26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr WEBB presented a petition from certain residents of Australia showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as selfreliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there by qualified teachers are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system pre-school facilities should be available to al) children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact, as reported, that the United States Government has under consideration proposals to withdraw 50,000 troops from Vietnam? Is it also a fact that reports from the Pentagon state that, under the American draft system, many thousands more men than are needed will be eligible for the United States armed forces this year? If these are facts, will the Minister state on what grounds the Government justifies the maintenance of all Australian military forces in Vietnam and enforces conscription for an undeclared overseas war while the United States, with surplus armed forces at home and major commitments in Vietnam, prepares to bring home the troops?
– At present, the position of the United States on the withdrawal of forces depends entirely on the President’s statement of 14th March. Perhaps it would be as well if 1 quoted that in full. It reads:
In view of the current offensive on the pan of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, there is no prospect for a reduction of American forces in the foreseeable future. When we are able to reduce forces as a result of a combination of circumstances, the ability of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves in areas where we are now defending them, the progress of the talks in Paris on the level of enemy activity - when that occurs, I will make an announcement.
Those are the words of the President of the United States and they in fact are still applicable. I do not think anybody would doubt, however, that the United States is thinking very carefully and hopefully about the prospect of withdrawing a considerable number of troops in the near future, but at the moment that is still very much conjecture. As 1 pointed out in other contexts it might be possible for the United States, having something over half a million men in South Vietnam and with the kind of military organisation which this involves, to withdraw the number generally talked about, perhaps 50,000 men, without in any way decreasing the viability of the balance of the force. As far as Australia is concerned, however, any attempt to reduce our force by a comparable percentage would in fact destroy the viability of the much smaller force which we have in operation in Vietnam.
All I can say to the honourable gentleman is that the Australian Government will keep this position closely in mind and if and when the situation in Vietnam changes for any of the reasons which He at the back of the President’s statement then of course we will be giving serious consideration to the possibility of Australia itself withdrawing its forces or some of its forces. That time has not yet arrived. As far as the United States proposals to amend the draft system are concerned, I have noted in the same article which prompted the honourable gentleman’s question that the United States may well move to the kind of draft system, or at least the method of selection, which we operate here in Australia and which has proved completely satisfactory. The United States problem in this regard is not ours. As the honourable gentleman well knows, we introduced conscription in advance of the Vietnam war because it was necessary, in the Government’s view, to have limited conscription - and it is quite limited - in order that Australia would be certain of meeting its commitments in treaty arrangements with our allies.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education and Science. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the report in the Press of an answer given to a question directed to him in this House yesterday concerning additional Commonwealth aid for colleges of advanced education? Is it a fact that the StateCommonwealth programme does not attempt to remedy the difficulties of the past? Is it true to say that the problems of the colleges are not primarily financial? Are not many or all of the States grateful for the financial assistance being offered by the Commonwealth in this hitherto rather neglected but most important field of education?
– I did see a report in one of the newspapers this morning which in fact gave a direct negative to what I had said in answer to the right honourable member for Melbourne yesterday. The newspaper report to which the honourable member for Franklin referred read:
The State-Commonwealth programme does not attempt to remedy the difficulties of the past.
I have an uncorrected copy of a Hansard report of my answer yesterday. It was not corrected by me or by anyone in my office and so presumably it will appear this morning in this form:
But joint Commonwealth-State programmes have been designed to remedy the difficulties of the past.
This is certainly what we intend them to do, and I was to some extent disturbed to see the newspaper report this morning because people having a concern for the colleges or being involved with them will know that while there are problems that are not financial ones, finance forms a very significant part of the problems that have confronted the colleges. The joint CommonwealthState programmes are designed to solve these problems. There was one other error which perhaps was not of quite the same significance. The report said that I had stated that the problems of the colleges were not primarily financial. What I had been at pains to say was that while finance formed a large part of the problems, which I believe our programmes will overcome, there were, in addition to that, other problems. I would not want it thought that I did not realise, or that the Commonwealth did not realise, that finance was going to play a very important part. In the result everyone will be able to take pleasure at what occurs in co-operation with the States.
-I ask the Minister for Health a question. Has the Liberal Government of Victoria declined to participate in the programme of home care for the aged which the Minister announced 7 weeks ago? Does this refusal mean that aged persons in Victoria will now be denied their share of the promised $5m for State nursing home accommodation, the $1.5m for home care programmes, the $500,000 for housekeeper services, the $500,000 for senior citizens and the $250,000 for para-medical services? Have any other State governments so far refused the Commonwealth’s offer announced by the Minister 7 weeks ago? What steps does the Minister now propose to take in order to acquaint his Victorian colleagues with the Prime Minister’s conviction, from which he said the programme stemmed, that no nation can be great unless it seeks not only materially to progress but also to take care of the weak within it, the aged within it and the ill within it?
– The honourable gentleman seeks to know the attitude of the States to the Commonwealth’s offer announced in the programme of home care for the aged. I can tell him that the Premier of Victoria has replied to the Prime Minister saying that until such time as Commonwealth and State financial problems are resolved Victoria will not have the funds to take part in the programme. Victoria is the only State to have said this. Queensland has accepted the Commonwealth’s offer. Other States have acknowledged the offer and have said that they are studying it. I must say that I find the attitude of the Premier of Victoria very difficult to understand, particularly his claim that’ his decision is based on lack of funds. As regards the various components of the home care programme the Victorian Government has only to continue its present level of expenditure to attract an additional $450,000 a >ear from the Commonwealth to bolster the State’s efforts. In other words, if it chooses to do so Victoria can obtain $450,000 from the Commonwealth without spending another penny of State money. I can conclude only that Sir Henry Bolte is playing politics. Being a politician he is perfectly entitled- to do so, but it is regrettable that he should play polities’ in a way that denies assistance to such a needy section of the community.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question supplementary to the. question, asked by the honourable member for Wide Bay earlier this week about the ban. on the broadcasting or televising of political material in the 48 hours prior to. an election. In view of the ban why are the proceedings of Parliament allowed to be broadcast today, less than 48 hours before the by-election for the seat, of Curtin in Western. Australia, when nearly everything said in this place has a political twist to it?
– J remind the honourable member that Parliament is the master of its own procedures. The broadcasting of Parliament is governed not by- the provisions - of the Broadcasting and Television Act but by the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act. That Act sets up a joint parliamentary committee and the Australian Broadcasting Commission must broadcast in accordance with the determinations of that committee. That is the explanation for the broadcasting of Parliament during this time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. The honourable gentleman will recall that in June last year he told me that the Government was approaching the end of its review of the code of military law. The honourable gentleman said that the House would see some action on the code before too long. The honourable gentleman has since tabled a subsequent report on disciplinary action ‘ within the Service. I ask: When will the report on the military code which has been under consideration for some years be completed? When will it be presented to the House?
– In the first place, of course, there is a considerable difference between the report which has just been issued dealing with military detention and the whole review of the military disciplinary code. I am sorry to have to admit to the honourable gentleman that the review of the military code which has been under consideration for a long time has proved to be vastly more - difficult and more timeconsuming than I had anticipated. My anticipations were really astray in this regard. All I can promise the honourable gentleman is that I am working as hard as possible and I am as anxious as he is to see this matter concluded. I will look into the matter again to see whether I can give him a more- realistic estimate.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Now that the official history of Australia’s participation in World War II has been completed, is it’ intended to compile the history of operations carried out by Australian servicemen in the Korean campaign, action in Malaysia during the Communist uprising, or iri Borneo in the confrontation period, all of which have been concluded?
– lt is the practice in most countries to wait many years before compiling a war history. The first ‘ reason for this- practice is that the campaigns are usually seen in better perspective after many years. The second reason is that very often records are made available more freely by other participating countries. In respect of the Korean campaign, I have before me at present for consideration- a proposition for the writing of the Korean history. A decision on this will be reached at an cany date. However I think it will be a few years yet before any consideration is given to writing the histories of the other campaigns.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. Is he aware that some hire purchase Acts provide that payments made by a member of the Services can be waived until he is discharged? Is the Minister aware that this provision has led to hire purchase companies refusing to lend to servicemen on hire purchase even if a guarantor is included in the contract? Will he make inquiries to ascertain the extent of this problem and if it is extensive and is causing hardship, particularly with the young servicemen who have no choice about being called up, will he then see what can be done to ensure that a provision designed to help servicemen does not in fact operate to discriminate very badly against them?
– In a matter as important to the individual as this, I would not like to make a statement without being perfectly certain of all the facts. I think we have arranged for certain protection to be given to servicemen under existing hire purchase and other similar agreements. With respect to the possibility of servicemen who are called up and thereafter enter into a hire purchase agreement, I would think this is a matter of private treaty between the serviceman and the person with whom he wishes to enter into that kind of contract. But I do undertake to have a look at the matter quickly and to give an answer.
– I address my question to the Minister for Education and Science. The honourable gentleman must be aware of a report circulating in the capital cities this morning indicating that yesterday he took the attitude that State aid to independent schools should not be extended on an Australia wide basis. Is this the position he took? What is the real position in this policy?
– I did see a report, which I think appeared in one of the Sydney newspapers, that I had made remarks somewhat to that effect. It certainly does not depict my position nor the position of the Government. The report was tied to some provision of particular capital aid in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It needs to be understood that the Commonwealth has a dual responsibility in relation to education. In relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory it has the same kind of responsibility as the States have to the detailed education systems within the States. Because of the particular problems of the Australian Capital Territory we have introduced some particular measures of aid for mis Territory and also for the Northern Territory, as have the States in their own areas. But going beyond that, the Commonwealth Government has Australia wide resources and has introduced Australia wide programmes of aid to independent schools which, I think, is very warmly acceptable to the independent schools.
Honourable members are probably aware ; ‘because the correspondence was published - that earlier the Premier of New South Wales wrote to the Prime Minister asking the Commonwealth to consider specifically the question of additional support for independent schools in the States. The reply, which with the agreement of the Prime Minister was published by the Premier, indicated that the Commonwealth is examining what further assistance might be given by the Commonwealth to independent schools - and this would be on an Australia wide basis - but at the same time pointed out the very significant budgetary implications in such a possible decision. So the report to which the honourable member for St George referred does not depict the position which the Government holds in this matter. We regard the continued viability of the independent school system as a high national priority, as we do other matters relating to education generally.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that there is a strong implication of racial discrimination in the reported treatment of Miss Donnaleen Fong, who is aged 21 years and is a Canadian born Eurasian? It arises as a result of this lass being reportedly required to conform to stricter conditions before she can enter Australia than are applied to Canadian born Caucasians. Why has this apparent discrimination been applied against Miss Fong? Will the Minister, if he has not already done so, immediately intervene to allow this girl to enter Australia under conditions no different from those applying to Canadian born Caucasians?
– Included in the question was the word ‘reportedly’, and I think that is the key word in the question. I saw newspaper reports concerning this young lady. I immediately asked for a report as to what had happened. She went to the Australian Trade Commissioner’s office in Vancouver and there made inquiries at the desk. She having made inquiries about entry to Australia at the desk it was quite apparent that she had not yet made up her mind whether entry was to be for permanent residence or as a tourist or for some other purpose. But she had made no application, and because she had made no application she was told by the officer at the desk what are the normal requirements for tourist entry and what are the normal requirements for entry for permanent residence. So far as the officer knows, the young lady went off then to consider the situation and to decide just what it was she wanted.
So far as tourist entry is concerned, in Australia we require persons coming here as tourists to be able to pay their own fares into and out of the country and to have sufficient funds to maintain themselves during their stay of a temporary kind in Australia. That is for tourists. We try to give a 24 hour service on visas for all tourist applications other than within the Communist countries. Honourable members will understand that with applications for permanent residence the tests are quite different and that a country with a massive planned immigration programme such as we have must establish criteria which a person must meet before he can have permanent residence. An application is made and the necessary inquiries are made to see whether or not the criteria are met.
In regard to the implication of overtones of racial discrimination, there will be people who, on an occasion on which a matter receives publicity, choose to make all sorts of assumptions. The much better course is to wait until the application is made and dealt with and then to look at it and decide whether or not a correct decision has been made within our policy.I give the honourable gentleman the assurance that when an application is made in this case I personally will review the matter. If the young lady does wish to come here for a short period I will look at the matter most sympathetically to see whether or not she can be employed here for a temporary period. The final point I make to the honourable gentleman is that the restriction on work for short term visitors is a general restriction applied by all countries including Canada, of which the young lady in question is a citizen.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: Has his Department recently published a new pamphlet on age pensions? Is this pamphlet printed in bold type, as requested by me last year, so that eyes growing weaker with age can read it more easily? Finally, does this pamphlet contain a ready reckoner which makes it easier for aged people to calculate their pension entitlement?
-I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker. This is not a question without notice, as you well know.
– Order! The Chair is not in a position nor is it able to judge whether a question is on notice or without notice. If this is the only point of the honourable member’s point of order he is out of order and wilt resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, you well know that the honourable member for Barton said that the Minister wanted a question to be asked.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance to the point of order.
– The honourable member for Newcastle has very long ears. It is true that my Department, as I mentioned some time ago in this House, has taken the opportunity to revise its forms and is in the process of publishing them. The pamphlets regarding age and invalid pensions are already published. Others are in the course of publication. They have been approved and will be available shortly. The new pamphlets will, I hope, enable members of the public to take greater advantage of the social service provisions which the Commonwealth makes. It is true also that included among these pamphlets is a ready reckoner. In the compilation of this ray Department has taken advantage of work which has been done by backbenchers in this House, and 1 refer particularly to the work done by the honourable member for Sturt. I am afraid that we have infringed his copyright, but I was sufficiently long a back-bencher to know that not all good things come out of the Ministry and that back-benchers sometimes do have an idea which is worth adopting. I did want a question on this matter for another reason.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Did the Minister for Social Services admit that it is a Dorothy Dix question?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The Minister did nothing of the kind. He merely said that he wanted a question on the matter. .
– Thank you for your ruling, Mr Speaker, it shows your usual prescience. I wanted to say that in order to make it possible for honourable members on both sides of the House to perform their duties to their constituents with even greater effect than they do now, my Department is preparing for each of them a folder containing full information in regard to the social services available and incorporating these new pamphlets. It was because I wanted to give to the House and honourable members generally information in regard to this- which 1 hope will enable them to give better service to their constituents and will enable their constituents to take greater advantage of the social services that the Government offers them - that 1 did want a ‘ question on this very matter.
– When will they be made available?
-Order! Yesterday I drew the attention of the House to the tendency of members on both sides to direct questions to one another and to request answers from one another. This is a practice which I believe should not be encouraged. I suggest that all honourable members might think before they start interjecting, shouting across the chamber, and in some cases cupping their hands around their mouths when they are talking in an endeavour to make themselves heard, even above the speaker who is on his feet. I said yesterday that this is a practice that will not be tolerated by the Chair, and I again advise all honourable members of this decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Did he on his recent visit to Vietnam investigate reports that a new strain of malaria which is said to cause paralysis, epilepsy or even insanity had appeared in that country? If so, are the reports correct, and has he issued instructions to the Army medical service to find a new treatment which will protect our national servicemen and Regular Army personnel in Vietnam from this most unpleasant illness? Is he positive that the most modern facilities and drugs are available for the treatment of our servicemen for all their illnesses and injuries? If not, what does he intend to do about it?
– During the past 12 months I. have taken a particular interest in the question of the incidence of malaria in Vietnam because this is a matter of concern to the Australian Army. The honourable member may be well assured that this is a matter which is kept under continuing investigation. Our forces in Vietnam have been placed on full anti-malaria procedures, and these are rigidly enforced. They include, for example, the use of mosquito nets, the wearing of long sleeves and long trousers, the use of mosquito repellent on exposed areas of the skin, the taking of a malaria suppressant - which at present is a combination of dapsone and paludrine - and of course the destruction where appropriate of mosquitoes and their breeding grounds.
I can assure the House that the incidence of malaria in our forces in Vietnam is extremely low. I receive from the armed forces in Vietnam a monthly report on the figures. I have not seen the report for March. I will have to check these figures, but for January and February the figures were quite low. I think four cases were reported in January and one in February. I understand from discussions which I have had from time to time with the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services that our procedures are regarded as being amongst the most effective in that theatre. So far as any
Press reports that I have seen from time to time relevant to the concept of a new strain of malaria operating in Vietnam are concerned, I am informed by the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services that such is not the case.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. I believe that he was in the House last night when the honourable member for Reid made a statement in regard to the demonstrations in Sydney last week. I quote only one section of that speech. The honourable member said:
I saw a group of brutal sadists, with Fascist mentality - I use that term advisedly - young thugs with police uniforms on-
-Order! The honourable member cannot by question raise a matter concerning a debate held in the House last night.
– I will not, Mr Speaker, is the Attorney-General aware of attacks on the police made by two members of the Opposition? Was his office occupied in Sydney? Are these attacks on the police true? If not, does he intend to make any statement in their protection?
– Mr Speaker, I was present for most of the debate last night on the question of demonstrations, but it so happened that I was out of the chamber when the honourable member for Reid was speaking. However T have some knowledge of what he said and also of what he is reported in the Press to have said about the demonstration last Friday. It is a fact that offices at 119 Phillip Street were occupied by twenty-three of the demonstrators who locked themselves in. The door had to be forced open. They were removed by the police.
I would say that, as far as the allegations against the police are concerned, in this kind of situation there is always the possibility that violence will occur. Indeed, we are well, aware of the fact that those organising a demonstration hold the view and communicate it to those who are going to take part that if the demonstration is entirely peaceful and just marches through the streets it will not get publicity which is the object of the exercise and therefore steps have to be taken to ensure if possible that the police, perhaps, will make the first move but that they will be provoked. In this kind of situation, in addition there is always the possibility that where those organising a demonstration seek to contain any element of violence, others coming in will seek to create an atmosphere where violence must occur.
– That is supposition.
– It is not supposition. The difficulty is this: Those organising and intending some of these demonstrations to be peacefully conducted know that they are creating the mob situation which lends itself to be manipulated by others. This is occurring. The police in this- situationsometimes State police, sometimes Commonwealth police - have an extraordinarily difficult task. In the main, I think it is fair to say that they have acted with considerable restraint. On the other hand-
Opposition supporters - Oh!
– Well, I myself have received some commendation on some of the actions of the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Capital Territory Police in this kind of situation. Now, I have not got responsibility of any kind for State police. Therefore, I would not get either complaints about or commendations for their actions. But I can assure honourable members that this is a very difficult situation, not of the police making but made by those who arrange the demonstrations and as I say, deliberately made in order to travel along the edge of violence. 1 think that one further thing needs to be said. It is this: Over very many years, we have built up our liberties and our freedoms on a basis of respect for the law. We have built them up on a basis of the supremacy of the rule of law. It has been quite a long fight to ensure that no man can disobey the law. Not even the Executive can disobey the law. This has been a long struggle, and the achieving of this position is the principal prop of our freedoms and our liberties. The other prop is the independence of the judiciary. Honourable members should be. aware of what is happening at the present time. A philosophy is being developed to the effect that one way in which to change the law is to disobey it. systematically.
– Are you talking about the Czechs?
– 1 think that the honourable member is well aware of what I am talking about. No matter how sincere some people may be in adopting a deliberate pol’icy of disobeying the law and being prepared to take the consequences, one of the consequences which must flow is to bring the law into contempt and to reduce respect for it. The people who will benefit from this are not the decent people in the community, whom the law protects and whom the police protect, but those who are cunning, those who are brutal, and those who have a plan or a point of view to advance which is not acceptable to the majority. These are the only people who will! benefit from erosion of respect for the law and the rule of law.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question concerning the book manufacturing industry which, as he knows, must use mainly imported raw materials on which tariff is paid and which must constantly compete with imported books on which no tariff is paid. The right honourable gentleman will recall that at the beginning of last November he said that he would provide me with an answer on the recommendations of the working party which had been set up to study this matter. When can we expect to know the result of these deliberations?
– This matter is under imminent consideration. It would appear to anyone reading the newspapers that there had been inordinate delay in taking action to protect the Australian book manufacturing industry. But there has been a rather extraordinary circumstance in that the interested parties in the industry conducted a very widespread campaign for about 6 months - I would not like to be held precisely to that time - toy approaching members of Parliament and organisations and in having articles written. However, they did not make a formal request to the Government and the Department of Trade and Industry, and it might have appeared that over that period the Government was doing nothing about the matter. In fact the Government had not been formally approached for many months.
As soon as my Department was approached it did the normal thing, lt invited the industry to constitute a panel to sit with officers of the Department of Trace and Industry to consider whether the book manufacturing industry had a problem, whether it had a case and, if so, what its case was.
Although I have not a precise recollection of this it seems to me that the industry rather changed its ground during the discussions with my Department. This is not an exceptional occurrence. What was being presented in the first place as a case for imposing a tariff on books has much more recently become a case for an equalisation of the opportunity to obtain imported paper duty free as compared with the paper which comes in in book form. As I understand it this is now the issue and I am at the point of bringing it before the Government and of making certain suggestions in respect to it.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that many graziers and farmers in Queensland find themselves and their industries critically affected by the current, disastrous drought, firstly by having exhausted their entire financial resources and . secondly by now having to fight desperately for the survival of their remaining stock, which cannot be sold or removed to agistment areas, will the Treasurer say whether discussions can take place urgently with the Minister for Primary Industry, the Australian Wheat Board and the Queensland Government so that surplus supplies of wheat can be made available to such graziers and farmers at a price not exceeding SI a bushel, even if a system of subsidy has to be mutually considered by the State and Federal governments and the Australian Wheat Board?
– It is regrettable - I am sure that every honourable member shares the regret with me and with other members of the Government - that the drought in Queensland has persisted for so long. Without doubt it is now becoming very serious. The honourable gentleman will know that this Government initiated the policies of drought relief for the drought stricken States. Already more than $80m has been allocated or appropriated to the States in order to relieve the effects of droughts where they occur. Recently the Prima
Minister and I had discussions with the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Gordon Chalk, and we know the sympathetic attitude that these leaders of the Queensland Government have taken. The initiative must be with them and I am sure that they know the attitude of the Commonwealth Government. As soon as they make an approach to us we will give the matter most careful and sensitive consideration.
The honourable gentleman also asked about the supply of wheat by the Australian Wheat Board. When we have received a request and a decision has been made that Commonwealth assistance should be given, we have in the past asked the Board to make wheat available on concessional terms. If an approach is made to us by the State Government it will receive immediate attention by the Prime Minister, by the officials and by me. I can assure the honourable gentleman that a reply will be readily and quickly forthcoming.
– Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do. I claim to have been misrepresented by both the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) and the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen). Last night during the adjournment debate I made my position perfectly clear. I said:
I do not encourage young men to break the law or to go into the office of the AttorneyGeneral to demonstrate.
I went on to say that I believe the AttorneyGeneral is the most liberal of all the Ministers of the Conservative Government. I also said last night:
Everybody who has studied this question knows that university students on the whole set out on (peaceful demonstrations. These university students march in peaceful demonstrations. The speakers who address them prior to their going out on a demonstration call for a non-violent approach. The leaders of these demonstrations emphasise that they should be non-violent demonstrations.
I went on to say:
But we know that in all movements there are minorities who will try to do something unusual……
-Order! I think the honourable member for Reid has made his point and has referred to his comments last night. He cannot debate the question or keep on referring to the adjournment debate. I suggest that he make his personal explanation as short as possible.
-I am trying to do so. I said:
But we know that in all movements there are minorities who will try to do something unusual and who will try to make the headlines. But surely the police should be intelligent. The police should be able to understand and to deal with this very small minority.
