling to see the Mirages taking off from the Darwin strip, night and day, in all weathers, and to realise that their effort is being backed up by all the other services. Darwin has almost the fastest growth rate of any city in Australia, and the Territory now has a population of 57,000 people, of whom 20,000 are Aboriginals. With the development that is taking place, the population could reach 100,000 in the next five years. Therefore, there is a constant demand to be met for education at all levels, housing, medical and dental care, and the lowering of transport costs. The Northern Territory is vital to our national security for in it there are many enterprises either returning, or being developed to return, vast wealth to Australia. Let me mention a few. First there is Yirrkala with its future port and alumina project. Then there is a tracking station at Gove. Another is the manganese export industry at Groote Eylandt. All these are impossible to reach overland for months during the wet season. Further east we have Mount Isa Mines Ltd developing silver and lead production at McArthur River, the construction of a railway to the town on Centre Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the damming of the river at Borroloola. Further east again is the rich copper deposit at Wollogorang.
Communications are also vital to development and security in the north. Take for example the case of Frances Creek iron ore, for which the aged railway track to Darwin will have to be relaid. Even then it may be too late to save the current contract from sliding with the permanent way into the northern swamps and streams. The central Australian railway track is in similar drastic need of repair. Really, it needs rerouting through country where an inch or two of much needed rain will not put the line out of commission, as it did again only last week. Indeed, it is still out of commission and the central Australian towns will be desperately short of foodstuffs before the next train gets through. Now is the time, late though it may be, to get stuck into the north, for it has vast undeveloped resources.
Katherine, with its meat works, to which several beef roads now lead, could be the focal point for an irrigation scheme based on the Daly River, which flows all the year round through mile after mile, not of black soil but alluvial soil. What a wonderful potential this has for improved pastures, fat cattle and the growing of almost anything you like. With the introduction of Townsville lucerne and setaria, and with superphosphate at the new government subsidised price, the coastal flood plains and the Tipperary land system also lend themselves to closer settlement and pastoral development on a large scale. In this area also are Bachelor, Rum Jungle, Woodcutters and Moline, all mining areas of varying but good potential. In the Tennant Creek area, the mines at Peko, Orlando, Nobles Knob and Warrego are producing in the vicinity of ten million dollars worth of ore annually. Good sealed roads and swift, frequent air services connecting with the other States are the answer to many of the problems confronting these wealth producers.
Further south in the Alice Springs area the situation is similar. For years the Alice Springs-Port Augusta Road Development Organisation - known as ASPARDC - has been trying its utmost to have the road between Alice Springs and Port Augusta sealed. Last season there were over 15,000 visitors to Ayers Rock alone, which is some 300 miles by road from Alice Springs. In places, that road had corrugations thirteen inches deep and some hazardous washaways. There is no telling what has been washed away by the recent rains. Tourism saved this southern area during the past eight years. Now the seasons have broken. Tourism is still on the increase and could earn hundreds of thousands of United States dollars for Australia.
If we are to hold this tourist trade for the Territory there must be planning and financing on a national scale, as was stated recently by the Minister in charge of
Tourist Activities (Mr Chipp). There is one hotel in the Alice which is capable of staging a 700-person convention, but generally tourist accommodation in the Territory is insufficient to meet any great surge of overseas or local visitors. To assist develop this rapidly growing dollar earner, the tourist resort operator must have the help of the Commonwealth Development Bank which can supply the long term, low interest loan money required to build accommodation suitable to handle the large numbers who will come. If that accommodation is built, overseas tourists will flock to central Australia by the thousand. To emphasise my point, let me state that in 1966 one operator alone handled 488 American package tour bookings valued at $33,000, and he now holds bookings for 760 Americans in 1967 at an estimated value of $47,500. These figures do not include the money spent on local airline trips and the other things on which one spends money when touring. The Todd River dam would not only serve to recharge the underground water supply in Alice Springs but would also be a great tourist attraction in this hot and usually dry inland area where swimming and boating could be enjoyed all the year round. Imagine Canberra without its Lake Burley Griffin.
The pastoral industry also needs long term, low interest money to be made more readily available to rehabilitate it after the long drought. The recent rains will put the country in great heart, but breeders are badly needed and you cannot buy many breeders for $10,000. On top of the vast array of mineral wealth and tourist trade potential, put the income from the northern and tablelands cattle industry, with Mitchel] and Flinders grass plains stretching from the Victoria River district in the west to Camooweal in the east and the mixed country north and south of this line. No wonder the people of this expansive and potentially very wealthy area have been screaming for full representation in this Parliament. With this wealth at stake, surely a vote for the one member who represents the area is warranted. Might I suggest, Sir, that concurrently with the redistribution of seats and a possible increase in the size of Parliament, the time would be ripe to give the virtually disfranchised people of the
Territory a full vote in the House of Representatives and also the right to vote at the proposed referendum. 1 believe, also, that at this time some consideration must be given to representation in the Senate for the Northern Territory. Going further into the matter of social reform, the Northern Territory must be moved towards eventual statehood and self-government. To this end more autonomy should be given to the Northern Territory Legislative Council. We hope that this will be obtained as a result of a meeting to be arranged shortly.
The first step in this direction could be greater authority for the Administrator’s Council. This would mean that the people were represented at this level by two of their own elected members. Then the reasons for negative decisions would come back to the Council for discussion and thus be made public. During this period the Legislative Council should itself be prepared to take greater responsibility and should be considering some of the financial aspects of government, for without the purse strings nobody can hope to assume authority.
One of the main problems of rapid development is the retention of suitable skilled people to carry on the trade and industry which accompanies such development. In this regard, the Territory urgently needs finance for approved institutions to build homes for private firms to house their employees. Some businesses have as much as $60,000 tied up in housing for staff. If this money were released it would greatly assist industry in the north.
Before I conclude my remarks I must mention the Aboriginals. Much has been said on this subject by persons who either do not understand the situation or are not really interested in the welfare of these people but, instead, are using them and their battle for a fair go for political ends or their own personal gain. There is no doubt that the case of the Aboriginals needs earnest consideration, careful and sympathetic understanding, and time. There must be time in this most important problem. This is the main thing. With the Bill suggested by the Legislative Council, which is a great step forward and a subject which was continually stressed by me during the general election campaign, there comes an even greater need to educate the Aboriginals towards taking a responsible view of consistent employment as well as receiving practical trade school training. To illustrate the problem I quote from a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 17th February last. The report read:
A nomadic race that has always pui community before self and has expected to find food, rather than work for it, will not readily settle down to the routine daily tasks of farming, gardening and trading. Dark skinned pastoralists who go walkabout too often will not find their stations prospering. And if the energetic Aborigine-, who rnakes a success of his land, feels obliged to keep the rest of his tribe in idleness-
This is very popular - he will not build up much of a bank balance This is very true. We must equip the Aboriginals to be able to get the greatest use from the advantage that will be provided in the suggested legislation of the Legislative Council. There is an urgent need for these people to be taught and to be allowed greater control over their civil and domestic affairs.
These are some of the challenges which face the incoming member for the Northern Territory and the Government of the day. Prior to coming here 1 told my electorate that, with all sincerity and due humility I pledged myself to accomplish whatever I possibly could for all the people of the north. I consider it a great privilege to be here to do just that.
- Mr Speaker, firstly I congratulate you on your election to one of the highest offices in the land. 1 am sure that you will carry out your duties with all the humility and high capacity demanded of your office. I congratulate also those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches during this debate, particularly the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). On behalf of the Opposition I thank honourable members for their kind remarks about Jock Nelson from the Northern Territory and Bill Riordan from Kennedy. If the present honourable members for the Northern Territory and Kennedy are as good as were Mr Nelson and Mr Riordan, they will make excellent contributions to this Parliament.
I intend to devote most of my time to some of the important problems confront ing northern Australia at the present time. One of these is the precarious position of the sugar industry. Today the sugar industry is in, perhaps, the worst economic situation of its history - even worse than when the kanakas first came into Australia to help to develop the sugar industry. Another problem confronting northern Australia is the absence of a policy by this Government with respect to water conservation. This Government has no policy for dealing with the urgent need for water conservation in drought stricken areas.
In his Speech, the Governor-General devoted only a couple of brief sentences to sugar. Having regard to the significant contribution by sugar to the economy of Queensland - something like 25% or 28% of the State’s total income - 1 would have thought that the Government would have devoted a little more time to this most important industry, lt is, in fact, the most important industry in northern Australia. As I have said, the sugar industry is today in the worst plight in its history. This is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, expansion of the sugar industry has been so rapid that 70% of total exports of sugar are now completely dependent on the whims of a notorious export market. The present price of sugar is less than half the cost of production - about £17 sterling a ton. The second reason is the failure of the Government to negotiate a successful international sugar agreement to protect the industry’s expansion. The third reason is the intolerable grip which the Japanese Government now has on a major proportion of our sugar exports. In answer to a question asked by me last week, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) said that the price being paid by the Japanese was intolerable.
Another reason why the industry is facing a major problem is the threat of substitutes if the domestic price of sugar is increased. The Government can rest assured that the Opposition will argue very strongly against any rise in the domestic price of sugar. The cost of production in the sugar industry is high. This is due, not to inefficiency, but to the high cost of fertilisers and the high cost of labour per acre. But the high cost of production creates problems for the industry. The industry has to outlay this cash in order to grow sugar. At the present time out of a world production of about 64 million tons of sugar only 5 million to 6 million tons are sold on the residual free market. This is the market where Australia is vulnerable and where most of Australia’s export sugar has to be sold at the free market price. This 5 million to 6 million tons is further reduced by special bilateral agreements between buyers and sellers. Thus a very small tonnage of sugar - less than 5 million tons in actual fact - determines the market price of a great proportion of the sugar traded in the world. It is a classic example of elasticities in economics in that a 1% increase or decrease in quantity as it affects this particular residual can lead to a 10% to 15% change either way in price.
At present there is a peak of about 2.2 million tons of sugar of which 635,000 tons are protected by a home consumption price. About 335,000 tons come under the auspices of the British Commonwealth Sugar Agreement at a price of Si 05 a ton. The United States of America allows us to sell about 180,000 tons of sugar at approximately $104 a ton. This accounts for a protected quantity of about 1.1 million tons out of a peak of 2.2 million tons leaving unprotected l.l million tons. We know that productivity per acre is increasing and that possibly within two years the aggregate peaks will be about 2.7 million tons, leaving for the residual free market 1.6 million tons. The important point is that with a peak of 2.2 million tons over 50% of our production or over 70% of our exports has to be sold at the current disastrous free world price. With a peak of 2.7 million tons, 60% of our total production or about 80% of our exports has to be sold at this world price. Before the expansion there was a total production of about 1.4 million tons. If we take into account the protected market of 1.1 million tons, only 20% of the total production was at the residual market price. Because of the expansion we now find that 70% of our total exports are at this price, which, in real terms, is lower even than in the depression years.
Let me now deal with the Japanese Trade Agreement. This is an agreement that this Government, and particularly the Minister for Trade and Industry has lauded since its inception. In the Dawson by-election and in the last Federal election the Minister for Trade and Industry attacked the Opposition because it dared criticise this agreement. As the Minister for Trade and Industry has constantly reminded as, it was this Agreement which was responsible -for the expansion of the sugar industry. This statement of the Minister appears in Hansard.
– Labor opposed the Agreement.
– I will tell the honourable member why Labor opposed it. The time has come to expose completely this nefarious trading operation with Japan which, under present arrangements, is bankrupting thousands of growers and causing untold misery in the sugar towns, especially the monoculture sugar towns, of north Queensland through unemployment. Honourable members might like to know that in Mackay there, are 1,700 unemployed persons - more unemployed persons than in the whole of Western Australia. I intend to inform the House of the factual position, which will shock honourable members. Australian cane growers have been exploited under this Agreement. The Minister for Trade and Industry knows full well that the game is up. He knows from the question asked in Parliament last week that we are completely dissatisfied with the sugar trading arrangement with Japan. It was indeed remarkable to see the Minister do a back somersault. During the last Parliament he vigorously supported the Agreement, but last week he implicitly trenchantly criticised the Japanese because of the intolerable price - and ‘intolerable price’ were his own words - that the Japanese Government paid for our sugar. Who initiated the Agreement? This Government did. Let us consider the facts and place them on record. Japan today is our biggest buyer of sugar, in this season purchasing about 600,000 tons. The price paid by Japan is currently £St:17 or SA40 a ton. This has been the highest price for some months. It will shock honourable members to know that at this price the Japanese Government is making a clear profit of £Stg73 a ton or $A180, made up of a levy of £Stg10; a ton, a surcharge of £Stg5 a ton, an import duty of £Stg42 a ton and a consumption tax of £Stg16 a ton. Whereas our cane growers are being forced to sell their sugar to Japan at £Stg17 a ton the Japanese Government is making a profit of £Stg73 a ton. This intolerable state of affairs is accentuated by the fact that Japan guarantees its own growers a minimum price of £Stg80 a ton. Let us look at this in terms of aggregates rather than on a per ton basis. Japan bought 600,000 tons of sugar from Australia this season. At £Stg17 a ton Australia would receive $24m. But the Japanese Government makes a profit of $108m on this quantity. Yet this Commonwealth Government prides itself on looking after our farmers.
