26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-It is my intention to issue a writ on Wednesday, 30th April, for the election of a member to serve for the Electoral Division of Bendigo in the State of Victoria to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Noel Lawrence Beaton. The dates in connection with the election will be fixed as follows: Date of nomination, Friday, 16th May 1969; date of polling, Saturday, 7th June 1969; and date of return of writ, on or before Friday, 4th July 1969.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it true that Continental Airlines was granted a permit to operate as a second American carrier in and out of Australia, and that this permit was cancelled following the recent elections in the United States of America? ls it correct that the American company which is to get the second permit is Eastern Airlines? Has Qantas Airways Ltd expressed apprehension at this development because it is claimed that should Eastern Airlines become the second American carrier this would seriously prejudice the operations of Qantas? If the claim by Qantas in this matter is correct, what action is the Government taking to protect Australian interests in the matter?
– It is not quite correct to say that a permit had been granted to Continental Airlines. In fact, no permit or - licence was issued at that time, although President Johnson had announced, following a recommendation to him by the independent tribunal which had been set up by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States that Eastern Airlines be granted a licence to operate on the Pacific route, that the licence, when eventually granted, would be given to Continental. Because of a technical point and the time lapse between the period when President Johnson’s term as President ended and President Nixon took over, President Nixon revoked the decision of President Johnson. He then advised that he would set up an authority from the White House to investigate the whole matter and advise him on it; this authority was to report back early this month. It did so, and President Nixon made a statement just recently indicating two things. Incidentally, under the Bermuda agreement between the United States, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the Pacific region, the United States has a perfect right to introduce another carrier.
The President said that, if granted, the licence would go to an operator originating not from the west coast of the United States but from the mid-west and the east coast. This decision appeared to exclude Continental Airlines from consideration, but not entirely, as it is a west coast operator. The decision led to the view that Eastern Airlines, which operates on the east coast, may have a better opportunity of securing the licence when a decision is made. That was the first decision which President Nixon made - the decision relating to the originating points from the United States out into the Pacific region. The second decision was to refer the matter of the choice of an operator to the Civil Aeronautics Board. The Board is at present considering the matter and ultimately it will make a recommendation to the President.
We in Australia are vitally concerned in this matter. Our main concern is to ensure that there is no over-capacity on the Pacific route. At the same time we appreciate that expansion is taking place. We estimate that by the mid-1970s between 4 million and 5 million passengers will be carried on international air routes in and out of Australia. At present these routes carry 90% of the total traffic to and from this country. We realise that there must be some expansion in this field. At the same time we do not want to be forced into the position of having to accept over-capacity. We have made this clear to the United Stales Government, which understands our position perfectly. When a decision is made about the United States carrier the Unite. States Government has then to enter into negotiations with the Australian Government regarding routes and points of entry into Australia, as well as originating points in the United States and routes from the United States. A lot of negotiation is still needed between the two Governments before the matter can be finalised.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to the oral recommendations of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission that 18-year olds be granted, among other things, the right to contract and the right to marry without consent. My understanding is that, regrettably, the Commission did not consider the matter of reduction of the voting age. Apart from the very strong arguments in favour of reducing the voting age it would appear anomalous that 18-year olds may be given further rights and. of course, duties, while the more basic right is still denied them. If this is correct, will the Attorney-General consider the question of reducing the voting age at the same time as he has said the Government will act on matters contained in the Commission’s report?
– 1 rise to order. The question anticipates the debate being resumed on a Bill which has been on the notice paper since 21st November last year. The honourable member for Kooyong has the right to speak in continuation on that Bill and, I believe, is as anxious as we on this side to vote in favour of it.
-Order! Although this matter is the subject of a Bill that is on the notice paper I think the honourable member is entitled to seek information at question time for purposes of the anticipated debate.
– To answer the honourable member for Kooyong, L understand that the New South Wales Law Reform Commission originally had referred to it the matter of the voting age but questioned whether under the Commission’s charter, as it were, it was proper to consider this matter, and accordingly the matter was withdrawn from the Commission. Something similar happened in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General at its meeting in Perth in October 1968 following the meeting of the Premiers. At the Premiers Conference the matter of the voting age was the last item on the agenda and the Premiers decided to refer the matter to the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. The Standing Committee, which is very conscious that the administrative responsibilities of its members are limited when it comes to looking at uniform laws, raised the question whether or not this matter was within its province rather than within the province, firstly, of those who are responsible for electoral matters in the various States and in the Commonwealth sphere, or, secondly, of the Prime Minister and the Premiers. Indeed, the Standing Committee came to the conclusion that this matter was not one ordinarily within the jurisdiction of the Attorneys-General, On the other hand, the Standing Committee discussed the matter which had been referred to them and arrived at a consensus that in view of the difficulties which would arise if one State acted separately from the other States or from the Commonwealth, or if the Commonwealth acted separately in fixing the voting age, it was desirable that any action taken - as to which the Standing Committee gave no decision or made no recommendation - should be taken on a Commonwealth-wide basis.
Coming to the recommendation of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in Perth in October, it was put to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which began to consider the question of the age of majority, that it should await the Law Reform Commission’s report, which was then expected in March 1969. Mr Justice Manning, the Chairman of the Commission, and Mr McCaw, the Attorney-General for New South Wales, were present at the next meeting of the Standing Committee on 7th March 1969. Tt was theo stated to us - and this was published in a Press release after the meeting of the Committee- that the Law Reform Commission had arrived at conclusions on these matters and would be making recommendations to the New South Wales Government and that those recommendations were not yet in writing. It was stated that the Commission was going to recommend a reduction in the age of majority for contracts, wills and marriage to 18 years - I am now summarising. There were other matters dealt with which appeared in the Press release from the conference. It was expected that the report would be reduced to writing and that Mr McCaw would have it printed and tabled in August in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. At that stage consideration of it would be undertaken, of course, by the New South Wales
Government and copies would be made available to Attorneys-General of the other States. It was to be further considered by them and ultimately, of course, by their governments.
– r ask the Minister for National Development a question. At the ceremony at which he officiated to mark the start of construction of the main dam for the Ord scheme, the honourable gentleman pointed out that the dam would provide water to irrigate some 180.000 acres. As 50,000 acres of this irrigable land lie in the Northern Territory I ask: What steps have been taken or what steps will be taken to make Ord water available for use in the Northern Territory as well as in Western Australia?
– It is true that of the land which can be irrigated from the Ord when the main dam is completed something like one-third lies in the Northern Territory. So far the Commonwealth has not considered this matter, but it will undoubtedly have to consider it in the fairly near future. A considerable amount of work, not only in building the dam but also in building channels, must be undertaken before there is any extension of irrigation into the Northern Territory area. Speaking from memory,
I believe the main dam will not provide water until 1973, or possibly 1972. With channels to be built and the area to be developed it is not anticipated that there will be any extension into the Northern Territory area until a number of years later. However, I believe the Government will look at this matter fairly shortly.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. By way of brief preface I take leave to observe that during the debate on the Government’s decision to have a military commitment in Singapore and Malaysia until 1971, trenchant criticism came from the Opposition members that the commitment was neither welcome nor sought after. I ask the honourable gentleman: Will he accept my assurance that during a recent visit to Singapore and Malaysia neither the honourable member for Robertson nor I was able to find a single political figure who was critical of the Australian Government’s decision; on the contrary, the decision was received with gratitude. Further, will the honourable gentleman-
-Order! the honourable member is now giving information. I suggest that he asks his question.
– Further, to enable the Australian electorate to get a keener appreciation of the policies which distinguish the Government parties from the Opposition, will the honourable gentleman provide an early opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition to name those political leaders in Singapore and Malaysia whom he contends are critical of the commitment?
– I have no difficulty in accepting the honourable gentleman’s assurance that he found no political figure in South East Asia who was other than pleased about the Australian decision to retain forces in South East Asia after 1971. The honourable gentleman will recall that when the earliest approach was made on this matter by the Australian Government it was made perfectly clear to the governments of the region that, if we were to retain a force there it would be only with the approval of the governments concerned and if the Forces were welcomed. We had an immediate assurance from both Malaysia and Singapore that our troops would indeed be welcomed, and that attitude has persisted. Later on, of course, when the question of our commitment after 1971 came up, the Governments of both Malaysia and Singapore requested the availability of Australian forces in the area, and there is no doubt that our commitment has the full approval of those Governments and is welcomed throughout the area for the contribution it will make to the security and stability of the area and to the kind of development, both social and economic, to which the Opposition sometimes turns its attention. The Leader of the Opposition no doubt will have any number of opportunities - some of his own choosing and perhaps some of the Government’s choosing - to deal with the question raised by the honourable member for Moreton. But, in fact, the Leader of the Opposition has been dedicated to the Australian Labor Party’s policy of Fortress Australia, whereas the Government believes there can be no better evidence of our interest and concern for the people of South East Asia than the actual sight of our people in the countries of that region.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Does he recognise that considerable difficulties have arisen in the Australian Capital Territory and in adjoining and adjacent districts consequent on the Government’s decision that slaughtering at the Canberra abattoir will cease as from 27th June this year? Has it become apparent that there is a considerable conflict of evidence between the report from the public inquiry conducted by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and the report of the inter-departmental committe on which presumably the Government acted? Would the Minister agree that some witnesses, and indeed some of those prominently associated with the decision to close the abattoir, have had their credibility brought very considerably into question? In the light of these circumstances, will the Minister take whatever steps are necessary to enable the Minister for the Interior to have the whole question of the future of the Canberra abattoir referred to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, with the widest possible terms of reference and with no restriction on the right of members of that Committee to probe and to question? Alternatively, will the Minister seek to persuade the Government to transfer the control of the Canberra abattoir from the Department of Health to the Department of the Interior as of now?
– The honourable gentleman has asked a long and detailed question. If he places it on the notice paper T will give him a long and detailed reply.
– Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity to study the report on the proposed Tumut-Canberra road, which I understand was completed by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads and the National Capital Development Commission over 12 months ago? Can he give me any indication as to when the joint report which was to be released by the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales is likely to be available? I further ask: Is the Prime Minister aware that the New South Wales Premier is blaming him for the long delay in the release of this very important report?
– In reply to the last part of the honourable member’s question, no, I am not aware of that. The position is, of course, that in March 1963 the Commonwealth agreed to participate with the State Government of New South Wales in an examination of possible alternative routes for a road between Canberra and Tumut. The agreement to participate in this examination was subject to the understanding that the Commonwealth was in no way responsible for or committed to participate in the construction and also that it was to be the State Government which made the final decision as to the route selected from those alternatives which had been surveyed. The report has been received. I am not sure at what stage it now stands, but I think that the honourable member should know that the whole project was undertaken on the understanding that the Commonwealth was not committed to the construction and that the actual route itself was finally to be decided by the New South Wales Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. The honourable gentleman will recall telling me on 8th October 1968 that he was reviewing the regulations governing correspondents covering the activities of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam. I ask the honourable gentleman: Has he completed this review? If so, will he outline briefly to the House the regulations that now apply to Australian correspondents? Have grounds of dissatisfaction expressed by the Australian Journalists’ Association been removed?
– As the honourable member will recall, when this matter was under discussion last year, I withdrew some instructions which were thought by some to apply at that time. I made it perfectly clear that the status quo had been restored. I also said at the same time that I would give consideration to a review of the conditions affecting the contact between the Press and other media of public opinion and our troops. We have done this, and the matter is now in its final stage. I will see if I can say something about this next week.
– I should like to ask a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister seen a report that many of Australia’s commuter airlines are being forced out of business by high costs and poor passenger demand? Can the Minister say whether, as alleged in this newspaper article, six of those companies granted operating licences under this scheme have in fact applied to his Department for subsidies. If so, has any decision been made? If not, will the Minister say whether fares are likely to be increased in an effort to overcome the present financial problems facing commuter airline operators who have committed themselves to large capital investments to provide the necessary services to rural and provincial communities?
– With the introduction principally of larger jet services by the airlines of Australia, it became necessary to try to fill some gaps in the feeder services. This was the basis for the introduction of the third level of airline operations, the commuter services. It was anticipated when the commuter services were introduced that because they were of an entirely new type in Australia and because of the problems associated with commercial operations viability would be difficult in the early stages. This expectation has been borne out, because some problems have become quite evident. It was made quite clear when the services were inaugurated that they were being introduced on the basis of an acceptance by the operator of commercial liability. In other words, on the normal basis, no subsidy would be provided by the Government for those operations. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is the lower cost of operations.
Inherent in the honourable member’s question was a suggestion that the costs might be higher. In fact, the reverse is the case. The costs of operating light aircraft under the conditions of regulation 203 are much lower than that of an airline operation, therefore basically the costs should be lower. But there are still some other commercial problems associated with communter services and undoubtedly one or two of the operators have found difficulty. They have given up certain routes. We ex pected this and we believe it will settle down on a satisfactory basis in the end. One change in policy was announced and that is that where a commuter operator takes over a regular public transport operation from an airline operator and it is on a developmental route, a subsidy can be paid to the commuter operator provided it is less than the subsidy that was previously paid on the higher cost operation by the airlines. There have been a number of applications, but I cannot say whether the number was six or not. We are already paying one or two subsidies in this particular field and some other applications are under consideration at present. I should like to pay a tribute to the commuter operators generally for the service that they are providing. Tt is a vital service in the aviation communication system in Australia.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Have the Governments of West Germany, the Netherlands or any other country with which Australia has no double taxation agreement made any approach to secure such agreement, or has Australia made any approaches to other countries? If so, which other countries? If Australia has not made approaches, why not?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is clear. We usually do not make approaches to other countries. They make them to us. Australia is a very attractive place to come to and a very attractive place in which people will seek investment.
– Answer the question.
-Order! The honourable member has already asked his question.
– As to the first part of the honourable member’s question, the West German Government has made an approach to us for a double taxation agreement. Officials are, in fact, working on the outline of a draft agreement based upon the model of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development and shortly the negotiations will be commenced and the agreement will be referred to the governments.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service observed recent reports that a number of women arts graduates have been unable to secure suitable employment on graduation from universities and have been obliged to take what they regard as inferior work?
– I have seen these reports and my Department has, in fact helped a number of these girls or women to obtain employment. It does, however, pose a general problem - the tendency for a number of those girls at universities who are studying arts to wish to obtain, as soon as they graduate, fairly highly paid employment for which, of course, they have no vocational training. Although they may be very promising material they still need to undergo a scheme of training before they can expect, in most cases, highly paid work. This, again does raise a more general problem and that is the partial divorce of the educational system from employment opportunities in the labour market and from what is going on generally in the outside world. The universities have taken measures to improve the situation, particularly in respect of arts. My Department does have a number of rather informal contacts with the appointments boards and others at universities responsible for finding work for graduates but I feel that there would be great scope for increasing these and we stand ready to do so in minimising the kind of frustration which arises when employment and education are divorced, particularly when university graduates are being turned out in such very large numbers. Except in New South Wales, which has its own service, we do provide a very extensive vocational guidance system and we seek, if possible, to guide those who want employment before they go to the university. We advise them of the employment potentialities and provide such other information as we can acquire.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by saying that last week I was informed by the Treasurer that no official request had been made to the Commonwealth by Queensland for financial assistance to provide a higher average price for the 1968 sugar crop. On Friday last it was announced that the Queensland Canegrowers Association had made an official request to the Commonwealth for finance by way of an approach to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Has an official approach for finance been made to the Commonwealth by Queensland or has it not? If it has, why has the Prime Minister departed from the universal practice that all official approaches to the Commonwealth from the States for financial assistance must come from the Premiers to the Prime Minister?
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to answer this question.
– An official request has not been made to the Commonwealth Government for a loan to pay a minimum price of $92 a ton for cane produced in Queensland in the 1968/69 season. What happened last week was that a delegation from the Queensland Canegrowers Council came to Canberra and discussed with myself, and I believe also with the Minister for Trade and Industry, the possibility of support for this proposal which was carried at a recent cane growers conference. My reaction was that this was an unusual procedure. This is the first time that the Australian sugar industry has made a request which has bypassed the Queensland Government, and it is the first occasion on which such a request has not had the unanimous support of the two great cane producting organisations.
– I remind the Prime Minister that during the past 12 months a number of petitions dealing with the preservation and protection of kangaroos have been presented to this Parliament. Can the right honourable gentleman say whether these petitions have resulted in positive action being taken to preserve Australian flora and fauna? If so, what are the results?
– I am not sure that I can answer this question directly in relation to kangaroos, but honourable members will remember that the suggestion has been made by the Commonwealth that there should be a meeting between State representatives and Commonwealth representatives to discuss the conservation generally of flora and fauna in Australia. All State Premiers have now replied to the initiative action taken by the Commonwealth Government and they have indicated that they are prepared to have their representatives take part in such a discussion. That is where the matter stands at the moment.
– The Treasurer has been forthright in his opinion that foreign banks should not enter into active business in Australia, and I concur in this view. But he also administers insurance business in Australia, r ask the right honourable gentleman what are the conditions that enable an overseas insurance company to transact life assurance business in Australia.
– Very stringent conditions are imposed under the Insurance Act. The Act gives power to the Insurance Commissioner to register an overseas corporation wishing to establish itself in Australia. The first consideration is that the corporation must have assets in Australia which will permit it to pay all its liabilities under life insurance policies. The second is that it must have the expertise and technical management to permit it to carry on its business effectively. The third is that the policies must bc such as will conform to Australian conditions and will give adequate protection to the policy holders. Finally there is a power under the Act itself that gives the Insurance Commissioner power to examine the accounts to ensure that the investments made by the insurance companies are satisfactory. In other words, the Act is a comprehensive one and does give very strong powers to the Commissioner to ensure that the best interests of the policy holders are served. 1 will examine the question and, if I find there is any variation in the information I have given, the honourable gentleman can rest assured that I will give it to him. but I do not think there will be.
