26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. At conferences at which the right honourable gentleman has represented Australia, such as the International Monetary Fund conferences of last year and the year before, or the conference on Asia in New York last October under the auspices of the Far East-America Council of Commerce and Industry, conferences at which Mr Maxwell Newton has also been present, has the Treasurer found any grounds for believing that Mr Newton was a secret paid agent of the Japanese Government, or a Japanese agent of any kind?
– None at all.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry a question, having in mind his immense experience and authority in matters such as the one I shall refer to. Is he aware that a motor parts manufacturing firm of modest size in my electorate, manufacturing brake hose assemblies, yesterday dismissed 23 persons from its staff of 196? I stress the fact that the firm is a manufacturer of parts. Is it a fact that this firm lost an order for $16,000 worth of brake hose assemblies from the Volkswagen company? ls it also a fact that it is not known whether large motor complexes will be able to repeat their orders to this firm, which is situated in my electorate and which gives a good example of decentralisation? For the information of the House and in reply to the cheap sarcastic sneer about feather bedding-
-Order! the honourable member is now giving information. He will ask his question.
– This is preamble, Sir. The manager of this firm is a member of the National Rubber Council of Great Britain-
-Order! The honourable member will either ask his question or resume his seat.
– and a very efficient manager.
-Order! The Acting Prime Minister.
– I have no knowledge of the incident to which the honourable member refers. I know of the existence of this company, of which the honourable member has spoken to me on a number of occasions. He has sought to have the benefit of Government policies for this company, and I think this has happened. I believe it is a good decentralised industry with, to the best of my knowledge, a good reputation. If the industry has lost some orders for parts this may have arisen from a situation in which there is quite intense competition within Australia at the present time for a certain sector of the motor market, namely the smaller cars sector. Not only is there quite intense competition from Japan, as I have already mentioned; there is also a measure of competition from Europe, and there are five Australian companies producing and competing for the market. This has produced a difficult marketing situation in which I think some units of the industry have not been able to live up to their expectations. I have told the House before that my Department has been in contact with the automobile manufacturing industry in Australia over a period. I now inform the House that a conference will be proceeding today at the highest level between officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and very senior representatives of the automobile industry to sort out where the problems lie. I will be joining in that conference.
– I address my question to the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry. Is he being strongly pressed by Australian car and automotive component manufacturers to apply a restrictive quota on Japanese car imports following the failure of his current protective policy? Is he deterred from doing so by threats of Japanese counter restrictions on certain current exports of primary products to that country? Will he make a full ministerial statement to the House of the difficulties and disagreements now associated with Australian-Japanese trade relations so that honourable members may fully examine and debate the viability and the validity of his present policies and attitudes?
– No request has been made to me by Australian automobile manufacturers for the imposition of quotas on foreign motor vehicles - Japanese motor vehicles in particular - and there is no intention at the present time either to impose a quota or to raise the duty on these vehicles. There is a problem, however. I referred to that problem a few minutes ago and I have referred to it on several other occasions in this House. It is never my practice to decide either on policy or procedure until I feel I am completely in possession of the facts, and that is the process that we are going through at the present time. But I would like to make it perfectly clear that there has never been in present circumstances nor in any earlier circumstances any threat of retaliatory action directed by the Japanese Government to me or to the Australian Government in respect of our own tariff policies. The Japanese Government practises one of the most highly protectionist policies of any country in the world, and being in that position - which I have pointed out as a matter of fact but not attacked - that Government is in no position to attack any other government which pursues policies of protection in the interests of its own industries.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that Army police questioned a Melbourne Army officer at Essendon airport when he returned home from Vietnam last night? Will the Minister outline the reasons for this action?
– Mr Speaker, because of Press speculation on this matter, I intend to make a fairly lengthy reply. Earlier this month Captain Rule-
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker and I ask you not to be too quick in saying that I am out of order, but to hear me out. I submit that it is contrary to the Standing Orders for a Minister, at a time devoted to questions without notice, to come into the Parliament and make a statement in reply to a question obviously with notice.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I take a further point of order. How can you say that there is no point of order if I have not finished making it?
– You have made it.
– No, I have not finished.
– Are you taking a further point of order?
– If you like to put it that way, yes.
-It is not a matter of whether I would like to put it that way. Are you taking a further point of order?
– Yes, I now take a further point of order. It has been already reported in the Press that the Minister proposed to make a statement on the very matter that is the subject of what purports to be a question without notice. We have no chance to debate a reply to a question. I believe that this procedure is absolutely contrary to the Standing Orders.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The Minister has been asked a question, and having been asked that question he can answer it in any way he thinks fit, provided the answer is relevant to the question that has been asked.
– With deference to the honourable member perhaps I may borrow a phrase from Shakespeare and say: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
– I raise another point or order, Mr Speaker. Would you request the Minister, if he proposes to make a long statement, to seek leave to do so after question time?
– And leave will be granted.
– On previous occasions I have suggested to members that their questions should be shorter and to the point, and I have suggested to Ministers that their answers should be as short as possible.
– Yesterday’s was a record.
-Order! This should be done in order not to take an unfair proportion of question time. The matter is entirely in the hands of the Minister, having been asked a question but he may take, some cognisance of the request that has been made.
– Earlier this month Captain C. L. Rule was charged with, and convicted in Vietnam of, offences relating to the improper despatch by him of parcels from Vietnam, through the armed forces post office. The parcels contained weapons, ammunition and classified documents. Captain Rule returned from Vietnam and arrived in Sydney last Monday night, 25th March 1968. On 21st March a further two parcels containing classified documents were intercepted in the parcels post by the Sub-Collector of Customs at Melbourne. These documents were handed over to the military authorities in Melbourne.
The documents confiscated on 21st March 1968 were sent to Army headquarters and examined in detail. Included in the documents were a number of diaries. Examination of these diaries established reasonable grounds for suspecting that the officer may have at his residence in Melbourne further classified documents, as well as arms and ammunition. After the most’ careful consideration of the whole matter it was decided to arrest Captain Rule on his arrival at Essendon airport and to obtain from the civil authorities a warrant to enable Commonwealth Police to search his house. I should say that in notifying this decision the Adjutant-General directed that officers concerned with the arrest and search were to use the utmost discretion and to cause the least discomfort to Rule and his family as was consistent with the task.
On arrival at Essendon airport Captain Rule was charged, ordered into close arrest and placed in the custody of an officer of equal rank, lt is not proper at this stage to give details of the present charges. The allegations must be investigated and then considered by Captain Rule’s commanding officer. On investigation the charges could be dismissed, could be shown not to be sufficiently serious to justify trial by courtmartial or could in fact lead to the officer being arraigned before a general courtmartial. I think that that is a proper answer to give at question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that the first group charter flight from England which arrives in Australia today contains members of two different organisations? Is it also a fact that the cost to each passenger on this flight is $620 per round trip? Will the Minister advise the Parliament why Qantas Airways Ltd has a ceiling limit of 20,000 members on organisations that can participate in these block bookings? Can he explain why there is no ceiling limit restrictions on these flights between the United States of America and the Continent? Finally, does this limit exclude many trade unions and many of their members who are migrants from qualifying for these trips?
– Last year, in this House, I made a statement that set out clearly the conditions relating to these charter flights. That statement was publicised widely throughout Australia. Europe and the United Kingdom. I am sure that as a result the general conditions are known fairly extensively. In addition, almost every week correspondence relating to this matter is addressed in some volume to either the Minister for Immigration or myself. All this is replied to and we always make a point of providing the utmost detail concerning the required information. I am sure that there can be no reason for anyone to claim that knowledge of the conditions applying to charter flights of this kind is not available. It is very pleasing to see that the first charter flight under the new system has already taken place. Qantas and other operators have in hand at present quite a number of inquiries. We expect that the system will be most successful. If the honourable member would care to take up with me any individual problems that there may be concerning specific groups of people, I shall see whether we can sort out those problems. [ assure him and the House that this new system of charter flights, which comes completely within the rules of the International Air Transport Association, to which Australia subscribes, will be of great assistance not only to migrant groups but also to many other sections of the community here and in other countries.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it possible to release additional water for irrigation from Lake Eucumbene? Would there not be more water in this storage if the drought reserve advocated by the previous Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority had been implemented? Will water still be available in the Murrumbidgee River after 1st May, when the Blowering Dam is due to commence storing water?
– The authority that is responsible for the release of water from Lake Eucumbene is the Snowy Mountains Council, which, at its most recent meeting, held last month, agreed to release an additional 113,000 acre feet, partially into the Murrumbidgee River and partially into the Murray River. I stress the fact that on the Council there are representatives of electricity and water authorities in both New South Wales and Victoria. It considered that it would be unwise to recommend any further additional releases in view of the fact that Lake Eucumbene has now dropped to a volume of less than 700,000 acre feet, which is only about 19% of its total capacity. The Council formed this view in the light of the fact that it is necessary to have a storage for next year. If this year is as dry as last year was, or even as dry as the previous worst year, water from Lake Eucumbene will run out completely on the Murray side by next January and by next May on the Murrumbidgee side.
This cannot be allowed to happen, because the Snowy Mountains Scheme now provides not only water but also a considerable amount of peak load electric power and a spinning reserve in the electricity systems of New South Wales and Victoria. This spinning reserve is absolutely essential for the maintenance of power supplies. I am informed that one-third of the installed capacity of the New South Wales electricity system and one-quarter of the installed capacity of the Victorian electricity system are now in the Snowy Mountains area. So it is essential that reserves of water be available for the generation of electricity. Water used for this purpose, of course, will be available for irrigators next year.
It is true that there would have been more water available if a drought reserve had been established. This proposal, which was made by Sir William Hudson, was looked at but, for a number of reasons, was not adopted by the Snowy Mountains Council. In the light of the fact that last year brought the worst drought that has been known since the keeping of records in that area began, 1 have instructed the Council to review the system under which releases are made from Lake Eucumbene. A committee has been appointed and is now undertaking this review. However, it will be a considerable time before the storage target is reached, even if we get good rains in the next two or three years.
I turn now to the part of the question relating to the Blowering Dam. That Dam is controlled by the New South Wales Government which has announced that it will begin storing water on 1st May. Once it is closed it cannot be opened again for 4 months, because work must be done on the outlet. Nevertheless I am assured that the riparian rights of the users lower down will be maintained by a 21 inch pipeline which will continue to supply water to them. I stress that this is a matter for the New South Wales Government. If it wishes, it can decide to close the dam later than that, but if it did that it would probably not be able to restore the flow of water on 1st September when the irrigation year commences.
– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration. By way of explanation I inform the Minister that an Italian doctor of engineering called on me a few weeks ago and told me that it was impossible for him to find employment in Australia. He said that he had been working on a desalination scheme in Panama for 7 years and he wanted to use his talents in Australia so that he, his wife and his children could stay here. I ask: What arrangements are made for professional people from countries other than British countries to obtain employment in Australia? Are they able to take up their new professional life in this country where they left off their old professional life in the country from which they came to Australia?
– The recognition of professional qualifications presents real difficulties. In my view, the problem warrants deep consideration and should be solved as early as possible in the interests of Australia. The professions can be divided into two categories. One is the profession that is registerable and includes medicine and engineering. The registration of doctors is done by law and the registration of engineers is done by the professional body itself. The other category covers the non-registerable professions such as the forester, nonagricultural scientist and the nuclear physicist. Where no requirement for registration is laid down by the professional body or by law, no real difficulty exists. The employer will judge whether the qualifications of the person seeking employment are suitable. But the difficulty arises with the registerable professions. Let me give an example in the profession of medicine to show how substantial the difficulty is. An investigation of the qualification requirements for registration for the medical profession shows that there is no uniformity throughout the States.
– Or the Territories.
– That is so. lt is equally clear that recognition is accorded generally to qualifications obtained at universities of British origin or English speaking universities. The point I should like to make clear is that I certainly do not argue in favour of a diminution of standards. But that is not the problem. The problem is the recognition of equivalent qualifications from another place. I have spent a considerable amount of time considering this problem. The State Ministers for Immigration were here for the recent Australian Citizenship Convention and I discussed the matter with them. I found amongst them a good deal of sympathy and eagerness to solve the problem. I have been pursuing the matter myself, but I must say to the honourable gentleman that the only power I have is the power of advocacy. I do not possess any other power. The power is possessed by the registration bodies. But there is a growing acknowledgment in the community of the need to solve the problem and I am very eager to see something done about it quickly.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that the New South Wales Government has announced plans to set up a road accident research unit in Sydney at a cost of $250,000? Has his attention been directed to an editorial on this subject in the NRMA publication, the Open Road’, of 1st March? Will he consider the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government subsidise the New South Wales project with a view to co-ordinating this kind of research and ensuring that the results can be effectively applied throughout Australia and its Territories?
– I am aware that the New South Wales Government has announced its intention to set up a bureau to inquire into the incidence of road accidents and to survey some of the technical reasons for them. I welcome the announcement. It is, of course, entirely within the responsibility and sovereign rights of the States to provide the funds and the detail of design of roads within the States, to police and to implement the traffic laws and, indeed, to police the traffic on the roads. At the same time, in recent years, through the Australian Transport Advisory Council, there has been opportunity for consultation between the States and the Commonwealth. As regards the research project to which the honourable member has referred, no approach has been made to the Commonwealth and no request has been made to the Commonwealth to share the expenses. However, I welcome the establishment of such an accident survey unit. I am sure that it will be of real benefit in attempts to reduce the high incidence of accidents in New South Wales and perhaps, as a result, throughout the rest of Australia.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. Did he substantially amend the original submissions of the Tariff Board in formulating his plans for the Australian automotive industry? Did those plans have the effect of producing sharp rises in imports of vehicle components and fully made-up vehicles? Is there now less Australian content in the light car market than before the plans were announced? If these are facts, has disruption and uncertainty In the Australian automotive industry been caused solely by the complete inadequacy of the right honourable gentleman’s plans?
– Particulars as to amendments that may have been made to any recommendations by the Tariff Board are not so completely in my mind as to enable me to attempt to answer the question now. If the honourable gentleman will place his question on the notice paper I will be glad to give him a complete reply.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. I refer to a question which I asked in August last year. Has the Government reached a decision regarding the purchase or lease of Canadair CL215 fire bombing aircraft for forest protection? lt the Government has decided not to purchase or lease any of these aircraft, and remembering the very serious forest fires that occurred in Victoria and elsewhere this summer, will the Minister consider investigating the possibility of converting obsolescent Royal Australian Air Force aircraft for fire protection purposes? I am thinking of the Neptune P2V5 aircraft.
– The Australian Forestry Council at its meeting at Mount Gambier at the end of last year discussed reports by Australian experts who had been in the United States and Canada to look at the technique of fire bombing in the light of the offer made to us for the purchase or tease of some Canadair CL215 water bombers. It was decided by the Council, which consists of Commonwealth and State Ministers, that purchase of these aircraft should not be proceeded with. The aircraft arc very expensive. Some doubts were expressed regarding their ability to operate satisfactorily in areas of Australia where we do not have the many lakes and other stretches of water that are available in the United States and Canada.
The Council then considered the possibility of obtaining obsolescent or obsolete aircraft, particularly the Neptune P2V5 aircraft. I approached the Royal Australian Air Force to see whether it would be possible to obtain these aircraft but an assessment showed that these aircraft would probably be as expensive as the Canadair CL215. Some difficulties also would have been met in operating and maintaining the aircraft because the Air Force informed us that it was fully committed and would not be able to undertake such work. However, it has been decided to carry out tests with light aircraft. It is proposed to do this this year in the Australian Capital Territory. Funds will be made available for this purpose. 1 understand that Victoria has already carried out similar tests which show that this technique may be useful.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I preface my question by saying that New South Wales hospital nurses now have a 5-day week and patients are not sent home on Saturdays; the entire railway staff also has a 5-day week and trains still run on Saturdays; and all the other 7-day services, such as police, buses, gas, electricity, etc., are provided by employees engaged on 5-day rosters.
-Order! The preface to the honourable member’s question is far too long. He will ask his question or resume his seat.
– I ask: Why does the Postmaster-General still persist in the continued use of the out-dated and unpopular 6-day roster system in post offices, whether or not post offices are open on Saturdays?
– The Government takes the view that there is a very large section of the Australian community which believes that Post Office services and facilities should be available to them on a Saturday and so most post offices in Australia are open. There are about 1,475 official post offices and some thousands of non-official post offices in Australia. A few of the official post offices have been closed on Saturdays because very little business is done at them, but where a reasonable amount of business is transacted it is believed that they should remain open. I point out that the subject of a 5-day week for Post Office workers is before the arbitration tribunals at the moment. I offer no further comment.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to the tragic position in which a deserted wife is placed in relation to the matrimonial home and third parties and I refer also, with your leave, Sir, to the United Kingdom legislation on the point, namely, the Matrimonial Homes Act 1967, which gives the court power to determine the case on the merits that may attach to it. I ask: Has he had an opportunity to examine this legislation and will he discuss the legislation at the next meeting of State Attorneys-General with a view to introducing similar legislation into Australia?
– Some consideration has been given to this, but the States come into this matter, particularly in relation to tenanted premises dealt with in their landlord and tenant legislation. In view of the interest which the honourable member for Moreton has displayed in this matter I shall take the matter up with the State Attorneys-General.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn to a statement by the Attorney-General that the High Court building is to be erected on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and, also, is he aware that there is a strong influence to erect the new Parliament House on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin? As world experience is that foreshores of similar lakes have been eroded and the beauty of the lakes and their surrounds have been spoiled by such desecration, will he use his influence to prevent these proposed buildings from being erected on the foreshores of the lake?
– I would like to assure the honourable member that in the planning of Canberra every care is taken by the responsible authority to see that all aspects are taken into consideration. It is true to say that an announcement has been made by my colleague the Attorney-General that the High Court complex will be built in the parliamentary triangle. I can assure him that at some stage when conclusions are reached about the need for a new Parliament House, or even before that time, there will be a specific debate in this House and in another place on the siting of the Parliament House. If the honourable member has any views that he would like to put, that probably would be the appropriate time to put them.
– The Postmaster-General will recall that at the official opening of the Port Hedland Post Office last year both he and I commented on the need for air conditioning in buildings in the north and north west of Western Australia. Has the Minister since then recommended, or taken appropriate action to bring about, air conditioning of post office buildings in the north and north west of Western Australia? If so, is such work to be carried out? If it is, does the Minister expect any of the buildings to be fully air conditioned before next summer and, if so, which ones? Finally, if the Minister has not taken any action on this matter does it mean that his remarks should not have been taken as positive, or has be changed his mind?
– I have the personal view that all post office buildings - in fact, all Commonwealth buildings - in the northern areas of Australia should be air conditioned. lt seems to me that if the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works recommends the air conditioning of buildings in Brisbane then buildings further north that house Commonwealth public servants also should be entitled to contain that comfort, lt is not merely comfort; 1 believe it is a means of adding to the output of work by individuals in those buildings. Nevertheless this matter is related to the availability of finance and while I have this view about air conditioning of post offices, and I expressed it at Port Hedland, the honourable member will realise that the new post offices at Port Hedland and Wyndham have not been built to cater for air conditioning. They have substantial window areas and many fans have been supplied. This does not make them easily convertible for air conditioning purposes. The subject is under investigation within my Department but honourable members must realise that if the funds available to the Post Office are used for this purpose many areas will experience considerable delay in receiving improved or new facilities.
– In view of the lengthy delay, and the critically serious implications involved, will the Minister for Health indicate the present position regarding the installation of incinerators at Australian ports, particularly at Queensland ports? Does he agree that while incinerators are not available a threat exists that could wreck our national economy, namely, the introduction of foot and mouth disease and other exotic animal diseases into this country?
– The present position is that following the offer by the Commonwealth Government to pay the full, cost of these incinerators the offer was accepted by the Governments of New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia and incinerators either have been built or are in the course of being built in those States. The offer has not been accepted by the Victorian Government or the Queensland Government but both those Governments have announced that they will build incinerators in the relevant ports. The Victorian Government has consulted the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the standard and siting of incinerators conform with our views, but the Queensland Government has not chosen to do this so I am not in a position to inform the honourable member in any detail about the Queensland Government’s decision to build the incinerators. I would hope, if the Government of Queensland subsequently hoped to avail itself of the Commonwealth offer, while reserving its position, it would at the same time consult with the Commonwealth Government in relation to the siting and the standards of the incinerators it builds.
– The Treasurer is aware that the profits and losses of Ansett Transport Industries Limited are grouped together. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will take the necessary steps to ensure that the profits and losses of Ansett-ANA and Ansett transport and television interests are listed separately to allow the Department of Civil Aviation lo be in a better position to assess whether applications for air fare increases which are made from time to time are fully warranted.
– 1 think it is appropriate that there should be means by which we can distinguish the various classes of activities of Ansett Transport Industries Limited. I will discuss the question asked by the honourable member with my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, and see what can be done.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Army a question which is further to the one asked by the honourable member for Lalor. May I say that I do not know the captain under discussion? I claim that the Parliament has the right to be told what he has been charged with. I ask the Minister: Is it not a democratic principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty? Does the Minister not think what was included in his statement will prejudice this officer, his case and his family? Finally, will the Minister see that he is more careful in his statements in future?
– I do not accept for one moment what the honourable member has made implicit in his question.
– You know it was material for a book.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will cease interjecting.
– If the honourable member will reflect upon the context in which my answer was framed, he will see that firstly the answer contained a content of fact and secondly, it indicated quite clearly in the final balance of what was said that, of course, there were a number of alternatives available. As I recall, the statement did not presuppose that the officer in fact would be found guilty, because it went on to say that there were several alternatives and that these alternatives would be dealt with. I stand by what I said and I have no apology to make to the honourable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been drawn to a report in the Brisbane Courier Mail’ of 27th March that the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board requires Commonwealth assistance for capital electricity works of national importance beyond the economic capacity of the State? Is he aware that while Queensland’s power producing capacity has tripled since 1960, that of the Board has grown seven-fold? Will he urgently confirm and remedy this situation, especially as householders are paying Australia’s highest electricity bills to subsidise cut-rate power for highly profitable investments of overseas owners and controllers of the major industries in the region?
– My attention has not yet been drawn to the statement in the Brisbane newspaper to which the honourable member has referred. I point out to the honourable member that the electricity and power authorities in Australia come under the State Governments. If this State Government feels, as the honourable member suggests, that it is unable to finance this undertaking, then it can make application to the Commonwealth Government. However, to the best of my knowledge no application along these lines has yet been made in this particular case.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, who will recall my previous representations concerning the lack of amenities for domestic airline passengers using the Darwin airport terminal. Can the Minister say whether any progress has been made towards the provision of such amenities for the public?
– I recall that on a number of occasions the honourable member has raised the question of improvements to terminal facilities at the Darwin airport. This matter was also raised by the Administrator of the Northern Territory when I last visited Darwin. I am pleased to say that following the negotiations which I indicated were taking place with Qantas Airways Ltd, arrangements have now been made for the lounge facilities, including the provision of refreshments, to be made available to domestic passengers as well as international passengers as from 1st April. The control of the lounge area itself will now be transferred from Qantas Airways Ltd to the Department of Civil Aviation. I am sure that the improved facilities will meet immediate requirements to the satisfaction of the honourable member.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory also asked on a previous occasion about the proposed works programme for improvements in that area. At present we are waiting on the building of a new hangar to house aircraft which are under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Health. When those aircraft are shifted out of the area in question some immediate improvements will be made in that area for domestic passengers. In addition, under the works programme for next year we expect to undertake the construction of new air-conditioned lounge accommodation on the mezzanine floor area for the use of domestic passengers. There is also a plan for entirely new terminal facilities to be provided, but because of the high cost and the problems involved that will have to be a long term programme.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide adequate increases in the rates of aged, invalid and widows pensions and other social service benefits to meet the increased cost of living, thereby causing hardship and suffering and reducing living standards.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– It was in 1949, almost 20 years ago, that former Prime Minister Menzies, delivering the joint policy speech of the Liberal and Country Parties, and speaking on social services, promised:
Existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
The new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made several statements promising priority to the problems of social welfare. Only this week in Melbourne he had this to say:
We must pay full attention to the requirements of the ill, the aged and the unfortunate among us if we are to hold up our heads as a civilised nation.
Yet the Prime Minister’s performances are quite different from the sentiments he has expressed. In answer to a question by me in this Parliament, following an address by the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to the Young Liberals of Newcastle, in which the Minister indicated that child endowment and social service benefits would be increased, the Prime Minister practically disowned the Minister for Social Services by saying that no decision on that matter had yet been made. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has placed the Social Services portfolio in twenty-fifth position in the Ministry, actually in second lust place, and the Minister is not a member of the Cabinet, as his predecessor was.
The new Minister for Social Services has much to live up to. His views on pensions, the means test and Government policy have been well known. He was a constant and constructive back bench critic on his way to the ministerial bench. On 28th February 1968 the Australian ‘Financial Review* paid the Minister this tribute:
Here is a man who, for almost 19 years, has argued from the backbench, with unquenchable - sometimes seemingly quixotic - devotion to mission, for reform in application and principle at the pension end of Australia’s social welfare machinery.
When the Minister made the statement on the birth rate a few days ago he completely ignored the fact that the maternity allowance had not been increased for 25 years. Despite what was said about him by the Australian ‘Financial Review’ he is also on record as having said in this Parliament in April 1967: 1 also agree that many people who are entitled to pensions under the laws of our land are not drawing them.
With that background lo the Government’s intentions and actions, and with a new Prime Minister, it is interesting to note that on Thursday, 21st March 1968 in this Parliament the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), a member of the Liberal Party, a churchman, a politician and a social worker, had this to say:
I have been recently investigating personalty the plight of various groups in my electorate in the suburbs of Drummoyne, Five Dock and Ashfield. What I have seen in some cases - I make no apology for saying it - has often made me feel physically sick, morally indignant and deeply determined to see the nation face its responsibility.
And at a later stage he said:
I could take honourable members to case after case of old people, singly or in couples, existing in misery and from which neither I nor they can see any prospect of escape except through death.
That striking condemnation of the pledges given by the Government as long as 20 years ago was made only a few days ago by a Government supporter, lt indicates that the Government has not honoured its promise to this deserving section of the community. It all adds up to the fact that the new Prime Minister and his Government arc following the Liberal pattern set as long ago as 1949 of raising false hopes of benefits for these unfortunate people, lt means that after 20 years of promises that gave false hopes to the aged, the widowed, the invalids and others dependent on social services, the Government stands condemned for its neglect of these people. In this age of prosperity the Government has reduced thousands of the pioneers of this nation to poverty and want.
This is an age when company profits have never been higher, when the Government boasts about prosperity and when our mineral, resources and potential national wealth are the talk of the world, lt is an a.ge of almost full employment, with husbands and wives working and young people enjoying to the full all that life has to offer because of their high earning capacity. In other words, we are living in an affluent society. It is an age when as a nation we should be proud to say that we provide adequately for those who are aged, sick, widowed or otherwise dependent on social services. This, however, is not the case, as I shall show. 1 intend to quote from documents made available to me by courtesy of the Minister for Social Services which set out the type of social service benefits, the present amounts payable and the effective dates of the last increase in each benefit. I have also obtained from the Library and other official sources the number of recipients. These documents prove conclusively that in this age of affluence the Government has neglected its responsibility. Let us look at the situation for age and invalid pensioners. The standard rate is $13 a week. This rate has not been increased since 1966 for either the married or single age or invalid pensioner and in that time the cost of living has risen by at least 5%. The figures I have before me indicate that 670,231 people are receiving age, invalid and widow pensions. Of these, 119,040 have not received a rise since 1966.
The wife’s allowance of S6 a week has not been increased since 1963. The child’s allowance has not been increased since 1961, a period of 7 years ago.
As we go further down the scale we find some glaring anomalies. Widow pensions classes A, B and C were increased in 1966, but the mother’s allowance of S4 a week is like the maternity allowance; it will evidently never be heard of again. It also has not been increased since 1963 when the cost of living rose. We find that unemployment and sickness benefits have remained unchanged since 1957 for people up to 20 years of age and that it is 5 years since these benefits were changed at all. The birthrate is falling, and one reason may be that the maternity allowance has not been changed for 25 years. It was introduced in 1943, and for 25 years it has remained the same. Successive Liberal Ministers have never changed the rate, yet the Minister for Social Services, who is at the table, quibbles about the falling birthrate.
The last increase in child endowment for the first child was in 1950 - 18 years ago - and the last increase for the second child was in 1948 - 20 years ago. I cannot go over the full range of benefits, but they indicate precisely how the Government has neglected to increase social services to meet the increased cost of living. This is a valuable document, and as I have not time to quote it in detail, with the concurrence of honourable members 1 shall have it incorporated in Hansard.
Other figures that I have obtained from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library and from official documents indicate that every age benefit at the present time is lagging behind the cost of living, if we take into account the very minimum increase in the cost of living. These documents cover the full range of benefits. If we take into consideration the cost of living, the maternity allowance for a mother with no other children should be $81.30 instead of $30. This benefit has not been increased for 25 years. The maternity allowance for a mother with one or two other children should be $86.72 instead of $32 at this stage. The maternity allowance for a mother with three or more other children should be $95.85 instead of $35. I suggest to the Minister that proportionate increases should be applied to every social service benefit that is being paid at the present time. If the Minister wants to increase the birth rate, first of all he should have a look at the maternity allowances and the cost of bringing children into the world, as well as the benefits paid to other pensioners to whom I have referred.
Age, invalid and widow pensions have lagged behind spiralling prices. Naturally, it is true to say, as the Minister probably will say, that rates have increased, but they have not increased anywhere near the speed at which prices have risen. It is also true to say that expenditure on social services has increased, but in the main this is not only because of increased pensions but because more people are receiving them. There is a greater number of people receiving pensions, but they are getting less value than ever before.
The Government will probably refer to percentages. It is all very well to refer to percentages of the cost of living and percentages of the basic wage to prove a pensioner’s prosperity, but this proves nothing because pensioners and other recipients of social services cannot live on percentages. What is actually wanted is an adequate rate of pension to provide sufficient clothing, shelter and food. But this is not being provided, as was instanced by the Liberal member for Evans in this Parliament a few days ago. This fact has been proved repeatedly by articles in the daily Press and by pensioners’ publications which have been distributed from one end of this country to the other. I refer to what Mrs Ellis of the
Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation had to say in a letter which was sent to all members of Parliament on 25th March 1968. She stated:
The Federation cannot but take note that pensioners had to ‘forgo’ a rise in the last Budget in a period of a steep rise in the cost of living, lt is true they had the sympathy of the Federal Treasurer, Mr McMahon, but sympathy will not put food in empty stomachs, or prevent consequent malnutrition and possible death.
A continued failure of the Federal Government to raise the living standard of the aged, the invalid, the widowed, the deserted wife, the service pensioner, and the dependants, will give substance to the claim that the Government is following a guns before butter’ policy for which pensioners will be ‘sacrificed’.
There can be no answer to their claim that they are entitled to a fair deal and an increase in pensions because of increased costs of living. If we look at what pensioners have to compete with today, we find that according to official statistics they have to compete with an average weekly earnings of $60.70 per person. The maximum pension that a single man who has no other income and who has worked hard all his life can receive is $15 per week. A married couple receive a pension of $11.75 each. Their pension is only a fraction of the basic wage and they have no other income. Where does their pension go? The figures given to me by the Department of Social Services show, whatever reservations there may be about other figures, that 70% of pensioners, or 604,300 of them, have no income, and 35% have an income up to $10 a week. Only 26,000 pensioners, or 4% of them, have an income exceeding $10 a week. So 70% of pensioners have no income other than the pension and have no other means to meet their responsibilities. Time does not permit me to go into the full details, but every journal in the country that deals with the facts of social justice reveals the situation for all to see. The facts that I have presented to the House indicate that wanton poverty prevails throughout this country in the realm of pensions and social services.
To the eternal discredit of the Government, though not of the present Minister, who sought inquiries, no inquiry has ever been made into the incidence of poverty, the want, the degradation and the suffering that are being experienced, and the need for the increases in pensions that are being demanded because the rates being paid are so low in the current state of our economy.
The time has gone when pension increases were considered only in proximity to an election, when some political end was to be gained. Surely, in this age, the Government should be able to assess the real cost of living for a pensioner, his wife and family, whatever the size of the family may be. The Government should be able to assess the needs of pensioners and give them better than a miserable fifty cents or a dollar merely to serve its own political purposes. This sort of approach, of course, may not have applied wholly to one side of the Parliament. But surely those days have gone. A full and complete inquiry should now be instituted to assess rates of pension that would be reasonable for all classes of pensioners, both widows and others, and particularly those who are entirely dependent on social services. Such an inquiry should be undertaken to assess pensions adequately, without the intrusion of any political considerations, so that just and equitable incomes in the form of pension will be provided for all pensioners. I hope that the Minister will give expression to this aspiration and put such a proposal into effect. 1 have the full support of the Opposition in proposing the discussion of this subject as a matter of urgency, and I am certain that many honourable members on the Government side will support my action because they know the injustice of the treatment that is being meted out to pensioners. Originally, we hoped for much from the new Minister. However, he has not shaped too well so far. He ran for cover the other day on the question of policy. 1 can only say that, judging by our experience of him in his days of exile, that is unlike him. I want to sec him, in his ministerial capacity, put into effect those vibrant and dynamic policies that he said were necessary to achieve desired changes in the social structure of this country. If he does that, he will have fulfilled not only his dream of attaining the Ministry but also bis obligations to the Government and to those Australians who depend entirely on social service benefits. I urge the Minister not to be deterred by the outdated policies of the Liberal Party of Australia which have caused the chaos and suffering that I instanced earlier. I appeal to him to give full expression to those qualities which he possesses and which we, on this side of the Parliament admire in him. We on this side are pleased that he now has an opportunity to do so. However, we would remind him that it is performance that counts. We look to him, in his first major speech on social services to be made in this Parliament since taking up his duties as Minister, to fulfil our hopes and the people’s ambitions by indicating that he will give some measure of security to that well deserving section of our society for which 1 have spoken today.