I explained in my speech last night that the police were not learning from their experiences and they were not learning how to deal with this small minority.
– Order! The honourable member for Reid is now beginning to debate the matter.
-I will continue and I will keep to the point, Mr Speaker. I also said, and I made it perfectly clear, that I applauded not only the students in Australia but also the students in Czechoslovakia.
-Order! The honourable member is now debating the question. I suggest that the honourable member resume bis seat.
– Mr Speaker, I am trying to clear the air.
-The Standing Orders state quite specifically that the honourable member may explain his position. I think the explanation is now going beyond the bounds of what was referred to in either the question that was asked this morning or the reply by the Attorney-General. I think the explanation is going beyond the bounds of what can be considered a reasonable personal explanation in the House.
– A question was asked by the honourable member for La Trobe about remarks that I made last night and which were the subject of reports in newspapers. Then the Attorney-General referred to what I was supposed to have said. I am making perfectly clear, both to this House and to the newspapers, what I actually did say, and I will continue, Mr Speaker-
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Reid that, as I have already pointed out to him, he is going beyond the bounds of a reasonable personal explanation. If he continues to do so I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, may I say with all respect to the Chair that I have historical precedent going back to the time when I was a young member of this House and I was misrepresented. I have been conducting litigation for 7 years.
– Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– I move:
That the honourable member for Reid be beard and allowed to make his explanation.
– I am sorry, I cannot accept the motion.
– I move:
That the honourable member for Reid be heard.
– Order! I am sorry, I cannot accept the motion.
– I want to put a consideration to you, Mr Speaker, which I believe you have overlooked in requiring the honourable member for Reid to resume his seat. You were very liberal, I submit, in allowing the Attorney-General to answer at the length he did and in the terms he did the question asked him by the honourable member for La Trobe. The AttorneyGeneral, you will remember, admitted that he was not in the chamber at the time these remarks were said to have been made, and he was relying on the impression that he had gained from the newspapers of what the honourable member for Reid had said.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition is debating the question.
– I submit, Sir, that your obligation is to preserve the scales, to keep a balance between both sides.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is now canvassing the ruling of the Chair. I believe a balance has been kept. In other words, the Chair has a duty under the Standing Orders in relation to personal expiations, and it also has a duty in relation to ques tions, but it has no jurisdiction over the reply or the contents of an answer given by a Minister. But it has jurisdiction over a personal explanation. The Standing Orders state quite clearly that a personal explanation shall not be debated. The honourable member for Reid on two occasions specifically began to debate this matter. I will not allow any debate on a personal explanation. I have ruled that the honourable member shall resume his seat, and that is my ruling.
– On that point, Mr Speaker, I submit that you should in all fairness allow the honourable member for Reid to comment on what the Attorney-General said about him.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I pointed out before that he was canvassing the ruling of the Chair. That is my ruling. There are other forms of the House which the honourable member for Reid may use if he wishes to, but so far as a personal explanation goes I believe he has gone beyond the normal practice of this House and has debated the matter. But if the honourable member for Reid asks leave to make a statement that is another form of the House he may use.
Motion (by Mr Calwell) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Reid making a statement.
– This is not necessary.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Isleave granted?
– I have moved-
– Order! The Prime Minister has the call.
– In order to bring on both sides of the House some reasonable approach to this matter I refused leave for the honourable member for Reid to make a statement. I listened carefully to what the Attorney-General said. As I heard him he did not attack Mr Uren.
– Mr Uren is not attacking the Attorney-General.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman should refer to the honourable member for Reid.
– The honourable member for Reid. The Attorney-General did not seek-
– I rise to order. Under which standing order is the Prime Minister now speaking?
– The Prime Minister has the call from the Chair. If the honourable member wishes to make a statement he will have to ask for leave.
– I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
You ruled, Mr Speaker, that the honourable member for Reid had to resume his seat.
– Order! The motion is out of order. The right honourable member for Melbourne already has a motion before the Chair.
– I did not think you had accepted it.
– I press the motion that I have already moved.
– The motion is:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Reid making a statement.
Is that correct?
That the motion (Mr Calwell’s) be agreed to.
The House divided - (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave -I wish to give the House some details of progress made under the Government’s new scheme for the development of secondary school libraries. Honourable members will recall that under this scheme, the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1968 made available a total sum of $27m over a period of 3 calendar years, 1969, 1970 and 1971. The allocations between States and government and independent schools for each year are shown in a table. To save me the bother of reading the table, could it be incorporated in Hansard?
– It is usual to show the Chair the figures and pages. I will accept it subject to the usual conditions in relation to the incorporation of matter in Hansard.
-Similar tables have appeared in Hansard in the past.
– I want to point out that the practice is growing of Ministers and other honourable members of the House wanting to incorporate matters in Hansard. This, of course, is something which the House does accept. But in many cases this material is far too long and some has had to be cut or rejected. I accept this one subjuct to the usual conditions relating to the incorporation of material in Hansard.
– The table is as follows:
The table refers to the allocations for each State and for each group within the State for government schools and for two groups of independent schools.
I am pleased to be able to announce that I have authorised the first payments to all States. These funds will be used by the States to build libraries in State secondary schools and also to buy books and equipment. The books and equipment so provided will have an immediate impact on the learning materials available to students.
Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee
This Committee, which I announced in my second reading speech on the Bill, has been working consistently since appointment. One of its main jobs is to advise me on the conditions and standards necessary for the effective development of the new programme. Accordingly, the Committee has produced a booklet called ‘Standards for Secondary School Libraries’ which I propose to make available to the House at the end of this statement. I hope as well as detailing standards likely to be acceptable for Commonwealth grant purposes, the booklet will bring to the notice of schools something of the modern concept of an adequate secondary school library and the library’s function within the school, and advise architects of recent trends within Australia and overseas in library planning. As the programme develops we will undoubtedly learn much about library design. I am pleased therefore that the Committee regards this booklet as a first edition and proposes to produce later editions to keep schools in touch with advances.
In December last I wrote to all independent secondary schools inviting them to apply for Commonwealth assistance by completing and returning a questionnaire on existing library facilities which was enclosed with my letter. We have received 650 applications for assistance.
Another major job of the Libraries Committee is to visit independent schools seeking Commonwealth assistance and advise on their library needs. The Committee also assists the schools in developing plans for building and in selecting materials and equipment. This visiting has been going on in all States over the last few months and ultimately all schools that have applied will be visited.
The schools have now begun to send me their plans for formal approval. The development of plans does take some time and we have been anxious not to hurry this step unduly. I am keen to see that projects assisted by the Commonwealth meet the standard of the Libraries Committee.
State Advisory Committees
I mentioned earlier that for the Independent schools I would have the assistance of two advisory committees in each State, one representative of Roman Catholic schools and one of independent schools, other than Roman Catholic schools. These Committees have now been established and they will recommend priorities among applicant schools and amounts of individual grants. Schedules of all applicant schools have been forwarded to the appropriate committees and they are now working on their recommendations.
I expect these recommendations to be coming forward to me in the very near future. Shortly after that time I shall be in a position to make the first offers of assistance to independent schools.
Training Courses for School librarians
Honourable members will recall that in my second reading speech on the State Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Bill 1968 I said that the Government had allocated a small sum in this year’s Budget to enable it to sponsor some short specialist courses in librarian training. In January of this year, in association with State Education Departments, library authorities and independent schools, courses were held in Sydney over 3 weeks and in Adelaide over 4 weeks. Both Government and independent school teachers attended. Queensland teachers participated in the Sydney course. In February a 3-week course was held in Melbourne to cater for Victorian and Tasmanian teachers. Further courses have been planned in May for Sydney, Townsville and Perth. All courses held so far have been judged to be successful, and I am satisfied that they have made a real contribution to the Commonwealth programme. I hope honourable members will agree that we can look forward to a very healthy secondary school library development programme representing a substantial contribution by the Government to the quality of education.
I present a copy of the booklet entitled Standards for Secondary School Libraries’. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Libraries Programme- Ministerial Statement, 17 April 1969
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
– As Chairman I present the one-hundred-and-sixth Report of the Public Accounts Committee. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall that in the onehundredandfifth Report which was presented on 20th March, your Committee stated that, arising from the fire at the naval establishment at Nowra in December 1967, it had reviewed the arrangements of the Commonwealth Fire Board and proposed to present a separate report on the matter. This report relates to the Commonwealth Fire Board.
The evidence tendered shows that since 1909 the Commonwealth, to the greatest extent possible, has acted as its own insurer for all property under its control. When that policy was adopted a Commonwealth Fire Board was established but was abolished in 1930 due to a reduction that occurred in Commonwealth building activity. It was not until 1946 that a Fire Board was re-appointed. The evidence also shows that since its re-establishment, the Fire Board has relied to a large extent upon the delegation of its work, particularly to the Department of Works which has a responsibility for the maintenance of Commonwealth property. We were disturbed to learn, however, that adequacy and effectiveness survey reports prepared by the Department of Works are not forwarded, as a matter of course, to the Fire Board for examination.
Since 1965 the Fire Board has engaged in interstate visits to improve its liaison with state fire-fighting authorities and to inspect Commonwealth buildings. Your Committee believes that the Fire Board should plan its own interstate inspections rather than rely mainly for this purpose on the Commonwealth Directors of Works located in the States. We also believe that these programmes should include the re-inspection of buildings where the Board has previously discovered sub-standard fire protection features. A further matter arising from the evidence is the need for the relationships between the Fire Board and Commonwealth statutory authorities to be clarified. In this regard we believe that where the Fire Board inspects a building occupied by such an authority it should, without fail, tender a report on its inspection to that authority.
So far as the fire that occurred at Nowra is concerned, your Committee believes that, consistent with the requirements of Treasury direction 33/11, the Department of the Navy should have advised the Fire Board of the value of the loss incurred, when that loss had been assessed. We further believe that when the Chairman of the Fire Board discovered from other sources the value of the loss that had occured at Nowra he should have sought confirmation of the figure involved from the Department of the Navy for inclusion in the Fire Board’s report for 1967-68.
Your Committee’s examination of the annual reports of the Fire Board shows that these reports relate each year to information reported by departments during that year rather than to the fires that occurred in that year. We believe that this is unsatisfactory and that the basis on which the Board’s reports are compiled should be reviewed. Your Committee also believes that the reports of the Fire Board should be furnished to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament, a practice which has not been followed in the past.
In its report your Committee has made several recommendations which, on the evidence, it believes would improve greatly the effectiveness of the Fire Board in the public interest. Under its present arrangements, however, the Fire Board is advisory in nature and lacks any form of statutory authority. Your Committee believes that, if the need for such an advisory body exists, consideration should be given to the reconstitution of the Board with clearly stated responsibilities. I commend the report to honourable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The closure of the Commonwealth-State relief scheme in New South Wales.
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).
– I sincerely thank the House for its indulgence. This is quite an historic occasion in the history of this House because it is the first time a Government supporter has proposed that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion.
– That is not quite right.
– The honourable member for St George says that it is not quite right, but I have had a little more experience in this place than he has. The question to which I wish to draw the Government’s attention is the proposed closure of drought relief in New South Wales. The history of this last drought relief measure is that about 4 years ago four States were grievously affected by drought. The drought broke in most of the States and on 1 October 1968 it was isolated to New South Wales. It then became the responsibility of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments. In those years the Government spent more than $60m on drought relief. Probably most of the relief has been given by way of loan money which will have to be repaid by the farmers who received it. The money provided by way of subsidies to the railways will not have to be repaid, and that is a very large amount. The amount of drought relief money provided for the relief of unemployment will not have to be repaid.
The Commonwealth has provided the following money to New South Wales to be used for drought relief purposes: In 1965-66, $14,200,000; in 1966-67, $13,031,000, and in 1967-68, $7,648,000, making a total of $34,879,000. From 1 July 1968 to 30 September 1968 the Commonwealth provided §5,779,000 to New South Wales by way of subsidies and by way of drought relief money to be used for the relief of unemployment. The Commonwealth then said: ‘The drought is now isolated to one State, therefore we will provide assistance on a dollar for dollar basis from 1 October 1968.’ Under this arrangement the Commonwealth has provided $103,000 to New South Wales which means, if my figures are correct, that between 1 October 1968 and 31 January 1969, the New South Wales Government has found $103,000 for drought relief purposes.
Now the New South Wales Department of Agriculture is recommending that drought relief should cease in the south east of New South Wales. This area is about twice the size of Tasmania, which is represented by ten senators and five members of this place, and about two-thirds the size of Victoria. Over most of the area the drought has been continuous for 4i years. Shortly I will tell the House what it means to have a continuous drought for 4i years. The officers from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture are well trained and competent men, but I think they have made an error of judgment. I am informed that one of them was in the area for only a few weeks, at the end of a 4i year drought. These officers from the Department of Agriculture have now recommended that drought relief should cease. In my view, and in the view of the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Munro), this is premature, because we have to try to get feed if we can. We have to try to get it with only onetenth of the pasture grasses left. We have to sow. We have to be certain that there will be growth in the winter and hope that frosts will not burn the grass off from now on. I am referring to southern Monaro, which is very cold, and the South Coast, which gets sudden frosts that are disastrous to summer grasses. In other words, we have to try to introduce exotic grasses - rye, clover and oats. We could not get any germination until the last few weeks and crops are now about 1 inch high.
We had about 5 inches of rainfall at Christmas, about 3 inches in January, and about 3 inches in February. In my area we had 381 points of rain in January; Sydney had 10 inches. We have had a very light rainfall. A few days after the Department of Agriculture officers made their recommendations we had 471 points of rain - roughly 5 inches - in the area. Let me explain this, because this may seem to be a reasonable rainfall. In the high rainfall areas, a high rainfall is essential. The average rain that we have had during this 4i-year drought period would result in a lush season in the electorates of the honourable members for Hume (Mr Pettitt) and Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan). In those areas 20 inches of rainfall would result in a lush season. A rainfall of 12 to 14 inches can give a good season in those areas and in some of our best wheat producing districts such a rainfall would result in a high production of wheat. It would be a satisfactory rainfall in the wool growing areas of the west, but 20 inches of rainfall in my area is a severe drought, and we have averaged about 20 inches of rain annually for the last 4i years. Our average rainfall would be anything from 32 inches to 60 inches. In fact before the drought started my district had 60 inches of rain from Anzac Day 1963 to 1st July 1964.
Our present problem is how to carry on. We are often told by my friend, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), that we have an inefficient industry. Those who try to be efficient are the ones who are suffering now because they have the problems of achieving the regeneration of dead pasture. As I said earlier, only one-tenth of the pastures are left. I am glad to see that the new Kangaroo Valley rye grass is surviving to some extent. It is the first time this rye grass has survived in a drought. Our own rye grass is similar to that which grows in the constantly high rainfall areas of New Zealand. We have the problem of fertilising our pastures, which will be extremely expensive. We must get winter growth established in the face of oncoming frosts and we must bring back cattle from the southwest which, I thank God, is having an extremely lush season. Decimated herds must be rebuilt and foundations must be laid for fodder conservation and irrigation programmes for next season. We must market our cheeses and develop exotic cheese products which have been imported into Australia from the co-operative factories of premium cheese areas.
I think I should explain drought relief as it applies to .the New South Wales Government. When an area is declared to be a drought area railway and road freight rates for the movement of stock and fodder are subsidised. This has been of enormous benefit. Carry-on loans at 3% interest are made available for graziers and fodder loans are available for co-operative dairy societies. About 99% of all previous loans have been repaid. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is pleased at this situation. However, in the present instance, so many farmers have fallen by the wayside that it may be difficult to achieve a 99% repayment. It is not generally known but under the conditions of the loans to the cooperative factories there is provision for default of up to 10%. A few years ago there was a request from representatives of the North Coast to increase to 25% the provision for default, but it was not agreed to. The current loans have to be repaid, together with interest at 3%, to the New South Wales Government. I understand that the money has to be repaid to the Federal Treasury.
When I had discussions with the Nev South Wales Government authorities they suggested that the Commonwealth ought to make a move in this matter. I argued that the Commonwealth could hardly make a move if officers of the Department had declared this to be a non-drought area. Inexperienced departmental officers could be pardoned for thinking that the drought was over because the recent rains had started growth in the decimated pastures, but I should think that there would be only one plant in every square foot. However, with the growth that is taking place, there is a green tinge to the country which looks extremely beautiful. This does not mean that the drought is over.
– It is weeds that are growing.
– That is so. I do not want to anticipate what the honourable member is going to say, but most of the growth is weeds. The chairman of a big cooperative society told me that the growth is mainly dandelions and there is not much food value in dandelions. There will be no growth from these kinds of weed in winter. The statisticians who are employed by the Government live in an atmosphere of what happened 6 months or a year ago; farmers have to live in an atmosphere of what is going to happen in August, because cattle will still have to eat in August the same as they are doing today. Unless there is a large capital investment there is no prospect of the farmers pulling out of this. They will have to provide for fertiliser, irrigation plants, dams, seed and the repayment of their loans. If the New South Wales Government continues to declare these areas as non-drought areas then all the good work that has been done by the Commonwealth through its loans will be lost. Remember, about $40,800,000 has been poured into these areas. We should continue drought assistance for April at least, to see what happens. The New South Wales Government people say: ‘Perhaps there will be frosts that will burn everything off again and will stop the growth until 1st September.’ In order to make sure that the magnificent work that has been done through Commonwealth assistance to these drought stricken farmers comes to fruition, we should continue such assistance for another month. I would like the Commonwealt Government, in accordance with its new role of leadership, to make the first approach to the New South Wales Government. For about 18 years we had a situation where nothing was done unless a Premier wrote to the Prime Minister. Honourable members well remember this. This was the policy of Sir Robert Menzies when he was the Prime Minister. He would say: ‘I have not heard from the Premier yet. The Premier has to make the first move.’ Lately the Commonwealth has been making the first move and it could be that the Treasurer should make a move to the New South Wales Government and indicate that the $1 for $1 subsidy is still on. When an area is declared to be a non-drought area the State cuts off Commonwealth assistance, because under the old rule the Commonwealth cannot assist. Let the Commonwealth make the first move.
I thank the House for letting me introduce this subject. I am grateful for what has been done. Many of use are in some kind of terror about the long period of 5 years for repayment of money that has been loaned to us. Some people are concerned about the 3% interest rate.
– No interest is payable by the State to the Commonwealth. The grants are interest free. The States apply the interest to cover bad debts and administration expenses.
– The Treasurer ‘has a halo right around his head. It is true that no interest is payable to the Commonwealth by the State. The State Government is charging 3% to cover administrative costs and to provide for defaults in repayments. I should imagine that if the State puts up a case to the Commonwealth indicating that some factories are breaking up - and this is happening - because their reserves have gone and the European Common Market has ruined their markets, the Commonwealth will help. Dr Mansholt is in Australia saying what he proposes to do, but I am game enough to say that he cannot do it. He can do nothing with that $4,500m worth of surpluses other than throw them in the North Sea. All he can do is further ruin markets which have already been doomed.
With the drought stricken areas in New South Wales and with some of the northern areas which are now being declared drought stricken, the dairy industry is suffering from the effects of a 4i-year drought and a ruined market. Dairy farmers have lost 8c in the dollar on exports. This is because Britain has cut down its imports of Australian cheese because of the ridiculous agricultural price policy that operates in the European Common Market. What has happened in Britain was inevitable. Enormous surpluses have been created and markets have been ruined. So we now have to face up to this double contraction of having had no markets and no production for the last 4i years. We are heavily in debt. We know that it is a drought stricken country. We are attacking the problem with courage because we have been helped by the Commonwealth and the Treasurer in so many ways.
– This matter of public importance that is being debated by the House was brought forward as a criticism of the approach of governments to droughts in Australia. I am not certain whom the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) was criticising. It seemed to me that his criticism was more of the New South Liberal-Country Party
Government than the Federal LiberalCountry Party Government, but the quite obvious implication of his criticism is that both the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government are to blame. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who has just left the chamber, stated in answer to a question in this Parliament today that a total of $60m had already been made available by the Commonwealth Government to the States for drought relief. But the point is this: How effective have these drought payments of $60m been? There is a wide variation in the estimates of what droughts cost the country, but in the last 5 years alone they have cost this nation between $600m and $ 1,000m.
Is this system of handing out drought payments after the drought has taken its toll the answer to drought? We have the absurd situation at the present time in Queensland, a State which has been devastated by drought, where the Commonwealth Government has made a decision to give a matching loan to Queensland for drought relief. This means it is simply giving a loan to Queensland, because Queensland itself has to get money from somewhere to match it. But the important point is that the Government has made the statement that it will review the situation after 30th June. What sort of a callous, indifferent approach is this? Never mind how intensive, how concentrated or how accelerated the drought might be in certain areas where breeding stock is dying in thousands. The Government’s approach is to wait until 30th June before reviewing the situation. The situation has to be reviewed now, not on 30th June. This is the Government’s callous and indifferent approach to droughts.
The whole history of its approach to droughts in Australia has been one of ad hoc decisions, of waiting until drought occurs. When an area is declared drought stricken an approach is made by the State governments to the Prime Minister, and after the Commonwealth has given consideration to the request money is made available. By that time heavy losses of breeding stock, of valuable and potentially valuable stock, have been incurred. The Government’s approach is to shrug its shoulders and to give hand-outs in the guise of drought relief programmes, but this is a temporary, short-term measure. The
Government is not getting to the grass roots of the problem and attempting to solve it. I think the honourable member for Macarthur would agree that periodic and recurring droughts are one of the most important national problems in Australia today. From an economic point of view it is a problem that runs second to that of defence. Do we have a drought plan? Are we simply to wait until future droughts happen and then adopt this practice of providing carry-on finance, hand-out finance, and hoping for the best? That it is not good enough.
Let us look at the repercussions of these financial hand-outs. In an area affected by drought stock begins to starve, fodder becomes devastated, the nutritional value of dry pastures and fodder is reduced to almost zero, and underground water supplies dry up. These are the problems facing the drought areas of Australia today. We certainly need carry-on finance. However, the loans should be at a low rate of interest, not the rates of interest that are often charged by the banking system. The repayments should be over a long term, and the recipient should not be forced to repay his loan almost immediately the drought breaks. Droughts today are quite different from what they were years ago. There is a high fixed cost component in farming today which must be paid irrespective of whether there is a drought or not. I refer to rates, rent, motor car insurance and the cost of permanent labour. Those costs must be paid whether there is a drought or not. The drought problem today is quite different from that of 30 or 40 years ago. In real terms, the cash cost involved was lower in the past.
Unfortunately, this Government and many of its supporters seem to think that the economic costs of drought are restricted only to the farm itself. I submit that every $1 lost in farm income is equivalent to a loss of $3 to the economy because of the multiplier effect. The loss of demand created by lower income in the rural towns will spread to the cities. The demand for tractors, for example, will be lower, and employment wilt be affected. All this means that as droughts continue in Australia the whole economy is suffering. Unemployment in the drought areas is one of the problems which must be solved. What are the solu tions to it? Is it not time that somebody in the Government or the Government itself tackled the problem of drought and tried to co-ordinate with the States an attack on droughts instead of waiting until the droughts come before attempting to attack the central problem and getting down to the grass roots.