May I add one point. This is enormously important: Australian life offices are expanding their overseas operations and we do not want to do anything in Australia that will in any way inhibit their operations. We want to permit them to get into business in life insurance elsewhere. I imagine that the policies written by the Australian corporations overseas as com pared to the results that overseas corporations get here would be at least two or three to one in favour of the Australian corporations.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. It refers to the problem of depressed world markets for dairy produce, and in particular for butter, due to the huge world surplus of this commodity. Has any progress been made through negotiations at Geneva within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in an attempt to bring about an international agreement for the marketing of dairy produce? Can the Minister inform the House of the present trend in negotiations aimed at finding a solution to this problem?
– lt is a fact that to a large extent international conditions for the marketing of dairy products are very unsatisfactory indeed. The price for milk powder, which is an important product, has been very low. It is rather better now, I think. However, the price for butter, which is the most important product, has been very low. In the United Kingdom there has been a very large surplus of butter from the traditional suppliers who export to Britain, from butter produced in Britain itself and by some newcomers into the market. There, in consultation with the British Government, we have found it better to accept a quota arrangement which puts a ceiling upon the quantity that we and all other suppliers can send to Britain than to have an open go at the market. The quota arrangement is designed, in negotiation with the British authorities, to firm the price of butter in Britain. That is the step that has been taken in the United Kingdom and we are having comparable discussions with the British Government in respect of cheese. The market for this product has also been unsatisfactory.
The great single factor overlying the world trade in dairy products has been the tremendous surplus generated in the European Economic Community - a surplus that now includes more than 300,000 tons of butter. This is perhaps four times as much as Australia exports to Britain in a year. This is overlying the market. When Dr Mansholt was here recently, my memory is that he told me that this surplus could accumulate perhaps at the rate of 200,000 tons a year. The European Economic Community has been paying its farmers about 75c a lb to produce butter and has been selling butter around the world at 15c a lb. 1 speak in terms of Australian currency. There have been other dislocating factors, lt is against this background that at Geneva a good many months ago I co-operated with the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is even more concerned than Australia is about a slump in dairy products, in asking that there should be a study by GATT to determine whether there could be a world agreement, particularly on butter and milk powder, with a view to stabilising prices, in much the same way as we have succeeded in doing with grains and sugar. I have been happy to accept the leadership of New Zealand in this matter, lt is a bigger exporter in total than we are and is recognised around the world as being much more dependent on its dairy industry than this country is as a nation, but 1 have in every respect backed up the New Zealand approach. The rest of my story is not very satisfactory. A series of meetings has been held within GATT under this arrangement None of them has succeeded. At the present time there is a hiatus in the negotiations because of failure to make realistic progress, but the arrangement to continue to study this matter with a view to endeavouring to achieve a solution still stands and will be reactivated at the earliest possible time. 1 remind the House that it took all those interested about 5 years to achieve finally what is a magnificently successful sugar agreement, and because we have not been quickly successful in respect of the dairy products there is no reason to believe that we may not ultimately bc successful.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. Has the Australian Atomic Energy Commission been in touch with the French Government, either during the visit of the Commission’s Chairman, Sir Philip Baxter, last year, or by other means and on other occasions on the possibility of purchasing a nuclear reactor from the French Government? Have the Commission’s own experts advised against the type of reactor which the French Government could provide and in favour of the type which the Canadian Government could provide? Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no deal made with the French not only on technical grounds but also in the light of the French Government’s continued refusal to adhere to the atmospheric test ban and its announced decision to refuse to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?
– I would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition would realise that any decision on a nuclear reactor in Australia is a decision to be made by the Commonwealth Government, not by one of its instrumentalities. Naturally the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has no power or authority of any sort to purchase a reactor from the French Government, so I really need add no more. All 1 can say is that at the present moment the Atomic Energy Commission believes that the most suitable type of reactor for Australia is a type which would use a fuel which Australia itself could produce and therefore would not be dependent upon the purchase of fuel from overseas.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of a recent radio broadcast on Queensland country radio stations by an authority from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries advising graziers not to feed livestock with grains treated with fungicides and pesticides? ls it true that grain treated with some dusts to protect against weevil is capable not only of causing milk taint when fed to cows, but also of affecting eggs and flesh when fed to poultry? ls it correct that some grain protectants, while causing no obvious ill effects in animals, can lead to the accumulation of residues in animal tissue at levels considered toxic to humans? ls the Government taking any action to ensure that products such as flour, eggs and meat will be safe for human consumption? Can the Minister tell the House whether seed wheat heavy in residues is being sold outside the Australian Wheat Board for feed, and if so, whether action will be taken against persons so doing? Further, could indiscriminate feeding of treated grains to stock contribute to the loss of overseas meat markets and thus cause unemployment in abattoirs such as the one in my electorate?
– I am not aware of the particular programme to which the honourable members refers, but 1 can well imagine that this is a service that the Queensland Government is providing to primary producers in that State as indeed other Departments of Agriculture are providing in their States. My Department operates a very large inspection service of all produce exported from this country. We take about 20,000 samples annually of produce for export in order to determine the level of residual insecticides. If the level is above that internationally accepted or above that accepted by importing countries action is taken immediately, in co-operation with State Departments of Agriculture, to have use of the insecticide or fungicide banned or limited. I am happy and proud to say that the level of insecticide residues in Australian produce conforms to international standards and standards set by countries importing from Australia. In order to achieve this level we ask State Departments of Agriculture to warn producers against the indiscriminate use of insecticides and fungicides, particularly on wheat. Seed wheat is often treated with chemicals. Should it then be used as feed adverse effects can result. The level of insecticide residue in the meat of stock which feeds on such wheat can be above that which is acceptable by overseas countries. To sell wheat that is contaminated is a violation of the law. The Australian Wheat Board does not accept any wheat that is treated in this way. To sell wheat outside the Wheal Board is a violation of the regulations.
– Did the Minister for Health on 28th March last say that Canberra butchers had shown a clear preference for imported meat? A few days later did forty retail butchers in the CanberraQuean bey an area say that the Minister’s statement was false and misleading and did they ask him to withdraw his comments? What response has the Minister made or what response will he make to this disclaimer?
– My response was to make a statement pointing out that the butchers had misinterpreted my earlier statement. I pointed out that use of the word ‘preference’ in this case was based on the statistical fact that in the last year only 36%, if T remember correctly, of meat consumed in Canberra was killed in the Canberra Abattoir. This is what the expression ‘preference’ meant, and T made a statement pointing out that fact.
– r ask the Treasurer a question relating to the forthcoming Budget considerations, which will be undertaken in the atmosphere of a full employment economy. Will the right honourable gentleman ask his advisers to re-examine the proposal I made some years ago to institute a scheme of compulsory savings for young people by means of taxation inducements or penalties? Would such a scheme benefit the national economy in terms of increased savings, act as a brake on inflation and also be of great later benefit to the young people themselves?
– 1 will examine the proposal put forward by the honourable gentleman. 1 stress that Australia has a high rate of saving. We save approximately 25% of our -gross national product, ploughing it back into developments for the future. I am one of those people who do not believe in compulsion if it can be avoided. I believe also that with the exception of some fringe elements, the young people of this country are highly responsible and are prepared to respond to persuasion if persuasion is exercised. So, I would much prefer to adopt procedures that would give an incentive to save. Unless an overwhelming case were made out in favour of compulsion J would be opposed to it. Nonetheless I will examine the honourable member’s suggestion. I assure him that it will be considered during the Budget discussions.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the winding up and abolition of the Decimal Currency Board, and for the continuance of its functions, as necessary and where appropriate, within the framework of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Decimal Currency Board was established in October 1963 under the Currency Act 1963, although the Board commenced its meetings in June 1963 in order to make a start on its preliminary investigations. That Act also provided for the introduction of decimal currency and for the new decimal coins.
The Currency Act 1963 provided the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) with certain powers in relation to the proposed changeover to a decimal system of currency, and provided for the Decimal Currency Board to advise the Treasurer on matters relating to the change-over, with special reference to assistance to owners of monetary machines. The Act also authorised the Treasurer to delegate certain powers under the Act to the Decimal Currency Board. In 1965, when the lines of planning for government compensation payments and for decimal notes and coin had been more clearly defined, the Currency Act 1963 was amended, and the amended Act became the Decimal Currency Board Act 1963-1965. At the same time, a new Currency Act 1965 was enacted, which incorporated those parts of the Currency Act 1963 relating to currency, coinage and legal tender. The Reserve Bank Act was concurrently amended to cover the introduction of new decimal notes to replace notes of the former currency.
Apart from its functions in relation to monetary machine conversion and compensation, under delegation from the Treasurer, the Decimal Currency Board’s main task was to inform the public of the arrangements for the change-over to a decimal system of currency. The change-over date had been fixed in the Currency Act 1965 at 14th February 1966, and it is scarcely necessary for me now to remind honourable members of the debt we owe to Sir Walter Scott and to other members of the Board for the competent manner in which these tasks were carried through to completion.
The new system of currency became an accomplished fact for most members of the public within a few weeks of the changeover date. However, that date signified for the Board, and for the machine conversion companies and for business generally, the commencement of a period of dual currency during which both the old pounds, shillings and pence and the new dollars and cents circulated side by side. This dual currency period was necessary to enable some hundreds of thousands of monetary machines to be converted to decimal operation or to be replaced by new decimal machines. These machines ranged from taxi-meters and price-computing scales to complex accounting machines and computers. The Board had originally estimated, on the basis of advice from the converting companies, that the conversion of machines would take approximately 2 years to complete. In the event, it was largely accomplished within 18 months of the change-over date.
On the publicity and public education side, the Board’s activities ranged from liaison and discussions with business and commercial associations to the provision of ‘ pamphlets and lectures to the general public and culminated in an intensive advertising campaign and the delivery to all householders in Australia of up-to-date information just before the changeover date. I think honourable members will agree with me when I say that the work carried through by the Board was largely responsible for the comparatively painless changeover from the viewpoint of the Australian community as a whole. Great credit must go, however, to the business world for the detailed preparation and planning which lay behind the changeover in this area. The executives and staff of banks, retail establishments and other commercial houses were involved in many months of work in preparing for the changeover.
The original estimate of the cost of the machine conversion and compensation aspects of a decimal currency changeover was S75m. In fact, expenditure by the Board to this time on the machine side has been just under $45m, and the total when completed will not be much more than this amount. The Board also spent approximately Sim on publicity and advertising for the changeover. Details of these expenditures and other activities of the Board will be set out in a final report by the Board which the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) will be submitting to the Parliament in due course. The Chairman of the Board advised the Treasurer recently that Board members felt their task had been effectively completed, and that the remaining administrative functions could, in their view, bs carried out by a small staff operating within the Public Service.
The Treasurer has accepted this proposal and the purpose of this Bill is to put it into effect. The Bill provides for the Board to continue, after the enactment of the Bill, only for the purpose of winding up its affairs. This will consist principally of completing a final report on its operations. The further provisions of the Bill, which will come into effect on proclamation following the submission of the Board’s final report, then provide for the transfer to the Commonwealth of the rights and responsibilities of the Board. The powers vested in the Treasurer under the existing Act will continue, mainly for the purpose of completing the few remaining administrative duties which will be carried out by officers working in the Department of the Treasury. The staff of the Board has always formed a division of the Treasury, so that there are no problems on that side.
The Bill also appropriates Consolidated Revenue Fund to the extent necessary to make any further payments which may be required. These would be of a minor nature only. In conclusion, I would wish only to compliment the Board and its staff on the highly successful conclusion to a complex and unique operation, and to thank them for the competence and dedication which they brought to their task. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966 the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Augmentation of water supply to Darwin - Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the construction of an earth and rock fill dam on the Darwin River with a capacity of 69,300 million gallons, a pumping station, and 24 miles of pipeline from the dam to the McMinns pumping station. As the existing railway traverses the dam site and storage area, the proposal includes an 11 mile diversion of the railway and the Postmaster-General’s telephone and telegraph lines. The estimated cost of the proposal is $9m. I table a plan showing the location of the proposed works.
– In supporting this motion, I would point out that there is an urgent need for land to be opened up in the Northern Territory. Housing is deseperately short and suburban land cannot be opened up without services such as electric light, sewerage and water. The Government has approached this matter in a very practical way, in that there has been a proposal before the Public Works Committee to spend $4.6m on stage 4 of the Stokes Hill power station. I think tenders have already been called for this project. This is the first step in opening up land. Another project that was before the Public Works Committee was extended sewerage in Darwin, which was estimated to cost $4.55m. I commend the Government on this further step of spending $9m on augmentation of the water supply to Darwin. I have been constantly pressing for additional land and housing to be opened up in the Northern Territory, in Darwin especially, so I hope that this step by the Government will lead to more land being made available and at a more reasonable rate to the local citizens.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1289). on the following paper presented by Mr Sinclair:
Overseas Shipping - Australian Entry - Ministerial Statement, 22 April 1969- and on the motion by Mr Erwin;
That the House take note of the paper.
– The first thing 1 would like to say about the statement that was made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) is that I hope the Government will not restrict the debate on it. This is a most important statement, lt is of great national importance not only to the Australian ship building industry but to the members of the Country Party because of their interest in primary industry. Therefore, to restrict the debate in any way would in my opinion be quite wrong on the part of the Government. At the moment it would appear that the debate is to be restricted to two speakers from each side of the House, but I hope that no such restriction will be applied.
– I have five Government members listed to speak.
– That is at least an improvement. Unfortunately, we on this side were not aware of that. I hope that we will have an open debate in which every member who wishes to speak will be given an opportunity to do so. This is a most important statement by the Government but I am afraid that at this stage I view it with a great deal of suspicion, as do other members of the Opposition. We are confident that the Government has not been honest and sincere and has not advised the Parlialiament of everything that has taken place. We are of the opinion that it is withholding information on the pretext that it cannot divulge everything. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
Whilst I cannot divulge the estimates involved - they draw on the Associated Transportation Container lines’ assessment of revenue and thus concern the private affairs of companies-
There is that aspect of it. The Government has not told us the real reason for changing its original decision to charter for 5 years and then purchase at half price ships for the Australia-UK trade and the AustraliaWest Coast of America trade. We have not got the facts from the Government. I would like the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to elaborate this point when he rises to speak and to let the Parliament and the people of Australia know what the real reasons are. If we read the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on Tuesday, 26th November 1968, we see that the Parliament was led to believe that the Government had negotiated a most important, generous agreement. Yet less than 5 months later the Parliament is advised that that agreement is to be dispensed with and that we are negotiating for a new one whereby we will buy the ships. The Minister for Shipping and Transport admits in his statement that there will be certain shortcomings in that the Australian National Line will be operating at a disadvantage in comparison with other shipping lines such as Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Ltd and Overseas Containers Ltd, which are completely overseas owned. We want the facts.
This statement has been another indication of the attitude of the Government to this Parliament. The Prime Minister on 3rd April, when he was in Canada, announced that the Australian Government had now decided to purchase ships for overseas trade instead of chartering them. The first public statement made in this country on this matter was made last Thursday night half an hour after the rising of the Parliament. Why could the Minister not have come into this place even late on Thursday and announced the decision so that at least the Parliament would have been advised, instead of having to rely on Press statements on Friday morning, that the Government had changed its mind? We have had this gradual leaking of information to the Parliament in many and varied terms. I express my disapproval of what the Government is doing in this regard.
The question of a national shipping line has been the subject of debate in this place for many years. The Australian Labor Party has long advocated that Australia should establish its own overseas shipping line and that we should break the monopoly that the Australian trade has been subjected to by overseas owned shipping lines which decide amongst themselves when freight rates are to be increased. There is do competition, so the Australian exporter and importer have been subjected to freight rates over which they have no control and about which they have insufficient information to assess whether they are fair and equitable to everyone concerned. The Government even went so far as to prepare a very nice publication that was circulated by the Department of Shipping and Transport in 1962 which set out the case why there should not be an Australian overseas shipping line. Yet on this occasion the Government comes along with this proposition to purchase one ship for the AustralianEuropean trade, one ship for the AustralianAmerican trade and one ship for the AustralianJapanese trade. This is only a piffling attack on the real problem. The Government, as 1 mentioned earlier, has dithered with this question. It has not been prepared to examine the facts. A joint parliamentary committee should have been appointed. I know that the Senate appointed a committee, but there should have been a joint parliamentary committee to examine whether Australia’s major export, wool, can be carried more economically in a container ship or in a Scandia type of ship. The Parliament has no information on these matters. Neither the Minister for Shipping and Transport nor the Minister for Trade and Industry have brought any facts into this place. They have not outlined any of the details about the economics of these different ships.
Container ships are not new in this country. Australia was one of the first countries to move into the field of container ships when the ‘Kooringa’ was built in the New South Wales State dockyards some years ago for the Tasmanian trade. So this is not something new. The Minister for Trade and Industry had available to him details of the development that had taken place in the United States of America where huge companies operate these container ships because they are particularly suited to their trade.
Why was this information not brought to the Parliament so that we could have discussed it? Why was not the information that was available to the Department of Trade and Industry not made available to honourable members instead of being within the secret province of the Minister? The Parliament should know what is hap pening and what the Government is doing. The Parliament is not considered often enough. It is only a rubber stamp. This is particularly so of members of the Government back benches. They are only a rubber stamp for Cabinet and they must accept without the power to reject Cabinet’s decisions.