- Mr Speaker, may I thank the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) for the words that he addressed to me personally. I appreciate the spirit in which they were uttered. Since he has given me advice, let me give him a little. I hope that I do not do him wrong, but it seemed to me that in his approach to this grave subject, which merits a serious approach, he looked more to the interests of his Party than to the interests of the pensioners.
– As I have said, perhaps I do him an injustice, but that was how it seemed. I would think that a member speaking for the Opposition would have welcomed the objectives of the new Government, as stated by the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and would have adopted a constructive approach and not jumped on the band wagon and attacked the Government for political purposes. This Government is setting its hand to a policy in which, I would have thought, the Opposition would have co-operated with it for the benefit of pensioners and others in need. There can be no cavil at the Prime Minister’s statement of policy or at the establishment by the Government of a committee to give effect to its policy objectives. Should we not have expected from the Opposition constructive co-operation in the proposed inquiry? lt should not try to climb on a political band wagon and attack the Government. Instead, it should have given its co-operation in an endeavour to work out the best way to apply our available resources to working for the benefit of those in need. Let me say that I shall not endeavour to score points off the Opposition over the administration of my Social Services Department. I shall not try to use it as a political vehicle. My door is open to any member of the Opposition, as it will be to any member of the Government parties, who has a constructive idea. 1 shall welcome any proposal that honourable members opposite can bring forward for the benefit of those whom all Australians would like to help.
I was interested to see that the honourable member for Grayndler began by referring to 1949. 1 believe that that is a good point at which to start, because it was in 1949 that the old Labor Government went out of office and the present LiberalAustralian Country Party Government took office. Since that year, there has been a tremendous increase in the real value of pensions. I shall deal with this in more detail shortly. The increase has been very substantial. I do not say that we shall not improve on the present figures in the future or that any of us has done all that he would like to do. But I lay the figures on the line so that the House and the country may consider them. I shall take two principal categories - the basic rate of age and invalid pensions and the basic rate of widows’ pensions. Perhaps honourable members will agree that these are not the sole consideration, but they are perhaps the most important categories for us to consider. 1 shall give all rates in dollars. When the Chifley Government went out of office in 1949, the basic rate of age and invalid pensions was $4.25 a week; the basic rate is now $15 a week. It is perfectly true, Mr Speaker, that since 1949 there have been changes in the value of money. I want to adjust these figures according to movements in the price index to show in real terms what these pensions are worth today. Accordingly, f have had the Parliamentary Library compile for me a C series index and a consumer price index and produce a coherent price series.
The basic rate of pension today, with the supplementary allowance, is $15 a week. On the purchasing power of present values, the $4.25 of 1949 would be equivalent to $9.40. So, in terms of real purchasing power, during the period of more than 18 years covered by the life of this Government, the basic rate of pension has risen from the equivalent of S9.40 a week to $15 a week. That is not a bad rise. In terms of real purchasing power, we have almost doubled the old rate of pension.
These figures, of course, are not the whole story. In addition, we have been able to introduce a number of what I could call fringe benefits. These embrace the pensioner medical service, hospital benefits and pharmaceutical benefits. I want to be fair; so I. acknowledge that in respect of the last there was some legal holdup before 1949. In point of fact, however, none of these benefits came into effect until the present Government took office. Departmental figures that I have taken out this morning show that the value of medical benefits alone to the average pensioner is $1.35 a week. All these things have to be added on, and when they are taken into account it will be seen that we have almost doubled the real value of the pension. If we take into account concessions for telephones and so on, we find that although we have not quite doubled the real value of the pension we have come very near to doing so.
In addition, we have implemented the very large programme of aged persons homes. This does not yet cater for all the people we would like to see included in the programme, but we hope that the programme will be expanded. We also hope that programmes for sheltered workshops, rehabilitation and so on will be expanded. However, when we add the new fringe benefits that this Government has been able to introduce in its 18 or 19 years of office to the increase in the real purchasing power of the pension, adjusted for prices, we find that we have very nearly, though not quite, doubled what is available to the pensioner. This is not a bad record. I do not for one moment consider that it is such a satisfactory record that we can sit down and do nothing more. We will do more. There was point in the arguments that the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) put to the House a few days ago. Yes, there is misery and there is suffering. But it is much less than it would have been if Labor had been in office. We have not performed miracles, but we have done much and we will do more.
– The Minister said to make the debate non-political.
– Yes. I do not think that there is on the other side of the House the administrative ability or the ability to promote drive in the economy that would enable it to give these benefits to pensioners. It is only from additional productivity that it is possible to give increases. The Australian economy has advanced under this Government. I do not say that this is entirely because of the efforts of the Government. To do so would be unfair. But the economy has advanced and as it has advanced we have been able and glad to increase the real value of pensions. As it advances further I have no doubt that we will be able to increase yet again the real value of pensions.
The honourable member for Grayndler asked about widows pensions. In the limit of the time available to me, I will refer to these pensions. 1 will take the class A widow with one child. In December 1949 when the Chifley Government went out of office her rate was $4.75. The present rate is $18.50. This, in terms of real purchasing power adjusted for price changes, has meant an increase of nearly $10. lt is not quite double but it is very nearly double. The rate for a class B widow has gone up from a little over $8 to nearly $12. This has happened in the period that this Government has been in office. In addition, the fringe benefits of which I have spoken are available. The class B widow is particularly interested, of course, in the aged persons homes programme, which has absorbed some $7f)m of government money so far and which will, I hope, absorb more as further homes are provided for our elderly people, lt is the accommodation problem that is the most pressing on so many pensioners.
The honourable member for Grayndler was good enough to refer to some remarks I made at Newcastle about child endowment. The report was a little simplified. 1 did not refer only to child endowment: I referred to other measures. There may be other financial measures that would be more effective than child endowment in increasing the birth rate and the rate of natural growth of our population. These are quite complicated questions and I hope that the committee which the Prime Minister has set up will consider them. They involve quite large possible changes in the structure of our social services. They are not to be undertaken lightly, but the Government has set its hand to the task. It will carry it through and the Opposition has a chance to co-operate in the programme for the benefit of pensioners and for the benefit of all. Australians.
If I have to some extent been guilty of political retaliation. I apologise. Perhaps I was led astray by the attitude, of the honourable member for Grayndler. 1 do not want to regard this as a political matter. We have only certain resources available to us. I will be competing with other Ministers for a share of the resources. 1 realise fully that there are other departments and other necessities in the national economy. I will get what I can and will then in my sphere endeavour to apply what I have obtained in a way that will give the most benefit to those most in need. But the Government has, in such matters as eligibility for pensions, improved the position that obtained when it took office in 1949. I thank the honourable member for Grayndler for starting his speech at that point. li was the correct place to start, it gives us a proper basis of comparison. I assure the House that I will be doing my best for pensioners.
– I support the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who introduced this matter of public importance. I could present figures relating to pension rates and ‘he cost of living. They would prove conclusively that the income of the majority, if not all, of the recipients of social services is dropping further and further behind the cost of living. But the honourable member for Grayndler has already produced figures to show positively thai this is so. This should not be the position, lt must be obvious to everyone that the social service payments are too small. Anyone who is not willing to accept as a fact, without reference lo figures, that a large number of pensioners and other recipients of social services are now existing in a state of poverty or near poverty has his head in the clouds or has buried his head in the sand. Such a person is not interested in pensioners and is not willing to improve their position.
Mention has been made of an inquiry to be held into all aspects of social services. This could be a very good inquiry if it is expedited and if action is taken quickly on the report that is produced. The inquiry can only show the need for substantial increases in social services. But no doubt, like many other inquiries, it will drag on and the report will become an historic document before it is ever made public. What will be the position of pensioners between now and the time the inquiry is finished? Are the pensioners to continue to starve and suffer from the lack of normal provisions? Surely it is obvious that something must be done immediately. The Government will be failing in its responsibility to the people if it does not take immediate action to remedy the existing situation. I was surprised and disappointed to find from the opening remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that apparently he is now running for cover. The rebel has become a yes man.
This debate presents a wonderful opportunity to several honourable members opposite to express their support or lack of it for petitions which they presented to the Parliament last year and this year. On 19th September last year the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) presented a petition praying that the well-being of the aged, the infirm, the widowed, the deserted wives and dependent children, and the service pensioner be improved to parity with the national general living standard of the Australian people. It will be interesting to see whether the honourable member enters the debate today and supports the Opposition’s arguments.
On the same day the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) presented similar, if not identical, petitions. On the following day the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), who is now Minister for the Army, presented a similar petition. On 4th October last year the honourable member for Ballaarat again presented a petition to the Parliament. Surely we can expect to hear from him and to have his support on this occasion. On 5th October the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) presented a petition calling upon the Commonwealth to provide increased social service benefits. On 17th October the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) presented a similar petition. Only yesterday the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) presented a petition in the same terms as those presented last year. So at least seven honourable members opposite should support the
Opposition today. If those honourable gentlemen believe that the petitions which they presented were proper and that substantial increases in social service benefits are warranted and necessary to overcome suffering and privation, surely they will come down on our side in this debate. If they did not believe that the petitioners were correct in their representations, they should have refused to present the petitions to the Parliament. The matter is as simple as that.
Our initiation of this debate could be accepted as a criticism of the Government for its failure to do any of those things listed in the petitions to which I have referred. I for one will be interested to see where the honourable members opposite to whom I have referred stand and whether they accept this opportunity to support the signatories to the petitions which they presented.
Our criticism of the Government is not that increases have not been made. We are fully aware that when elections draw near the Government invariably makes small increases here and there in the field of social services. Our criticism is levelled at the Government for failing to make adequate increases. There is a vast difference between increases and adequate increases. For instance, simply to increase the age and invalid pension by 25c, $1 or $5 does not necessarily mean that the increase is adequate having regard to how much it costs for a person to live in reasonable circumstances. We say without fear of proper contradiction that the increases which this Government has made in social service benefits, not only in recent years but over several years, have never been adequate when measured against the cost of living. The Government’s failure to measure up to its responsibilities over the years and its failure to grant increases sufficient to meet the ever-increasing cost of living are aggravating the plight of pensioners and making it more difficult for them to live as normal respectable citizens. That pensions are not adequate and increases not sufficient must surely be obvious not only to members of the Labor Party and to pensioners but to everybody who takes an interest in the welfare of pensioners and social service recipients generally. Because this fact is so obvious and so real, so many people have attached their signatures to the petitions which I referred to earlier, calling on the Government to increase pensions to a reasonable level. Very few, if any, elderly or disabled people would protest so vigorously against the low rate of pensions if they were receiving sufficient to live on in proper and reasonable manner - if they could live as ordinary citizens. If the petitions contain signatures of people other than pensioners you can bet your life that those people are convinced, from their own experience of the circumstances of pensioners and from their observations of the way in which pensioners live, that pensioners are not receiving an adequate pension or a fair deal. It is a disgrace that this Government should ignore people who are prepared to present their opinions to this Parliament.
Our argument is that amounts being paid today in social service benefits are not sufficient. In some fields there has not been an increase for several years, it is futile and demonstrates lack of interest and responsibility simply to refer, as so many Government supporters do and as the Minister for Social Services did, to the situation that existed in 1949. Whether pensions or other benefits were sufficient or insufficient at that time does not help people today. I would not suggest for a moment that pensions or other payments were sufficient in 1949. Certainly they were not sufficient in 1959. In my book they have never been sufficient. They will not be sufficient in 1969 or 1979 if this Government is allowed to remain in office. Why, 1949 is almost 20 years ago. Surely any Government which has been continually in office for almost 20 years has had plenty of time and ample opportunity to correct any shortcomings or insufficiencies which it knew existed in 1949, if it had any intention or desire to do so. No-one can suggest thai this Government has done these things. No-one can suggest that it has any intention of doing so. Government supporters have always carefully avoided any argument about the plight of the pensioner who has no other income and who is completely dependent on his pension. Such people, whether they are single or married, are in an almost impossible position. They cannot live unless they receive handouts of food and clothing. Everyone knows this to be so. lt is shocking to see members of this
Parliament apparently content to sit back and do nothing for so many of our senior citizens. Unfortunately many people are not in the happy situation of having any income)-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr StewardOrder.’ The honourable member’s time has expired.
– lt has been suggested that when this Government came to office it was not aware of the insufficiency of benefits available to pensioners. This Government has a proud record of providing for pensioners, and particularly our elderly citizens. To suggest that nothing has been done is a complete fallacy. The Opposition has claimed that the Government has not taken cognisance of increases in the cost of living. We have had little in the way of documentary or factual evidence from honourable members opposite to establish that claim. Throughout its term of office the Government has recognised that during periods of rising prices pension rates must be increased, and it has increased those rates. The Government has recognised also that during periods of rising prices it must make adjustments to the means test so as to maintain the real value of the savings of the people. In the fulfilment of this desire the Government has progressively extended both the amount of the benefit and the range of entitlement so as not merely to maintain the value of pensions but also to preserve the real value of pensions in the income structure of the community. As real output per head of the population has risen pensioners have shared in the improving standards of living of the community.
If we compare the movements in the money incomes of pensioners with the movements in the consumer price index we find that the real position of pensioners has improved substantially over the years. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has already pointed out, in 1949 the age pension was $4.25. If the rate had been increased according to the consumer price index the age pension today would be $9.49. However, in accordance with the two principles I have outlined, of ensuring that the real value of the pension is maintained and that the position of the pensioner as a recipient of income has been maintained relative to other recipients of income, the Government has increased the pension so that today the base rate is $13 per week. Those who qualify for supplementary assistance receive in pension and supplementary assistance $15 per week.
There have been studies of the relative value and real value of the pension. If one studies a book ‘Social Security in Australia’ by T. H. Kewley one finds that in a table he demonstrates how the real value of the pension has been increased over the years. If one projects the figures forward from the year at which his table concluded one finds that the pattern is in the same direction and his comments are as correct today as they were when he wrote them. He said:
Since 1923 maximum pension rates have thus more than kept pace wilh rises in the cost of living as measured by movements in the retail price index. In fact. Uley have outstripped it. the distance between them becoming more marked during the post-war years. The index of real value of the basic wage has shown a similar trend. However, the long term rise has not been so steep. That is true also of the longer period starting from the time when the age pensions scheme came into force … the purchasing power of the pension, measured at 1963-64 prices, was worth 2.3 times as much during 1963-64 as it was during 1909-10.
This tendency of the real value of the pension to rise relative to the basic wage or minimum wage has continued to this day. Another writer, Ronald C. Gales, in an article entitled ‘Incomes for the Aged’ has commented:
The most striking impression to emerge is of the long-run increase in the maximum pension rate in both real and relative terms.
He has prepared figures which support this contention. So over the term of office of the present Government we have seen a positive plan whereby the real value of pensions has been maintained and improved. This is a record of which the Government is properly proud, and I am sure that it will do nothing in the future to impair that record. To raise this matter on an occasion such as this, in a session of the Parliament prior to a Budget session, will merely underline to the Government the importance of its reviewing the situation to ensure that at that time of the year when it considers what allowances are to be made through our social security programme these matters are considered and given their due weight.
The assessment of whether or not our pensions have maintained their value must be judged not merely by the monetary benefits paid; we must take into account also what are known as the fringe benefits of which there are two main categories. There is the category of fringe benefits which assist in providing those dependent upon social service payments with security of accommodation. Here the Government, through the imaginative Aged Persons Homes Act scheme, has provided finance which has enabled the building of accommodation sufficient to house more than 2% of persons of pensionable age. Indeed, in the State from which I come, accommodation built under this Act provides a home for 5.5% of those persons of pensionable age.
The Government has recognised also the special needs of the single pensioner with limited means who has to pay rent. Because he or she is not a home owner it has provided supplementary assistance to help these people. At present more than 94,000 people receive this supplementary assistance. This represents 14% of those receiving an age pension and 8% of those of pensionable age. in the other major field of special need that arises for people of pensionable age or those in receipt of pensions for other causes is the question of the cost of health. In this field the Government has, over the years, improved the measures which provide the pensioners with security in this regard. lt is very pleasing to have read in the Governor-General’s Speech that the provision of greater facilities for those with chronic illness is being considered. I am sure that the special Cabinet committee which is being set up will take into account the special needs of those groups among those in receipt of a pension and come up with a solution to provide those who suffer from the fear of insecurity, either as to accommodation or in questions of health, a means by which this fear may be removed. At the same time the basic pension must continue to provide them with an ever increasing real value on which they can sustain their lives-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr
Wilson), who has just resumed his seat, seem to take some sort of comfort from the amount of pension that was paid in 1949. If they want to go so far back, why not start comparing pensions with the rates paid by the Bruce-Page Government, the Scullin Government and the Lyons Government - right back to the days of federation. But that does not provide the pensioners with any extra money with which to buy essential commodities. The question to be asked in respect of social service and age pensions is this: Can the economy afford to pay more and do the pensioners deserve a higher pension? That is the question before the House - not what rate of pension was paid in 1949.
We have heard no mention of the point that in 1949 the Budget totalled about $1,000 million whereas today it amounts to almost $6,500 million. It is natural that the Budget would increase over the years and that the rate of pension would increase also. It is ridiculous to go back to 1949 to find a comparison for the age pension rate. I am sure that after the performance we have seen from the Minister this morning neither Richard Burton nor Elizabeth Taylor could possibly compete with him for an Academy Award.
There is no doubt about this. His exhibition showed it. He wants the Opposition to put forward constructive ideas that will benefit pensioners. I make a constructive suggestion that 1 know the Opposition will support: Let the Government introduce a supplementary Budget this session to increase pensions and we will support it. We all know when pensions will be increased - in the August immediately before an election. We know that the Government could not possibly face the Australian people if it did not increase pensions then.
The pension rate has not been adjusted since August 1967, despite the fact that the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures reveal that prices have increased by 5% since 1966-67 and are still increasing. Consequently, pensioners are asked to absorb price increases in their inadequate pensions. The honourable member for Sturt spoke about living in comfort on $13 a week. What complete rubbish. Why does be not try to live on the paltry sum of $13 a week? I refer honourable members to what the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said in 1967 when he was being quizzed on a television programme in Melbourne. He said that when it is a matter of touching pensions, it costs us of the order of $50m. Then he said that he had sympathy for the pensioners. What does sympathy get the pensioners? Does it get them a few extra bob a week with which to buy essential commodities that are constantly increasing in price? The last Budget provided for an increase of Si 68m in expenditure on defence, increasing that expenditure from $950m to $l,118m, yet the Treasurer cries about not being able to find $5 Om for pensioners. Incidentally, this statement was not made in an election year, but 12 months after an election. Of course, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) explained the Government’s policy as being similar to the policy that was pursued in Germany before the war, namely, guns before butter.
How ridiculous it was for the Treasurer to suggest that we could not find $50m for pensioners when almost every week he makes statements to the effect that our economy has never been sounder. If that is the position, what is there to stop the Government from introducing a supplementary Budget this session to give pensioners justice in their pension rates?
Let us examine unemployment and sickness benefits. Here we find the most scandalous situation ever permitted by a government. These benefits have not been adjusted since 1961 despite skyrocketing price increases during the last 7 years. At present a single person receives $8.25 a week. If he is married an additional $6 a week is paid for his wife and $1.50 for each child. Last Monday a married woman, aged between 45 and 50 years, with six children ranging in age from 15 years to 4£ years, and whose husband had a stroke recently, sought my help. An application had been lodged for the invalid pension, lt had been accepted but the family was awaiting the first cheque. In the meantime the family was receiving sickness benefits: It was getting $23.25 a week, which is not the equivalent of the amount received by a married pensioner couple without children. Admittedly it received child endowment of $9 a week. The total income was $32.25. When the invalid pension is received the husband will get $13 a week, the wife $6 a week and $1 .50 for each child, plus the $9 child endowment, giving a total income of about $37 a week. The man, his wife and six children have no other income and they will have to live on $37 a week. Yet the Government talks about being fair to the people in receipt of social service benefits. I have never known a more scandalous situation in my life.
Unemployment and sickness benefits have noi been adjusted since 1961. The Depart-, ment of Labour and National Service admits that several thousand people who are receiving unemployment benefit are virtually permanently in receipt of such benefit because they are not ill enough to qualify for an invalid pension and there is no light work available for them. A single person in such a position gets $8.25 a week. It is scandalous to expect anyone to exist on that amount. If a person is in poor physical condition, is aged between 50 and 65 years, is not 85% permanently physically incapacitated and cannot get light work, he has to exist on $8.25 a week. Does not the Minister agree that this pension rate should be adjusted after 7 years? Of course he does. He is nodding his head in agreement. Why has the rate not been adjusted? Is the Government taking advantage of the people in this category because they have no real value as voters and so need not be worried about? These rates must be adjusted, and adjusted immediately.
The Minister said that he wanted constructive suggestions. There is nothing to prevent the Government from introducing a supplementary Budget. The Minister is unfettered and if he does introduce a supplementary measure we will support it wholeheartedly. In 1967 the permissible income was adjusted. It had not been adjusted since 1954 and it had deteriorated in value. The Government eased the means test and suggested that the situation had been improved. However, in 1954 when the pension for a single person was $7 a week the allowable income was $7 a week. In other words the allowable income represented 100% of the pension. Today the pension for a single person is $13 a week and the allowable income $10, which represents only 77% of the pension. The allowable income for a married couple has deteriorated by 27% to 73% of the pension. This proves my claim that the value of the allowable income has deteriorated.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– No section of the community deserves more sympathy and consideration than those persons who are in need and those persons to whom the Department of Social Services gives its attention. Accordingly I was very pleased to hear my successor as Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) say at the opening of his contribution to this debate how he feels for these people and how he is concerned that .in his administration of the Department of Social Services he shall divorce politics from the whole subject and provide benefits which are suitably related to the needs of the people of this community. Having said that, may I add that it is deplorable that the Opposition, which has raised this matter should present it on a purely political basis. Members opposite see in the number of people who are receiving benefits - and they are considerable in number - not so much mouths to feed as people who might vote. It is far more essential for honourable members, and for those of us who are responsible for social welfare - as my successor in the portfolio now is - to be concerned with these people as individuals and not with issues just on political terms.
At the outset I should like to say that I feel that progressively over the years this Government has demonstrated just such a genuine concern for the people in need in the community. Certainly, a tremendous amount more needs to be done. We have consistently acknowledged this and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has again repeated it today. He said, quite rightly, that there are areas within the structure of benefits and the system of social security available that need to be examined. This is a continuing process and it will be a continuing process. No matter what we introduce this year we can be sure that next year there will need to be an examination of the structure, the content and amount of benefit that is available. I would suggest that this need will continue indefinitely.
Importantly, there are a couple of very notable things which have been achieved. First of all, there has been a progressive increase in the amount of benefits - an increase both in amount and in real value. My colleague has already forcibly and statistically demonstrated this to the House this morning. There has been a widening in the range of persons who receive the age pension. Although some people may consider figures should not be related to a particular year, honourable members will find that in 1949 there was something like 39% of persons of eligible age receiving a pension. Progressively over the years the range of entitlement has been broadened so that today about 54% of persons of eligible age receive the age pension. So we can see that this progression is continuing. Of course, it is not only the pension which is provided on the same basis as previously. For example, supplementary assistance is now being provided as a supplementary benefit to the original concept.
I think we have to take into account the increasing numbers of people in the Australian community who in the future will be able to provide for themselves through their contribution to superannuation, insurance and other types of annuity benefits. The Government recognises the advantages of this type of contribution. In the last Federal Budget, as honourable members will be aware, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) introduced, first of all, an extension of benefits by way of income tax concessions for persons of pensionable age. In addition he provided for an addition to the permissible taxation concession for contributions to superannuation funds. This has been designed specifically to enable people who today are looking ahead to their retirement to. make provision for themselves so that they can secure an income which perhaps might be relative to the amount they are earning at the time of retirement. All these factors have to be taken into account when one looks at and examines the social security system in Australia.
The percentage of persons receiving the age pension is increasing. I think we have to be aware that in the future it appears that the age structure of the Australian society will change. This is due to numerous causes. Perhaps the principal cause is the remarkable developments in medicine which have enabled people today to live, I understand, about 15 years longer than they would have lived half a century ago. This is the changing age structure of the population. It means that people are living longer and that those people who come on to a pension at the age of 65 have life expectancies considerably greater than used to be the case. We are taking these factors into account in the social services field in the formulating of future policies for the payment and distribution of social security benefits.
In the few minutes that are available to me I have not time to examine all the points that have been raised. The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) referred to the entitlement for unemployment and sickness benefits. These are two very real cases of need. In fact, both the unemployment benefit and the sickness benefit are intended as temporary benefits. They are provided for people who have no other income and who are entirely dependent upon receiving some financial assistance. Because they are entirely dependent, a benefit is provided. There are a number of long term benefits such as the invalid pension to which the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) referred. This benefit is designed to cater for a person who is permanently disabled. Sickness benefits and unemployment benefits are designed to cater for people with a temporary inability to work. As every member of this House is aware, the Commonwealth Government has, by way of grants in terms of section 96 of the Constitution, created employment in areas in Australia where, for example, there has been drought and where there has been not only a suspicion but a reality of unemployment. As a result, employment opportunities and jobs have been created at the going rate of pay. To me, this is the way in which the Government should and does realistically approach the problems of unemployment. In other words, the Government provides employment, paying for it through the State governments and local government authorities at the rate applicable to the job and work performed. I do not think it is sufficient just to look at these temporary benefits and say that is the be all and end all of what the Commonwealth does in that area.
Before I conclude I want to mention two other matters: The first is that I feel that one of the notable contributions that this Commonwealth Government has made in the field of social welfare has been its coordination of effort and co-operation with both the responsibilities and the social welfare work being undertaken by the State legislatures and the valuable work that is being done by charitable and religious bodies. Both State and voluntary organisations have done a tremendous amount in the State fields. The States still have principal responsibility for providing short term benefits. Where there are severe bushfires, for example, such as those which occurred in Tasmania, benefits have been provided by the State Government and the Commonwealth has reimbursed the State Government where the circumstances warrant it. This, of course, was the case in the Tasmanian bushfires. The State governments are all doing a great deal to supplement what is being done by the Commonwealth. They are doing it within a held that is their continuing responsibility. As I said before, charitable organisations are also doing a tremendous amount. I think they deserve to be complimented and supported as indeed they have been.
Finally, J would tike to compliment the Director-General and staff of the Department of Social Services for the tremendous job they have done during the time I was Minister of that department. I believe that each one of us should be proud of their sense of administrative responsibility and their genuine care and consideration for the pensioners of this community. They are doing and have done a tremendous job. I believe that under the hands of the new Minister for Social Services they will continue to advance the social security of this Government and this country so that each one of us can join in saying that a jolly good job has been done.
– The fact that no increase was provided in the last Budget for the age and invalid pensioners indicates, in my view, a callous disregard by this Government for those in the community with the greatest needs and the smallest means. The last increase in pensions was in the Budget of 1966. This was 18 months ago. It looks as though there will be no chance of the pension being increased till the next Budget which means that these pensioners will have to wait 2 years before the next increase in pensions. Since the time of the last increase prices have risen considerably. I draw attention to the consumer price index of lune 1966. Just prior to the 1966 Budget the index figure was 136.5. The last consumer price index available was that for December 1967. This showed that the index figure had jumped to 142.9 which simply means that there has been an increase in the cost of living of over 6%. I pose this question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who are both at the table: Would they agree that pensioners are now getting less purchasing power in their pension than the pensioner did in 1966? The Minister nods his head - he agrees that this is so. If he agrees that this is so should not he adopt the suggestion that was made by the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) and introduce a supplementary Budget to bring the pension up to a reasonable standard? What sort of a Government is it that can ignore the miserable circumstances of many thousands of pensioners during a period of rising prices?
The Minister for Shipping and Transport has pointed out how advances in medical science and knowledge have led to an improved standard of health, with the result that people are now living longer than they used to, and that as a consequence the proportion of aged people in the community is increasing. What we should be concerned about as a Parliament is the way in which these aged people are living. If thousands of our aged people, our invalids and our widows are living in poverty and are in dire straits then this is a reflection upon our society and upon the Government that allows such a situation to continue.
The Government claims that this is a prosperous country. It is when compared to many other countries. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) corrected the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) in a statement he made a few days ago in which he said that real wages, meaning wages considered in terms of purchasing power, had risen in 1966-67 at a rate in advance of the rate of increase in productivity. The Treasurer referred to average weekly earnings and pointed out that in the decade to 1966-67 real wages - defined as average weekly earnings - had risen by 2.6% per annum. I suggest to the Minister that if average weekly earnings are to be used as a yardstick to measure the purchasing power of wages and the prosperity of the community, then surely the same yardstick can be used to measure the purchasing power of pensions.
The former Minister for Social Services when answering a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 19th May 1967, gave some interesting figures relating the age pension to average weekly earnings from June 1947 to June 1966. These figures showed that in June 1947 the age pension represented 23.2% of average weekly earnings. I may say, incidentally, without wishing to bring politics into the argument, that that was under a Labor Government. In 1955, under a Liberal Government, the proportion reached its lowest level, when the age pension was 19.6% of average weekly earnings. In 1963 the proportion had increased to 21.1%. That was the last year in which all pensioners were receiving the same rate of pension. In other words, that was the year in which a change was made and married pensioners were given a pension at a rate different from that paid to single pensioners. In 1 966, the last year in the table, the standard rate pension had dropped so that it then represented a proportion of only 20.8%. The married rate, however, had dropped to 19.1%.
Average weekly earnings in September 1967 stood at $63.40. The standard rate pension was then at a new low of 20.5% of average weekly earnings, and the married rate pension was down to 18.5%. It is true that at times the pension is compared with the basic wage, but these days we cannot do this because the basic wage has been pegged since 1953. It has been adjusted occasionally but it never stabilised to a standard rate from 1953 until it was abolished in 1967. So we cannot very well make a comparison with the basic wage over those years. However, it is interesting to compare the pension with the minimum wage which now applies in all Commonwealth awards. The amount is now $37.55, which is paid to a labourer who was previously on the basic wage. When we compare the pension with the new minimum wage we find that the single pensioner gets a pension which represents 34.62% of that minimum wage, while the rate for a married pensioner is 31.29% of the minimum wage.
As I have said, however, I do not believe that this is a valid comparison. If we are living in what we claim to be a prosperous community, everybody is entitled to share in that prosperity, and so the comparison should be with average weekly earnings. That is the comparison I have made and which I believe is the valid one. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) had the colossal hide to state during his remarks that pensioners have shared in the increased prosperity of the country. I have shown that they have not shared in any increased prosperity because the proportion of average weekly earnings represented by their pensions has declined.
The present Minister for Social Services when he was on the Government back benches came out quite strongly for reforms in our social service structure, and we are anxiously waiting to see whether his performance will be in line with his promises. We will be only too pleased to co-operate with him in anything he wants to do to improve the position of pensioners. I would like to ask him whether he has anything in mind for an age or invalid pensioner’s wife who has not reached the age of 60 years. Labor’s policy provides for such a woman to get a full pension. Now she gets an allowance of $6 a week if her husband is an invalid or if he is an age pensioner permanently incapacitated. This means that an invalid pensioner and his dependent wife have to live on $19 a week instead of the full pension of $23.50.
Former ministers for social services have adopted the view - I am not saying that the present Minister has also adopted it - that a woman in these circumstances can go out and earn income at the allowable rate. But such a woman may have been out of industry for 20 years or more. Her husband may be so ill that she has to stay at home and look after him. This is one of the kinds of situations that I hope the Minister will scrutinise closely when he gets the opportunity.
About 2 years ago the Government made quite a song about the increase it made in the amount of allowable income. It set the figure then as $10 a week for a single pensioner and $17 for a married couple. This was the first increase in the allowable income since 1954, and the new maximum figures did not represent the value, in terms of purchasing power, that the $7 allowable income represented in 1954. Because of the increased cost of living over the last 2 years the purchasing power of the allowable income has been further reduced.
The new Minister suggested several times, from his former position on the back bench, that the means test should be abolished. We are anxiously waiting to see what will he his attitude towards this very important reform now that he is in a position to have some influence in this matter and to do something about it. I have received complaints in Western Australia during the last few weeks about workers who have just retired and who have received increases in their superannuation benefits; because of these increases, for which they have contributed over the years, their pensions have been reduced. The superannuation increases have caused the level of allowable income to rise. I suggest to the Minister that this is one very important matter that should be looked at.
The Labor Party has a definite policy in regard to the abolition of the means test. We believe it is a practical proposition over the period of the life of two parliaments. We intend to have our economic planning committee cost the proposition and outline a working programme for means test abolition. We believe in justice to the retired. These people are suffering when the standard of living of the community is, in actual fact, inclined to be progressing. The abolition of the means test would assist the many thousands of loyal public servants who have compulsorily contributed large amounts of money to superannuation funds. These people are being forced to pay twice. They have had to contribute to the National Welfare Fund through income tax, 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 according to their salary levels. This is another matter that I ask the Minister to scrutinise closely.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If there is one subject more than another on which Labor should not attack this Government’s record it is social services. This I shall clearly demonstrate. At the same time, lest anything I say be misrepresented - and I am conscious of the fact that I am chairman of the Government members social services committee - let me say that I believe there are many underprivileged people who are not receiving enough income to enable them to live in decency and with dignity. In saying this I am not saying anything different from what I have said many times before both inside the House and outside it. As a matter of fact I said this only 2 weeks ago in this House during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. This is not to say, however, that I believe that all persons receiving pensions are in need. Because of the very generous provisions of the means test which has been fixed by this Government, with respect both to income and to property, many people have been able to arrange their affairs in such a way as to qualify for a pension. I am not offering this as criticism; I am merely acknowledging a fact of life. I believe that this state of affairs will persist until we are finally able to abolish the means test. I advocate the abolition of the means test. This can be done only by the introduction of a contributory scheme, which I and many other members on this side of the House have consistently supported.