What are the material issues involved in a drought? There are not many. They are water, feed, transport and money. We cannot create water and we cannot create feed. Transport is a problem because it is controlled by policies and depends upon material issues. In some areas of Australia there is not much that can be done with water. In the western areas, for example, it is a question of trying to get more and more property water points rather than a question of large scale water conservation. But where drought strikes in the northern coastal areas, particularly in Queensland, we see millions of acre feet of water flowing wastefully into the sea every year. Droughts in themselves can be minimised by large-scale water conservation projects as well as property improvements in terms of more water points. In regard to feed, in an area that has native pastures it is almost impossible to beat a drought. A drought comes and the farmer has to cop it.
There should be an incentive with respect to fodder, and the Government should not wait as it does under the present system to hand out drought finance. What does the farmer do when he gets that money? He desperately tries to buy fodder. Then up goes the price of fodder from $1 per bale to $2 per bale. In some areas in Queensland it is now $3 per bale. As soon as the drought breaks there is a tremendous rush to buy breeding stock for restocking. We know what the prices of ewes and of heifers are when a drought breaks. All this means one thing, that the financial burden of the drought is being hung more and more round the neck of the primary producer. As I see it, this is not the proper approach to breaking droughts in Australia. The problem has to be faced. On the transport side, as the honourable member for Macarthur said, if it had not been for the greater concentration on transport and the greater concentration on property improvement, particularly in relation to water, the calamity of droughts, certainly in my State, and I have no doubt in his, would have been more substantial and more significant than it has been to the present time. If it were not for more transport, more fodder and property improvements, the present severe drought in Queensland would be even more calamitous.
All of these things must be approached in a commonsense, constructive way. Finance itself is not the only answer. Finance has to be able to buy something, whether it be breeding stock, water, fodder or transport. Merely to hand out money to a man who is down on his knees will not solve his problem, and often it simply keeps him on his knees. There has to be a proper approach to this problem. I have put forward from time to time the suggestion that here we see a paradox in Australia. Millions of people on our doorstep are dying of starvation. Millions of livestock in our backyard are dying for want of a constructive policy. At the same time, we are putting forward a policy to restrict the acreage or production of grains.
Something is haywire in the economy of Australia if this is the sort of position that we must face. Primary producers must be brought to understand that they must spend or put more money into property improvements. But they cannot do so under the present system of financing. They must have long term loans. A sympathetic approach must be adopted not only by the Federal Government but by the State Government concerned because until action taken to meet the cause or grass root problems of drought is adequate we will continue to be faced with this perennial problem of hand out finance and ‘don’t care’ approach to droughts. It is not good enough.
As far as I am concerned, the approach of the Government to this problem is one of complacency and smugness. In some instances, it is bordering on the arrogant. I am saying that by 30th June of this year this Government will not have made a decision concerning Queensland.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the House is indebted to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) for bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliament today. This is a specific question related to a particular drought relief situation and problem. It is a matter of immediate and urgent importance. The matter raised for discussion by the honourable member for Macarthur does not cover quite the same wide field that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) covered in his speech.
– Does not the honourable member think that the situation in Queensland is urgent?
– Yes, the position in Queensland is urgent. But this matter raised for discussion does not apply actually to Queensland. I agree that the drought problem in Queensland has urgency. I find it hard to argue with many of the things said by the honourable member for Dawson in general terms about drought and drought relief. But I will say a little more about that later.
At the moment, we have this immediate problem as it relates to New South Wales and to the decision by the New South Wales Government to terminate drought aid as from 31st March. The honourable member for Macarthur has adequately informed the House already of the financial background to this and also of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has pledged support on a $1 for $1 basis with the New South Wales Government until the drought ends. It is now a matter of determining when the drought ends. That determination as arranged presently is entirely in the hands of the State Government. It is quite false to assume that the drought has ended merely because there has been some rain and there has been some flush of feed. A drought is not broken until the country gets drought breaking feed back on the ground for the stock to consume. This has not happened.
We even had not had rain in the south east corner of New South Wales when the announcement, that was made in the middle of January that the State Government would keep its drought relief going until the end of March, was confirmed at the end of March and again half way through April. Last Monday, it was confirmed again in Bega that this drought relief cut out on 31st March. This was before any more rain had fallen in those areas other than that rain that generates a little green lick and a lot of weed, particularly dandelions, as the honourable member for Macarthur said and as I have seen. This is not drought breaking feed at all.
It just so happens that, since Monday, these areas have had a fair amount of rain. In fact, in the region around Bega, almost 6 in of rain has fallen in the last 3 days. In the Tallaganda Shire almost 3 in of rain has been received. Nearly 2i in of rain has fallen at the Snowy. The Monaro Shire has had H in of rain and, at Bibbenluke, almost 3 in of rain has fallen. Even granting that by some miraculous means the authorities had known that this rain was about te fall, the decision to end drought aid would have been premature and could not be called a responsible decision. We need to wait another month at least to see what will happen to these pastures. It will take at least another month, probably a month and a half, even to begin to assess whether this rain and the weather that follows it will be successful in breaking this drought. To have decided to discontinue this aid in advance of this ‘break in the season is an irresponsible action from which, I believe, many people will suffer.
In the Mumbulla Shire twenty-six men were engaged on drought relief employment under the terms of this Commonwealth and State aid. Those twenty-six men were retrenched at the end of the month. Of that number, twelve were absorbed in State works, but only for 2 weeks. Most of these men now are destitute of any form of income. In addition to this, farmers have to make premature decisions on restocking or returning their stock. The whole decision is based on completely insufficient evidence. I believe that the honourable member for Macarthur already has mentioned that one of the officers on whose advice the decision was based has been in the area for 4 weeks only.
It is quite correct that this area is completely different from many of the drier areas of Australia. It is correct that in some of the drier areas of Australia and Canada 12 in to 14 in of rain, provided it falls at the right time, will provide some of the best wheat growing country in the world. But. although the south coast of New South Wales is a relatively heavy rainfall area, timing is equally as important there. If we had had this rain in the middle of winter, it would not have done any good whatsoever. As it is now, this rain may be too late. This depends on what happens in the next 6 weeks.
– That is right.
– The honourable member for Macarthur from his experience - and he lives in the area - confirms that that is right The people who are making this decision cannot know what the weather will be like for the next 6 weeks.
– Only Professor Copland.
– With the possible exception of Professor Copland, I very much doubt that anyone could know. The only responsible view that can be taken of this decision is that the period of drought aid should be extended immediately by the State Government for another 6i weeks from now or 2 months from the terminal date, 31st March. Such an extension would take us at least until the end of May at which time we should be able to assess the situation properly. As has been pointed out, this loan is a $1 for $1 arrangement. It is a Commonwealth and State loan. It is the responsibility of New South Wales to administer these programmes. However, because of the involvement of the Commonwealth, I believe that it is not inappropriate at all that this matter be discussed in this Parliament. That is why I am supporting this discussion today.
I know the area very well. I have known it right through this present drought period. I cannot believe that any properly researched decision would have terminated that drought relief on 31st March. This is just not conceivable to me from my own very close personal experience and observation of the situation. The Commonwealth, under present administrative arrangements, may have to rely on decisions made by the State Government and State departmental officers. However, I think that in this case a very strong argument can be put up for the Commonwealth, if necessary, to send departmental officers from the Department of Primary Industry to make a check-
– And from CSIRO.
– And from CSIRO, as the honourable member for Macarthur suggests - it is a very good suggestion - so that these officers might make a check on this decision. If we are to have a reasonable and real partnership in finance between the Commonwealth and the State governments, and if we find that that partnership is breaking down in terms of sensible and reasonable decisions either not being made or being seriously contested as they are today, I think that we have to continue that partnership to some extent into the decision making area that lies behind those financial decisions. Unless this is done the partnership will find it hard to survive. That sums up what I wanted to say about this urgent and important problem.
In the time that is left to me I would like to comment briefly on the overall approach by the honourable member for Dawson to drought relief. I disagree with many things which he said but I agree with other things which he said. Drought relief is a matter of marrying where possible fodder, water and stock. The most simple, overall and useful relief that could be granted by the Commonwealth-State partnership, particularly from a financial point of view, would be to subsidise road and rail transport to the extent of a real 75% and possibly even higher, still leaving some of the cost and responsibility in the hand of the fanner or grazier so that he may marry his fodder, water and stock.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is no justification for the closure of the Commonwealth drought relief scheme for the south coast of New South Wales. Nor can there be any justification for the closure of any scheme which is designed to ease the effects of drought. The scheme in question is a modest one in that it provides for payments by the Commonwealth to the States on a $1 for $1 basis. It is a tragedy that the scheme was terminated on 31st March. It is proper that the Parliament should debate this matter, and it is for that reason that members of the Australian Labor Party joined Government members in rising in their places to enable it to be discussed. It is unfortunate that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who was in the House earlier, is not present. Apparently he does not intend to speak on this matter.
If there is one person who should express an authoritative view on this topic it is the Treasurer.
Opposition members are concerned about the problem of drought. They have discussed this matter on numerous occasions and have drawn attention to the need for a continuing policy to meet the repeated effects of drought. Never has the whole of Australia been blighted by drought at the one time, but vast regions in Queensland, northern New South Wales, the coastal district of New South Wales, the New England district and Victoria are affected from time to time. We know that as surely as night is followed by day droughts will continue to occur. Positive action is required to proof this country against drought, to take steps to mitigate the effects of drought and, as honourable members on this side have repeatedly suggested, to establish a continuing disaster fund, drought fund, or whatever you like to call it, to meet these recurring disasters.
To tackle the problem of drought as it should be tackled obviously certain things are required. In the first instance money is needed to provide water to droughtproof vast areas. Money will have to be available for the purchase of fodder, for the freighting of stock, and to meet other problems. The most urgent need is the supply of water. Speaker after speaker in this House who has given serious thought to this has directed attention to the need to provide water to meet the challenge of recurring droughts. In the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 16th July 1968 under the heading Demands for Advance Drought Policy’ Mr J. J. Doohan, in addressing a meeting at Cobar - perhaps that is an appropriate place for a statement of this type - is reported as follows:
All Governments must realise that droughts were inevitable in Australia, and it was essential to plan drought policies which would be applied automatically in drought declared areas. . . .
That is a sensible and logical approach to this drought problem. There should be continuing policies. It is of no use to give meagre assistance and then to curtail the aid when bountiful rains come, perhaps late in the season.
As has been pointed out the cost of drought, not in terms of heartbreak or of human relationships, but in terms of dollars is between $660m and S 1,000m. This is an extraordinary large sum of money. It is a cost that Australia can ill afford to bear, particularly when we know that these problems can be dealt with. We do not want to have the experience of reading of droughts in two States of the Commonwealth wiping out 4i million sheep. Queensland graziers have sought a drought relief bond scheme which perhaps is to be commended as part of a long range programme to mitigate the effects of drought. Something must be done urgently about drought relief.
The people in New South Wales, the elder State of the Commonwealth, have risen in protest with such statements as Dam men sacked’, as reported in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of 16th January this year. Disappointment has been expressed at the failure of the Commonwealth Government to provide a grant to New South Wales from the Commonwealth’s $50m national water resources development programme. This proposal was announced in 1966 by the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, and was again announced in the Parliament on 1st November 1967. Despite those announcements money has not been provided for the storage of water and to assist in dealing with drought problems. A report in the ‘Australian’ of 9th January 1969 under the heading ‘NSW bitter over deal on water resources’ dealt with statements made by Mr Beale, the New South Wales Minister for Conservation. On other occasions, too, Mr Beale has criticised the Government for delay in providing a grant. All these protests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. I appeal to the Government to adopt immediately a continuing policy to meet the problems of drought.
The matter before us, raised by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Bate), was supported by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) and was effectively discussed by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Perhaps we witnessed a reconciliation following a dispute which occurred late in 1968 between the honourable member for Macarthur and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. The dispute began when the honourable member for Macarthur asked a question of the Treasurer in regard to drought relief on the south coast of New South Wales This raised the ire of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro who bitterly criticised the honourable member for Macarthur in these words:
Loose statements about any conflicts between State and Federal governments over drought aid having created delays have all been quite false.
He went on to protest at the remarks made by the honourable member for Macarthur in his question and subsequently asked the honourable member for Macarthur to withdraw his remarks about the composition of the Drought Relief Committee in the South Coast.
At page 3079 of Hansard for 20th November 1968, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is reported to have made another speech on this subject. Speaking feelingly, he said:
On 12th November 1968 the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) addressed a series of questions to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). The material question which affects the reputations and standings of those of my constituents with whom I am concerned is as follows:
He then quoted the question posed by the honourable member for Macarthur. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro went on:
The Treasurer could have been basing his reply only on information that be had received from the honourable member for Macarthur. It is simply not good enough for the honourable member to regard his question as simply an inquiry for information.
He also said:
I want to make it perfectly clear to the honourable member for Macarthur . . .
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No. 1, General Business, being considered until 3.15 p.m.
Appointment of Select Committee Mr SCHOLES (Corio) [12.34]- I move:
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -
the practicability of establishing regional development areas having regard to existing settlement and proven resources;
the special action which would be required to achieve population growth, industrial development and adequate cultural, recreational and educational opportunities within such regions;
the means by which any proposals can be best promoted by co-operation between Commonwealth, State, semi and local government authorities; and
others matters considered relevant to achieving balanced development throughout Australia.
I do not intend to propose solutions to the problems of centralisation of growth within the States of Australia, but I will attempt to prove that it is necessary for this Parliament to take note of the population trends within Australia and to take what would appear to be the most appropriate means to inform itself on the problems and the solutions to the problems.
It is true to say that the trend in most developed countries is for populations to move from agricultural pursuits to secondary and tertiary industrial pursuits. This is as true of Australia as it is of most other countries. A graph prepared from Commonwealth census figures dating from 1911 to the present day clearly shows how great has been the drift of population, compared to total population, away from primary industry pursuits into secondary industry areas. In New South Wales, for instance, in 1911 12.15% of the population was listed as being engaged in primary industry. In June 1966 the figure was 3.77%. In Victoria the figure was 11.66% in 1911 and 3.64% in 1966. The figures in each State are similar, although the current figures in Quensland and Western Australia, where mining occupies a fairly large part of the population engaged in primary industry, are higher than they are in the more industrialised States of New South Wales and Victoria.
The other trend that is equally evident is the disproportionate growth of capital cities, and this seems to be normal in current terms. Each of Australia’s capital cities has had a tremendous growth rate in the period during which Commonwealth censuses have been taken. This does not necessarily give an accurate picture, because some capital city boundaries for the purposes of census taking have been materially altered and thus we have a different set of people. However, the trends are fairly evident. At the 1966 census, Brisbane had approximately five times the population that it had at the 1911 census. Adelaide had approximately four times the population, Sydney four times, Perth five times, Melbourne four times and Hobart three times. Tasmania seems to have the most evenly distributed population of any State.
The major cities outside the capital cities, the provincial centres in each State, also show a fairly definite tendency to have growth rates very close to the capital cities, although most of them are slightly below the capital city rates. The major periods of growth of most of the countinuing cities, which I think it could be said have been established or have been growing for most of the period since federation, appear to be between 1947 and 1961. Geelong, which I represent, grew from 44,000 to 87,000 in that period. This was an abnormal growth rate. It was, I think, greater than the rate of growth of any other comparable area in Australia, including the capital cities if percentages are used. Ballarat had substantial growth between 1947 and 1954. Its growth tapered off between 1961 and 1966. Bendigo had a not dissimilar pattern of growth to that of Ballarat. It was fairly substantial between 1947 and 1954 and tapered off to nothing between 1961 and 1966. Albury, which is one of the cities represented by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), who is at the table - I exclude Wodonga - had a population of 14,412 in 1947 and 16,700 in 1954. Between 1954 and 1961 it grew to 21,391 and at the census of 1966 it is recorded as having a population of 23,379. This shows the trend that is evident in almost every provincial centre. There are areas such as Gladstone in Queensland that are booming, and some areas that have declined, although they are had to find. But most of the provincial areas have had a period of recession in growth between 1961 and 1966. One of the problems associated with regional development is that unless areas have a reasonably even rate of growth a very serious imbalance tends to develop in the community. We have, for instance, in almost all of the regional centres of Australia a difficulty of employment for girls, for fairly well qualified persons and for persons who are largely unskilled and who, because of technological and other changes have been placed in the position of becoming unemployed at the age of between 40 and 45. These people are at a very serious disadvantage if they live in or around a provincial centre. In the past these people would most likely have been taken up in employment in primary industry pursuits. These are no longer available and there is no area of replacement employment for them, so that we have the problem - I think it is general - of a very substantial proportion of people in these areas either being forced to transfer to the capital cities or else to remain unemployed.
Young people are not able to obtain the educational and cultural opportunities that they desire in country areas; therefore they are leaving the country areas and thus causing the population drift. They are forced into the capital cities for education and they tend to remain there because once they have acquired an education it is difficult for them to find occupations with any prospects for the future in the areas from which they came. This places a very great hardship on their parents because if families living in a provincial centre or country town - and I speak mainly of provincial centres at this time - have to send children to a capital city for education then they must meet a fairly unequal burden of cost as compared with families living in the capital city. They must also realise that once their children have left them to go to school the prospects of their returning to the provincial centre or the country town whence they came are not good.
I put to the Minister and to the Government that a committee such as that proposed in the motion could do a great deal of good and most certainly could do no harm either to the Government or to the nation. I think that it is a reasonable proposition. We have committees dealing with a number of problems. We have one from this House dealing with aircraft noise, which is a problem of far less magnitude than that which is before the House now. Some of the State governments have dealt with decentralisation, but most of them have not had a great deal of success. They appear not to be prepared to take the measures which are necessary and they also suffer from the very serious problem of insufficient finance. Only at a Commonwealth level could a proper amount of finance be provided.
This problem was tackled by the Commonwealth Government when the late John Curtin was Prime Minister. I am not abso lutely sure of the history, but at least two conferences between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government, chaired by the Prime Minister, were held on this subject and quite a deal of basic work was done on it. But it appears that much of what was achieved died very soon after birth, or most likely in adolescence. This was probably caused by changes of government in the States and changes of government at the Commonwealth level. Changes of emphasis in government policy during these periods had a very serious effect on the future of regional planning.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had referred to the tow growth figures for rural areas and the high growth figures for capital cities. I had referred also to the relative decline in growth figures for provincial centres in the years following 1961. Let me show how areas outside the capital cities have grown in comparison with the growth of capital cities. In the period 1961 to 1966 the population of Victoria, excluding Melbourne, increased by 38,000 while the population of Melbourne increased by about 251,000. The population of Sydney in the period increased by about 250,000 while the population of other areas of New South Wales increased by only 69,000. Each of the major industrial States is developing into a single large city and some degree of scattered population in the surrounding areas. The population of the areas outside the major city is becoming a smaller percentage of the total1 population of the State.
I have already pointed out that primary production is employing an ever-decreasing percentage of the population. Employment in secondary industry has tended to increase while employment in tertiary industries has increased remarkably, especially since the Second World War. Were it not for the attraction of tourist resorts the increase in employment in tertiary industries would be very minor in areas outside the capital cities. For instance, it would be very minor in an area like Canberra. I would impress upon the Government the view that we should utilise better the area which we occupy. We occupy a very large continent. It is probably true that at least one-third of it is largely unhabitable but generally speaking other areas of this nation are good places in which to live. More people would wish to live in these areas if they could earn their incomes there.
The Government has an opportunity to do something in the matter. I realise that it is difficult to reverse such trends as the drift to the capital cities, but I stress that the cost of placing people in the capital cities is increasing. The increase in the population of capital cities is creating immense difficulties for State and local government authorities. Within a few years the problems associated with traffic, transport facilities, roads, housing and the provision of the basic essentials for life will become so great that huge amounts of money will have to be spent in order to provide the accommodation that is readily available now in country districts.
Due to prudent investment at a time when growth rates were extremely rapid, the general area of Geelong has developed or has the potential’ to develop the services necessary to house almost 250,000 people. The Ballarat and Bendigo areas could accommodate far greater numbers of people than at present reside there and with much less difficulty than they could be accommodated in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. People living in those areas could be much closer to their place of work, thereby reducing transport costs. They could more easily engage in community activities. The basic facilities which are part of the community are already provided. It would be a wise move from an economic point of view as well as a humane point of view to make every effort possible to get people to live in the areas outside the capital cities.
There are some things which the Commonwealth could examine in order to promote decentralisation, or regionalisation if you prefer that term. One thing the Commonwealth could do is examine ways by which to minimise the cost of business operations, which are higher in country areas because of the disadvantages experienced by country dwellers. At present businesses operating outside a capital city suffer a disadvantage in respect of telephone and transport charges because most of the service facilities for the industry with which they are associated exist only in the capital cities. It may be a reasonable proposition - even a profitable one - for the Government to encourage industries, particularly those having a tertiary employment component, to establish themselves in provincial centres. It may well be advantageous to consider establishing some sections of the Public Service in provincial centres rather than bring all of them to Canberra and create in this place what is becoming a serious problem due to having all tertiary employment and virtually no industrial employment in the area.
Yesterday the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) referred to matters relating to tariffs. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) referred to a clothing factory at Seymour. Every honourable member who represents a country area could draw attention to circumstances similar to those involving the clothing factory at Seymour. Recently the former honourable member for Bendigo, Mr Beaton, made strenuous representations to the Government seeking protection for the clothing factory so that an industry which was one of the major sources of employment in a small country town might be saved. Unfortunately too many provincial areas are almost totally dependent on one or two industries which are easily affected by changed circumstances. Castlemaine, which is in the Bendigo area, was last year confronted with a problem when it was feared that the woollen mill would have to close. The mill was one of the two major sources of employment in the area. Had it closed the community would have been dealt a disastrous blow.
One of the problems faced by country areas - it is referred to in the motion - is that governments, State and Federal, are very diffident about considering proposals to establish educational organisations in country areas. Parents with a child who wishes to attend university and who must, because of the distance involved, reside in a metropolitan area for the period of attendance, are at a very serious disadvantage. The financial burden is one that most families, other than those with what we would describe as higher than middle incomes, cannot afford. So, unless children in these circumstances are not fortunate enough to obtain scholarships and other financial assistance they are seriously disadvantaged.
In conclusion I would like again to suggest that the setting up of a committee such as that proposed in this resolution would enable this Parliament to inform itself on something about which I believe it is relatively ignorant. I believe that the Parliament has much to learn of problems which are associated with the distribution of our population throughout the Commonwealth and the problems that confront those people who live outside the major capital cities. I believe that it is important for this Parliament and for individual members of the Parliament to seek information on subjects which are of vital importance to this country. I consider that this resolution, if carried by the Parliament, could go a long way towards helping to educate the. many honourable members who represent metropolitan electorates and who have little or no knowledge of the problems of people who live outside a metropolis. The formation of such a committee would also encourage those people who are trying to maintain the growth factors in provincial cities and who are .fighting a fairly uphill battle.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The motion proposed by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) calls for the setting up of a committee. From what I know of committees, if this committee were set up it would undoubtedly recommend further assistance by the Commonwealth for decentralisation. The Commonwealth makes an enormous contribution to decentralisation. But I think that we must realise that basically the problem of decentralisation rests more with the States and with local government. After all, these are the sectors which have control of rates and know about the availability and costs of electricity. Also, the availability and the cost of transport come within the field of State governments. The State governments are concerned with land, water, housing, schooling and all the many problems which are associated with decentralisation and with inducing an industry to set up in a country centre rather than a metropolitan area. All the same, the Commonwealth has been actively participating with the States in studies aimed at obtaining data on the benefits and the costs of decentralisation.