I call upon the Minister for Trade and Industry to give us a definite and positive outline of what is taking place in the field of shipping. Furthermore I should like some information on why the Government has not had these ships built in an Australian shipyard. The Government should have known as long as 5 years ago that Australia was going to enter into the overseas shipping trade. The Government should have known whether it was going to use Scandia type ships, container ships or retain con~ventional ships for our export trade and which was the most economic. Having made its decision, the Government should have decided that these ships should be built in an Australian shipyard. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd’s shipyards al Whyalla, the shipyard of Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd and the State dockyards are all well equipped and almost comparable with overseas yards. I do not want to be sidetracked into dealing specifically with shipbuilding but from my personal inspection of the leading shipyards of the world, which I visited about 18 months ago. I would say that our Australian shipyards are only slightly behind what is available in overseas shipyards. The one thing that makes Australian shipyards that little bit less efficient and economic is the failure of the Government to maintain continuity of orders instead of the shipyards having the present boom and bust situation. Figures and details which were supplied by the shipping companies to the Tariff Board inquiry disclosed quite clearly that Australian shipyards were operating at a distinct disadvantage because of the lack of planning of the Government which has not maintained a constant Mow of orders. This is one field where the Government could act to ensure that the Australian shipbuilding industry could remain efficient and competitive with overseas yards, but it has not taken the opportunity of doing so.
The Government has not given us sufficient information in this ministerial sta lenient about what is happening in respect of these ships. We want to know why it switched from chartering to buying the ships. Is it because the British Government has refused to pay the investment allowance - in other words, the subsidy on British shipping? Is this one of the reasons why the ships are being purchased outright instead of under the previous most favourable conditions of chartering, which the Government had negotiated? I believe it is one of the reasons. Is another reason that the ship was going to fly the British flag and not the Australian flag? Was it to have been a British flagship with the crew being paid Australian rates and conditions? Is this another one of the problems associated with chartering which the Government overlooked and did not take into consideration? Does it mean that because the British Government subsidy is not going to be paid the ANL will operate these ships at a distinct disadvantage?
I ask the Minister: Does the Government propose doing something to place the ANL on a level footing with overseas companies, having in mind the different wage conditions that will apply? Does the Government propose paying the subsidy on this ship? Admittedly it was not built in an Australian yard but the Government should at least pay the benefit that the ANL would have received if the British Government subsidy had been paid. I press the Government for a decision on this matter. If this were done the ANL would be operating on the same loan repayment charges as the British shipping companies, and this is a fair and reasonable request which should be considered by the Government.
The Minister said that Australian ships would get 7i% of the British trade. He has not told us yet, nor did the Prime Minister’s statement of November 1968 disclose, what percentage of the American trade will be carried by this one Australian ship. To digress for a moment, has there been any decision as to the amount of cargo that will be carried under the agreement with the Japanese K Line? How much freight are we going to carry? One of the things that concerns me is that our trade costs the Australian economy a considerable amount of revenue. At this stage, with the concurrence of honourable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard a table relating to the freight and insurance payable on imports in Australia and overseas.
The table discloses that in the last 10 years freight and insurance on Australian imports has cost a total of $2,873m. I have asked the Minister for Trade and Industry how much we have had to pay in respect of our exports, but this figure has not been available, so we can say that over the last 10 years freight rates and insurance have cost Australia a minimum of $2,873m. This is important to our balance of payments situation and so there is complete justification for a further expansion of the Australian shipping industry into the carrying of our freights. The figure of 7i% is totally inadequate but there is no indication from the Government that it proposes expanding our participation beyond that percentage. This is only a sop to members of the Country Party of which the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Shipping and Transport are both members. Tt is only a sop to that Party that we are now in the process of establishing an Australian overseas shipping line. This is not good enough. We should be aiming to carry at least 50% of our imports and exports - in other words, 50% of our trade. Let us look at the effect this would have on our balance of payments position. The Government should give some serious consideration to this aspect and not deal with it in the present haphazard manner. It should have a planned scheme.
I should like the Minister for Trade and Industry to state where the Government proposes going from here, ls the Government satisfied with the figure of 7£% that it has announced? I am not satisfied with it; nor are members of the Australian Labor Party. We want to know where the Government is going. Does it propose expanding the ANL interest and activity in overseas shipping? Once a decision is made the Government will be in a position to consult with the Australian shipbuilding industry and to expand that industry and ensure continuity of work to enable our industry to be competitive with its overseas rivals. The Minister should indicate clearly where we are going in this particular field. I want to know what is the difference in the Government’s attitude to ANL and Qantas Airways. ANL will spend about $20m to $25m in the next couple of years on three ships for our overseas trade, and there is no indication of intentions beyond that, but what is the position with Qantas, a completely Australian owned overseas airline? On figures already announced by Qantas, and stated by me in this House on a number of occasions, it will buy Boeing 747 Jumbo jets which will cost at least $123m and it has on order Concordes which will cost about S200m in the next 4 years. Its requirements will cost a total of about $323m, and this is the minimum amount, not the maximum. Why is there discrimination against the ANL? If Qantas can operate in complete competition with its overseas competitors why cannot the ANL be given the same opportunity to enter into foreign trade and earn foreign currency for this country? This is a matter which has caused the Treasurer considerable concern. The Government has had to change its policy on foreign investment and it now accepts without reservation the flow of foreign capital into this country. The Treasurer and the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, have said in this place that foreign investment is good for Australia, but we on this side of the House do not agree with that.
I refer now to the matter of freight, which I mentioned earlier. The question posed was whether the Scandia type ships or container ships would be most suitable for Australian trade. I want to bring a few points to the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The introduction of container ships in Australian trade has caused serious and economic problems in different ports in Australia. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, will outline some of the problems associated with the Tasmanian trade, and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) will cover the problems in the Queensland trade. The introduction of container ships is causing a problem in the Port of Newcastle. Electors in the Newcastle district are concerned about the future use of the Port of Newcastle in the wool trade. The introduction of container ships, I am afraid to say, will cause a serious overcentralising of industry in three places throughout Australia - Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. The ports of Sydney and Melbourne are already seriously congested, so much so that the New South Wales Maritime Services Board has bad to announce plans for the extension of facilities in Botany Bay. I repeat that unfortunately containerisation will create overcentralisation of industry. This is a major problem for the ports of Newcastle, Port Kembla and other places, because these ports are at present already over-centralised.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Failes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said that the Australian Labor Party viewed with suspicion the Government’s decision not to charter ships with the possibility of purchasing them later, as announced previously, but to purchase them now. I fail to comprehend why the Labor Party, which has always advocated the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line, should now be worried because the Government proposes to buy its own ships. With one exception. I am perfectly willing to deal with alt the facts relating to the Government’s decision. My colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) dealt with the exception.
When I, authorised by the Government, was discussing this matter in London with the three lines who own Associated Container Transportation Ltd - that is the Cunard company which owns the Port Line, Mr Vestey on behalf of the Blue Star Line, and the Ellerman organisation - I asked what was their expectation in building these ships. I asked what profit they expected to make. I asked what were the facts and the figures which led them to the conclusion that a profit could be made. They furnished me in the greatest detail with what I was assured - I have no doubt about this - were the intimate and confidential facts of their estimates of revenue and expenditure. These were the estimates upon which those companies took the decision to make their investment. These were the figures of the companies and the Government does not propose to disclose them. 1. do not think any responsible honourable member in this Parliament would ask the Government to disclose them. There is nothing else about the whole transaction that I am not prepared to deal with frankly. 1 remind honourable members that on a number of occasions over the years I have disclosed myself as being an opponent to the Australian Government’s entering into the ownership of overseas shipping. I have stated quite clearly my reason for this opposition, and it is one which I would adhere to today if the proposal were to go into the ownership of conventional ships. I believe that if Australia built ships at a higher cost than ships built overseas and manned them with Australian crews at higher cost, and if those ships entered into competition with ships which provided the competitor with a modest profit, Australia would show a loss. It could then be argued that we had proved that the freights were not high enough. I have said this time and time again in this House and I would adhere to it but for the fact that we are entering into a completely new era in which there will be a great degree of equality in competition, in which the new ships will carry crews about half the size of existing crews, and in which the vessels will be about double the size of the conventional ships and will do about three times the number of round voyages in a year as do the conventional ships. These facts entirely alter the concert. They led me to say to the Govern ment that I believed that Australia should go into the overseas shipping business, but not for the purpose of making a profit. To go into business for the sake of entering into business to take it over from private enterprise would be to apply a Socialist doctrine. I am not here to argue that but merely to remind the House that we on this side do not embrace the doctrine of Socialism. In going into the shipping business we are not prompted by the Socialist motive or to make a profit, but so that the Australian Government shall know every detail of cost and revenue that is taken into account. This arises from the fact that the Australian shipper interests - in particular those interested in wool and refrigerated cargoes - made an agreement with the shipping conference in 1956 whereby they would accept freights which represented the cost of operating the ships, plus a profit, lt was a cost-plus deal. If a cost-plus arrangement is to govern our Australian freights, then I want to know what the true costs are.
Increasingly the shipping companies are discovered to be the owners of the stevedoring companies and the trucking companies. The sea freights that we are charged do not represent merely the cost of operating the vessel but include the cost of operating all the other ancillary services of stevedoring, the land based facilities, the operation of the agencies that solicit freights, and the trucking companies. I want to see the Government right in the middle of this business so that when an argument occurs as to what should be a fair freight we will know as much about it as any other shipping operator in the world. This is the only reason why I advised the Government to go into the shipping business with container vessels. It is true that because we propose to man the ships with Australian crews our costs will be higher than those of other owners. Part of the arrangement that I negotiated for the Government was that, when the consortia are calculating the cost of running their vessels in relation to the freight to be charged, the additional cost of the Australian manned vessels is to be separated and charged to the Australian instrumentality, and is not to be a factor which will add to the final overall cost. 1 think implicit in the honourable gentleman’s speech was the suggestion that we should go it alone as a shipping operator.
Such a decision is not lightly to be taken. The running of the ship, as I have just said, involves very much more than just the operating and crewing of it. We must have agencies to solicit and arrange for cargo, we must have stevedoring and trucking facilities and so on. With the people with whom we have gone into partnership, all these things exist in the hands of great companies of high integrity who have a record of success and who are, I believe, fair in their judgment. There are great disadvantages in going it alone and great advantages in going it in a partnership with companies already in existence.
The arrangement that I first concluded and which today could be continued - there is no reason on earth why we could not continue it - was to charter the vessel rather than to buy it. We have changed and have decided to buy instead. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) said correctly that a host of factors influenced this decision. As was publicly stated, the charter rate for the period of 5 years was to be on the gross value of the vessel, not on the value of the vessel after the company had had the advantage of the British Government’s investment allowance. The British Government made it quite clear from the outset that people could procure a vessel and charter it for a minimum of 5 years and still enjoy the investment allowance, but if they did so the charter rate must be on the gross value of the vessel, not on the net value. So the charter rate that we had carried no advantage accruing from the British investment allowance.
The terms on which we are now able to buy the ship are extremely favourable. Six vessels were ordered to be built by the other container operator, Overseas Containers Ltd. A German shipping yard, eager to get business and having been left out of the container operations, was willing to accept a tender to build three vessels comparable with the others at a very much lower and very advantageous price. When I. first went into the discussions, this was explained to me. It was proved to me and 1 know it is true. I was asked to pay a higher price than the cost price because the vessel was being built at a very advantageous price. I negotiated the right to the vessel at the very advantageous low price and that is the low price that stands today.
We are able to buy the vessel on terms - 20% deposit, 8 years to pay and 5±% interest. Where else in the world can such terms be obtained for a great investment like this?
When the order for the vessels was placed, it was decided that they would be built in Germany because that was the cheapest place to build them. Payment ultimately was to be made in German Deutsche marks. This agreement was entered into before the British devaluation and the company had the prudence to take out insurance against devaluation. It is at no disadvantage in the payment for its vessels because Britain did devalue. We have negotiated the right with the Bank of England and others to take over the advantage obtained by this prudence. So we will buy a vessel that is not only cheap initially but on which there would have been a cost disadvantage flowing from the fact that Britain devalued had this insurance not been taken out. This is a very good business deal. I repeat that there has been no change in the attitude of the British Government, lt is still willing to permit the ship to be chartered, notwithstanding that it had paid an investment allowance on it. We could still go ahead with that arrangement if we wished to do so, but from the very outset the British Government said that the charter rate must be on the gross value of the vessel, not after the investment allowance had been taken into account.
Surely in explaining these matters it is not necessary to defend ourselves against a charge by the Australian Labor Party - it has not been made but it could be construed from what has been said - that the Australian Government instead of owning a vessel should charter it. This a reversal of attitude on my part. I have advised the Government to buy today instead of chartering today. I lake the full responsibility for that. I believe that, on the extraordinarily advantageous terms that we have been able to negotiate, it is a better and cleaner arrangement that we should own the vessel from the very outset. It is true, as was announced, that previously a chartered vessel that had enjoyed the British investment allowance had to fly the British flag. I was a little troubled by this from the outset. It could be argued, and increasingly there have been slight indications that it may be argued, that a vessel flying the British flag ought to be crewed by British seamen. The redundancy that the container era is bringing is leading increasingly to such a line of thought.
I do not want to see the Government proceed with a line that will involve it or the ship in arguments about industrial problems. I have not the slightest intention of attempting to persuade the Government that it could avoid any possible industrial argument by crewing the ship under British conditions. From the very outset my concept has been, as I believe the whole Parliament would wish, that the vessel should be crewed under Australian conditions. There is little difference in the financial outcome in the arrangements that are made to purchase the vessel and now there is no doubt that we can fly the Australian flag and be proud of it. We can crew the vessel under Australian conditions and be satisfied, and there will be no possible irritation anywhere in the world involving us.
– How about the capital investment? How can ANL trade fairly?
– I will come to that. It is a matter of Government policy. To give the capital investment to Australian National Line on the vessel would, on the figures that I have before me, enable the vessel to trade at a higher profit than without it. But without the capital investment the vessel can trade at a satisfactory profit. We have not entered this operation for the purpose of making high profits but for the purpose of getting right inside Conferences and knowing the total facts relating to the freights that are charged. The vessel has been modified to meet Australian crewing accommodation requirements. It has cost $100,000 to do so. From the very outset we have never had any other intention but that the vessel should be modified. The cost of $100,000 to do it is, I think, surprisingly high, but it is no fun to spend $100,000 on a vessel that someone else owns. We were prepared to contemplate doing so. I explained to the Government from the outset that we would be spending our money on a vessel that someone else owned. Taking the totality of all these factors into consideration, I have advised the Government that it is better to change from the original proposal to charter the vessel. I assure the House that we could go on with the charter pro posal today if we wanted to do so, but I do not think anyone in the House would ask us to go on with it. I assure the House that there has been no recantation by the British Government of the investment allowance or any other factor that would prevent us from going on with the charter.
I have advised the Government that I think it is a better, cleaner, simpler operation for a government that wants to run a ship to own the ship and own it from the outset. The terms are extremely favourable and the ship will fly our flag and be crewed on our terms by Australian seamen. This is, I think, really the whole story that is relevant to the House being aware of the factors which have altered this decision. There are two factors only. One is that we can fly the Australian flag. The other is that there will be no argument about crewing it at all and no risk of being involved in industrial troubles on that account. The operation is to be run as a pool and we will own our vessel, but when a vessel sails in we will not care whose containers and whose cargo are on the wharf; the vessel will pick up all that is there and sail away with it with the maximum efficiency, and in the accountancy between the three ships on our line this will be sorted out. If our vessel, by circumstance, were to sail half empty on a leg of a voyage, that would not mean that our profit was a cent less than it would have been if it had sailed full and one of the other vessels had sailed half empty. This is an element of the pooling of the financial outcome of the operations, and we have all the advantages of the knowledge and skills and established agencies of the great British shipping companies with which we are associated. We will get into the water first in the British-European Conference, and a little later when the vessel is built, into the Australia-North America Conference and we will serve the purpose which this Government wants to serve, that is, to get the inside knowledge. If by chance there were at a point of time a change of government there would be nothing to inhibit another government from adding more vessels if it wanted to. Indeed, if our Government, in the light of its experience, wanted to buy more vessels there would be no reason to inhibit it from doing so. What we have done is to negotiate the right to lift 1% of the total cargo that flows between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. That is a pretty good percentage and the whole thing is a pretty good deal.
-Order! The right honourable members time has expired.
– The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) was responsible throughout most of September, October and November last for the arrangements which, on the third last day of last year’s sittings, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) announced to the House. Those arrangements have now been changed. We have never had a government which conducted the affairs of the country in such a vagrant, erratic and capricious manner. Australia has never had a Prime Minister who was obliged so repeatedly to recant commitments entered into in haste and opinions expressed off the cuff. We have never had a government which so frequently and unpredictably reversed its stated policies. At least on this occasion the House has an opportunity to debate the policy. On 26th November, without any notice and without honourable members being forewarned by its appearing on the notice paper or on the blue sheet circulated for their guidance, the Prime Minister made a statement. I was given a copy as he rose to speak. The only man in the Parliament who had the opportunity to speak on the statement was myself, and I would not have had that opportunity if I had not immediately risen to follow him. On this occasion there is an opportunity to debate the matter. The Minister for Trade and Industry is the man who has had to deny today - presumably at the Prime Minister’s request - what the Prime Minister affirmed yesterday and what, of course, he may be required to affirm again tomorrow.
The right honourable gentleman has answered few, indeed, of the questions raised by my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who opened the debate on the statement yesterday by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair). The significant justification which the Minister for Trade and Industry gave was that by entering the trade beside overseas interests we could learn their affairs in a way that we could not otherwise do. I agree with him on this. I would be more impressed, however, if this policy were seen through to its logical conclusion. The first question raised on the Government’s intentions to participate in overseas shipping was put by my deputy to the Minister for Trade and Industry on 28th August. The Prime Minister answered the question for him. I then asked this question of the Prime Minister:
I assume that one of the great advantages of the shipping consortium which the Government is now considering is that it will enable the Government to ascertain the techniques and costs of transporting our exports and imports. Has consideration been given to repurchasing the Australian Government’s shares in British Petroleum Co. of Australia Ltd so that the Government can ascertain the costs of extracting, purchasing and transporting oil for Australia from overseas?