Having said that, let me make it perfectly clear that I do not agree with all the criticism that is inherent in the words of the motion which has been moved today by the Opposition and in which honourable members opposite seek to convey the impression that a Labor government would do much more for pensioners than this Government has done. In the light of its history this is sheer humbug. When one analyses the Labor Party’s record in social service legislation one sees that its claims are not borne out. I ask: Does a leopard change its spots? Perhaps the ALP does. In view of the fact that the ALP has frequently changed its foreign affairs policy, perhaps it is not too much to hope that it has had a change of heart in relation to the needs of pensioners. But all the evidence points to the fact that the ALP has two social service policies, one that it applies when it is in government and one that it applies when it is in opposition.
I suggest to pensioners that before accepting the ALP’s criticism of our policy at face value they should first examine its record.
In the past ALP speakers have endeavoured to relate the pension rate to the basic wage, but as I have been consistently able to prove that the rates paid by this Government represent a higher percentage of the basic wage than those paid by a Labor government, the ALP has switched its tactics and today it seeks to relate pensions to changes in the cost of living or the consumer price index. But let me tell the ALP that again it has backed a loser. Presumably the ALP regards the rates that it was paying to pensioners at the time it went out of office in 1949 as being satisfactory. If it does not think that they were satisfactory it should admit now that it was not giving the pensioners a fair deal. If we apply the change in the consumer price index to those rates the age and invalid pensioners would be receiving $9.49 a week at present. But in actual fact we are paying married pensioners $11.75 a week each and single pensioners $13 a week. If the previous Labor Government’s rates are to be accepted as reasonable then a class A widow would be paid $10.61 at present instead of the $18.50 that she is now receiving from this Government. This Government also pays an allowance for all children whereas the Labor Government paid an allowance for only the first child which was included in the widow’s pension.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting, I had been discussing the Opposition’s proposition that the pension rates fixed by Labor in 1949 were reasonable. I remind honourable members that at that time the Labor Government had been in office for 8 years and the war had been over for more than 4 years. Adjusted in accordance with the upward movement of the consumer price index, as suggested by Opposition members, the rate of pension then paid to the aged, the invalid and widows would still be substantially less than the rate being paid today. The most glaring example of the difference is shown by reference to the rate paid for ;i class A widow with one child. Labor paid $4.75 a week which, adjusted in accordance with movements of the consumer price index, would represent $10.61 a week today. This Liberal-Australian Country Party Government, however, pays such a widow $18.50 a week.
At least three Opposition speakers in this debate have criticised the Government for not having increased pension rates sines 1967 in spite of a rise in the cost of living since that year. I point out, firstly, that Labor did not increase pensions every year during its term of office. In spite of the fact that in the later years of its term inflation was accelerating at a much higher rate than applies now, in 1949, the Labor Government gave no increase in pensions. The consumer price index figure for the June 1966 quarter provided the basis on which pension rates were last adjusted in 1967, and this Government has been criticised for not adjusting pensions since, despite the rise in the index. Let me point out that between the June quarter of 1966 and the December quarter of 1967 - the last quarter for which statistics are available - the consumer price index rose 4.69%. The Labor Government last adjusted pension rates in October 1948, on the basis of the consumer price index figure for the June quarter of that year. Labor went out of office in December 1949, the latest figure then available being that for the September quarter of 1949. Between the June quarter of 1948 and the September quarter of 1949, the consumer price index rose, not by 4.69%, as in the recent period, but by 11.74%. Despite that rise, the Labor Government made no adjustment in pension rates. Yet honourable members opposite criticise the present Government for not adjusting pensions to take account of a rise in the consumer price index that was less than half as great. Secondly, it ought to be recognised that when pension rates are fixed, allowance is made for the fact that there will be increases in the cost of living. Unfortunately, this Government is suffering criticism because it has kept far ahead of the adjustments that would be required on the basis of the consumer price index formula that members of the Australian Labor Party suggest should be adopted.
Let me make the following valid comparisons between what Labor did when in office and what the present Government is doing. I do not propose to talk about pension rates, because the value of money has changed. As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said earlier, there are more pensioners today than there were when the Labor Government was in office. Why are there more pensioners today? There are more only because this Government has eased the means test in relation to both income and property. Today, I obtained some figures which indicate that at 30th June 1949 there were 819,852 women over 60 and men over 65 in the Australian community. Of these, 414,976 were in receipt of age, invalid and service pensions. The latest figures available are for 30th June 1967, and I have not been able to bring them right up to date. They show that at that date there were 1,222,000 women over 60 and men over 65 - that is, men and women of pensionable age - of whom 818,918 were receiving age, invalid and service persions. So this Government pays pensions to 67% of people of pensionable age, whereas the Labor Government paid pensions to only 50.6% of persons in that section of the community. The increase in the percentage is due to the fact that this Government has substantially eased the means test in relation to both income and assets. I point out also that the proportion of the total Budget provided by this Government for the National Welfare Fund is substantially greater than the proportion provided by Labor. So, according to any standard by which one cares to measure performance, the present Government’s record is very much better than anything that Labor ever thought of doing.
Finally, I would say that there is no doubt that many of the underprivileged sections of the community are due for a new deal. There is no doubt that they will receive it in the very near future at the hands of this Government. 1 suggest to pensioners, however, that if they wish to ensure this new deal, they continue to support this Liberal-Country Party Government which has regularly and consistently improved their position during its term of office.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 6th September 1967 I informed the House of the Government’s decision to limit appeals to the Privy Council from the High Court of Australia. The Bill that I now present to the House is designed to give effect to that decision. The brevity of the Bill belies its significance and importance. In this short measure, the Commonwealth Parliament is being asked to take an historic first step towards the establishment of the High Court as the final court of appeal for Australia. When the Constitution - to use its own description - created ‘a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia’, it was also provided that the Constitution itself did not impair Her Majesty’s prerogative right to grant special leave of appeal from the High Court to Her Majesty in Council. At the same time, this Parliament was given specific authority to make laws limiting the matters in which such leave of appeal might be asked. In the Government’s judgment, the time has clearly come when that legislative power should be exercised.
I do not pause to discuss or debate the reasons for the absence hitherto of any legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament limiting appeals to the Privy Council notwithstanding that quite a number of Commonwealth countries had limited appeals to the Judicial Committee or had abolished them altogether. All that is now part of history. What 1 am concerned to do is to give the House a picture of the scope of the proposed legislation it is now being asked to consider. There are but four clauses in the Bill. The principal operative provisions are contained in clause 3 which defines the matters in which leave to appeal from a decision of the High Court may be asked after the commencement of the legislation. The effect of the clause will be that leave may be asked to appeal from a decision of the High Court only in purely State matters as distinct from Federal or Territory matters. The Bill will not exclude applications for leave to appeal to the Privy Council from a decision of the High Court where the decision is one inrespect of a State matter. Nor will the Bill preclude leave being sought directly from a State Supreme Court in respect of such a State matter.
Special provision is made in sub-clause (2.) of clause 3 to save and protect existing judicial proceedings. The limitation on the right to seek leave to appeal to the Privy Council will not apply in the case of a decision given by the High Court in any proceeding that was commenced in a court before the commencement of the legislation. Provision to like effect was made by Canada when that country in 1949 abolished appeals to the Privy Council. The Government considers this to be a necessary provision for the purpose of protecting the existing interests of parties who may have initiated litigation, before the commencement of the Bill, with the intention of pursuing the matter, if necessary, to the point of seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council. Clause 4 will exclude appeals from Federal Courts, other than the High Court, and the Supreme Courts of the Territories. The clause does no more than give statutory effect to existing practice. In theory, leave might be sought to appeal from one of these courts to the Privy Council, but in practice there has never, so far as I am aware, been such a case. The clause is included for the sake of completeness.
Finally, a word about the commencement of the proposed new legislation. In accordance with constitutional requirements, the Bill will be reserved by the GovernorGeneral for Her Majesty’s pleasure. A further step, in the form of a Proclamation of the Governor-General, will be needed after Her Majesty’s assent has been made known. This will give time for any adjustments that the British authorities may themselves consider necessary to make to the Judicial Committee Rules.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bill marks an Important step in Australian judicial history. If is a tribute to, and it will still further enhance, the standing and prestige of the High Court of Australia. At the same time, I should not let this occasion pass without expressing the Government’s appreciation of the part that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has played since Federation in the Australian judicial system. There have indeed, over the years, been many notable contributions to the interpretation and working of our Commonwealth Constitution. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
The proposal is to construct a single storey steel framed brick building to house facilities for servicing of electronic, electrical and instrument equipment for RAN aircraft. The estimated cost is $530,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, being called on and tha consideration of the question that grievances be noted being continued until 4 o’clock p.m.
Daylight Saving - Coal Mining Industry - Development Bank - Repatriation - Telephone Services - Captain Cook Centenary - Homes for the Aged - Hospital Benefits - Medical Services - Trade with Japan - The Parliament - Australian Army
That grievances be noted.
– This afternoon I wish to raise the question of uniform daylight saving. Unfortunately time does not permit me to discuss who invented daylight saving. Most people give credit to an Englishman, William Willett, who wrote to every member of the British Parliament in 1905 pointing out how much more 40 million people could do and how much more they could enjoy if they got up an hour or two earlier each summer day.
I was, however, reminded the other day by a clergyman friend that daylight saving was perhaps first mentioned in the Bible where we find that God stopped the sun for the destruction of the Amorites
My purpose in rising this afternoon is to discuss a motion that Mr Alan Harper has placed on notice for the next meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. It is in these terms:
In view of the successful introduction of daylight saving in Tasmania, this Council advises the Minister that on behalf of the Australian Capital Territory he should approach his colleagues in the State governments with a view to arranging for the general introduction of daylight saving in the Australian Capital Territory and other eastern States.
I mention this so that I may give my support to Mr Harper’s move. The present Leader of the Government in another place exactly a fortnight ago, reiterated his personal* view that summer daylight saving in Australia would be very desirable but he said that, speaking as a member of the Government, he thought the most suitable way to have it considered was to submit it to the Premiers’ Conference. However, the Premier of Tasmania had already intimated last year that he would have uniform daylight saving listed for discussion at the next Premiers’ Conference. Moreover, it is to be remembered that in late 1944 the Premiers’ Conference, prompted, 1 would suggest, to a large extent by protests from the rural industries, decided unanimously not to continue daylight saving which had been introduced as a wartime measure under the National Security Act to save power. Subsequent moves to have it reintroduced failed until another crisis - this time a power crisis - enabled a colleague of mine in the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr John Steer, after 10 years of effort, to convince the Tasmanian Government to reintroduce it in October of last year.
Let us look at a little of the history of efforts to re-introduce daylight saving. In 1956 the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, said that he thought daylight saving should be re-introduced in Australia but regretted that he had no constitutional power in the matter. Similarly, his successor, Mr Holt, said in March 1967 in reply to a question from my honourable friend from Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) that his private view was that much of the Australian community, particularly those of its citizens who live in the thickly settled cities, would be advantaged by having more hours of daylight for their leisure. He pointed out, however, that when he put the question to the six State Premiers their answers were not encouraging. Of course, peace time power over our clocks does lie with the States, but in view of the experience in Tasmania and in view of other expressions of public opinion, which I hope to mention later, the Premiers of the eastern States should agree to re-introduce uniform daylight saving.
In Tasmania we have had Tasmanian summer time since 1st October 1967. It will end this Sunday, 31st March. I personally would favour ending it at the end of February, because of our Tasmanian summer. Our experience has been that it has many more advantages than just saving one-quarter of 1% of power. The extra hour of sunlight after work has proved so enjoyable that it looks as if it will become permanent. Let me look at some of the arguments that were advanced against daylight saving and destroy them if I can. Cows have not been upset by the change in their routine. The President of the Southern Dairymen’s Association said:
Some dairymen are still opposed to it, but most of them have come to accept it quite well. There are no insurmountable difficulties.
Business dealings have not been unduly upset. The Director of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce said:
Our members did have a communications problem for a while, but they have gol over it now and it is safe to say that daylight saving is having no adverse effects on business.
Shearing and harvesting have not been seriously upset. The Secretary of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation said that the argument about having to pay more overtime at harvest time was not valid. He added:
If they want to stick to the same number of hours they can start later and finish at the same Tasmanian knock-off time.
It is particularly interesting to note that the Australian Council of Retailers was so impressed by the Tasmanian experience that it advocated a referendum on daylight saving as the best way to achieve it politically. This could be the answer to
Premiers who have traditionally been chary about changing to daylight saving for fear of political repercussions. In this connection, 1 suggest they should not be overtimorous as Gallup Polls since 1946 have shown a steady increase in the support for daylight saving. The poll in December 1966 showed that six out of ten people in Australia favoured it. On the question of time, the Australian Capital Territory is really part of New South Wales. Mr Harper would get support for his move from the recent poll conducted mainly in New South Wales by the Sydney ‘Sun’. More than 40,000 replies were received by that newspaper, including petitions from factory workers. A majority of more than ten to one favoured introduction of daylight saving in New South Wales. As 1 have pointed out, the reintroduction of daylight saving has in the past been sidestepped by Prime Ministers and Premiers alike.
The matter must now be brought to a head. Public opinion polls show that there is sufficient support for at least a trial. Tasmania has shown the mainland States the light and commonsense should now prevail over prejudice and preconceptions which have been proved incorrect by Tasmanian experience. I give my wholehearted support to the move by Mr Harper in the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. I am glad that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) is now at the table. Perhaps some of my remarks will not go unnoticed. But I would hope that in the broader sense my remarks might penetrate to State Premiers who in the past have tended to duck shove on this issue, saying that unless New South Wales agrees Victoria will not be in it and what about South Australia and so on. I am concerned for the benefit of the eastern States. We have the Tasmanian experience to go on. I would think that commonsense would show all these States the benefits to be derived from summer daytime saving.
– This week Mr Justice Gallagher, of the Coal Industry Tribunal, warned that there would be a considerable number of retrenchments in the coal mining industry in southern Queensland. While this announcement is distressing to the mining industry in that area, especially in the Ipswich and West
Moreton fields, it cannot be said to be entirely unexpected. We have had a number of experiences over the past 5 years of retrenchments in this industry due to the development of mechanisation. We have noted that as time goes by the number of miners retrenched seems to grow. For instance, over the recent Christmas-New Year about 100 miners in the RosewoodIpswich fields were retrenched from the industry. One could not imagine a more heartless action than the dismissal of 100 workers at Christmas in an area where it is difficult to obtain alternative employment because all employment there is based essentially on the mining industry and the railways, both of which have not only reached saturation point in absorbing workers but are also in a period of decline, in which retrenchments are taking place., I repeat: One could not imagine a more heartless action than to dismiss at Christmas time, without prior notice short of a few days, a family man with family obligations.
I participated in a deputation on this matter to the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr Camm, shortly before Christmas. We were warned then that further retrenchments of which Mr Justice Gallagher spoke would take place in the mid-year period and that they would be. far more extensive than retrenchments which have already occurred. I stress that already 100 miners have been retrenched over the Christmas-New Year period. When the end of the financial year arrives there will be a re-assessment of orders. Some of the smaller pits will be losing orders and the loss will be directed to three or four large pits which are mechanised. Extensive retrenchment of miners will take place in the RosewoodIpswich area.
Rosewood is a township of about 2,500 people. There are no opportunities there for dismissed mine employees to obtain alternative employment. The city of Ipswich has problems in absorbing retrenched miners. A fair time elapses between the time dismissals take effect’ and the time when people are able to take up alternative employment. All sorts of other problems arise. These men are highly skilled as coal miners. In the past they have earned a fairly reasonable rate of income, although this has diminished somewhat due to mechanisation. But when they enter the outside work force they become unskilled workers, much as do defeated politicians, and they go on to a much lower scale of income. They then face all sorts of difficulties because they are family people with responsibilities. They probably have hire purchase commitments to meet. It is high time we had some action from the Federal Government. We certainly need some from the State Government, but in view of the fact that the Federal Government has control of the finances in this country, it is time we had some action from it in co-operation with those States where this problem of redundancy is developing, not only in the mining industry but in other industries, to devise a plan for the phasing out. of workers from one industry to another without loss of employment. We need a plan to ensure that employees, who, after all, have small financial resources, will not be greatly penalised by circumstances such as occurred with the closing down of the coal mine at Ogmore, where the ownership of houses suddenly represented a capital loss instead of a capital asset as it had in the past. Only coal miners live in the town. Suddenly no-one wanted homes in which to live because there was no industry. Overnight a house previously worth $8,000 became valueless. Many of these people are middle-aged or older. It is inconceivable that they should be able to start life again, buying a new house and meeting all sorts of commitments which they met in their early twenties and which they expected they would be rid of by the time they reached middle age, thus enabling them to have some enjoyment and comfort out of life.
The stark fact is not less coal and less income in the coal industry; rather it is the opposite. More coal is being produced, returning greater revenue than ever before, but far fewer coal miners are being used. Coal production in Queensland increased from 2.7 million tons in 1957 to 4.7 million tons in 1 966 but in the same period employment declined from 3,642 to 2,297. In spite of this, output per manshift has increased from 7.13 tons to 15.49 tons in the same period. So the coal owners who are fortunate enough to remain - there are several who will be forming a tight little oligopoly - will derive tremendous financial benefits. But several operators are closing down and many coal miners in southern Queensland will face retrenchment from the industry in the near future.
To illustrate the tremendous advances in output brought about my mechanisation I will give some production figures for the Box Flat colliery on the Ipswich field. In the year ended June 1954 the colliery produced 98,000 tons of coal, employing 100 mine workers. In the year ended June 1966 it produced almost 343,000 tons of coal, employing 120 workers. So production increased by about 350% but the work force increased by only 20% . In 1 957 there were 72 underground mines. This number had decreased in 1966 to 46 and there will be even fewer underground mines as time passes. It is anticipated that in the RosewoodIpswich field three mines will be operating near the Swanbank power house and possibly another three or four in the Redbank-Riverview-Goodna area around a power house which it is hoped will be developed there. This is all that will be left of the once numerous coal mines in operation on the West Moreton field. This is a critical development. We in this Federal Parliament have a responsibility to see that something is done to protect the interest of those workers in the industry who will be retrenched. The coal mine operators have been looked after rather generously.
Since its establishment in 1949 the Queensland Coal Board has advanced more than $4m to colliery owners for mechanisation and the installation of machinery, but not one cent has been advanced to develop a system of alternative employment in coalfield areas. There is no scheme for training retrenched miners to take their place in new industries so that they may be phased out of mining without loss of wages or employment. Retrenchments will have a serious effect on pensions of miners. The pension scheme for miners operates under a system of contributions from the mine owners and from employees. At present owners contribute $4.50 per week per employee and the employee contributes $1 a week. The State Government has contributed $35,000 to the fund. Due to the reduced number of workers in the industry the fund is becoming actuarily unsound as at present constructed. This means that the contribution per employee will have to be increased. The sum of Si a week is a fairly substantial amount to take from the pay packet of a man who is earning not more than $44 or $46 a week. Such a wage is not a great amount of money especially having regard to the arduous and dangerous nature of the work.
To increase this rate above $1 per week when a man has other commitments to meet from his wages would be grossly unfair. To increase the retiring age as has been suggested by the State Government is an easy way out of the problem, but it is one which falls unfairly upon the mine workers themselves. What the coal mining union and the retired mine workers seek is an excise on the production of coal. 1 have a letter from Mr Llewellyn, the Secretary of the Retired Mineworkers Association of Ipswich and district, in which he makes a plea for the Government to recognise that to excise a levy on the coal produced is the only fair way in which we can establish an actuarily sound miners’ pension scheme in Queensland. He said:
To the owner of a mine which has a low production, the present scheme represents a cost of approximately $0.40 per ton, scaling down to as low as Se or less, in the case of the Moura Mine, operated by the Theiss, Peabody, Mitsui Company.
In other words, the small operator meets the greatest cost because his output is low and his contribution to the scheme at a capital cost per unit of output is fairly high. For the bigger operators, such as those who operate on the Moura-Kianga fields and on the Blackwater fields the contribution to the scheme as a cost per unit of output would be much less per employee as a contribution to the fund. The only fair way is to apply this levy which will be met equitably by the big producers as well as the small producers.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise in this debate with the limited time available to me to be openly critical of the Commonwealth Development Bank and its handling of an application by an Australian company for financial assistance which it requires as a result of difficulties encountered quite directly as a result of the present drought. But in so criticising the Development Bank I should say at the outset that I do not direct my criticism to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) or to the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Sinclair) who on all occasions, when the particular company about which I shall be talking went to them or their departments with representations seeking financial assistance during their difficult financial period, were most co-operative. The policy of the Government is not to interfere directly in the Development Bank’s deliberations. My criticism is directed to the Bank itself and not to the Ministers or the Departments referred to.
The company to which I refer accepted the Government’s proposal to form international joint ventures with overseas capital for the purpose of exporting partly processed primary products. Honourable members may recall that this is the sort of venture about which the Prime Minister spoke last Monday when he exhorted Australian manufacturers to engage in these ventures in Asia. Two mills were built, one in Peru and the other in Malaysia, to complete the processing of packaged rolled oats. The Commonwealth Development Bank, after intensive research, decided that the future of such ventures was excellent and loaned the company $100,000. The Melbourne Harbour Trust spent a still larger amount in building silos at 23 Victoria Dock to facilitate handling. This was to enable the company to obtain reduced freights by shipping in bulk. The Peruvian and Malaysian governments gave the mills very satisfactory tariff protection. They particularly wanted these industries as it was food and also helped to create employment and facilitate their plans for industrial development. The Federal Government further assisted by subsidising a regular shipping service to South America. Both these markets became what is known as captive markets, that is, the company had secured an order to supply 100% of both these countries’ requirements, the total of which was 34,000 tons per annum of the finished product.
The mills abroad were built, the local mill extended, and operations were commenced in August 1967. It was found that 50,000 tons of Victorian and Riverina oats were required annually. This meant that the company was now - I emphasise this - the second largest mill in the world with a foreign currency intake estimated at $3m per annum. That for Australia was $3tn in export income. This is what the Federal Government apparently wants and what the Government apparently wanted at the time when the company decided to engage in this venture. But what happened? We are all conversant with and cognisant of the effects of the present drought. Perhaps many of us are too much aware of the effect of drought on primary producers and how necessary is the alleviation of their difficulties, but wc tend to forget about the difficulties of secondary industries also affected by drought. This is the worst drought ever experienced in South East Australia. Prices of oats jumped over 80%, but the company was forced to supply both the overseas mills as otherwise the protective tariffs would be cancelled by reason of its failure to supply 100% of the semiraw material and, once cancelled, the tariff protection would never be reimposed.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to state that this great Australian enterprise, the sort of activity which we request companies to enter, lauded internationally as an example for others to follow, looked as if it was to become a failure. The Department of Trade and Industry, aware of the development programme of the company, strongly supported a search for a solution through available Government machinery. The Treasury and the Prime Minister himself put forward propositions for the company to be afforded, if possible, every degree of assistance that the Commonwealth Development Bank could see its way clear to give. The Department of Trade and Industry envisaged that assistance should be forthcoming through the Commonwealth Development Bank. Having set out what Government policy is in encouraging industry, I remind the House that this Bank is a body with autonomous rights and, therefore, is not required to follow Government requests. In fact it refused on two occasions to assist. The Bank advised the company that - I quote from its letter:
I did not know what would be the strict definition of ‘in a banking sense’ so I took steps to contact the Assistant General Manager of the Commonwealth Development Bank. He was most courteous in replying to the approach I made. I asked him whether it was security alone that the Bank considered when dealing with these applications and he said: ‘No, not alone’ and added that there were other factors.
However, he would not tell me what these other factors were. One could assume from that banking terminology that the question of security is one aspect of the matter considered. I do not know what the other reasons were; they were not given to the company. But if it was a question of security it means that the Bank was not endeavouring to provide assistance in accordance with section 73 of the Commonwealth Banks Act, which states:
In determining whether or not finance shall be provided for a person, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations of that person becoming, or continuing to be, successful and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available in respect of that finance.
The company has accomplished everything that it promised to undertake. The present prospects in fact are far better than they appeared to be when the Commonwealth Development Bank first advanced $100,000 on nothing but a plan and a well prepared estimate of the future potential of the company.
The mill in Peru, after only 6 months of operation, shows a return of 34% on capital for that period and this is taking into account a non-recurring loss due to devaluation of the Peruvian currency. The Malaysian mill, although having had problems as a result of the Australian drought, is now operating successfully. The three mills are built in accordance with the highest and most modern standards. The board and management are well known and apparently successful businessmen whose well prepared plans appeared to be coming to fruition until the drought occurred.
In the short time left to me I wish to express the gravest concern and disappointment at the Government’s decision not to examine closely hardships caused by the British devaluation or to set up a special committee so that where hardship is proved the Government can provide assistance. But on the other hand, in a situation such as I have outlined today, where a disaster is the result of nature and is not man made, no such committee has been envisaged. No further study is being made and export income may be lost, never to be recuperated. The efforts of dedicated men may come to nought because of the negative attitude of those who should make the appropriate decisions. It appears as though the Commonwealth Development Bank opposes, or at least restricts, Government policy on exports as is shown in the case of this company.
I have not named the company. The directors of the company requested that I do so, but I prefer not to do so. Those who may follow my speech at a later date will know to which company I am referring. In conclusion, may I just say that I am gravely disappointed at the Bank’s attitude and gravely disappointed that the Bank refuses to support an application. Despite the fact that it was directly the result of the drought that the financial predicament occurred, the Bank was not prepared to give the company the financial assistance it desperately required.
– -At a time when repatriation pensions are very important and have been the subject of a recent debate in the Parliament, I raise a matter that 1 consider represents a grave injustice to an ex-serviceman. Last October when 1 was sitting in my office in Sydney a blind ex-serviceman was shown into my room. 1 can disclose his name, because he has given me permission to do so. He was Mr M. M. Medlyn, of 51 West Street, Petersham. He lodged an application for a war pension some considerable time ago when he was a resident in the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). I have submitted his Service number and other details to the Repatriation Department. On 24th October 1967 I wrote to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) as follows:
I have been approached by Mr M. M. Medlyn of 51 West Street, Petersham, who lodged an application for a war pension some time ago.
Briefly, these are the circumstances as mentioned to me. Mr Medlyn enlisted in 1942 in the AIF Combat Unit, Al. Due to his 100% physical condition and height, he was drafted into the Armoured Corps. In 1944 he was discharged medically unfit suffering from chronic inflammation of all sinuses and neurosis. In 1959 he suffered total blindness and at the present time is only in receipt of an invalid pension.
It is not my intention to go into details of the case in the course of this letter as I am enclosing photostat copies of all the documents relating to his case including a complete history of his enlistment, service and medical history, together with other relevant documents which would appear to substantiate his claim for a pension.
I have those documents in my possession now. My letter continued:
A study of these documents indicates that the Department has evidently refused to take responsibility for the operation that was performed by an American surgeon. The fact of the matter is, however, that Mr Medlyn is now totally blind following service in the Armed Forces.
You now have the position where a man in perfect physical condition at that time is now blind due, so it appears, to the incompetence of the operating surgeon. To my mind it appears the Department cannot evade the responsibility for his condition on these grounds.
As mentioned earlier in my letter, a record of his case is available from the photostat copies of correspondence enclosed. If the facts shown are correct - and it appears that it is difficult to question them - this is one of the most glaring cases of injustice to an ex-serviceman that has come to my notice. 1 believe it merits full and careful investigation and 1 submit it to you with the request that it be specially referred to the authorities concerned in order that justice might be done and a pension granted.
Subsequently I received a reply from Senator McKellar dated 2nd January 1968, in which he acknowledged my letter and referred to the complaint from which Mr Medlyn was suffering. He wrote:
Mr Medlyn has unsuccessfully pursued his claim in respect of the above disabilities to the final determining authority, a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. Once an appeal has been disallowed by a tribunal, the claim can only be reopened by the submission of further evidence which is material to and has a substantial bearing on the claim.
I therefore arranged for the statutory declaration by Mrs Medlyn and the medical certificates by Drs J. Woodburn and R. Black, which were attached to your representations, to bc submitted to the Repatriation Commission to determine whether they constituted evidence in the above sense. This was done, and on 20th December the Commission decided that they did not warrant a reopening of Mr Medlyn’s claim.
There was no further inquiry. I am told that the man has not been examined for years. The Commission has no idea of Mr Medlyn’s present condition. His claim has been dismissed on technical grounds, despite the fact that he is completely blind. The honourable member for Macarthur took this matter up in 1967. Mr Medlyn is now resident in my electorate and that is how he came to approach me. On 3 1 st August 1.967, Mr Medlyn wrote to Mr Bate as follows:
I refer to a letter addressed to you on 30th September 1966 by Repatriation Department. . . I cannot follow the Jack of logic, as this surgical error or negligence was performed on my person whilst serving as a soldier in the AIF.
Shortly after my discharge (unfit) from the AIF, I made a mistake by going direct to Macquarie Street specialists. I later realised 1 should have presented myself to Concord, but my eyesight was failing at that early stage, and 1 sought out the top men in the field.
I would be pleased if my case could bc looked into, as I have spent approximately 600 days in hospitals since discharge and have no assets whatsoever as a result of my afflictions. My wife and three sons have suffered privations beyond description, because of my lack of ability to provide.
At this moment he is in receipt of a blind pension. He receives nothing more. In July 1967 the lens of his left eye was removed by Mr Dean Butcher at the Sydney Eye Hospital. In September 1967 he had an acute secondary glaucoma. Hie drainage operation that was performed on him was not successful.
Mr Medlyn has submitted other detailed information in which he claims that his disability appears to be the result of the incompetence of the doctor who operated on him originally. Despite the fact that he was, at the time of his enlistment, a fine stamp of man, the Department refuses to accept any responsibility for the injury that has been done to him. I will not relate ail the details be has supplied, because some of the descriptions are somewhat sickening. For instance, after he was operated on the wound was left open and this resulted in subsequent damage. One telfer that he forwarded to me has written on it. the following:
This is an admission, a; an antral bucal fistula is nol a disease or a sickness, it is an unhealed, unstitched open wound as left by the American surgeon on the operating table. Without this there would not have been the secondary eye diseases following on.
In other words it boils down to the fact thai he was operated on by an American surgeon and the Government evidently refuses to accept responsibility for that surgeon’s action. Obviously the surgeon was not qualified, in the circumstances, to perform the operation. Mr Medlyn was a man of great physique. He has supplied complete details concerning his health since his discharge. He can get no satisfaction from the Repatriation Department or from the Repatriation Commission. If the case he has presented to me is correct - and it is fully documented - then in .my long experience in the Parliament I have never seen a worse case of injustice to an exserviceman.
He has been refused a war pension at a time when Australians are dying in Vietnam and the Returned Services League is appealing for better treatment and pensions for repatriated ex-servicemen. This must have an effect on our troops in Vietnam. A totally blind man who gave hid best years for his country, and who during the war was allocated to a unit where a person had to be perfectly fit, claims that an operation performed on him by a military doctor - I admit that the doctor was an American - was responsible for his ailment, but the Repatriation Commission will not admit responsibility. To my mind this is scandalous treatment of an ex-serviceman. I challenge honourable members to meet this man, to observe his physique, and to realise fully how his disability is affecting him. He must hobble around with a stick. He receives only the pension paid to a blind person. He is trying to rear children in a proper atmosphere, but because of his disability be is compelled to live in want and squalor, as it were. If honourable members saw him they would recognise the justice of my submission.
I do not know the grounds on which the repatriation tribunal reached its decision. If the doctor was not qualified or he was not the person who should have performed the operation, this cannot be regarded as the responsibility of Mr Medlyn. He told me that at the time of his discharge his condition was so bad that he had to have treatment. So far as I am aware he sought such treatment with the approval of the authorities. 1 now submit this case and ask the Minister to arrange at least for this man to be medically examined again. I ask, not only that an independent authority should peruse the details of his medical history and case but see the man and examine him. The very least that should be done for him at this stage is to arrange another medical examination and make a complete review of his case. One cannot deny the evidence: The man is blind. He will describe the nature of his ailment and explain why it affects his eye. I bring this to the notice of the Parliament not for any political reason, but because I believe it merits attention and justice. The person concerned is entitled to the full protection of the
Repatriation Act in view of the great disability he has suffered in giving service to his country. I submit this case to the Parliament in the hope that the Minister will have the case reopened in justice to the man and his family.
Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) (3.6]- The subject on which I want to speak this afternoon concerns the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have informed the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) that I will be speaking and I had hoped that he would be in the House. Nevertheless, I know that sometimes interviews hold Ministers in their offices and as the Minister is not here I am sure there is some reason for it. I made a statement to most of the papers in the Mallee electorate and I would like to read part of it to the House to let honourable members know what I am referring to. The statement as published reads:
Mr Winton Turnbull, M.H.R., has said, regarding the high cost of installations and conversion to automatic of rural telephone services, that almost continuous representations have been made to the Postmaster-General regarding the high cost to those subscribers living at a distance from the exchange.
He said that the Postmaster-General could not be held responsible for the high costs as it was his function to administer the Act and Regulations covering such operations.