The Commonwealth-State Committee on Decentralisation, which was formed following discussions at the Premiers Conference of July 1964, established a technical subcommittee to review the economic facts of decentralisation and initiate studies of the kind mentioned above. Several meetings of the technical sub-committee and the various work groups set up under it have been held and a wide range of subjects have been put in train. Several of the studies, notably those concerned with private and public costs and benefits associated with the localisation of industry, have reached an advanced stage. Unfortunately these studies are taking longer than I thought and longer than the governments had anticipated. One study is being undertaken by John Patterson from the Urban Research Unit at the Australian National University. We believe that this sutdy will not be available until early next year. But I think that when we get this study we will start to understand whether there is advantage in the Commonwealth assisting, by way of taxpayers money, with any subsidising of industry to encourage it to go to a country centre rather than to set up in metropolitan areas.
As I said, the Commonwealth sees its contribution to decentralisation - and it is an enormous contribution - through assistance that it gives to various industries, particularly to primary industry, through the assessment and development of our resources, through setting up various military and air force establishments in areas which are remote from capital cities and through its contribution to roads. We know that only recently it has been announced that in relation to the next 5-year programme the Commonwealth aid roads grant contribution will be of the order of $ 1,252m. This is an enormous contribution. The contribution is over and above that which the Commonwealth makes to beef roads. Already there is a programme under which 5,600 miles of roads have been nominated as beef roads. By the time the current programme is completed the expenditure on these roads will be $134m.
The Commonwealth also makes a contribution through rural research, in particular through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in finding out what the problems of agriculture are in more remote areas. I have recently been to the Ord River and there the Kimberley Research Station is running at a cost of about $600,000 per annum. This is only one of a number of research stations that are assessing our resources and how we can go about developing them. The Commonwealth also plays a part through communications. It is obvious that if we are to decentralise we must have good communications. Communications are now improving enormously. Much has been done to put telephones in more remote areas. Recently we had announcements about television proposals for more remote areas. This too, we believe, plays a part in decentralisation - or balanced development, which I believe is the current or ‘in’ expression today - as a whole.
Petrol price equalisation is another way in which the Commonwealth assists. I think that very few people in Australia today realise that the Commonwealth is making a contribution to the extent of $17m per annum just to ensure that the price of petrol anywhere in Australia is not more than 4d - I do not know what the figure is in cents - above the price it is in the capital cities. These are the ways in which the Commonwealth aims to encourage decentralisation. It is costing a lot and we are doing a tremendous amount. Enormous concessions are being given in the primary industry field to encourage people to go into primary production and to step up primary production. There are tax concessions and subsidies of all sorts which are sometimes on the primary product and sometimes on such materials as fertilisers. Primary producers are also given assistance by way of loans and marketing arrangements. In this field the Commonwealth plays a very large part.
I would like to refer now to the assessment and development of our resources because it is in this field that my Department is interested and has made an enormous contribution. One way and another we are undertaking a considerable amount of investigation of the resources of this great continent. Through the Australian Water Resources Council we have stepped up the assessment of Australia’s water resources.
This body is investigating certain areas where water resources may be developed. In collaboration with the Queensland Govern-; ment we have only just concluded a study of the regional industries of central Queensland. There is no doubt whatsoever that central Queensland offers enormous prospects. Provided it can get cheap power, there are vast opportunities for processing minerals, and, as we all know, it is .the Government’s desire to see that the utmost processing of minerals occurs before those minerals leave this country. It is certainly in our interests to see that this occurs. We have Commonwealth-State agreement about a regional study in central Queensland, and at the present time we have in draft another study regarding the Cairns area, showing what resources are there. We have just received from the consultants a study of the port of Darwin. It is quite obvious that the port of Darwin is unable to handle the volume of traffic passing through it and that we must increase the size of the port. Many of these studies are proceeding.
In addition, of course, there has been a vast expenditure on a national mapping programme, and this matter is being stepped up enormously by the Bureau of Mineral Resources which has an annual budget of approximately $6.25m. The Bureau spends the bulk of this money in northern and north western Australia. This leads to what I call true balanced development and not just decentralisation. Very often, I am afraid, people in country towns and cities want to attract more industries, but alt they do is say: ‘Will someone subsidise a factory to set up in our town or city?’, when it is not economic to do so and when the factory would sooner go somewhere else. But people in these towns and cities want a subsidy in order to encourage industry to go to them. Very often when people in these towns and cities are asked whether there is any unemployment there they say: ‘No, there is not.’ Of course, they would have to build houses to accommodate the people employed in the new industry. One realises that there must be a limit to the rate at which these country centres can develop. As I have said, there is a difference between decentralisation brought about by the payment of subsidies and a balanced development which occurs as a result of the discovery and assessment of our resources.
Those resources in themselves make a venture economic and they go towards the development of the more remote areas of this country.
It is of interest to note that during the last decade an enormous increase has occurred in the development of country towns, particularly in the more remote areas of north and, north western Australia. This development has been brought about by the Government’s policy, in particular the Government’s economic policy, which has welcomed mining development. This policy of assessing resources has led to the discovery of so many of these minerals. For example, as regards iron ore we know that had it not been for the work undertaken by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in assessing the quantities of iron ore in the Savage River area, which showed that the deposits were much larger than we expected, and also for the work carried out by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd in assessing the quantity of a body of iron ore at Constance Range in Queensland, the Commonwealth would not have felt it was entitled to lift the ban on the export of iron ore. As every honourable member knows, as a result of the lifting of the ban numerous discoveries of iron ore were made, and these discoveries have brought with them wealth to existing towns and to some completely new towns in an area which was one of the most remote and inhospitable.
I have in front of me a list of twenty new towns which have come into existence during the 1960s. In the iron ore field there is Tom Price, Dampier, Mount Newman, Goldsworthy, Koolyanobbing, Savage River, Port Latta and Frances Creek. All of these towns were built up as a result of the discovery of iron ore. You could not get a better example of decentralisation than that. In some areas the Bureau of Mineral Resources has actually been responsible for the direct discovery of some of these resources. In the case of Groote Eylandt, the construction of the new township of Alyangula was the direct result of an officer from the Bureau of Mineral Resources locating manganese in that area. One finds, too, that the discovery of bauxite at Gove was the direct result of the work of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Of course, the discovery at Gove was based initially on the discovery of bauxite on some off-shore island. Then there are the new townships of Kununurra and Coleambally which have been built as a result of the development of our water resources. I have only recently been to the Ord River to blow the first charge on the major dam. I admit that the charge took about li hours to go off after the time when it should have gone off, but at least it well and truly went off. The Government is developing this vast resource. The Commonwealth sees as one of its jobs the development of resources which will lead to decentralisation or to balanced development.
Other new towns which are now under construction include Karratha, which is near Dampier and which will be used by the Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, Nhulumbuy at Gove, Hay Point and Goonyella which is a new town in Central Queensland. Other new towns proposed include Port Warrender, Key Point at Weipa, Sirius Creek, Mount Enid, Cape Lambert and Paraburdoo, which is another iron ore town. The list to which I have just referred contains new towns which have been developed or are being developed in the remote areas of Australia. In addition, of course, some towns have been expanded. I refer to Karumba, which was a very small town, but which has expanded with the development of fishing resources in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Other towns in this category include Blackwater, Moura and Gladstone. Expansion at Gladstone has been phenomenal. At one stage, I believe, it increased 40% in 18 months. Other towns which are expanding include Morgantown, near Carnarvon, Emerald and Port Hedland. Port Hedland was a remote area which contained a few hundred people. Shortly it will handle the biggest tonnage of shipping of any port in Australia. This shows that the Government’s plan is working. The development of these areas is based mainly on iron ore, water resources and fishing. The development of forests also helps in this regard. The Government’s plan is working, too, in the small country towns. I am told that Darwin, for its size and population, is about the fastest growing city in Australia. Even in my own electorate, Albury, to which the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) referred, has developed at a rate of about 11%, although the overall State rate of development is only about 8%. Wagga is developing, at a rate of about 17% at the present time. This shows that balanced decentralisation is taking place.
Of course, it is inevitable that employment in primary industry will reduce, so other industries must be attracted to country centres. But I do not say that the way in which to attract industries to country centres is simply to provide subsidies for the establishment of industries, when it happens to be uneconomic for industries to establish in these areas. Nevertheless we know that the States, which basically are responsible for decentralisation, have undertaken quite a lot of work in this regard. They have not spent a vast amount of money on this work. They have spent money to assist in balanced development in country areas. They are responsible for this work. We have been told that the Commonwealth ought to assist in certain ways. We have been told that ona way in which the Commonwealth could assist is through taxation concessions; that it ought to give taxation concessions to an industry which sets up in the country as against an industry which decides to set up in the city. Of course, this ignores the constitutional provision that we must not differentiate between States or between parts of a State.
I know it is true that at the present time there is a line somewhere near the north of Australia and that north of that line people receive certain taxation concessions. I think it is also true that if this question were ever decided in the High Court the procedure would be held to be unconstitutional. The Commonwealth just cannot say that it will give a taxation concession to an industry which is set up. I know that in Europe some countries grant concessions to industries which establish in particular areas but these industries are usually in destitute areas where there is considerable unemployment. In order to assist the inhabitants to secure employment the governments subsidise or assist those who establish factories in the area. If honourable members visit towns like Albury and Wagga and ask whether there is unemployment they will be told that there is virtually none. Possibly a few people are moving from one job to another, but that is about all there is.
We have been told that we ought to reduce telephone charges to encourage industry to go to the country. Here again, the Commonwealth is faced with the situation that it believes that the Post Office should break even - it should not make a profit or a loss. The Commonwealth has established a committee to determine what factors should be considered to enable the Post Office to break even. We cannot just turn around and subsidise, at enormous cost, postal or trunk line charges. If we were to do this we would have to increase rental charges to make up for it. I conclude by saying that I do not see merit in setting up a committee as envisaged. The Commonwealth is already working on this subject, but it gets back basically to the fact that State governments and local government bodies are the instrumentalities to handle this matter. I believe they are handling it efficiently.
– I support the motion proposed by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). Whenever the Government wants to pass the buck it states that decentralisation is the responsibility of the States. For many years we have heard this approach to development in Australia. Two days ago I was privileged to hear an address by Dr Mansholt, who is connected with the European Economic Community. He made one telling point which was a mild criticism of Australia in a comparison with the European Common Market. He said that the European Common Market was a cohesive market in terms of the economies of the six member countries. However, the situation was quite the reverse politically. On the one hand France did not want to admit the United Kingdom into the European Common Market whereas the other nations did. He was suggesting that in Australia we had the reverse situation - that each State virtually has an independent view in respect of economic problems. We are a nation and it is high time that the Federal Government, as the central government, took the initiative in respect of economic activity, national development and water conservation.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) mentioned the Ord River scheme as an example of government action in decentralisation. As he well knows, I have been an advocate for the Ord River project ever since its inception. In fairness to the Minister, I should say that he, too, has been an advocate of it. I was pleased to read his recent statement in support of the Ord River project but how does he line up his approach with the extraordinary approach of the Federal Government in taking the cotton bounty from the Ord River farmers after 3 years? On the one hand the Government says that it is a new project and on the other hand the Australian Country Party, which has perpetually condemned the Ord River project, says that we should take away the subsidy. And at the same time the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) advocates higher tariffs to protect secondary industry in Australia and to make it more difficult for the Ord River farmers to produce at world parity prices. How can the Government expect to have the respect of farmers and other people in country areas when there is this definite conflict of policies? This is only one example that I can quote of the Government making a positive decision and then having it white-anted or undermined by a negative decision. Surely the answer is to allow a project to become viable. The economics of the Ord River project, as with the Nogoa scheme, were based on its being a going concern and not one which involved a handful of farms. Only when we get the advantages of economies of scale should there be some review of the economic situation of individual farmers.
The Minister for National Development has said that under the Constitution it is not possible to allow concessions with respect to regional development. I mention pioneer taxation, which is a means of allowing an industry to establish itself in the country and during its developmental period, to have freedom from taxation as long as it puts money back into the industry. The Minister says that this cannot be done under the Constitution, but he admitted that the Government is doing it through taxation zone allowances. It does not mean anything to me to say that if this method is challenged it may be found to be unconstitutional. The point is that it never has been challenged. With regard to concessions, I point out to the Minister that under section 96 of the Constitution it is possible to make grants to the States for specific purposes. This is done in numerous cases. We have a poultry industry tax, but north Queensland does not pay the tax. This is discrimination and is against the Consti tution, but it is being done simply by an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State. It can be done if the Government wants to take the initiative.
The Minister spoke about a decentralisation committee which was established by the Government in about 1964. He said that the committee is working hard and will be presenting a report shortly. But surely it does not take 5 years to put forward a plan to overcome the problems of regionalisation or decentralisation. I well recall that the Country Party became fed up with the slowness of this committee and on 15th March 1967 established its own committee on decentralisation, which comprised eight members of the Parliament, to examine the problem. But what has happened to that committee? There is no doubt that there is definite conflict within the Government parties when it comes to decentralisation. This is common sense. I suppose the most vocal political party of all on decentralisation is the Country Party, yet no party wants decentralisation less than the Country Party.
– That is completely wrong.
– How would the honourable member like a steelworks in the electorate of Mallee? That would be the end of him as the honourable member for Mallee.
– I am not looking for votes all the time.
– Of course you are. That is the truth of it. Members of the Country Party talk about steelworks and super power plants and mineral processing plants, but when it is suggested that such a plant might be established in a Country Party electorate they say: ‘Not on your life’. It goes somewhere else, if it goes anywhere at all. This is the basic philosophy of the Country Party. I do not blame it for this. After all, it has to survive against the Liberal Party.
It is quite clear to me that when a decision is made about a new power station in my own State it will not be built in a Country Party electorate, it will be built in one of the Labor electorates. The town of Bowen, which now happens to be in my electorate, has had a very good case for years for a steelworks to operate in conjunction with the Collinsville and Bowen Basin coal deposits. But there is no chance of getting a steelworks in Bowen because if one was established there it would be the end of the political career of the Liberal Party Minister in that area. As I said before, I do not blame the Country Party for taking this approach. It has to survive in the Parliament and try to secure as many seats as it can. But do not let us hear all this claptrap about decentralisation and the need for industrialisation in the country areas, because members of the Country Party do not want it. If they did want it, where is the report that has been promised by the Government? It started the inquiry 5 years ago. Where is the report of the members of the Country Party? I have not seen it, and I do not think anybody else has seen it either.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has mentioned some real problems, and I agree with him. He said that there is no point in setting up an industry in a country area if that industry has to be heavily subsidised, because there would be no point economically in putting it there. There are plenty of instances in Australia today of blatant trade practices against country areas in the establishment of industries. I will give one example. A group of people came to me some time ago and said that they wanted to establish a copper winding cable industry in Townsville. To my amazement they told me that they could buy the copper in Townsville but would have to pay the Townsville price plus freight to Melbourne and back to Townsville, because apparently the copper that is manufactured in Townsville is snapped up on franchise by one company. This young company could buy copper all right. The copper would not have to go to Melbourne and back; it would simply go across the street. But the price would be the Townsville price plus the cost of the freight from Townsville to Melbourne and from Melbourne back to Townsville. Obviously they could not compete. The same thing happened recently in Rockhampton. A brewery is a big employer of labour there. A very large national company wanted to establish a brewery at Rockhampton. The two major coastal breweries in Queensland are in Brisbane and Cairns, but because of a juggling of freight rates on beer from Brisbane the company had to pull out because it could not compete with the Brisbane company because of the uneconomic freight rate that was being levied against it in Rockhampton.
The Minister knows of the glaring anomalies that were brought out by the Loder report. These anomalies actually work against the country areas. I am speaking from memory, but I think it brought out the fact that it was cheaper to send a fibreglass boat from Southport to Bowen than it was to send one from Mackay to Bowen. The distance between Southport and Bowen is about 800 miles. From Mackay to Bowen it is 100 miles. This state of affairs is brought about because of the rail freights that are applied by the Queensland Country Party Liberal Government. Another reason why decentralisation is not welcomed by the Liberal and Country Parties can be seen in rail freights. The central Queensland and the northern Queensland railway systems and the system west of Toowoomba, which cover predominantly rural areas, make very large profits, but those profits are being drawn back into Brisbane to pay for the staggering losses that are incurred every year by the metropolitan railways. Is that the way to give a boost to decentralisation? Of course it is not. But where the capacity exists for industry and the ability exists to create development, surely incentive should be given.
The Minister has mentioned the new towns, based on minerals and water, that are springing up. There is always a doubt whether mineral deposits will be permanent or not. Much depends on the extent of the deposits and the markets. But I know of no better decentralisation factor than water. One does not have to go outside Australia to find splendid examples of this. Where would the thriving towns of Griffith, Leeton, Renmark and Mildura be if it were not for water? The soils in those areas virtually are semi-arid types, representing low carrying sheep grazing areas. Perhaps some grain could be grown there. But we see thriving communities. I believe that water conservation must be one of the central facets of decentralisation in the future not only to promote industry but to save this country from the droughts. As I said in a speech this morning, staggering losses are being incurred because of droughts. The aim of water conservation is to stabilise production as well as to expand production. The Government, through the Treasurer (Mr
McMahon), said this morning that about $60m had been made available, mainly to rural areas, for drought relief. Conservative estimates place the losses, direct and indirect, caused by drought in the last 10 years in the vicinity of S 1,000m. This is big money.
All of these points add up to the fact that something can be done if the Government wants to take the initiative. I do not believe, and I cannot believe, that the Government can continue to foster through its policies the octopus-like growth of the heavily concentrated areas around Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne. Most of our population is being concentrated in this south eastern corner. When we talk about the economics of decentralisation, the thing that amazes me is that the economists take a project in a rural area or an isolated area and pass judgment on it. They compare it with something in the city, but they do not take into account the indirect costs that would be incurred if another industry were established in the city. The costs of additional traffic congestion would be high, and further losses would be sustained by the railways. These costs would not be charged directly against that business but would be charged directly against the nation. There have been many learned reports relating to this vexed problem of city growth versus urban growth.
I believe that it is both unhealthy and unwise for the Government to continue to promote industries which increase the growth of already densely populated areas rather than rural areas. We need balanced development. We need a higher rate of growth, particularly in the industries which are the backbone of our economy today. I refer to the industries in the rural areas. It does not matter what this Government says or how much it tries to promote secondary industry. We must view secondary industry in Australia in relation -to the size of our population. We have 12 million people. Even though the population of our country is growing, big countries like the United States of America, Germany and Japan as well as many others are growing at a faster rate in terms of throughput. “We will not compete and we cannot compete with those countries in terms of production costs in secondary industry. But we have a comparative advantage in primary industry. One would think, from the way the policies of this Government are going, that the Government is becoming so glamourised or hypnotised by minerals that it has forgotten about the grass roots of the economy. I refer to the rural areas. It is high time that this type of thinking stopped.
I regret to say - and I am hearing this throughout Australia - that the Country Party no longer represents the man on the land. Before, its one and only objective was to be a pressure group to represent the man on the land and to bring into this Parliament and use every possible device to get the best deal that it could for the man on the land. We have here the Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is the great saviour and promoter of secondary industry by high tariffs and by increasing the production costs of primary industries. This is a fundamental conflict that already has generated unrest in Australian primary industries.
These industries are faced with tremendous problems. One of the greatest problems is the level of production costs. If we cannot keep production costs down, what chance have we of promoting decentralisation in rural areas? It is becoming more and more uneconomic for rural industries because of the level of cost. What is more iniquitous than the present practice of this Government of permitting sales tax to be levied on freight charges? The further one lives from Brisbane or Sydney, for example, the higher is the sales tax that one must pay on any spare part or material that is subject to sales tax. This is completely and utterly unfair. This is a practice which, time after time, members of this Parliament have condemned. Still, the Government adheres to its policy of allowing sales tax to be charged on freight. The further north or west a person lives, the more sales tax he has to pay on an item. Is this fair?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, we are debating a motion proposed by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon the four points in his motion. I Wil not read them. If we sum them up, we see that they mean decentralisation. It is a remarkable thing that the honourable member for Corio should move this motion. It will be remembered that the former member for Bendigo, Mr Beaton, had on the notice paper for years certain points regarding what should be done to bring about decentralisation. Those matters are now off the notice paper. The honourable member for Corio, who is quite a new member, put this motion on the notice paper. We are debating it today.
As I said, it deals with decentralisation. It is a remarkable thing that he should move this motion because, although he does not live in a metropolitan area, he does live within 45 miles of the centre of Melbourne. So he is pretty close to a metropolitan area. He is supported on the Opposition side in this debate by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who is a man from a rural electorate. But these men are completely in the minority on the Opposition side. The honourable member for Dawson may want sincerely to do these things, but he has not a chance of doing them as a member of the Labor Party. Those who framed our Constitution were pretty wise because they decided that each State would be represented by the same number of senators. Tasmania has a population of only 400,000 people.
– It is 386,000.
– I am informed that the population of Tasmania is 386,000. There are between 3 million and 4 million people in New South Wales. Yet Tasmania and New South Wales are represented by the same number of senators. The question is: Why? The answer is that each State has the same number of senators so as to give the less populous States the chance to get more population, to develop and to progress. I refer also in that context to Western Australia and Queensland. This is what this provision seeks to achieve. If we want to build up the population of the smaller -States in this nation, why should we not build up the population of the regions outside the metropolitan area within a State? That is the question. The answer is that we should do this. But what chance have we?
What chance has anyone in a country seat, whether a Country Party member or not, to do these things against the great bulk of opinion of the members of metropolitan seats, the members who represent the cities. In fact, the honourable member for Corio said that this select committee he proposes could educate members from city electorates who know little about conditions outside a metropolitan area. That is in effect the wording of his motion. It is true too. They know little and they want to know less about what is outside metropolitan areas. They want more population in metropolitan areas.
I was talking only the other day regarding the number of people in metropolitan areas compared with the number of people in country areas. I said that the proportion was 2 to 1. The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) interjected: ‘It should be 3 to 1’. This great man wants centralisation and he is getting it. All this talk about decentralisation and about what will be done by committees and everything elso goes for nothing. This would just be another committee. It could not do anything. I have been a great advocate in this House - whether honourable members think that this is right or wrong - of the decentralisation of political representation. This is the only chance that we have of achieving decentralisation. Of course, the Labor Party talks about one vote one value. I ask members of the Labor Party: What about the situation in the Senate where 386,000 people in Tasmania are represented by the same number of senators as represents nearly 4 million people in New South Wales? What kind of one vote one value principle is that?
– Abolish the Senate!
– Yes, abolish the Senate.
– Two members of the Labor Party - the honourable member for Dawson and the right honourable member for Melbourne - are calling out: ‘Abolish the Senate!’ When a Labor government was in power it backpedalled on that proposal and did nothing about it. It is only a lot of talk and something on which I cannot waste my time.
The only thing said by the honourable member for Dawson concerning decentralisation with which I agree is that we must have more water supplies and more water conservation. I was pleased to hear the Minister for National Development (Mr
Fairbairn) put up a sterling case on this point He proved very definitely that this Government has done more to achieve decentralisation than any government since Federation. He pointed out that the population of certain towns in country areas might increase by 10% or 12%. The population of one such town might be about 12,000, so the increase would be about 1,200. But if the populations of the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne are increased by only 3% or 4%, the number of people in those cities rises by hundreds of thousands. Those cities are growing all the time.
People in rural areas want lower rail freights and many other things. But underlying all these matters is the political attitude. It is policy. We can only get a political attitude towards decentralisation and towards building up the population in our country areas if we have more members representing country areas. I refer honourable members to the situation in Victoria. If I am returned at the next Federal election, I will represent nearly one-quarter of Victoria - the great Mallee electorate. In the metropolitan area of Victoria, there is a number of electorates under 10 square miles in area.