The Prime Minister answered:
The answer … is no.
We would be doing very much better as a nation, both collectively and individually, if the Government were in fact to take the course which only the national government can take of participating in some of these overseas enterprises - either local investment or overseas trade and commerce - so we could learn their techniques.
The right honourable gentleman admitted - he could scarcely deny it - that he had for long been an opponent of Australia’s resuming participation in overseas shipping. The right honourable gentleman will recall that on 21st August 1962 he denounced my advocacy of an Australian overseas shipping line in these ringing terms:
This man . . . referring to me -
. would destroy our industries; his party would destroy our industries if we let it do so. This would be the inevitable consequence of the policies that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition purports to espouse.
Of course, 1962 was a year in which the Minister for Trade and Industry was in full flight crying woe at the prospect of the British Conservative Government securing admission to the European Economic Community. Again, in answer to a question on 11th September 1963 the Minister said again, in reference to me:
The honourable member referred also to a national shipping line. I presume that he has in mind a national line of ships built in Australia, manned by Australians and operated under Australian conditions. Using the activities of the Australian National Line as a measuring stick, we would then be troubled by a rise not of 10% but of 50% in freight rates.
In a third instance, again in answer to a question on 24th March 1965, he said:
On the evidence of coastal trade with general cargo 1 believe that it would be likely that our costs in international trade would be greater than the costs of those who carry our cargo, and that if we were to demonstrate that our costs were higher we would be without argument in protesting against any increase in costs by those who in any conjectural circumstances would be carrying the overwhelming bulk of our general cargo.
Yet the Prime Minister was able to recall in his statement on 26th November: 1 recently informed the Parliament that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry, during his visit overseas would be making inquiries in London concerning the possibilities of Australian participation in overseas shipping and the carriage of some Australian produce in Australian vessels.
– You are ignoring the difference between a conventional ship and a container ship.
– I will be coming to that. The right honourable gentleman dealt with one set of operators of container ships alone and one type of container ship alone. For 20 minutes he avoided the questions on this subject which my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle, raised. Are we now to regard the right honourable gentleman as a man who would destroy our industries? Are we to think of his party as one which would destroy our industries if wc let it do so?
Other members of the Cabinet apparently have been spared the embarrassment of expressing their views on the matter. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on 10th October 1963 said:
I doubt very much that it would be practicable to have full and free operation of an Australian overseas shipping line.
The present Minister for External Affairs and former Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) will not be recalling the view which he expressed on 19th October 1965:
We cannot operate an overseas shipping line without subsidising it. I am satisfied of that.
The Prime Minister in fact failed to consult seriously before his announcement on 26th November last with any Minister other than the Minister for Trade and Industry. Cabinet was given no opportunity to consider the proposals before they were finalised. Ministers outside the Cabinet knew nothing about the scheme until they read about it in the newspapers. The Prime Minister announced the subsequent decision to purchase ships instead of chartering them in Ottawa on 3rd April. The decision was graciously conveyed to the Cabinet some days later, lt. was announced to the Australian Press jointly by the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Shipping and Transport on 17th April, half an hour after the Parliament had risen for the reception to the retiring GovernorGeneral. The announcement was handed down to the Parliament upon its return 5 days later - yesterday. Few Cabinets can have been treated with such cavalier contempt. Few Parliaments can have seen their dignity and authority so lightly flouted.
The Australian Labor Party has consistently pointed out that Australia’s trade has been handled by our competitors and our customers; that freight charges have been a serious burden on our balance of payments; that although Australia is one of the largest trading countries, we have been the only country of any significance which brings all its imports and sends all its exports in foreign ships. The Labor Party has argued that if Australia can capitalise Qantas it can capitalise an overseas shipping line. We have argued that Australia should not aim to carry the whole of her trade but half of it, her customers and suppliers carrying the other half. For years the Liberal Party and the Country Party ridiculed suggestions that Australia should participate in overseas shipping in order to curb exploitation of primary producers and to open new markets. In this as in so many other matters the Government belatedly has been overborne by the force of Labor’s arguments and has produced a stunted caricature of Labor’s proposals. The Prime Minister has changed his mind. The Minister for Trade and Industry has changed his rhetoric.
The Parliament was initially informed that the Australian National Line would inaugurate in 1969 its own shipping service between Australia and Japan. Operating in conjunction with Japan’s K Line this service would reach by 1971 an authorised strength of four vessels. The Prime Minister announced in the House on 26th November last plans for Australia to participate in the Australia-United Kingdom-Continent trade and in the Australia-North America trade. He did not indicate to what extent he expected overseas freight rates would be influenced or stability increased by an Australian holding equal to less than 1% of the number or the tonnage of ships involved. He did not tell the Parliament what financial information the Government expected to gain by membership of the Conference which was not available to it under the Trade Practices Act of 1966, or what managerial or technical expertise not already in the possession of the Australian National Line. He did not explain why the Government in associating itself with Associated Container Transportation Limited, implicitly had decided to reject the recommendation of the Senate Select Committe on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes that:
Before irrevocable steps are taken to place the greatest percentage of this trade within the hands of two British consortia the operators of the flexible type of shipping encompassed by Scandinavian vessels should be given every opportunity to prove their worth.
The Prime Minister did not explain to what extent the association had come about as a result of Government initiative and to what extent as the outcome of an approach from Conference interests anxious to enlist Australian support in an imminent shipping war.
The honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), who for a long time expressed liberal conscience on these matters, on 12th September last year asked the Prime Minister:
Is he able to give an undertaking, as suggested by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, that no decisions will be made to implement the deal with the Vestey interests, the Port Line or any other overseas shipping interests before the terms and conditions are fully published, and until the economics of the proposal, its costs and benefits, have been expounded and the details made available for discussion?
The Prime Minister replied:
The answer to the first part of his question is no. Should anything be done along these lines it would be done by the Government after consideration of all aspects and subject, of course, to parliamentary approval or disapproval after that time.
That is, Parliament is faced with a fait accompli. That was the first occasion on which the Prime Minister rebuffed the honourable member for Warringah. On 27th November last the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) asked the Prime Minister:
Will he table the major points of agreement reached and signed at this stage involving either the Australian Government or any Commonwealth instrumentality? Will the right honourable gentleman give an assurance that before the Government commits itself to any final contractual terms it will submit these terms to the Parliament for examination?
The Prime Minister replied:
When agreement is finally reached on this matter I would not propose to present that agreement to Parliament. I would propose making a Government decision accepting or rejecting the final negotiations. 1 do not suppose we can object if we are treated with as scant respect as is the honourable member for Warringah. People and Parliament have good reason to be fearful of agreements reached in this way. They recall the agreement on the Fill, perpetrated by an earlier Prime Minister but justified by the present incumbent. They recall the Esso-BHP oil agreement for which the Prime Minister himself bears full responsibility and of which the full cost has yet to become known. Australia urgently needs an overseas shipping line. The Labor Party has welcomed the Government’s newfound willingness to admit this fact. It questions whether the approach announced by the Prime Minister on 26th November and amplified by the Minister for Shipping and Transport yesterday is an adequate or appropriate one. It deplores the fact that this approach has been adopted ahead of proper consultation with the Cabinet or the Parliament. Instead, the impetuous and superficial approach of the Prime Minister has committed us to a system of containerisation which may be ill suited to our needs. It has committed us to a partner which has shown itself to be insensitive to our national requirements and aspirations. Ships of Associated Container Transportation Ltd will carry no lifting gear of their own and therefore will be totally dependent upon terminal facilities of the type and standard found only at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. When the Minister for Trade was questioned on these matters in February 1967 by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) he replied:
There will be feeder container services from all Australian ports to these major terminals ports. The cost of the feeder services will be absorbed so that there will be a single freight rate.
In fact, the container shipping firms have announced that they will provide feeder services to Tasmania only when it is ‘an economic possibility’ to do so. They have asserted that feeder services would be sheer waste’ in areas such as northern Queensland, where, in their judgment, adequate shipping services already exist. By contrast Scandia ships carry their own lifting gear and would be able to operate out of any Australian port.
The Government has allowed itself to be inveigled into this position at a time when the prospects for increasing competition in overseas shipping have seldom seemed brighter. Developments in train at the time the Government was reaching its decision would have brought up to ninety-six vessels into service on the Australian run. The Soviet Union was showing an interest. At the same time tensions within the Conference had raised the probability of a breakaway by some European operators. Such developments could not have done other than bring about a sharp reduction in freight charges. The Government’s decision to ally itself with the Conferences inevitably strengthens Conference solidarity and weakens the impetus to independent operations. Its decision to favour container vessels of a particular type strengthens British shipping interests against their continental competitors. In these circumstances there will be no breakaway, no increase in competition and no reduction in freights. The Government’s actions will bring about a result directly opposed to its professed objectives.
The statement presented yesterday by the Minister for Shipping and Transport leaves other important matters in doubt. It is now clear that the Government has decided to forfeit the British subsidy to which the Minister for Trade and Industry attached such importance at his Press conference on 26th November. It is clear that Australia’s partners in the consortium will be acquiring their vessels at a cost significantly lower than that which Australia will be required to pay. Neither the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Minister for Trade and Industry nor the Prime Minister himself has given the slightest indication of the impact of this difference on such factors as operating costs, depreciation, the relative profitability of each vessel within the consortium and, consequently, the return which each partner can expect to receive on its investment. The Government is not negotiating in these matters with amateurs or altruists. It is negotiating with men who have grown up in the toughest of all areas of commercial endeavour. Persons well versed in the affairs of the overseas shipping trade entertain serious doubts about the Government’s capacity to hold its own under these conditions. They question whether the Government will be any more successful in dealing with the shipping magnates than it has proved in dealing with the armament magnates or the oil magnates.
One does not have to be opposed to the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line to doubt whether this end is best served by entering into agreements which appear to be not much less vague than those which landed us with the FI 1 1 . The Minister for Shipping and Transport has said too much about costs - and too little. He has left the House wondering what the Government has to hide. He has left us wondering to what extent the commitment undertaken to Sir Basil Smallpiece, Mr Edmund Vestey and Mr Alastair Lloyd is an open-ended one. Why does the Minister nowhere in his statement reveal the total extent of Australia’s financial commitment to Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Ltd? In what commercial enterprise would the Board tolerate being denied pertinent and indeed crucial information concerning costs and estimates on the grounds that these ‘concern the private affairs of companies’? We have never been able to learn Ansett’s affairs although we have been given statutory guarantees.
The Minister for Trade and Industry revealed a touching and uncharacteristic naivete on 27th February 1967 when he extolled the willingness of the container companies to operate feeder services from all Australian ports. He revealed it again at the Press conference on 26th November when he anticipated that the British Government would pay a subsidy. What guarantee has the House that this naivete does not still persist? What guarantee has the House that this naivete is not shared by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Prime Minister? In the final analysis, what proof is there that Australia can expect in this enterprise a reasonable return on its money or indeed any return whatsoever?
It might have been expected that a statement by a Country Party Minister and indeed by an aspirant to the leadership of the Australian Country Party would have touched at least in passing on the very real problems which confront wool growers in the matter of containerisation. Wool bales would themselves provide a perfect unit of containerisation for ships more flexibly designed than ACT 1, 2 and 3. There is no valid reason why products which have for years past been shipped in jute coverings should now be enclosed in an additional skin of carbon steel.
If ships of the type commissioned by ACT were the only feasible type of container vessel, the interests of the wool industry would necessarily be subordinated to those of the economy as a whole. In fact vessels of the Scandia type would be able to offer cheaper and more satisfactory accommodation for this vital export. Is the woo] industry to be pressed to ship by ACT to make the Governments investment profitable?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Many members of this House would surely consider the speech that has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) as mere pettifogging. Indeed, I believe that members of his Party also think of it in these terms, judging from their very scant attendance to hear what their leader had to say, or, rather, what he had to read. In one respect, of course, certain of the things he said were quite trivial, but they do conceal something that is worth looking at. The Leader of the Opposition complained of the way in which the House had been apprised of these negotiations. I am afraid it is true that in matters of commercial negotiations it is not pos sible always to say in advance what is to be done or to set out the full reasons for doing it. It is not possible for a government, any more than it is for a private enterprise, to do this. This illustrates the important point that in a way the processes of democracy are not fully compatable with the processes of socialisation, which honourable members opposite espouse, lt is an incontestable fact that if we are to have socialisation we will be driven to the totalitarian form of government of which, of course, the Communists give the best surviving example today. This is an important point and I would not dismiss what the Leader of the Opposition had to say as mere pettifogging, because we can learn this important lesson from it.
The Opposition has complained of two substantia] matters in this debate. Firstly, it has complained that there was a change of policy in the decision to purchase ships rather than charter them. Secondly, the Opposition has complained that the operations envisaged are too small and that the operations of the Australian National Line should be further extended. I propose to deal with these two matters - not that there is much left to talk about in regard to the first complaint in view of what the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has had to say. I am afraid it is true that in this matter the Australian Labor Party suffers from its usual impediment; its right hand does not always know what its left hand is doing - or perhaps I should say that its right wing does not always know what its left wing is doing. The Minister for Trade and Industry made some very good points. He pointed out that it is better to purchase vessels because not only will these vessels be Australian and crewed by Australians who will work under Australian conditions but also the ships will fly the Australian flag. This is something that honourable members opposite may say is of small consequence. Perhaps in a sense it is. But I am not inclined to think that it is altogether of small consequence. I believe it is better for us to be flying the Australian flag on our own ships.
The Minister for Trade and Industry also made the good point that if we owned our ships we would have less supervision from the British Government over our rights and conditions of charter and things of that nature. We should also be concerned with the possible avoidance of industrial strife. We know that with the introduction of containerisation there has been a great deal of sensitivity among the trade unions. Do not let us laugh at what might happen in Britain or consider the trade unions in that country to be particularly foolish, lt is only a few days ago that we had a demarcation dispute on this very matter. We had one of the most senseless and silliest strikes ever to occur in Australia. As I have just said, there is sensitivity on this matter. It would be quite competent for the National Union of Seamen in Great Britain to demand that every ship flying the British flag should be crewed by its members. We might not always approve of this attitude, but honourable members opposite would surely sympathise with it. Would they think it right that an Australian ship, financed by an Australian subsidy and owned by Australians should be crewed by persons who were not members of our own Seamen’s Union? Of course they would not. Why then would they think that the National Union of Seamen would take the view that a British ship, flying the British flag, subsidised by the British Government, owned by the British people and under temporarycharter to the Australian Government should be allowed to take on as crew members persons other than members of its union in Britain? Would not members of the Labor Party support this principle in the period of sensitivity that normally occurs when there is a change in technique and the introduction of methods such as containerisation? Why should we, by giving a subsidy and frying the British flag on an Australian charter ship with an Australian crew, expose the whole industrial position in Britain to the risk of industrial strife? We have seen how sensitive this situation can be. We have seen a completely senseless demarcation dispute on this matter taking place between two Australian unions. Would we say it was impossible that a demarcation dispute could take place between a British and an Australian union?
I am sure that the Government’s decision is right in this matter, ls it not much better to be in the clear and say: ‘This is an Australian ship and no industrial or demarcation disputes are likely to arise’? If the Leader of the Opposition has any other views, why does not he get a written guarantee from the National Union of Seamen in Great Britain that it would not object to this kind of thing? Having regard to the possibilities of the development of the industrial position in Great Britain, I believe that the Government’s decision is a wise and generous one. At the present time we have decided to enter the overseas shipping trade with the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Japan, and the Government is making arrangements under which we will participate in all three areas of trade. As the Minister for Trade and Industry has pointed out, it is important in this regard that we should be inside the Conference in order to get the necessary information which will help us in our negotiations. But honourable members opposite are disappointed with this move. They say: Why do you nol go further?’ The question of the carriage by Australian ships of only 50% of our trade was raised by the Leader of the Opposition. This is the kind of question with which 1 want to deal.
There are, perhaps, three factors which might slow down any set progress. The first is running costs. There is no doubt that our Australian seamen enjoy wage rates and working conditions which are better than those obtaining in other parts of the world. We like this, and it is good. But in point of fact it means that our costs are higher and that they full on both importers and exporters. For reasons of national advantage some extra costs, but not unlimited extra costs, can be borne. The second factor which might slow down progress is the provision of capital. Of course we are short of overseas capital. Although at present we have large balances overseas, we need an inflow of capital. We will not always need it. It might be that the reason of which I am speaking will become less cogent in the future than it is today. But at the present time, if we were to envisage entering the overseas shipping trade in a very large way, there would have to be a very large outflow of capital overseas for that purpose. The third factor which might slow down progress is the question of security. Naturally we are saying that in developing Australian industry - and I believe in the development of Australian industry - we want to have regard to Australian security. I hope that this will not be a continuing factor, but unfortunately, there are industrial and political reasons why an Australian fleet which was carrying a large part of Australia’s trade would not add to our security. It would detract from it. That is because of the Communist control of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. This is a matter about which honourable members opposite may laugh.
– Why have you allowed Russia and Yugoslavia, two Communist countries, to enter into the Australian trade?
– I think that honourable members, and in particular the honourable member for Newcastle, that well known listener in corridors, will be surprised by some of the facts that I will reveal.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that it was important for a country to have control over its own shipping services so that its government could evolve and maintain a national policy in the face of emergency, whether it be for imports to keep us alive or for exports to make our policy effective overseas. For this reason there is a good case to be made out for an increase in the Australian content of our merchant marine. But that case is, temporarily at any rate, vitiated by the fact that the Seamen’s Union of Australia, which is very largely in control of our shipping, is under Communist domination and is traitorously controlled.