We find that when the Postmaster-General’s Department is converting from manual to automatic services a new exchange is installed. The price a farmer pays for connection to an automatic service depends on where the automatic exchange is situated. If the automatic exchange is near a farmer’s house it is possible under the regulations that he would not have to pay anything at all for the service. If the exchange is within so many chains of the subscriber then the Postmaster-General’s Department pays all the cost. But if a farmer’s house is a long way - 6, 8, 10 miles or perhaps further - from the exchange then the cost multiplies and snowballs. I am told on good authority that in some cases the Postmaster-General’s Department is calling upon subscribers to pay up to $2,000 or more for the line to the new automatic exchange. These subscribers get the same service after installation as those near the exchange. The reverse would apply if the exchange were built near the subscriber who was some distance away. This situation is causing more concern than most things in the Mallee electorate. Of course, the main cause of concern in the electorate at the moment is the drought.
In the electorate people are reasonable in their outlook. They do at times disagree with me but they do it with courtesy. That is why it is a wonderful electorate to represent. But they are really disturbed about this. The people in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) are also disturbed about this state of affairs. The honourable member has been fighting this day and night for months and perhaps even for years. Of course, in many places his constituents are suffering the same as mine. We have cooperated to try to do what we can to assist these constituents to get their costs down.
The provision of telephone services helps to open up the country. We cannot expect people to go to far-flung places without any telephone communication. I have said in this House that telephones are much more important than television. After all, the people who go on to the land have families and have lo keep in touch with the town which in many cases is some miles away. These people may require medical services. We are always calling out for decentralisation. 1 said in a speech in the House on Tuesday that decentralisation is the catchcry of politicians. In my speech earlier this week I asked what was the good of calling for decentralisation. I pointed out that we had to do things that created conditions that would attract people to come out into the country. If this is not done then the people will drift to the cities.
I hope to have something done alum! the telephone situation, as does the honourable member for Wimmera. He and I have found that the local telephone managers, as they are called, at Ararat or Mildura or maybe at Bendigo say that this is a matter of policy and they are not able to deal wilh it. These men are excellent officers. They arc courteous and expert in their line. But what they say is true. They cannot deal with it. If you go to Mr Smith, the Director of Ports and Telegraphs in Melbourne, he will say the sams thing. If you go higher to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, he will say the same thing. Indeed, if we come into this House and sa” it to the Postmaster-General we get exactly the same answer. So it is a mailer for the
Cabinet with the Prime Minister and all the Ministers interested taking this up and putting it on an even keel. Something must be done if we are to maintain the population in country areas. That is what we are trying to do in every possible way.
I agree that the Postmaster-General is not responsible for this extra cost. But I believe that he can instigate a movement as a result of which something will be done. I believe different things could be done. I called for an independent inquiry, but I am not pushing that request. We could have an inquiry by, if you like, officers from another department but what do we want an inquiry for at all? Everyone knows this is an injustice. A railway is built to open up the country. Many railways in Australia do not pay; they have been built to open up new country. They continue, however, to function in that capacity. We do not ask the people who are going to use the railway to pay lor its construction. The cost of construction is paid out of general revenue. The people pay their part for the railway when they use it for travel or for the transport, of goods. We should not ask the man who wants a rural telephone line on his property to pay for the cost of construction because he will pay for it through the very high cost of trunk line calls which he often has to book. The automatic service is different from the manual service. The initial cost of the automatic service is high; but it is very necessary that we have it because the cost of calls is less in certain circumstances. Every primary producer in Victoria knows that if he rings up Melbourne on a manual telephone exchange in order to obtain some spare parts for a machine that has broken down he may be asked to wait a minute or so by the person on the other end while he makes a check. Before the agent in Melbourne comes back it inevitably happens that the girl on the exchange says: ‘Are you extending?’ Of course, the primary producer has to extend and pay for an additional 3 minutes. However, in the case of an automatic exchange, the subscriber only pays for the amount of time of the call. On an automatic phone, if the subscriber waits for 3 minutes without getting an answer and then has to extend, he would pay only for the extra time taken. This is a very vital matter.
I do not intend to answer the numerous interjections from honourable members who live in city electorates. People in these electorates are getting their telephones on free and can speak on them for as long as they like for a nominal figure. What I am saying is that the members of the Labor Party who are interjecting, including the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), should get behind me in this matter and realise that the country people must have telephone services. They should realise that this is in the best interests of the nation. It is in the best interest of decentralisation. It is something that will help to achieve uniformity of population throughout the country, and it is something that must receive serious attention.
I have one final word to say to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), who will recall that I wrote him a letter in which I set out my submissions and asked for his co-operation. 1 have not time now to read the letter, but I said in it: ‘I would appreciate your co-operation in my objective’ - which is to get a fair deal for my constituents, for the constituents of the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), who has been fighting this cause for a long time, and for telephone subscribers in rural areas all over Australia.
– I must say that it always surprises me to find that after 18 or 20 years of Liberal and Country Party Government in Australia, members on the Government side still have to raise in the Parliament matters such as that which we have heard the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) speaking about this afternoon, lt is particularly surprising because for a considerable part of that 18 or 20 years we have had PostmastersGeneral who have belonged to the Country Party. It seems to me that by this time the Government should know what it is about.
I do not propose to detain the House for any lengthy period. I rise to raise a question to which I have previously referred in this House. About six months ago I addressed a question to the late right honourable member for Higgins, the then Prime Minister, Mr Holt. I asked him what steps the Government proposed to take to commemorate properly the Cook bicentenary. Mr Holt said at that time that he would be looking into the question. Some time later I noticed a statement that a postage stamp would be issued. I have heard nothing more about what I suggest will be a momentous occasion, the bi-centenary of the single most important event in the history of Australia. This was not, of course, the only important event that has occurred in our history, but the fact is that after the discovery of the east coast of Australia by Lieutenant James Cook British settlement followed and everything that we know of the history of Australia came after that time.
I would like to remind the House that Lieutenant Cook sailed from Plymouth on 26th August 1768. His first sighting of the Australian coast, after having come via Tahiti and circumnavigated and mapped the coast of New Zealand, was at Point Hicks on 19th April 1770. This means that the Cook bi-centenary, so far as it affects Australia, commences on 19th April 1970. Cook landed near Botany Bay on 29th April 1770. He journeyed up the Queensland coast and was almost wrecked on the Barrier Reef on 11th June 1770. He landed at Endeavour River, careened and repaired HMS ‘Endeavour’ and took possession of the eastern seaboard of this continent at Possession Island on 22nd August 1770. Then, after negotiating the very difficult passage of Torres Strait, he went to Batavia and home to England.
I put it to the Government that these were very important events and that they should be properly commemorated. The planning for an appropriate commemoration cannot be done overnight. It will require considerable preparation, and I am suggesting that even the two years between now and the commencement of the bi-centenary will not be too much time in which to carry out all the necessary planning. Perhaps there should be some commemoration in this national capital of what was, as I have said before, the single most important event in our history. The National Library, shortly to go into its very fine new building, is fortunate to possess many of the original Cook documents, journals and maps, and perhaps the National Library could produce copies or facsimile editions of some of these journals and maps. Appropriate bocklets and-wall charts could be distributed and made available to schools throughout the Commonwealth. Instead of issuing just one postage stamp, which we do, after all, to commemorate fairly minor conferences and other events, the Postmaster-General might issue a complete set of postage stamps. Then perhaps there could be -r. official journey up the eastern coast of Autralia by a naval vessel, making landfalls at the various places named by Cook on the anniversaries of the dates on which he discovered those places. Perhaps the part of the Barrier Reef on which he came to grief might be excluded from this exercise.
Lieutenant Cook, later Captain Cook, was the world’s greatest navigator. His journey marked the first modern scientific exploration. He paved the way for British settlement in this country and for all the subsequent history of the Australia we know. I ask the Government to look sympathetically on this suggestion and to do something about it.
– I wish to speak about the grave situation that exists in connection with some - and 1 emphasise some - nursing homes and homes for the aged in New South Wales. I know that most homes are well run, with able, dedicated staffs, but there is a small minority of homes which is not, and these are the ones about which I wish to speak. There has recently been a mushroom growth of homes in New South Wales of a type which are known to the medical profession as chain store homes. They are bought and operated for profit alone, with no thought for the care and comfort of the patients, who are mostly aged people. Food is often cut down and staff often retrenched and profits boosted so that these homes can be sold once more to another adventurer. I believe that something should be done to check these places and ensure that patients get a better deal.
In some cases a nursing home is bought and a matron is placed in sole charge. The owner never comes near the place, and so he never hears the complaints of the inmates. The matron, who is, as I say, in sole charge, is often responsible for the conditions complained of. In these circumstances the owner never knows what is going on. I believe this problem could be overcome to a certain extent if the name and address of the owner were required to be printed on all letterheads, bills and the like. Then the owner would be known to and could be contacted by the families of the inmates. In both types of homes a closer check could be kept on internal operations, and also on the sales of the homes.
The second matter I wish to raise concerns hospital benefits. In my State and, no doubt, in the other States as well, there are certain hospitals which are approved by the Government and so can participate in the hospital benefits scheme, and there are others which are not so approved. If a patient is admitted to an approved hospital, benefits are payable through hospital benefits funds. But if in an emergency a doctor cannot get a patient into an approved hospital and he is admitted to a hospital which is not approved, then it seems to me to be reasonable that hospital benefits should be paid. I can tell the House of a constituent of mine who suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. Her doctor tried seven approved hospitals, but all of them were evidently full. In any case they refused to admit this patient and she had to be admitted to a hospital which was not approved. This was necessary in order to save her life. Hospital benefits were refused because she was not in an approved hospital. This is quite wrong and the law governing these situations should be amended.
Now I come to the third matter I wish to raise. I have been approached by a number of doctors in my electorate who claim they have to fill in too many forms in order to comply with Government regulations which, they say, are strangling the pensioner and repatriation medical services. They also claim that they are being forced to deny essential aid to some pensioners because they have been told that they have treated them too frequently. I know that this is not a new complaint, but I have been asked by doctors in my electorate to bring it before the notice of the House. I claim that this is simply punishing the many because of a lack of propriety on the part of the few. Some doctors - again I say only a small minority - have certainly abused these services, but it seems to me both cruel and absurd to punish the majority of conscientious doctors and suffering patients because of the shortcomings of the few mavericks in the profession.
I have had a look at the doctors’ complaints and have been amazed at the number of forms that doctors have to fill in under the pensioner and repatriation medical services. I suggest there is ample evidence to justify a complete revision of these services and of the prolific paper work that doctors are required to perform when giving treatment under these services.
– I want to speak briefly this afternoon about trade relations between Australia and Japan. The conflict between the Treasurer (Mr McMahon and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) reached boiling point at question time this morning when questions were asked about the attitudes of these two Ministers to Mr Maxwell Newton and his ideas. In answering a question the Treasurer expressed complete disagreement with the ruthless assessment of Mr Maxwell Newton given yesterday in an outburst by the Minister for Trade and Industry. When asked today whether Mr Newton, while on an overseas trip to Japan with the Treasurer, gave any evidence of being a Japanese secret agent, the Treasurer said no, thus contradicting the Minister for Trade. That completely contradicted what the Minister said yesterday in his attack on Mr Newton. Although this is not the main issue it is a very interesting political question and shows the vast differences between these two leaders on the Government side - the Leader of the Australian Country Party and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. The Opposition could make a lot of this and it will do so because this violent contradiction in attitudes could have serious consequences for the stability of Australia’s economy.
At the moment the Minister for Trade and Industry is standing on two stools in regard to his support of the automobile industry and the support from primary industry and these stools are slipping further and further apart as he tries to keep one foot on each. He is trying to allay the fears of the primary producers as to what would happen if Japan sought reprisals against us and reduced its imports of our primary products. At the same time he is trying to keep in the camp of the big car manufacturers of Australia. In my opinion he cannot satisfy both interests with his present tactics.
The Australian automobile industry is not languishing. It is one of the best organised and strongest industries in Australia. It employs a great number of people and is a vital unit in our economy. The facts and figures that I am about to give to the House make me wonder what all the fuss is about. Why does the Australian automobile industry want to cut down so drastically on Japanese cars? Japanese cars totalling 35,000 were imported last year. Admittedly that was an increase of 29% on the previous year, but the Ford Motor Company of Australia Pty Limited showed a profit before tax of over $12m in 1967 and its profit after tax was $9,690,590. Its profit in 1966 was under $lm. Therefore it increased its profit by nearly $9m in one year. Factory sales in 1967 were a record for the Ford Company. It sold 94,502 units last year compared with 76,483 units in 1966, an increase of 23% in one year. This does not look like a languishing company to me. The total sales of all cars and trucks in Australia in 1967 was 414,000, which was an increase of 9% on the previous year. Ford received 21.1% of the Australian car market last year.
In 1966 General Motors-Holden’s Pty Limited secured 37.8% of the new vehicle registrations in Australia and it paid $1 1.9m to its shareholders that year. This was an increase on the figure of $10m that was paid in the previous year. The average profit each year of GMH runs between $10m and $12m. These facts about the two biggest automobile manufacturers in Australia make me wonder why there is all of this concern.
The advice that I give to these two companies is that they should reduce the price of their product if they arc so concerned about Japanese competition. This could be done quite easily. Year after year GMH has been churning out a profit of around $10m but it will not reduce the price of its vehicle to the consumer. This would be the best answer I know to any Japanese competition. The Japanese manufacturers have a 45% tariff duty to overcome, but in spite of this they have increased their sales in Australia. This must be due to good workmanship and to a good car.
I think that the fears that the Japanese manufacturers will make great indentations into our automobile industry are quite groundless, even though the Department of Trade and Industry is conducting an inquiry at the moment on behalf of the Australian automobile manufacturers to examine the impact of Japanese vehicles. If we did anything drastic in this matter and Japan decided to take reprisals these reprisals could very well have grave effects on our primary producers who, after all, are still producing 70% of our total exports. I mention this fact because at the moment Japan is our best buyer of primary products, especially in regard to meat, cheese, wool, sugar and wheat. Many of our graziers are very concerned that Japan may take reprisals. A resolution was passed in Melbourne yesterday by the Victorian division of the Australian Primary Producers Union, condemning the Government’s threat to increase tariffs on imported Japanese motor vehicles. Mr R. Carty, of Lake Bolac, is reported in the ‘Sun’ this morning as having said:
As i. see it, the economy of this country is geared to the proliferation of the motor industry.
This threat to restrict further the entry of Japanese cars is a vicious suggestion.
The article continues, again referring to Mr Carty:
He said Australia could not afford to ‘prop up the local motor industry’ indefinitely.
How long are we expected to go on subsidising the colossal profits of General Motors and Ford?’ he said.
These are the profits that I have just outlined to the House. The article continues:
The meeting said that it was ‘incensed’ by the Federal Government’s threat to increase the present savage tariff on Japanese motor vehicles, as we are acutely aware of the incalculable benefits flowing to Australian primary industry through reciprocal trade between these two nations. lt said that if the Federal Government decided to change the tariff on Japanese vehicles it should be lowered.
I do not agree with that. I think that, with the present tariff levels, Japanese and Australian car manufacturers could learn to live together in this vicious, competitive world of car manufacturing.
But why should our own industry, which is so strongly entrenched and making such tremendous profits, be so afraid that it wants a special inquiry to try to alter the system that the Minister introduced in 1966 when he went against the Tariff Board’s recommendations and suggested the 95% Australian content scheme over a period of 5 years7
I think that the car manufacturers have largely themselves to blame for this problem, if it is a real problem. Motor transport is vital to Australia because of the size of this continent. No other people are slugged harder in transport costs than we are. The Labor Party’s policy is for a bigger and better automobile industry in Australia, but I do not believe that this should be accomplished at the expense of exports of our vital primary production to Japan. In 2 years, Japan’s share of the Australian market has risen from 8% to 11%. That is not a great increase. I think that under the present tariff of 45% and the 95% component plan Japan could keep its imports to around 11%, 12% or 13% of our market without greatly interfering with the stability of our industry. 1 do feel that our own industry should reduce the price of its vehicles in an honest endeavour to meet competition from Japan.
– I take the opportunity of this Grievance Day debate to mention several matters that I think are appropriate. The first matter relates to you, Mr Speaker. Without being offensive to you in any way, I wish to say that a number of people have commended me for introducing a type of dress reform into this Parliament. I assure you now, as I did in your office when you sent for me after 1 had worn a safari coat in this House, that I had no intention of downgrading this institution. I have been wearing the safari coat in my electorate during the oppressive weather that we have experienced in recent months. This kind of weather has occurred particularly in Canberra and I thought that the coat was appropriate to the existing climatic conditions here. That was the reason why I wore it in this chamber.
– It was more appropriate than a wig is.
– That could be so. I perspire freely and I am aware of the fact that heavy perspiration is a contributory cause of a very irritating disease, dermatitis, which, as all honourable members regret, has caused the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) to be absent from some sittings of the Parliament. Over-dressing, therefore, contributes to the onset of this complaint. I understand that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr
– Is not that a different coat?
– It is not the one that I wore the other day, but it is similar. I believe, Mr Speaker, that you ought to consider allowing clothing of this kind to be worn, particularly in oppressive weather such as we have experienced recently, so that honourable members might not develop a condition that would lead to their absence from the Parliament through illness. Dermatitis, as I have mentioned, results partly from wearing clothes that are not appropriate to the climatic conditions. I believe that safari coats such as the one I wore into the chamber should be recognised by you, Sir, as appropriate dress in this House in hot weather. Garments such as this are commonly worn overseas, especially in parts of Africa where the climate is not as hot and oppressive as it has been in Canberra and other parts of Australia in recent times. In Uganda and elsewhere in Africa, this kind of garment is worn by respected and responsible citizens in parliamentary chambers and in courts. We all know that courts insist on a high degree of dignity in the type of clothing that is worn. There may be some of the political principles adopted in African countries with which we do not agree, but I fail to see how we could disagree with their advanced views on appropriate dress in hot climates. I trust, Sir, that if I again find the weather as oppressive as it was on the day when I wore my safari coat in this chamber, you will take a more tolerant view of my actions. They will not be intended to reduce the standing of this institution, but rather to inspire a more advanced view as to what clothing should be worn by Australian men in hot weather. I hope that the wearing of more sensible attire in this institution would lead to some kind of dress reform.
– What were the mini skirts like in Africa?
– They are not as popular as safari jackets of the kind that I wore the other day.
The next matter that I want to mention is one that greatly concerns honourable members on this side of the chamber and me in particular, Mr Speaker. The Press has given considerable publicity to it and it was mentioned here this morning by the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). 1 refer to the actions of the military police in arresting an Australian Army officer immediately on his return from Vietnam after 18 months service. I am informed - I am taking steps to substantiate my information, which comes from a fairly reliable source - that the officer in question has been arrested for allegedly sending back to Australia from Vietnam classified material and also weapons and ammunition. I understand that he had brought back and previously had sent back, certain documents that substantiated the allegations that were made by Opposition members in this Parliament last week and the week before in relation to water torture atrocities in Vietnam. I am told that if these- documents, which are alleged to be classified material, are revealed to the community and the officer is permitted to make a statement to the people of Australia through the Press, it will be seen that some of these documents substantiate the view that water torture treatment of prisoners in Vietnam by Australian servicemen - something that we all would regret - is not confined to an isolated instance but that it was the general procedure of Australian soldiers to treat suspected members of the Vietcong or the National Liberation Front in this manner when captured. I understand that a lot of the documents bear this out. I would like the Minister for the Army or some other responsible member of the Government either to deny or to confirm that the actions of some Australian Army personnel in Vietnam would not be shown in a very favourable light by documents that were brought back to Australia by the officer for the purpose of preparing Press articles or writing a book, should he so wish, describing his experiences in Vietnam.
I am informed that some of the firearms or weapons that he is alleged to have sent back or brought back to Australia, which were mentioned this morning by the Minister for the Army, were only pistols that had been used by captured members of the National Liberation Front or the Vietcong. In World War I and World War II, it was the custom of the overwhelming majority of members of our defence forces in the battlefield to seek out souvenirs. Almost invariably, these were weapons which had been used by the enemy and which our servicemen brought home as personal souvenirs. If this were not so, Sir, it would be difficult to understand how so many enemy weapons from the two world wars could be displayed in the Australian War Memorial directly across Lake Burley Griffin from Parliament House. I believe that the possession by the officer in question of classified documents has been featured in an attempt to give spice to the allegations that he has committed a very serious offence, though he has done no more than any other soldier would dj in bringing back weapons as souvenirs in accordance with the usual practice of members of our Army, Navy and Air Force. Our servicemen brought back to Australia Japanese swords and pistols that they obtained when we were fighting the Japanese in World War II. Exactly the same sort of thing was done by our military personnel in World War I. Therefore, I trust that the most humane treatment will be meted out to this officer, who was prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice in fighting in one df the most filthy and most hated wars in the history of mankind.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 wish to make a brief personal explanation, Mr Speaker. Last week, when discussing the South Australian electoral pattern, I was guilty of misleading the House when 1 stated that the LiberalCountry Party Government in New South Wales had had to obtain 54% of the votes to defeat the previous Labor Government. I think the true figures of votes cast should be 48% and 44%. Secondly, when discussing Mr Steele Hall’s recommendations for a new distribution of boundaries in that State, I mentioned that the quota for a city electorate was 22,300 people. This should be 1 7,000. Thirdly, I accidentally mentioned that the percentage of votes cast for the Austraiian Labor Party in South Australia was 54. I find this is not so. The total percentage of votes cast for the Australian Labor Parly in South Australia was only 50.7. I appreciate the opportunity given to me to make this explanation and to give the accurate information. I would not like to mislead the House.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which 1 have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966- 1967 to operate on and from 6th January 1968. These amendments provide for reduced preferential rates for imports from less developed countries within the limits of existing annual quotas. The duty reductions follow the completion of procedures prescribed by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. They will restore to the less developed countries several tariff preferences which disappeared when the normal rates of duty on certain textile items were reduced on 6th January last as a result of the Government’s acceptance of recommendations by the Tariff Board. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 477), on motion by Mr Hasluck:
That the House take note of the following paper:
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 26 March 1968.
– It is a somewhat daunting task to resume a debate on international affairs after the first day has passed. In some respects it is like trying to stir cold porridge or to rekindle a fire that has become rather dim. But I shall do my best to reinject some life into the debate. I will address myself to two of the three topics that were dealt with by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) in his speech with such skill and thoroughness. The topics I will deal with are our attitude to the draft non-proliferation treaty and our present commitment in South Vietnam.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) did the House less than justice in the way he treated the proposed nonproliferation treaty. He disposed of it at page 457 of Hansard in less than fifty words. He dogmatically asserted the view that Australia should sign the proposed treaty and said that, if it were impossible to get a better treaty, the treaty should be signed as it is. Let me hasten to say, before I endeavour to examine the subject, that a very respectable case can be made out in favour of Australia signing the treaty. I am not here today to assert finally or dogmatically, or at all, at this stage the proposition that Australia should not sign the treaty. My view, which accords with that of the Minister - I find myself in pretty good company - is that we should look at the matter very carefully and approach the subject with caution and with a great number of reservations. I rather regret that the Leader of the Opposition, although he had unlimited time to range at large over the subject of international affairs, dealt so superficially with this very important question.
I further regret that in the course of dealing with it he demonstrated once again his distressing tendency to be a little careless with the facts. He made the charge against the Government that the French atomic tests in the Pacific could not have been perpetrated if Australian ports and airfields on the mainland and in New Guinea had not been made available to French aircraft and ships. He was either forgetful of or careless with the facts, or worse, when he made that charge. It is not without relevance to deal with these assertions, although they are in a sense on the periphery of the main subject. In making the allegation the Leader of the Opposition was seeking to inject some colour into a subject that should be dealt with, if any subject should, dispassionately and objectively. He was trying to create a situation in which the Government could be accused of not being sincere in its attitude towards non-proliferation and in- its deploring of and protesting against atomic tests in the Pacific. He wanted to create this situation no doubt so that he could lay a charge of insincerity against the Government if it should ultimately decide not to sign the proposed non-proliferation treaty. So his charges, although they are peripheral, are not without their own importance.
The point that he sought to make when he alleged that we had helped the French to perpetrate atomic tests in the Pacific was quite without substance. On 11th May 1966 he asked the Minister for External Affairs a question about the flight of a French Neptune military aircraft in April 1966 from France to the Pacific. The aircraft had landed at Port Moresby enroute. He asked how the Minister could reconcile the official approval of that flight plan, and the hospitality given to the aircraft at a time when the French were preparing for their tests, with the Government’s reported protests against continuing preparations by France for the tests. The fact was that the flight plan had to be approved. If it had not been approved, we would have put at jeopardy a number of delicate arrangements between the French and ourselves involving reciprocal landing rights in many parts of the world. The further fact that the Leader of the Opposition omitted to mention in his zealous search for the truth was that when the Government approved of that flight plan it extracted from the French authorities a firm undertaking that no fissile material would be carried aboard the aircraft in respect of which the landing approval was given.
Then the Leader of the Opposition, endeavouring once more to create a little false colour, asserted that we had neglected or refused to protest against French atomic tests in the Pacific. All this was done, I am quite certain, in an effort to put the Government that I support from this back bench in a false light. That is why it is important that these little sallies, in which the Leader of the Opposition indulges in his well known tendency to disregard the truth, should be met and should he dealt with. On 11th May 1966 the Minister for External Affairs, in his reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, stated that we did protest again and again to the French Government against the holding of atomic tests above the surface in the Pacific during 1966. The House can draw its own conclusions as to why the Leader of the Opposition, in this thoroughly superficial treatment of the matter of nonproliferation, did as he did the other night. The only conclusion to be drawn is not very favourable to him.
As I have said, while a perfectly respectable case may be mounted for Australian adherence to the non-proliferation treaty, I am by no means satisfied that that case is correct. It is a subject about which we must do a lot of thinking. The first point which has to be borne in mind when we consider whether Australia should adhere to the treaty is: It is a treaty which, if we become party to it, will bind us for 25 years unless we avail ourselves of an escape clause which, if we are to act honourably, can be availed of only in pretty extreme circumstances. So it is a 25-year programme. I suppose I am stating no more than a truism when I remind the House that in 25 years of history there can be many shifts in the balance of world power and in the alignment of world powers, as well as in the balance and alignment of regional powers. So we have to look into the future and carry out a very searching examination of numerous imponderables.
I would have thought that one of the first matters we should turn our minds to is the fact that there are in the Indo-Pacific region certain powers with whom we enjoy, and hope to continue to enjoy into the future and forever, cordial and close relations, but powers which have already developed a nuclear capacity - I do not say a capacity to launch weapons - far in excess of our own. I for my part would thin, that before we as a nation could commit ourselves to signing this treaty we would want to know clearly what is to be the attitude of those powers. I refer to India, Japan and Indonesia. India and Japan certainly have developed a nuclear capacity - I hasten to add, for peaceful purposes - which is far in advance of our own. 1 stress what must be obvious and what will be shared by everyone: I hope fervently for a continuation of the most cordial relations and a development of closer relations with each of those three powers. We must ask ourselves How might our interests be affected, looking forwards into a 25-year term, if those three powers or any one *ot them does not sign the treaty? My feeling, as at present advised, without having formed any firm conclusion, is that we would need to be pretty certain that each of those three powers proposed to sign the treaty before we could commit ourselves to signing it, because a lot can change in 25 years. One hopes that it will change for the better but one must fear the possibility that it may change for the worse. We do not want, without a great deal of consideration, to put it out of our power to have a real nuclear capacity if there is a real risk that other powers in the area could have one or would not be inhibited in obtaining one because of their omission to sign this treaty.
The next matter which I think should be mentioned in this context when one is adumbrating - I emphasise that I am adumbrating these considerations in the most tentative way - the reasons for and against signing the draft non-proliferation treaty is: The public of this country should not delude itself that by signing this treaty we are obtaining some additional guarantee which goes further or does more than any existing guarantee of our security. We are well protected - as well protected as we can be - by the ANZUS pact against a maverick nuclear attack. The point that has to be made if this subject is to be surveyed with objectivity and sanity is that the three nuclear powers who are proposing this treaty do not undertake in the draft declaration accompanying the draft of the proposed treaty to do anything more than they are bound, insofar as they are bound, to do under the Charter of the United Nations. We all know that the Charter of the United Nations is a fairly indefinite sort of document insofar as it purports to bind members of the United Nations, in particular members of the Security Council, to resist aggression by armed attack. I emphasise that the nuclear powers which are proposing this treaty do not - indeed they cannot - propose an obligation any wider in scope than the width of their present obligation under the United Nations Charter in relation to the defence against nuclear aggression of nonnuclear signatories to this proposed treaty.
Of course, the House will scarcely need reminding that the indefiniteness of the obligation under the Charter stems from the variable interpretation which nations bound by the Charter tend to put on the word aggression’, lt is a word which means what people wish it to mean on particular occasions and in particular contexts. One is reminded of Humpty-dumpty’s statement ta Alice that words meant to him exactly what he wanted them to mean. Circumstances alter cases. I think the history of the United Nations indicates that seldom - I can think of only one occasion - have members of the United Nations, in particular members of the Security Council, been of one mind as to whether aggression of such a character had been committed as to require armed resistance by those members. So we are not getting anything in the way of additional protection. We would not get anything more under this treaty, if we signed it, than we get under the ANZUS pact.
This is a matter about which one could talk for a long time, but I have only a little time left, so I will advert to one other important factor only. We should not think into the future without considering the position of mainland China and the influence which it will exert on the world and on regional affairs. We must plan for contingencies, even though at the time of planning or thinking they might seem to be quite remote or unlikely. One contingency which I feel that we must keep in mind is that within the next 25 years - indeed, perhaps quite soon; who knows; events can change so quickly - mainland China might emerge not only as a member of the United Nations but also as a member of the Security Council with a power of veto. Unless there is a two-Chinas solution to the present involved question of Chinese representation at the United Nations, mainland China might come in as a permanent member with a power of veto. Then we would face the situation that whatever value could be extracted - if value could be extracted - from the proposed guarantee of the signing powers who were also nuclear powers, we would have a permanent member who, one may venture to suggest, would not be a signatory to this proposed treaty but who would have a power of veto over any action that the guaranteeing or signing powers may wish to take. So it may well prove, when all the factors are weighed up, to be a very risky undertaking for Australia to be quick to sign this treaty. It may be a very risky undertaking for Australia to sign at all in the foreseeable future. What I urge therefore is caution, not haste. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition one day will give a reasoned argument for his view to the contrary.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would suggest that the whole policy of this Government has been caution rather than haste, and most often there has been inactivity when there ought to have been action. However, 1 do not want to follow the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) in the interesting prospects of China becoming a member of the United Nations. I believe that China should be a member of the United Nations because 1 do not think the United Nations can in any sense be regarded as a universal body if there is excluded from its membership more than one-quarter of the world’s population. The debate to a great extent so far has centred on the war in Vietnam, a war that nobody is winning. This afternoon I should like to explore some aspects of some battles for survival which are still capable of being won if sensible applications of economic assistance are given. I am at least fortified by the suggestion made on Tuesday evening by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) that we in Australia want to see the great powers cooperating together to the greatest extent possible to prevent major wars, to ease tensions and to help the economic development of the whole world. He went on further to give a catalogue of six objectives. He said:
Sixth, as a part of all the foregoing, Australia gives special weight to the economic element in international affairs.
A little later he said:
We believe that continued international action in the economic field is essential in tackling world problems.
Although he said that, there is very little evidence to suggest that the Australian Government is doing anything much, other than to exercise caution in the face of what are rather urgent circumstances. I suppose there is not much doubt in most people’s minds that Australia can be classified as an affluent society. Having recently had the opportunity to visit Indonesia, India and parts of Africa, I want to draw one or two comparisons between economic situations. But first I should like to put on record the very great courtesy that was extended to me wherever I went by officers of the Department of External Affairs. I believe that Australia is very well served in the Department of External Affairs, not only at the top ranks of its diplomats and high commissioners but also right through the whole structure of our representation.
I have suggested that Australia might be classified as an affluent society. Perhaps some comparison can be gleaned from the fact that our gross national product, as we describe it, in rounded figures is $25,000m per annum. Almost the same figure represents the gross national product of India. Of course the big difference between India and Australia, which both have gross national products in the region of $25,000m, is that Australia’s is shared among Hi million people whereas India’s has to provide the economic survival for 520 million people. That gives at least some comparator of the difference between affluence on the one hand and what might be thought to be survival on the other at something like one-fortieth or one-fiftieth of that amount per capita. But the other sort of parameter or regulator as to how money can be spent and as to how, in my view, money ought not to be spent, is that that same sum of $25,000m, which is close to $US30,00Om, is the annual expenditure by America alone in the Vietnam episode. There, at least, we see some kind of regulator or perspective. There is the same sum in Australia to support Iti million people as there is in India to support 520 million people, and one country alone is prepared to spend that amount each year to save 15 million people from the consequences of another 15 million people. Whether that can be regarded as a rational sort of expenditure I leave for the consideration of honourable members.