– Mine is one.
– The right honourable member for Melbourne could call a meeting in the middle of his electorate and, if they so desired, all his constituents could come and hear his melodious voice delivering a great oration. In the Mallee electorate, which will cover nearly one-quarter of Victoria, what chance have I of having all my electors present at any meeting that I call?
The honourable member for Dawson asked: ‘What about the Country Party?’ Does the honourable member for Dawson know that the Country Party was formed so that people in rural areas would have a voice in the Australian parliaments? That voice has been used to great advantage. Considering the number of members representing the Country Party in this Parliament, I can say that those Country Party members have done more than any other unit or any other organisation in Australia for country people. They have created many things that have been to the benefit of people in country areas. Members of the Country
Party will continue to do so. But until we get decentralisation of political representation our voice is not as strong as we would like it to be. Therefore, we just have to do the best we can and that, most people agree, is very good. So this motion means nothing to me, until we get a basis on which we can work with politicians knowing what is happening in the country - the honourable member for Corio said that members representing city electorates did not know what was happening in the country - and acting in a way that will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of this matter has expired. The honourable member for Mallee will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Hulme, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make changes in the Act in areas where difficulties have been experienced or which have been the cause of some concern to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. There are other matters of concern to my Department and the instrumentalities under my control which require amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act and I am hopeful that at least the majority of these amendments, which are matters of an administrative nature within the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, will be introduced later in this session in subsequent Bills. In a statement which I made to this House on 24th September 1968 I did promise to introduce amendments to extend to broadcasting stations some of the ownership and control provisions currently applying to television stations. The preparation of the amending Bill has not been easy but it will be presented as soon as possible.
Reverting to this first Bill, which deals with matters relating to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Act provides that at any meeting of the Board, the Chairman and two other members, of whom not more than one shall be a part-time member, shall constitute a quorum. It is thus not possible for a meeting to be held in the absence of the Chairman, and this situation applies not only to normal meetings but also to meetings held for the purpose of conducting public inquiries. In these circumstances, in the absence of the Chairman, considerable difficulty can arise and a good deal of inconvenience can be caused. To overcome this position, the amendment proposes the appointment of a full time member as Vice-Chairman who shall be able, in the absence of the Chairman, to exercise all the powers of the Chairman insofar as the calling and conducting of meetings is concerned. In addition, since the Vice-Chairman will be one of the three full time members of the Board, the Bill proposes that section 15 of the Act be amended to provide that the Chairman may delegate his powers to the Vice-Chairman so that the day to day operations of the Board will not be hampered when the Chairman is absent.
The Bill deals also with another matter of direct concern to the Board. Procedures are laid down in the Act in respect of the granting of licences for commercial broadcasting and television stations hut, whilst section 82 states that original applications for licences shall be in accordance with a form supplied by the Minister, no such requirement is specified with respect to applications for renewals of licences. In order to clarify the position and to bring uniformity, it is proposed that all applications for licences shall be in a form supplied by the Minister. It is also proposed to clarify the position concerning the authority of the Board to obtain such information from a licensee as it deems necessary in respect of application for renewals of licences. The Board must be able to obtain such information in order to satisfy itself that the application should be granted. Such power already exists for original applications since in these cases a full inquiry is held.
There is one other matter which is of some concern to the Board. Broadcasting and television stations are an important medium of mass communication. In spite of this, should any unauthorised person use, or attempt to use, the facilities of a station or interfere with its transmissions, the only existing redress is the institution of legal action for trespass, carrying a small penalty. It has been considered that it is appropriate that the operators of both national and commercial stations should have some other redress in these cases and the Bill therefore proposes that it shall be an offence against the Broadcasting and Television Act for any person knowingly to obstruct or otherwise interfere with the broadcasting or televising of programmes or in any way to interfere with the operation of the station.
Finally, the Bill repeals sub-section (a) of section 102 of the Act which prohibits the broadcasting or televising of any copyright work without the approval of the copyright holder. This amendment has been made at the request of the AttorneyGeneral since the Copyright Act will contain provisions which will run counter to section 102 (a) in some circumstances. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a measure to give the force of law to agreements for the avoidance of double taxation on income flowing between Australia and three other countries. Two of the agreements - those with Singapore and Japan - are comprehensive. They deal with all substantial forms of income which may be subject to tax in both Australia and the other countries. The third, which is with France, is limited to profits derived from international airline operations. The Singapore agreement was signed on 11th February 1969, the Japanese agreement on 20th March 1969, and the limited agreement with France on 27th March 1969. The agreements will not have the force of law, however, until the necessary constitutional processes are completed by both Australia and the other countries.
Double taxation agreements have two principal functions. One is the elimination of double taxation and the other is the apportionment of the relevant taxation revenue between the contracting countries. It is this second function that causes most of the difficulties in negotiating a comprehensive agreement, particularly when there is not an equal flow of income between the two contracting countries. In such circumstances, a double taxation agreement can involve a greater surrender of tax revenue by one country than the other. Any apparent loss of tax revenue must, however, be weighed against the advantages that accrue from an agreement. For example, in the case of a capital importing country, a double taxation agreement removes some of the impediments to foreign investment, and thus tends to increase the volume of capital inflow. This, in turn, has advantages not only in terms of fostering economic growth but also in terms of the tax revenues derived in due course from the expansion of the economy. Our general aim, therefore, is to negotiate agreements which represent a satisfactory compromise as to each country’s taxing rights and which, at the same time, will foster trade and investment between the two countries on terms acceptable to each. I am confident that this has been achieved in the two comprehensive agreements now under consideration.
The agreements with Singapore and Japan are in substance much the same as our new agreement with the United Kingdom which Parliament approved last year. I will now refer to the main points. Under both agreements, Australia is to reduce its tax on dividends flowing to the other country from 30% to 15% of the amount of the dividends. However, where the dividends form part of the proceeds of a business being carried on here by a Japanese or Singapore enterprise, ordinary rates of tax will apply. In converse circumstances Japan is also to reduce its rate, which is currently 20%, to 15%. Singapore does not effectively impose a separate tax on dividends and the agreement provides that Australian residents are to continue to be free from Singapore tax on dividends, while that country’s law remains in its present state. Ti Singapore does introduce a separate tax on dividends, it will be obliged to restrict the tax to no more than 15% of dividends flowing to Australian residents. I mention that profits out of which dividends are distributed by Australian public companies to foreign shareholders bear the company tax rate of 45%, so that, with withholding tax at the rate of 15%, the total Australian tax on each $100 of profit is $53.25. I suggest that this is a reasonable contribution to Australian revenue.
Both agreements also limit each country’s tax on interest flowing to residents of the other country to 10% of the interest, except where the interest constitutes business profits of a branch or other permanent establishment in the country of source. There will therefore be no reduction in the Australian withholding tax rate of 10%. For Japan, there will be a reduction from 20% and for Singapore from 40% .
In general, royalties are to be treated in the same way as interest. For Australia this will mean that, instead of tax at general rates on net royalties flowing to Singapore or Japan, our tax will be limited to 10% of gross royalties. For the other countries it will mean reductions of the same order as for interest.
As is the case with all our existing agreements, the Japanese agreement provides that the country of residence of the operator is to have sole taxing rights in respect of profits of airline or shipping companies from international traffic. Profits from the carriage df cargoes, mail or passengers from one place in a country for discharge at another place in that country will remain taxable in the country of shipment. The Singapore agreement corresponds with the Japanese agreement as to airline profits. Each country is, however, to retain taxing rights on profits from international shipping traffic derived by residents of the other, but must reduce the tax normally payable by one-half. Shipments in a country for discharge in that country will not be regarded as international traffic.
Both agreements follow the customary arrangement that the business profits of an enterprise of one country may be taxed in the other if they are derived there through what is the broad equivalent of a branch - or, as it is invariably described in double taxation agreements, a ‘permanent establishment’. The two agreements contain provisions which will ensure that, where both countries tax the same income, the country in which the taxpayer resides is to give credit against its tax for the tax of the country of source. The credit will not, of course, exceed the tax of the country of residence. Provisions of the Bill will ensure that interests and royalties derived by Australian residents from Singapore and Japan, and which are subject to the tax limitation of 10% in those countries, will be taxed in Australia with credit being allowed for the overseas tax. 1 should mention that, in the case of Singapore, two special provisions have been made in the general area of credits. Singapore, as a developing country, has enacted economic incentive legislation, a feature of which is the remission of tax on income arising from foreign investment in. or the supply of industrial know-how to, Singapore enterprises.
As to direct investment by an Australian company in a Singapore- undertaking, Singapore accepts that this would best be done by the Australian company establishing a subsidiary company in Singapore. The Singapore profits of such a company would not be subject to Australian tax under our general law, but Singapore was concerned that, when the profits were remitted to the Australian parent company by way of dividends, they might then be subject to Australian tax, so nullifying any remission of Singapore tax that had been made. This would not, in fact, occur in practice because Australian resident companies are, by virtue of the rebate of tax allowed on intercompany dividends, in general effectively free of tax on dividends received from another company - the dividends are not taxed until re-distributed to individual shareholders. Nevertheless it was decided to make it quite clear in the agreement that an Australian company owning at least 10% of a Singapore company will continue, during the currency of the agreement, to receive the rebate of tax on dividends that the Australian taxation law provides.
The Singapore economic incentives also apply in respect of interest on foreign borrowings and industrial royalties payable overseas. In any case where, as to income of this kind received by an Australian resident from Singapore, Singapore remits
1 386 1 /6V - /* - 1483
the 10% tax it is entitled to impose, the Australian resident will be treated for taxation purposes as having paid the tax. For assessment to Australian tax, the income received will be increased by the notional Singapore tax and credit allowed in respect of that tax. This will avoid the Singapore remission being nullified by lack of credit in Australia and at the same time provide a fair result for the Australian revenue.
Apart from the provisions I have mentioned, the two agreements contain the usual provisions - which are common to double taxation agreements - relating to the taxation of visiting businessmen and employees, public entertainers, students and pensioners.
In broad terms, the Singapore agreement will, if this Bill is approved, have effect in Australia from 1st July 1969 and in Singapore from 1st January 1969. A formal exchange of instruments of ratification will be necessary in relation to the Japanese agreement but it is expected that these formalities will be completed in time for the agreement to apply in Australia and Japan respectively from the same dales as the Singapore agreement.
The purpose of the limited agreement with France is to ensure that Australia and France each has the sole right to tax profits of its own international airline to the extent that they are attributable to international traffic. This basis also applies in relation to other countries with which we have comprehensive agreements and it does much to facilitate the financial arrangements of international airlines. The French agreement will, on entering into force, apply in Australia from, broadly, 1st July 1966 and in France from 1st January 1967. I might mention that the difference in dates of application as between Australia and the countries concerned is duc to differences in tax years in the various countries.
A memorandum containing much more detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill and of the agreements is being made available to honourable members. I commend thi Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Nationality and Citizenship Act, providing for the first time a separate national status for the Australian people, came into operation on 26th January 1949. In the 20 years since then, there have been eight amending Acts, all of them concerned with specific matters requiring attention. On 12th November 1968 I informed the House that a general revision of this legislation had been undertaken. The Bill which I now introduce to the House implements the changes which, as a result of this review, have been found desirable and necessary in the light of present day conditions and which have been approved by the Government. This Bill should, of course, be read in conjunction with the existing Nationality and Citizenship Act. When the Bill is passed, and ali of the amendments proposed have come into operation, the principal Act will be reprinted in consolidated form, incorporating the amendments. In the meantime, I shall circulate to honourable members, as soon as it is printed, an explanatory statement setting out the effect of the various provisions of the Bill on the Act itself.
The Bill, Mr Speaker, proposes some changes which are fundamental to our national status and the concept of Australian citizenship, as well as to the rules under which our citizenship may be acquired. There are, in addition, a number of amendments of less significance, some of them of a machinery nature, but all of some importance. I think it is desirable that I deal first with the more significant matters. It will be understood, of course, that throughout this Bill we are dealing only with the status of people under our own law. What their status is in the laws of other countries, only those laws can determine, and our legislation cannot and does not intervene. International law, convention and usage are of importance when conflict of law arises. The Nationality and Citizenship Act came into operation in 1949 and gave effect to the decision of a conference in London in 1947 initiated by the British Government to consider the national status of the people of the Commonwealth of Nations. The conference contemplated that each Commonwealth country would (a) define its own citizens and (b) declare them, and the citizens of other Commonwealth countries, to have an additional common status. Our Australian legislation describes the common status as British subject’, and declares Australian citizens and the citizens of other Commonwealth countries to be British subjects.
In the period since 1949 there has been considerable change in the general usage of understanding of the term ‘British’. The term is now used by the United Kingdom authorities, as well as by other countries and people in general, to signify matters pertaining to the United Kingdom only; for example, ‘British High Commission’, British Passport’, ‘British migrant’. Many migrants from non-British countries, of whom almost 600,000 have been naturalised since 1945, find difficulty with the fact that naturalisation in Australia results in their becoming not only Australian citizens, as they wish to do, but also ‘British subjects’. They associate the term ‘British subject’ with citizenship of Britain rather than with the common status contemplated for citizens of all countries in the British Commonwealth. At present, section 7 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act provides that a person who is a citizen of a Commonwealth country shall by virtue of that citizenship . . . become a British subject*. Apart from misunderstandings which arise from Australian citizens being British subjects, it is hardly appropriate that the citizens of other Commonwealth countries - some of them republics - should be declared under Australian law to be British subjects when by the law of those countries there is no comparable provision in relation to Australian citizens. The Government has therefore decided that it would fit the facts better and accord with the laws of other Commonwealth countries, that a citizen of a Commonwealth country, including an Australian citizen, should have the status of a British subject. Clause 6 of the Bill before the House provides for this change.
Under this clause, the title of part II of the principal Act will be altered from ‘British Nationality’ to ‘The Status of British Subject’, and sections 7, 8 and 9 of the existing Act will be re-worded to give effect to the change. The re-worded sections do not alter in any way the present position of Australian citizens, citizens of other Commonwealth countries or Irish citizens other than to declare them to have the status of British subjects rather than to be British subjects. Section 8 (2) of the present Act, which refers Only to Irish citizens under 16 years of age born before 26th January 1949, is now redundant and has been omitted. Section 9 (1) of the present Act is also without application in Australia (it was included in the original legislation as a precautionary measure in keeping with and as part of the common status) and has likewise been omitted.
Clause 1 3 of the Bill effects another significant amendment to our present legislation. 1 have already referred to the changes which have taken place since the Act was passed in 1948 concerning the general usage and understanding of the terms ‘British’ and British nationality’, and I have described how this Bill proposes that Australian citizens should in future have, in addition to their citizenship, the status of British subjects rather than being declared to be British subjects. The status of British subject is still important not only for historical and sentimental reasons but because the laws of the Commonwealth and of the States still use the term ‘British subject’ in prescribing status as a qualification for various rights and duties.
There is amongst Australians a growing sense of our Australian national identity - reflecting the growth in our population and in our stature amongst the nations of the world. The Government accordingly considers it to be desirable, progressively and by what ever means are reasonably possible, to give primacy to the expression ‘Australian citizen’. Clause 13 of the Bill now before the House therefore provides that, whenever Australians are required to state their national status, lt will be sufficient to state Australian citizen’. Most Australians have to complete forms of various kinds which call for a statement of nationality; the question whether it is a correct and sufficient answer to state ‘Australian citizen’ will thus be settled by this particular amendment.
Clause 20 of the Bill will ensure that no person will be disadvantaged under other Commonwealth laws as a result of this amendment, or by reason of the amendment I mentioned earner whereby Australian citizens, and citizens of other Commonwealth countries, will in future have the status of British subjects rather than being declared to be British subjects; nor will these amendments be brought into force until such time as all State governments have had the opportunity to effect the necessary consequential changes to their laws. 1 have had discussions with Ministers for Immigration in the State governments on this subject. They are well informed of these proposals and I think it correct to say that they support them.
The Government has also decided that citizens of other Commonwealth countries who have settled in Australia should have a simplified means of acquiring Australian citizenship. At present, these migrants cannot become Australian citizens unless they apply for a Certificate of’ Registration as an Australian Citizen as provided for in sections 12 and 13 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. This may be granted if the applicant has lived here for a year or more, is of good character and meets other requirements. It usually takes a few weeks to finalise applications made for the grant of Australian citizenship in this way. British migrants, after living in Australia for long periods, come to think of themselves as Australian citizens. Few of them give any serious thought to making application for the formal grant of citizenship by registration, for of course they have nothing material to gain from becoming Australian citizens, already having the right to vote, to be appointed or elected to public office, and the like. It is therefore natural that after being in Australia for long periods they think of themselves as Australian citizens; and so, when they wish to travel abroad, for instance, they are surprised and hurt to find that they cannot have Australian passports. It is a very common occurrence that they do not have time before travelling to obtain Certificates of Registration, and as a result are obliged to obtain British passports from the British High Commissioner. The Government believes that these members of our community should have an extremely quick and simple way of becoming Australian citizens, and clause 8 of the Bill will make this possible.
Under this new provision, settlers admitted for permanent residence from other Commonwealth countries who have lived in Australia for 5 years (without having committed any crime for which they could be deported) may become Australian citizens as of right by giving notice to the Department of Immigration of their wish to become citizens. The existing provision whereby settlers from Britain may become Australian citizens by the process of registration is of course retained. The new provisions, which will become sections 11a, 11b and11C of the Citizenship Act, are drawn up to ensure that these additional means by which citizens of other Commonwealth countries may become Australian citizens do not extend to those who have not been admitted to Australia for permanent residence or who are liable to deportation, whether because of a crime committed within 5 years after entry to Australia or for other reasons.
I come now to some important amendments affecting the conditions under which migrants, both those who already have British subject status by virtue of their citizenship of another Commonwealth country and those who are aliens, may acquire Australian citizenship by the processes of registration and naturalisation respectively. At present, an applicant for the grant of Australian citizenship in either of these ways must satisfy the Minister that he or she is of full capacity’. This is defined in the existing legislation as ‘not of unsound mind’. This in turn called for legal opinion as to its appropriate interpretation and the result is that applicants have to be able to understand the nature of the act of changing citizenship. The Bill, in paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 9 and paragraph (a) of clause 10, removes the term ‘full capacity’ from the Act and substitutes in its place a more direct statement of the requirement as to mental capacity, namely that the applicant shall be ‘capable of understanding the nature of the application’.
The Government has decided to exempt from this new requirement as to mental capacity any person, of whatever age, who is of unsound mind but whose father or mother is, or was at the time of death, an Australian citizen. Without such exemption, a person of unsound mind who is over 16 years of age could never be granted Aus tralian citizenship, because he could not be deemed capable of understanding the nature of the application. Those who are under 16 years can become Australian citizens by inclusion on parents’ certificates of citizenship, but no such possibility exists for those over 16. The Government believes that where the parents of a person are, or were, Australian citizens, that person should not be debarred from citizenship by reason of mental deficiency. Paragraph (c) of clause 9 of the Bill, and paragraph (b) of clause 10 of the Bill provide for this particular exemption. Persons so exempted will, of course, also be exempted from the need to demonstrate a knowledge of English and of the full meaning of citizenship. It follows, too, that these persons would not be able to comprehend the act of taking the oath of allegiance, and clause 11 of the Bill will exempt them from that requirement.
Also for purposes of the grant of citizenship, it has been decided to exempt persons over 60 years of age and persons suffering from severe disability in hearing, speech or sight from the need to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of English and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. Paragraph (e) of clause 9 of the Bill achieves this in relation to the grant of citizenship by registration, while paragraph (b) of clause 10 of the Bill does the same thing in respect of citizenship by naturalisation.
In clause 10, too, there is another very important amendment to our basic legislation. I refer to paragraph (d) of the clause, which affects the residence requirement for the grant of citizenship by naturalisation to aliens. The normal period of residence required prior to naturalisation is 5 years. At present the Act empowers the Minister to waive or reduce considerably this residence requirement for the spouses of Australian citizens, for minors, for members of the Forces, as well as for former Australian citizens and persons who have lived in other Commonwealth countries or served in their Forces. Cases are continually arising, however, where non-British migrants are suffering disadvantages in their employment by not being naturalised. For example, a good many people working in the Commonwealth and State public services and for local government cannot be given permanent appointments, and in consequence they miss opportunities of advancement. These are usually people who have an excellent command of English, written as well as spoken, and who exhibit all the other indications of having become integrated into the community.
The Government sees good reason not to delay the grant of citizenship to such persons provided they have the qualities which I have mentioned and they meet the other usual requirements. However, the Government does not feel there are sufficient grounds for a general reduction of the qualifying period of 5 years, which does not impose hardship as a general rule - indeed, the majority of aliens do not apply for citizenship until they have been here for 8 years or more. The period of 5 years is generally in line with the laws of other countries and is consonant with the provisions of the Migration Act relating to deportation. Of course, once a person is naturalised he is immune from deportation even if his residence is less than 5 years. The Government has therefore decided that the legislation should be amended to permit the grant of citizenship after 3 years’ residence to persons who satisfy the Minister that they can read and write English proficiently, as well as being able to speak and understand it, as is normally required, and are in other respects well qualified for citizenship. Paragraph (d) of clause 10 of the Bill gives effect to this decision insofar as knowledge of English is concerned. I should explain that the Minister’s existing general discretion under section 40 of the principal Act will enable him to insist on applicants being well qualified for citizenship otherwise’.
The situation of children born outside Australia of Austraiian parents has been given consideration in this review of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. At present, children born in wedlock outside Australia may become Australian citizens through registration of their births at Australian consulates only if their fathers are Australian citizens. There have been cases where Australian women living abroad and married to men of other nationalities have wished to have their children become Australians by birth. The Government has decided that it should be possible for a child to become an Australian citizen at birth, through registration of the birth at an Australian consulate, upon the application of either parent if that parent is an Australian citizen and if no court order exists giving custody to the other parent. Clause 7 gives effect to this decision. The existing provision remains whereby a child born out of wedlock in a place outside Australia may become an Australian citizen only if the mother is an Australian citizen.
Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 have traversed in some detail the matters in this Bill which 1 believe will have the most far reaching effect and which almost certainly are of the most general interest. The remaining provisions are nevertheless important and I propose to deal briefly with each of them. In accordance with the changes I mentioned earlier concerning Australian citizenship status, clauses f and 3 of the Bill amend the title of the Act. Our citizenship legislation will now be entitled simply the Citizenship Act. Clause 2 provides for certain provisions of the Act to come into operation on the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent, and for the remaining provisions to come into operation on a dale or dates to be fixed by proclamation. It is necessary to postpone the commencement of some provisions to enable the States to make consequential changes in their laws and also to permit the amendment of the regulations in force under the Act. Clause 4 of the Bill rearranges the Parts of the principal Act in accordance with the revised legislation.
This new legislation involves amendment of some of the definitions contained in the original legislation and paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of clause 5 of the Bill make the necessary amendments. Paragraph (d) of clause 5 provides, in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, that a child found in Australia shall be deemed an Australian citizen by birth. Paragraph (e) of this clause removes the definition of ‘full capacity’, a term no longer used in the legislation. Paragraph (f) concerns the island of Nauru. Since 1950. Australian citizenship law has applied to the island of Nauru in the same way as it applies to New Guinea. As Nauru has now ceased to be a Trust Territory this is no longer appropriate and this subclause of the Bill removes Nauru from the scope of the legislation in future but at the same time ensures that residence in Nauru in the past will not be overlooked for citizenship purposes.