The Government because of its mad chase to gain export income, irrespective of the misery resulting to thousands of Australians, is condoning the Japanese action by backing an Agreement which is in actual fact bankrupting a large proportion of an Australian industry. The tragic story of our sugar industry may be unfolded with respect to iron ore, bauxite and coal. I attach no blame to the Japanese. The blame must be shared fully by the Federal and Queensland Governments for expanding a prosperous industry with the object of providing Japan with sugar. If the industry had not been expanded we would have had a viable, prosperous and happy industry today. The lesson to be learned from the agreement with Japan is that never again should the Australian Government enter any international agreement of such magnitude for the sale of commodities from industries where the major proportion of the exports are at the complete mercy of overseas prices, without first making proper provision for satisfactory prices for the duration of the agreement. This is particularly so with regard to sugar, which is faced with a free market price characterised by cut-throat international politics such as the tension, as mentioned by the Minister for Trade and Industry, between Cuba and the United States of America and the bilateral political agreements between Cuba and Russia. 1 challenge this Government to deny, either inside or outside this House, the authenticity of the figures I have given and the facts I have recounted of the scandalous economic situation with respect to the sale of our sugar to Japan. I believe, as I have always believed, that the Minister for Trade and Industry is currently doing his best for this industry. He has made a mistake, in my opinion, by backing this sugar agreement without first paying particular attention to a satisfactory price. He told the House last week that he had consulted with the Prime Minister of Japan, and Japan has virtually told us to jump in the lake - and Japan is quite within its rights in doing so.
The Minister for Trade and Industry and other Ministers have made great play of the International Sugar Agreement, there can be no doubt that if we can negotiate a new International Sugar Agreement it will be a good thing. But let us remember that between 1954 and 1961, the period during which a previous Agreement operated, the floor price of 3.25c per lb was reached only 50% of the time. Let us remember that it was recognised by the International Sugar Council that the Agreement was not a success as regards developed countries, because although they have expanded production and consumption their international trade has not increased very much at all. Let us remember also that the International Sugar Council has published figures which show that by 1970 we can expect the margin of production over consumption to reach between ten and eleven million tons. We should also remember that when considering a new International Sugar Agreement Australia jumped the gun. It became so greedy for export income that it jumped from fifth to second place in world trade as an exporter of raw sugar. In doing so it has antagonised countries classified by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as developing countries. It has antagonised the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement countries, Mauritius, the West Indies and British Guiana in the process of jumping from fifth to second place.
The time has come, of course, for a decision with respect to the domestic sugar agreement. If we raise the domestic price of sugar we ‘immediately run into the problem of artificial sweeteners. The breweries, for example, have already served notice that if we raise the price of sugar they will immediately switch to glucose syrups and cereal starches. We know what the effect will be in the jam industry. We know that if the domestic price of sugar is increased the burden will fall most heavily on the working man with a family, because it is such families that consume the bulk of our production of lollies, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and ice cream - and this despite the fact that there is an excellent case for an increase in the home price of sugar. But why should Australian consumers have to pay more for their sugar when we are selling 600,000 tons of this commodity - almost as much as we are consuming in Australia - to Japan at £17 a ton, and Australian consumers are already paying £60 a ton.
I mentioned before in this House that if the International Sugar Agreement failed there would be only one course left for the industry, and that is sugar stabilisation. A loan with interest is hopeless. The industry is already mortgaged to the hilt and another loan with interest would just be a laugh. This first $19m loan might, of course, possibly form part of a stabilisation scheme, but naturally it is the prerogative of the industry to initiate or accept stabilisation if it wishes to do so.
In my remaining few minutes 1 would like to deal with the problem of water and the inability of the Government to provide a long-term national water conservation programme. [ believe this is something that future generations will not forget. As I have said before in this Parliament, this Government must wake up to itself and put forward positive plans for the systematic development of water resources in those areas where water flows wastefully to the sea in millions of acre feet per annum, particularly in those areas which are devastated by recurring droughts. If this Government does not do so, then future generations will have to do so for their very survival. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said that the Government was now going to consider some kind of national conservation programme. He said he was going to consider the spending of $50m over a period of years. But this was in November and it is now almost March. What amused me, and what must amuse other honorable members from the north, is that the Government is now going to invite the States to put forward proposals. What about the Ord River proposal initiated in 1958 and continuously spoken of ever since? What about the
Nogoa scheme which was presented in 1961? What about the border rivers scheme which has been a subject of discussion since 1960? What about the Murray-Darling proposals of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan)? What about the Burdekin and Fitzroy River proposals? These proposals have been put to the Government from time to time over a period of many years, yet the Government has now decided to invite the States to put forward proposals. What has happened to the Nogoa scheme? The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) raised that question a few days ago. It is being mulled over by these one-eyed economists he referred to.
We have the scandalous situation of Queensland being the richest State in the Commonwealth from the point of view of water resources, with 75% of Australia’s surface water located above the twenty-sixth parallel of latitude, while of the $900m committed by this Government in the last fifteen years for water conservation for power and irrigation - and certainly $800m of that has been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme which benefits New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - not one cent has gone to Queensland. Queensland certainly can provide many suitable projects. The catchment area of the Burdekin and Fitzroy Rivers alone is larger than the total area of Victoria. An area of twelve million acres of proven soils could be irrigated by water from the Fitzroy and Burdekin Rivers. There is an almost unlimited potential for sorghum and for beef cattle in association with improved pastures if our water resources were properly developed. Yet we see these areas devastated by droughts every three or four years, and the Government is now going to ask Queensland and Western Australia and the other States to put forward proposals even though proposals from those States have been talked about for many years. They have been surveyed and resurveyed, analysed and re-analysed, to the extent that by now State governments are completely frustated
The Opposition believes that the Government should give high priority to the establishment of a national water conservation and construction authority to plan and carry out systematically, in conjunction with the States, the progressive development of water resources throughout Australia. In the northern part of New South Wales alone in the last two years we saw one of the worst droughts on record. The honorable member for Gwydir proposed a motion last year urging the Government to take positive action in this area. We believe that a positive approach should be adopted towards the whole question of water conservation throughout Australia.
The Government can rest assured that the Opposition will spare no effort to attack it and to put forward constructive proposals in this and other fields mentioned by the Governor-General, such as those of development, education and defence. We will be a strong Opposition. We will make proposals and we will attack the Government with such vigour that even the feathers of that battle scarred old wise owl, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), whom we periodically hear squawking and hooting in this House, will become a shade greyer.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Hughes. I remind honourable members that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
- Mr Speaker, in rising to speak for the first time in this House, I would like to thank once more the constituents of Hughes for having elected me as their representative in this Twenty-sixth Federal Parliament. 1 am greatly honoured and, in gladly assuming the responsibilities, I would repeat the dedication I made at the declaration of the poll, that the welfare of the 145,000 residents within the electorate shall at all times be my total concern and care. I pray that I shall meet the expectations that they have of me, both within the electorate and in the wider sphere of this Parliament.
I pay a special tribute to all those devoted political workers who, in a myriad of ways, toiled for the candidates of all parties in whom they had faith. Theirs was the true element of democracy, working in such a way as to present to the public the policies and programmes which they believed would bring the greatest opportunity for the development and well being of our nation.
There would not be one honourable member in this House who would or could condone the actions in the last campaign which led to the physical attacks on our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and brought the former Leader of the Opposition to within a literal inch of his life. Understandably then, one of our great responsibilities is to see that this form of political expression, permitted by the very democratic processes we enjoy, is not allowed to endanger the lives of our leaders or stop public discussion of political policies. One needs to have experienced such a meeting as was held by the Prime Minister at Miranda, in my own electorate, to realise that there are forces at work whose concern is more related to a denial of the liberties we so often take for granted in Australia than has generally been admitted before. Yet, paradoxically, we can and must never deny the right to demonstrate. The late John F. Kennedy, when President of the United States of America, exhorted his people to become less concerned with being against things and more concerned with standing up for things. As parliamentarians, surely we have a stern lesson to learn here.
On behalf of the electorate of Hughes, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor and to the diligence with which he performed his duties during his term of office. Again, on behalf of my constituents and myself, I congratulate the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam), whose area of responsibility once covered the present electorate of Hughes, on his election to the high post of Leader of the Opposition.
The electorate of Hughes is truly remarkable. Not only is it one of the fastest growing and youthful of suburban areas in our country, it is the birthplace of our nation. At Kurnell, Captain Cook’s crew first set foot on Australian soil. Yet, within the vast boundaries of this historical electorate we now have the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s research establishment at Lucas Heights, two oil refineries, petro-chemical plants, coal fields, some of the finest though controversial oyster farms in the State, and a new and increasingly important industry in the form of scientific mushroom growing at Helensburgh and Menai. It is, in fact, an electorate reflective of the growth in depth that Australia has known in the past twenty years and representative of the great progress which will follow from the policies stated in the Governor-General’s Speech to this Twenty-sixth Parliament of the Commonwealth. To extol my electorate’s natural beauty, its sense of civic pride, its awareness of its national and local duty, may sound as if my own vision were clouded by a small and restricted parochial outlook. But I can assure you, Sir, that this is not so and that the grandeur of our Royal National Park, our beautiful coastline and beaches will long live in the minds of those who have enjoyed them, and I invite all honourable members to come and visit this part of Australia and see for themselves.
But even more important than this, visitors are surprised to see the housing development taking place in areas which were virgin bush and on the unique Sylvania Waters area which is being developed on land reclaimed from Gwawley Bay. They will see that housing and such attendant problems as telephone shortages rest uppermost in the minds of most of my constituents. I was glad to see that His Excellency’s Speech referred to the need to encourage young people to save towards owning their own homes after marriage and that the home savings grants scheme is being liberalised and extended to further this aim. It is my sincere hope that all savings by young people, irrespective of form, will be accepted and regarded as an accumulation of assets for their permanent home.
The greatest gap today is the lack of knowledge as to what forms of finance are available. The building industry has given the lead by setting up centres in the various capital cities to provide information on the use and availability of various building materials. Indeed, the industry is to be highly commended. Many young people are so uninformed on the requirements and existence of the various lending institutions that I hope that the Department of Housing, in conjunction with such lending institutions as the savings banks, trading banks, insurance companies and co-operative building societies, will see its way clear to establishing in prominent positions in every capital city information bureaux to which all home buyers can go and discuss their home savings plans. All too often, a young couple know that they do not or cannot qualify for a housing loan when their usually inadequately prepared application is refused, and for reasons which often are beyond their comprehension. Not enough publicity is given about the deposit requirements of the various types of lending authorities and one can scarcely expect the savings banks, for example, to publicise the requirements of the building societies, and vice versa. Yet so many young people are confused by the differing criteria used by the lending institutions that I commend to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) for her early and favourable consideration, the idea of setting up information bureaux. From my own banking experience, I can affirm the need for this.
Without question, the major domestic issue confronting the nation is education. I am glad to see the effort being made in this field by the Government. Education must never become a political football. Vital though adequate buildings, modern equipment and fully stocked libraries are, it must never be forgotten that it is the quality of teaching even more than the environment that determines the standards and levels of education in our community. Therefore I was pleased to see that His Excellency mentioned that $24m was being spent on the construction of teacher training colleges for the State Governments and that the expansionary policies of this Government, already established, are being accelerated to achieve the best possible facilities for all.
I was glad also to hear that grants are now to be made to certain national voluntary organisations working in the field of social welfare, including the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled which, I understand, is the coordinating Federal body for a great number of voluntary organisations throughout Australia which are working for the handicapped. In addition to the capital assistance being given to sheltered workshops and the special allowance to disabled persons employed in those workships, these grants are a clear indication that this Government is vitally concerned with the welfare of the handicapped, in our community. In this regard, I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) for the fine work being done for the handicapped by his Department’s rehabilitation service. The dedication of the officers involved in this work, over a long period, deserves our full and public acknowledgement. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, as you are aware, Sir, was formed at a time when there was little if any other such service offered in the community generally. Its leadership in this field has been significant. However, it appears to me to have evolved into a somewhat autonomous service, meeting the needs of special groups only. At present there are emerging essential rehabilitation services in hospitals throughout Australia which are, of course, under the control of the State health and hospital services. If the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service is to continue and develop further I would like to think that, for greater efficiency of effort, it would be in closer liaison with these emerging State services. I should like also to think that the future role of the Commonwealth would be to give continuing leadership at a national level in solving the needs of all types and categories of handicapped persons; and that the Commonwealth be more supportive to the services being provided by the States and that it be less involved itself in providing direct services.
There are other aspects of social services which I should like to mention at this time. Firstly, 1 understand that there are no regional offices of the Department in the satellite suburban areas of the capital cities, and I am concerned that such large areas as my own are long and difficult distances from the interviewing officers of the Department. All in this House will know very well the kindly and helpful assistance that the departmental officers give. But it is a physical and financial burden for my constituents to’ travel into Sydney for interviews and to obtain information from departmental officers. All in this House will know the tremendous volume of work that arises from the answering of questions relative to social service benefits. Regional offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service provide a much used and useful service to the areas in which they are situated, and J commend to the Minister for Social Services the idea that he establish similar offices, suitably staffed to provide an equal service, in the satellite suburban districts. For a start, I strongly commend the opening of an office in the CronullaSutherland district.
I wish also to refer to the continuing liberalisation of the means test mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I hope that when the next Budget is being prepared consideration will be given to the plight of those superannuated pensioners who do not qualify for age pensions, yet receive but a moderate superannuation. I would hope that a formula could be devised whereby these people can at least qualify for an entitlement to the fringe benefits which attach to the Government’s age or invalid pensions.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I conclude by declaring my faith in our country’s future. We are one of the great international traders of the world. We enjoy a reputation not often accorded to a country with a small population such as ours. It has been my experience when overseas to find difficulty in convincing otherwise informed people that we have in fact a population of less than 12 million. Economically our small domestic market makes us depend on our trade to a far greater extent than do most of the other leading world traders. We must trade to survive. We must be constantly aware that our national interests are based on international events. We can never isolate ourselves. Lord Casey once wrote:
Every country’s foreign policy is a compromise with that of its friends, and our actions and those of our friends must be considerate of one another.