I want to go on to suggest that if the Minister and the Government - he speaks for his Government - believe in continued international action in the economic field, because it is essential to the tackling of world problems, their performance so far has been lamentable. I suppose that everybody was appalled in the last few weeks to see the battle that was going on over the price of gold and the buying and selling of gold. It was something that could only bc called money manipulation. Yet this is at a time when what the world wants is the sensible application of economic resources from those who have some abundance to those places where they perhaps can be properly used. I hope that the adoption of a two-tier gold price will lead to some abatement of this silly manipulation. I hope, too, that the solution that ultimately is found is not the restoration of the gold standard but the realisation that just as in our own banking system we can, by the proper application of credit, bring about economic development, so with a realistic policy can there be a better distribution of credit throughout the world, and in particular from the wealthier countries to the less fortunate countries. It is in that kind of context that 1 want to speak of the existing situation in Indonesia. 1 should think that honourable members on both sides of the House feel that Indonesia is a better prospect politically because Suharto and not Sukarno is in control. Wherever I have made this proposition, I have found general agreement with it. After all, one does not have to justify the governments that one finds in other countries, but one has to make reasonable arrangements with them. I draw to the attention of the House a rather interesting observation made by Professor C. E. Black of Princeton University in his book ‘The Dynamics of Modernisation’. Referring to international relations between developed and undeveloped countries, he writes:
The task of policy makers in the more advanced countries-
I suggest that Australia would like to be classed as a more advanced country - is not to prevent revolutions. This is no more possible than it is desirable. Their task is to guide these revolutions in a manner conducive both to successful development at a relatively modest human cost and to the maintenance of international order.
He also notes:
The central concern of policy is not to score a success in imposing institutions on new societies. It is rather to establish reasonable functional standards and maintain workable forms of encouragement and restraint that will serve to influence leadership in the direction of political, economic, and social development at an acceptable human cost.
I hope that when a solution is reached in Vietnam - and the sooner the better - some consideration will be given to trying to get social improvement at what is called reasonable human cost. In Indonesia at present, because of the inheritance over the last 10 or 12 years of its government, the absorptive capacity for economic assistance is, unfortunately, relatively limited. If, for argument’s sake, the horrible holocaust in Vietnam were suddenly stopped, the $25 billion of expenditure that America is incurring in Vietnam could not be transferred immediately into viable economic assistance in other parts. Countries have to be conditioned to receive economic aid with just the same sort of dedication and system as one undertakes military operations. What these countries lack, and what they need in order to improve their lot, is the development of natural resources. In my view Indonesia has natural resources in great abundance. A particular quality of government is needed, but 1 suggest that in Indonesia this aspect leaves a lot to be desired. There must be efficient public administration, and this is one of the greatest weaknesses in Indonesia at present, particularly outside the central city of Djakarta. There must be good means of transport. Indonesia lacks these facilities. Above all, there must be a high level of education and not only at the university level. Consideration must be given to technical education and, in the South East Asian countries, to what might be called agricultural extension. In ali these fields Australia is very well placed to give assistance of a significant kind.
In Indonesia, and to a similar extent in India and in the non-European parts of Africa, there is a great need for those within a country who know what the deficiencies of that country are somehow to be brought into relationship with those outside the country who are able to help. As I see it, this is one of the weakest links at present. There is too much of a tendency to say that we are doing well because we are giving away a certain proportion of our gross national product. I read a statement the other day attributed to Barbara Ward, who is known to most members. She posed the hypothetical situation of someone arriving at the gates of Heaven and on being asked by St Peter, before gaining admission: ‘Did you succour the needy, clothe the naked and feed the hungry?’ replies: ‘No, I did not, but I gave 3% of our gross national product’. I think that this is how some people salve their consciences. They think that if Sim is given away, it is a lot of money and will do a lot of good. It may do so if the Sim is followed by people of technical capacity and by resources that can be applied to the problems.
A social revolution could be wrought in Indonesia if a few people, with the same capacity as those in the ordnance section of the Australian Army were sent to Djakarta to look after the municipal transport system of Indonesia. This would not cost much and it would do a lot of good. Equally, if several countries combined to staff a technological institute at a fairly practical level in some part of Indonesia, a slow revolution could be wrought. The Americans have been criticised for mistakes that they have made in various parts of the world, but I pay a tribute to them for what they are doing in Indonesia. They could quite easily have got out of Indonesia because of their past treatment there, but the Americans have been prepared to stay and to try to provide technical knowhow and capital for certain purposes. They are attempting to increase the capacity of the fertiliser factory from 100,000 tons to 400,000 tons per annum. The amount of rooney required to achieve this increased production is $3m to $4m. Here again is a contrast in magnitude between expenditures for peaceful purposes and expenditures for warlike purposes - S25,000m a year in Vietnam, but difficulty in finding $3 to S4m for a project in Indonesia.
We could be more realistic in Australia. I applaud the Government for its recent decision to increase the amount of immediate short term assistance to be given to Indonesia, because the first problem that Indonesia must grapple with is feeding its population with sufficient rice. That is a short term proposition involving a considerable sum of money. Indonesia was importing 80,000 tons of rice a month which costs from $160m to $200m a year in foreign exchange. Indonesia has very little foreign exchange. Perhaps the increased production from the proposed fertiliser factory could be applied on the rice fields of Sumatra. Perhaps, if the fertiliser were used on different strains of rice the increased production could overcome the food problems of Indonesia in 2 or 3 years. The import savings would be of untold benefit to Indonesia’s economy. But it is the longer term propositions that have to be looked at. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) was prepared to look ahead for the next 15 to 20 years in regard to the nonproliferation treaty on nuclear weapons. I think it is more important to look ahead in the next 15 to 20 years to what the world’s population is likely to be and where the great pressures are going to be. One of the great pressures will be in Indonesia which we ought to regard as our nearest and, in time, our friendliest neighbour. The difficulty in Indonesia at the moment is one of population. The central island of Java is geographically an area half the size of Victoria. It covers 40,000 square miles and contains 75m people. There are too many people in Java at the moment and, comparatively, not enough in Sumatra. But the tendency is still for the population not to flow from Java to Sumatra because of the way economic development is taking place. These are the sort of changes that have to be wrought in the next 15 to 20 years.
The prospect of increased population in Indonesia ought to delight the Australian Country Party because on a long term basis, if that development takes place, they will have no problem whatever about the future of those in the dairy industry, whether or not they continue to produce butter. These are the sorts of perspectives that ought to be looked at in terms of the year 2000 or even in terms of the year 1980 when the population of Indonesia will be 150m. If we are successful in the next few years in keeping Indonesia politically viable - and we will be able to do this only if we assist it to develop economically - Indonesia may become as great a nation in that part of the world as Japan is in its area.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure the House will be grateful to my colleague the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), for his helpful statement to the House earlier in the week when he referred to three important matters. They were: the nonproliferation treaty, the Vietnamese war and the potential changes that could occur in the military situation in Malaysia and Singapore. I would leave the latter matter and will seek leave of the House later on in the session to deal with the issues when the tremendous amount of work at Service and official level preparing the grounds for Government decision, will have been further advanced.
The emergence from the eighteen nation Disarmament Committee of the draft treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is a matter of considerable import to a troubled world. Inevitably, there are matters upon which the prospective signatories will call for clarification, or even amendment, but the draft must nevertheless be regarded as a great diplomatic achievement. But my colleague does well to attract attention to some matters within the draft which will need the most careful study. It is proposed that the treaty should last for 25 years, subject to renewal thereafter. It is proposed that, within that time, any atomic activity, beginning with the recovery of raw materials and its processing, or its application for peaceful uses, will be under the scrutiny of international authority. Peaceful research is permitted, but in the atomic field, where so much that needs to be done in the peaceful application of atomic energy parallels activities and technologies essential for the production of nuclear weapons, there must be no lack of definition, no risk that we would sign away any of our essential rights. After all, 25 years, in terms of the present day speed of technological development is a very long time. None of us may say with any certainty what may come out of the developments in the atomic field in that time. I say no more about these matters, other than to indicate the closest possible Government study of the limitations and safeguards and our determination that our legitimate national interests will be preserved.
Yesterday and today, throughout the nation, editorial opinion supports this eminently sensible and responsible approach. It is only the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who takes leave to quarrel with the Government’s attitude. Indeed he accepts that the treaty is a most complex one, but is insistent that ‘Australia should sign it’. He goes further, and suggests: *If it is impossible to get a better treaty, then the treaty should be signed as it is.’ The most impecunious lawyer would hardly give that kind of advice to his client, and for the Leader of the Opposition - a potential Prime Minister at some distant date - to give this advice to the nation is no less than irresponsible. It is questionable whether the Opposition has given thought to the implications of the draft treaty. The Opposition’s disposition to sign any kind of treaty presents an attitude which would soon transform itself into opposition within the United Nations to any amendment, no matter how essential. Acceptance of the treaty, on a scale sufficiently wide to make it effective, might thereby be jeopardised. If this is a measure of the sense of responsibility and the skill in negotiations which the Leader of the Opposition would bring to the affairs of government, in a matter so vitally important, then the people of this country ought to commit the incident to memory against the next election.
The Leader of the Opposition then went on to expose his well known views on the war in Vietnam. He quoted with relish a 2 year old statement of the Minister for External Affairs, deploring the effects of the war but pointing out that ‘the critics have no solution of their own which can be accepted with honour and with prudence.’ Two years after that, the Opposition have still not put forward a solution which can be accepted with honour and with prudence. As time offers, I will say something about the propriety and prudence of their proposals. The honourable gentleman has never ceased to demand that Australia should have a policy of its own. These are his words. He refuses to accept that Australia’s policy can be compatible with that of the United States of America, which it is. His demand is, therefore, that we should have an entirely different policy to our allies. But at the first sign of even a minor difference with the United States, even where he alleges it untruthfully himself, he howls ‘sabotage’ of the peace effort. What, precisely, does he want?
Towards the end of last year in the Senate election campaign and again on Tuesday night, the Leader of the Opposition claimed that, in August last, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Arthur Goldberg, sought support for an American proposal to recognise the National Liberation Front as a party to any negotiations. The Leader of the Opposition charges that ‘Australia refused her support for this American proposal’. Let us analyse this. The facts are that, in the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 2nd November last, Ambassador Goldberg made public, for the first time, the terms of a draft resolution which he had discussed with other members of the Security Council in September. The matters before interested governments at that time were whether Vietnam would be discussed in the Security Council of the United Nations at all and whether the terms of the United States draft resolution was generally acceptable to friendly delegations. Australia did not oppose discussion in the United Nations, nor did it have any difficulty with the terms of the draft resolution. The draft resolution included no reference to the National Liberation Front’s participation in the discussions of the Security Council.
What Ambassador Goldberg did say to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was that under rule 39 of the Security Council the United States would not stand in the way of groups, including the National Liberation Front, being invited. But this referred to being invited to a meeting of the Security Council, and certainly it had nothing to do with the participation of the National Liberation Front in negotiations. Rule 39 of the Security Council allows that Council to invite groups of individuals whom it considers competent for the purpose to supply it with information or to give it assistance in examining matters within its competence. Ambassador Goldberg also said that the question of National Liberation Front participation in a Geneva-type conference, and the form it might take, would be matters for the members of the conference, and that the United States would accept the judgment of the members of any such conference.
It is quite clear that, in the event, the Security Council was unwilling to take up the Vietnam item, the question of inviting the National Liberation Front to participate in Security Council discussions under rule 39 did not arise, and Australia’s influence therefore was not used against the views put forward by Ambassador Goldberg, nor was Australia even called upon to form a judgment on the issue.
Those, Sir, are the facts. The Leader of the Opposition then went on to catalogue the political decisions which severely limit military activity - limitations designed to limit destruction and loss of life. The Leader of the Opposition complains that we have not added yet another limitation in the form of a cessation of bombing, which is the only thing that prevents the whole of North Vietnam from being added to the demilitarised zone, Laos and Cambodia as complete sanctuaries for North Vietnamese aggressors. The Leader of the Opposition insists that we no longer believe that we can bomb Hanoi to the conference table, or that we can break the morale of the North Vietnamese people, or raise the morale of the people of South Vietnam. In fact, none of these things was ever claimed for the bombing. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) corrects his Leader when he quotes Robert McNamara, who set out the aims of bombing as being to bolster the morale of South Vietnam, to slow and impede infiltration from North Vietnam and to emphasise to North Vietnam the big and continuing price to be paid for continued aggression. These were the aims when bombing was instituted; these are the aims now.
The Leader of the Opposition would substitute a holding war, but he has never yet been able to explain precisely what he means by that term. He demands peaceful development for the people of South Vietnam, while all around he sees the evidence that what has been done for the people of South Vietnam has been ruthlessly destroyed by the Vietcong and the regular invading troops of North Vietnam. The Leader of the Opposition insists that continuation of the bombing encourages Russia to maintain her support for Hanoi and that Russia is the only country now in a position to put pressure on Hanoi to negotiate. Hanoi would have been obliged to negotiate long since but for the tremendous material assistance given by Russia to support Communist expansion, by aggression, in South Bast Asia.
The Leader of the Opposition acknowledges that if the war goes on it will be because Russia does not put pressure on Hanoi to negotiate. Yet we hear no word from him of condemnation of Russia for her supply and encouragement, no acknowledgment from him of the obvious fact that
Russia and China, despite their alleged differences, are happy to see the war continue in what is, in fact, a Communist versus free world confrontation. Russia’s only stake is to preserve the right of North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam by terrorism, subversion and guerrilla warfare, backed by the force that apparently only Russia can supply. The Labor Party cannot deny that it supports this situation.
It is timely to recall the words of Professor Arndt of the Australian National University who, in a thoughtful article 2 years ago, said:
The point I now want to stress is that it is primarily, if not wholly, because on balance they want Communism to win in Vietnam that all the Government’s most active critics, and in particular the leaders of the ALP Left, like Calwell and Cairns, oppose the present policy.
With minor modifications for the change in management of the Labor Party, that statement is still valid.
The Leader of the Opposition makes great play of the fact that the Catholic bishops of South Vietnam have called for negotiations. I have no quarrel with that, but why does he not equally accept the policies of the democratically elected government of South Vietnam, which will have no truck with the National Liberation Front? The Labor Party wants negotiations which must inevitably result in a coalition government which would include the National Liberation Front. The first fruits of this kind of settlement would be the end of democratically elected government in South Vietnam. It would leave the Communist infra-structure in South Vietnam intact and the Vietcong still armed but unrecognised. Short of a military victory, this is the ideal solution for the Communists of North Vietnam, who would immediately begin the business of dismantling what was left of democratic government in the South. This is a well trodden path to Communist political power.
The Opposition claims that the Tet offensive proves that allied policies are wrong. The claim is unproven, but there is something to be learned from the Tet offensive, something that we will do well to keep in mind for the future. The circumstances are too easily forgotten. Tet is a sacred festival in Vietnam. It was the North Vietnamese who offered the truce, well knowing that would encourage some dispersal of Soufi Vietnamese military forces. While the North was offering the security of a truce, trie Government of the North was actively deploying the forces to break it. But these are the people with whom we are now invited to negotiate. What confidence could we have in the integrity of any arrangements made with people whose pledged word means nothing at all? The war would never be so dangerous as it would be if we went to negotiations without being able to negotiate from a position of military strength.
It is quite clear that the Communist Tet offensive was designed to destroy the Government of South Vietnam. It singularly failed. The Communists expected a popular uprising of the people in their support. There was no uprising. The Communists expected the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to lay down their arms. They did not. Indeed the record is that they fought magnificently, despite the difficulties and disorganisation imposed upon them by the broken pledge of the Government of North Vietnam. Communist troops who did such damage in Saigon and elsewhere had no plans for withdrawal. They expected they would be able to stay. In fact they were driven off with heavy casualties.
No-one will deny the psychological victory of the Communists, or the shattered security that they left behind, or the destruction and setback of the revolutionary development programme in South Vietnam, but this was but a stage in a long push to victory. The Leader of the Opposition himself acknowledges that the United States cannot be dislodged by any military effort which either the Vietcong or the Government of North Vietnam is capable of mounting. Yet because there is a reverse the Labor Party wants to give up and get out. Where would we be now if Britain had given up when her cities were obliterated, her communications smashed and her factories out of action, and her forces reeling back in disarray from the Continent? That was a battle against aggression in which we thought it worth while to go on. The conflict in Vietnam is no less a battle against aggression, and it is equally worth while going on.
Finally, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition accuses senior members of this Government of having formed their concepts of foreign policy at the time of Stalin and the cold war in Europe. He charges that we have made no attempt to change these stale ideas. Does the honourable gentleman forget that it was the cold war, fought not militarily but politically, by subversion and trickery, which laid half the people of Europe under the domination of Communism, from which they are still struggling to escape? Does he forget that Russian Communism continues aggressively to expand its authority and influence in the Middle East and elsewhere, or that it is the Communist veto in the United Nations which so often paralyses the good intentions of that institution? And does he overlook that what he is pleased to call the ‘disintegration of the monolithic Communist world’ has thrown up a new aggressive power in Asia; a power which today backs, morally and physically, the’ aggression by North Vietnam; a power which has stated in the clearest possible terms that its aim is worldwide aggression, political if possible but military if necessary; and a power which continues to extend its subversive influences extensively throughout the underdeveloped nations of the world.
We have been debating today a statement on external affairs. The subject is vital to Australia’s future. The House is entitled to wonder when the Labor Party may be persuaded to give up its day to day politics and devote itself to long term concern for the future security and growth of this nation.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has made his usual speech, jibing at the Australian Labor Party about how it would withdraw troops from Vietnam. Some day the honourable gentleman will realise that he is Minister for Defence and that what the people would like to hear from him if he believes the war is justified is how he proposes to win it? This happens to be his duty as Minister for Defence, but not one speech that he has ever made gives the slightest indication that he has any idea of where his military policy is leading or how he proposes to win the war.
The Tet offensive of the Vietcong has produced a change in the thinking of the Government. We are no longer, as in the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) of last October, steadily winning the war’ in Vietnam. We are facing ‘a new and anxious situation testing to the full our resolution’. But there is not just a change in the military situation. There has been a steady change in the Government’s analysis of the nature of the war. m April 1965 Sir Robert Menzies was sticking to the story that we were in reality at war with China. He said:
The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia … It must bc seen us part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The Government no longer claims that we are striking blows at China. If we were, no doubt China would have occasion to regret it. China has no occasion to regret Western involvement in Vietnam and he would be a fool who contended that it had. The involvement of 500,000 American troops in a morass, alienating the sympathies of a large part of Europe and Asia, involved in bloody conflict with no Chinese involvement, is no blow at China at all. Rather it leaves her able to wait for changes produced by exhaustion.
The Minister’s speeches have from time to time dealt with the changed military situation in Vietnam before and after the events in the Tet offensive. But his speeches flinch from facing the question: Is the changed military situation the product of a change in allegiance in South Vietnam? Who were the people who suddenly declared themselves and attacked in twenty-two cities from within? They were not observed to be moving to attack across the countryside. While the focus of attention was on whether or not the United States should bomb North Vietnam, the United States was in fact manoeuvred into blasting from the air whole suburbs of cities it held, including Saigon.
The new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has come at last to the simple truth. We are not really fighting China, as Menzies contended. We are not there because of South Vietnamese appeals, as Holt contended. We are there because the United States is there. If the United States left we would leave. Quite clearly the United States elections could revolutionise Australia’s foreign policy. But
Kennedy, Nixon and McCarthy are at the moment in the realm of speculation. South Vietnam is being fought for between President Johnson and Ho Chi Minh, and both operate on considerations which have nothing to do with the people of South Vietnam, or, at the most, only as a secondary consideration. On 27th February, President Johnson, speaking in Dallas, said that the Tet offensive had produced a ‘turning point’ in the war from which there could be *no retreat’. He said that any weakening of the American will would ‘encourage the enemy and prolong the war’. On 29th February he said:
No American President ever lost a war, and I’ll be damned if I’ll be the first.’
The Tet offensive raised the question of the credibility of the information on which the United States acts. I propose to come to this question of credibility later. The fundamental nature of the conflict is between Ho Chi Minh’s doctrine, which is Maoist, that the people of South Vietnam must have a violent revolutionary experience, and Johnson’s doctrine that nobody can successfully defy the power of the United States. Both claim to be rescuing the people of South Vietnam; both have motives which have nothing to do with the needs of the people of Vietnam, and the people of South Vietnam are being crushed between the two.
Ho Chi Minh has possibilities of a parliamentary victory in South Vietnam. Because the Catholic candidates in the South Vietnamese election were well organised they were able to win 50% of the seats with 15% of the votes. I have not met anybody who knows the Vietnamese situation who would contend that the National Liberation Front would get less than 30% or 35% of the votes were its candidates allowed to stand and that if it were equally well organised it could command a parliamentary majority. There is no doubt whatever that if the Government of North Vietnam stopped all the fighting and appealed to the United Nations to have absolutely free elections and asked for the supervision of these elections by the United Nations, it would have a very good chance of a parliamentary majority in South Vietnam.
But that is not its philosophy. It does not desire to obtain power by those means. Its doctrine is that people must be forced into having a revolutionary experience. Therefore, whatever parliamentary possibilities the North Vietnamese Government has, and they would be reasonably good, there is no prospect of bringing the war to an end. The United States military doctrine now emphasises that the allies are killing many more Vietcong and northerners than the enemy are killing members of ARVIN - the Army of the Republic of Vietnam - and their allies. This is in fact acceptance of Giap’s war of attrition, which Giap says can be maintained for 15 years. Only an invasion of the north might bring the war to an end. But this might well unify China and the Soviet Union and it might produce a world war. To permit the Vietnam war to turn into a world war would be final proof of great power insanity.
How credible is the information on which the Government acts? I speak not only of information from military intelligence but of all information on major issues. Defence is the servant of foreign policy but the preTet assessments of South Vietnam and the alleged and doubtful incidents of the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, which became the casus belli in Vietnam, show very clearly that defence is running foreign policy and that it is high time the armed services were required to have the same standards of information as that required of the civil service. But it is not only the Services. It is the. quality of great power’ information accepted by the Australian Government uncritically.
Sir Robert Menzies in his memoirs ‘Afternoon Light’ says that he has no knowledge of an arrangement in 1956 between Britain, France and Israel for Israel to attack Egypt to give Britain and France an excuse for intervention. When Dr Evatt suggested such collusion his suggestion was characterised as ‘dastardly’. Yet the British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs at the time, Anthony Nutting, records that Eden, Mollet, General Challes and Nutting met at Chequers for just such an arrangement. Menzies’ policy, therefore, was based on misinformation. I propose to deal with United States information in a moment. Before I do, I invite the House to note that in the ‘Voyager’ affair, in the VIP aircraft affair and in the alleged water torture case, it is clear that a series of civilian Ministers in this country were misinformed and that only with extreme reluctance did the Service chiefs permit inquiries into what they regarded as their private domain. The Gulf of Tonkin affair, when Menzies seized the chance to treat this House to his sonorous and thundering indignation, is one of the worst cases in modern history of a Service initiative in foreign policy producing a major intensification of a war on doubtful information. [ remind the House that on 2nd and 4th August 1964, the United States destroyers Maddox’ and ‘Turner Joy’ were allegedly attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats and that within 12 hours the President of the United States had ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, Congress had passed resolutions authorising ‘all necessary measures’ and Under-Secretary of State Katzenbach had characterised these measures as ‘a functional equivalent of a declaration of war’. The man who was captain of the ‘Maddox’ at the time has just published a statement that be was mistaken in thinking that his ship was under continuous torpedo attack. An account of his statement reads:
While the first two sonar reports might well have been enemy torpedoes, after that ‘1 felt like I’d more or less been tricked or something by myself. Subsequent sonar reports . . . were simply sounds of the ship’s own propeller being reflected by its rudder. AH subsequent sonar reports ‘resulted from our putting our rudder over’. … ‘It was our propeller … we were manoeuvring and we were getting this effect from our rudder.’
Lieutenant White, who had been on one of the vessels that went to the assistance of the two American vessels after the radio signal had been sent, said this:
In August 1964 I was serving as a commissioned naval officer aboard the USS ‘Pine Island’ in the Pacific. ‘Pine Island’ was the first US ship to enter the war zone in response to the ‘attack’ upon the destroyers ‘Maddox’ and “Turner Joy’. I recall clearly the confusing radio messages sent at that time by the destroyers - confusing because the destroyers themselves were not certain they were being attacked. Granted that some North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats were in the area and used harassing manoeuvres, the question is this: Did they actually fire shells or torpedoes at US warships? The answer is no.
I learned this by speaking with the chief sonarman of the ‘Maddox’ who was in the sonar room during the ‘attack’.
That is the so-called attack -
He told me that his evaluation of the sonarscope picture was negative, meaning that no torpedoes were fired through the water, at the ship or otherwise. And he also said that he consistently reported this to the commanding officer during the ‘attack’. My naval experience as an antisubmarine warfare officer makes it clear that a chief sonarman’s judgment in such a situation is more reliable than that of anyone else on the ship including the commanding officer. No-one is in a better position to know than the chief, and in this case his judgment was that there was no attack.
Yet the Pentagon reported to the President that North Vietnam had attacked us, and the President reported it to Congress. Why? Was it simple misunderstanding, or a deliberate attempt to test our position in Asia? Whatever the reason, in a moment of panic, based on false information, the President was given unprecedented powers which today enable him to conduct an undeclared war involving over half a million men and costing billions of dollars . . .
I remind the House of the Distant Early Warning Line, or DEW Line, situation that developed in the north of Canada, when the warning system recorded on the radar screens what was considered to be an approaching Russian air fleet. This was accepted and mobilisation began immediately and went on until a Canadian Air Marshal caused another evaluation to be made. The image on the radar screens was the result of a trick situation caused by a certain consequence of the rising of the moon. But nothing is more certain than that, if thousands of rockets had been launched in retaliation, we would have gone on swearing that an aircraft attack had been under way. I am not deriding anybody’s mistakes in these matters, but I do say that it is becoming increasingly important to take a look at the quality of information coming from the Services. After our recent experiences here, we need to ask whether instant honesty to a civilian Minister is what we get from the Service chiefs or whether they regard a civilian Minister as merely an interfering civilian probing into a private domain.
It is the assessment of the situation in Vietnam itself that leaves something to be desired in the way of a change in the Government’s thinking. We remember very well that Lord Casey came back from Vietnam at a stage when the Government’s policy was to support the French, and told us that the French were about to smash the Reds at Dien Bien Phu - the Reds including all the people who are now in the South Vietnamese Government. I have not any doubt that if the United States had recently launched 50,000 troops into Indonesia at the stage when it was very close to a Communist takeover, instead of leaving the situation to be dealt with by the people of Indonesia themselves, we would have had the complications of people wondering, as they did in Vietnam, whether they should support the Europeans or whether, on a national basis, they should expel the foreigner. This was the sort of problem with which Ngo Dinh Diem and all sorts of other people were presented as long as this Government supported France’s attempt to restore its authority in Vietnam. Afterwards, we ceased to call them ‘Reds’ and we became allied with some of them. Let us at least be modest about our assessment of where allegiances lie in Vietnam and let us recognise that we are dealing with a foreign country with a way of thinking that is very alien to our own. Let us realise that we need to be very careful in our assessment o”f what the people of Vietnam may or may not be thinking.
A distinguished anthropologist, who speaks Vietnamese perfectly and who has lived for many years in Vietnam, contends that it is basic to the thinking of the Vietnamese that a legitimate government has a mandate from heaven and that the Government of Ngo Dinh Diem, in their view, had a mandate from heaven. The United States sent to Vietnam a mischief making ambassador who went into collusion with those responsible for the overturning of the Diem Government. Whatever were its Weaknesses, what is undoubted is that it lasted for 9 years and that it had needed no outside support apart from that of a handful of military advisers. Since its overturn, we have been committed increasingly to supporting a government in South Vietnam. If that is a sign of increasing allegiance among the South Vietnamese people to the Government that has replaced the administration of Ngo Dinh Diem, it is indeed a very surprising sign of increasing allegiance. We have the testimony of Wilfred Burchett, a Communist journalist, who was present with Hb Chi Minh when the news of the overturning of Ngo Dinh Diem came through. According to Burchett, Ho said to him: T would never have believed that the Americans could be so stupid’. We have Burchett’s testimony also that the President of the National Liberation Front said to b.im: ‘The death qf Diem is manna from heaven for us. It dismantles the youth organisation, the women’s organisation, the intelligence system and the structure of allegiance in South Vietnam.’ We have no idea where allegiances lie, and for a very long time we have not had much idea where they lie. The present United States Government cannot, apparently from motives of pride, disengage, and disengagement undoubtedly is fraught with the prospect of devastating effects on morale in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and South East Asia generally. Disengagement will come only from the defeat of Lyndon Baines Johnson - it would be only doubtful then - and, failing that, the war may continue to the destruction of the resources and people of South Vietnam in the name of saving them.
Johnson had no responsibility for the overthrow of Diem or for the whole background of United States policy from 1945 on. Here is a curious pattern in United States policy. The Americans first of all prevented the French from going back into Indo-China. As a result, the Japanese surrendered their arms to Ho Chi Minh. The Americans then decided that Ho was a Communist, and the French had to fight him when he was established. Precisely the same sort of thing happened with Chiang Kai-shek. The Americans insisted that he should take the Communists into his Government. At a later stage, they reversed their policy. At present, it is American arms that are going to the guerilla forces in Africa. No doubt, at some later stage, there will be another reversal of American policy. Johnson is, however, the architect of the policy of matching manpower in Asia. We follow because the United States has replaced the British Empire as the safeguard and in our minds, at any rate, as the soporific for our fears. Policy has lacked the motive of caring about the people of South Vietnam. Instead, consistently since 1945 we have been involved in a policy of manipulating regimes - a policy of manoeuvring the French into returning and then manipulating, one after another, the regimes that have been established in South Vietnam. There is a prospect of 20 years of war arising out of Lodge’s connivance at the destruction of Diem. He not only jeopardised South Vietnam; he jeopardised Laos and Cambodia. The Maoist form of guerilla warfare is ideal for attrition. Guerilla warfare in Malaya involved security forces outnumbering terrorists by 18 to 1) and this was when the British bad the government in its hands and when Malaya’s borders were sealed against assistance to the Communists. The extension of Mao’s form of warfare can involve the West in endless demands for manpower.
I would have liked to deal with the Minister’s comment on the nonproliferation treaty. The difficulty that faces us is simply this: Who in the long run will accept the view of certain great powers that, if they possess the nuclear weapon, it is a deterrent but, if others possess it, it is a danger? That is what we are saying to India and to many other nations. The great powers manifest to the whole world that they do not trust’ each other and then invite the rest of the world to trust them in the non-proliferation treaty. It is extremely doubtful that countries such as India could be induced to surrender a diplomatic initiative and put themselves under the protection of other powers by denying themselves nuclear weapons. There is nothing for it but to go for a real disarmament, not for a situation in which a selection of powers possess nuclear weapons and another selection do not.
– I want to confine my remarks to Vietnam. I am quite aware that I am not as eloquent a debater as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is and I am not as good as he is at using slippery words. But I want to state what I consider to be a few basic facts about the struggle in Vietnam. It is all very well to talk about the United Nations, the Charter of Human Rights, the Geneva Agreements and so on; but it seems to me that fundamentally we are engaged in a battle between two systems of living. The will of the Western world is being tested everywhere and especially in Vietnam. It is al) very well to quote the remarks of other people, but we should look at the practical aspects of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. Fundamentally Australia is involved because of its commitment under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. It is true that some members of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation do not play their part and that South Vietnam is not a member of the Organisation. However, it is a protocol nation and under the terms of the Treaty the Government of South Vietnam can ask SEATO as a body or the individual member nations of SEATO for assistance. Australia has received requests from successive governments of South Vietnam for assistance in the war in Vietnam.
A lot of criticism has been directed at the Government of South Vietnam during the time that I have been in the Parliament. The Government of that country has changed from time to time. What government do we have there now? We have a properly elected government. A President, Vice-President and Senate were elected by the people of South Vietnam. Of the 5,853,000 people who were entitled to vote at the election, 4,735,000 voted. More than 80% of the people voted and they did so in the face of Communist terrorism and tactics that we do not experience in Australia. We are supporting a government that was elected by more than 80% of the people who are entitled to vote. Whenever Vietnam is discussed, Opposition members and the newspapers attack the United States of America. They seem to do this for various reasons. It is either traditional or fashionable to do so or they are envious of the United States. But the most important reason for their attack is that they do not believe in the system of government in the United States or in Australia. The United States has made mistakes. The only nation that has not made a mistake is the nation that has not done anything. But let no-one forget that if it were not for the fighting men of the United States we would not be here today.
– And Opposition members would not be talking either.
– That is right. This Parliament would not exist today but for the great fighting men of the United States of America.
– What about the Anzacs?
– I was just about to say that probably every member of the Parliament has been the guest speaker at an Anzac Day service and has undoubtedly echoed the words: ‘Lest we forget’. Lest we forget what? Lest we forget the hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women who have laid down their lives so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom of our democratic way of life. If we are sincere we will not forget the men and women who gave their lives for this country while fighting with the Americans and our other allies. I knew a lot of the chaps who did not come back and I sometimes ask myself: What would they want me to do? What attitude would they expect me to take when I am confronted with a situation such as his? I am sure every single one would support the policy of the Australian Government, which decided that we should fight in South Vietnam.
I mentioned that the great nation, the United States of America, is often attacked. When the Americans are going well, people arc pretty quiet. But as soon as anything goes a bit wrong, the dingoes arise and start to yap away at the heels of this great nation. Let us look at the record of the United States in the past 20 years and contrast it with the record of the Communist nations that we are fighting in Vietnam. The American adults are human beings. They are fathers and mothers, and their children are fighting in this war. They must make their way in the world and they face handicaps that we do not experience. I realise that the Americans make mistakes, but I am a 100% supporter of the principles of that nation and of its people. One of the finest experiences ] ever had was to visit the United States, to meet the ordinary American and the American politician and to get some understanding of and insight into the wonderful, turbulent, dynamic way of life of these people.