I say this on the evidence of history. Let me point out first that in the period from 1939 to 1941, when there was a disgraceful alliance between the Communist and the Nazi Parties, the shipping unions, which were then Communist controlled, pursued a policy of sabotaging the war effort in the interests of Hitler. The alliance between Hitler and Stalin was an effective alliance, and it should be’ said, to the shame of our unions, that Australian seamen, who did not realise what they were doing but who were the pawns of leaders whose policy they did not understand, cooperated in this pro-Hitler policy of sabotaging the war effort. This is history. Later on, when Russia was on our side, it was different. But when we came to the time of the Korean War,theSeamen’s
Union, through the mouth of its Secretary, Mr Elliott, who is still its Secretary and still, I believe, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, endeavoured to sabotage Australian supplies to Korea. It did not succeed because at that stage the Australian Labor Party, to its credit, supported the free world.
– What has all this to do with the statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport?
– It has a lot to do with the statement.
– It has nothing to do with it.
– It has everything to do with the statement because it shows why it is difficult at this present moment to expand the operations of the Australian National Line. Unfortunately, the people who man the ships, although not traitors themselves, are under the control of traitors. Let me go further. I have spoken about the Korean affair. In this Vietnam affair at the present moment, because the Australian Labor Party is in alliance with the Communist Party on the Vietnam affair, it is possible for the Seamen’s Union to interdict our supplies to our own troops fighting in Vietnam.
– I raise a point of order. The statement by the Minister that the Australian Labor Party is in alliance with the Communist Party is offensive to me and I ask for its withdrawal.
– It has been the practice in this House that a general statement cannot be regarded as offensive. Only a statement referring to a particular individual in the House can be claimed to be offensive. Therefore, there is no substance to the point of order.
– On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I say that I appreciate that the Opposition is trying to take up my time.
– I point out to the Minister thatif he did not make this kind of irresponsible statement his time would not be wasted. I submit-that the point taken by the honourable member for Newcastle is quite valid. The statement by the Minister for Social Services is offensive to every member who sits on this side of the House. It refers to all members who sit on this side of the House. Because it is an irresponsible statement and because it is offensive to members of the Parliamentary Labor Party I ask that it be withdrawn.
-I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, what I pointed out to the honourable member for Newcastle in relation to the Standing Orders. There is no substance in the point of order.
– Whilst I do not wish to canvass your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I draw your attention to the fact that I am a member of the Australian Labor Party. I have been elected into this Parliament as a member of that Party. For the Minister to say that the Australian Labor Party has an alliance with the Communist Party does reflect on me. Therefore, I press for the withdrawal of the statement.
– Again I point out to the honourable member for Newcastle the rule that has been followed. This is a general statement. There is no comment about an individual and therefore there is no reflection upon any individual. In that regard, my ruling stands.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Would you ask the Minister to repeat the statement because I do not know whether-
-Order! The honourable member for Scullin will resume his seat.
– I say that in this case the policy of the Australian Labor Party is the same as the policy of the Communist Party.
– Is this on the point of order?
– In that case, I propose to move dissent from your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) [2.23J - I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
I submit my objection in writing. The reason for my moving dissent from your ruling is very briefly and basically this: The statement that was made by the Minister is offensive to me as a member of the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party is all-encompassing. It includes every member who sits on this side of the House. Therefore, if any member of that Party considers that the statement is offensive to him or to his Party, he should be entitled to ask for its withdrawal. As far as I am concerned, the statement is directed to me because I am a member of the Australian Labor Party. Any offensive statement that is directed to a party must be offensive to any member of it. It is wholly and solely on that basis that 1 dissent from your ruling. There should not be any difference between the statement the Minister has made and saying the honourable member for Newcastle has’ an alliance with the Communist Party. The Minister’s remark is just as offensive as if it were in direct terms. It indirectly includes me.
– I have no desire to canvass the argument that I put to the House only a few moments ago in relation to this matter, but I want to reiterate that the statement made by the Minister for Social Services was a completely irresponsible one for a so-called responsible Minister of this Parliament. To reflect in the way that he did on the integrity and political affiliations of honourable members on this side of the House does very little credit to the Minister and even less to the Government. There must be some honourable members who now sit on the Government side who would regret the statement that has been made by the Minister for Social Services. The point that was made by the honourable member for Newcastle is very pertinent to this question. The Minister for Social Services referred to members of the Australian Labor Party as having an alliance with the Communist Party and this reference must include all members of the Parliamentary Labor Party. The Minister knows that his allegation is not true. It is a despicable statement and if the Minister has any sense of decency at all he will do what the honourable member for Newcastle requested him to do at the time - withdraw the statement.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not want to canvass your ruling, but 1 regret that you have ruled in this way. It is very difficult to disassociate any member of the Parliamentary Labor Party from the statement that was made by the Minister for Social Services and he knows it. Indeed, he did not want any member on this side of the House to be dissociated from that statement. It is one of the ranting and irresponsible statements that this Minister has made in the House over a very long period. He has no concern for the feelings or rights of members of the Opposition. I suggest that since this was an offensive statement - equally as offensive as my suggesting that the Minister for Social Services is one of the most extreme Fascists in this House and in this country-
– That would be rapping him up.
– I think it would be. I appreciate the interjection. The Minister for Social Services gains no credit from this kind of statement. I have made the point that the statement is offensive to me and to every honourable member on this side of the House and we believe that the statement ought to be withdrawn by the Minister.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I must support your ruling and oppose the motion that has been moved by the Opposition. Let me put the circumstances clearly to the House. I have said - and this is the matter before the House - that in this case in Vietnam there is a distinction between the effect of what the Communist leaders in the Seamen’s Union were able to achieve and what they were able to achieve in the case of Korea. In respect of Korea they made statements which were ineffective, requiring ‘the Australian seamen to refuse to transport supplies to support our troops in Korea. They made these statements, but they were ineffective, and the reason that they were ineffective was that at that time the Labor Party supported the Korean operation. It acted as an Australian party. It supported the Australian troops in the field and there fore the Communists found themselves isolated and although they made statements asking for a refusal to transport supplies to our troops in Korea those statements were not effective. I contrasted that with what has happened in Vietnam recently, because recently the Communists in the Seamen’s Union have succeeded in stopping their members from transporting the normal supplies for the support of Australian troops who are fighting Australia’s enemies in Vietnam. The Communists have succeeded in this and the reason for the difference between the Korean experience and the Vietnam experience is that in Vietnam the Australian Labor Party supports the same policy as the Communist Party and the Australian Labor Party does it as a whole. It may be that individual members of the Australian Labor Party think differently.
– Throw him out.
-Order! The honourable member for East Sydney will resume his seat.
– We have had him.
-Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will cease interjecting.
– How these Christians love one another.
-Order! I would suggest that the House come to order. On this particular matter dissent has been moved from a ruling of the Chair. This subject is being debated and I would expect and hope that members would debate it in a manner in keeping with the Standing Orders.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Having explained the circumstances, I now come to the point of your ruling which I support and which the Opposition opposes. The Opposition says that this is not general but is a reflection on every individual member of the Labor Party. This is not so, because I know that the Labor Party is deeply divided on this issue. I know that there are members in the Labor Party who are - and I know that the vast majority of the people who vote for the Australian Labor Party are - Australian minded. They are not Communists. But I do know that in this particular matter the Australian Labor Party as a whole has voted for a policy and, in this House, has advocated a policy which is the same as the policy of the Communist Party. Unfortunately, because the Australian Labor Party is a totalitarian party in which discipline is rigidly enforced, every member of the Australian Labor Party in this House, whether he approves of this personally or not, still votes for the policy in this House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I am wondering just what relation these personal issues, which the Minister is bringing up, bear to the dissent motion. This is a dissent motion and the debate should revolve around it and the technicalities of it rather than the Minister performing in a way reminiscent of times past on adjournment motions when the moon has hung high above the House and the Minister has fixed his audience with a starry-faced gaze and harangued it on similar topics.
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable member for Oxley has made his point of order, and I would suggest that the Minister for Social Services has made his point in relation to the motion moved by the Opposition.
– I think not sufficiently^ Mr Deputy Speaker. The point that I am making is entirely relevant to the motion. The motion is dependent upon the assumption that a thing said about the Labor Party’s policy as a whole is offensive to every individual member of the Labor Party. What I have said about the Labor Party’s policy as a whole is true as is evidenced by statements in this House and elsewhere. There is no question about the truth of the statement.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. Not only have you ruled in such a way that the Opposition feels constrained to move a motion of dissent from your ruling but, I respectfully submit, you are now allowing the Minister to devote his speech entirely to the Parliamentary Labor Party. He is not dealing with the point at issue. I do not want to repeat the statement that was made by the Minister but we should be debating whether or not that statement is offensive to members on this side of the House. The Minister is now covering a wide range. This is not unusual for the Minister for Social Services. He has been able to get away with a great deal in this House.
-Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he is taking a point of order at this moment.
– I would hope that you would rule on this, Mr Deputy Speaker. The question before the Chair is whether the Minister’s statement was offensive. He has not repeated it. He was careful not to repeat it and because he has not repeated it I submit that he knows that it was offensive. In the opinion of honourable members from this side of the House, as submitted to you earlier by the honourable member for Newcastle, you should rule that the statement is offensive. I submit the Minister for Social Services should confine himself to the statement that he made.
-Order! The Minister for Social Services made the point that he was disagreeing with the motion in which the Opposition expressed dissent from the ruling of the Chair in relation to the earlier statement made by the Minister. In that respect the remarks of the Minister for Social Services were relevant. I did point out to the Minister before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised his point of order that I felt that the Minister had stated his reason for opposing the Opposition’s motion. May I again point out that I think the ‘Minister has made his point in opposing the motion.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If I may do so with respect, I endorse what you have said. I am speaking precisely to the Opposition’s motion that the Deputy Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
– I rise to a point of order. Will you tell me, Mr Deputy Speaker, under what standing order the Minister is now speaking? He has already spoken on this matter.
– While the Minister was speaking a point of order was raised. That point of order was dealt with by the Chair. The Minister still has time available to speak in this debate.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have pointed out that it is not necessary that every individual member of the Labor Party-
-Order! I point out to the Minister that the point that he is now making has already been made. I suggest that, having made the point, the Minister might in his discretion allow that point to stand.
– In view of your remarks, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I say that I think this point has been sufficiently made. I do not attribute this sentiment to every individual member of the Labor Party in this House. I know that many honourable members opposite are opposed to Communism. I do know, for example, that yesterday there was a 33-29 vote which divided the left from the right on this issue.
– I rise to a point of order. If the Minister has concluded I will not pursue the point of order, but I point out that he was deliberately disobeying the Chair. I think this ought to be brought to your notice, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– So far from deliberately disobeying the Chair, I was concurring with the view that the Chair had expressed. I believe that to say that the policy of the Labor Party as a whole is in congruence with that of the Communist Party is not an aspersion on every individual member of the Labor Party.
-Order! I point out that one statement made by the Minister is not correct. The Chair does not express an opinion in relation to a debate. The Chair expressed the opinion that the point which the Minister was endeavouring to make had been made. The relevance of the subject matter is not one for comment by the Chair.
– Of course, Mr Deputy Speaker. I point out that I have not made a reflection on every individual member of the Labor Party. This is entirely relevant to the point before the Chair and in relation to which I concur with your ruling. I say again that I believe that there are many individual members of the Labor Party, even in this House, who although they disapprove of the Party’s policy as a whole are dragged along with it. That is my belief and it is right that I should state it. As evidence of this I state that there was a certain 33-29 vote in the Labor caucus yesterday.
-Order! I point out to the Minister that there is a standing order which covers certain matters that I have referred to. I suggest that the Minister should consider that fact so that it will not be necessary for me to apply the standing order.
– The Opposition does not propose a motion of dissent lightly. The Opposition recognises that a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chairman, or in this case of the Deputy Speaker, is a matter of some moment in the Parliament and should be considered by everybody as one of importance. We are placing the matter before the House for its decision. The subject under discussion is whether remarks made generally about a political party and which would be offensive if applied to any individual are equally offensive to the individual when made in this House. In the ordinary sense of the word you might say that they are not; but in the context of Australian politics, with allegations of Communism and McCarthyism and the general smearing tactics we have seen for the last two decades, I claim that to assert that a major political party is under this sort of influence is so offensive in general terms that it applies to each one of us as an individual. Therefore I as an individual and the honourable member for Newcastle as an individual are entitled to ask for a withdrawal. In asking for a withdrawal we ask for the protection of the House against such tactics applied by any individual against us.
The honourable the Minister for Social Services - and I use the term in its technical sense - asserted that our policy in this instance was the same as that of the Communist Party. Irrespective of the merits of the case the statement made by the Minister is inaccurate. At no time has any leader of the Australian Labor Party - either the former leader, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) or the present leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam) - or the leaders of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or any of the trade unions associated with the Labor Party ever given their support to the Seamen’s Union in placing a ban or attempting to place a ban. I am placing before the House facts on which I hope honourable members will exercise their judgment and which they should be well aware of - facts which not only make the Minister’s remarks offensive but show them to be false.
– This has nothing whatever to do with the motion of dissent.
-Order! 1 inform the Minister for Shipping and Transport that the motion for dissent relates to the ruling of the Chair as to whether a particular statement was offensive to an individual as a member of a Party or to tn.; Party as such. I would suggest that the honourable member for Wills has made his point and that debate in regard to it should not continue. If it does, the House could become involved in a full scale debate on a matter which, although it may be related to the motion of dissent, does not actually form the basis of the motion.
– With proper respect, 1 opened my remarks by saying that a debate on a motion for dissent from the ruling of the Chair was a major debate and that the Standing Orders made provision for full time for each speaker. The Standing Orders make full provision for such a debate just as they do for any other debate. The point at issue is this: Are the remarks offensive? If they are offensive, in what way are they offensive? I am busy outlining why these remarks are offensive to the Labor Party. I am saying that they are false, that there is. no basis for the Minister to associate the Labor Party with the Communist Party, and that therefore the House ought to reject the remarks. We seek the protection of the House in seeking the withdrawal of these remarks. We say that the use of McCarthyism in Australian politics, the use of smearing tactics, and the use of generalities of this sort ought not to be tolerated. To make an attack upon members of this Party by saying that they are disloyal, tha they are un-Australian and that they ar helping Australia’s enemies is offensive to every one of us, collectively and individually.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is no reason for me to be misquoted in this way. I have made it quite clear that what I have said does not apply to every member of the Australian Labor Party.
– The honourable the Minister for Social Services, again in inverted commas, referred to a ballot con ducted yesterday in which I was involved and in which he implied that this covered-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, one phrase used by the honourable gentleman was ‘the honourable the Minister in inverted commas’. Perhaps you did not hear it. I would suggest that one of the essential parts of the conduct of debates in this House is that the proper title is used for all honourable members. The Minister for Social! Services is entitled to the title ‘honourable’ and to suggest that it should be in inverted commas is not-
– This is not a point of order.
-The honourable member for East Sydney will resume his seat.
– He has not said what his point is. He has not taken it.
-Order! The honourable member for East Sydney will resume his seat and I suggest that the House come to order. If the House is not prepared to follow the suggestion that it come to order, I will take action to see that it does come to order. I think there is a point in the matter raised by the Minister for Immigration and I suggest that the honourable member for Wills take note of it. Just prior to the Minister for Immigration taking his point of order, the honourable member was going on to mention a particular subject matter. He will recall that I called the Minister for Social Services to order before the Minister developed the argument.
– He takes charge of the House.
-Order! The honourable member for Watson will cease interjecting.
– He takes charge of it every time.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Watson that he should not continue to interject. For a particular reason, I do not want to take action, but if honourable members will not take note of my suggestion the Standing Orders will have to be enforced. In the circumstances I suggest to the honourable member for Wills also that he take note of what the Chair said previously when the Minister for Social Services was speaking.
– As a matter of fact, 1 think the point taken by the Minister for Immigration is well taken and I withdraw any imputations about the honourable member in that regard. In fact I think this highlights exactly what we are trying to say. that this House has a very tender approach to the rights of honourable members when it comes to offensive language used about them. If I used the word ‘honourable’ in such a way as to be offensive, I withdraw it, but the motives imputed to us by the Minister for Social Services are much more worthy of being withdrawn. Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope you will reverse your ruling. If you are not able to do so, I hope the House will remember what its duty is. I remind the House that the Minister for Social Services has cast aspersions on the alternative government of Australia. He implied that we are disloyal and un-Australian. He used statements that are quite false, that have no basis in fact. I submit that to protect the House and its future integrity, the ruling of Mr Deputy Speaker should be dissented from.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. May I ask you, Sir, for a ruling? Firstly, is it a fact that the Communist Party in this country is not banned? I have been listening to this debate and I wonder. at the public reaction.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order raised by the honourable member for La Trobe and at this stage there is no ruling from the Chair on it.
– Am I entitled to speak to the motion?
– Yes, the honourable member for La Trobe may speak to the motion.
– I have listened to the debate. I oft times wonder what the reaction of the public may be to what happens on such occasions as this. Ministers take a point, the Chair gives a ruling and honourable members on the other side get up and take objections. I would like to ask you, Sir, or somebody in charge of this House, to answer two questions, if I may. The first is this: Is the Communist Party banned in this country? If anybody on this side of the House or anybody else has a feeling, whether it be right or wrong, that there is similarity between the outlook of an individual member or a member of a party, what is the responsibility of the Chair to protect a party? The second point I would like to make is this: Is it not a fact that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has disproved what is being said by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) by his public charges in Victoria that there is infiltration, that there is influence within the Party on the other side that is Communist?
-I suggest to the honourable member for La Trobe that he is now developing a debate that is not relevant to the motion before the Chair.