Australia’s reliance on international trade and the vagaries of world markets, combined with the fluctuations in local rural output due to seasonal conditions, places us in a unique position economically. I believe that’ it would be wrong for us to centralise our economic planning to the same extent as is practised in France and is so often suggested here. Furthermore, I believe we would be equally wrong in nominating target rates of annual growth for our gross national product, as is done in the United States and as was advocated in the Vernon report. Such targets can well become obsessions which could undermine our price stability and the competitive nature of our economy. I believe that government interest should never become government intrusion at either the national or individual level.
Mr Speaker, I should like to thank you for this early opportunity to speak in the House, and as one of the record batch of new faces on the Government benches may I congratulate you on your elevation to the position of trust and responsibility you occupy. I should be glad if you would express my congratulations to my friend the honourable member far Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his reappointment as Chairman of Committees. I thank honourable members for their attention and courtesy.
Debate (on motion by Mr Collard) adjourned.
– Pursuant to standing order 18, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr Bosman, Mr Clark, Mr Cope. Mr Costa, Mr Drury, Mr Failes, Mr Fox, Mr Hallett, Mr Haworth and Mr Stewart to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
Ministerial Statement Mr HASLUCK (Curtin- Minister for External Affairs) - by leave - Mr Speaker, as this statement will lead to the first debate on international affairs in a new Parliament, following an election in which foreign policy was an issue, I shall attempt to range more widely over the field than I may have done on previous occasions. In doing so I emphasise two points: Australian political, economic and diplomatic interests are worldwide; and, although we are urgently and vitally facing the crises that arise in the region in which we live, this Government has consistently maintained that the tasks of peace and welfare of mankind are global; that what happens in any region is of concern to all the world; and that the final security and the ultimate hope for peaceful progress of any region are inseparably a part of a global problem. Too often people talk of ‘one world’ and then act as though the various continents had not yet discovered each other.
I shall begin with Europe and the North Atlantic. In matters affecting economic progress and security in all continents, Washington, London and Moscow are centres of strength, influence and decision, and from them diplomatic communications radiate to all lands. We watch with close concern and constant hope for the prospects of better understanding and co-operation between them. We all need to recall that the hopes for security and peace offered by the United Nations rest on the readiness of these great powers to co-operate to maintain the peace; and that any project to bring a better life for peoples in developing lands requires their help alongside that minority of countries, of which Australia is one, who are significant in production and trade.
In this context I shall not enlarge on our relations with the United States, but remind the House in passing that, while naturally preoccupied with the policies of the United States in the Pacific and Asia, we recognise, too, the enormous contributions that she has made and is making to security and the advancement of human welfare all over the world. A major consideration in Australian foreign policy is that understanding and co-operation between Washington and London should be firmly based on the closest possible consultation between them. We ourselves try to maintain the closest confidence of both.
Looking at Europe, we have found some encouragement because in the last few years the rigidity of the Communist world has lessened and some diversity has appeared. An important recent example was the decision of Rumania to exchange diplomatic missions with the Federal Republic of Germany. A parallel has been a greater diversity of approach among the countries of Western Europe, to be seen for example in the changing character of the structure and activities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
With the possibility opening up - it is only a possibility - of wider areas of cooperation with the Soviet Union, it is conceivable that we may be able to begin to think again of Europe as Europe rather than of the two separate entities of Western Europe and Eastern Europe divided by enmity.
Since my own visit to Moscow in November 1964, when I had the honour to be the first foreign minister of any country to be received by the new Prime Minister Mr Kosygin, we have looked for opportunities for co-operation. In addition, my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) subsequently paid a visit to Eastern Europe. While at the United Nations I have sought opportunities for making contact with the foreign ministers of Eastern European countries. Recently we opened a new mission in Belgrade.
One can speculate on possible reasons for the change that has been taking place in attitudes of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the former Russian feeling of encirclement has gone, at least as far as Europe is concerned; the achievements of the Soviet Union in outer space and in other fields have contributed to its self-confidence and to a knowledge that the Soviet Union can hold its own in open competition with other countries; the rise in production and in standards of living has given the Government and people of the Soviet Union a stake in the continued economic growth of the country, made possible only by continued peace; and, inherent in all the foregoing, the new generations have not been so directly shaped and scarred by pre-revolutionary and revolutionary times. Ways of thought and behaviour inside the Soviet Union have been changing. Similarly, on the nonCommunist side in Europe, there have been changes in attitude and in possibilities open for building international accords.
We should not of course swing from one extreme to the other and conclude that basic differences do not persist. Of course they do. The Soviet Union remains a Communist state. It must be remembered, too, that the military expansion of the Soviet Union, and of the Communist states associated with it, was held back only because of effective resistance to aggression as demonstrated in Greece after the Second World War, by the formation of NATO in 1949, and by the successful military resistance to North Korean aggression in 1950. The so-called nuclear stalemate may also have quietened down anxieties. It is both realistic and necessary that proposals for disarmament should not weaken in any essential way the present strategic and tactical strength of either of the two great power groups relatively to the other. I recall these things, not to reopen old quarrels, but to remind the House of some of the necessary conditions if co-operation between all the great powers is to be developed. The cold war is not so cold, as it may have been in former years, but, if 1 may paraphrase a recent phrase I saw in ‘Pravda’, we would still like to see the icebergs start to melt.
Living under the shadow and indeed the protection of the nuclear balance between the Eastern Europeans and the North Atlantic powers, it is natural that European states should sometimes be particularly conscious of the risks to that balance through incidents and hostilities elsewhere in the world getting out of hand. They, like the rest of us, are aware of the danger of escalation, for example in Vietnam, a danger which might bring the great powers into war against one another, leading perhaps to nuclear conflict. The temptations before Europeans are two-fold; either to detach themselves from what is happening in the Far East and to say that it is none of their business, or alternatively to say that almost no price is too high to stop the fighting in that region, remote from them. I believe that both attitudes are wrongly based. There is inevitably going to bc great change in Asia and the whole world has an interest in helping it to be peaceful change leading to security and economic development. In the past world wars have occurred over issues in Europe; today, with the rise of Communist China as a major power and with other Asian countries developing economically and otherwise, world wars could originate in this region of the world if aggression is not met with resolution and strength, but at the same time with restraint and a readiness to find just settlements which have a prospect of lasting. Neither detachment from affairs by European countries nor advice from them to the effect that China and it supporters should be given what they want will bring lasting peace to the Europeans themselves or to the world.
Australia also has a traditional and continuing interest of a special kind with the United Kingdom. Perhaps we have been so long accustomed to think of Britain as the heart of the Commonwealth of Nations and as a world power that Australians have not been accustomed to thinking of her as also a nation in Europe. We trust that most Britons will also continue to see themselves primarily as being something more than just one of the nations in Europe.
The Australian Government is watching closely all matters associated with the British Government’s intention to seek membership of the European Common Market. It is not possible at this stage to predict when or whether a new British application to enter the Community might succeed, or how essential British and Commonwealth interests will be safeguarded, as Mr Wilson has insisted they must be as a condition of entry. On the one hand we have the economic implications for Australia, which are a matter on which my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry may be expected to make further statements at the appropriate time.
Australia’s concern is not only economic. Australia, like other countries of the world, has a very great political interest in the outcome of any British application. The European Economic Community is not simply an economic organisation; it has political associations and some common institutions, and membership of the Community may affect foreign policies, at least on certain matters. Australia would hope that Britain’s presence in the Common Market, if it comes about, would exert an influence on Western Europe to make Western Europe outward-looking and ready to play its part in the rest of the world, and that the progressive integration of Western Europe will add to its capacity to do so.
Australia would also want Britain to maintain its deep and intimate political association and historic ties with Australia and other members of the Commonwealth. Even today, as honourable members know, there has been consideration and continuing debate in Britain about its role east of Suez. The Australian Government has been glad to know from the latest British White Paper on Defence and from the recent visit by Mr Bowden and from its own contacts that the British Government intends to continue the presence in the Far East which had previously been discussed with Australia.
There is sometimes rather loose talk about Australia taking over Britain’s role in the Far East. It seems to me that such a conception is quite inaccurate. In Asia and the Pacific, Britain used to play a role that was appropriate to a particular historical epoch, but that epoch has passed away. Britain still has a great part to play in the region, but it is a different role from the past and will take account of the changing world. It will be a continuing discharge of Britain’s responsibilities towards a region whose present position Britain has done so much to shape and where Britain is still in a position to make a significant contribution materially and in other ways. Australia also has a role to play in the region. But this is our own role and it derives from our own direct interests, and it is a different role from that played by Britain in the past and the role that Britain might be expected to play in the future. It is our own role. It presents responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities which we Australians must not shirk.
I now turn to discuss events in regions nearer to Australia. As a preliminary observation may I suggest that we need to be careful in talking about Asia to avoid confusion over the meaning of the word. As a geographical term it covers countries from Turkey to the Philippines, a large part of the Soviet Union, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and half the shore-line of the Indian Ocean as well as countries bordering the Pacific. It is inexact to talk simply of an interest in Asia or to identify one problem as the problem of Asia, or one opinion as the Asian outlook. Asia is a big and extensive place.
Australia has maintained a continuous and growing interest in the parts of Asia nearest to us since the first Australian missions were established in Japan, China and India twenty-five years ago. Two historic decisions in Australian diplomacy were taken, first, in 1951 under a predecessor of this Government when we took the initiative in forming the Colombo Plan organisation to help mobilise our own external aid and that of other countries to contribute to the relief and reconstruction of countries in Asia and then again in 1963 when Cabinet decided to seek recognition as a regional member of ECAFE - the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. We had previously been a nonregional member.
Our activity in the continent is continuous through our own ambassadors in foreign countries and through their ambassadors in Australia. In the past three years since I was given my present portfolio I have myself visited most of the countries of Asia twice and some of them three or four times. In the same period I have arranged for six Parliamentary delegations to visit Asian countries, and no less than fifteen of my ministerial colleagues in this and previous governments have made one or more visits to Asian countries in the past three years. Under the auspices of ECAFE alone Australian officials and technical experts took part in no less than thirty-five conferences on practical problems of the ECAFE region in the last calendar year. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) himself visited a number of Asian countries last year and attended the Manila meeting of heads of government and, as recently announced, he will shortly make a further tour. In response to this effort by the Australian Government on special visits and by attendance at conferences, many statesmen, administrators and officials from Asia have been our guests in Australia. The Government will continue to promote these exchanges and this closer contact.
Dominating all regional politics and linking them unmistakenly with world politics is Communist China. Bitter dissension now exists within the ruling groups in the regime in Peking. It is difficult to analyse them, but probably many strands are intertwined: the struggle for succession to Mao Tse-tung, both between individuals and between groups backing individuals; the doctrinal Communist struggle over the roles of the peasantry and the urban proletariat; the desire of some to have perpetual revolution, and their doubts whether members of the Communist bueauracy have retained the necessary revolutionary fervour; and there are, of course, traditional Chinese divisions based on regional pulls and regional interests. The rift between China and the Soviet Union has widened, and the Soviet Union has been criticised on both doctrinal and nationalist grounds.
The general approach of the Australian Government, as stated by me at some length in this House on 18th August last year, remains unchanged, and I shall not reiterate it now. Indeed, the arguments that I used then have been reinforced, I believe, by subsequent developments, such as the excesses of the Red Guard and the further testing by China of new nuclear weapons and missiles. Last November the United Nations General Assembly declined to make any change in regard to Chinese representation. Several countries in the Assembly altered their position of the previous year in a direction unfavourable to Peking. It seems to me that an important element in the thinking of many governments was that, in view of current events on the mainland and the international attitude of Peking, this was not a time for a fundamental change in the attitude of the United Nations towards China. No-one could say with certainty that Peking’s admission could not lead rapidly to the paralysis or even the breaking up of the United Nations because of the policies that that regime would adopt in United Nations bodies towards the Soviet Union as well as towards non-Communist countries. Consequently, in view of these considerations, many even of the countries generally sympathetic to Peking were of the view in November that the best course was to wait and see.
It is my view and the view of my Department that whoever comes out on top in mainland China in the near future is not likely to have a fundamentally different attitude towards international affairs. The regime will still be dedicated to world revolution and to supporting the overthrow, by violence if appropriate, of regimes in countries which are not in line with Peking. This must represent a constant and direct threat to China’s neighbours in particular. It must also indeed be harmful to the interests of all countries, and a threat to them, if Communist China were to mount aggression against any of its neighbours, whatever the political complexion of that neighbour may be.
The Australian Government hopes - and at present we can do no more than hope - that over a period of time the mainland of China will be accommodated within the international community. But diplomatic recognition of Peking or its admission to the United Nations is not a short cut to that objective. Essential elements in bringing about an accommodation include a continued willingness and capacity by China’s neighbours to resist direct or indirect attack, and, in achieving this, their own national efforts have to be supplemented by collective arrangements with other countries. Positive national and international programmes have to promote the economic wellbeing and development of the countries in the region adjoining China. The Australian Government sees relations with China not as an isolated problem in itself, but instead as something which is part of the bigger question of security and economic and political development in the whole region. Thinking in that way we also believe that quite apart from anything that may be done directly in regard to China, progress in this region in other fields can contribute towards an ultimate settlement of some Chinese questions.