I repeat that none of us would be here but for the United States and its fighting for us years ago. Let us remember the great foreign aid programme entered upon by the United States since 1949. Since that time the American taxpayers have made available $42,500m in aid around the world. What have the Communists done in this direction? Nothing. Of that sum of $42,500m almost $31,500m has been provided in outright grants and $1 1,000m in loans on very generous terms. Under ils alliance for progress programme, in the last 5 years or so America has made available S4,500m to Latin American states. That programme has permitted the building of 850 hospitals and the feeding of 25 million people, 13 million of whom were children. The programme has led to major development schemes in 10 countries, major tax reforms in 14 countries and major land reforms in 14 countries. Put this record beside the Communist record. The Communist record is one of deceit, obstruction and aggression. It would take too long to list fully the record of the Communists. Let me give but a few typical examples. In 1953 Mao Tse-tung spelled out in Moscow his operation order for world conquest by the Communists. The first objective was stated to be conquest of South East Asia. Everything proceeded according to plan until the United States stepped in. Mao Tse-tung has said that Asia is a vast guerilla battlefield. Does he mean it? Of course he does. This is one of the reasons why we are fighting in Vietnam.
Russia has used the veto in the Security Council of the United Nations more than 150 times. The United States has never used it. What of democracy in Russia? Only 10% of adult Russians are members of the Communist Party. They can vote for only one party. This is the system which some people say the Americans and we should not be fighting. The Russians built the Berlin wall, and 10 million people voted by their feet by moving from East Germany to West Germany. In 1951 we had the conflict in Korea, and even the United Nations decided that the Communists were the aggressors. Between 1954 and .1958 we saw the Communist take-over of China’s off-shore islands. In 1959 the Communists attacked Tibet. In 1962 India was attacked. In 1965 we saw the attempted coup in Indonesia. I remind the House of the great song and dance in this place a few days ago about a young soldier in the heat of battle pouring a couple of cups of water down the throat of a Vietcong spy. I have rarely heard the Opposition refer to the shooting of General Nasution’s 8-year-old daughter by the Communists when they attempted a coup in Indonesia and attempted to kill the top eight Indonesian generals. There were great headlines in the newspapers about the debate in this place on the pouring of a couple of cups of water down a spy’s throat, but not one word was said here about the killing by Communists of General Nasution’s 8-year- old daughter. The latest entry in the record of the Communists is their invasion of Laos. Do the people who say that the war in Vietnam is a civil war say also that the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos is a civil war?
The claim by the Leader of the Opposition that we should have a holding operation in Vietnam is ridiculous.
– He is under pressure.
– That is dead right. He is under pressure from people outside this Parliament. How absurd to suggest that we should have a holding operation in Vietnam. How on earth are you to hold a massive force opposed to you and fight what the South Vietnamese call the big war when the real war - the terrorist war - is going on behind your back? The proposition that we should have a holding operation is so stupid that it does not’ deserve more than a moment’s consideration.
I want to relate to the House an experience of mine that bears directly on the war in Vietnam. I travelled recently from Canberra to Sydney seated beside a young American soldier on rest and recreation leave from Vietnam. His name is Richard Davis. He is 21 years of age and hails from Illinois. He is an engineer in the United States Marine Corps - not an officer; one of the rank and file. His comments on some of my queries were extremely interesting. I asked whether the Vietnamese appreciated the presence of the Americans and their allies in South Vietnam. He said: They do. On three different occasions I have seen American soldiers searching villages go to a house where a Vietcong has been hiding and the lady of the house who has opened the door has warned the American soldiers of the presence of the Vietcong and has been shot for her trouble. This will give you an idea of how much the South Vietnamese appreciate the presence of the Americans. We believe we are doing an essential job there. We have provided houses, toads, sanitation and other improvements in villages and towns.’ Surely thinking people in Australia will realise that there is strong support in South Vietnam for the presence of America and her allies. Further, it is not as though Australia and America were the only countries represented there. The South Koreans are there, as are representatives of the Philippines and Thailand. These countries are represented in the military sense. Many other countries are helping in the civil field.
The recent Tet offensive underlined the fact that there is not widespread civilian support in South Vietnam for the Vietcong.
There can be no doubt that two kinds of war are being fought in Vietnam. There is the big war being fought between the North Vietnamese and the allied forces but the real war, to put it in the words of a South Vietnamese gentleman to whom 1 spoke, is the terrorist war - the war out in the countryside where the peasants are terrified.
One matter that must concern Australia, as I am sure it does, and the Americans is the ability of Communist forces to bring supplies into South Vietnam through Cambodia and Laos, as well as by way of North Vietnam. I do not think there will ever be an end to this war while the Communists have sanctuary in Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam. I do not know what action we should take to alter this situation. However, to present the situation the other way, as I see it, so long as we are confined to South Vietnam with our land troops we can never win this war. With the support of our allies, particularly the United States of America, which has done such a wonderful job for the world over the last 20 years, we may not win the war for a fair while but it is certain that we will not lose it.
– We are debating here today a statement on foreign affairs made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) in this place last Tuesday. A statement on foreign affairs is a tremendously important matter to be considered by the Parliament, especially in the present circumstances in which we have Australian lives committed to the war in Vietnam. It has been traditional, as has been mentioned by Opposition speakers in this debate, for the Prime Minister of the country to participate in a debate on foreign affairs. Indeed, why not? One can think of many reasons why the Prime Minister should join the debate but can think of no reasons why our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should not be here. There is nothing more important at this stage of our history than the participation of the Prime Minister in a debate on the foreign affairs policy of his Government to justify an Australian involvement in a war which is costing Australian lives and S50m per year But he is not here. It is not as though he has not had an opportunity to participate in the debate; he could easily have done so on Tuesday night. However, he has decided not to participate in the debate on the motion for the Address-in-Reply, despite the fact that his Government was subject to trenchant criticism by members of the Opposition.
In the short time that the Prime Minister has been in this place, in spite of the many extravagant claims that were made about the way in which he would reform many aspects of Government administration in this country, we have yet to see him show any sort of performance. We have yet to see his form. The only debate in which he has participated so far was the one on the torture of a Vietcong woman prisoner and he did not do a particularly good job there. Perhaps it is because he feels that his image has been greatly diminished as a result of that debate that he has decided not to participate in this debate today and has decided not to participate in the AddressinReply debate which also is of tremendous importance. Perhaps it is because, as was suggested by certain columnists in the Press, he is at” loggerheads with some senior Ministers in the Cabinet. 1 do not know the reason. All I know is that this is a foreign affairs debate which is tremendously important for this country and the Prime Minister is not here.
We want to know just where the new Prime Minister stands, but we have not heard one word from him. He did say that there would be no further commitment of Australian troops to the war in Vietnam and underscored that statement by saying that that was a permanent attitude. However, he later modified that statement by saying that one cannot foresee the future. Then he qualified it even further by saying, since his arrival in this place, that he was referring to the Tet offensive period only. What is the attitude of our new Prime Minister? He has made no statement in Parliament about foreign affairs. He has not told us what his outlook is going to be. What are the radical changes that he implied would occur in his administration? It is all the more important that he should inform us of his position because the war in Vietnam is going badly for the western powers involved there. The spark of hope for an early end of the war is now extinguished and with its passing the oft promised light at the end of the tunnel has been snuffed out. On 17th June last year General Westmoreland advised the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that in 2 years - I ask the House to note that; it is not a very long period - the United States should be able to begin phasing out its operations in Vietnam. He was confidently optimistic. He reported that he saw the enemy losing steadily and continuously.
Two months later, in spite of his optimistic analysis of the situation in Vietnam, of an assurance that demoralisation was setting in among the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces, that there was a run down of support for them in the countryside and that there was a build up of support for the South Vietnamese junta which is running the country at the present time, the troops of the Vietcong and North Vietnam unleashed an offensive which completely discredited the United States intelligence advice on the situation in Vietnam. The offensive, which reached right into the grounds of the United States Embassy in Saigon, produced shock waves which have been felt and are still being felt right around the world - in London, West Germany, France and New Hampshire. People with views on the conduct of the war in Vietnam as opposed as are the views of General Westmoreland and Senator Robert Kennedy have been moved by these shock waves. The General has been moved up and out of the way, only 4 months after his optimistic prediction of a phasing out of the United States involvement which he said would occur within 2 years. Senator Robert Kennedy has been moved by a sense of moral obligation, among other things, to tap an impatient knock on the White House door, a knock which leaves the present tenant unnerved.
Where does Australia stand in the meantime? We fly in the face of world opinion. We are bereft of any objective policy and we cling tenaciously to a belief that if we go all the way with the USA, she, we hope - I stress that it is only a hope - may come a little of the way with us at some time in the future, should we need her assistance. The Prime Minister - significantly, again, not in this House but outside - has underscored the complete bankruptcy of his Government in the field of foreign affairs, the fact that the Government lacks any sort of policy or any sort of rational objective and that it is without any goal towards which it is working. Let me quote from the ‘Australian’ of 26th March what the Prime Minister is reported to have said:
We, as a nation of 12 million people, cannot hope to achieve a result without the full involvement of America and its allies.
If there were a complete change of policy, I think we would have a decision forced upon us nol to try to do things ourselves.
This says a lot and it says it in a rather stark, startling fashion. It has been the fashion of the Government to claim that in fact it did have an independent policy, although I could not ever quite settle the ambivalence between the claim on the one hand that it did have independent objectives, that it was not taken for granted by the United States and, on the other hand, that it could not possibly apply pressure to the United States of America to cause her to cease the bombing operations against North Vietnam. How do we get on with this lack of policy, this bankruptcy on foreign affairs on the part of the Government? How do we get on with this mythical folklore which has been developed over a long period, that if we give total concessions to whatever the United States wants then, in return, the United States will give us a guarantee which will always be there?
What happens if the trend which has been established at the New Hampshire primaries continues and there is a new President of the USA, a Robert Kennedy who has made it very clear that his policies would be totally opposed to the present policies of the Government and would be parallel to the policies of the Opposition? How then would our Government fare? Would it change its mind? Would the unthinking people on the back benches on the Government side of the chamber, who endorse with ‘hear, hear’ and ‘yah, yah* so regularly whenever the Government speaks, continue to ‘hear, hear’ and ‘yah, yah’ without even realising that there had been a fundamental but radical change in the policy of their Government? Of course they would. What sort of international defence guarantees do we have? Guarantees under SEATO? This has been thrashed out before in this place, but perhaps it is worth mentioning again. The guarantees under SEATO are not worth a damn and SEATO does not compel our involvement in Vietnam. The only countries involved in Vietnam at the present time which are signatories to SEATO are Australia, New Zealand and the United States - plus the Philippines. But the latest reports are that the Philippines are withdrawing their troops and there is no further allocation of finance available to maintain in future any other troops or even those troops who are presently in Vietnam.
What of the legal aspects of the involvement in Vietnam? I think this is worth resurrecting at this stage because we seem to have moved so far away from it. The Government seems to convey that there is an international legal justification and obligation for the involvement of western powers in the war in Vietnam. It tries to convey also that there is in fact legal recognition through international commitments of North Vietnam and South Vietnam as separate countries. Let me quickly mention a few facts on this. First, the Saigon regime is not even recognised as a member of the United Nations. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954 the separation of North and South Vietnam is clearly established as a temporary thing and South Vietnam does not even qualify as a State. The Geneva Accords recognised North Vietnam and South Vietnam as the one State, not as two separate nations. That is in respect of internal problems in North and South Vietnam Those problems are recognised as civil ones. The war in Vietnam then is a civil war and foreign intervention is forbidden under international law because civil strife is a domestic problem. This is clearly and extensively dealt with under the Charter of the United Nations. We are signatories to the United Nations Charter, as, too, is the United States of America.
Indeed, the situation that exists in Vietnam today, with the artificial division at the 17th parallel - the situation which the Government is trying to say has created two countries but’ which, in fact, according to all legal charters, establishes that North and South Vietnam are still one area - is identical with the situation that existed in the United States of America in 1861 during the Civil War period when the North and the South were separated, at -loggerheads and at war. No-one suggests that America was anything but one country then involved in civil war, and no amount of misrepresentation will change this fact. Because we do not wish to become involved in domestic strife, this argument is used in explaining why we do not become involved in the problems of apartheid in South Africa or in Southern Rhodesia. Although we suggest that discrimination against coloured majorities in those areas is to be deplored we claim that it is a domestic matter and therefore should not be interfered with, but we throw overboard this principle when we talk about Vietnam.
Let us consider the SEATO agreement, which has been mentioned as giving justification, indeed obligation, for the involvement of the Western powers in Vietnam and which is regularly mentioned by Government spokesmen outside of this House. Articles 1 and 6 of the SEATO agreement clearly recognise an obligation of subjection to the United Nations Charter and to the power of the Security Council before any undertaking or involvement is accepted in any war in any place by the signatories of the United Nations Charter. Article 103 of the United Nations Charter subjects all regional agreements to the United Nations commitment. In fact, Article 103 is a sort of supreme clause which manifestly prevails and cannot be annulled by mutual agreements with third parties anywhere; yet this is precisely what the Government is trying to do - to pay lip service on the one hand to the United Nations Charter and on the other hand to take actions which are morally indefensible. It has never sought to refer this war to the United Nations and by failing to do this, its presence, as indeed the presence of the United States, in Vietnam is illegal according to international law.
Why did the Tet offensive occur in Vietnam when we had been guaranteed for so long that the forces of North Vietnam and of the Vietcong were running down and were becoming demoralised; that they had a high desertion rate; and that it would be only a matter of a couple of years before they would be controlled and the war reduced to such an extent that a phasing out of United States troops could take place? We were guaranteed that this position would be consolidated because of the success of village pacification programmes which had been undertaken by the Government. However, everything seems to have failed when the real test was on and the fact is that we cannot win in South Vietnam. It is an unlosable war for the United States of America and at the same time it is an unwinnable war. America cannot lose in the military sense because of its tremendous power. If she is prepared to risk external threats to her economy, some of which we have seen in recent times-
-The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting. I remind him that he is next on my list of speakers.
– I think he was trying to say that he is filling out his application form to join the Australian forces to go to Vietnam. The United States undoubtedly can win in a military sense, but she cannot win the social and economic battle which has to go on after the war and which has been aggravated so much by the developments of the war. Need one discuss to any great extent the success of the programme of winning the hearts and minds - the grandiloquent description used by many Government spokesmen - in the village pacification programme? I merely refer to the attitude of Lt-Colonel Charlesworth of the Australian forces in Vietnam who conveyed quite clearly in his statements that he had had the village pacification programme. For all the contributions that had been made, no success had been achieved, and the very people who were supposed to have been pacified or won over by the programme being carried out were the people who assisted the enemy at the first opportunity that presented itself.
The truth is that the waT in Vietnam is worsening. It wil] be increasingly difficult for us to make any progress with the people of South Vietnam for the simple reason that we are wealthy white people in an Asian country. Increasingly the poor coloured people of that country see the waT as a major ideological conflict of powerful, rich white people who will fight the war to a standstill, not so much because of their concern about the empty tummies in South Vietnam but because of their concern about the way in which Communist ideas have filtered through the countryside of South Vietnam. It amazes me that the United States can find 830.000m a year to pour into the war in Vietnam. This represents more than the total amount of wealth hi the Australian economy in any given year. This money can be found without any difficulty at all but before the war commenced and this trouble got out of hand excuses were made about why it was impossible to raise more than the miserable amount that was then being raised for civil aid to the underdeveloped countries. While we adopt the practice of finding finance only to carry out or support this sort of war in an underdeveloped country and not to look after underdeveloped countries in times of peace and develop them socially and economically, we shall fail. While we refuse to carry out major land reforms in a country like Vietnam and in other underprivileged countries, we cannot make much headway.
Of what significance is a country to its people if they have no say in its affairs - if they have no feeling of a personal investment in that country? Dorothea Mackellars poem says: ‘I love a sunburnt country’. But we do not love a sunburnt country just because it is sunburnt. It means a lot of things besides this to us. It means a place where we have certain rights and certain freedoms and where we aTe not being exploited in the way in which the people of South Vietnam are being exploited by a few wealthy usurious landowners. Until we carry out land reform we will not make much progress. Unfortunately the powers of the West are dominated completely by a private property complex, and they refuse to insist on large scale land reforms in countries such as Vietnam. So we can see what achievements we have made up to the present time. They can be counted this way: One hundred and fifty thousand civilians are being wounded annually in South Vietnam as a result of the war and 24,000 civilians are being killed annually, according to an official report. We have lost aircraft worth $2 billion since this war got under way, and still the war worsens, still it grinds down and still there is no indication when we are going to get out of this bloody quagmire which has developed in South Vietnam.
The Government is completely bereft of any sort of policy. As I mentioned before this has been understood clearly by the Prime Minister himself who said virtually: Whatever the United States does, we will have to do’. Surely we must now have some objective. Surely now is the time for us to say to the United States of America:
We are involved in this war and we refuse to be taken for granted. If we are to be involved in a war which is costing Australian lives then we want to exert some influence on the course of events. We demand, first, that the National Liberation Front be a party principal to any negotiations for peace in Vietnam. We completely reject the attitude of Thieu and Ky that the National Liberation Front members have to be treated as non-people and that the war has to be fought to a standstill. We believe that the bombing of North Vietnam has to stop immediately, permanently and unconditionally, and that the forces in Vietnam have to be used for a holding operation.’
Because we are rich and powerful it does not mean that we have some divine ordination which allows us to arrange the destiny of others. Because we live in wealthy capitalist societies it does not mean that, ispo facto, we have authority to determine the choice of society for others. We have no mandate to create an aseptic world in which the infection of the thoughts of others by Communism is prevented by armed force. It is arrogance and autocracy on our part to seek to determine the freedoms and liberties of others and to impose our decisions on others even against their will.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, this is the first occasion on which I have made a speech this session and I would like to use this occasion formally to pay a tribute to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. At the time of his unfortunate death I was in South East Asia and this was the place where Harold Holt became known and respected. It was not only the leaders of the nations who visited Australia who paid tribute to this man; I can assure both sides of the House and the people of Australia that the ordinary people of Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore also paid their tribute. A tri-shaw driver in Phnom Penh quite openly expressed his sorrow at our loss. I might relate to the House something that was done in Laos which I believe is to the great credit of that country. At Watongtu the people put on their own memorial service for Mr Harold Holt in a pagoda. At this service the people not only filled the pagoda but were crowded out into the area surrounding the pagoda. I feel that this action was a tremendous expression of appreciation of our late Prime Minister.
Mrs Zara Holt was the only woman to have shared the intimate life of this great Australian. She, along wilh a great number, shared in the joyous moments of his triumphs but only she was close by his side during those moments when absolute victory cast a shadow upon his countenance. I say to Mrs Holt: I have great faith in my interpretation of the feelings of my fellow countrymen. You fully played your role as a very loyal and faithful wife. May your grief be lessened by this knowledge.
One of the greatest legacies left by our late Prime Minister is the position we now enjoy in the eyes of our Asian neighbours. It is at this moment that I pay sincere tribute to the officers of the Department of External Affairs who act as our representatives, year in, year out, in these countries. They do their job well beyond the standard required by the most discerning and in Asia they keep our flag flying well above that of any other country. A classic example of the interest shown by our neighbours in our representatives occurred when the Prime Minister of Laos, Prince Souvanna Phouma, told me that the daughter of Ambassador Morris had just become engaged in Germany. The point is that Ambassador Morris left Laos 4 years ago and this in itself shows the great personal friendship and interest manifested between our representative and the Prime Minister of an Asian country.
I offer to our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) the assurance that when he visits Asia, he will find the warm hand of friendship waiting to greet him. I believe he has the qualities to enable the people of Asia to take him to their hearts as they did with Harold Holt. I wish him good luck because the people of Asia are eager to maintain our friendship.
I turn now to Vietnam and state at the outset that like a majority of my colleagues and most certainly like almost all Australians, I have had no alternative other than to have faith in our Government’s decision that we should play our role in securing peace in Vietnam. My visit there in recent weeks has satisfied my mind beyond any doubt that what is happening in Vietnam is very much the business of this country. It is also our concern what is happening in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia because no matter how remote our cultures may be, they are our neighbours. A catch cry used by the Australian Labor Party at the last election was that Australia turns to them in a time of crisis. 1 am convinced that had Australia done what it has done on only three occasions in more than the last SO years, and had voted in an Australian Labor Party Government, the entire future of our country would have been in jeopardy. I do not pretend that the present situation in Vietnam can give us comfort, but I am comforted by the fact that we as a nation are playing our role in assisting an Asia which is straining its neck to reach out for those ideals we hold precious - democracy, the right to live in freedom and to live a life without hunger.
The inability of the Labor Opposition to judge things in correct perspective means that for each year they bungle they should be left in the political wilderness for 2 years. Australia cannot afford to place the reins of government in the hands of a party that can wreck our future beyond repair. It was the Australian Labor Party which, only 2 years ago, stated without qualification that Vietnam was purely an internal affair and that China had nothing to do with the happenings in this country. It is only in recent weeks that some members of the Opposition have conceded that China is a part of the huge struggle and they explain this away by saying that we have forced China into it.
If China has just come into the conflict, how is it that I purchased in Hong Kong a book printed in Peking in 1966, entitled The People of Vietnam Will Triumph - The US Aggressors Will Be Defeated’? In its own words, the book is a ‘Collection of Chinese art works in support of the Vietnamese people’s struggle’. I remind honourable members opposite again that this book was printed nearly 2 years ago - this is 2 years before they acknowledged the Chinese involvement. The book promised all the support that China could give and contained reproductions of ISO paintings which suggested and depicted methods of brutality to be used against the so called aggressors from the United States of America. This I concede is not tangible evidence of guns and armies but even the last speaker from the Opposition insisted the conflict is completely internal. Through my travels I found evidence to support the contention that China is stirring the possum of discontent everywhere.
– The honourable member is stirring the possum.
– I am stirring the possum of truth. Significantly, the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns), known throughout the country for his left wing pro-Communist views stated:
Tonight the Leader of the Opposition made an effective speech, every word of which I support.
Honourable members opposite who are interjecting do not like this but it is true. Why would not the honourable member for Yarra support the speech? It contained the type of thoughts that those who back Dr Cairns and the Hanoi regime like to hear. These are statements such as ‘it was apparent before the Tet offensive that the South Vietnamese Government had in no way won the confidence or the active support of the people of South Vietnam.’ I remind honourable members opposite that the Leader of the Opposition said this. Another statement is: ‘One of the reasons why the Army is unpopular is that its troops still have to loot to live’. I wonder just who it was who gave the Leader of the Opposition this information while he was in Vietnam?
I will now relate to the House an incident that occurred in war zone 4 which is a prime example either of how misinformed or untruthful the Leader of the Opposition is in his claims. I visited an Army outpost in the delta area. This area was one which had been secured by troops of the South Vietnamese Government. The area was some miles from what could be described as a really established civilisation. It was a village area. It was 3 or 4 days after Christmas when I came upon this place. I was told by the troops that people from a village 2 or 3 miles down the river had got into their canoes and boats and paddled up the river with candles and lamps on board. When they arrived they sang to show the appreciation that they felt for the Government troops because, for the first time in 4 years, they had been able to hold a Christian church service in their local church. On that occasion some hundreds of people gave thanks for the establishment of this government outpost. Yet we have the statement from the Leader of the Opposition that the people have no faith in the Government or in the Army.
I could easily claim that the situation is quite the opposite to that which has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, but it would not be honest of me to say that the occurrence to which I have just referred is a typical one. However, I refute absolutely the sweeping claims of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government of South Vietnam has in no way won the confidence of the people, and that the Army is unpopular. His statements along these lines are surely evidence that his Socialist ideals are well in line with those of others who are branded as belonging to the left wing of the Labor Party, such as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and others who have been endeavouring to interject. The truth of the matter is that the people of Vietnam have not known stability as we know it. The uncertainty of the future prevents the average Vietnamese from coming out and supporting the Government. Surely the miscalculation on the part of the Vietcong, when the uprising that they expected on the part of the people of the South against the Government during the Tet offensive did not eventuate, is reason enough for anyone to refrain from making such monstrous claims as those made by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of his Party.
We have heard in this House and have read in the newspapers statements by various members of the Opposition that Australia should be giving South Vietnam more civil aid. Of course these same honourable members claim in the next breath that we should vacate these areas. As I see the situation, the truth is that we cannot effectively give aid to these areas if they are not secured. I shall cite a case that many members of the Opposition probably have not heard of. In the late 1950s the Australian Government made finance available for the establishment of a model dairy at a place called Ben Cat. There was an area of 100 acres of scrubland and jungle that Australians cleared and sowed wilh pasture. We put a herd of Australian jersey cows there and taught the people how to use their land to the best advantage. However, in the early 1960s this installation, like other aid projects, was destroyed. A Mr Robert Lyall was in charge of this project, and he and others from Australia had to flee the country. This is only one example of what happens when we set out to provide this kind of civil aid in unsecured country.
Of course the sentiments expressed by the Opposition win support because they are noble sentiments and have a good deal of public appeal, but we must be realistic. We must secure the country in order to make civil aid effective, and I suggest in all sincerity that the Australian contribution in Vietnam is a worthwhile one. I visited areas where the Australian Army was engaged in teaching the people how to build for the future. I pay tribute to a Major Mackay, who was a town planner from Adelaide - the city of Adelaide, not the electorate - and who was in that country by virtue of his position in the Citizen Military Forces. He was working with the local people and teaching them the concept of town planning. He had also managed to get across to them successfully the idea of providing such basic installations - at least basic in our minds - as toilets in their schools. Surely the members of the Opposition would concede that if we cannot hold these areas any installations that we provide there will become prime targets for the Vietcong, because these things represent progress, and this is what the Vietcong are fighting against. They know that if the minds of the people are won over to the Government’s way of thinking their battle is lost.
I should also refer to other countries that I visited, particularly Laos and Thailand. I express grave concern for the future of Laos. I wonder how long the situation can continue in this area as it is at present, without some form of involvement becoming necessary, or without that country requiring some form of assistance. Constantly we read of Communist attacks on Government outposts and of huge government losses in this area and that. Yet we will have members of the Opposition in the future putting forward the proposition that these are simply internal matters. Both north east Thailand and north west Thailand are being subjected to the same undermining that has taken place in Vietnam. The same treatment is being meted out to the Government troops in Laos. It is very easy for people to shut their eyes to these facts.
Then we come to Cambodia, the neutral country. In Phnom Penh, 45 miles from the border of South Vietnam, at night one can hear the windows shaking as the bombs fall in South Vietnam. I wonder what the future of this country is and whether it can continue to live in that part of the world without at some time taking sides. I forecast - and I say this with a heavy heart - that in the years to come, unless we win in Vietnam, Cambodia will be subjected to the same upheavals and attacks as we are presently witnessing in other parts of South East Asia.
Prince Sihanouk is a person for whom the Leader of the Opposition expressed admiration. I wish him well in his efforts to keep his country free and neutral because nobody likes war. But there are signs even today that in various parts of hh country Communist cells are building up, and this surely is a warning that the pattern which has been set in other countries of this area may be followed in Cambodia.
In conclusion I would like to say that the people of South East Asia look upon Australians as real friends. I believe it is easier for an Australian to make friends with an Asian than it is for any other European. Perhaps this may be thought by some to be a sweeping statement, but I believe it to be true. The Americans have not been nearly as successful as Australia in the giving of aid. Unfortunately the Americans - and I make this criticism in a friendly manner - present a kind of sugar daddy image, being prepared to give anything, while the Australians on the other hand tend to roll up their sleeves and get on with the job with the people and try to let them understand what they are being given. In my discussions in Vietnam with a number of American officials I debated this question at length, and I got some agreement from them - not that this will necessarily bring about any change in the future. Australia is doing a great job in Asia, and I believe that our position in the area will be assured in the years to come.
– I listened with considerable interest to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), and I would like to make a few brief comments on some of the things he said. He was heard in comparative silence from this side of the House, although he said some pretty hard things about some Opposition members. I take it that honourable members are treating him with a little more generosity than he displayed towards the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). I put it to the honourable member for Griffith that it is a very dangerous practice to get up in this House and call people Communists and to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition was not telling the truth, or even to imply that a person has Communist sympathies or Communist associations. One has to learn in this political game to differ from people politically but still to respect their personal integrity.
I should not think there is a single person on either side of this House who gets any satisfaction from the present situation in Vietnam. We of the Labor Party, a Party which had the honour of governing this country during the Second World War and of co-operating with the United States in the offensive against Japan, take no satisfaction from the American dilemma in Vietnam at the present time. Many of the things we have said have been motivated by our desire not to see America involved in this war so deeply, so long and so bitterly, and at such a great cost that it might at some stage withdraw its interest from this part of the world. As the Leader of the Opposition has often and quite truthfully pointed out, the problems of this region, the economic problems and the developmental problems, all need American assistance for their solution. I put it to the honourable member for Griffith that not all the friends of the United States sit on his side of the House.
The honourable member did say a number of things about the Australian Labor Party that I found to be very interesting. He advised us not to be narrow or insular but to realise that Australia had an involvement in Asia. I would like to remind the honourable member that in the days immediately after the Second World War Australia was very vitally involved not only in the affairs of Asia but in affairs all around the world. The Labor Government in those days had a great deal more faith and confidence in the United Nations than most of us have today. But who is to say that the Labor Government of those days, with Dr Evatt as the Minister for External Affairs, was not right. Many of the things that Dr Evatt said at that time are being proved today to be correct.
The Labor Party was not disinterested in the affairs of Asia. If believed in decolonisation. The. Labor Government, together with the Indian Government, took the Indonesian conflict to the United Nations and that action resulted in the long terra in a peaceful settlement. The Labor Party believed that the estwhile French colonies in Indo-China should have been given independence at the end of the war. It went along with the British when they gave independence to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma and started decolonisation, turning the British Empire into the Commonwealth that we have known over the past 25 years. The Labor Party was never disinterested in Asia.
The honourable member claimed that we have just found out that China exists. But before the Labor Government went out of office in 1949 it was looking at the question of following Britain’s lead and recognising China. So too was the United States of America, if one reads the history books. We have consistently said that China should be brought into the councils of the world because there will be no final solution to this trouble on the mainland of Asia until we take into account the Peoples Republic of China. 1 was pleased to note that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) recognised this in his speech on Tuesday evening. He said that we had for a long time taken into account the fact that China had to be brought back into the affairs of the world. This is the first time I recall him spelling that out in a ministerial statement in this House, although I have heard it very many times from members on this side of the House, and I have said it many times myself.
Now a survey has been made by the honourable member for Griffith of what is going on in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the other areas which he visited during the summer recess. Firstly 1 would like to give full credit to the honourable member for spending some of the recess in those places. I only wish that he would look at the situation with a little more perspective and not spend so much time collecting the various propaganda handouts that we all get when we go to Asia. I am not suggesting that he has taken a superficial view. I know that we are all perhaps influenced in varying degrees by our political philosophy. But I would like to suggest that he has misread a lot of things that are happening in Vietnam.
The honourable member suggested that until quite recently the ALP has regarded the situation in Vietnam as an internal matter. I do not think that anybody can say truthfully that we have regarded the situation in South Vietnam as an internal matter. Indeed, one of the charges we have levelled against the Government is that it has regarded Vietnam not in the way that the United Nations regards it, not in the way that the Geneva Conference regarded it, not in the way the Vietnamese regard, as a country artificially divided, but as two countries. The Government sees the North Vietnamese who have come down from their part of Vietnam as invaders, where as they see themselves as Vietnamese trying to unify their own country. The Labor Party has recognised that there are problems right throughout the whole of Vietnam. The tragedy is that at the end of the war the French did not give independence to this country but endeavoured - no doubt having suffered very greatly in the Second World War - to reassert themselves as a colonial power with Britain. Other more perceptive nations had enough ability and commonsense to realise that the days of colonialism were coming to an end. Unfortunately the French made the same mistake as the Dutch. We are paying the price for this mistake today.
I agree with the Minister for External Affairs that the three issues that he raised and dealt with are the most important issues at the present time. One of those issues is the non-proliferation treaty. The Leader of the Opposition stated quite clearly that the Australian Labor Party believes that Australia should honour the nonproliferation treaty. We on this side of the House do not gloss over the fact that this is a very complex situation. It is certainly a very heartening indication of improved relations between East and West, between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, that these two main powers are able to agree sufficiently to be joint sponsors of a treaty. It is very good to see that the United Kingdom has also joined in sponsoring the treaty. Although we in this country at times tend to write Britain off as having become a second rate power, the truth is that Britain does have a formidable nuclear capacity, both military and civil.
We have now come to the position where the Government must make a statement of faith. The Labor Party is finding this situation somewhat interesting. Some years ago the Labor Party came up with a proposition for a nuclear free southern hemisphere and we were laughed to scorn by Government members. It is true that there is a nuclear free zone in South America. After all, the proposed nonproliferation treaty is an attempt to develop a nuclear free zone all over the world. Now that this suggestion has been made by the United States and the Soviet Union it has become respectable. The Labor Party believes that Australia should, as a gesture of faith, agree to sign the treaty. We do not criticise the Minister for saying that the matter requires careful study. Of course it requires careful study. It is very important that other nations in our area, such as Indonesia and India, as well as any nations that are developing nuclear capacity of their own, indicate their faith in the future by signing the non-proliferation treaty. It is a very important issue and the policy of the Labor Party is crystal clear on this matter.