– I have finished, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I rather regret that the House is spending its time on this trite and fatuous performance of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). It is not without some point for me, because only last Monday night at a public meeting on Aboriginal affairs 1 said some very kind things about the Minister for Social Services. I think he can and will make a valuable contribution in this area. We have noticed since he became a Minister a general improvement in the standard of his performance in the House. But his action today is a regression to the irresponsible performance that was typical of him when he was a back bench member. It is a shame that we have to waste our time on a trite and fatuous thing such as this is. The Minister will obtain a great deal of publicity because of the furore that has exploded over this issue, but I suggest to him that the sort of publicity and the public acclaim that he will receive-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Oxley that the point he is making at the moment has no relevance to the motion before the Chair. I suggest to him that he consider the reasons for the moving of this motion in the first place.
– I accept your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. I come to the actual subject that the Minister raised. He said that an alliance exists over a particular matter between the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party. I think we ought to make a number of points quite clear. The Communist Party is an independent political party in this country. We do and always have regarded it as our competitor at the poll. We try to defeat that Party in the same way as we try to defeat the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Indeed, it would seem that the Liberal Party has stood to gain more by the presence of the Communist Party in the Australian midst than the Australian Labor Party has because of the McCarthyist type of irrational emotionalism that it has been able to generate. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) made this point.
That is the first point I want to make. We have no alliance with the Communist Party and we regard it as our competitor and our opponent. Indeed, my Party has made it quite clear on a number of occasion’s that it is totally opposed to the way in which the Communist Party wants to work and the things it wants to do. We are a democratic party. We have accepted the parliamentary procedures in our society. We want to work through them. We respect the restrictions that exist in the sort of democratic society in which we live and we are prepared to work within these restrictions to try to achieve evolutionary progress towards our democratic socialist goal. But we find repugnant the suggestion that we have an alliance with the Communist Party. It is our competitor.
The next point is the meaning of the word ‘alliance’. According to the dictionary, an alliance indicates a friendly union between states, nations, parties, etc., especially by treaty or pact. We do not have any treaty and we do not have any pact. We have made this point on a number of occasions. I did not hear the interjection from the Government benches, but if the honourable member is indicating support for the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) I am surprised, because :it would be out of step with the principles he has enunciated in the House and outside the House in the’ past. If he is riot indicating support then I withdraw that comment. Again I say that the dictionary clearly shows that there must be some - sort -of friendly undertaking. We have no friendly undertaking with the Communist Party. I stress that we regard its members as opponents and competitors. We want to eliminate them from the political scene in the same way as we want to eliminate the Country Party, the Liberal Party and the Democatric Labor Party. We want to achieve office independently and to carry out those policies which our Party has described from time to time, as it does at elections. No alliance exists. The Minister for Social Services has no evidence and can produce none to substantiate his claim that an alliance does exist. It is not good enough to say, as he does, that the Communist Party stands for certain things and then to attack a situation that existed in relation to the Seamen’s Union and say: ‘The Seamen’s Union did this, therefore the Labor Party is also involved*. In fact, as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) pointed out, this is not true. Then, taking thu further, the Minister misrepresents this situation by saying it is an alliance. This is completely untrue. I made these two important points, that the Communist Party is a competitor of ours and that there is no alliance. It is a reflection on individual members in the Australian Labor Party for the Minister to claim that an alliance does exist. He concedes this. It is a reflection upon and it is repugnant to all members of the Australian Labor Party and to the Party as a whole, because it is a corporate body, for him to make this sort of claim.
-Order! I have made the point during the whole of the debate on this motion that it is justifiable for a member to indicate why he agrees or disagrees with the motion. I do not think that the discussion should then develop into a debate on the Communist Party and factors relating to that Party. As I have said to every other speaker, to debate that matter is to go outside the ambit of the motion.
– With a great deal of respect to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would suggest that you misunderstand the situation. We are moving dissent from your ruling. Your ruling is on whether or not what the Minister said is offensive to the members of this Party. We say that it ““is offensive. The Minister claims ‘ it is not and you have upheld his claim. I am trying to establish to you some of the bases on which we say this claim is offensive and I suggest to you, with the greatest of respect, that if you rule in this way you are in fact preventing any debate taking place on the very core of this argument, which is: Is what the Minister said offensive to the Australian Labor Party or is it not? This is what we want to establish. I suggest to you that it is. I have indicated a couple of reasons why. We have no truck with members of the Communist Party. They are our competitors and we bulk them together with your Party, the Liberal Party and all of our other competitors in the political spectrum. We have no alliance with them. It is not good enough for the Minister to say in this exclusionary fashion that some members of the Party would be justified in feeling insulted. The Party itself and all members are justified in feeling insulted because the Party is a corporate body and people join it of their own free will. They make a free decision after carefully assessing what the Party stands for, what its policies are, what its involvement is and what its commitments are. Certainly one of the commitments which a member of the Party makes when joining is to sign a pledge stating - amongst other things - that he has no truck with the Communist Party. Having made this clear and definite declaration he has committed himself to the Australian Labor Party and what it stands for, and it is therefore offensive for someone like the Minister to stand in this House and to deny these things, to deny the virtues which the Labor Party has established and to which it demands that its members adhere. It is offensive for him to stand in this House and deny these things in a few words and impugn the character of so many people in the community. You know as well as I do, Mr Deputy Speaker, why the Minister for Social Services has done this. It is an unfortunate deficiency in his personality.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Oxley that he is now transgressing Standing Orders. If he continues along this line I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– In what regard, Mr Deputy Speaker? Is it in my reference to the Minister?
-The honourable member for Oxley has been in this House long enough, I am sure, to appreciate the Standing Orders. I indicated earlier to him why this motion of dissent was being moved, and I have ruled in regard to the debatable element of this matter. I would suggest to the honourable member for Oxley that he pay attention to these things.
– What the Minister said was offensive and continues to be offensive to members of the Australian Labor Party and to the Australian Labor Party as a whole. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, are therefore wrong and we are therefore justified in moving dissent from your ruling when you dismissed our objection to what the Minister said. Finally, if it seems that I am in some confusion in my understanding of the Standing Orders of mis House I would respectfully suggest that that is because of the inconsistent and biased way in which those Standing Orders are applied from time to time in the conduct of the business of this House.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley has reflected upon the Chair and I would suggest to him that upon reflection he might withdraw the remarks he made in relation to the Chair.
– I will withdraw, if it is necessary.
– I rise to a point of order. When the House is debating a ruling of the Chair, this is a reflection by its very nature upon the Chair. Therefore, it seems to me quite illogical to say that in moving such a motion a member of the House shall not criticise the Chair and shall not say that the Chair is biased, because this is the whole purpose of the motion, which is to show that the Chair is wrong. It is to reflect upon the Chair. Therefore, I submit that the honourable member for Oxley and any other member is free to criticise the Chair when such a motion is being debated.
-In regard to the point of order made by the honourable member for Yarra, a motion of dissent is a disagreement with the Chair. It is accepted as part and parcel of our parliamentary institution and of our system of government The remarks of the honourable member for Oxley were such as to imply that bias had been exhibited by the Chair not only in relation to this motion, and that this was the reason for his lack of understanding and appreciation of the Standing Orders. If the honourable member for Yarra desires to support that, he is entitled to his own opinion, whatever that opinion might be. I would not wish either to contradict him or to persuade him otherwise. He has his own conscience and his own thoughts. I told the honourable member for Oxley that I felt that on reflection he would withdraw the remarks that he made in relation to the bias of the Chair and I still suggest to the honourable member for Oxley that that might be the better course of action.
– You have said that I have impugned the Chair for being inconsistent and biased, which is true, and I therefore withdraw.
– As I will be called upon to vote on this motion very shortly, I do not want to vote without letting the House know my feelings on the subject. First of all, I do not appreciate what has been said by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) any more than the Labor Party does. But after all, I have been here for a long time and I have heard things of this sort said about collective bodies like the Labor Party many a time and this is not an attack on any individual. Therefore I think that the ruling is right. This is the very reverse of what generally happens in this House. Someone makes an attack on a certain member and the member immediately says: ‘Say that outside the House’. Quite the opposite applies in this case. If the Minister’s remarks had been made outside the House no successful action could have been taken against him. The Labor Party knows this. The Minister’s statement was not directed at any individual. How often have members of the Country Party been accused of being Socialists because of our stand on wheat stabilisation or water conservation? Members of the Labor Party have accused members of the Country Party of being Socialist;, but we have not taken offence because we know that we are not Socialists, and we know that the people know that we are not Socialists.
This incident has been enlarged out of all proportion to its true dimensions. Statements that have been made in this place since the Minister made his remark have been far more damaging than was the Minister’s remark. I have never accused anybody in this place, be he a member of the Labor Party or any other party, of being a Communist. Search as you will in Hansard or any other record and you will not find any accusation by me that anybody in this place is a Communist. Surely the Labor Party can ride a statement such as this. Surely the people know that the Labor Party is not Communist. The statement has been made. Why should the Labor Party get so het up about it and draw attention 10 it by acting as it has done this afternoon? The Minister did not refer to the Parliamentary Labor Party; he referred to the Labor Party. This is the entire Labor organisation throughout Australia. In my opinion the statement means nothing. If somebody said that the Country Party is allied with the Communists would we take offence? Of course not. We know that we are not associated with the Communist Party. The people of Australia know it. I say to the Labor Party: Why not adopt the same attitude?
– It is a great pity that the time of the House should be taken up with this matter at all. I regret very much that anybody should take any notice of anything which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) says. The object of this House is the maintenance of proper order and decency in it. When a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair is moved it is the responsibility of each honourable member to exercise his vote in the interests of the maintenance of decent order in this House. I submit to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to honourable members on both sides of the House that if honourable members are allowed to make statements like those frequently made by the Minister for Social Services, disorder of the kind we have witnessed today will be a frequent occurrence.
– Like you and the police.
– Even the honourable member for La Trobe should be interested in the maintenance of a better standard in this House than that to which he frequently contributes.
– I say that you–
– If the honourable member would like to have this matter discussed here or anywhere else where we are not restricted by the Standing Orders, I will be happy to accommodate him.
– That is all right with me.
– The honourable member can make his own arrangements about that. What is happening here is an illustration of what will happen if the House encourages conduct that is characteristic of the Minister whose remark provoked this disorder and of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), who continuously provokes this kind of disorder. I should think that those people would be concerned with order, decency and fair play in this House. If their tactics are maintained disorder and lack of reputation will be the characteristics of this House. I have listened to this debate for the last 30 minutes or so and if anybody suggests that anything that has been said in that time has contributed to the reputation of this House, in my opinion his judgment is poor. I would imagine that nothing said here in this debate has increased the reputation of anybody concerned with it. If those people who are so anxious that order should be maintained in the country are to play on like this in the national Parliament they can have very little room for complaint about other people who behave in a disorderly way outside the Parliament - people who do not have the reputation or the standing of a member of this Parliament.
I submit that the question at issue here is: How do we arrive at what is offensive? Who judges what is offensive? It has been my impression that the Standing Orders presuppose that what is offensive is judged by the person upon whom the attack is made. Who is in a better position to say something is offensive than the man to whom the alleged offensive remark is directed? Would it be reasonable to ask the Minister for Social Services to judge whether a remark is offensive to the Australian Labor Party or to the left wing of the Party? That would be like asking President Nasser to judge what is offensive to the state of Israel. It would be like asking the Jewish people to judge what would be offensive to Adolf Hitler. It would be just as reasonable to expect an independent unbiassed judgment from the Minister as it would be in the cases I have illustrated. In arriving at your judgments you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and honourable members, should be influenced considerably by the view of the person or persons upon whom the attack is made.
– What do the Standing Orders say?
– If the honourable member for Evans would show a little more sympathy with viewpoints other than his own–
– What about the Standing Orders?
– I am asking the honourable member to use his judgment as to how the Standing Orders should be applied. When a group of persons claim that a remark about them is offensive, they are the only people in a position to judge the issue. If something is said about a members of the Labor Party or the Labor Party as a whole there is no judge of the offensiveness of the remark other than the man who is the victim of it. I believe that this is the presupposition that underlies the Standing Orders because on the few occasions when matters like this have arisen we know what has happened. An honourable member claims that something that has been said is offensive to him. That is the end of the matter. The person who has made the statement is asked to withdraw it. From time to time the Chair requires only the evidence that the man who was the victim of the statement regards the remark as offensive and the matter is then complete. If the Speaker or Deputy Speaker rules properly he says: ‘The honourable member concerned considers the remark to be offensive, and it should be withdrawn’. The matter is then complete. When we allow the offensiveness of a statement about the Labor Party as a whole to be the subject of debate the matter becomes impossible of resolution. How can anybody say that a statement that the Labor Party is under Communist influence applies to some members of the Party and not to others? The statement applies to every member of the organisation at which the criticism is levelled.
– Your own leader said it.
– It does not matter what the Leader of the Opposition said. If the Leader said it, it may be as offensive as if the Minister for Social Services said it. We are not now debating who said it; we are debating what is offensive and to whom it applies. It makes no difference if the Leader of the Opposition or anyone else makes a statement. The question is whether it is offensive. Can any member of the Labor Party rightly claim it is offensive to him when it was made about the Labor Party as a whole? I submit that he can and I submit that this is a reasonable and proper way to interpret the matter. I am asking the House to interpret it in a reasonable and proper way. Honourable members should put aside their political prejudices and look at this objectively. When a statement is made that the Labor Party is contaminated with Communism or is an agent of a foreign power, or some other similar statement is made about the Labor Party as a whole, a fair and reasonable interpretation is that the statement applies to every member of the Labor Party. If I make a statement that the Australian Country Party is a Party of hillbillies or is under the influence of hillbillies, that statement applies to every member of the Country Party and I would think that every member of the Country would be quite right in saying: ‘I regard that as offensive to me’.
– I raise a point of order. We are debating a question relating to a political party. I submit that the duty of the Chair in this House is to protect individual members of the House and not a political party as a whole.
-Order! The point is that a motion of dissent from the Chair’s ruling has been moved. The Chair has ruled that the statement of the Minister for Social Services was in accordance with the Standing Orders as they have been interpreted in this House. They have not been interpreted so as to require the withdrawal of a statement made about a political party in general. That is the point behind the motion for dissent
– I rise to order. If the honourable member is correct, would it be in order for me to classify the Liberal Party as pro-Nazi Fascist?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– In conclusion I ask the House to carry this motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair. I believe that a better standard than has prevailed today should be set in this House. I believe we should try to establish better order than we have seen in the last three-quarters of an hour. I believe that unless some restriction is placed on members like the Minister for Social Services and others, disorder will spread in this House and from time to time members will consider, on proper and adequate grounds, that remarks that are made are offensive to them. This will bring about at situation that will militate against the reputation of this House both in the House itself and in the community at large. That reputation needs lifting rather than lowering, because the average view of our reputation taken by members of the public is that it is not nearly as good as it should be. I believe also that unless the feelings of the particular person to whom an allegedly offensive remark is made are fully taken into account in determining what is offensive and what is not, the situation will continue to be unsatisfactory.
I also believe that those who may be motivated by political or other prejudices should put aside those prejudices in judging what is offensive. Lastly, I believe that if we are to continue to debate motions such as the one now before the Chair, sooner or later the standing of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker - whoever is involved - will be called into question, and the kinds of things that have been said in relation to the conduct of the Deputy Speaker will be increasingly said in this House. I suggest that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, should be concerned with your reputation as an occupant of the Chair as well as the reputation of this House. If these things are kept in mind then the standard of conduct that we have seen in the last hour will be considerably improved. I believe the best way to correct the situation that has arisen and to establish a better standard is to carry the motion before the Chair.
– The member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has tried to hide behind the apron strings of Standing Orders. That is really all he is doing. I acknowledge the fact that he said that this debate did not bring great credit to the Parliament. I think this is so, but it does not excuse him for trying to take advantage of this situation to protect his own point of view. His argument about the remarks being offensive would be a good one if it were not such a plausible one and if there was not so much humbug about it. All of us know, because we can read them in the Press from time to time, the views of the honourable member’s own leader about the Victorian executive of the Labor Party. If the Labor Party in general finds remarks such as those we are discussing today offensive, then one would not expect the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) to take the view of the Victorian executive that we all know he does take. That is really what the debate is about - is there truth in the contention or not? It is on this basis you have the question before you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I appreciate the great difficulty in which you are placed.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. Have you at any stage considered, when deciding on your ruling, whether the statement of the Minister is true or not? It seems to me that this is what the honourable member for Angas is saying.
– No, I am not. In answer to the member for Corio, what I did say was that his own leader-
– I raise a point of order. I suggest that the honourable member for Angas must correctly refer to the honourable member for Corio and the honourable member for Yarra and not to the member for Corio and the member for Yarra.
– I will remember those comments at question time next time it comes around because it is a rarity to hear members of the Opposition use the courtesy title on those occasions. The problem here is to get back to the point at issue. The honourable member for Werriwa has put on record over and over again that he disapproves of the alliance - and I think that is one of the terms in dispute - between : a section of his own Party, and- also the Victorian executive of the- Austraiian- Labor
Party, and sections of the Communist Party. You will notice, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I do not use the term ‘influenced by’. We on this side have not started this debate on the motion to dissent from your ruling. It was started by honourable members of the Opposition. I do not know why the Opposition is so sensitive to these remarks. If we were accused of being Nazis, what would we do? We would laugh because we know very well that there would be no truth in the accusation. If the Opposition is oversensitive on this matter it cannot blame us.
I want to make just one more point. What is the position as regards unity tickets today? I do not know; I will be quite frank about that. But I have heard of no attempts by the Parliamentary Labor Party to do away with unity tickets and alliances, if one likes to use that term, between a section of the Labor Party and the Communist Party. I except the Leader of the Opposition, who has expressed his disapproval. On the one hand he has accepted a situation while on the other hand he has made it quite plain that he is not happy with the alliance between the Labor Party and sections of the Communist Party in Victoria. We have not started this, but if members of the Opposition want to get up and debate a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Deputy Speaker, they cannot blame us for it.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, you would not allow honourable members on this side of the House to debate the matters which the Minister for Social Services has raised, but you have now allowed the honourable member for Angas to introduce completely fresh matter into this debate. I ask you to rule in the same way for both sides of the House.