There has been gradual but steady improvement in the military situation in South Vietnam, with the initiative now more firmly in the hands of the forces of the Republic of Vietnam and its allies. Although the enemy is maintaining a campaign of harassment, terrorism, and sabotage throughout the country, Allied operations and air strikes have so far prevented the launching of large scale offensives. While there has lately been an increase in enemy military activity in the coastal and western highlands and in infiltration activity near the demilitarised zone, the main Communist force units are generally tending to avoid major contact with Allied troops. On the civil side the Government of South Vietnam continues to consolidate and extend its authority. It has taken steps to encourage economic growth and to limit profiteering and corruption. It has made advances in its revolutionary development programme for providing security and improving living standards in the rural areas. Substantial progress has been made in constitutional development.
The improvement in the military situation which I have mentioned has made it possible to extend the zone of protection provided by Government forces, which are now directly engaged in the revolutionary development programme. Hamlets and villages in many areas, but particularly in the central coastal provinces, which were formerly controlled or exposed to attack by the Vietcong have been brought under effective central government administration and given security and assistance. A Vietcong document captured some weeks ago estimates that some one million persons passed from Vietcong control to Government control during 1966. The programme for training revolutionary development cadres is going forward. It has produced teams which are already at work in the liberated areas, restoring the fabric of village organisation, helping the inhabitants in their daily tasks, reopening schools, providing health and medical services, and supplying tools and fertilisers. It is a cause for satisfaction to us. The Australian Task Force has been able to contribute directly to this programme by its own continued civic action work in Phuoc Tuy province. The open arms campaign under which the Government has offered a general amnesty to Vietcong guerillas has produced significant results. During 1966 over 20,000 Vietcong surrendered to Government control and were reintegrated into Vietnamese life. This is almost double the rate in 1965.
The new Constituent Assembly, which emerged from the successful elections held throughout South Vietnam last September, has made steady progress in drafting a constitution designed to provide a foundation for the development of representative institutions. A first draft has been completed and the Assembly is at present debating the draft articles. Up to 24th February the Assembly had approved 77 articles out of a total which seems likely to reach some 110. It is expected to complete its task of drafting by the target date of 27th March.
The Australian Government undertook in the joint communique to which the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) was a party at the close of the Manila Summit Conference to provide continued support for Vietnamese efforts to achieve economic stability and progress. On 1st February Cabinet reviewed Australia’s civil assistance to Vietnam and made further decisions to increase to $2m commitments in the current financial year. As a result of these increases on top of earlier decisions the aid in 1966-67 will be 70% higher than in 1965-66. The additional expenditure allows greater emphasis to be given to medical aid, army civic action programmes, and municipal projects such as town water supplies. The assistance of experts has also been offered by the Governments of Victoria and Queensland to supplement the efforts of the Commonwealth Government. The Government has also encouraged voluntary aid efforts through the agency of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. To co-ordinate this sort of work a new senior position has been established in the Australian Embassy in Saigon to co-ordinate all forms of Australian official aid and to co-operate with Australian voluntary aid services.
That is briefly an account of the situation, military and otherwise, inside South Vietnam. Broadly, things are getting better, but we must be prepared for a sustained effort over a period of time and against continued strong aggression.
I shall now deal at somewhat greater length with the question of negotiations on Vietnam. There has been, quite properly, considerable public speculation about whether the North Vietnamese leaders may have modified, or may be ready to modify, their previously unyielding opposition to a negotiated settlement in Vietnam, ls there any ground for hoping that their minds will change? The Australian Government has given the closest attention to the statements and reports on which this speculation has been based. It has also been in close touch with the various governments concerned, including particularly the Governments of the United States and South Vietnam. We have not been able to find clear evidence of a significant change in the North Vietnamese attitude to a negotiated settlement. Such movement as there may have been - and any evidence of forward movement, however slight, must be welcome - consists rather in a possible shift of emphasis concerning the conditions in which exploratory discussions might be opened.
I recall to honourable members that the North Vietnamese position has been based since April 196S on the so-called ‘four points’ of the North Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, which I summarise as follows, using the terminology of the North Vietnamese themselves:
To these four points has been added a fifth stipulated by the ‘National Liberation Front’ of South Vietnam - the Communist creation of the North - namely, that the Front should be accepted and recognised as ‘the sole authentic representative of the people of South Vietnam’.
At least until quite recently the meaning attached by North Vietnam to these points was ambiguous. The United States made clear its readiness to discuss these, together with other points, in negotiations for a settlement. Earlier statements from Hanoi had appeared to imply that the demands for force withdrawals and for exclusive recognition of the Front must be met even before negotiations could begin - that they were posed not simply as conditions to be satisfied in a settlement, but as preconditions to talks about a settlement. The statements, interviews, and reports that have been coming out of Hanoi in recent weeks, although still by no means free from ambiguity, do at least appear to suggest that the four points of Pham Van Dong and the five points of the Front are no longer put forward as demands to be satisfied before there can be any talking at all, though they remain in the eyes of their authors essential conditions to be met in any settlement acceptable to Hanoi. While there has thus been no change at all in the substance of the position which Hanoi would take :n negotiations, the North Vietnamese appear - I can go no further than use the word appear’ - to be concentrating on only one point as a condition precedent to the opening of talks and that is that the United States should end its bombing operations over North Vietnam ‘unconditionally and permanently’.
Here it is worth recalling that the United States has set no conditions at all for the opening of negotiations or discussions. The United States is on record with a standing offer to enter into unconditional discussions with the other side at any time, whether before, during, or after a reduction in the scale of the fighting. The seven nations represented at the Manila Summit Conference declared in the joint communique issued on 25 October 1966, that ‘we are prepared to pursue any avenue which could lead to a secure and just peace, whether through discussion and negotiation or through reciprocal actions by both sides to reduce the violence’. Australia, like the Republic of Vietnam and the United States, joined in that statement.
The North Vietnamese authorities have not come to the point of accepting these offers, nor have they yet given any assurance that a cessation of the bombing would be followed by talks. They have simply said that if the bombing were ended ‘unconditionally and permanently’, then there could be talks. They have not during this present phase stipulated any additional conditions for the opening of talks. On the other hand, they have said nothing which would debar them, once the United States had given up the bombing, from putting forward new demands as conditions precedent to the opening of discussions.
The United States Government, as the country providing the largest amount of assistance to the Republic of Vietnam, has been attempting in several ways to ascertain exactly what the North Vietnamese have in mind on either the procedure or substance of negotiations. In the absence of some assurance of some corresponding military diminution on the part of the other side, the United States, while prepared to begin unconditional talks at any time, has declined to end the bombing of the North unconditionally, as a preliminary to talks. The need for insisting on reciprocity is surely underlined by recent experience. At the beginning of 1966, the United States ceased bombing North Vietnam for thirtyseven days in the hope that it would evoke some response from the other side. Throughout this period the North continued to move men and arms into the South at an accelerated rate and showed no disposition whatever to consider talks of any kind. Again, during the Lunar New Year truce, during the present month, Hanoi intensified its infiltration activities. Within the first thirty hours of the truce, water-borne traffic along the coast of North Vietnam between the 19th and 17th parallels exceeded 900 vessels, more than twice the figure during the last Christmas truce. More trucking and shipping activity occurred during the truce than in any previous one-month period. All this occurred in a way that made it plain beyond dispute that the North had planned in advance to use the truce for undisturbed infiltration.
Consequently any hints of a more flexible attitude in Hanoi may well have been aimed not at moving towards a negotiated settlement but at winning a unilateral military advantage, and as putting pressure on the Americans and others by exploiting instincts of humanity and the natural longing for peace. I would suggest, too, that we need to consider very critically various reports that may be made from time to time about peace feelers’ recognising that there is a great deal of skirmishing for propaganda that will not lead and was never intended to lead to talks. In this situation, and pending some clear indication that the North Vietnamese leaders are prepared either to enter into discussions or to consider reciprocal measures to reduce the level of the fighting, the United States has been obliged to resume its air and naval attacks against North Vietnam.
If and when we move into discussions or negotiations for a settlement in Vietnam, the negotiating process could be long and difficult. The North Vietnamese leaders will hope to achieve by negotiation what they have been unable to gain by force of arms. The hard, intractable issues which are now being disputed in battle will not disappear with a wave of the negotiator’s wand. They will still be there. They will not be resolved by the simple act of sitting down at a table.
They will be fought over just as stubbornly and bitterly in negotiations as in the field.
There is one hopeful new element in the situation. Until quite recently the Soviet Union appeared unwilling to take any part in helping to achieve a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. The communique issued by the Prime Ministers of Britain and the Soviet Union at the close of Mr Kosygin’s visit to the United Kingdom affirmed the view of both parties ‘that it was essential to achieve the earliest possible end to the Vietnam war’. In addition, the two Governments undertook to ‘continue to make a close study of the situation’ and to ‘make every possible effort with a view to achieving a settlement of the Vietnam problem’ and to maintain contact to this end’. In my view, this apparent change of attitude on the part of the Soviet Union is the most encouraging - perhaps the only encouraging development - in the direction of a negotiated settlement that has emerged from the welter of rumour and speculation over the last few months.
To sum up, the Australian Government would like to see an early end to the fighting and will work for peace. But in the achievement of this the Government attaches importance both to the procedures of negotiation and to the substance of what would be under negotiation. The procedures must not be such as to give a military advantage to the Vietnamese Communists. The terms of a settlement must not be such as would hand South Vietnam over to Communist rule, or prevent the people of South Vietnam from controlling their own destinies by means of their own choosing. Subject to that, many possible points are open to discussion. It would not be useful for me to go into them at present, particularly as the internal aspects are primarily a matter for the South Vietnamese people themselves. Some of Australia’s general attitudes have been stated on other occasions, including the historic communique of the conference in Manila last October.
I paid a short visit to Indonesia last month for the official opening ceremony of the new Australian Chancery in Djakarta and to renew and further the personal contacts which I bad already established with leading figures in the Government. The political situation in Indonesia is in transition from the former experiment with Guided Democracy’ to a form of representative government more directly reflecting the popular will, and more in line with the provisions of the J 945 Constitution. The transition is not without difficulties, but good progress has been made over the past year. On my recent visit I found a feeling of confidence among leading Indonesians, inside and outside government, that the internal political re-adjustment can be completed in an orderly fashion well before the projected general elections in 1968. While Indonesia’s internal political arrangements are its own concern, Australia sympathises with the broad objective of the present Government in strengthening the role of national representative institutions in the formulation of Government policy.
Apart from the present political strain Indonesia faces huge economic problems. The present Government has adopted a realistic and pragmatic approach to them, and has sought and obtained the sympathy and support of friendly countries in going about the task. The Indonesian Government’s programme falls broadly under two heads, internal and external. Internally, the most urgent tasks are to halt the chronic inflation which has characterised the economy over recent years and to restore the country’s run-down infrastructure, particularly its transport and utilities. To this end, a stabilisation programme has been drawn up with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund, and, while its implementation will present many problems, prospects in the basic fields of production levels and export income are encouraging. It is not an easy task but one that is being tackled in a way that could yield results. Externally, the new Government found itself facing overseas debts of around $2.4 billion. It has moved quickly and responsibly to secure the rescheduling of this enormous debt by discussions with its creditor nations and is hopeful of further assistance from developed nations over the coming years.
In the past few days - towards the end of last week - those countries involved in the debt rescheduling have met in Amsterdam, together with Australia as a full participant and observers from Canada,
New Zealand and several European countries, to consider Indonesia’s economic situation and plans. This meeting, following meetings in Tokyo and Paris, was of a preliminary kind. This series of meetings will continue before the European summer. The primary purpose of these meetings is lo identify precisely the best fields, the best methods and the required volume of external aid to meet Indonesia’s acute foreign exchange crises. 1 was heartened in my discussions -n Djakarta to find that Australia’s name stands high with those who are currently shaping Indonesia’s political and economic destinies. Australia’s consistent desire, which has been expressed in a variety of ways over many years, to place emphasis on building sound, long term relations between Australia and Indonesia, has been noted and appreciated. In particular, the Indonesian authorities welcome the constructive co-operation that has marked our contact with Indonesia in the Colombo Plan. This has involved a substantial student programme and important’ developmental activity in Indonesia. In addition to assistance from regular programmes, which we have maintained for many years now, the Australian Government is giving emergency aid this year to Indonesia to a total value of $700,000. The Government will be considering in the coming months bow Australia can most effectively give further assistance to Indonesia as a contribution to the fulfilment of the recovery plans that have been drawn up. I need hardly emphasise how important the development of a prosperous, united and peaceful Indonesia is for Australia’s interest in this region. Apart from material selfinterest, Australians also have a human sympathy for the people of their closest neighbour geographically.
The recovery and economic development of Indonesia is not a matter for intergovernment dealings only. Already many personal contacts exist, for example through students in Australia and voluntary workers in Indonesia, and I hope that as stability grows and public administration renews itself in Indonesia, contacts will grow between the business communities in the two countries. I was fortunate in being accompanied on my visit to Indonesia by Mr C. G. McGrath, the Chairman of the Export Development Council, as well as by senior departmental officers and the Commissioner of the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation.
Australia’s bilateral relationships have been marked also by practical co-operative work in respect of the common frontier in New Guinea. Work had commenced even from the period of confrontation. Immediately after my visit, a team of Australian survey experts arrived in Djakarta to draw up with the Indonesians plans for placing permanent marks along the southern sector of the New Guinea border. A similar joint operation has already been successfully carried out along the northern sector.
In Malaysia, the security situation has improved markedly since the ending of confrontation. This has enabled the withdrawal from East Malaysia of the Commonwealth forces which were deployed there to assist Malaysian forces in preventing incursions into Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia is still faced with Communist subversive activity in Sabah, Sarawak and the Thailand border area and is acting vigorously to counter those threats. High priority is being given to the development of Malaysia’s own armed forces, with particular emphasis on counter-insurgency capability. Australia is playing an important part in assisting Malaysia to achieve this capability.