The second matter that I want to refer to, though not at great length - is the British withdrawal from east of the Suez, lt has continuously amazed me to hear people discussing this withdrawal. While the honourable member for Griffith was in South East Asia I spent some time in New Zealand. I found that people over there were expressing some measure of shock at the fact that Britain was proposing to leave us after we had come to her aid in the Boer War and the two World Wars. I found it amazing that intelligent people in the councils of this country expect Great Britain, which is 12,000 miles away on the other side of the world, to make greater sacrifices for the defence of this country than we are prepared to make. Over the years the British Government has spent 7% or 8% of its gross national product on defence. It now proposes to reduce that expenditure to 6%. For much of that time our expenditure was marginally over 2% and then it went up to 3%. With the present escalation in Vietnam and the purchase of very expensive equipment, that figure is now nudging 5%. Again I repeat that I find it ridiculous that people should say the British are letting us down when, in effect, what we are asking them to do is to spend twice as much of their gross national product on defence as we are prepared to spend.
I have the utmost faith that Britain will come to our aid if we are threatened at any time. What Britain has done has been to say that it expects Australia and other nations in our area, such as Malaysia and Singapore, to sustain defence forces that will enable us to meet our normal responsibilities in the area. There has never been any suggestion that if we were involved in some conflict where the safety and security of this country was threatened the British would not come to our aid as we came to their aid in the two World Wars. Apparently there is a changing standard of patriotism in this country. Some of us are old enough to remember the days when patriotism was judged by British association; now it is judged by American association and it has become popular to pour scorn on the British. The British showed in East Africa and in confrontation against Indonesia the very unhappy circumstances that existed, especially to our near north. The British showed that they are capable of playing a flexible and substantial role in the councils of the world. But what they have said to us is that in situations of this kind they do not propose to go it alone in the future. If we are involved in a situation at this time, it follows that we must be prepared to make some of the sacrifices and take some of the stands that we have expected of them.
I now refer again to Vietnam. I remind the Minister for External Affairs of his statement to this House 5 months ago when he said: ‘We are winning the war’. Some of us on that occasion expressed some reserve because there were ominous reports of buildups in the First Corps area and along the western border of Vietnam. We all know, of course, of the Tet offensive in which the National Liberation Front forces and the North Vietnamese Army entered more than 30 provincial capitals, Saigon, and even the United States Embassy there, Hue and other places. I think that one of the most tragic statements to come out of all this dilemma in Vietnam was made by an American officer who, referring to a small township in Vietnam that had just been recovered from the so called Vietcong, said: ‘We had to destroy the town to save it’. I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this is very much what is happening throughout a good deal of Vietnam. Are we as Australians to put ourselves in a position in which we shall have to say that we regret that we had to destroy the country in order to save it?
The Americans in Khe Sanh are now surrounded. I suppose that I shall be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, but I must say that it strikes me that it is not a very healthy situation to be surrounded in Khe Sanh. One cannot help wondering whether sometimes it is not better to cut one’s losses and get back to a more defensible position. It seems that a prestige stand is made and that a lot of men could well be killed. General Westmoreland has asked for substantially more than 200,000 additional troops to reinforce the American and allied forces in Vietnam. Following this request, he has been appointed Chief of Staff of the United States Army and will be returning to Washington. The United States of America is now making a complete review, from A to Z, of the situation in Vietnam, according to a statement made by Dean Rusk, who is now in New Zealand and who, I think, will be in Australia very shortly. I take it that Australia is in a similar position and is making a complete review, from A to Z, of what is going on in Vietnam. I should like Australia, however, to make a review in its own right, using Australian sources - using Australian Army officers and intelligence officers. Let the Australian Government make its own assessment of what the position is and let it then inform this House honestly and frankly instead of trying to gloss over the situation as, I believe, honourable members on the Government side have done in the past. The Chief of our own General Staff has gone to Vietnam. This is a good thing. We need the best information that we can get.
Cannot the Government, by using our own intelligence sources, make an assessment of the war? Cannot this Government, with the aid of its own sources, tell us what is the position in Phuoc Tuy province, for which we have a responsibility? How do the Australians find the province chief ‘ and administration in Phuoc Tuy province? Are they corrupt? Do they co-operate with us? Is there, in this province, land reform for which the Australians are responsible? Is this a model province for all Vietnam? If not, why not? We have been there a substantial time now - 18 months. If we have not the answers and cannot do what is necessary in the province for which we have a responsibility, it is pretty poor lookout for anybody else’s chances.
What does the Government propose to. do to win the war in Vietnam? Every time we have a foreign affairs debate, members on the Government side lambaste the Australian Labor Party, saying that we on this side of the Parliament are disloyal, that we want to withdraw troops and that we shall let the Americans down. But what does this Government propose to do to improve the war situation in Vietnam? Are we to urge the Americans to escalate without ourselves being prepared to accept a greater burden? This is one of the questions that the Government has to answer, both for itself and for the people of this country, in the very near future. There are two alternatives. One is to endeavour to negotiate and end the war. The second is to win the war. The attitude that we on this side of the Parliament adopt is that we ought to have ceased the bombing of North Vietnam in an attempt to bring the war back to the conference table. The Government, however, favours the other alternative - winning the war - and it should be prepared to state in this Parliament, in a way that it has not been prepared to adopt up to the present, what additional sacrifice Australia must be prepared to make and what additional things Australia and our allies, along with the Government of South Vietnam, ought to do in order to bring the war to an end.
As I said earlier, no Labor member gets any satisfaction from the dilemma of Vietnam and all the agony that the Americans and the others involved there are enduring. But one has to remember that at the end of the war, however short or long may be the intervening time, Australians, Americans and other servicemen will withdraw and go home, and the Vietnamese will then be alone with what we leave behind. The situation in Vietnam is truly nothing short of agony. But it is an agony for everybody. Members of the Labor Party believe that on many occasions the Americans have made a wrong assessment of the position there. We believe that there is no future for the stability of this part of the world until American foreign policy towards China is resolved. We believe that the resolving of that policy is being impeded by the continuation of the war in Vietnam. So we look to the future, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Australian military forces are making an assessment of the position in Vietnam at present. Without doubt the files of the Department of External Affairs are full of reports about what is going on in Vietnam. We on this side of the Parliament should like to hear not just merely the result of the American survey, from A to Z, of what is going on in Vietnam. We should like to hear what a’n Australian survey has revealed, and what our own people think of the war and what the future holds for us. On many occasions, it is suggested that the Labor Party speaks with many tongues. I suggest, however, that the Government’s foreign policy is in a shambles and that it is time the Government realised that something must be done about it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, one thing has impressed me since I have been a member of this House. Having served in the Army for 6 years and reached field rank, I am amazed at how few strategists I knew in the Army and how many are here. I propose to devote my remarks almost exclusively to the matter that most of all is agitating the minds of Australians and almost all other people in the world - the situation in Vietnam. I believe that there is a crisis at hand - not at the military level, but at the political level. I suggest that the one man who is probably more interested in seeing Robert Kennedy win the Presidential election in the United States of America than is anybody else is Ho Chi Minh. Political factors have become the dominant factors in Vietnam. They override the military ones. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), my friend and travelling partner, and a man for whom I have great respect as an opponent, said that no member of his Party takes any satisfaction from the dilemma of the United States in South Vietnam. He said he hoped that the Americans would not leave the country. I suggest that nothing could contribute more to that end than does the continuous, poisonous propaganda that is sapping the will of some of the Americans and breaking down their resolve to persist in the great battle that they are waging.
What is being done to win the war? Much is being done to win it. And a lot is being done to win the peace. The object of this conflict is not merely to win a war or destroy anything; it is to establish the peace. If we were to stop talking defeat, we would make a greater contribution than we make by continually talking as if defeat were inevitable. Stop the bombing of North Vietnam, it is said. But this would take away the only tactical advantage that the allies have over the Communists. Endeavour to negotiate, it is said. Negotiate, of course, but wilh whom? Who has shown a willingness to negotiate? There has been a marked pause in the bombing of North Vietnam on a number of occasions - once for 38 days- but there has been no sign whatever that the North Vietnamese would come to the conference table and negotiate. If we believe that this is an isolated war and that it is not part of a far broader picture, we have only to see the maps that the Chinese themselves issue. They show the Chinese area of influence as embracing Turkestan, Mongolia, South East Asia and many of the islands adjacent to Australia.
I do not have the time to go into the details of this aspect and I do not want to devote my time solely to correcting statements that have been made by honourable members on the other side. However, I want to say that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) delivered a speech before dinner that the troops in Vietnam would be very interested to read. He said that the success of the Tet offensive had been greatly understated. My friend and colleague, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), referred to the whole strategy of the war. It is true that the Tet offensive seemed to meet with some success, but the winning of one battle does not necessarily mean the winning of the war. As the honourable member for Indi said, while the Communists have complete and unfettered sanctuary in areas of Cambodia and Laos, the allied forces face an impossible task. Anybody who suggests that the troops in Vietnam should fight a holding war does not know anything about military tactics. How can troops hold an area unless they can patrol and control the area adjacent to it? In addition to this, enemy naval vessels have absolute immunity while they are outside the 12 miles limit and they can come in at night to supply the Communists. Our vessels must patrol a coast that is 1,000 miles long but which is actually about five times this distance if the contours of the foreshore are followed. I share the opinion of my honourable friend that, while this situation prevails, the war will be just a stalemate.
General Westmoreland did not say that the Vietcong and the Vietnamese were run down and were failing. He said that the war was being won, but nobody said that this would not be a difficult war to win. It will take a Iona time to win the war and will take even longer to establish peace throughout the country. Lieutenant-Colonel Charlesworth did hot say that the pacification plan had not been successful. He was reported to have said that he was very upset to learn that a village that had been under our control had been re-entered by some Vietcong and he had lost a soldier when the Australians returned. In such a war as this, it is impossible to prevent infiltration. We have heard mention of the success of the Tet offensive. The Cambodian areas are very close to Saigon. Within a few minutes of taking off from Tan Son Nhut aerodrome, areas of Cambodia can be seen. They are covered with dense jungle. Whole divisions could form up there and could be in Saigon within 24 hours. This should give honourable members some idea of the problem in Vietnam. It is no surprise that in these circumstances Saigon could be raided.
One of the most dangerous aspects of the situation is the continuous propaganda war that is waged by a wide spectrum of people. It is far more effective than bullets. With the greatest respect to . you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and your calling in private life, the propaganda comes from people ranging from violent Communists to naive clergymen. It undermines confidence. Resolute determination is shaken by statements that the war is bogged down. This propaganda only prolongs the war, with consequent heavy loss of life and destruction of property. The enemy is happy to learn of this defeatist attitude. What is happening in Vietnam? Considerable progress has been made. From July 1965 until probably November or December of that year, the war had been virtually won by the Communists but they did not realise the extent of their control. At that time they were poised outside many of the large cities and towns. They had complete control of Route 19, which cuts the country in half and they had much greater control in the Mekong delta, which is the country’s rice bowl, than they have ever had since then. Much has been achieved in the last 2i years. We have given the South Vietnamese some hope, and they did not have any hope in 1965. We have, in addition, given them the will to resist. We have given confidence to the people of other South East Asian nations, and this is a vital factor.
What would happen if the United States pulled out of South Vietnam? We would lose the confidence not only of that country but of all South East Asian countries. Where would we be then? That is the question I pose to all those strategists who talk about the work of General Westmoreland and General Johnson disparagingly. Where would Australia be now? Where would our women and children of this generation be and what would happen to future generations if the United States were to forsake this area? Australia has, by its efforts, won the respect and friendship of the people of South East Asian nations. Above all, the efforts in South Vietnam since 1965 gave the anti-Communist forces in Indonesia the heart to resist Communism. Communism failed to reign supreme in Indonesia in October 1965 by only a hair’s breadth. Sufficient publicity has not been given to the narrow escape that that country had from Communism.
The attempt of the Communists to gain control was planned most carefully. The action was timed for midnight on 30th September. It commenced with the abduction of the generals. The Army was the only really effective anti-Communist force, although it had a strong Communist influence in it. Sukarno’s palace guards went in covered trucks to the residences of the eight generals. Each truck contained between forty and fifty armed members of the Young Communist movement. My colleague, the honourable member for Indi,’ mentioned this. General Nasution’s daughter was murdered and he escaped after having been shot in the ankle. But the important factor and the one that saved the antiCommunist force was General Suharto’s absence from his home. Before he could be located, the Communist trap had been sprung and an announcement had been made over the radio that the coup had been successful. General Suharto was able to seclude himself, gather his loyal officers together, collect his troops and take action to restore this situation. If he had not been able to do so, it is not too fanciful to say that Communism would have reigned supreme in Indonesia until the present time and would have been difficult to dislodge.
– It was all planned from Peking.
– That is so. I want to refer briefly to the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that a Vietnamese woman spy who, without question, had been active in supplying information that led to the deaths of eighteen Australians, should have been brought to Australia to give evidence.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is now referring to a previous debate in this House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the honourable member is allowed to put his own interpretation on statements that appear in newspapers.
-Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– If the statement was not correct, the Leader of the Opposition had the right to deny it. I will pay him the courtesy of saying that that was the statement he was reported in the Press as having made and he has never denied it. The proposition was that this woman should be brought to Australia to give evidence against Australian serving soldiers.
A highly accredited and notable correspondent, Mr Geoffrey Fairbairn, who has spent some time in South East Asia, speaking at a meeting of the Canberra branch of the Defend Australia Committee about 10 days ago made several very pertinent observations. It is claimed that he has spent as much time with the South Vietnamese Army as has any other correspondent. He said that the South Vietnamese are fighting courageously, are well trained and well disciplined and that their numerical losses from desertion are comparatively small when all circumstances are considered. But he said that they have suffered more casualties and have inflicted more casualties on the enemy than all other forces in South Vietnam put together.
– Of course, the honourable member for Hindmarsh would know more about military strategy and tactics than anybody. Mr Fairbairn made a telling reference, in view of what I have been saying, to the attitude of many journalists in South Vietnam when he said that there were many of them, unfortunately a lot British, who did not want the United States to win. They may not have wanted the United States to lose, but they did not want it to win. Fortunately this is not the attitude of all British journalists. I would like to read to the House an extract from an article which appeared in the London Daily Mail’ in February this year. It read:
It is not, I believe, too fanciful to describe the battle as potentially one of the major turning points of civilisation, and to think of General Westmoreland and his men in the way that, with the perspective of history to aid us, we think of Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopolae, John Sobieski facing the Turks at the gates of Vienna, or Lord Dowding and Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain.
For each of those battles changed the face of the world for the better; or rather, prevented others from changing it for the worse.
And so it may be at this moment in Vietnam. The war there is confused and horrible; its aims blurred, its methods savage, its cost in innocent blood uncountable. But if it is lost, if the Americans finally get tired of doing the world’s work for nothing but the world’s abuse, if South Vietnam is left to its fate, then what will follow is not merely the piecemeal engulfing of the rest of South East Asia.
What will follow, as surely as Austria followed the Rhineland, and Czechoslovakia followed Austria, and Poland followed Czechoslovakia, and six years of world war followed Poland, is a nuclear confrontation on a global scale between the forces at present engaged in one tiny corner of the globe.
Referring to the Americans, the article reads:
They are there because they know that, where aggression is concerned, the appetite doth grow by what it feeds on; and because they therefore know that, however great the price of the war in Vietnam, it is still less than would be the price of the war we will all one day have to fight elsewhere if it is lost.
I propose to read now from a report which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 27th March. The report dealt with some comments made by former United States President Eisenhower. The report reads:
Calling for an immediate end to the activities of ‘militant peace-at-any-price groups,’ the former President said:
There is no reason to tolerate this arrogant flouting of the law. It could be stopped - and should be stopped - at once. Their action is not honourable dissent. It is rebellion and verges on treason.’
He described the so-called ‘domino theory’ - that other South East Asian countries would fall to Communism if the US withdrew from Vietnam - as frightfully correct’.
He firmly supported constructive negotiation to end the war, but said North Vietnam had made it emphatically clear that ‘it wants no negotiation - except on terms which would mean our complete capitulation’.
It is probable that the behaviour of the dissenters themselves is making honourable negotiation impossible’, he said, because ‘their words give aid and comfort to the enemy and prolong the war’.
The United Kingdom is leaving South East Asia and, I believe, will not return. Even if it were willing the United Kingdom does not have the capacity to reinforce Australia except in a minor way. So our immediate aims in this area must be to help India; to help to raise and to maintain the social and economic capacity of South East Asian nations; to help to raise Indonesia to as high a standard of social and economic stability as possible; to continue to assist in New
Guinea. But none of these things is possible except within the security of the United States of America.
– What a rousing firebrand is the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong). It is a wonder his words are not echoing through the corridors of the Liberal Party and Country Party headquarters encouraging young members of those Parties, who stand for Parliament and come to this place to conscript other young men, themselves to enlist. I have great respect for the honourable member. I do not mind a man being reactionary and retrogressive. He is a distinctly straightforward Australian. But I want to know how we come to the stage where we hear such an odd speech as we heard tonight. What a quaint mixture of conceit and sycophancy we found. We were told that the Indonesians were saved from the Communist scourge because of the great inspiration provided by Australia. If you say that in Djakarta you will get a good laugh from the Indonesians, notwithstanding that they are a polite people. Indonesia has had her troubles for 20 or more years.
When asked whether they thought Australians should be involved in the war in Vietnam the Indonesians said: ‘We have had troubles from the Right and from the Left. We have had four civil wars, two from the Right and two from the Left. We managed to overcome both of them from our own resources.’ It is a piece of shocking conceit that any Australian should suggest that it was inspiration from Australia that allowed Indonesia to handle the situation that developed 2 years ago. Indonesia is a country that deserves our greatest support and sympathy. It is a country left with very serious deficiencies as a result of Dutch colonial policy. It is one of the disaster areas of our foreign policy that over the last few years we have practically ignored Indonesia. It is time to make an appeal for a little old-fashioned militant nationalism on Australia’s part - not militant in the military sense, but let Australians speak as Australians and take a look at the world at large. Let them see whether we can fit in. Let us see what kind of independent spirit we can bring to bear.
The honourable member for Riverina commenced his speech tonight by attacking Senator Robert Kennedy of the United States. He said that the senator was giving aid and comfort to Ho Chi Minh. What a piece of nonsense, and this from a man who belongs to a party which sells wheat to China. I understand that the honourable member’s Party gives credit to the Chinese but asks the Indians to pay cash. There is no consistency in the attitudes of members of the Australian Country Party. Somehow this attitude of inconsistency, lack of logic and failure to understand the Asian movement in history has been allowed to seep into the Australian community and create an area of immorality as far as our foreign policy is concerned. I believe that the Australian Government and everybody associated with it is involved in an exercise in immorality. Only recently in answer to a question the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) received details of battle casualties during last February. There were 303 national servicemen and 78 other servicemen - a total of 381 - listed as casualties. These were young men called up and sent to fight a war in which they had no say while the great majority of Australians went about their business as usual. This is an exercise in national immorality.
In his speech tonight - this attitude is consistent in honourable members opposite - the honourable member for Riverina used the royal plural. He said that we must be in Vietnam, but ‘we’ is always someone else. If this Government were dinkum and if the country were dinkum about this, if all the people who are full of freedom fighting spirit meant anything, they would say that if this has to be fought to a finish we will carry the same spirit, the same enterprise and the same mobilisation as we did a quarter of a century ago against the Japanese, the Germans and the Italians. But they do not do that. That is not what they mean. When they say ‘we’ they mean someone else. I say that that is an exercise in national immorality, led I believed by the Liberal Party in principle and the Country Party as its rather miserable satellite. Where the Democratic Labor Party fits in I do not know. This is part of the pattern of Australian thinking.
For 20 years Australians have been conditioned not in policies, philosophies, ideas or ideals but in political gimmickry. Nobody gets the facts. We have built our foreign policies on whole areas of fallacy. It is logical and inevitable for anybody to make an error. It is our peculiar capacity to compound the errors of others. This has led us into an impasse where we are out with almost every other country in the world. It is not just the Labor Party in Australia who says that we are wrong in principle in the way we are fighting and going about it; great religious and national leaders all say the same. And so we are left almost alone in the world. To use the term ‘free world’ and to speak of those countries which have some relevance to our own political systems, one might say that China has Albania and America has Australia. The two groups of idiocy have isolated themselves in this way because they have failed to look facts in the face and have failed to see that the last 20 years has produced a watershed in our history. For instance, why is America so hotly engaged in Vietnam? This flows principally from the Tonkin Gulf incident and all that flowed from that. As was pointed out here recently and as has been adequately proved in recent times, that was based on false evidence and on false understanding, the same as our Suez policy of 10 or 15 years ago was based on a false understanding and no knowledge of the facts.
We continue to follow the power complex of world history. We hear these consistent physical analogies. We hear of the power vacuum, as if there were some great great wall to which you can lead your battleships and carriers and, if you open the door, they all flow through. What nonsense this is. We do not live in a world such as that any more. It is true that history has been dominated by empires, whether they were the Hittites the Egyptians, the Romans, the Spanish, the British or anyone else. But the world is not like that any more and I am optimistic enough to believe that it will not be like that again, particularly if countries like ours realise that in the sweep of history we have a particular place and have a duty to the rest of humanity and mankind. We must take up the challenge and stand on our feet, fairly and squarely before the rest of the world. That is what I am asking
Australians to do - not to desert the Americans and not to hate the Chinese but just to stand up as a free people who have something to offer in the world.
So we have this continuing nonsense of the domino theory. 1 thought it was dead. It was the political gimmick of 3 or 4 years ago. The Prime Minister of that time and also the Minister for External Affairs consistently used the term, lt was a happy piece of phraseology which I believe President Eisenhower developed, or someone such as he or one of his ghost writers. The suggestion was that when Vietnam goes we all go; next it is Laos, Cambodia and Thailand; and then it is Indonesia. The next thing we know we are fighting on the southern slopes of Mount Wellington or on Heard Island. That is all nonsense and it is conditioned to the way that Australians think about it. It is the reason behind the philosophies of the Liberal Party and the kind of pamphlets it produces at election time. Perhaps it is reasonable to do anything to win an election, such as rigging the ballots, tinkering with the electorates, telling lies and vilifying opponents, but I think it is in the pattern of Australian political history that in general we on this side do not manage to get as low as the people on the other side. But it is true enough that in recent times the Liberal Party has damaged every part of the fabric of Australian society in order to gain political power, and so it says that Communism seeps. The last thing its members will do if look at history. The last thing they will do is to look even at geography fairly and squarely.
Does Communism seep? Is Communism monolithic? I am one person on this side of the House who is a non-materialist. I am a Socialist. I believe in social values and not material ones. I believe in people before I believe in property. If anybody wants to have a philosophical discussion about the question of Socialism, Marxism or Communism we can have that at the appropriate time and place. But let us consider the suggestion that Communism does this. I believe that there are thirteen Communist countries in the world at the moment. Two or three of them have been Communist by revolution - Russia is one. Two or three have been overcome by civil war - countries such as Cuba and Vietnam - and one,
Mongolia, by an almost natural turn ot events. China, of course, became Communist by civil war. And what about the rest of them - North Korea, Albania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and East Germany? Did Communism seep acrosstheir borders? Of course not. It was the thunderous roll of the Russian armoured divisions after 1944-45 which installed Russian soldiers there to put the local Communist Parties in their place.
In fact Communism has been built into something which is larger than lifesize. It has been used as a political gimmick by those who would rather not face the political fact that Communism very rarely wins people’s hearts or minds and that there are those who do support it and will fight to the death to have it victorious. But if we face the facts of humanity and realise that nearly all humanity calls for freedom, we see the Communist monolith apparently crumbling. This is so in Europe in particular, but is happening also in Asia. I know that the North Koreans are difficult when negotiating, but not so long ago they said ‘a plague on both your houses’. But out of this we have built more political gimmickry. This is what honourable members opposite are afraid of and, into this false view of history and false understanding of society, they have built Australia’s particular relationship with America.
As I have said, I am not anti-American. As a Socialist I say to people that I love everybody, but some need correction. And so I believe that we do not bring valued judgments into our relations with the rest of the world. I do not like the Government of Greece, but I approve of our Government recognising it. I do not approve of the Government of China, but our Government ought to recognise it. I do not like the Government of Spain, but we ought to deal with it. I like the Government of Israel and we ought to do better with the Israelis. I do not think much of the Governments of some of the Arab countries and I believe that some are all right, but we ought to have negotiations with them. If Australia is to take its place we must get rid of the valued judgments about governments and we must have an infinite sense of values and sensitivities to humanities.
Another thing that we are all in a panic about is the British withdrawal. We go whingeing off to Harold Wilson and say: Please don’t do it’. What was the British military presence in this part of the world with the cessation of confrontation? It was a social service to the Malaysians, in particular. Why are the Australian forces at Malacca? We have two bases in Malaysia, an Army base at Malacca and an Air Force base at Butterworth. If we had any strategic sense at all, if we had any feeling about the security of these people, on the outbreak of war we would have insisted that they give mutual support, but of course the force at Malacca is not there because it is holding back the surging Asian hordes; it is there because it is a social service, an economic support for that part of the world What we have to do is find some answer other than a military one. If people are unemployed the best we can do is to find something better than merely calling them up. If a country is poor we can do something better than send in military forces. I believe that the British withdrawal was inevitable. Possibly it should have started to happen long ago. We do little credit to the British, to ourselves or to history in general if we think that this is something about which we can wring our hands and weep.
Then we come to the Chinese threat. We have a neurosis about China and its neighbours. Has anyone ever bothered to look at the history of China. It is said that China has been murderous about Tibet and it has been difficult to the point of being equally murderous on the borders of India, but there are plenty of people who will argue both ways on the Indian question. But what has Chinese history been over the last 5 centuries? How many people has China invaded? In the 14th century it occupied some of Vietnam and was driven out, but for the last 5 centuries it has been the Europeans who have been harrassing the Chinese. We have built this into another one of the historical gimmicks. Let China sleep, said Napoleon. The miners chased the Chinese on Lambing Flats. People around Australia all the time have built up this phobia about the Chinese. It has become a neurosis so that we cannot think correctly. We have to look at China correctly. We have to bring it into the comity of nations.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong), who had a distinguished military service above the average, was inclined to sneer at the suggestion that Opposition members might have views on tactics or strategy. I have some such views. All Australians are entitled to assess the military virtues and strategies of the leaders in Vietnam. When we hand our young men over to the military forces we are handing over our most precious trusteeship. It is everyone’s duty to keep a sharp eye on what is happening. There has been no recent evidence that the Services are being frank, even with the Ministry. We have had three or four instances where it is obvious that the Ministry has been misled. There is obvious lack of concern by the Ministers of this House tonight. Where is the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) who was going to speak tonight? He has fled from the House. Where is the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck)? Why is he not sitting in the chamber throughout this debate? I wanted to ask them their formula for winning the war. They sneer at us. We have a formula for peace. What is their formula for war? They are the warmongers of this Parliament. The Americans can fight on as long as they like, but this conflict’ of military philosophies in Vietnam produces no result but misery for the Vietnamese people.
The United States of America has three major points to its military philosophy - fire power, mobility and interdiction. They are bombing the north to prevent supplies coming from the north. They believe that by using the great mechanised capacity of American industry in military matters they can move in and move out and they can sweep to victory and go home. They believe their fire power will clean out their opponent’s. Of course, they are faced with a completely different and contradictory military philosophy - that of the Vietnamese, north and south, and of the National Liberation Front. If honourable members examine the textbooks of General Giap and Mao Tse-tung on guerilla warfare they will see that it is based on a reliance on grass roots support - on getting support by terror, by persuasion or by capturing the hearts and minds of the people. In this instance all three methods apply. There are some people who are dedicated to the Communist cause or to the National
Liberation Front and its cause. There are some who are terrified by it. There are others who lack the moral courage or physical capacity to stand against it. So there is infiltration into the community, and there can be no military answer to this. This has been so through all history. The NLF carries on its running battles and week by week the war continues and the American dead start to crowd the cemeteries of America.
– Which side is the honourable member on?
– Our own dead are mounting to the stage where we have lost a battalion and a half. What are members opposite going to do to win this war? All the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is doing is sacrificing hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to his own security. If he had any nerve, any guts, any compunction he would stand up in this House and demand that honourable members who are under 35 years of age should go to Vietnam to fight. What is wrong with members opposite? What is wrong with Australians that they send them to Parliament? What is wrong with the Liberal Party that it endorses them to stand in seats such as my own? I do not want Australians to go to Vietnam. I do not believe that they should be there. If members opposite have any sense of mission or if they believe in what they say - and if the honourable member for Bradfield believes in what he says - why do they not ask their young members to go to Vietnam?
– Does the Labor Party have any defence policy at all?
– Why does the honourable member not ask them to go? Why docs he not demand that Australians pay more taxes? I have nothing but contempt for members opposite. Their general attitude is disgraceful in the light of Australian history of which I have some knowledge. We have committed ourselves to people who have shown, in the military sense, an astonishing incompetence. No Australian worthy of his salt would allow Australians to fight in theatres commanded by people who send out a continual flow of public relations messages from Vietnam.
I refer honourable members to an incident that happened last week. Yesterday or the day before we read that soma
American soldiers were astonished when they were ambushed by tanks. How does one get ambushed by tanks? How does the enemy infiltrate tanks? How did these tanks come to be there? How did they cross these secret borders? Several honourable members on the other side of the House served in New Guinea during the last war and took part in the Kokoda Trail battles. They fought in Borneo, Bougainville and the Middle East. Many were in the forces which threw the Japanese out of New Guinea and which crossed the most difficult and dangerous country in the world. They fought the most ferocious battles of the war. They won the first land battle against the Japanese enemy. Yet they are prepared to put up with the present situation in Vietnam.
I believe we are basing all our philosophies - our military philosophy and our foreign philosophy - on false premises, false information and false understandings. If members opposite had any sense of Australia’s mission in this part of the world they would realise that there is only one way in which to succeed and that is by sending the Australian spirit surging north in a diplomatic offensive and taking the initiative. Members opposite can sneer and snarl, but the facts are that all they are doing is hiding behind the gimmicks of political phraseology. While they are prepared to send others to Vietnam they are not prepared to go themselves.
– I do not want to engage in a battle of emotion in this debate. It is terribly tempting, after what has been put before us in arguments such as that used by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). This brawling burst of argument by analogy is the sort of thing Australia is suffering from at the moment. It is for this reason that I am -taking a different approach to the debate from the one I have taken in the past when debates on foreign affairs have occurred. I believe that in Australia today there is a dearth of articulate discussion on Vietnam. I do not know whether 1 will, in fact, contribute to it. I Will say, without wishing to be rude, that the honourable member for Wills has the capacity to engage in articulate discussion but we did not hear any of it tonight. I do think this was a shame. Dissent in Australia is becoming inarticulate, illogical and the very term ‘right to dissent’ is being reworked so that any dissent becomes right.
I should like to return to the type of discussion that should take place on issues of great moment, such as this, with an approach that is at least an endeavour to be intelligent and analytical. I take for example and for the purposes of discussion the speech of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) on Tuesday night. I agree with his statement that the most important aspect of foreign affairs at the moment is the war in Vietnam. In his address he poser a number of questions. He said:
Do the Ministers and the few Government supporters who are in the House at the moment ever ask themselves the question whether or not the war is winnable without the destruction of South Vietnam? Have Government supporters ever taken that seriously into account?
That is a vital and fair question to be posed. I cannot speak for all members on the Government side but I can say, as an individual, that from time to time I am gravely concerned about the damage that is occurring in South Vietnam. One would not be human if one were not concerned. I have exercised the right to travel to Vietnam and I cannot forget the tragic sight I saw in one hamlet north of Da Nang after it had been struck by the Vietcong the night before. About 300 citizens were lined up and the very worst forms of Vietcong terrorism and butchery were carried out in front of those people. About thirty were destroyed in the most horrible way. .One could see the stark expressions of fear on the faces of the survivors the next morning. They must withstand the acts, of terrorism that are being carried out but which are rarely mentioned in discussions of this war. When one associates this with the insurgency movements in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand and can see the pattern, any doubts one has from time to time are quickly dispelled. These recollections and this analysis of the trends in South East Asia are clear in the mind. The honourable member for Yarra went on to say: ‘Most of the people killed in South Vietnam have been civilians’. He related this to napalm bombing. It is fair to say that there is no reason to disbelieve the estimate that 50,000 civilians were murdered or kidnapped by the Vietcong between 1954 and 1964.
These people have been decapitated, kidnapped and assassinated in the most brutal and cruel way. Yet this is forgotten in the desire to ally any deaths in South Vietnam to napalm bombing alone. Since 1962, according to the Institute of Strategic Studies, 60,000 fatal casualties have occurred in the ranks of the ARVN - the Army of South Vietnam - while 11,000 civilians have been killed. So, in that period of that time, most of the people who have been killed - regrettable as I have explained - have been military casualties. The military casualties far outweighed the civilian casualties. This in no sense is a justification in itself of our presence in Vietnam but it Ls an answer to the one point that I quoted from the honourable member for Yarra’s speech.
I think one of the most interesting points brought forward by the honourable member for Yarra - and my friend and opponent the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who is to follow me in this debate generally shares his views and philosophies - was made in answer to an interjection by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who said: ‘What is the other side doing?’ He was referring to the North Vietnamese. The honourable member for Yarra said: ‘It is their country. Has that ever occurred to the honourable member?’ The very premise upon which the Opposition’s case in opposition to our commitment in Vietnam is based is wrong. The Opposition views the Vietnam conflict as a pre-1954 conflict. Before 1954 the situation in Vietnam was a straight colonial war. But after that date South Vietnam became a country in its own right with at least as much independence from outside powers as North Vietnam. The present Vietnam conflict is about which side is to rule in Saigon and in South Vietnam. It is a conflict of the post-colonial period. It is incredible that so many intelligent members of the Opposition can base a case, I presume in all honesty, on a premise which is historically wrong and invalid.