The present legislation provides for Australian citizenship to be renounced in certain specified cases. Clause 12 of the Bill amends these renunciation provisions in three respects. At present renunciation may be effected under section 18 (1.) of the principal Act by persons who have become citizens of other countries without action on their part - for example by birth there - but the provision is worded so as to restrict this facility to those cases where the citizenship of the other country was acquired after 26th January 1949. Paragraph (a) of clause 12 of the Bill extends this particular renunciation provision to those who involuntarily became citizens of other countries before that date. Secondly, paragraph (b) of clause 12 inserts a new provision in the Act to enable persons to renounce their Australian citizenship in circumstances where they need to do so in order to acquire the citizenship of another country. This provision is necessary because we have found that the laws of some newly independent countries are such that a person, even perhaps born in that country, cannot become a citizen of the country unless he divests himself of any other nationality he may possess.
The third change in respect of the renunciation provisions concerns section 18 (2.) of the Act which enables Australian citizenship to be renounced by persons who become Australian citizens by reason of inclusion of their names as minor children in their parents’ certificates of citizenship. At present this can be done even when renunciation will result in the individual becoming stateless. This is contrary to the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and paragraph (d) of clause 12 of the Bill will prevent renunciation of Australian citizenship by these persons unless the person concerned has or will immediately acquire another nationality.
Clauses 14, 15, 16 and 17 of the Bill are amendments to the transitional provisions of the principal Act consequential on the elimination of the concept of ‘British subject’ and the substitution in its place of the concept of a person ‘having the status of a British subject. Clause 14 will amend section 24 of the Act to make it clear that use of the term ‘British subject’ in that part of the Act applies only in relation to a time before the commencement of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948.
Clause 18 of the Bill provides that it shall in future be an offence to make any unauthorised alteration to a certificate of Australian citizenship. A suitable penalty is provided. In clause 19 the maximum imprisonment for the offence of making false representations in connection with the citizenship legislation is increased from 3 to 6 months as being a more appropriate penalty for such an offence.
The purpose of clause 21 of the Bill is to implement the Government decision that the term ‘certificate of Australian citizenship’ should in future be used to replace the present designations ‘certificate of registration as an Australian citizen’ and ‘certificate of naturalisation of an Australian citizen’. These are long and clumsy descriptions and, while we cannot eliminate entirely the expressions ‘registration’ and naturalisation’ which are widely used and conveniently distinguish between two different methods of acquiring Australian citizenship, it is desired to simplify the wording of the Act in these matters as far as possible. Finally, clause 22 is necessary to enable regulations to be made in advance of the date fixed for the commencement of the sections of the Act to which they relate. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Public Service Arbitration Bill 1969.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1969.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1969.
Officers’ Rights Declaration Bill 1969.
Superannuation Bill 1969.
Debate resumed from 15 April (vide page 1072), on the following paper presented by Mr Gorton:
Defence Aid to Malaysia and Singapore - Ministerial Statement,15 April 1969- and on the motion by Mr Erwin:
That the House take note of the paper.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is it the wish of the House to debate the subject matter of the two orders of the day together as suggested by the Leader of the House? There being no objection, I will allow this course to be followed.
– This debate deals with the cognate matters - the overseas visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and defence aid to Malaysia and Singapore. I presume that the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who I understand will follow me, may raise some matters in relation to the visit of the Prime Minister to the United States of America and to Canada. All I wish to say on that matter is that I, together with other supporters of the Government, was most impressed with the manner in which the Prime Minister conducted his affairs and with the rapport that obviously developed with the United States President and the Prime Minister of Canada. I congratulate him on the hard work he obviously put in during his visit overseas. As it was really a transitional visit in that the Prime Minister will return again in a few weeks time, it would be presumptuous to say anything more at this juncture regarding the visit other than to express the fact that Government members, I know, were most satisfied with the Prime Minister and most pleased with his performance as our representative overseas. 1 turn now to what may appear at this juncture to be an unimportant debate, namely, the question of aid to Malaysia and Singapore. It may appear to be unimportant in the sense of being a pure debating issue as the Opposition, through a speech given by its Leader on 15th April, has said that it supports this measure of aid to both Malaysia and Singapore. At face value this appears to be so. The Leader of the Opposition is the only member of the Labor Party who has spoken on the matter. But when we contrast the speech made by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) on 27th February and the speech made by the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) in the House last night, we can see that again there are deep schisms within the Australian Labor Party on this matter. Indeed, the honourable member for Yarra, speaking on the Prime Minister’s defence statement on 27th February, said:
I do not believe that the defence statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is a matter of great significance . . . it is not a vital question. I believe that it is not even significant.
He also said:
The immediate result is that Australia has been left with a political policy instead of a defence policy.
He tried to justify that statement. I would have thought that the statement contained in the defence report last year indicating that political policies, economic policies and military policies are inter-related, particularly in regard to defence policy should have been noted. The bland assertion of the honourable member for Yarra is well answered by the statement that was written into the defence report.
But what is of importance is that the philosophy adopted once again by the honourable member for Yarra was the antithesis of the attitude taken by his leader. Again, we see a different approach in the attitude of the former Leader of the Opposition who spoke last night on the adjournment. The right honourable gentleman primarily discussed Australia’s commitment in Vietnam. He ended his speech on the note: 1 do not believe in Australian involvement in any Asian war. I did not want to see troops stationed in Malaysia, and we opposed that proposal at the time.
He then went on to say:
The policy thai Australia should pursue is to render economic and social aid to Asia and to keep out of every filthy Asian war in future. This war is an undeclared war - an unprincipled war. lt is an unwinnable civil war.
Before getting on to the detail of what the Prime Minister indicated Australia would contribute as aid to Malaysia in regard to Sabre aircraft and the operators who will support them, together with the spares, the ground support equipment and the simulator for training purposes that will be forwarded to that country, let me take issue with the right honourable member for Melbourne on this matter. Unfortunately the right honourable member is continuing a line that he put forward in 1966 and that the Australian people rejected.
– He is like an albatross around the neck.
– That is probably an apt description. The present Leader of the Opposition is in the House now. I dare say he will not refer to the remarks of his former leader as they must be a continual embarrassment to him.
– I do not think they are.
– The honourable member does not think they are an embarrassment? 1 would have thought they were the epitome of embarrassment. The right honourable member for Melbourne is basing his whole concept of the war in Vietnam on the pre- 1954 situation of the colonial war. Since then North Vietnam is separate from South Vietnam and one is as much under the influence of outside powers as the other. To describe this as a civil war has been shown not only to be false but also a misreading of history which those members of the Opposition who follow a Marxist line continually do.
The right honourable member for Melbourne opposed the stationing of any troops in Malaysia. It is unfortunate that the right honourable member puts this view forward at this stage when the Leader of the Opposition is at pains to put forward his support for the proposal. As I recall his statement in the House on Tuesday night, the Leader of the Opposition said he was the one who first thought of this matter. We are accustomed to hearing this sort of statement by the Leader of the Opposition who holds himself out as the prime motivating factor in Australian politics. In fact, of course, he tends to bring about reactions in his own party rather than providing motivation at all, apart from those who wish to oppose his viewpoint. It is to be regretted that what is a policy of significance only appears to be so on the surface in regard to the Opposition’s attitude. The Prime Minister’s statement is a matter of significance because it is further tangible evidence of Australia’s support for the nations of Malaysia and Singapore.
The policy of assisting these nations with specific hardware is one that is going to be a continuing difficult factor in the future. Defence hardware will become more complex as the years go by. The desperate need is for these countries to have skilled operators and technicians. Any assistance that we are providing, as set out by the statement of the Prime Minister, fits neatly into that category; to alleviate the difficulties that these countries will face in regard to their defence equipment in the future, lt will further provide greater opportunities - at least in theory - for funds to be expended internally by those countries as a result of the assistance that we are giving them, both for social welfare policies and for developmental policies that they ‘ may pursue. Malaysia and Singapore have similar defence problems. But they have differing internal problems that must be solved. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has left because he follows me and as there is no-one on the Opposition side of the chamber ready to listen to him it is probably wise that he have honourable members paged to come into the chamber. That indicates the attitude of the Opposition. Not one member of the Opposition is present in the chamber this afternoon to listen to this important debate or to participate in it. The entry of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and the Leader of the Opposition means that the Opposition’s numbers here are now two. Before the entry of the two sole members of the Opposition into the chamber I was saying that the defence problems which Malaysia and Singapore face are of a similar nature. I recall the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), in February, criticising the Prime Minister for this attitude, lt seems to me to be a most realistic attitude. I have said that the internal problems of those countries are of a differing nature. They certainly are regarding the increasing insurgency through
South East Asia. We are well aware of the increased problem in Thailand and the effect which this could have in Malaysia in due course, particularly in the Malay Peninsula around the border between Thailand and Malaysia. The increasing insurgency in that particular theatre of South East Asia is a matter with which Australia must be preoccupied. It. was therefore pleasing to hear the Prime Minister indicate that following his statement in February the question of increased aid to these countries was being pursued by the Government. 1 think it is fair to say that we are realistic. We are a part of Asia. We are playing our role in Asia. We are playing our role in Vietnam, in Thailand through economic assistance, and in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The Prime Minister’s recent statement on increased aid to Indonesia is a matter of great significance. The Opposition’s attitude is to view the Asian scene as being entirely removed from Asia. That was the attitude of the right honourable member for Melbourne, as indicated in the concluding sentence of his speech last night, which was:
My philosophy has always been Asia for the Asians and Australia for the Australians.
What sort of an attitude is that for a responsible member of the Parliament to take? It is akin to the statement of the honourable member for Yarra who accused this Government of being, of all things, racist. Has there been a more racist attitude taken by a person than-
– They want to keep people in separate compartments.
– That is right, and we are not in separate compartments. We are bound indispensably in the future with these nations in South East Asia. We have shown that we are able to work closely with the nations of the area. The friendly relations which have developed in recent times between Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are to be applauded not to be criticised in the manner in which the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne, did last night. It was a tragedy that the statement was made. I would accept that a military commitment will only buy time; it is what you do with the time bought that counts. No one says that all we must do is to provide military aid. Australia is doing far more than providing the aid which we are discussing today. The amount of aid, both bilateral and multilateral, that we are providing today is increasing. It is perhaps a pity that money donated to the voluntary agencies within Australia which do so much to raise money to provide aid through various channels to countries overseas is not tax deductible. But that is another question.
– The Prime Minister did not mention that.
– He did not mention it, because he was speaking specifically of military aid to Malaysia and Singapore, lt is not to be expected that he could cover all possible aspects of foreign relations in a statement and deal with a small matter like that. Both Malaysia and Singapore have welcomed the aid which we have given them. In the last 24 hours statements have been made by the leaders of those nations indicating that they appreciate the aid which we are granting. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition, when he follows me. and if he refers to the question of aid to Malaysia and Singapore, will continue his statement applauding that of the Prime Minister. 1 hope that the Leader of the Opposition will take some steps to ensure that his Party has a more united policy in this matter. It is unlikely that the Opposition will regain the Government benches at the next election, but there is always that possibility. It is unfortunate that such a short time before an election this fundamental difference still should be evident within the Opposition’s ranks.
I said a moment ago that a military commitment only buys time. But that time must be bought. One does not want to engage in cliches, but this is not one of those debates in which one makes a searching analysis of the aid that has been given. The question which we are debating is, in essence, a relatively simple matter. It is particularly simple for Government supporters because they are in full1 accord with the aid which has been granted. The points that I wanted to stress this afternoon were, firstly, that the Government is continuing the role that was indicated by the Prime Minister in his statement in the House on 25th February, and that this is really, as I think he said, a transitional step towards the eventual acquisition of supersonic aircraft which, we understand, the Malaysian Government has as its long term aim. Secondly, I felt duty bound, as a result of the statements made by the right honourable member for Melbourne, to put them again before the House today in order to reveal the difference of opinion which has been evidenced by the Opposition regarding our attitude towards South East Asia in particular, and I will conclude on that note. [Quorum formed.]
14.13)- Mr Deputy Speaker, since the statement on defence by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton)
-I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that he must seek leave before he can make his speech.
– That is what I am doing. Since I have already spoken on the Prime Minister’s statement on defence aid to Malaysia and Singapore, which is being debated concurrently with the Prime Minister’s statement on his overseas visit, upon which 1 now wish to speak, I must ask leave to speak. I now do so.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington and Ottawa, the Opposition raised by way of an urgency motion a number of topics which we believed would be and should be discussed with the President and his Administration and with the Prime Minister of Canada. In our motion, they were listed as foreign policy, defence contracts, trade and aid; and in the debate my colleagues and I mentioned specifically Vietnam, relations with China, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, aid to South East Asia, particularly Indonesia, the FI 1 1 contract, offsetting of defence purchases, American investment and trade items - wheat, wool and meat. lt is true that the death of General Eisenhower partially disrupted the Prime Minister’s visit, and truncated his talks with the President. His other calls, which went on as scheduled, provided full scope and opportunity for him to hear the Administration’s views, and to put our views to them. One hopes that members of the Administration are now a little better informed about the Australian Government’s views on the various matters I have mentioned. If, however, we have to rely on the Prime Minister’s statement of 2 days ago, neither Parliament nor the public is much better informed.
For instance, the Prime Minister said at two Press conferences - one at Ottawa and one at Mascot on his homecoming - that in neither Washington nor Ottawa had he raised the question of future relations with China. Such an omission, on such a visit, at such a time, is incredible. The Administration is currently reaching for new positions with regard to both Russia and China. Canada is taking a lead in encouraging the United States to modify her past intransigency. The hostility between China and Russia introduces a crucial new element into the world situation. One could hardly imagine a subject more important to Australia, or one on which it is more important that Australia should hold and express a definite view than about her future relations with her fourth trading partner. Yet on his return to Mascot the Prime Minister, asked if China would be on the agenda for his next visit, said: 1 haven’t got it down and I have had no indication myself that there is likely to be a discussion’. The Prime Minister described his statement as an interim report. It is hardly that. Despite the changes enforced by General Eisenhower’s death, the visit surely warranted a fuller report than he gave. After all, all the meetings, except that wilh the President himself, went on as scheduled and the entire programme for Canada was fulfilled.
However I do not wish to cavil at the propriety of the Prime Minister’s decision to leave his full report till after his second visit to Washington. But from what one gleans from the Press conferences given by the Prime Minister, there is room for disquiet about the Prime Minister’s approach to these talks. We are concerned on two grounds. First, there was the apparent omission of critical and basic issues such as China from the agenda; there was the apparent failure to raise any questions about the future of the Fill. These are highlighted by the Prime Minister’s inexplicable decision to off-load at the last minute his own defence adviser, Mr Griffith, the
Assistant Secretary for external affairs and defence in his Department. The exclusion of Mr Griffith from his official party is in no way explained or justified by the death of General Eisenhower. To say the least, it indicates a curious choice of priorities. The second ground for disquiet is that the Prime Minister seems all too ready to accept that the presidential talks, particularly on the basic matter of Vietnam, should be a one way affair. There is no indication at all that the Australian Government accepts it as any part of its responsibilities to hold and urge a view as to the means of ending the war. There seems to be no awareness at all on the part of the Prime Minister of the radical change in the American position over the last 12 months. If he put any views on Vietnam, and if they are those he expressed in this House on the eve of his departure and repeated at his Press conference in Ottawa, then they are totally irrelevant to the situation and to the solution of the problems now facing us in Vietnam. Indeed, they would prevent a solution if implemented as policy.
In the House the Prime Minister reverted to the Munich parallel. In Ottawa he reverted to the domino theory. These parallels and theories were never adequate as an explanation of what was happening in Vietnam. But even if they had been, they are singularly unhelpful as a guide to the course we and the United States should now be taking in Vietnam. On 26th March, the Prime Minister told the House:
The whole object of our being in that country is to try to see that aggression does not succeed, is to try to see that those who resort to arms to overthrow the freedom of a small nation shall nol successfully so resort to arms and shall not so overthrow that freedom. Many of us have lived through occasions when resort to arms, resort to terrorism and resort to invasion in Europe led, because it was not prevented at its inception, to a war which otherwise might never have happened but which, because of an appeasement, because of throwing small nations to the wolves, grew into that world war we all remember.
In Ottawa on 3rd April he said:
In Vietnam aggression, even small aggression, should be prevented from succeeding, or else we would run into the same danger the world ran into before when aggression in Poland, and aggression in the Sudetenland, when aggression in Austria was allowed step by step to succeed.
It is disturbing indeed to find the Australian Prime Minister returning in 1969 to these fallacious, misleading and discredited premises to describe and justify the course pursued in Vietnam since 1963. This is precisely the kind of obscurantism and over-simplication which have led us into such disasters in Vietnam, from the 1950s on.
Let us examine the Prime Minister’s new explanation of Vietnam in the light of the actuality. The country whose aggression he says is the sole reason for our presence in Vietnam is now sitting at the conference table in Paris, as the preferred and protected guest of the great imperial nation which once ruled the whole region. This fifth rate power now deals on equal terms with the mightiest power on earth. This war has divided America in a way she has never been divided over an external war since 1812. It has divided America from her European allies in a way that would have been inconceivable 10 years ago. What then is the lesson supposed to have been taught to North Vietnam?
These are the facts against which the new Persident has to devise his policy in Vietnam. The Prime Minister does a disservice to the President, to the United States and to Australia by regurgitating these irrelevancies about Munich and, worse, by making them a statement of our current objectives and aims in Vietnam. A policy based on premises so false leads to false and unattainable objectives. In what way can South Vietnam be realistically compared with Czechoslovakia or Poland, in terms of history, social and political development, or national identity? Or President Thieu and Vice-President Ky with Benes and the Masaryks? Or North Vietnam with Germany? Or Ho Chi Minh with Hitler? Historical parallels may sometimes be useful, but all are more or less misleading. History never repeats itself exactly. If we must draw some sort of European parallel with Indo-China it would not be with central Europe before World War IT, but the Balkans before World War I, with similar elements of emergent nationalism, indeterminate borders, the collapse of the ruling alien power and the competitive involvement of the great powers.
The Prime Minister’s archaic justification for Vietnam holds a real danger. It is dishonest and it raises totally false expectations about our intentions. It is dishonest to encourage other governments to believe that if they are similarly threatened, we will similarly act as we have in Vietnam. At this very moment, North Vietnam itself is acting with far more overt aggressiveness in Laos than she did in South Vietnam at the time we became involved in the war. Nevertheless North Vietnam and Laos know full well that neither the United States nor Australia will act there as we have acted in Vietnam. That is why nobody talks about Laos. That is why Prince Souvanna Phouma was a disillusioned and disheartened man when he visited Australia last year. He knew exactly what value to put on our professions of our determination to stop aggression anywhere and everywhere.
Indeed, we have had other indications that the Prime Minister’s thinking is ineradicably cast in a pre-war mould. Yesterday he came as near as he could to a repudiation of his own Government’s policy on Rhodesia. What on earth has the war record of the commander of the Rhodesian Air Force to do with the propriety of an Australian citizen officially representing the Rhodesian regime? The Prime Minister must know that the standard apologia for the regime is that the white Rhodesians were loyal during the war. Sir Robert Menzies was quite well aware of this and one would imagine not indifferent to it. But it did not deter him from laying down a clear Australian policy on Rhodesia. It may have been unenthusiastic but it was logical. The Prime Minister’s remarks yesterday could only give comfort to the Smith regime and cast real doubts on Australia’s sincerity. The Prime Minister’s nostalgia for the camaraderie of the officers mess, for men like Mr Ian Smith, is as poor a foundation for making external affairs policy as for making an External Affairs Minister.
The Prime Minister conferred with Dr Henry A. Kissinger. It should have been the most instructive part of his journey. Did Dr Kissinger tell him, as he wrote last year:
Whatever the outcome in Vietnam, it is clear that it has greatly diminished America’s willingness to become involved in this form of warfare elsewhere. Its utility as a precedent has therefore been importantly undermined.
This is the view of the man closest to the President on foreign affairs and we now know sufficient of President Nixon’s inten tions to know that fundamentally he accepts this position. Indeed, President Nixon himself expressed this view as long ago as 1967. Dr Kissinger further wrote:
A massive breakdown of communication occurred not only within the policy-making machinery in the United States but also between the United States and Hanoi. Over the past S years, the US Government has found it difficult, if not impossible, to define what it understood by victory. President Johnson extended an openended offer for unconditional negotiations. Yet our troops were deployed as if this offer had not been made. The deployment was based on purely military considerations; it did nui take into account the possibility that our troops might have to support a negotiation - the timing of which we had, in effect, left to the opponent. Strategy divorced from foreign policy proved sterile.
I suggest this sentence - ‘strategy divorced from foreign policy proved sterile’ - provides a double key. lt is a key to what went wrong in Vietnam; it is a key to what must now be done in Vietnam.
From the beginning, strategy was divorced from foreign policy. The Prime Minister now says our foreign policy aim is to stop aggression, even, he says, ‘small aggression’. If this were a correct description of the origins and aims of the war, wc would have a punitive strategy against North Vietnam. We would not be ignoring militarily - as we now choose to ignore - North Vietnamese activities in Laos. We would be using all available strength to defeat and destroy North Vietnam. Of course, we are doing nothing of the kind. The United States will do nothing of the kind. What is required is that strategic policy and foreign policy should coalesce. To achieve that end, it is necessary to abandon these fallacious statements of aims which the Prime Minister still sponsors. The United States has long since abandoned them. It is an embarrassment to the United States when an Australian Prime Minister resurrects them.
The plain fact is that the United States is now determined to end this war as quickly and as decently as may be by political means. Military policy will now begin to reflect that political policy. This is the basic fact behind America’s intention to withdraw as many as 50,000 troops before the end of the year. It is an intention which the Australian Government should promptly, fully and openly support. The Prime Minister obviously did not do so on his latest visit; he should do so on his next. For 4 years the Australian Government’s actions in Vietnam have followed the pattern of American action. The graph of our escalation from 80 advisers to 800 troops to 8,000 troops has exactly paralleled the graph of the American escalation from advisers to regular troops in force to half a million men. At each stage our escalation has matched their escalation. Their deescalation should be matched by a deescalation of our own. It is inconceivable that when the Americans are putting in train a decisive switch in policy we should not be contemplating a similar change in ours.
Yet the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) have sought, in statements this week, to put such a change beyond the area even of contemplation. Australia’s response to these crucial changes in America’s policy is apparently to remain frozen in our present posture. The Minister for Defence argues that ‘because of the small number, a withdrawal could affect the viability of the force as a whole’. But in fact Australia has had 8,000 troops in Vietnam for only one third of the period of our commitment. The last increase was announced in October 1967. At the same time we are informed that the situation in our area of responsibility, the Phuoc Tuy province, is considerably better than in October 1967 or at any time since 1965. The Minister for the Army says that the province is ‘relatively secure’. My own observations in Vietnam would rather confirm the relativity of the security. 1 have been there in August 1966, January last year and January this year.
Nevertheless, military and civilian operations have probably been more effective in Phuoc Tuy than in any of the other fortythree provinces in Vietnam. The Australians have to a very great extent carried out a holding operation. Our most serious losses and the worst threats to the area have occurred when they have been ordered to vary that kind of operation. One of the declared objects of American military policy is to hand over as quickly as possible as much as possible to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Presumably this is Australia’s policy, ls it not manifest, on the basis of the Minister’s own assertions, that the Phuoc Tuy province is exactly one of those areas which are ready or becoming ready for handing over? Only yesterday the Minister for the Army was as intense in pronouncing the new effectiveness of the ARVN as he was in proclaiming the effectiveness of our own army. Combine these two assertions and you come irresistibly to the conclusion that no province in the whole of South Vietnam is better suited for handing over than Phuoc Tuy. And it is surely not suggested that at this stage of the war and in this phase of American strategy in the war Australian troops should or could assume a new area of responsibility.