In this and other fields our relations with Malaysia are close and productive. The Australian Government recently agreed to grant $3m for the construction of an eastwest highway in Sabah, which forms part of our continuing efforts to help Malaysia in carrying out its transportation programmes. Under the Colombo Plan about SOO Malaysian students are at present in Australia.
Singapore continues to present a picture of stability and economic progress. In view of its predominantly urban character, Singapore faces special economic problems, and is seeking to develop a range of industries^ - private industries - designed to raise living standards and to contribute to the solution of a potentially serious unemployment problem, which is aggravated as increasing numbers of young people with high qualifications reach working age. Outlets for Singapore’s industrial products are clearly vital to the success of this effort. An Australian delegation visited Singapore in August-September 1966 for discussions on trade matters, and early this year talks were held in Canberra with a director of the Singapore Economic Development Board. Closer trade and business links between Singapore’ and Australia will contribute *o the strength of our relationship and to the continued stability and growth of Singapore’s economy.
In consequence of its establishment as an independent republic, Singapore is beginning to develop small defence forces of its own. As in the case of Malaysia, Australia has been assisting in this task. Some 100 Singapore students are in Australia at present under the Colombo Plan, and Australia has also undertaken to equip a vocational institute for the training of skilled tradesmen at Jurong, a new industrial development area. Twenty-four trade instructors for the institute, which is expected to be fully operational by 1969-70, are being trained in Australia.
Australia’s relations with the other countries of the region continue to be good. Earlier this month Mr Son Sann visited Australia as the special representative of His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, and a very successful and well attended exhibition was held in Sydney to illustrate the economic progress that has been made in Cambodia. Australian relations with Cambodia are very good indeed, based on respect for one another’s views and an understanding of the factors which enter into the policies of the two countries, even though on some points these policies differ.
In Laos, new elections have been held successfully. Australia continues to provide some economic assistance, to assist in maintaining the stability of the country and also helping its development.
Towards the end of next month I am to visit Japan, and shall subsequently remain for another week in Tokyo to lead the Australian delegation to the annual meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the
Far East. Australian relations with Japan are close and friendly at all levels. There have been many ministerial visits in both directions. I myself have had personal contact at least twice a year over the past three years with the successive Foreign Ministers of Japan; regular talks between Japanese and Australian officials have been instituted, and there are also private contacts, such as the Australia-Japan Business Co-operation Committee which is greatly valued in both countries. Japan, because of its advanced industrial capacity, can play an important part in economic development and cooperation in the region, and shares with other countries, including Australia, the desire to see the whole region an area of security and progress.
Thailand also continues to make steady progress, economically and in other ways, and its Government is playing a constructive part in regional affairs. Some subversive and terrorist activity is taking place in the north-east of the country, linked with Hanoi and Peking, from which agents have returned to Thailand trained and equipped to conduct subversion and terrorism against the Government and people of Thailand. The situation, however, is not out of control, but the threat has to be taken seriously.
At the other side of the region is the great Indian sub-continent, which is of the utmost importance to the whole area. India has suffered a series of grievous blows in recent years through the failure of the rains in various parts of the country. Australia, which itself has often had experience of widespread droughts, knows what economic burdens they can cause. In a country like India where the margin above starvation is low, the human misery involved can be considerable and programmes of economic development are badly set back. The Australian Government has made several contributions in food to India’s needs, and has the greatest sympathy with India in its extremity. The regular fiveyearly general elections have just taken place in India, the first since the death of Jawaharlal Nehru. The results so far received indicate that the Congress Party’s majority in the Union Parliament will be much reduced and that there will be a number of state governments of a different political party from the centre. Both these facts must mean a considerable change from the situation which has existed since independence, in which the Congress Party had a dominant majority at the centre and controlled almost all state governments. But while this creates difficulties for the future 1 think we can recognise that it is natural and understandable that new political forces should be at work in India, and it is the strength of a democracy that major political changes can occur in a peaceful and orderly way. I feel that a very great part of our Australian interest in India must be because in this very great country the major effort towards the establishment of parliamentary democracy in Asia is being made. On the outcome of that effort depends whether Asia takes one direction or another.
Hie Australian Government is also maintaining good relations with other countries of South Asia, and has been able to give economic assistance in varying degrees to Pakistan, Ceylon, Nepal, Burma and Afghanistan. The drought which has been so severe in India has also affected, to a lesser degree, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan continued to make good progress in giving effect to its economic plans. During the past year the Australian High Commission has been moved from Karachi to the new capital, Islamabad.
I shall not refer further to individual countries of the region. Australian relations are good, both bilaterally and in international and regional associations. The Asian and Pacific Council - ASPAC - which came into being last June at the conference in Seoul, at which I represented Australia, has continued to acquire strength and vitality. Meetings are held in Bangkok of the ambassadors of the member countries, and I expect to attend a ministerial meeting in the second half of this year. The Asian Development Bank is now established. Other regional bodies are at work, and the regional co-operation goes ahead. The Australian Government does not see the development of the region and the improvement of relations there as something to be sought through a single organisation or through al] the countries achieving identity of policies. Real strength can be gained from diversity in approach.
There is one country of the ECAFE region which has not in the past had the recognition of the Australian Government: that is the Mongolian People’s Republic, lying between the Soviet Union and China. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1961 and, though there have been informal contacts with Australia in ECAFE and bilaterally, formal recognition of that state has not existed. This has been an anomalous situation, and I take this opportunity to inform the House that it no longer exists and that Australia recognises the Mongolian People’s Republic and looks forward to continued contact with its representatives in international bodies.
The world scene as a whole is clearly reflected in the United Nations, which now comprises 122 members and provides the principal point of contact for Australia with many opportunities where there is no direct Australian diplomatic representation. At the session of the General Assembly in the latter part of last year, African questions dominated proceedings for much of the time, particularly the problems of southern Africa - Rhodesia, South Africa, South-West Africa and Portuguese colonies - where a white minority is in each case dominant in a country in which the majority of the people are coloured. The question of apartheid in South Africa has been on the agenda of the General Assembly for many years and was considered once again. But two other questions were more pressing: Rhodesia and South-West Africa.
The handling of Rhodesia in the Assembly was greatly influenced by the outcome of the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London shortly before the General Assembly met. In the three months after that meeting ended, Mr Wilson attempted to reach an agreement with Mr Ian Smith which would have allowed a return to constitutional government in Rhodesia. He did not succeed and, accordingly, in pursuance of what he had said to Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London, Mr Wilson took the question in December to the Security Council, which, at the request of the British Government, determined on some mandatory prohibitions on trade with Rhodesia. Mr Wilson also announced that, now that negotiations had broken down, Britain would not give independence to Rhodesia until there was majority rule there.
The Australian Government regards the objective in Rhodesia as a government which is responsible to all the people and gives equal rights and opportunities to all regardless of race ot colour. The Australian Government wants to see this achieved by peaceful processes and believes a transitional period will be necessary. The Australian Government opposes resort to force. At the time when the Security Council resolution was adopted in December, the Australian Government was already applying nearly all the sanctions that were made mandatory by that resolution.” Since then, further measures have been taken by us in order to comply fully with the resolution.
South-West Africa presented another difficult situation. At the General Assembly some members, particularly some of the African states, wanted the United Nations to take over South-West Africa and administer it, but that course presented both legal and practical difficulties. In the end, the General Assembly decided that the South African mandate over South-West Africa was terminated and that henceforth SouthWest Africa came under the direct responsibility of the United Nations. The Assembly established a special committee to recommend means by which the territory should be administered so as to enable the inhabitants to exercise self-determination and achieve independence.
The General Assembly also, after years of work, adopted some international covenants on human rights, which are now open for signature, ratification and accession. The Commonwealth Government has referred them to State governments for consideration and subsequent consultation, because many of the matters covered in the covenants concerning human rights are of direct concern to the States. In principle, the Australian Government favours the international promotion of human rights throughout the world. In regard to specific international conventions and international action, however, care has to be exercised to ensure that the definition of rights does not in fact limit rights that already exist, and also that possibilities for international interference are not opened up that could limit rather than extend or guarantee the human rights that already exist in Australia.
This leads me to mention a movement in the United Nations which requires serious thought and which is aimed at reinterpreting the purposes and principles of the Charter and redefining international law. For example. Communist and certain radical states, not necessarily pursuing identical interests, reinforce one another in an attempt to redefine such concepts as ‘aggression’ and ‘non-intervention’ in a way that would legitimise so-called ‘wars of national liberation’. This interpretation, if it were adopted, would brand as aggressors those who come to the support of a legitimate government faced with the subversive activities of a so-called ‘people’s front’, support for the latter being regarded as not only legal but a duty under this new ‘law’. Other examples exist of attempts to redefine international law in a way that cuts across hitherto accepted concepts. Some want to ignore parts of the United Nations Charter itself, acceptance of which is a condition of admission to the United Nations.
The United Nations is not a static body, ft changes in many ways, and so do the sorts of international situation with which it has to contend and also the international situation within which it has to work. The possibilities of action by the United Nations change from time to time, and the relative weights of different organs - the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Secretary-General - also vary. In the last few years special problems have arisen because of the large membership of the United Nations, and the fact that some of the members are very small. Resolutions adopted by a simple majority of the members may carry little weight, and may in fact be an impediment to settlements, if the states directly concerned are not in agreement. This danger is fortunately apparent to many members. For example, at the last session of the General Assembly, though the Soviet Union made some strong attacks on American actions in Vietnam, and though these were replied to, no attempt was made to bring the question of Vietnam formally before the General Assembly. It was tacitly recognised by powers that count that, at that stage of the Vietnamese conflict, the General Assembly was not in a position to play a useful role and that a General Assembly resolution might have been an impediment to settlement. The interests of the
United Nations are served by keeping proposals within the terms of the Charter, and also by not trying to impose on the organisation burdens which it cannot bear.
In this statement I will not have time to cover the whole field of economic assistance to developing countries or Australian participation in various international conferences on trade and development. Perhaps an opportunity might be found to give special attention on a later occasion to this very important field of foreign policy. It is only one facet of the very extensive international co-operation that is now taking place throughout the world, both through the specialised agencies of the United Nations and through other international organisations, on a wide range of practical problems. Though we have not yet mastered the basic problems of peace and security the nations of the world are in fact working together for mutual advantage on a wide range of matters touching the daily life and industry of their peoples, and Australia is taking an active and influential part in this work.
In conclusion I draw attention to the services being performed for Australia by officers of my own department and other Commonwealth departments both at home and abroad in the field of foreign relations and 1 acknowledge personally and with appreciation the care, sense of dedication, knowledge and expertness which I have found in my association with them. 1 believe that Australia is well served by them, and that we should acknowledge this. 1 commend this statement to the House both as an account of some of the more recent developments to be noted and perhaps too as a basis for a thoughtful and constructive debate on foreign policy. Wc on different sides of the House may differ - and we do differ - about issues and about methods but surely we will not differ on the purpose of foreign policy to protect and advance the interests of Australia in the world. Hence we have to test the Tightness of what any one of us says and does, not by asking whether it is of advantage to any person, group, faction, or party or whether it accords with a theory, but whether it is of advantage to Australia.
I present the following paper:
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 28 February 1967- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding forty-five minutes.
– Mr Speaker, I do not propose to cover as many subjects as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). He might well have gone a little further in his treatment of matters arising in the United Nations. It was in this forum that Australian Ministers and diplomats were seen to fail most conspicuously. There was a vote - a recorded vote - in December on Australia’s attitude on New Guinea and Nauru. Australia’s attitude on New Guinea was not supported by a single member country from Latin America, from Asia or from Africa, except South Africa. Australia’s attitude on Nauru was supported by Great Britain alone. Even South Africa and New Zealand abstained from voting on that occasion.
The Minister pointed out that his statement tonight will lead to the first debate on international affairs in the new Parliament following a general election in which foreign policy was a major issue. He might have gone further and said that it was his first considerable statement on foreign affairs since the last Parliament. The right honorable gentleman was conspicuously absent from all the capital city meetings, from all telecasts, from all broadcasts and from all Press conferences during the election campaign. The Minister affects a disdain for the Press. Whether for good or ill, and whether it is done well or badly, the Press is the principal means through which the public debate on foreign affairs must be conducted and it is almost the only source that the general public has for information on these matters.
– There is ‘Four Corners’.
– The Minister refuses to go on it, as does every other Cabinet Minister. The Minister has a responsibility to try to improve the quality of available information and public debate. This is not a responsibility he has to the Press as such; it is a duty he owes to the people, who must of necessity rely on the Press. The Minister will not speak to the Press, but his ambassadors are permitted to write for it. On 16th February there appeared in the letters column of the ‘Financial Review’ a spirited defence of the Minister against alleged Press criticism; not of his policy but of his personal attitudes. It appeared under the pen name of ‘Justice’. In fact it was written by one of our ambassadors. The interesting thing about this letter is not its authorship but its intended audience. It is not likely that the ambassador was addressing himself primarily to the stockbrokers, businessmen and investors who we may presume constitute the great bulk of the readership of the ‘Financial Review’. It was clearly aimed at his own colleagues - the members of the Department of External Affairs itself. The fact that such a letter was written, or rather, that a senior officer felt impelled to write such a letter, clearly points to a serious state of uneasiness and frustration inside the Department.