– It is not often that I rise in this kind of a debate. After having served under quite a number of Speakers in this chamber, I have listened to this debate with a great deal of regret. The first thing I want to say, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that I appreciate fully your difficulty in ruling on a subject matter such as that which we are now discussing. For the life of me I do not see how your ruling is not contrary to the intention of standing order 76. It would be much better if the Minister for
Social Services (Mr Wentworth) were to read standing order 76 and then think in terms of what he said today. Standing order 76 is quite clear, lt states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members-
It is plural, not singular - shall be considered highly disorderly.
– The Minister referred to the Party, not to the members of it.
– That is the point I am raising. Let me make myself clear. 1 do not care what the Minister said when he was a private member sitting on the back benches with the chaff. But I am concerned with the standard of government in this country. If the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) thinks that he can choose Ministers who provide the type of standard which we have seen today, then this Government is destroying the standards of the national Parliament in this country. It is any wonder that the independent candidate in the byelection which was held last Saturday obtained 18% of the votes cast, when we see ministerial standards of the type which has been set today? It may well be that this House, or some members of it, do not care for standards. But I am concerned at the general deterioration in the standards of this National Parliament over the last decade. Over the last decade we have seen in this House a general falling away of the national standards which are essential if the morality of this country is to be maintained at the desired and necessary level’. If the Prime Minister appoints to the Cabinet of this Government a Minister who is prepared to throw stigmas on any section of the House without clearly defining what he is saying, then what he is doing is reducing the standard of this House to that of some backyard debating society. That is the position in which we find ourselves today. The debate today has shown that the standard of this Parliament is not equivalent to the standard maintained in many school organisations which are conducted by school children.
– It is a barnyard debate.
– No, it is worse than a barnyard debate because in a barnyard debate the cockerels know what they are crowing about. Today we heard a
Minister cast asperations on a party and then say: ‘But you divide the party into groups; some groups are good and some are bad; some are Communist and some are not’.
– That is true.
– Here is an honourable member who has come into this House in recent time. This is the point I am making: The standards of this House and of the people who are coming into it are deteriorating. As I have said, this is the reason why the independent candidate in the by-election which was held in Western Australia last Saturday obtained 18% of the vote. I have been in the trade union movement for 30 years. Nobody can say that at any time I was associated with Communists or did anything other than to try to thwart what might be the objectives and ends of the Communists. The Minister for Social Services said that a great percentage of the members of a party in this House are allied with Communists. On hearing that statement, the first thing that those who would damage the Labor Party would ask is: ‘Who are the Communists in the Labor Party?’ The first people they would look at would be the trade unionists. I say to the Minister for Social Services that I had hoped that when he assumed ministerial office he would set a much higher standard than he set in this House while he was sitting amongst the chaff. We find that ministerial office has not changed the outlook or standards of the Minister who made this accusation today.
I have been a chairman of some kind of organisation during the last 30 years. I am always loath to vote against a chairman’s ruling at any time. If, sometimes, a chairman in a trade union organisation makes a mistake in all honesty and decency, he knows that at least 25% of those who are in front of him will support him and will vote for his ruling, even though he is wrong. But when one becomes a member of this chamber one expects much higher standards to exist than those which obtain in a trade union organisation or a progress society or some other organisation. Here we are setting national standards for the people. All that honourable members opposite are doing at this stage is destroying - perhaps unconsciously - the democracy of Australia. They are not setting a standard.
Today the Minister did not consider the position in which he was placing the Chair which had to disregard the Standing Orders and make a ruling on the question of practice. Mr Deputy Speaker, I could take you back to the period when a Speaker who belonged to the same political party as the present Speaker would have immediately asked for a withdrawal of subject matter such as that which was raised today. That Speaker is now dead and gone, but I worked under him. If we dared to say that there was a Fascist tendency in the Liberal Party, no member had to take a point of order. We were immediately called to order by the Speaker because he observed a standard in the chamber. He was tough and hard, but he was honest in the carrying out of the Standing Orders, and he had great moral convictions Wit- respect to the standards of the national Parliament.
If honourable members opposite are going to destroy this standard, they will destroy the Parliament and they will destroy democracy. Never mind saying that one can brand a party without branding the individuals in that party. Anybody who speaks in that tone of voice fails to appreciate that the very basis of a wellconducted democracy is party politics based on a government and an opposition. If the Minister for Social Services had any conception of the position which he holds he would not dare to cast the stigma that he did today against a section of the members of Her Majesty’s Opposition. If he were honest, sincere and decent he would go to the electorate and brand an individual as a party politician where he stood.
This will be my last Parliament. I was hoping that somewhere along the line, before the general election this year, we would return to the kind of standards which I enjoyed when I first became a member of this Parliament. When I was first elected to this Parliament I enjoyed leadership from the Chair, from the party members and from the Executive. Members respected one another, parties respected one another, and we were not subjected, at ministerial level, to the filthy insinuations which we have heard today. At the end of 20 years it leaves me sad to see Parliament degenerate to the stage where standards are lower than those experienced in a progress society debate on whether a school should or should not have certain books. If this national Parliament fails, this nation fails. If its standards fall to a level as low as that to which the Minister took them today, do not quibble if the whole standard of national morale falls by the wayside as well. At least we are entitled to expect honourable members opposite at the ministerial level to set a standard that will give everybody else guidance instead of putting the Deputy Speaker in the position where he has to rule on this kind of thing.
I say to members of this House: For God’s sake, think what you are doing, even if not for yourselves. Never mind about your dirt or filth. Remember that you are Australians in a national Parliament, sent here, we hope, to set a standard of guidance to the Australian people from ons end of the country to the other, not only in your debates but in other matters in which high standards can be set. There is no need for this kind of filth in these debates. There is no need for this kind of insinuation in debates. If people are big enough they do not resort to abuse. If this is the state to which this Parliament is to degenerate, what we have seen happen in France is nothing to what we will see happen in this Parliament in the next five decades.
- It is perhaps just as well from the viewpoint of the Australian Labor Party that the proceedings of this House this afternoon have not been on the air, because I do not think this has been its finest hour. Honourable members opposite are taking up the time of the House debating what is an insubstantial motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, when there are several more important matters on the business paper. It is their right to move a motion of dissent. It is my right - and I now exercise it - to point out that this motion is utterly insubstantial. The insubstantiality of it can be demonstrated by reference to a few of the remarks that were made by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). This motion is concerned with the question whether remarks alleging that a particular form of influence is being exercised on the Australian Labor Party are a reflection upon individual members of that Party in this House. That is the gist of the matter. The honourable member for Yarra, when making his speech, was reminded by some kindly interjections from’ this side that his own leader, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), had on previous occasions made the very allegations which the Opposition is complaining about this afternoon.
For the purposes of debating this motion, it is not any part of my task to examine the accuracy of this allegation of extraneous political influence on the Australian Labor Party, but it is important to bear in mind that the leader of the Australian Labor Party has said time and again that his own party is the victim of this form of extraneous and evil political influence. I leave the House to judge the correctness or otherwise of the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition. Surely the point is this: The honourable member for Yarra, to whose speech I listened carefully, when reminded by way of interjection that his own leader had made the allegations about his own party which are now complained of, said words to this effect: ‘Never mind about what the Leader says. I do not care what my leader says’. That may be yet another manifestation of the cordial loyalty that is extended by the honourable member for Yarra to the Leader of the Opposition. I pass by the examination of that’ possibly interesting question. But if, as was the clear drift of his remarks in reply to interjections, the honourable member for Yarra does not mind his own leader making this allegation against his own Party, namely that it is influenced by the Communist Party or Communism, why should he mind when someone on this side of the House makes the very same allegation?
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member is making misleading statements. He was not in the Parliament when the Minister made his irresponsible statement. The Minister did not utter the words that the honourable member alleges. The honourable member should have been in the House listening to the Minister. He would then have known what the Minister said. The Minister did not make the remarks referred to by the honourable member for Parkes.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I return to my theme and I will be very brief in what I have to say.
– Shut up.
– I will not shut up, because I do not think you are particularly enjoying this. I will prolong your agony a little longer. The point I come back to is this: The insubstantial character and the trumpery nature of the Opposition’s motion with which it is taking up so much time, is proved merely by reference to what the honourable member for Yarra said this afternoon. He said: ‘I do not care what my leader says about allegations of Communism or Communist influence in the Australian Labor Party’. If he does not care what his leader says - we know that he and his leader are not exactly of common mind about all things - why is this motion being pressed this afternoon at great expense of time when this Parliament has other more important, more significant and better things to do?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Parkes. He said that I said a few minutes ago that I do not care what the Leader of the Opposition said. I said: T do not care what the Leader said. It has no relevance to this motion.’
– I raise a point of order.
– The honourable member can raise his point of order when I have finished my personal explanation. 1 said that what the Leader of the Opposition said had no relevance to this motion. I said that if what the Minister for Social Services had to say was offensive, whether or not anyone else had said the same thing did not make it any less offensive.
– Was your own leader offensive?
– I said ‘if. I do not know what the honourable member is claiming. I have never heard the Leader of the Opposition make any statement similar to that of the Minister for Social Services. Several members on the Government side this afternoon have said that he did but they have not produced one atom of proof and they do not care whether it is true or not. I said that I did not care what the Leader of the Opposition said because it had no relevance whatever to this debate and this motion. I do not want to have my remarks distorted by the honourable member for Parkes or any other member in this House.
– I just wish to add a few words in support of the motion that has been moved. Before proceeding, though, let me say that in listening to the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) one would regard his reasoning not as that of an eminent Queen’s Counsel but more that of a member of the legal profession appearing before the small debts court. I do not wonder that he loses so many cases in court if he assesses them as he has judged this position. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) reminds me, the thrill of a lifetime would be to be on trial for murder with the honourable member for Parkes defending. I wish to address my remarks now to standing order 76, which reads:
Would it be objectionable if I said that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was a secret agent being paid by the Kremlin for carrying out his side of a bargain in relation to spying activities? That would be offensive to the Minister, would it not?
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Grayndler - and I should like to point this out to the House at this particular moment - that the ruling that I have given was based on an interpretation of Standing Orders. Reference has been made to standing orders 75 and 76 by the honourable member for Blaxland. Both standing orders, according to my interpretation as Deputy Speaker, refer to members as individuals, and that has been the ruling of the Chair. Some honourable members who have spoken have suggested that the Chair has, in its ruling, supported what was said by the Minister for Social Services, but this has no relevance. The ruling of the Chair was an interpretation of the Standing Orders as such. I think that the honourable member for Grayndler has been trying to make a point by referring to the Minister for Social Services as an individual.
I remind honourable members that while they are debating the matter that is before the Chair they should pay regard to the Standing Orders in relation to reflections on individual members of the House. I suggest that they observe the Standing Orders in that regard.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Where, in standing orders 75 and 76, is there reference to individual members of the House?
-Order! As well as interrupting the time of the honourable member for Grayndler, the point of order taken by the honourable member for Reid is irrelevant. The Standing Orders refer to members, and the Minister for Social Services referred to a party and the practice of this House has not been to regard such a reference as applying to individual members. The honourable member for Reid’s point of order is the point of dissention with the Chair at the moment. It is on the ruling on that point that this debate is being conducted.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raised my point of order because I distinctly heard the honourable member for Mackellar say - and these words will be recorded in Hansard: ‘I have made it quite clear it does not refer to all members of the Labor Party’. In other words it refers to some members of the Labor Party, and therefore under standing orders 75 and 76 the statement should be withdrawn. That is why we stand clearly behind the motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I listened with interest to your interpretation but I again repeat standing order 75 which states:
No Member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any member of the Judiciary, or against any statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
When a member refers collectively to the whole House I am included so any member can be offended if he takes exception to certain statements. According to your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, I could say to all honourable members opposite that they are paid agents of the Kremlin on secret commissions and working for an enemy country against the interests of this country. Do you mean to suggest that I can apply that smear to all members opposite? Can I say to members of the Country Party: You are guilty of treason because you are selling wheat to our enemy today?’ Does any honourable member opposite take exception to such a statement? To members sitting collectively and individually as members of the Country Party I say that they are guilty of treasonable activities in selling wheat to Red China. They are acting against the Australian people and the Australians who are fighting. I say to members opposite collectively that they are supporters of the treasonable persons opposite. I say that they are saboteurs. Look at them, sabotaging the war effort of this country. Look at the traitors sitting before me in the Parliament - each and every one of them. The Minister and other members opposite, collectively, are traitors in this Parliament. They are undoubtedly treacherous.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Grayndler has completely ignored the comments that I made from the Chair at the beginning. The honourable member for Grayndler is referring to members as individuals. He has been in this House long enough to know the interpretation of Standing Orders. I would suggest that he might give some consideration to remarks that have been made by earlier speakers in this debate.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, you know that I always appreciate the wisdom of your judgment and rulings, and far be it from me to defy you. However, the Minister for Social Services implied in the Parliament that the Australian Labor Party - that is, members of the Opposition - and the Communist Party had an alliance in connection with activities in Vietnam. This was a wide and objectionable statement, incorporating every member of the Parliament under standing order 75. So why cannot I say, in this Parliament, that sitting opposite me are cowardly agents of a foreign power seeking to undermine this country? Why cannot I say that the Country Party in selling wheat to China has engaged in treasonable activity and that its members, collectively, are fifth columnists undermining Australia and conscripting national servicemen to fight and die in Vietnam? Why cannot I say: ‘You are all guilty of treachery to this country by supporting that
Party’? Does not the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), who has been so outspoken, object personally when I collectively include him as a man who is treasonable and who is guilty of treachery, collectively with all members? And, Mr Deputy Speaker, you, too, are included in this broad statement.
-Order! I would refer the honourable member for Grayndler to remarks made by the honourable member for Yarra, a member of his own party, and would suggest that in speaking to the motion he gives serious consideration to the statements that were made earlier.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am only attempting to take the debate back to where it started. The Minister for Social Services has refused to withdraw his statement despite the fact that the Prime Minister is waiting to speak. The Minister referred to a number of us as being in alliance with the Communist Party. This was a monstrous statement.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Grayndler that the Minister for Social Services referred to the Labor Party. This, again, is the point that was made by the Chair. This refers to a wider sphere than members of the Parliamentary Labor Party. I would suggest to the honourable member for Grayndler that he give consideration to this aspect because all these factors were considered by me before I gave my ruling on the request for a withdrawal of the Minister’s statement.
– Mr Deputy Speaker. I realise your difficulty because of the statement that was made by the Minister. I have no wish to canvass the matter but you said that the statement occupies a wider field than the Parliamentary Labor Party. This is true. I object, both from a Christian point of view and as a member of the Labor Party, to being described as being in alliance with the Communist Party in Vietnam. The reason why members opposite do not ask for that statement to be withdrawn is that they know it is a statement that should be withdrawn in the Parliament. I now say that it appears to us that those sitting opposite are, collectively,
Fascists with Nazi intentions. Let it not be thought for one moment that I am referring individually to them. Look at them - at each and every one of them. Is there not one member opposite who denies that be is associated with Nazis and Fascists and the prison camps like Belsen? What hard-hearted individuals they are to sit there and take this kind of statement. I could, if I liked, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, use much more extreme terms if your ruling is accepted, provided I was not obscene - and certainly I would not be obscene. According to jour ruling, within the scope of the Standing Orders I can say anything about any members opposite from the Prime Minister down. Yes, I could make the most monstrous statements and no-one could ask that they be withdrawn. I could list members opposite collectively as people who should have no place in the life of this country because of their activities and not even the Minister at the table - the Minister for Social Services - or any other member could ask that the statement be withdrawn. Who opposite would sit there - unless he agrees with the Minister - and let me call them, collectively, Fascists? Who would sit there an let me call them Nazis? Who would sit there and let me say that I thought they were paid agents of the Kremlin? Who would sit there and let me say that they were saboteurs and traitors? Do honourable members opposite like being called embezzlers of public funds? I think that is what this Government is doing. Collectively they are all responsible. We can see them squirming today because they resent this. The Minister for Social Services has placed them in the cart, and the remarks cannot be withdrawn because he says they are not offensive. Does my honoured and distinguished friend, the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), like being called an embezzler of public funds? It is a bit against the grain, I will admit.
-Order! During this debate it was pointed out that this was a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair. It has been pointed out that such a motion is a reflection upon the Chair. For this reason and realising the place of the Chair in this Parliament, f have endeavoured to the best of my ability to allow this debate to proceed to a certain point and to give honourable members an opportunity to make whatever point they desired. Whatever point they have made is not my responsibility. Whatever considerations of the standing of this Parliament they have made during this debate are not my responsibility. But may I point out that the opportunity to propose a motion of dissent against a ruling of the Chair is one of the great privileges of this House. I suggest to the honourable member for Grayndler that some of the remarks that he has made are not in keeping with the ruling which I gave and I am sure that he, having been in the House for a long time, realises that my ruling does not in any way provide a precedent for some of the things that he has suggested might happen in this place. The privilege of occupying the chair in this House has been mine for a number of years and I hope I have exercised a degree of responsibility in that regard. This is why I have allowed the debate to develop on certain lines, but I suggest that the time has been reached when consideration should be given to the realities of the Standing Orders.
– I intend to finish my speech shortly. Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate, as I always do, the tolerance that you have shown me. I regret that the Minister for Social Services has placed you in this position. Consequently I can understand that you have to spend more time than usual in explaining your interpretation of the Standing Orders. It is amazing that the Minister should defame each and every member of the Labor Party collectively and say that none are offended personally. It sounds Irish to me. May I say that not all but some honourable members opposite are insane? Would that be in order? That is something which coul’d be said broadly within your interpretation of the Standing Orders.