The next point which the honourable member for Yarra raised was that there are very few North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. We know the difficulties that the North Vietnamese have in recruiting in South Vietnam. We know the successes of the Chieu Hoi Programme - the Open Arms Programme - which has meant that many more North Vietnamese regulars have been required to serve in South Vietnam. The desertion rate of the North Vietnamese army has skyrocketed. In 1965 when the ‘Open Arms’ policy was originated there were also 12,000 desertions from Vietcong ranks. In 1966 this number had doubled to 20,000. In 1967 it was in excess of 30,000. The North Vietnamese have had to pour in troops in such numbers that there are now 110,000 North Vietnamese regular soldiers serving in Vietnam so far as can be ascertained. The honourable member for Yarra has said that there are very few North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. The honourable member then went on to say:
The resistance to Communism in South Vietnam has never had popular support. . . . Political and economic progress has not been made in South Vietnam; therefore, there is no military success.
I ask honourable members to recall the nation we are talking about. South Vietnam is a country that has had wars for centuries. Dictatorial groups have been in power. There has been no liaison between the Government and the people. To ask the people in the lower regions of South Vietnam to travel, for example, to Saigon is like asking the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) to visit Sweden to have his teeth rectified. I do not say this to be funny. There has not been any feeling for a national capital or a national government because the liaison and the spirit has not been there.
Yet, there has rapidly been a change in a very short period. However, since the American commitment has been increased there has been a grass roots movement that shows the initial signs of a democratic state. It is not a democracy as we know it. It is not a democracy such as we would prefer. But it is an endeavour within that nation to establish a system of representative government which has never been heard of in the past. If, as the honourable member for Yarra said, the resistance to Communism in South Vietnam has never had popular support then the first of the three purposes of the Tet offensive would not have failed. Let me remind honourable members of what those three purposes were. The first was to destroy and disintegrate the ARVN. It was hoped that the South Vietnamese army would collapse with this offensive. We know that this did not occur. In fact, there was a tightening of morale and effort and a very definite improvement in the manner in which the South Vietnamese army was engaged in combat. Secondly, and most importantly in relation to what the honourable member for Yarra said, it was hoped that there would be a popular uprising. This was most emphatically stated in all documents that have been captured. Yet, we saw little or no evidence of this at all. If the statement of the honourable member for Yarra had been correct the Nguyen Thieu Government would not have been in operation today. The parliamentary system established lastyear would have crumbled and the uprising which the North Vietnamese General Giap had been hoping for would have occurred. Thirdly it was hoped that the morale of the United States would crumble. I would have to concede that dissent in the United States has received far more publicity than previously. Dissent has increased. Of course, what has happened is that people are exercising -their right to dissent and those who are engaging in the type of dissent I referred to initially are using the Tet offensive as a whipping horse. There has been no weakening of morale in South Vietnam. But there has been a weakening in the attitude of those who should be cognisant of the movements of Communism throughout South East Asia. The honourable member for Yarra concluded: _ The main need in Vietnam is economic, political and social progress.
I would agree with that. 1 would hope that in this day and age we are not going to war for the sake of war. I would regard any military commitment as only buying time and that the important element of that commitment is what you do with the time bought.
I referred to the progress in the neodemocratic institutions that are developing in South Vietnam. One could point to the pacification programmes which were set back during the Tet offensive. One could point in particular to the work done by Australians in Phuoc Tuy province to illustrate the economic and social progress that has occurred in South Vietnam. This is the sort of thing for which we are in Vietnam. If we are not there for this purpose then we should not be in Vietnam. It is a successful pacification programme. We are striving for a situation where South Vietnam is an economically viable country. We do not have the same easy road in the war that the Vietcong have. The Vietcong have one aim and that is to disrupt and disorder. They do not have to clear, hold and develop. This is so often forgotten when the argument is put forward by members on the other side. South Vietnam is desperately in need of stability, of economic reform and of leadership. It is striving for these. Our nation, in a small way, is doing something towards that development. The Opposition’s attitude would destroy any hope for this development. I would only hope that we would not continue to ignore the insurgency movements throughout South East Asia, to ignore the development that is taking place or to ignore the arguments by some who support this commitment not on any emotional basis but on a profound belief in the philosophy that says: This nation requires development and stability. The aggression from the north must be withstood in order to gain that necessary stability.
– The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) is a serious young man. He has studied the conflict in Vietnam in some depth. He has visited Vietnam and I know that he is troubled about the difficulties of rinding a satisfactory solution to that conflict. There are many men on the other side of this House whom 1 respect. I certainly respect the honourable member for Kooyong and his views. Tonight, however, he tried to distort, to a certain extent, the words of my colleague and friend the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). The honourable member for Yarra has stated that there are not great numbers of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. In fact, he said that until the early 1960s there were no North Vietnamese soldiers at all in South Vietnam. It was only in the early 1960s that this picture changed, and it changed because of the escalation policy followed by the South Vietnamese and also, of course, by the United States, which was sending more and more troops to Vietnam. Let me quote a small passage from ‘Newsweek’ of 27th July 1964, in which Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence, is reported to have said:
I know of no North Vietnamese military units in South Vietnam.
Let me quote further, this time from the Washington Post’ of 6th March 1963. Paul D. Harkins was then retiring as CommanderinChief of the United States forces in Vietnam. He was succeeded by General Westmoreland. He was reported in this newspaper as having said:
The guerrillas obviously are not being reinforced or supplied systematically from North Vietnam, China, or anywhere else. They apparently depend for weapons primarily on what ever they can capture. Many of the weapons are home made.
This newspaper report, as I said, appeared on 6th March 1963. The honourable member for Yarra has given the history of the conflict and has dealt with the facts as he sees them. No other member of this House has studied the history of Vietnam as closely as the honourable member for Yarra has done. He has been to Vietnam, as I have been. We have studied the struggle at first hand, and because of his great capacity he has been able to read very widely on the subject. I challenge any other honourable member to declare that he has read as widely as the honourable member for Yarra on the situation in Vietnam. Let me quote from an article by Emmet John Hughes which appeared in ‘Newsweek’ of 29th May 1967. It states:
The combined strength of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese regulars exceeds 320,000, of whom less than 115,000 are currently committed to battle. Thus a little more than 20% of enemy forces has sufficed to have US generals clamouring for reinforcement of their army of 440,000.
The North Vietnamese regulars and the Vietcong were able, with only 115,000 troops in the front line, to hold down nearly half a million Americans, 700,000 South Vietnamese forces and many thousands of South Koreans and others. The great mass of the North Vietnamese regular troops were in reserve north of the 17th parallel.
Furthermore, the honourable member for Kooyong said he saw the horrors of civil war. We all know that in a civil war the barbarities committed by one side against the other are quite unparalleled. I could quote passages from one of my previous speeches in which I related what the late Professor Bernard Falls saw being done by the South Vietnamese Government forces whom we are supporting. He said that he saw a bringing-lo-reason torture cage 4 feet square made of iron and covered with barbed wire. Vietcong soldiers were put into this cage in a squatting position. They could not stand up or sit down. If they moved, their bodies were punctured. He said that in his opinion Christ’s crown of thorns was just a plaything compared with this cage.
The honourable member for Kooyong said: ‘Do not let us bring emotions into our consideration of this question’. You cannot keep emotion out of any consideration of questions of war, of torture, of hunger, diseases and other horrors, of burning flesh, of all sorts of indignities and injuries inflicted on men, women and children by our forces and the forces that we support. I think I have spent enough time on the honourable member for Kooyong, Mr Speaker. I think he will find that as he sees more and more of the horrors of war he will realise that one can never rule out emotional reactions in time of war.
We are discussing the foreign affairs statement delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) in this House last Tuesday. The statement dealt with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, with the philosophy of Australia’s foreign policy, with Britain’s withdrawal from east of Suez and, of course, Vietnam. I shall try to confine my remarks to the war in Vietnam, because I think this is the most important issue confronting the world today. It could throw the whole of mankind into a nuclear holocaust, particularly if we followed the policies that have been enunciated by many honourable members on the Government side. This mania for escalation, for bombing and still more bombing, could lead to the Third World War. in which more than people in Vietnam would be killed. Tens upon thousands of people in many countries would perish. Yet the honourable member for Kooyong says: ‘Let us keep emotions away from this issue’. The Minister said:
The primary objective of Australian foreign policy is to protect and advance Australian interests. This is not interpreted narrowly, for our own welfare and security are bound up with that of others. We cannot live prosperous and safe if a great part of the world is living in poverty without hope and is torn by war.
I say to the Minister and to other members and supporters of the Government that I believe it is against Australia’s interest to involve ourselves in this Vietnam conflict. In taking sides in this conflict we are assisting the United States in its attempt to enforce its will on the people of Vietnam. We have determined who are the goodies and who are the baddies in Vietnam. What we have failed to recognise is that it is not within our province to determine this matter. Only the people of Vietnam can determine it. It is my unshakable view that it is against Australia’s interest to have Australian troops involved in this Vietnam conflict. The Minister asked whether the people of Vietnam were living in poverty, without hope and torn by war. We know that they are. 1 ask: ‘Are we helping to prevent this poverty or have we aggravated it? Are we helping to prevent bloodshed or are we causing bloodshed and suffering?’ We support the use of napalm in Vietnam. It is one of the most fearsome weapons known to man but we are supporting its use in ever-increasing volume. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ of 25th March 1968 reports as follows:
Defence Department figures show that the Air Force alone has lumped more than 100,000 tons of the fiery petrol-gelatin bombs on Vietnam since 1963.
At a later stage the article stated:
The chemical compound has been refined to the point that its extreme temperatures will turn truck engines to liquid steel.
I have read that it melts the flesh on the faces of men, women and children and also the bone structure of their faces and bodies. The honourable member for Kooyong said we should not bring emotions into such a matter. I ask every Australian: Is this policy that we support of inflicting this horror by man upon man in Australia’s interest?
Australia supports the bombing of North Vietnam. There has been more bombing on little Vietnam than during the whole pf the Second World War. Last March alone bombs equalling 77,000 tons of T.N.T. were dropped on North Vietnam whereas at the height of the Second World War only 80,000 tons of T.N.T. a month was discharged on Germany, 29,000 tons on Japan and 17,000 tons on Korea. What have we tried to do? We have tried to bomb these people back to their stone age. But these people are not far out of the stone age. They have withstood great hardships. I quote the words of Senator Robert Kennedy from a report that appeared in ‘Newsweek’ of 29th January 1968. He said: . . there is a question of our moral responsibility. Are we like the God of the Old Testament that we can decide in Washington, D.C., what cities, what towns, what hamlets in Vietnam are going to be destroyed?
This barbarity must stop. The Vietnam conflict is destroying the very fibre of American life. In the struggle for the minds of men, I believe that every bomb the United States explodes on the people of Vietnam destroys its very self. This is why the cream of American life is speaking out against the horrors inflicted on the people of Vietnam, as well as the horrors inflicted on their own young men, particularly in Khe Sanh, which was referred to by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). My colleagues and I on this side of the House support the great Americans that are speaking out against this war. Senator Mike Mansfield, the Leader of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate, who is responsible for channelling legislation on most issues for President Johnson in the United States Senate, is opposed to the Administration’s policy in Vietnam. Men of the calibre of William Fulbright, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Democratic Senators Church, Hartke, McGovern, Gore, Gruening, Morse, Robert and Edward Kennedy are speaking out against this war. We on this side of the House do not stand alone. We have great Americans on our side in this struggle. There are also Republicans like Senators Morton, Cooper, Aiken, Hatfield, Percy and Javits speaking out against this war. We have statesmen of the calibre of Kenneth Galbraith, United States Ambassador to India under President Kennedy’s Administration, and George Keenan, the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union in President Kennedy’s Administration. Or we can speak about men like Roger Hilsman, the former Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Arthur Schlesinger or Sorenson. These are men who stand with us in our policy on Vietnam. Some of them originally supported intervention in Vietnam but they have now changed their views.
There are Republicans and Democrats in the United States who are opposed to this barbaric war. But only one member of this Government in either House has ever spoken out against this vicious, dirty, vile war in Vietnam - only one man in this monolithic, granite-like structure of Government supporters. They stand united in a selfrighteous way. The Speaker supports the Government’s policy.
– Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– With respect and regret I withdraw the remark.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark unconditionally.
– I withdraw the remark unconditionally. What is the position? The Government has always believed that it could achieve a military victory in Vietnam. Most world leaders have expressed the view that there can never be a military victory in Vietnam for either side; that a solution has to be reached at the conference table. During the Tet offensive we saw the infiltration of the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese into thirty provincial capitals. Battalions of men - not just a few - moved into Saigon and Hue. Nobody seemed to be aware of this infiltration, but the Vietcong moved in even as far as the United States Embassy in Saigon.
Denis Warner, Melbourne ‘Herald’ journalist stated in an article on 18th March 1968:
Roads 1 used to drive along only a few years ago are not only unsafe - some have disappeared.
The country has become a series of American and allied islands dotted on s Vietcong and North Vietnamese sea.
Even most provincial capitals cannot be regarded as secure.
Pacification in the sense of providing security for villages and hamlets is dead. 1 hesitate to discuss just what proportion of the population and countryside is under Government and allied control.
A figure of 3% of the total area under control both by day and night is at best only a guess but it may help to give some idea of the effect of the Tet offensive.
– Who said this?
– Denis Warner, a journalist on the Melbourne ‘Herald’ who has supported the Government’s policy. That is what he had to say about the position in Vietnam. In the last two minutes that are available to me I ask the Government what its policy is and where it stands. Does it intend to ask for more and more troops? Does it intend to escalate this war? Does it know about the scare that General Westmoreland put into the whole financial world when he asked for another 206,000 troops, knowing quite well that at the present time the United States is spending $36,000m a year in Vietnam, where it has half a million troops? Is it realised that this additional request by General Westmoreland has frightened the financial world and consequently confidence has been lost in the United States dollar?
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, what does the Australian Labor Party believe should be done? We say: Stop the bombing now. Recognise the National Liberation Front. Achieve a holding position so that we can have a negotiated peace in Vietnam. It may be a long drawn out war, but this would be- a de-escalation of the war. If we escalate it further, it could lead to another world war.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has given us his version of the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). But one or two versions other than his can be given. I should like to voice some thoughts concerning the very matters to which the honourable member devoted his entire speech. It is quite clear that no consideration of foreign policy is possible these days without entering into a consideration of Vietnam. And it is quite clear that no consideration of Vietnam is possible without considering in detail what was intended by the Tet offensive of the Vietcong. I propose to offer only one or two of many thoughts that could be expressed about the Tet offensive and the reasons for the change in strategy that the North Vietnamese clearly adopted by undertaking their offensive campaign during the early days of February of this year. We know that over the years a strategy has been built up by General Giap of the North, with the advice of Truong Chinh, concerning the stages of the politico-guerilla military conflict in which they engage. We know that there are three stages which are designed not to be simultaneous but to follow one another. We know also that in this war that strategy, which has been pursued in the past, both in theory and in practice, was thrown away. We have to ask ourselves: Why was that strategy altered? Was the change due to a policy of strength on the part of the North Vietnamese, or did it indicate, rather, a position of weakness. Clearly, it illustrated a position of desperation and of intense weakness on the part of the North.
I should like for a few minutes to discuss the three stages of this politicoguerilla conflict in which General Giap and Truong Chinh engage. As we know, there are three stages. The first is the stage of foundation - the stage at which the aim of the enemy is to secure a base in the countryside and recruit troops. To quote Truong Chinh: ‘Towards the end of this stage guerilla warfare comes to play the major role’. Then we go to the second stage. This stage was not completed before the counter offensive was undertaken by the North. This is the stage of equilibrium. It has been set out very clearly for us to peruse. It is a preparation for the counter offensive. It has three principal ingredients: It is the aim of the Vietcong to wear out the enemy’s forces, to annihilate them piecemeal and then to mobilise the people against the alleged puppet administration. This is the position of the Vietcong vis a vis the Government of South Vietnam. We ask ourselves: Why was that stage not completed before the North engaged in its general counter offensive during the Tet campaign? It is perfectly clear, as the Minister for External Affairs indicated, that there was a fundamental change in policy during 1967. This is worth exploring in some detail for the illustrations that it gives of the actual residual strength possessed by the North Vietnamese.
As I have said, the second stage is the equilibrium stage. I now move to the third stage. It, too, has been set out quite clearly, and it is worth reiterating. This is the stage that requires a balance of forces in favour of the Vietcong. Their strategy is then to launch a general counter offensive. To quote Truong Chinh’s words: ‘As for us, our consistent aim is that the whole country should rise up and go over to the offensive on all fronts, completely divide the enemy and achieve true independence and unification’. One can appreciate the propaganda in some of those words. This policy was tested during the 1946-54 campaign. It has not achieved its expected results in the recent Tet offensive. Why? The failure came about because the three ingredients of the equilibrium stage were not brought to realisation. Those are the three ingredients of wearing out the enemy’s forces- those are the Americans, the South Vietnamese, the Australians, the Filipinos and the other allies - annihilating them piecemeal and then mobilising the people against the puppet administration. By the end of 1966, it was quite clear that these ingredients were not being brought to realisation. So, in July 1967, we had the very famous Resolution No. 13 of the North Vietnamese Communist Party, which stated that the North bad decided to telescope the stages of its campaign. Military history makes it quite clear that one does not telescope one’s strategy unless one operates from a position of weakness. In many instances, such a policy is one of desperation. One does not change the strategy that one has taught to one’s troops year in and year out without causing them a loss of morale. Yet the North Vietnamese did this. I am amazed that the Opposition failed to appreciate the significance of the failure of the Tet offensive to get to the third stage. That offensive was really intended to be a coup. Yet, only 7 months before, Ho Chi Minh, in Hanoi, was exhorting his troops to greater effort and telling them that the war might last another 5, 10 or 20 years or even longer. A complete change in strategy followed within a few months, and, in a military sense, there was an entirely different approach which failed.
But nobody could ever appreciate Giap’s and Truong Chinh’s approach to war without realising that it is the psychological capacity of the democracies to mount a continued campaign that they doubt. They have always said this. They have their experience of French democracy during the early 1950s to support them in this view. They knew the weakness that existed in France, and they judged that a similar weakness would exist in countries like Australia and the United States of America. Has this in fact been so? The second stage of the North Vietnamese programme was based on the principle that if they could not pursue military victory in that offensive, they would pursue the psychological one. I suggest that the principal casualty of the psychological campaign that they have undertaken has been the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who is the alternative Prime Minister of this country. In at least two ways, he has been the principal casualty of that campaign. I remember very well that when, either during or a little after the Tet offensive, he was asked what the policy of his Parly was in relation to Vietnam, this country was in considerable doubt about that policy. A spirit of psychological despair had overcome certain people. The Leader of the Opposition’s policy was one of conditional withdrawal. We recall the famous four conditions. What did he say of his ALP policy? He said: ‘I admit that it is badly phrased’. Almost surely, he must be the first man in destiny who has recalled on infelicitous phraseology for an excuse about his policy.
Then we come to the second aspect of the campaign in respect of which the Leader of the Opposition has been a casualty. This was certainly illustrated on Tuesday evening when, on behalf of the Opposition, he made a speech in reply to the Minister’s statement. That speech had one capacity, and in that it was replete. That was a capacity to create despair among the people of Australia. What did the honourable gentleman say? Let me go over some of the things that he said and see the value there was in them and what deliberate misquotations be used in order to substantiate his case. Remember that he is the alternative Prime Minister in a country that has to make some sacrifices in war and do without some of the good things in life because of the isolated strategic position in which we find ourselves. The Leader of the Opposition, in the first 15 minutes of his speech, used the word ‘failure’ fifteen times. This does not steel the will of the people. He then misused and misquoted Goldberg when referring to his address before the Security Council and later his testimony before a United States Senate Committee. He misquoted religious leaders in South Vietnam. This was a deliberate and vicious misquotation. It was a selective one and is incorrect.
Finally, he failed to understand the real aid programme that this country has developed in Asia. He admitted that China was a problem and then said:
Australia is not guiltless in the international ostracism of China.
He admitted that China is isolated in this world but he said that Australia is not guiltless. China is experiencing some ostracism because of a multitude of policies concerning Korea, the early role of the French in Vietnam, India and other countries such as Taiwan. Adopting a pose of masochotic self-destruction, the Leader of the Opposition had the temerity to suggest that Australia has considerable responsibility for the ostracism of China. This attitude intrigues me. It is not unlike the inverted logic used during the 1930s when some European dictators, pointing to the West, said: ‘They are responsible for my belligerence.’ The logic of this is not unlike the attitude of Stalin who, pointing to Finland, said he was worried about being surrounded. So the Leader of the Opposition says that Australia is not guiltless in the ostracism of China. 1 have not time to deal with all the characteristics of his speech, but I would like to spend one or two moments on his deliberate and unpardonable misquotations of the Catholic Bishops in Vietnam. The reference by the Leader of the Opposition to this aspect appears at page 461 of Hansard. Having come into politics under the hegemony of Dr Evatt, he has considerable capacity to misquote religious leaders. The Leader of the Opposition said:
The Catholic Bishops of South Vietnam . . , said in their statement of 16th January: ls the war to continue until South Vietnam is destroyed?’
He used their quotation for his own policy of surrender. The Catholic Bishops of Vietnam did have a meeting in South Vietnam during the first weeks of January. The Archbishop of Saigon, Archbishop Van Binh, did not in bis statement or in the context of his statement convey any meaning such as that attributed to the Bishops of South Vietnam by the Leader of the Opposition. I will read two small extracts from their statement. They said:
If necessary, some sacrifices should be made in exchange for peace. But we cannot sacrifice freedom and justice in exchange for an artificial peace, one that could not last, a peace based on fraud, the result of which would be to lead us inevitably into slavery.
This is one of the gentlemen whom the Leader of the Opposition used to support his own case of withdrawal.
He went on to say, referring to the bombing of the north, that the Bishops had expressed some disquiet about the bombing of the North. The Archbishop of Saigon, in the statement to which I have referred, said:
We mean that, at the same time, the infiltration, th”. invasion from the North should stop. He meant that this should stop at the same time as the bombing of the North ceases. This is not unlike the policy that we have enunciated. I cannot find a significant difference between that policy and the policy that we have enunciated. The Bishops in other statements have said that they do not want us to follow a policy of withdrawal and they have exhorted their people to fight. Then the other religions in Vietnam - the Cao Dai, the Hoa Hao, Buddhists and the Confucianist representatives - at a further meeting in Saigon during the first weeks in January reiterated the desire to keep us in Vietnam. They went on to say:
Enduring peace in Vietnam must be based on the right of self-determination.
That is not dissimilar in any way from the policy that we have enunciated and pursued, yet by some strange quirk of logic these people are quoted by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his Party’s case in this place. As I said earlier, it is clear to me that he has been the greatest casualty of the Tet offensive. As the alternative Prime Minister of this country he has a greater responsibility than to promote psychological despair designed to erode the will of the people of this nation.
Let me enumerate the characteristics of his speech. He misused Goldberg’s testimony to the United States Senate body; he misused the quotations of the religious; he misunderstood the position of Communist China; he criticised the people of South Vietnam for having a flimsy government in South East Asia and he tried to drive a wedge between the Americans and the South Vietnamese. Those characteristics were obvious in his speech. Let us compare them with the characteristics that’ were obvious in one of the great political campaigns conducted during the Korean war on the accusation that America was engaging in bacteriological warfare. One can never forget that campaign. What were its ingredients? Religious and politicians in democratic countries were used to spread propaganda that the Americans were engaging in bacteriological warfare. There was a misuse of a protocol before the United Nations on bacteriological warfare. We remember the contrasting of the fighting qualities of American and allied troops with those of the troops of the Republic of Korea.
I pose this question to the House: If one were looking for a psychological campaign designed to drain the will of the people, what significant’ differences could one sea between the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the great psychological and political campaign that was pursued during the Korean conflict? Frankly I can see very few differences. I hope his speech is appreciated as a speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the alternative Prime Minister of this country.
Time is running short but these things must be said. Let me reiterate my arguments. A significant change in North Vietnam’s strategy was brought about because of North Vietnam’s position of weakness. There are signs of political collapse in North Vietnam and of quick changes in policy which occur only in a country that is not winning. In fact, they are evident only in a country that is losing. While the North Vietnamese did not succeed in their military objectives at the time, they have succeeded to a remarkable extent in finding reinfecting agents in Australia and in the United States. In those circumstances one can only agree with the Minister for External Affairs that Australia, being in a strategically isolated position, is in for a testing time. Great resolution and strength will be required if we are to appreciate our position and to realise that we must make the necessary sacrifices to come out of this with honour while at the same time preserving freedom for the people of South Vietnam.
– I propose to deal mainly with the Vietnam issue. For years this has been hashed and rehashed. An excellent document has been incorporated in the Hansardrecord of another place. It appeared originally in the United States Congressional Record and Senator Cavanagh has now placed it on record for us all to see. It is a document that should be read by honourable members opposite who claim to be experts on this subject but who have not read what the real experts have said. The Congressional Record sets down the considered conclusions of a United States Senate committee on the history of the war in Vietnam, which that committee specially studied.
I do not have time to deal at length with the document, but I have time to touch on a few aspects of it. The first aspect is our reason for being in Vietnam. Before
I entered the Parliament many questions were asked from this side of the House seeking a reason for our being in Vietnam. We were told that we were there to stop a thrust by China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
In his speech last Tuesday the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) said that our most difficult task is to reach a point where the mainland of China will fit into good international relations. If that is our most difficult task why are we not making our major effort in this direction? The only effort made by the Government has been to sell wheat and a few other things, such as tallow and scrap iron, to China. This is not the way to bring China into good international relations. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) accused the Opposition of failing to deal with the question of China.
Let me refer to a few matters which this Government has failed to deal with. Firstly there is the matter of China thrusting between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. What evidence have we of such a thrust? I am not here to advocate China’s policy. I am not here to stand up for China and her foreign policy - no doubt I will be accused of doing so - or any other policy but I am here to stand up for justice and for a consideration of the facts before somebody is accused of being aggressive. It is very easy to accuse another nation of being aggressive but no nation does not have some blood on its hands.
Let us look for a moment at China’s aggressiveness. It had a fight with India. Lord Bertrand Russell, who is in the habit of studying deeply such matters as this, said that this was aggression by China. Honourable members opposite, who laughed when I mentioned Lord Russell’s name, do not laugh now. Lord Russell then did what honourable members opposite do not do: He read the documents submitted by India and China and made a considered statement. He did not say that India committed aggression on China but he did say that the Chinese had a good case which deserved answering. What tribunal has answered it? Who has appealed to the International Court of Justice or to the United Nations? Who has appealed to an independent body of opinion, to the International Commission of Jurists? Who has appealed to anything but his own ingrained prejudices to decide that China is the aggressor?
Let us look at some of the facts that we do have. We know that there was one reporter on the scene from the Western world. He came from the London ‘Times’. He reported in that newspaper that China had been invaded by the Indians by probing operations announced by Mr Nehru. I had a lot of time for Mr Nehru as a man of peace but I know that he was a sick man and he would be liable to be misled in the same way as Ministers of this Government have been misled by Press reports which are not Press reports at all but cooked up versions of the truth. It so happens that the territory which Mr Nehru announced as being subject to a probing operation by Indian troops was shown on Indian maps as Chinese territory. One honourable member, I believe, has asked: ‘What about the rest of South East Asia?’ China has made border agreements with everybody except India and the Soviet Union.
I am not going to say that China is not an aggressor. I do not say this about any nation. I am just saying that we should look at the facts. When we say in an international affairs debate that the most difficult task of all is that of reaching a point where the mainland of China will fit into good international relations I suggest that we start to look at some of our own aggressions. The honourable member for Lilley referred to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that Australia is not guiltless in the ostracism of China. He describes this as a kind of inverted logic like Stalin’s inverted logic when he was complaining of being surrounded by Finland. What sort of inverted logic is it when we are complaining of being surrounded by North Vietnam? Who has the inverted logic in this situation?
The honourable member for Lilley says that we have inverted logic because we say that Australia is not guiltless in the ostracism of China. I say that we are not guiltless because Australia is one of the few nations in the United Nations which consistently fails to recognise China in any sense. The United Kingdom, when it had an anti-Labour Government, recognised China. Was the United Kingdom ostracising China then or were we? This old excuse that we are containing China, that we are stopping the drive between the Pacific and Indian Oceans has been dropped. A new reason has been found why we should stay to save our face in South East Asia. The new reason is to defend South Vietnam against Communist aggression from the north. This Communist aggression from the north, of course, started the whole thing. That is according to the story that the Minister for External Affairs and his predecessors have told us. The International Control Commission in Vietnam is an impartial body that was set up to decide the rights and wrongs of the case. There has been no other arbitration. No other judicial body has been called in. There has been no appeal to the United Nations. The whole appeal of the belligerents has been , to naked force and to specious arguments which completely ignore one half of the facts. I am not saying that North Vietnam is guiltless in this although I know that people will suggest that I am saying that North Vietnam is guiltless. I have not said that. I am saying that two wrongs do not make a right and if we are going to justify taking people out of their own country and putting them in someone else’s backyard we have to be pretty sure of what we are doing.
In the Minister’s speech there is nothing which summarises our foreign policy today and there is nothing in any of the previous speeches which sums up and weighs the case on both sides. Until we do this we have no right to be an executioner. We cannot be the judge and the executioner in our own cause. This is supposed to be the tradition of Western freedom, of British justice, of democracy, of a man being innocent until he is proved guilty. All these principles go out the window in wartime. One of the things that the Communists did for Vietnam and for Korea - I am not suggesting that the Communists are better than any other tyranny - was to give some land to the starving peasants. Prior to Diem’s so-called land reform, there were 600,000 landless peasants living under a feudal system in South Vietnam; 2i% of landowners owned 50% of the land while 70% owned 12i% of the land. Diem brought in land reform, so-called, in 1959. The landless still had no land, but a maximum rent had been set at 25% of the crop. The Diem Government not only, in effect, sought to reverse the land reform of the Vietminh which had formerly occupied the country but also launched a wave of oppression which soon resulted in insurrection and rebellion throughout the south. That was what caused the war and it has continued, not because of the continued insurrection in the south, but because we went in to stop it.
– Why did the people from the north go to the south?
– They came down to the south from the north because they were scared.
– Scared of whom?
– They were scared of Communist dictatorship in the north.
– I would be scared, too.
– So would I, but I would not be going there to put my face into something that did not concern me.
– It is a pity the honourable member does not go there.
– If I did go there it would not be with a gun.
– At least he would be prepared to go over there, which is more than can be said for honourable members opposite.
– I would be prepared to go there if I thought it was in the interest of truth, freedom, democracy and justice, but I would not go in the interests of saving the face of honourable members opposite or to save them from ridicule. Some Government supporters seem to think that a person is a coward if he does not kill people, no matter whether he is aware of the rights or the wrongs of the case. The Minister said that Australia observes basic human rights and fundamental freedoms at home and believes in the promotion and encouragement or respect for them in the rest of the world without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. They are fine words, but what are the facts? At home we have discrimination against our Aboriginals. We drag our feet in granting them the justice which has been granted to them by a court. We say: ‘Wait a couple of years and then we will pay you award wages’.
– Why does the honourable member not go to the Northern Territory and ascertain the position?
– I have treated Aboriginal patients who have been subjected to our oppression. Why does not the honourable member for the Northern Territory go up there and find out?
– Wake up.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory has asked me to wake up. He thinks I do not know that he has seen Aboriginals. I am not saying whether the honourable member has seen them or not I query whether he observes basic human rights and fundamental freedoms at home. He should urge the Government to give effect to some of its high sounding phrases about equality without distinction of race, sex, language or religion. Australia does not even have equal pay for the sexes although it is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One cannot trust these high sounding phrases. One has to look at the Government’s record to see what it has done. the Minister for External Affairs referred to the Tet offensive at violating a pledge to observe the lunar new year truce. I am against violating pledges, too, and Australia has violated a few. We violated our pledge not to overthrow the Geneva Accords by force but we overthrew them by force. We broke previous lunar new year truces in Vietnam. What did the Government expect the North Vietnamese to do? If they acted as savages it was because they were treated as savages. Does the Government expect these people, who are to be bombed into the stone age, to set the example of humanity, or will the Government itself set the example?
The honourable member for Lilley spoke about Christian standards. Dean Swift said that we are religious enough to learn to hate one another but we do not have enough religion to learn to love one another. The Carpenter of Nazareth is said to have taught that one ought to love one’s enemies. Sometimes I find it very difficult to love some honourable members opposite, but 1 respect them as human beings. I have contempt for their beliefs. The Minister said, in a manner designed to show how terrible the Communists are, that the military assaults were designed to produce an overall state of demoralisation and collapse, defeatism and fragmentation and that the radio units appealed for people to change their allegiance. Has this never been done by our side? Both sides have been doing this during the war. The Minister said that there were a few defections, forced or voluntary, and that no doubt some of those who did join the Vietcong were sympathisers who had been planted to wait for such developments. Of course we never plant any sympathisers among their troops to defect! The problem of refugees is the big one. The problem is not, as the Minister said, the problem of China, but of the one million refugees that we have created. We have destroyed their civilization, their homes and their education and they are starving.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following information:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
How many national service trainees have been (a) wounded and (b) killed in Vietnam to date?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I draw the honourable member’s attention to the use of the word ‘trainees’ in the question. National Servicemen who go to Vietnam are fully trained soldiers, not trainees.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s questions:
There have been no sales of Neptune aircraft and it is not expected that any complete Neptune aircraft will be declared for disposal.
Housing for Migrants (Question No. 51)
asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 No. 2, 3, 4 and 5. Not applicable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680328_reps_26_hor58/>.