The Department of External Affairs has never had so important a role to play. Its morale has never been at so low an ebb. The Department is frustrated by the low status assigned to it in the Public Service heirarchy. Even more importantly, its officers are convinced that their work is not taken sufficiently seriously by the Government. Other departments have come to dominate policy making on vital aspects of international relations. The seriously under-staffed Economic Relations Branch is dominated by the Department of Trade and Industry. The Economic Aid Branch is under continual Treasury pressure. The Department merely transmits decisions made elsewhere. During the three years he has been in this post the Minister has failed in his duty to stand up for his Department, for its rights and its status. He has also neglected to build up a highly professional body of experts able to give authoritative advice on the enormous range of questions which must come within the purview of the Department. The Department does not possess a senior specialist on Vietnam. We depend for such information as we get upon United States sources.
The Governor-General’s Speech stales blandly that ‘the Government will closely watch developments in China’. But the Department has no highly experienced experts on China, lt relies on wall posters in Peking which are translated in Japan. Few, if any, of our diplomats, senior or junior, who have been posted to South East Asia have achieved a high efficiency in the languages of the countries in which they have worked. It is not surprising that the Department is so sensitive on this subject. Our effectiveness in Asia will depend largely upon the quality of our representatives abroad. Canada, with fewer opportunities for effective diplomacy than we, has made much more of the opportunities offered. She has done this largely by building up a much more effective diplomatic service than has Australia. The Minister has allowed the morale and status of his Department at home to be depressed; he has failed to build up its quality abroad. He has estranged his own officers from the policy making and decision making processes which should be inseparable from so important a department.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been tapping the Treasurer’s phone.
– No - Senator Wood’s. The Minister had two professions before he reached his present eminence: he was a journalist and he was an officer in the Department of External Affairs. He left both in a state of self-avowed frustration. He has done much to reproduce his own dissatisfaction among those who have followed him in each of his callings.
The Governor-General’s Speech stated that the ‘Government has felt it important to define clearly its objectives in relation to this area’ - meaning Asia. This is precisely what the Government has not done. The Goals of Freedom’ contain some unexceptionable general statements but they are not a policy or a definition of policy. Clearly they are not likely to rank with the Fourteen Points of the Atlantic Charter. The Governor-General’s Speech referred to the significant part which Australia can play in the affairs of this region’. As evidence of this significant role, we are told nothing more specific than the fact that Australia recently has been visited by a number of notabilities, including the Prime Minister of South Vietnam. That visit has committed Australia and the Australian Government in a uniquely intimate and personal way to the personal fate and fortunes of Air Vice-Marshal Ky and his Government. Yet the most instructive statement that the Air Vice-Marshal made during his visit struck at the very basis of the Government’s justification for its Vietnam policy. The Government insists that Hanoi is little more than a satellite of Peking. But Prime Minister Ky said this at his Canberra Press conference on 19th January:
When some people ask me if there are any possibilities that North Vietnam will ask Red China, Communist China, for military aid by sending Communist troops to North Vietnam, I said no. Because if the Hanoi leaders do so then I am sure that all the Vietnamese from North and South will unite in one group and stand up and destroy the regime and defend our land. There is no possibility that the Hanoi regime will ask Red China for military help. And if it happens I think it will be a good occasion for us to unify our country.
Surely such a statement from such a source destroys the Government’s neat picture of a chain of aggression from Peking controlling Hanoi, and Hanoi in turn controlling the Vietcong. The Prime Minister hailed Air Vice-Marshal Ky’s visit as a ‘personal triumph’. Australia’s true interest does not lie in the personal triumphs or otherwise of Air Vice-Marshal Ky. It lies, immediately, in stopping the war in Vietnam. It lies, in the longer term, in achieving a negotiated settlement under cover of which Vietnam can progress towards political, economic and social reform.
This is now the central question for the Australian Government: how can we assist in stopping the war and opening negotiations as soon as possible? The Government does not set itself these objectives. Instead it offers the Australian people, an openended commitment to war, prolonged and expanding indefinitely. We should never have made the commitment in the form in which the Government made it. The Labor Party opposed that commitment. We particularly oppose the use of conscription to make up the numbers in the expeditionary force. We believe that Australian troops in the field must be fully supported and aided while they are carrying out the tasks to which the Government has committed them. It is the Government’s responsibility to strive to end the fighting so that all foreign troops can be withdrawn. If this is not achieved within its present term the Government will have failed in its responsibilities. It will have cast away three years of opportunity, as it cast away opportunity after opportunity in the decisive years between 1954 and 1964.
So far the Government’s efforts have been in entirely the opposite direction. Instead of seeking an end to the bombing of North Vietnam it seeks to prolong and extend it. Instead of seeking to influence the United States to accept wider responsibilities in Asia it seeks only to emphasise and reinforce the concept of military commitment alone. Instead of using its influence to avoid direct confrontation with China, with the inevitable consequence of nuclear war, it supports, sometimes by direct inference, sometimes by calculated silence, the socalled ‘hardliners’ who want and would welcome such a confrontation. Whenever the bombing of Hanoi is suspended the Australian Government refuses to welcome the suspension. As soon as the bombing is resumed the Australian Government is the first to endorse the resumption. The Australian Government clings to discredited views about the military value of the bombing of North Vietnam.
On Monday last week the United States Secretary for Defence, Mr McNamara, told a United States Senate committee:
I do not believe that the bombing up to the present has significantly reduced nor any bombing that I could contemplate in the future would significantly reduce the actual flow of men and materials to the South.
Yet, when the bombing was resumed at the beginning of February our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) stated that during the pause ‘a larger volume of traffic had passed through at a faster rate than would have been possible if the bombing had continued’. The Prime Minister added, but Mr McNamara does not: the purpose of the bombing has been to damage or destroy those military installations and facilities which enable Hanoi to supply and support its own forces in the South and those of the Vietcong.
The Australian Secretary of the Army, Mr Bruce White, has cast grave doubts on both the military and political effectiveness of the bombing. In an address to the Aeronautical Society in Canberra on 31st October he said:
I do not believe that any amount of bombing is going to convince the northerners to give up.
He added that it would be possible to make the task of running the war from North Vietnam extraordinarily difficult by bombing Hanoi, but to do this would probably mean escalating the war beyond the present limits of North against South.
The continued bombing of North Vietnam has been justified on two grounds. Militarily it is claimed that it will reduce the flow of men and materials from North Vietnam to the South. The statements of Mr McNamara and Mr White clearly refute this. Politically it is claimed that bombing will force the North Vietnamese to the conference table. Quite obviously it has failed to do so. In fact, it is a barrier to negotiations. It hampers the efforts of all those countries which have been trying to bring the parties to the conference table. None of the governments wants to see a Communist takeover in Saigon. An honourable gentleman interjected with a reference to Singapore. The Singapore Government does not want to see a Communist takeover in Saigon but it does not support the bombing of the North. It does not support the use of napalm in the South. All of these countries - Japan, India, Indonesia, even Russia itself - have the strongest possible reasons to fear any extension of Chinese influence in South East Asia. Their reasons vary, but their concern is the same. The Minister for External Affairs said: ‘There is one hopeful new element in the situation - Russia’s attitude’. But Russia insists that a bombing pause is basic to her efforts. Mr Wilson and Mr Kosygin, the co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference, have agreed that peace in Vietnam is something for which they should work in concert; but Russia has made it quite plain that she can do nothing unless there is a cessation of the bombing of the North.
Australia is uniquely placed to bring influence to bear on the United States. Australia is the only one of America’s allies, apart from New Zealand, whose troops in the field do not depend on American finance. We pay our own way. Again, Australia is the only country involved in the fighting, or supporting the United States militarily, which can give significant civilian aid - economic or social - to the Vietnamese. Our influence should be used to stop the bombing. It is being used to keep the bombing going. The President of the United States is under heavy pressure from the hawks in his Administration and in the new Congress to intensify the bombing, even if it means extending it across the Chinese border. The Australian Government should be supporting President Johnson in resisting these pressures upon him. Instead, the attitude of the Australian Government is used by the American hardliners in support of their attitude and in opposition to the President.
The major effect of the bombing is to draw attention and criticism away from the activities of the Vietcong. Civilian losses as a result of the bombing exceed, and consequently conceal, the cases of murder, torture and abduction by the Vietcong. The world sees only the worst face of the United States. Thus the bombing seriously detracts from the constructive and beneficent role which the United States can, should, and so often does, play in this region. The bombing prevents America and Australia from pursuing their more worthwhile and important goals throughout the region. And while the bombing continues there can be no negotiations. Yet the Australian Government refuses to attempt to end it. It pours its scorn on all those who protest against the bombing and who seek negotiations. Of all the peacemakers it seems that Pope Paul alone has escaped the Government’s anathema.
Australian intransigence against the possibility of de-escalation of the war and negotiations to end it has a long and consistent history. When the United States made the first air strikes against North Vietnam in February two years ago the Minister’s only reaction - his only reported comment - was:
We all remember the morning of 6th April 1965 when the Prime Minister’s predecessor announced at question time: ‘If I am the only Prime Minister left to denounce negotiation, I denounce it’. On the same day President Johnson declared that he was willing to open unconditional negotiations anywhere, anytime. Last October, during a visit to the United States, the Minister for External Affairs described as childish those who urged the bringing of the Vietnam conflict to an end. During the short lunar new year truce this month a Government official spokesman issued the following statement:
The Aust mli an Government did not want to extend the Tet holiday truce which ended at dawn yesterday, despite hints that North Vietnam might be ready for talks. In the circumstances it would seem prudent to hesitate about extending the truce on the basis of hints that North Vietnam may be ready for talks.
The Minister’s hard, cold approach is all too painfully clear. I quote from Hansard of 10th March last year in which he is reported as saying:
We must avoid the risk that eagerness to find a peaceful solution may lead to adjustments in our own position which come perilously close to yielding ground which must not be yielded. We must also avoid the risk of raising doubts and adversely affecting the morale of those who live in the region.
The Minister expresses concern about the risk to the people’s morale. He expresses no concern for the other risk to the people of Vietnam - the daily risk of suffering and death. Every day that the war continues, more than 300 civilians and armed personnel, including Australian soldiers, are killed and thousands are maimed and their homes and livelihood are destroyed. This is the every day cost of the war. To quote Tacitus: ‘They make a desert and call it peace’. Nothing could do more to raise the morale of the Vietnamese people than relief from the hardships and horrors of war. Or does the Minister take the same attitude as his Prime Minister, who said that it was bad luck for the Vietnamese that the world power struggle is being fought out on their own territory’?
The need for a strong and continuing American presence in this area is the common ground of all parties and all members of this House. The Government believes it can achieve this only by involving America further and deeper militarily. This is the context in which our own small military commitment must be seen. It explains the Government’s implicit support for everything that will push the United States deeper into military involvement and its opposition to every move that could lighten America’s burden. At every stage the Government has supported an escalation of the military conflict. It has been cool about any peace proposals. In its private briefings the Government and its spokesmen oppose negotiations even more strongly. The Government does not want negotiations which would possibly lead to an American military withdrawal from the area. It wants to ring China with fire until the Chinese revolution normalises. It believes therefore that it must keep America embroiled and bogged down. It must discourage talk of negotiations and peace. Thus, far from helping the United States off the hook, the Government wants to embarrass it even further. The Prime Minister’s real slogan is not: ‘All the way with L.B.J.’, but: ‘Further than L.B.J.’. Far from helping our ally, the Government is deliberately making America’s position more difficult. Because of Australia’s stand, the extremists in the United States can say to President Johnson: ‘You can’t leave Australia out on a limb by entering into negotiations’. Is this the way an ally should behave?
The Government is deceiving the Australian people about our commitment, the object of which is not really to defend freedom in Vietnam but to embroil America as much as possible militarily in Asia. It emphasises military involvement to the exclusion of all else. Our own commitment gives us a special obligation, a special entitlement and a special interest to urge and work for an ending of the war. Only in this way can we ensure that the sacrifices being made by our men are not in vain. But the Government uses Australia’s special position to ensure, as far as lies within its power, that the fighting will continue, that the struggle will remain open-ended and that the reward of the sacrifices already made will be a continuing demand for further sacrifices by Americans, by Australians and by the tortured Vietnamese themselves.
There could be no better, or rather clearer, illustration of the Government’s shortsighted preoccupation, amounting to an obsession, with military means and military methods as our sole concern and interest in Asia than its attitude to recent developments in Indonesia. Government statements on these momentous events - I cite again the Governor-General’s Speech when opening the Parliament - concentrate on one aspect alone and that is the ending of Indonesia’s confrontation of Malaysia. That is the only reference to Indonesia that the GovernorGeneral was given. Conveniently forgetting and hoping the people will forget that confrontation and not Vietnam was offered two years ago as the justification for conscription, the Government heaves a collective sigh of relief and proceeds to lose interest in Indonesia. In the same way it lost all interest in Vietnam between 1954 and 1964.
– That is not true.
– It spent less than $10m in ten years and that is about 4c a head a year. Yet Indonesia is a country of 100 million people, our nearest neighbour and a country that has barely escaped, after terrible turmoil and convulsion, from the threat of Communist domination. In the face of the frightful difficulties faced by a Government and a people most friendly disposed towards us, we offered in this year’s Budget an increase in our aid of $500,000, making the magnificent total of $1.5m. Then as an additional bonus the Minister made a further offer of $200,000 on 17th February. This is slightly more than the sum subscribed in a telethon by the people of Melbourne last Saturday for a hospital for crippled children. They gave it from their own pockets in less than twentyfour hours.