This is a matter on which the Government will assuredly have to make a decision before the end of this year. Yet there is no indication that it is prepared to address itself at all to the matter. Statements of the Prime Minister and the Ministers for Defence and the Army point the other way. They indicate that the Government has a closed mind. In that event the decision will be forced upon the Government by the sheer weight of the logic of events as the policy of the new American Administration further unfolds. The very least the Government should do is to begin contingent preparations for an ARVN takeover. It is clear that nothing of the sort is being done even on a contingent basis. There could be no surer way of reducing the sacrifices of our men in Vietnam to a nullity than by failing now to prepare for their eventual and inevitable departure.
But beyond the matter of the role and future of our own troops, there is the far greater and wider question of a political settlement for the war itself and for the whole region. It is plain that the Prime Minister put no views on this to the Administration, and has no intention of putting any on his next visit. He was prepared to talk at his Ottawa Press conference about Laos being the next domino. Yet he knows that he cannot advocate any military policy which will prevent it from happening. America will not invade North Vietnam and will not create another Vietnam in Laos. It is a crude and cruel delusion to pretend otherwise. Therefore our hope and our policy for Laos and Cambodia should be to make the settlement in Vietnam the b.isis and beginning of a wider settlement for the region. The possibility of achieving this depends to a very great extent on the degree of co-operation which can be achieved with
Russia. Any hope for neutralisation of these countries depends upon agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union that this area will not be the field for their conflict or competition but for their cooperation.
This is perceived by influential members of the American Administration. It is implicit in President Nixon’s moves for a wider and enduring detente with the Soviet. It is important that our voice should now be raised in support of these moves at this dangerous yet strangely hopeful time in world history.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to a most extraordinary speech from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The speech was supposed to be on the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about his visit to the United States of America. I think it is interesting also that when the debate commenced the Leader of the Opposition was the only member of the Opposition in the House. It seems that there were not too many of his side who were prepared to come in and listen.
– Look at your own side. It is nearly empty.
– I admit that I have not many more.
– That is right!
– If my friends opposite will contain themselves, I will admit that there are not many on my side of the House at this time. I am not the Leader of the Opposition, but he is. We listened to a speech which was made by this gentleman who was referred to in the House - I presume that it could only have been him - last night by his former leader, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). I will quote the words that he used. If I misunderstood the right honourable member for Melbourne, I apologise. He said last night, as reported at page 1203 of Hansard:
Had I become Prime Minister in 1966 - and I do not care who has been running under my neck since-
I do not know what the right honourable gentleman means by that, but I presume that he means that somebody was cutting his throat or had run under, it before. He continued:
That was the former Leader of the Opposition. I think that it was the most interesting speech that this House has heard. He went on further to say:
I do not believe in Australian involvement in any Asian war. 1 did not want to see troops stationed in Malaysia, and we opposed that proposal at the time.
That was when he was Leader of the Opposition. He continued:
I think it is rediculous to suggest now that we will not put troops into Malaysia but will put in Air Force and Navy units instead.
It is not the Government that is suggesting putting in only Air Force and Navy units. It is the present Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), who is standing so high on the Opposition side at the moment controlling all defence policies and strategies for the future of this area. It is quite incredible. Here we find the former Leader of the Opposition having a lash at the present Leader of the Opposition. We find the present Leader of the Opposition coming into this House and speaking on a statement made by the Prime Minister. But there is nobody behind the Leader of the Opposition. All he can get into the House behind him when he makes this statement is six members. I think that is fairly understandable.
What did the Leader of the Opposition talk about? He started off with the same old diatribe that he goes on with. He said that the Prime Minister is lacking in initiative and is letting down the President of the United States of America in not telling him how the Americans should conduct their foreign affairs. I have no doubt that if the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister this is exactly what he would do. He would be parading around the world telling everybody what that person ought to do. I suggest to honourable members, if I may make a passing reference, that if they look at the Labor magazine for last month they will find that there is not one photograph in it in which the present Leader of the Opposition is not included - left side, front side, back side, on every page. 1 think that this is something about which he has a phobia.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to suggest that the Government is wrong in another respect and that it is iniquitous that it is so. He said that because the Americans have made a switch in policy and because the Americans have decided to make - he says - a withdrawal of troops, we must immediately do the same. He has spent the last 6 years - and so has every member of the Opposition - saying that we are the lackeys of the United States of America. Now the Opposition says that we have to do exactly what the United States does. I can only say that I have always argued - and I still argue - that the reasons for the action of the United States and the things that affect the United States of America are not those that necessarily affect us in Australia. America can get out and it can avoid any involvement in South East Asia, but we stay here because this is where our continent is and we cannot avoid it other than by shirking issues.
There are many other things that the Leader of the Opposition said. He went from bough to bough. One minute he was dealing with an air vice-marshal in Rhodesia. The next minute, he was in the middle of Moscow. Honestly, I wonder at times. He then had the hide, in my opinion and with respect, to suggest that the Prime Minister who was going to see President Nixon but who, because of the death of a former President of the United States, had the arrangements for full discussions cancelled, should have returned to Australia and made a full statement on his discussions with American departmental heads and other persons. Again, this could be the way that the Leader of the Opposition would have acted as Prime Minister if it had ever been possible that he would obtain that post. But I wonder what sort of diplomatic relations we would have if our Prime Minister returned to Australia and said: ‘Well, Mr Speaker and gentlemen, I saw the United States Secretary for Defence. He said to me: “Well, look, John, it is this way: The old man up top has not quite worked it out, but if you approach him on this basis I reckon you will get somewhere”.’
What would his discussions be like if he went to the President in a month’s time, the President having known that the Prime Minister had returned to Australia and had discussed fully the advice given by the departmental heads? Let us remember that in the United States it is the President who makes the end decision. What diplomatic relations would we have in those circumstances? This suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition is, I think, the most incredible thing that I have ever listened to. We would have no diplomatic relations. The discussions that went on were in confidence and should have been in confidence. The main points are yet to be discussed. They will be discussed with the President of the United States by the Prime Minister of Australia. I think that there is one thing that the Leader of the Opposition has not yet learnt, lt is this: Although he may go around the world and make statements that do not seem to carry much weight anywhere, it is a different thing when a person holds the office of Prime Minister of a country.
There are other matters that he raised that I, frankly, could not be bothered answering. But there is one thing that he did say. This was that at the present moment there is greater overt aggression by the North Vietnamese in Laos than there was in South Vietnam. He has been incredibly silent on this for a long time. This is the only time that 1 have ever heard him mention it. There is one thing that is different in this situation. If the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) is counting the number of members present in the House, I can assure him that a quorum is not present. Although the Leader of the Opposition may feel there is no difference in this situation, I say that there is one difference. This is that Laos has not asked for assistance. This is the great difference in this case. If there is similarity - and I believe there is - between the situation of the Laos war and what is happening in South Vietnam, as far as we are concerned as a population of 12 million people it is that aggression will not pay and that force against small nations and small people should not succeed. It was the lateness of somebody taking responsibility in the last war that led to the enlargement of the conflagration that occurred at that time. That is sufficient. 1 think anyway, for the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who will follow me has a new theme to that which he usually uses. But somebody else will need to handle that.
I personally feci that the statement made by the Prime Minister in respect of defence aid to Malaysia and Singapore is most welcome. I am glad that the Prime Minister of Malaysia as well as the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the Malaysian Defence Minister, have expressed their gratitude. It shows indeed that as well as making speeches about our intentions to keep our forces there we now are acting rapidly to fulfil what we said we would do. I think that it is reasonable at this stage to say that this aid will be of assistance to Malaysia. The statement by the Prime Minister shows our bona fides as far as getting into action in this respect is concerned. The Prime Minister said in the course of his statement to the House on 25th February of this year:
The right honourable member for Melbourne said last night that our aid should be only economic, etc. This may well be said by others. But by providing these armaments, we allow the money which otherwise would have had to be spent by Malaysia to obtain these things to be spent on matters affecting its own economy in endeavouring to raise the standard of living of its people. 1 think that it indeed is effective assistance.
The best figures that I can find at the present moment show that Malaysia has, in its air force, a strength of approximately 3.000. lt has twenty combat aircraft which arc mainly CL41 Tebuan light jet training and strike aircraft, lt has a number of medium transports, a number of helicopters and liaison aircraft. These Sabre jets will be able to p’ay an effective role and will b<* of use to Malaysia. As we know, in Australia the Sabre jet was to have been phased out; bin it still has a very effective role in close ground support and not only would be effective in the training of pilots in the Malaysian air force but also would serve a useful purpose if there were guerilla activity or subversive activity in that area. In a book written in 1965, Dr Millar of the Australian National University said of the Sabre aircraft:
The Sabres, which are subsonic day fighters fitted with the American Sidewinder air-to-air missile, are useful in operations against shipping, against other subsonic fighters such as MiG 1 7s or bombers such as the Badgers in service in Indonesia (if given time to get into position), or for close support of ground troops. They also need complex radar equipment. They thus could provide valuable support to Malaysia if the conflict with Indonesia escalates, or to South Vietnam, and it is for such eventualities that the majority of them are located in South East Asia.
It is interesting to note that the Philippine air force is equipped mainly with F86D Sabres, which are all weather fighters, and F86.F Sabre*, which are day fighters.
It is interesting to note also that Australia is sending ninety technical advisers of the Royal Australian Air Force to Malaysia to assist in the training of pilots and ground staff to fly and maintain the equipment there. Just because 1 disagree occasionally on a small point I would nol like honourable members or anybody else to think thai whenever I say anything I am offering criticism. But I wonder what effect this gift to Malaysia will have on the RAAF. I think it is right that we should send these advisers, but I think it will place a strain on the technical advisers in the RAAF. Many of om civil aircraft manufacturers are able to carry out repairs and so on, but how can Australia afford to send ninety technical advisers overseas? I am quite sure that the RAAF will bc able to meet this problem as the Army did when it had to stretch itself to undertake certain responsibilities abroad. As I have endeavoured to stress in the past, if the Government is suddenly called upon to meet a commitment it will not bc able to do so unless it has a set-up to train technical advisers and others. This is the first thing that the Government should look at before it commits itself to the granting of defence aid to another country. If the current situation were to extend and if Australia had to do something in another area 1 very much doubt that our three Services would have (he necessary technical officers, maintenance men and equipment.
The Prime Minister suggested that some arrangement may be made about the Bloodhound missile and a training scheme to go wilh it. 1 suppose it is reasonable to say that such a missile would be effective and useful for airfield protection. I am not sure how many we have in Australia. 1 do not think it would matter if we gave away the one we might have; it could be of assistance over there. Australia should be making arrangements for its own ground-to-air protection. lt should be farming around for these sorts of things to see how effective they are, the same as other nations in the world are doing.
I welcome the statement made by the Prime Minister. The assistance he proposes is a move in the right direction but, as 1 have said. 1 think that it will place some strain on the RAAF. In the future I would like to see some deal with Malaysia with respect to Mirage aircraft. Eventually Australia may bc able to make a gift to Malaysia of a few Mirages and perhaps sell others on terms. This not only would give Malaysia an effective air force but at the same time would keep the Australian aircraft industry alive.
As the Prime Minister said, we are cooperating with our friends in South East Asia. I disagree entirely with the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), former Leader of the Opposition, when he says that we should not have any interest in giving defence aid and equipment to these people. If Australia is to survive in this part of the world it has to play its part with these people. I support what the present Leader of the Opposition has said in this respect. And T think that with few exceptions the Labor Party generally agrees with it. I am quite sure that the people of Asia will regard this aid as a move by Australia to give them effective defence equipment. I hope that this aid will continue, because it will establish a closer relationship between the two countries - a relationship which Australia can ill afford to lose.
– J join with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) in expressing some disappointment in the fact that there is not a greater interest on the part of some honourable members in this very important subject. I do not want to be as unkind as the honourable member for La Trobe was when he referred lo the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). When the honourable member commenced to speak in this debate he was supported by about five honourable members; when he completed his speech there were only three members sitting behind him. He made what might be a valid point. Honourable members on the Government side are those who ought to be interested in this subject, because the statement we are debating was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Surely in a debate of this kind, involving as it does the recent visit by the Prime Minister to the United States of America and Canada and his references to what are to be Australia’s obligations and responsibilities in South East Asia, one would think that the Government members would have been prepared to take a greater interest.
I was astounded to hear the honourable member for La Trobe say that Australia is in a situation different to thai of the United States of America. The United States has obligations in South East Asia. The honourable member for La Trobe knows that if the United States decides to de-escalate the war in South Vietnam - this is obviously the policy of the new President - this will be the policy of the Australian Government, too. There is no alternative. Surely the honourable member for La Trobe will not suggest that if the United States Government withdraws its troops from Vietnam the Australian troops will be left there. He knows that this cannot be done. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was on very safe ground this afternoon in pointing out that the Government has a responsibility to indicate what its policy will be in relation to the de-escalation of the war in Vietnam. I do not entirely disagree with some of the points made by the honourable member for La Trobe. I think that he finished his. speech on a reasonably good note. I am bound to point out that what the honourable member had to say on this question of the provision of equipment for South East Asian countries generally has already been spelled out by honourable members on this side of the House. So perhaps, on this question at least, the honourable, member for La Trobe raised a very valid point.
We are debating this afternoon two important statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The first statement deals with the right honourable gentleman’s visit to the United States of America and Canada. The second announces new defence aid to
Malaysia and Singapore. I want to comment briefly on the second statement before looking at some of the issues raised by the Prime Ministers visit overseas. I thought the Prime Minister’s announcement of aid to Malaysia and Singapore was the most impressive and constructive statement he has made in this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pointed out that the aid announced by the Prime Minister was completely in accordance with the regional policies of the Australian Labor Party toward South East Asia.
The Prime Minister said Australia would make a gift to Malaysia of ten Sabre aircraft, together with spares, ground support equipment and a simulator for training purposes. The air force is the major weakness in the structure of Malaysia’s military forces at the moment. The British withdrawal leaves a very real gap here. When the Prime Minister’s defence statement was debated in this House, I pointed out the absurdity of committing a battalion of ground troops to a country which already has ample infantry battalions. 1 stated then the emphasis that Labor puts on Australia’s obligation to assist in the training and equipment of the forces of Malaysia and Singapore. These obligations have never been denied by the Opposition.
We recognise there is a need to provide specialist equipment and assistance in the training of indigenous troops. The aid now given by the Prime Minister vindicates the emphasis we have placed on this aspect of defence assistance. Quite clearly, this can be the only effective and enduring contribution Australia can make in military aid to those countries. The Sabre aircraft has been a very fine one for the Royal Australian Air Force. Now that the term of usefulness of the Sabres has ended it is proper that these planes, which are still effective and in fine condition, be made available to Malaysia where they are urgently needed. This is the most significant gesture by way of defence aid that Australia has yet made to Malaysia.
The Prime Minister referred to the provision of the Sabres as a transitional step towards Malaysia’s acquisition of supersonic aircraft. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) are looking carefully at Malaysia’s requirements for supersonic aircraft. I believe that
Australia is the obvious source for the purchase of such aircraft, particularly with the aircraft industry in this country facing an extremely uncertain future. It is important that an intensive investigation be made of whether supersonic aircraft for Malaysia can be manufactured under licence in Australia.
Alternatively, the scope for a productionsharing agreement between Australia and Malaysia and perhaps Singapore and New Zealand should be assessed. Australia is the logical source of military procurement for these countries. Unless this initiative is seized, Malaysia and Singapore will resort to the purchase of military equipment from the United States of America, from the United Kingdom, and from Europe. I believe, therefore, that the honourable member for La Trobe, as I indicated to the House only a few moments ago, made a very valid point when he talked about lack of initiative on the part of this Government in reaching this kind of agreement to ensure that Australia was in a position to supply some of the defence equipment that will be needed in this area.
Singapore is already making substantial second-hand purchases from the United Kingdom. These are the long-term implications of the Prime Minister’s statement which should be investigated and clarified by the Government. I was not unimpressed by the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the resources this gift will leave free for the Malaysian Government to divert to social and economic development. Any diversion of scarce resources away from these areas to defence in a developing economy, such as Malaysia, is regrettable.
The Prime Minister also outlined the direction of Government aid to Singapore. Assistance with the training of operators and technicians for the Bloodhound defensive missiles will fill a gap for Singapore. However, it must be emphasised that the Bloodhound is largely an obsolete weapon. It is being phased out in Australia and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth), when he was Minister for Air, emphasised to the House the present limitations of the Bloodhound. With the phasing out of the Bloodhound in Australia, the Royal Australian Air Force will doubtless welcome a chance to make its experts available to Singapore. However, with the imminent obsolescence of the Bloodhound, this cannot be a significant contribution to Singapore’s defence. Australia’s contribution to Singapore must emphasise training and equipment to a much greater extent. It should be the basic objective to co-operate by providing specialist staff and equipment and by making training facilities available. It is extraordinary that Singapore has recruited Israeli advisers for the new army units it is building up. I suggest to the Prime Minister that this is an area where it should be possible to negotiate greater Australian assistance.
The Prime Minister’s statement on his visit overseas was much less impressive. In fact it was extremely disappointing. The Prime Minister made only a cursory reference to his discussions on Vietnam, despite his talks with the United States Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defence and President Nixon’s special adviser. He was quoted in a report from the United States as saying that President Nixon had put him in the picture on Vietnam. If the Prime Minister is currently in the picture on Vietnam, it will be the first time since he assumed office. The right honourable gentleman was found sadly wanting at the times of the announcement of both the temporary bombing halt and the permanent cessation of bombing in Vietnam. If he is now in the picture he should communicate his newfound enlightenment to the House.
There has been a marked reluctance by the Government in recent months to engage in a major debate on the policy on Vietnam. When the Parliament was dealing with the situation in Vietnam in 1966, 1967 and 1968, one could always be certain that the Government benches would be filled and that honourable members opposite would be expressing their opinions about the socalled domino theory. On those occasions, as is not unusual with honourable members on that side of the House, when we were dealing with trade the references were always to mainland China but when we were dealing with the political situation the references were to Communist China. This is the attitude the Government has adopted to the situation in Vietnam. Now it is reluctant to discuss Vietnam. It is not certain about de-escalation, about the policy announced by President Nixon, about the negotiations that are now taking place in Paris or about the acceptance of the policy points laid down by the Austraiian Labor Party at its conference in Adelaide in July 1967.
We have had statements on specific issues from the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). But the Government’s attitude to the. war has been extremely muted. Once this Government wanted to talk about nothing else but Vietnam; it was a sure-fire political winner. Now the Government wants to talk about anything else but Vietnam. It even prefers to debate domestic issues than to canvass its future Vietnam policy. This is not surprising. Vietnam has become a political liability and embarrassment to a Government which made an enthusiastic and total commitment to a futile and hopeless war. It is apparent that the Government is trying to make a vacuum of Vietnam for electoral purposes, lt is not stating policy on Vietnam; it is merely defending itself on technical grounds.
Quite obviously, the Americans are itching to start the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, lt is probable that the Philippines will withdraw its contingent from Vietnam before the next elections in that country. New Zealand, which, despite its commitment to the war, has always been far more realistic than Australia, has announced that it will pull out troops as American withdrawal mounts. Only Australia has stood steadfast; only Australia has affirmed that it has no intention of cutting troop levels even if substantial American withdrawal takes place. A Government which enthusiastically matched every American escalation will make no effort to match any de-escalation in the direction of an honourable political settlement to a tragic war.
The attention of the Australian Government is confined to the narrow issue of the Australian task force in Phuoc Tuy province, lt has always emphasised the independence of this force and its effectiveness as an operational unit. It has forgotten that the war in Phuoc Tuy province is a relatively minor part of a vast war. By comparison with the delta area, the provinces around Saigon and the northern provinces. Phuoc Tuy is not a significant area of the total war. Yet when the major participant in the war is moving to cut its forces and de-escalate, the Australian
Government wants to cling to an independent role in its own little corner of the war. The argument made repeatedly by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army is that any cut in Australian forces would upset the balance and viability of the task forces.
No Australian, and certainly not the Labor Party, would want to see the security of Australia’s forces threatened at any time. But is it really essential that Australia’s independent role should be sustained? The Minister for the Army has said that the task force has made Phuoc Tuy relatively secure. If this is the case, it should be a comparatively easy matter for the South Vietnamese Army to take over the province if troop reductions mean that the role of the task force will be invalidated.
I support the points made by the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Government and the Australian military command should be moving towards the handing of Phuoc Tuy over to the South Vietnamese Army. In the longer term, further, the Australian Government should be working towards the removal of all Australian troops from Vietnam. Certainly it should be acting to match American troop cuts, even if this means that the task force will have to abandon Phuoc Tuy. This blindness to the rapid change in Vietnam and the stubborn belief that Australia must maintain its independent role has meant that the Government has missed the crucial issues of Vietnam at the moment.
The independence of the Australian task force is a minor issue at a time when both sides are moving to a political settlement designed to bring compassion and humanity at last to a devastated country which has suffered and endured much. It can be said now that the Australian Government has no Vietnam policy. Its 1966 policy has been reduced to rubble by the events of the past 30 months. If anything, all the Government has now is a Phuoc Tuy policy. This province is only one of Vietnam’s forty-four war ravaged provinces.
It is unfortunate, when the war and the political situation in Vietnam are at a stage of great change, that the Government should be limiting its vision to a very narrow segment of the war. It is now the duty of the Government to lift ils sights above narrow provincial considerations and re-assess and re-state its policies. If it is to escape historical condemnation, it must belatedly start to work towards the achievement of a humane and rational political settlement. There are other areas of disappointment arising from the Prime Minister’s statement. Despite his talks with Mr Laird, he made no reference to the purchase of the Fill aircraft. This is a matter which should not be left until the Prime Minister goes to the United States again in June. On his Canadian visit, the Prime Minister said the joint and mutual interest of Australia and Canada in making the International Grains Agreement work had been emphasised. He did not say that the Agreement had been under strain because of Canadian charges that Australia had breached the agreement. This is a matter which has yet to be satisfactorily clarified in this House.
The Prime Minister said he had discussed with Canada’s Minister of Finance that country’s experience in overseas investment. It is to be hoped these discussions will help the Prime Minister in stating with precision his own attitudes on overseas investment in Australia. I support the Leader of the Opposition in finding this statement a completely inadequate account of the great issues which confront Australia and which should have been amplified following the Prime Minister’s overseas discussions.
Debate (on motion by Mr Katter) adjourned.
– by leave - The House will recall that late in 1966 the Government announced that it would institute a programme of assisting the States in water resources development works which would involve the Commonwealth in making grants of about $50 million over a 5-year period. The programme commenced in the financial year 1967-68. In that year the Government announced that two projects were to receive assistance under the programme. The first was the construction of the dam for the Emerald scheme in Queensland. The Commonwealth’s maximum commitment was $20m - the State being responsible for the ancillary irrigation works. The second project to qualify comprised two works to reduce salinity in i he River Murray. This involved a commitment to the Victorian Government of S3. 6m. The first of these projects - the Emerald scheme - had been under consideration for some time and the data necessary to enable a decision to be reached became available soon after the inauguration of the programme. The salinity reduction works were required as a matter of urgency lest the extreme drought conditions of 1967-68 were repeated in the subsequent irrigation season with consequent serious salinity problems. I might add ‘hat these later works were carried out with great expedition by the Victorian authorities and were substantially completed in time for the 1968-69 irrigation season. We are all thankful to note, however, that there was a marked improvement in seasonal conditions in that period.