The contrast between the private generosity of Australians and the public parsimony of their elected Government is humiliating. For instance, last October I sent a telegram to the Minister seeking help for Project Concern International, a project sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. This organisation was assisting the hospital at Dalat in Vietnam, where the electricity supply was too variable to permit the use of the instruments that were available. A generator was needed. The organisation found one of the type required through the Department of Supply disposals in Adelaide. Eighteen days after my telegram was sent the generators were sold at the disposals auction. The Minister claimed that it was impossible to withdraw the generators from auction. The British Government stepped in and gave Project Concern two surplus generators that it had been using at Woomera.
Project Concern then asked the Australian Government to help get the generators to Vietnam - to transport them by road to Sydney and to ship them to Saigon or Vung Tau. The Australian Government refused to take them on the land or the sea journey. IPEC has now, through Mr Gordon Barton, offered to take the generators to Sydney or Melbourne without charge. I have now asked the Minister concerned whether the Government will take them from Sydney, Point Wilson or Melbourne on board the ‘Boonaroo’. I have not yet received a reply. However, the American Government will take the generators free of charge from Saigon, Vung Tau or Singapore to Dalat. Thus, private individuals, private enterprise, the British Government and the American Government are all willing to help; but the Australian Government finds it beyond its resources, in the course of some five months, to give a cent or lift a finger. Yet we are asked to believe that the Government is seriously and sincerely concerned about increasing civil aid in what the Governor-General’s Speech calls a substantially enlarged programme. In fact, this year’s appropriation for the regular aid programme - International Development and Relief and SEATO aid - has been reduced, as I previously pointed out, from $32m in the last financial year to $27. 6m in this financial year.
Earlier this month the Minister announced, and tonight he repeated, that our civil aid programme for South Vietnam during this financial year will be increased to $2m. He proudly presents this as a 70% increase over our civilian aid to South Vietnam given in the previous year. He failed to say that aid to South Vietnam last year was the lowest for four years. In 1962-63 we gave $544,000 or 20% more than we are giving this year. Last year, $106,700 was appropriated for Vietnam refugee relief. This year there is no appropriation. Such is our Government’s response to the great challenge of our times. Such are the means by which it hopes to combat Communism in Asia. This is how we compete.
I have quoted the attitude of the Minister in Vietnam and shown how little he has helped to back up presidential initiative in the fields of de-escalation and bombing. Consistently the Government takes the extreme position in all these vital matters. I conclude as I began with a reference to our proceedings in the United Nations where our record and our attitude are on display for everybody to note and to go back to read. On China, with which the Minister has such a fixation, we have not on this occasion supported the United States. It will be remembered that last November Italy sponsored a resolution in the General Assembly to establish a study group on the question of admitting China to the United Nations. The United States supported the idea. Australia opposed it. This is further evidence of how in every question Australia takes the narrowest view. Habitually the Government spurns the attitude on China expressed in the United Nations and elsewhere by Britain or by Canada. In this it has accepted directions from Taipei, which is firmly bound to the past, rather than from Washington, which is peering cautiously into the future. As the Age’ stated editorially at the end of November:
The newly elected Government has a clear task and an urgent one, to explain why it is determined to go it alone on a road that leads nowhere.
The Minister’s speech tonight has taken us around the world; it has not charted a path towards the correct and urgent objectives of Australia’s foreign pOlk in our part of the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr Erwin) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 191).
– At the beginning of my remarks 1 should like to pay a tribute to you, Mr Speaker, by partly congratulating you upon your election to the high office of Speaker of this House. I was rather intrigued to see the field which lined up for this position. There was a big field, including the honourable members for Bradfield (Mr Turner), Isaacs (Mr Haworth) and Perth (Mr Chaney). I believe that the honourable member for Perth was a nominee of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). For some reason or other the honourable member for Perth was nominated by the Prime Minister to contest the position for Speaker against you, despite the fact that you have been a very hard worker throughout the various
Parliaments with which you have sat in this assembly. Of course the Whip is entitled to some compensation, but our Prime Minister was heard to remark that Whips must be warned that that position is no passport to the Ministry. Mr Speaker, despite the opposition of the Prime Minister, your friends and colleagues rallied to your aid and elected you to your high office.
But let us come back to the Whips. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister, from his high position, decided that the Whip’s position was no passport to the Ministry, lo and behold we found that a particular friend of the Prime Minister was elected as a Minister, although previously he had been only the Assistant Whip. When you were elected the Prime Minister made haste to come to the table with a Bill entitled the Ministers of State Bill which he hurried through this House. It was sent on to another place where it met with a rocky passage until at the last moment it was decided that pressure would be brought to bear on certain honourable senators. The Bill went through and the Assistant Whip of the Liberal Party was appointed as a Minister. That gentleman has a name that is very well known in the history of Australia. I do not know whether he is related to that esteemed gentleman from our history; I believe the Kelly who was elected was no relation of that illustrious gentleman named Ned.
– Who was he?
– The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I shall not say anything about what sort of Kelly he was and whether or not he was related to Ned, but the fact remains that by devious ways and means he was elected as a Minister. Once again I am prompted to bring a matter before the dedicated members of the Federal Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, who try to make it appear that their outstanding dedication to the welfare of the Australian nation is paramount.
The result of an analysis shows that the present anti-Labor Government lags far behind the rest of the world, having run to an all-time low. Have Government supporters lost sight of the economic impact on the rest of the world that our recent vast mineral discoveries have made? Consider, for instance, our vast iron ore deposits at
Hamersley in Western Australia. Foreign investors, and the Japanese in particular, were quick to realise that these developments and the wealth of the minerals of various groups called, at the very least, for well balanced decisions. The public of Australia was staggered by the naive and indecisive approach to this wondeful opportunity to advance the economic welfare and to build higher standards of living for the Australian people. What is the reason for the Government’s lack of interest generally? One would have thought that a political party would have considered that the discovery of such a vast and valuable mineral field would have called for instant Government action in developing these deposits. Why is it that some individuals cannot use their patriotic instincts and insist that when nature smiles upon any community, nature’s gifts should be used for the benefit of that community? We would have thought that when these fabulous deposits of iron ore were first discovered, wise administration and careful business methods would have called for the immediate nationalisation of the valuable unlimited deposits which would result in immeasurable financial benefit to the whole community from the profit which would accrue from the sale of this high grade iron ore. One could just imagine the enormous demand which would set in for the purchase of this ore by various manufacturing countries of the world and by steel manufacturers in particular.
Our Prime Minister is so fond of pointing out to all and sundry that Australia is becoming a powerful influence on the political scene in Asia. This, of course, is all political boloney as this weak-kneed Government has failed to exploit nature’s beneficence and has sacrificed this bounty by giving it away at bargain rates to foreign interests among which Japanese manufacturers are prominent - so prominent in fact, that so called Japanese experts are already overrunning Australia’s fabulously wealthy deposits of iron ore and are very voluble in dictating to this Government what they expect it to do in helping them to develop this field with the aid of the Australian taxpayers’ money. I refer specifically to port development and land transport.
Getting back to the ownership of this fabulously wealthy field, we find that the present equity in Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd is held 60% by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and 40% by the Kaiser Steel Corporation. Both these firms are United States owned. The average Australian will not be pleased to know that these foreign monopolies completely control the wealth of this field. It is interesting to learn that the Hamersley company, in a recent announcement made in London, confounded expectations by announcing a profit of $553,348 for 1966 for a period covering less than five months of iron ore shipments. This profit was arrived at after heavy depreciation and the shipment of 750,000 tons of iron ore between 6th August and 31st December 1966. So it seems that this company nets 73.8c on every ton of iron ore sold. On this basis, shipments to Japan and Europe in 1967 should amount to 4.25 million tons and should net the company more than $3m in profits if depreciation remains at the present scale and no further tax liability is incurred, lt is interesting to note also that this monopoly has operated on borrowed funds obtained from a consortium of North American banks at high rates of interest.
We also find that apart from its major Japanese contract, which will ultimately involve the shipment of 65.5 million tons of high grade iron ore over sixteen years, Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd has contracted to sell two million tons of iron to Europe and the United Kingdom and is at present negotiating with other overseas buyers including some from Eastern Europe. The company shipped its millionth ton of ore recently after only six months of exporting, and shipments are currently running at an annual rate of four million tons. The profitability of the company’s export sales will be stepped up appreciably in April 1968 with the completion of an iron oxide pellet plant at Dampier - the second phase of the Hamersley project - and by 1970 the company should be shipping iron ore pellets at the rate of more than $50m worth a year. It is reported also that in the 1970s the rate will increase rapidly.
It takes one’s breath away to find that under the agreement with this antiAustralian Government the company is not obliged to establish an integrated iron and steel company until the late 1980s. Is it any wonder that the company finds good ground for a most optimistic view of the future, fabulous profits being the order of the day? What a bonanza. The Western Australian Government, falling into line with Liberal thinking as far back as 1963, called on the Hamersley company only to make its first shipment of iron ore by 1967. The State Government was about twelve months behind the times, because the first shipment was made on 6th August 1966. The agreement also laid down a requirement that the company would not establish a pellet plant until twelve years after the start of iron ore exporting. This represents a deadline somewhere near the end of 1979. However, the Hamersley company’s pellet plant, which will have a capacity of two million tons a year, will be in production by April next year and could be joined less than two years later by a second pellet plant.
This gives a striking illustration of the kid glove treatment meted out by antiLabor governments to various foreign monopolies and shows clearly the sinister influence of those monopolies over various Liberal governments on the Australian continent. I believe, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in the interests of the community generally such a vast field of unlimited wealth should have been brought completely under the control of the government of the day and that the accrued profits should have been used for the immediate establishment of an iron and steel industry right on the field. The iron and steel produced there would have had a ready sale throughout the world. Such a development would have brought great prosperity to Australia in general and to Western Australia in particular and would have shown that the present Commonwealth Government was at least sincere in its expressed desire to implement a policy of decentralisation. However, the power of pelf is supreme, and the weak members of this Government have again succumbed to its influence, with consequences that will be fatal to the Australian economy when ultimately Australia is left lamenting after this fabulous field has been exploited by outside interests. This exploitation will necessarily result in the transfer of huge profits to overseas interest. This will create major problems in relation to Australia’s balance of payments overseas.
These circumstances further demonstrate that the present Government is not concerned about the plundering of our resources and the export of raw materials, though wise administration and businesslike methods call for the processing of these raw materials into manufactured goods that would satisfy a market at home and help to increase our exports. After all the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) daily exhorts the manufacturers of Australia to do just that - to export more. I suggest that government control of our iron and steel industry would offer outstanding opportunities in the export field. It would also expedite the meeting of one of our most urgent needs - the need for the construction and operation of a Commonwealth owned overseas shipping line. I stress again that this is essential to the welfare of the Australian community. When one considers that the vast island continent of Australia has a coastline of 12,000 miles dotted with wonderful harbours and rivers one realises that there must be a reason why these natural advantages are not exploited to their full by a Federal Government which loudly proclaims, especially during election campaigns, that it has great administrative ability and that it contains men who have great business knowledge.
– Hear, hearl
– Well, are they men of such capacity? When one closely analyses, from both the defence and the economic standpoints, the whole urgent question of fostering a great maritime industry one wonders when the present Government proposes to face up to the urgency of the need for a Commonwealth owned overseas shipping line. Does the Prime Minister not see that the basis of national defence is sea transport? He is very fond of pointing out to all and sundry that Australia is becoming a powerful influence in Asia. If he were sincere in his remarks, one would expect more activity in shipbuilding generally, but in naval shipbuilding in particular, so that Australia might be enabled to live up to the claim which the Prime Minister makes for us. I point out to the Prime Minister that even at this moment a foreign power not too far to the north of Australia is feverishly building ships, both naval and commercial, in all the shipyards it possesses. In fact, it is authoritatively reported in Lloyds Register of Shipping for 1966 that this naval power to the north of us built twelve of the fifteen largest ships launched from the world’s shipyards in that year. The largest registered was an oil tanker of 107,957 tons. Yet our Government stands idly by and allows Australia to remain at the mercy of the overseas monopolies which hold a powerful grip on our economy.
What are the members of the Country Party doing about this? They supposedly represent our great primary industries. Week after week we find the farmers in the unhappy position of having to meet increased freight charges imposed by the so called shipping conference. Our annual shipping freight bill reaches the staggering total of S500m, and this, of course, has to be paid in sterling. Under present conditions, Australian primary producers and manufacturers both are at the mercy of an avaricious shipping monopoly. What does the Country Party propose to do in order to help the farmer whom it supposedly represents in this House?
Australia is fortunate in possessing highly skilled technicians who are capable of going on to greater things in their particular fields of endeavour. Our technicians were able to obtain the necessary experience in building ships during World War II when we were unable to depend on the Mother Country because she had her hands full during that critical period. I was one of those shipbuilders myself.
– I thought the honourable member was a boilermaker.
– For the benefit of the Country Party member who apparently is so naive and stupid that he does not know, let me point out that a boilermaker is a shipbuilder. However, the Australian technicians rose to the occasion at that time and have since passed their skills on to the present generation. The various trade unions covering these technicians are most concerned at the present Government’s apathetic attitude to Australia’s national defence. 1 must repeat that the various trade unions are disagreeably surprised at the present Government’s apathetic attitude to Australia’s national defence. They believe that shipbuilding must be accelerated and that tenders should be called within Australia for the construction of the various naval vessels necessary for our defence. They also believe that the Government should activate itself and embark immedi ately upon the building of a Commonwealth owned overseas shipping line, comprising both cargo and passenger ships, which could carry our produce to all paris of the globe and also participate in the tourist trade, thus saving to the Commonwealth much of its present annual shipping freight bill of S500m.
Let us get back to the commercial side of finance. Australia is in the first twelve trading nations of the world. She produces about 75% of all fine steel; she is the third largest exporter of wheat, the largest exporter of lead and the third largest exporter of zinc. She is responsible for 80% of all the rutile produced in the world and is gradually increasing her exports of copper, bauxite, iron ore and other minerals. Large quantities of sugar, barley, flour, canned, dried and fresh fruits, hides, skins, butter, cheese and processed foods, fresh and preserved meats, and of wine are also exported each year. The export of machinery, cars and trucks is also increasing. Except for a few odd shipments to the South Pacific islands and South East Asia, and except for rare charter voyages by the Australian National Line, the whole of this vast volume of exports is carried by foreign owned ships.
Nearly all of the British ships and many of the European vessels on the Australian run are owned and operated by the group of shipping companies known as the Conference lines. These companies, headed by the P & O group, Royal Mail, Cunard, Furness Withy, the Ellerman group and Alfred Holt - 1 do not know whether this is any relation to the Prime Minister - operate some millions of tons of shipping, and it could be said that the Conference lines have more power than the Federal Government to control Australia’s import and export trade. If, for example, the Government decided to subsidise an export item to enable it to compete on overseas markets, the Conference lines could nullify this subsidy by increasing the freight charges for transporting the particular item. These freight charges, supposedly, are agreed upon amicably at meetings of the Australian Overseas Transport Association - -AOTA, as it is known - which comprises representatives of the shipowners, the shippers and the exporting and importing interests. As we shall see later, these bodies are but the tentacles of the great Conference octopus, and AOTA is nothing more than a front for freight rigging activities and a powerful weapon in the hands of British and European manufacturers and investors who can use it to safeguard their own export markets.
The Holt Government has repeatedly refused to alter the AOTA system or to challenge the Conference lines by sending Australian National Line ships on the regular trade routes. Even the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade andIndusdustry (Mr McEwen) - this is the Leader of the Country Party - said as far back as 1961 that the Commonwealth Government would not alter the present contract between Australian exporters and the Conference shipping lines. Imports are also subjected to the attention of the Conference lines. Shipping freights paid to these lines constitute the heaviest contribution to Australia’s balance of payments crisis. They amount to approximately $400m a year.
The overseas shipping monopoly takes more from Australian freight charges on imports alone than all other overseas investors combined. Many protests have been voiced on this matter but our Government turns a deaf ear to them all. The major overseas shipping companies have large interests in the stevedoring companies and, together with the local monopolies such as the big wool handling firms, take a large slice of the cake in shipping commissions and brokerage fees as well as the actual freight charge.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) made a rather impassioned speech about shipping freights - a speech that I found hard to follow. In one part he challenged the members of the Country Party to explain what they are doing about rising shipping costs. I should like to explain to the honourable member for KingsfordSmith that the farmers are quite used to rising costs, not only in shipping freights but also in wages resulting from applications made to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the unions, including the Boilermakers
Union to which the honourable member belongs. The fact is that the farmers have to bear this load continuously.
In answering the honourable member’s challenge, I suggest that he is not very well read on his subject because the Minister for Trade and Industry sponsored a conference on container shipping with a view to lowering freight costs and so directly benefiting the farmer. I should like to congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your re-election as Chairman of Committees. Through you, Sir, I congratulate Mr Speaker on his election to his high office. I offer also my congratulations to those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in this Parliament. There is no doubt that the new members have added to the quality on the Government side. It is strange to notice that there are no new members on the Opposition side. At the last election the Labor Party was unable to get even one new member into the House.
– That is not strange.
– All the same, it is a political record. The fortunes of the Labor Party are at their lowest ebb. Such has been the quality of the maiden speeches from this side of the House that I predict that the Labor Party, notwithstanding the so-called new look associated with the election of a right wing leader and deputy leader in this House, will have trouble in shifting members from this side in three years time.
I particularly congratulate the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and who brings into this House a wide knowledge of the problems of Kennedy and of international affairs. I congratulate also the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who demonstrated today that he has an intimate knowledge of the problems of the Northern Territory.
Prior to Parliament resuming I visited New Zealand. I wanted to see New Zealand for several reasons. Like Australia, New Zealand is a great exporting country. It, in fact, competes in the same markets as Australia.I wanted to look at the industries affected by the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement because the same industries are of major importance in my electorate. I refer to timber, paper, pulp, peas, beans, lamb, pig meats and cheese. I was in New Zealand when our Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) arrived on his visit. This was the first time 1 had been in another country during the arrival of our Prime Minister. If his visits to Asian countries have anything like the impact of his visit to New Zealand it must be tremendous. He certainly made a wonderful impression on New Zealand television. He had a wonderful Press reception.
– The honourable member will get on.
– 1 am speaking the absolute truth. His address to the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce was a world beater. He was in top form and made a wonderful speech. His remarks were deeply appreciated by the people of New Zealand. If on his visits to Asia he sells himself as well as he did in New Zealand we can be very proud of him.
The Labor Party opposed the New Zealand-Australian Free Trade Agreement. This was nothing new for the Labor Party. It generally opposes constructive proposals brought down in this Parliament, lt opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), who sits opposite year after year - the electors cannot do much about it - holds the record of not only seconding the motion opposing the Japanese Trade Agreement but of moving the amendment to the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. Time after time the honourable member for Scullin has spoken in terms of billions of dollars of trade, but when a constructive proposal comes before the Parliament he opposes it.
The Japanese Trade Agreement is now history. Japan is one of our best customers. Bearing this fact in mind it is interesting to see what effect the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is having on Australian industries. It is interesting to see where the honourable member for Scullin and his colleagues in the corner stand on this issue. From my study of the situation, the first industry that was thrashed by the Opposition was the pig meat industry. I do not know whether the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) was as guilty in this matter as was the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), but he was certainly associated with it. In the course of the debate on the Agreement the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), quoting from a report, predicted that New Zealand would soon be importing pig meat. Members of the Opposition sneered at this prophesy. They thought that it could not possibly happen, but it is the case. The swing to whole milk collection is such that last Christmas New Zealand was short of hams and bacon. One firm in Auckland told me that it was short of 8,000 hams. So the scare mongering t!.at went on in Queensland in particular - I am looking directly at the honourable member for Wide Bay - was quite unnecessary and was unfair to the Agreement. As the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) says it was sheer political propaganda on the part of the Opposition.
As regards peas and beans, it is said in general terms in New Zealand that there is not a great deal of land upon which peas and beans may be grown economically. But I was told of a possible expansion of pea and bean growing in the Nelson area of the South Island. Whether enough can be grown to cover the 3,000,000 lb that we now buy from the United States, as well as the 2,000,000 lb that New Zealand already supplies, is a moot point. I was interested to learn something about what is called the Surprise pea which has become a popular seller and about which I felt some concern when the Agreement was signed.
– So did the Tasmanians.
– That is right. The Tasmanians also were concerned. The history of the Surprise pea in New Zealand is that it got an early run and was selling very well but the quality of frozen peas was so good that sales of Surprise peas declined. I do not know whether Surprise peas are selling in Australia as well now vis a vis the frozen pea as they were earlier. But having regard to what happened in New Zealand, if the quality of the frozen pea is as good here as it is in New Zealand I would say that the Surprise pea will not run away with the market. The processors of frozen peas made two comments of interest. They believed that they could enter the Australian market on the ground of quality. They said that within two hours of harvesting the peas are frozen. This is not the history of peas in Gippsland, where many thousands of acres are grown. It usually takes much longer than two hours for Gippsland peas to reach the snap freezer.
The New Zealand processors also pointed out that Australian farmers seem to have some difficulty in obtaining written firm contracts for their season’s peas. One processing firm in New Zealand has a written contract with growers for the season’s peas. The other firm, although it does not have a written contract, is an old family firm long established in New Zealand and its history of dealings with the farmers is so good that the farmers are happy to deal with it. The way in which the peas are paid for in New Zealand also is of greater advantage to the farmers than the method employed in Australia. My knowledge of the industry in Gippsland is that the farmers do not see gross weights for their crops as they go to the processors but are paid for the net processed weight of peas. In New Zealand a farmer’s peas are weighed gross and he is then paid a net price on what is called a tender therm test. In other words, they are paid on quality. I am sure that the Australian industry can go a little further as far as quality is concerned. With the introduction of the drive-on drive-off ship, the Australian industry will need to improve the quality of the product that it presents to the Australian housewife. If it goes that bit further with quality it will have nothing to fear from competition by New Zealand peas. In New Zealand, when peas and beans cannot be harvested green because of poor weather the crops are allowed to mature and are then harvested, and the farmers are paid commercial rates by the processors. This is something that farmers in Gippsland cannot obtain.
While in New Zealand I looked also at other rural industries - the dairy industry, the fat lamb and wool industry and the beef industry. I was impressed with farming standards generally. The New Zealand dairy industry has its ups and downs as does the Australian dairy industry. There is an impressive area in the Waikato Valley where the normal production is about 400 lb butter fat per acre. This sounds high, but it is not high when compared with a number of farms at Maffra in Gippsland where the production is 500 lb butterfat per acre and is expected to go higher. The Waikato Valley is a natura! primary producing district.
It has an annual rainfall of 50 inches spread evenly throughout the year and this, combined with the application of 6 cwt of super and potash per acre, results in wonderful, lush green grass. Despite this high production the farmers spoke uneasily of disappearing profit margins. They were alarmed every time the Arbitration Commission met and granted a wage rise. They enjoyed a series of years when the basic wage was unaltered and theirs was a prosperous industry, but lately wage rises have been granted annually and their profit margin has been disappearing. In New Zealand there is also a fairly large area of marginal dairy farming to which the Department of Agriculture is paying particular attention, and to which I will refer later. A typical farmer in the Waikato Valley would milk ninety cows in a herringbone dairy by himself or with family labour only. To meet the standards laid down by the Department of Agriculture whereby production is expected to increase by 5% per annum to meet rising costs the farmer sooner or later has to increase his herd. The farmer milking ninety cows has to carry an additional twenty cows to pay for his extra labour and another ten cows to make the exercise worth while. A great number of New Zealand farmers who are reaching maximum production are facing problems. In fact, the lamb raising industry, which is an excellent industry in New Zealand, and the dairy industry are confronted with several problems.
Farm costs of production in New Zealand are generally lower than in Australia. This is primarily because in New Zealand there is a lower basic wage. However, farmers there are fearful that their New Zealand basic wage will catch up to the Australian basic wage. If the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission heeds the recent application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a $7.50 increase 1 doubt whether the New Zealand wage rate will ever catch the Australian rate. On the last occasion when the stabilisation plan was debated in this Parliament the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) suggested that Australia should rationalise its dairy industry and should allow New Zealand to sell its butter in Australia without any limits. If that proposition is taken a step further and we say thai because New Zealand’s butter production costs are lower than our costs we will accept New Zealand butter in Australia, we will take shoes from China, fabrics from India, cars from the United Kingdom, television sets and radios from Japan and tractors from America without any tariffs. Australian production costs would soon be down to the New Zealand level and the whole exercise would have been worthless. We have a protective system in Australia and, having been in New Zealand, all I can say is, thank goodness we have, because our protective system has enabled us to continue our immigration programme to build up Australia’s population and have some internal dynamism in this country.
New Zealand is singularly lacking in natural mineral resources. Indeed, she is very envious of Australia’s fortunate position in this regard. So we do not want to discard this Government’s policies, which have built Australia to its present position, and run the risk of getting back to a situation like that applying in New Zealand. The New Zealand dairy industry is somewhat differently organised on the manufacturing side. The New Zealand Dairy Produce Board has the sole right to sell the products of the New Zealand industry. Australia has many agents floating around overseas and competing against one another. It is a moot point whether or not there is competition among the Australian agents, thus making them more forceful, but it would seem to me that some good could result from a rationalisation of our dairy agents. The New Zealand Dairy Produce Board also has the right to divert milk from one factory to another, whether one company or more is involved. Thus milk can be diverted from a butter factory to a cheese factory when cheese is selling better on the world market and butter is hard to sell. The company that loses milk for the manufacture of butter is compensated and the whole industry is much better off as a result.
Finally I want to refer to the extension services that operate in New Zealand. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) today. In New Zealand we see the ultimate in extension services. I was very impressed with the New Zealand extension services. Undoubtedly in Australia there has been a great move forward in this field and in specialist lines our services are equal to any in the world, but we do not provide the whole-farm extension services that are provided in New Zealand. We provide irrigation officers, pasture experts and the like. This is done in New Zealand, but there economists are made available to visit farms, confer with farmers about their problems and to formulate budgets to overcome them. Having worked out a budget the farmer can then go to the State Advances Board, the Marginal Lands Board or one of the commercial banks to obtain a loan. When his application is backed by a budget and supported by the district economist his application is usually successful. I should like to see this whole-farm extension service provided in Australia, but it is difficult to do this because in Australia there are six State governments and a Federal Government. We have no unilateral approach as they have in New Zealand. This is the one area in which our Federal system does not seem to work satisfactorily. In New Zealand, with only one government, they seem to have gone a lot further in this regard. I conclude by urging the Government to examine the whole-farm approach in the field of extension services.
Debate (on motion by Mr Mclvor) adjourned.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
In view of the recent forging of the $10 note, what action is being taken to ensure that the design of the proposed $5 note is protected against forgery?
I have been informed by the Reserve Bank of Australia, which is responsible for the Australian note issue, that it has always been and will continue to be the aim of the bank to produce notes which provide maximum protection against counterfeiting. In common with the existing dollar notes, the new $5 note will incorporate in its design and printing and in the paper on which it is printed an extensive range of security features designed to create maximum difficulties for a forger, lt should be realised, however, that no country has been able to produce a note which is entirely proof against forgeries.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670228_reps_26_hor54/>.