The Stale governments had been invited to submit proposals for inclusion within the programme: ali told we received requests covering thirty-two projects. After preliminary inspection these were reduced to a short list, which has been receiving detailed consideration. The results from this detailed consideration have become available progressively and we were recently able to announce that the Government had decided to provide S6m towards the Tailem BendKeith pipeline scheme. I now have pleasure in informing the House that the Commonwealth has agreed to provide assistance towards three further water development measures. The first is a grant of $20m towards the cost of constructing the Copeton Dam on the Gwydir River, New South Wales. The second is that $4m will be provided to the Victorian Government towards the cost of constructing a dam on the King River. The third is a grant of SO. 75m towards the Tasmanian Cressy-Longford scheme.
The Copeton Dam has an estimated cost of $45 m of which the Commonwealth contribution will be close to half. The dam will impound some 1.1 million acre feet in a reservoir estimated to have an annual yield of 188,000 acre feet for irrigation. The reservoir will mitigate both floods and droughts in the course of the river but more importantly will enable from 90,000 to 120,000 acres to be irrigated for the production of hard wheats, coarse grains - principally sorghum - and fodder crops.
A concept basic to the National Water Resources Development Programme is that States should continue their own programmes without any reduction because of the possibility of receiving Commonwealth assistance. I am very glad to say that the States have been honouring this understanding. In the case of the Copeton Dam, New South Wales has already committed the work and its expenditure will continue. The Commonwealth assistance will however materially reduce the time for the construction of the dam. We have all seen how irrigation plus good farming practices have transformed productivity in the neighbouring Namoi Valley, lt is true that different crops will be raised on the Gwydir but they will be on an extensive scale and an equally dramatic change in the prosperity of the area can be expected.
On the King River farmers have long been plagued by frequent restrictions on pumping for irrigation purposes. The Commonwealth grant of $4m is virtually the whole of the estimated cost of the dam which will impound 10,000 acre feet. This will provide sufficient water to irrigate some 6,500 acres which will be used for tobacco and lucerne growing and dairying.
The Cressy-Longford scheme, which has a total estimated cost of $0.85m, will reticulate for irrigation purposes some of the water released from the Poatina power station, lt will enable 5,000 acres of land to be used more intensively. The Commonwealth assistance is conditional however upon a large proportion of the farmers in the irrigation area undertaking to enter into the scheme.
These three new grants will bring the total estimated Commonwealth expenditure under the programme to S53m. There is an estimated saving of Sim on the Murray salinity works. It is expected, however, that only $33m of this can be spent in the 5-year period ending 1971-72, leaving a carry-over of about $20m for expenditure in subsequent years. The Commonwealth’s announced undertaking to provide $50m, however, will have been more than met. I present the following paper:
National Water Resources Development Programme - Ministerial Statement, 17 April 1969.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1266).
– In commencing my remarks on this very worthwhile project announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) I shall first refer to his final comment that it will strengthen the framework of the broad concept of regional security and regional co-operation. Of these two aims, regional co-operation in the broader concept is perhaps the more important because eventually regional security will depend on regional co-operation. From a defence aspect, aid is to be made available in the form of Sabre aircraft. I think it is necessary again to examine the concept of forward defence. I have always wondered why anyone should question the Government’s policy of adopting a concept of forward defence. Anyone with even the most casual knowledge of defence planning realises that if you nail down your enemy or potential enemy beyond your shores, you have done a pretty good job.
Again I have often wondered how anyone could conceive the full scale defence of this continent by our very limited resources, if we stood alone. It would be quite futile to base any sort of defence or military concept on the fact of our going it alone. Therefore, the obvious solution is to strengthen all our alliances and the mutual co-operation which we have with our South East Asian neighbours and others in adjacent areas. I am always concerned - it is my duty to be so - for the people in the northern frontiers of Australia. If the Australian nation generally is concerned about these matters, one could well imagine how the not many thousands of people who live in the northern parts of Australia feel in regard to the possibility of any defence action in the future.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of just about all the people of these northern frontiers when I say that we take great consolation from the fact that the Prime Minister and the Australian people believe that we must build up our defence forces or assist the people of South East Asia in their attempts to build up some sort of defence forces. I have had the opportunity of wandering around parts of South East Asia, the Middle East, Ceylon and briefly around Pakistan and India, and I appreciate to some extent the reactions of the people who live in those areas. One gains the impression that they are interested in friendships, based on support. We must face the fact that these countries are emerging nations. They are only on the doorstep of achieving national progress and the sort of way of life which we take for granted.
When it was announced that the wholesale withdrawal of British troops from east of Suez would take place, it became necessary that we should retain some liaison with the people of South East Asia. Lest we have any doubts as to whether this liaison is necessary, I refer to a statement which was made by Mr Safronov, the first Russian Ambassador in Singapore, on his arrival. He said:
Now our two people will know each other belter and this will make our contact fruitful and permanent.
As he made this statement at the time of a new concept of relationship between the people in South East Asia and the 250 million people who occupy the Soviet Union, is it not perfectly obvious that he was looking forward to the adoption of a completely new attitude by the South East Asian people themselves? After all, ] suppose that the people in South East Asia were looking to their own progress, advancement and economic stability and that they were considering the most fruitful markets which were offering. They would see a great new era of trade in a market which contained 250 million consumers. If the British withdrew completely and if we said: We are finished, we will pack up and get out’, the final link and traditional association which the people in South East Asia had with European people would be broken. Therefore I believe that this, perhaps above all other matters, was the consideration which prompted our Government finally to adopt this policy of maintaining a decisive contact with the people in South East Asia.
I remember that some years ago the International Rotary movement adopted a slogan which was based on bridges of friendship. I again refer to the fact that I have had the privilege of getting off the beaten track which tourists usually take and of mixing amongst the people of South East Asia. 1 have done this not as a politician and not as a member of any parliamentary delegation, but just as a person wandering around and getting to know people. I visited places such as Jordan, Ceylon and other interesting countries such as these. I think that if we intelligently set out to create genuine relationships with the people of these countries, based on the obvious qualities of genuine good neighbourship, this above all other things will cement our relationships and build up the best possible defence against the inroads of Communism and other isms which may threaten these areas and which may threaten our nation. This, of course, would have to be done on a genuine basis. It is all very well to send ambassadors overseas and to go through the usual1 operations of creating diplomatic relationships and so on, but I think the approach that is needed has to go far beyond this. 1 think that in some way or other we will have to increase the tempo of our exchange of students and the value of the activities of various other people who form groups to visit these areas and work side by side with the Asian people with a mutual respect. We should work with them not as though they were inferior but treat them as genuine good neighbours who are respected as such. 1 think that the announcement of the Prime Minister that these Sabre jets will be made available and his foreshadowing that we will go further and make assistance available to the Government of Singapore are steps in the right direction. 1 am rather impressed by his comment:
These actions on our part should be seen in the context of our continuing association with our four partners in the Five Power arrangement - New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom . . .
I think it rather significant that he mentioned the United Kingdom. I rather have the idea that after the next election in the United Kingdom there will nol be this wholesale and complete withdrawal of British forces from these Far Eastern areas. But if there is a wholesale withdrawal, and if it eventuates before the next election in Great Britain, I think that very shortly after the defeat of the Labour Government in Great Britain we will see a completely new attitude or perhaps a reversion to the old attitude, which will mean that Great Britain’s interest will extend beyond the Suez Canal and into the Far Eastern areas. I for one - and I could prove to be wrong - feel there will not be a final severing of Great Britain’s military connection with the Far Eastern areas. 1 would certainly hope that there will not be a complete severance, because the Indian Ocean would be left as a vacuum as far as the defence of this area is concerned. I addressed the House in this context some time ago. 1 stressed the point, which I suppose is perfectly obvious, that we should do two things. We should plan the establishment of very comprehensive naval bases, or at least one base, on the west coast of this continent and we should work assiduously to encourage the United States Navy to put significant forces into the Indian Ocean area because we have clear evidence that the Russian Navy is very active in these waters. So I would greatly commend the Government and I greatly welcome - particularly speaking as one who comes from the far northern parts of this nation - the announcement of the Prime Minister that we will help create the nucleus of an active and modern air force in Malaysia.
– I commence by challenging a couple of the concepts of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). He does not look like a militarist and I do not suppose that he is, in a strict sense, a militarist. But somehow he engenders, in his speech, this idea that co-operation can be of a military nature only. I presume that is not exactly how he feels about the matter, but that is the atmosphere which seems to have crept into this whole debate about South East Asia. For instance, from his remarks about the withdrawal of Great Britain, one would get the impression that we might say we will pack up and get out, too, and this could be a logical attitude to lake. However, we find that, fortunately, as he says, we are not going to adopt such an attitude. The final link is not going to be broken. The link he was speaking about was the military link. T challenge the idea of militarism as a real link between nations. It is true that in respect of British nations there is a deal of partnership and a similarity of training systems and so on which provide for a link between New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Britain, but it is hardly a link in the sense that would take civilisation forward. It is hardly the kind of link that we will be able to establish in a favourable way with the people of South East Asia. They will not love us any more because we happen to have aircraft carriers and such equipment around in times of peace.
The other concept that 1 feel one must challenge - and ought continuously to challenge - is the injection into debates such as this of what one might call physical analogies. We speak about the withdrawal of the British from the area as causing a vacuum. What sort of a vacuum? We speak about it as though some door is going to be opened and a fleet of battleships sail through. This is nonsensical. One does not create vacuums. This is not an appropriate analogy in these circumstances. The honourable member expressed the hope that the United States Navy will play a part in the Indian Ocean because already the Russian Navy is there. He said that the presence of the Americans would produce an atmosphere of peace. 1 would think that the possibilities of a confrontation through the juxtaposition of military forces would be more likely to produce anything but peace, lt is only by demilitarisation that peace is produced.
I suggest to honourable members that they read the history of the negotiations between Britain and America after the war of 181.2 and in the ensuing decade. 1 forget the names of those who determined the agreement by which there was complete demilitarisation of the American and Canadian border but it is probably one of the few borders where there has been no military strife whatever, yet at the time there was a potential threat to peace between the two nations. I would be an advocate of a system of demilitarisation, but admittedly it is not easy to achieve in this area. I would expect that it would be terribly difficult for us to achieve some kind of agreement with the Russian Navy. 1 suppose it is fair to say that navies are a wandering service by definition - that ships come and go around the world. Perhaps that is the way it ought to be, but I do not think that the presence of the United States Navy in the area will produce an atmosphere of peace.
What he did not say in his statement was what he discussed with the Secretary of Defence. Did he discuss the future of Vietnam and what American withdrawal will mean? Did he discuss with the appropriate authority the relationship between Australian forces and American forces, and, if necessary, Vietnamese forces? Did he discuss how we are going to guarantee the borders of Laos and Cambodia? Ever since I visited the area in 1966 I have believed that the key to the peace of this area is to guarantee the neutrality and the frontier integrity of Laos and Cambodia. Ever since I. visited the place - and the evidence was obvious - 1 have said that the North Vietnamese were committing aggression against Laos. There was not so much evidence that Cambodia came into the same bracket. This, I think, is a key area of operations on which the Prime Minister of Australia ought to be exercising all his talents to try to find a solution to the problems. When he discussed trade with the Secretary of the Treasury - or did he do so? - what did he try to get going in regard to our meat exports? lt is true that the Americans drive very hard bargains. It is very hard to get into the American market against their local operators. Australia has had an almost completely open door to American manufacturers and American exporters. Whilst I am not a man who believes in retaliation in the strict sense, it has always seemed to me that in this area we ought to be more protected. If the Americans are going to close their doors, probably we should operate in the same way towards them. We have always had difficulties with the sales of our metals and wool to the United States, and now we have the complication of the wheat position. Did the Prime Minister discuss these questions? If he did do so, what did he learn from the discussions? 1 presume that he teamed nothing.
I believe that it is a cavalier approach to this Parliament to come here and to lay on the table several short statements, such as he has done, without any explanation of what his objectives were or what he thinks his achievements were. 1 can only reiterate as often as possible the regret I feel at what 1 would term the ‘sycophantic attitude’ that the Australian Government adopts towards the presidency of the United Slates of America. 1 have no grudge, admiration or anything else for the President of the United States of America. He is the leader of one of the largest countries in the world, but it ill becomes the Australian Government to act in the way that it does, as if it regarded it as an act of great good grace on the part of such a leader to permit one even to be seen in his presence.
As my colleague, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) said - I think it was he who raised the question - the Prime Minister said that he had been put in the picture about Vietnam. This would be a novel experience, surely. On the whole it seems to me that if he has been in the picture at all it has been only as an extra. So far as we can tell wc are tagging along and making no progress in the operations there. Australia just puts up with decisions made by somebody else. When are we going to take diplomatic initiative in the Vietnamese operations? As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, we not out the old fallacious and archaic justifications for our operations in Vietnam”. lt is quite apparent that the last people to be put in the picture are those in the Australian Government. We are the last ones to be informed, although we may not recognise it, when some kind of rapport or agreement is going to be arrived at in Vietnam which may make the tragic deaths of the past 5 or 6 years even more tragically wasteful. When the Prime Minister comes home why does he not make some statement about the employment of Australian troops in Vietnam? Already the death roll has exceeded 300. In the last month or two we have lost between 35 and 40 young mcn. Every few days another one or two young Australians are lost. It seems to me to bc an act of irresponsible folly on the part of the military management, both political and professional, to permit this to happen.
Those who have been there know something of the geography of the place. In my view, once the peace negotiations had commenced, we should have done something to protect our forces against the needless waste of life. I believe that it was criminal folly on the part of the authorities to allow part of the Australian forces to be used in the Bien Hoa area in active operation at a time when they knew that there was no possibility of producing a satisfactory military result. It seems to me to be the essence of a military contract that one does not waste lives or forces unless one can see some satisfactory result being achieved from it. 1 have refused to believe thai in this situation the authorities are going to slop the collapse of the whole system, so everyone of those lives should be on the conscience of every person opposite - particularly the Minister of the Army (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), as well as the Prime Minister.
I do not think the Australian forces should ever have gone to Vietnam. 1 believe it was diplomatically and militarily the wrong decision. But now they are there. At this moment. 1 believe, they should have been withdrawn to somewhere down on the coast. They should have been instructed that any casualties would be viewed very seriously by the authorities and that they should refrain from any aggressive action which could cause loss of life. 1 only wish that some of our attitudes were consistent with our attitudes towards the end of the Second World War. The attitude then was to participate in operations only if we could win, and nothing was done with man power that could be done with fire power. The casualties in Vietnam over the last 2 or 3 months are a most serious reflection upon Australian military management. For heaven’s sake, is there not anybody with a conscience on the benches opposite who could bring some kind of pressure to bear on the Government to change its present attitude? All of our Ministers go on speaking as if they are prepared to go it alone. The last people with the full fury of the fight are the leaders in South Vietnam, who apparently are supposed to be ready to fight alone - they may well be able to handle the situation - and the Australians. The Australian Ministers are all hawks to the last feather. Let me express my deep regret that the Prime Minister had nothing to say to the Parliament about some of the problems of Vietnam and the fact that we have allowed Australian forces to continue to be used in what I think is a wasteful and irresponsible way.
Then the Prime Minister went on to Canada. What did he get in Canada? We heard 500 or 600 words and we know that he saw some more people. He is very good at seeing people. I think that the Prime Minister on the whole is a personable and likeable man, but while these are desirable qualifications in a Prime Minister they are not necessarily good qualifications for running a country, especially when he hides them all under some sort of bushel. What did he do in Canada? Did he gain any inspiration on foreign policy from the Canadian Government? The Canadian Government is trying to make some rapport with China. We all know that this is a terribly difficult operation. China is going through one of those phases in its history that many countries suffer. I would think analogies of history would perhaps be the time of Cromwell in Britain, the period after the revolution in Russia, and the period after the revolution in France. We will not make much progress with China diplomatically, but at least the Canadians are prepared to have a go. The Canadian role in foreign affairs over the last 20 years ought to have been an inspiration for our foreign policy. They have always adopted a much more independent view on so many things, whether it was in relation to Cuba, to participating in the international control Commissions in South East Asia or to the use of peace forces. I think it is correct to say that the Canadians have always supplied more people for peace keeping operations than we have.
Did the Prime Minister take any warning from Canada’s position on overseas investment? If he did, he is not prepared to tell us. Or did he try to organise some collaboration or co-operation with the Canadians? It is a regrettable situation that Australia has not tried to get greater cooperation with the Canadians and with other people of like mind throughout this part of the world. It is true that Canada’s position and our own are very similar. It is a large primary producing country with a large manufacturing industry. You might say that we are in competition with the world in general. But we also have very close relations with some of the largest potential markets of the world, such as India, Pakistan and Ceylon. It always seems to me that amongst the former British countries and the countries associated with the former British Commonwealth or the new Commonwealth some new common market concept could be worked out. So I regret that the Prime Minister had nothing to say about what he would have negotiated with the Canadians.
Then we come to the Prime Minister’s statement on defence aid to Malaysia. We can give them ten aeroplanes. I think that is probably as good a way of getting rid of them as any. I do not like seeing valuable machinery broken up. If it gives the Tunku any great encouragement and fills his heart with joy and gladness, I am all for it. We have built a very good base for them in that country. The way in which we approach the subject always fills me with regret that we seem to be neglecting so many other areas of co-operation. It seems to me that Australia has the possibility of becoming in this general area what one might call the metropolitan power, for want of a better term. Tt has impressed me that in the hotels in Singapore we see displayed three rates of exchange - American, British and Australian. Some trusting souls will even take Australian cheques. In general the relationship between the two countries seems to be very satisfactory. This applies equally, I think, to Malaysia.
Looking at the whole region we find Australia with its 12 million people. New Guinea with its 2 million, New Zealand with its 2.5 million or so. Malaysia with its 7 million or thereabouts, Singapore with its 3 million or 4 million and the people on the islands in the area, all with a very close affinity out of their history. 1 believe that there should be wide areas of co-operation which we could develop with a population of between 25 million and 30 million people. The only disability - it is not a serious disability in terms of communication - is the expanse of sea that their occupy.
As far as I can see, the Government continues to ignore the opportunities that are continually offered to us. 1 believe that this country has such stability, such prosperity, such strength, such strategic security and such administrative skills that the initiative is here for our taking. It is not an initiative to exploit but an initiative to gain co-operation. I hope that at some stage, even in the dying months of the life of this Government, it will be able to see that the opportunities exist.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Giles) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 5.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In view of the recent natural disasters which have occurred in Australia, what progress is being made in establishing a natural disaster fund?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I must first point out to the honourable member that on no occasion has this Government indicated that it would establish a natural disaster fund. The Government has in fact made it clear that there would be considerable practical problems involved in establishing such a fund.
In view of the Commonwealth’s general policy towards natural disaster relief, it is difficult to see the benefits of this type of fund. In this regard it is relevant that the Commonwealth has made available for natural disaster relief almost $71 million in the three years ended June 1968 and that an estimated $21 million will be made available in 1968-69.
However, the natural disaster relief schemes of certain other countries are being investigated to sec whether these schemes have features applicable to Australian conditions.
The considerable information which has been gathered on the approach adopted in the United States, Canada and New Zealand indicates that, while there are certain arrangements, such as the Earthquake and War Damage Fund in New Zealand. designed to meet special circumstances not normally experienced in Australia, the basic approach of these countries as regards governmental assistance in relation to natural disasters is similarto that adopted in Australia - that is, the provision of assistance as and when needed in the light of the circumstances in each case.
Analysis of this information has indicated, however, that there are some aspects of these overseas arrangements concerning which further information is required. This information is currently being collected and examined.
Committee on Decentralisation (Question No. 1179)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Service was asked on15th November 1965 to undertake the studies referred to in 3 (a)-(d) of the Statement and submitted reports on the studies on the dates stated above. The other studies being co-ordinated by the Committee are referred to in (4) and (5) of the Statement. No work has been commissioned in connection with these studies except as noted in the Statement. The study referred to in 5 (b) was not undertaken at the Committee’s request, but it was agreed at the meeting of the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on 7th February that the results would be submitted to the Committeee.
STATEMENT CONCERNING COMMONWEALTH/STATE OFFICIALS COMMITTEE ON DECENTRALISATION
The following is an account of present studies being co-ordinated by the Commonwealth/State Officials Committee on Decentralisation:
These studies are being carried out principally in New South Wales and Victoria, and are aimed at finding out why firms made particular decisions about locations and the nature of the particular costs flowing from such decisions. (a A Report of the Victorian Study by the Division of State Development of the Victorian Premier’s Department has been completed.
The data collected in the New South Wales study have been processed by computer. Analysis of the data by the New South Wales Division of Decentralisation and Development has reached an advanced stage.
These studies have been broken into two parts; one concerned with the examination of the historical costs of past development, the other concerned with estimating the costs of hypothetical future development.
The Victorian Studies were launched, in the light of the New South Wales experience, in September 1967. In connection with the ‘Historical’ part of the study, a consultant has been commissioned to complete the data collection and submit a report on the results of the study. No Substantial technical work on the ‘Estimates’ part of the study has been undertaken pending further progress in New South Wales. Ways and means of meshing together the work of the authorities in the two Slates, with a view to completing it as soon as possible, are being examined.
Four studies relating to labour conditions and characteristics were undertaken by the Department of Labour and National Service. These studies have been completed. They are entitled:
Relative Standard of Labour in Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Areas.
Certain data, as yet unavailable, fromthe 1966 census are required before the studies will commence.
Other Research Projects
The studies that have been undertaken so far involve, either jointly or separately, the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. The other States are awaiting the outcome of these investigations as a guide to action which might be taken by them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
How many Assessment Appeal Tribunals are available full-time for hearing appeals in New South Wales at the present time, and how many were available (a) one year ago and (b)two years ago? 2.How many appeals were (a) lodged with and
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
1967-68 .. ..561
Assessment Appeal Tribunals also have an appellate jurisdiction in relation to service pension claims (Repatriation Act - Section 65(l)(b)). Such appeals are few - for example, in New South Wales, 21 were lodged, 12 decided and 4 withdrawn or lapsed during the financial year 1967-68.
It may be of interest to the honourable member that from 1st August 1969, there will be seven Assessment Appeal Tribunals, three of which will be permanently based in New South Wales.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. In the hypothetical circumstances advanced. the matter would be one for negotiation between the United Stales and Australian Governments. Relevant factors would doubtless include that our twenty-four aircraft have been produced and are currently undergoing modification; also that production of the great bulk of the support requirements (that is ground equipment, spares, training aids, etc.) is well advanced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The classes of repatriation pensioners who are entitled to purchase a car and car parts free of sales tax are specified in Item 135 of the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemption And Classifications) Act. 1 have reproduced the relevant item for the honourable member’s convenience: “ Motor vehicles (and parts for motor vehicles) for use in his personal transportation, and cot for sale, by a person who has served in the Defence Force or in any other armed forces of Her Majesty and who, as a result of that service:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not keep statistics of persons registered for Sickness Benefit which is administered by the Department of Social Services. The number of Unemployment Benefit recipients is not available for particular localities within the metropolitan area which is treated as a whole.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690417_reps_26_hor62/>.