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler should consider what the Minister for Social Services said in the first place. The Minister was not making a comment in relation to the behaviour of any individual. I am sure that if honourable members think of what the Minister said they will recall that he made a point of an association between two groups of people. This was not a reflection upon the character or the behaviour of an individual. Surely the honourable member for Grayndler cannot relate one to the other. Therefore the questions that he is posing have no relevance.
– In my final comments I will refer to personal reflections. Standing order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
To me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that is really clear. If an honourable member opposite offends members collectively I am entitled under that Standing Order - this is my own interpretation and not yours, Mr Deputy Speaker - to take exception. It is an amazing state of affairs that I can say to every honourable member what I said in the course of my speech - and for that matter mean it - and honourable members opposite have no right to ask for a withdrawal. The Standing Orders were never meant to be interpreted in that fashion. Members of the Labor Party resent the collective alliance that has been suggested by the Minister in respect to the Communists in South Vietnam.
– Only some of them.
– But which one is it? I might be one of them. I might think it is myself. When an honourable member opposite says ‘some’ how do I know he does not mean the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Harrison) or the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters)? Why should not honourable members who think it might be them get up and ask for a withdrawal? It is easy to see the fallacy in standing order 76 as it stands. If it is to be interpreted in several different ways then the time has been reached when it should be changed. If the honourable members opposite have thick enough skins to say the things that I have said are not offensive, then good luck to them. They deserve to be in the front row of any rugby league scrum. If I were sitting there I would be prepared to get up and ask for a withdrawal. I deliberately said those things to show the falsity and stupidity - if I might use those terms - of a standing order that can be interpreted in this way. Collectively and individually we on this side resent the imputations of the Minister for Social Services who, if he had thought more of the responsibilities of his office and more of the welfare and dignity of this Parliament, would have withdrawn them if he had made them in the heat of the moment. But the fact that he intends to apply them to me and to every member of the Labor Party is the reason why we proposed the motion of dissent. Even if our motion is not carried the public will clearly understand that we have denied the allegations. It is only because of disrespect for the Parliament that the Minister has refused to withdraw them.
– We have been listening to an attempt by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) to give us a lesson in logic. I wonder whether for 2 minutes we might consider the basis of the long, involved and intended vituperative speech that he made. First of all the honourable member suggested that he might be able to generalise by saying: ‘Those sitting opposite are Fascists of Nazi intention’. That means that every person sitting opposite is addressed and is categorised by his remark. Another statement he made was that some honourable members sitting opposite were insane. In logic this means that there are some persons sitting opposite who are addressed by him and categorised by him. Then there was a third kind of statement. This was that some members of the Australian Labor Party are influenced by Communism. The ALP is a body of hundreds of thousands of people, and the statement that some of them are influenced by Communism is connected to a statement that some or all honourable members opposite are members of the ALP. There is no rule in logic which says that, if some members of the ALP are influenced by Communism and if all honourable members opposite are members of the ALP, then any member sitting opposite is categorised by the former statement. That simply cannot be upheld in logic. This is the basis of what I might call the superficial texture of the argument.
The real point in this debate - it is an astonishing one - is the objection taken to the statement made by the Minister for Social Services that policies of the ALP have been influenced too much by Communist policies. This is the nub of the situation. This is the factual basis on which the Minister approached the question. The question that the people who have listened to this debate must ask themselves is whether or not it is true that there are policies of the ALP which are affected too touch by Communist influence. We heard the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) give a clear definition in this House a few minutes ago between the different sectors in his own Party. He referred to those of us in the left wing’, clearly indicating that there is a difference of policy on certain matters between members of the ALP. If this is not an indication of what I have already said then it is impossible to say that the remarks of the Minister for Social Services, even if they apply to the parliamentary Party - which he did not state - need necessarily apply to any honourable member here unless he chooses to wear the cap himself. I fail to understand how the Minister’s remarks could be interpreted in this way.
The whole point of the situation is that the Minister did say that certain policies of the Australian Labor Party are too much influenced by the Communist Party. If this heeds any kind of proof, we do not need to quote newspapers or anything of the sort. Let us simply listen to what the Leader of the Australian Labor Party has to say. He has complained that in certain sectors of his Party too much influence is exerted by the Communist Party on their policies. This has been a storm in a teacup, unless people want to analyse why this sudden sensitivity has arisen. What is happening inside the Australian Labor Party that gives rise to this sensitivity this afternoon? What is behind the shift of power? Is it because things are happening in this country today that are progressively bringing the left wing of the Australian Labor Party and the influence of the Communist Party into disrepute? Is it clear that in any election the Australian people will have no bar of those who get close to Communist policy? Is that why the Labor Party now is wanting so suddenly to become pure, that the honourable member for Yarra, who recently broke the law-
– I take a point of order,Mr Deputy Speaker. This is the second time that you have been distracted while honourable members on the other side have been speaking and you have allowed them to make remarks that you would not allow honourable members on this side to make earlier in the debate.
-I regret that I was not at that stage listening to the remarks of the honourable member for Evans. If he made remarks that are not relevant, I ask him not to do so and to keep his remarks relevant to the subject matter before the Chair.
– I think it is highly relevant to discuss what can be behind this sudden sensitivity, this sudden holding up of hands in horror at any suggestion of Communist influence on the left wing of the Labor Party. This sensitivity is unusual. One point in the Communist doctrine that I might mention is that the rule of law is quite often the instrument of suppression in the hands of those who exercise it in the non-Communist state. One might point to the fact that the honourable member for Yarra recently chose deliberately and publicly to break the law in an attempt to change it. This is one simple illustration of the point I am making about the influence of Communist thinking. This is a Communist policy, a Communist attitude to the law, which is evidenced in the behaviour of one honourable member opposite. I conclude by saying, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this objection to your ruling is frivolous. I maintain that the attempt at logic, if we can call it that, of the honourable member for Grayndler violates all the laws of logic. I personally, and I think I speak for all my colleagues, could not care less about the aspersions he cast.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I do, by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay). He said that a willingness to break the law deliberately is evidence of Communist influence and Communist thinking. I point out to you and to the House that Jesus Christ broke the law and was executed for it.
– Which Jaw? Tell me which law.
– I shall be happy to debate the subject.
– 1 will be very happy to debate that question at any time.
– Mahatma Gandhi broke the law and Martin Luther King broke the law.
-Order! 1 point out to the honourable member for Yarra and the honourable member for Evans that the point taken and being debated now has no relevance to the subject before the Chair. The honourable member for Yarra knows that in making a personal explanation he is not permitted to debate the subject.
– I am making a personal explanation because I was misrepresented when the honourable member for Evans said that the breaking of the law by a person is evidence of some Communist influence or some Communist thinking. I am pointing out that this is quite unsound and is a misrepresentation because many other people who even the honourable member for Evans would not call Communists have broken the law. I listed three such people. They are Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, who all broke the law. His statement is a misrepresentation of my position and of the action I have taken.
– This discussion has been going on for some time now. The smears, allegations and innuendoes of the Minister for Social Service (Mr Wentworth) have brought no credit to this House. The only sensible remarks I have heard made by an honourable member on the other side were those of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) when he disassociated himself from the allegations made by the Minister for Social Services. It is very easy to bring out the old smear and the innuendo, particularly during an election year or when there has been a disastrous by-election, such as the recent by-election in Curtin. We know the old tactics. But surely we have a responsibility to the House. We, the 124 members of the House, have to live together. We must try to make progress and we must strive to find some men of goodwill amongst the members on both sides of the House. The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) spoke about broad accusations, but frankly if we on this side of the House made broad accusations of the same kind and said that members of the Liberal Party are agents for foreign oil companies one or two honourable members on the other side would take offence.
Name calling is a negative approach. Even in dealing with Communism we must take a positive approach and not a negative approach. That is the only way to lift the standards of the Parliament. We will not lift our standards by using smear and innuendo. Recently when certain allegations were made about the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), most honourable members on this side of the House were upset and shocked. We do not want personal reflections, either direct or indirect, to be made about any honourable member of this House. Where do we start and where do we finish? During my early days in politics I was told that every politician has a skeleton in his wardrobe. I said: T will make sure that I will not have one.’ The person to whom I was speaking said: ‘Tom, if you do not have one, they will make one for you.’ Have no doubt about it; if we start with smears and innuendoes, where will we finish?
I want to ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to give serious thought on this occasion to standing order 76. If some honourable members will co-operate by remaining silent so that I may be heard, I may be able to make my point. Standing order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that standing order 76 is clearly in the plural. It refers to ‘members’ and not ‘member’. Standing order 75, which deals with offensive words, provides:
No Member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof ….
The point I am trying to bring home is that standing order 75 refers to a member and standing order 76, which deals with personal reflections, refers to members. You have said that the reflection was made on the Australian Labor Party and not on its members as such. I wrote down the words of the Minister for Social Services. He said: T have made it quite clear that it does not refer to all members of the Labor Party’.
Then he made an accusation about a ballot that went on at the caucus meeting yesterday. He was called to order at this stage. The point I am making is that the Minister over many years, particularly as a back bencher, tried to make sometimes indirect and sometimes direct accusations and smears against honourable members on this side of the House. If there are not to be chaos and anarchy, if there is not to be disrespect for the Chair, this attitude must be stopped. If it is not stopped it is unjust and I, with the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), say that one fights against unjust laws. I support students who demonstrate against unjust laws. I respect the great men of the past from Jesus Christ to the many patriots and martyrs who have stood against unjust laws; because of their stand mankind and humanity has progressed. Surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you have erred in your ruling it is about time that you, as a Christian, should face up to the fact that this will create havoc and anarchy in this House. We say to the Government and to the House that if these accusations, disguised smears and innuendos are to go on, and if the Chair allows them to continue, there will be anarchy in this House because it is an unjust law; it is an unjust interpretation. We want justice. We want fairness for all men on both sides of the House. We stand for decency and fair play. We do not stand for hypocrisy. I have a very definite attitude ideologically as to what my political position is in this House. We ask for fair play, we ask for decency and we ask for co-operation because we have to work together in this House and either we work in co-operation with respect for one another or we destroy ourselves because the people outside the House will lose respect for the Parliament of this country and we cannot afford to have that. We have to make sure that we lift this Parliament to a pinnacle as a symbol. Many of us really believe in placing the new and permanent parliament house on Capital Hill because we want to make it a symbol for the nation. We want to make this country look up to its Parliament and we want to keep standards of debates decent and honest so that we can develop our country in the interests of al) Australians.
Certain allegations have been made against the Victorian Executive of the Aus tralian Labor Party. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) made the allegation that the Victorian Executive is influenced by Communists. Other honourable members then said that there was an alliance with the Communist Party. Accusations were then made that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made such charges. The Leader of the Opposition made no such charges at all. As for the Victorian Executive, I do not mind making the confession that I am not very popular with members of the Victorian Executive. I think that they think that I am a reactionary of the right wing of the worst type. This is what they may think, but to make this smear and allegation against the Victorian Executive is just infantile. It is a stupid charge. I disagree with the Executive on certain aspects, but this accusation is very foolish. The problems of politics in Victoria can be solved only within the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. The only way in which the internal affairs of the Liberal Party can be solved is within the internal workings of the Liberal Party. Only the members of the Liberal Party can solve their internal affairs and only the members of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party can solve their problems. I do not think that anybody else need interfere in the internal affairs of any other party. Members of the Liberal Party should look after their affairs and we will look after ours. This motion of dissent should be carried unless, as I hope, the Deputy Speaker reconsiders his decision. This decision has been a bad one and I believe that the Chair should reconsider it because I believe it is setting a precedent that will not be in the interests of this Parliament or in the interests of good government.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) referred to what I said as smear and innuendo. It was nothing of the kind. It was a clear and direct statement politically relevant and not relating to individual members opposite, which said that in a particular policy matter the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party were advocating the same line, and furthermore, that because of this - and this is right on the point of the debate - the Communist Party policy which was ineffective in relation to the Korean War had unfortunately become effective in relation to the Vietnam War.
-Order! The Minister is now debating the personal explanation.
– 1 claim to have been misrepresented unintentionally by the honourably member for Reid (Mr Uren); I am sure it was unintentional- He said in the course of his speech, to which I listened with great care, that I in my speech in this Rebate had made allegations against the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor f arty. I want to emphasise that I did not in my speech in this debate make any allegations against the Victorian Executive pf the Australian Labor Party. Any allegations, that I may care to make were not made today, and if they are made they will be a patter for another day. All I did .-anu I emphasise this - was to draw attention to the undoubted fact that the Leader pf the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made allegations against the Victorian Executive pi the Australian Labor Party alleging against that Executive that it is subject to Communist influence. Now, for me to say £hat the Leader pf the Opposition said that is not for me to say it myself for the purposes of this debate. I expressly disclaim pay intention pf making allegations against anyone in this debate. I was merely dealing with the fact -that the Leader df the Opposition had made such allegations.
– The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr paly) in speaking recently in this debate has given us simply a regurgitation of the bilious contents of his own upset mind, and the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) has, I believe, pointed out to the House the mistaken logic on which he produced this outpouring, if I could call it that; it was nothing else. I would like honourable members opposite to take a little notice of the sober remarks of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) - not that I agree with all of them; the ones that appeal for some degree of objectivity and dignity in this debate I cer.tainly do agree with. I certainly feel that it £s a matter for honourable members oppo site to take bote that the kind of outpouring we had from the honourable member for Grayndler does nothing to contribute to this debate or to the dignity of this House. As I have said, the honourable member for Evans has pointed to the faulty, logic on which the honourable member for Grayndler based his rather childish outpourings in his search for reaction from this side of the House. He dredged up the worst words he could think of. He accused us of belonging to groups occupying a position in the spectrum furthest away from Socialism. He applied to us the extreme Socialist terms of Nazism and Fascism. He made it apparent from the beginning of his remarks that he was searching for gratuitously insulting terms and seeking a reaction from us. It was obvious that there was no substance in his remarks. Actions of this kind depreciate the value of what is said in this place and the dignity of this place, which in my opinion is high.
I point out to the honourable member hot only that the remarks of the honourable member for Evans were full of logic but also that in evaluating any statement it is essential to evaluate the person making the statement and the circumstances in which it is made. In evaluating any statement we must examine its face value, its intrinsic value, its literal value, the value that can be placed on the person making the statement and his attitude at the time of making the statement. No matter what value might have been placed on the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler, the value that could be placed on the honourable member’s attitude in making those remarks and upon his degree of responsibility in making them was so low mathematically it would be nought and any absolute value multiplied by nought is nought.
– Is it?
– Yes. That is the value of the statement made by the honourable member for Grayndler. It was completely valueless except that it was searching in a rather unbecoming way for reaction from this side, which I am glad to say was not forthcoming. The statement by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), which has been objected to by honourable members opposite, was not directed at any individual. Nor was it without at least some measure of substantiation in the criticism levelled along similar lines by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and one or two other members of the Labor Party. I believe that his own Party has been rather hard on the Leader of the Opposition in referring to statements of this kind as irresponsible and inaccurate. The only conclusion we can draw from this debate is that the Australian Labor Party may have something to answer for or may have something in its own house that requires to be put in order.
– I have been trying all the afternoon to participate in this debate because I was in the House when the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) made the irresponsible statement that the Australian Labor Party had alliances with the Australian Communist Party. Members of the Labor Party took exception to the statement and we sought the protection of the Chair, but unfortunately the Chair ruled against us. So we have moved dissent from the ruling. We are now debating the motion of dissent.
This matter is of concern to many members of the Australian Labor Party. The Minister implied that members of the Labor Party have alliances with the Communist Party. I call upon the Minister to name any member of the Labor Party who has an alliance with the Communist Party. There is no doubt in my mind nor in the minds of every member of the Labor Party that the Minister is the greatest red baiter in the Parliament. I am sure that when he “kneels to’ say his prayers he looks under the bed to see that there are no Communists there. We know that the Minister never loses an opportunity to raise these matters in the Parliament. As a backbencher and as a Minister he has taken every opportunity to accuse the Labor Party of having an alliance with the Communist Party. We all know that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has dossiers on many members of the Australian Labor Party. That this is so is obvious from the material that has been circulated in this Parliament by ASIO dealing with the association of members of the Labor Party with disputes regarding conscientious objection to compulsory military service. Material of this kind has been used many times in the Parliament by honourable members opposite and even by Ministers to substantiate thenattacks on members of the Labor Party.
So I have no doubt that if the Minister for Social Services or any Government supporter wanted to accuse any member of the Labor Party of having an alliance with the Communist Party he could get suitable information from ASIO, which would be glad to supply the information for use in the Parliament. Such information has been used before and it will be used again.
On numerous occasions in the past previous Prime Ministers have been asked whether any member of the Australian Labor Party has affiliations with members of the Communist Party and always the answer has been in the negative. The Minister for Social Services, who is supposed to be a responsible person, has made an irresponsible charge that the Australian Labor Party has alliances with the Communist Party. Not once in his remarks about the establishment of an Australian owned overseas shipping line did the Minister say anything about the sale of Australian wheat and wool to feed and clothe Communists. We do not know whether the vessels that Australia proposes to operate will be used to carry wool and wheat to Communist countries. Let us hear the Minister say that he objects to wool and wheat being carried in Australian ships to Communist countries.
The Labor Party has asked the Chair for protection against the Minister’s allegations, but unfortunately the Chair has not given us that protection. This is a matter which is of vital concern to the Parliament. It is a matter that concerns the democratic institution in which we sit. The incidents that have taken place this afternoon are a reflection on the Parliament and on the integrity of the person who occupies the Chair. In my opinion you, Mr Deputy Speaker, should not have hesitated. You should have asked the Minister to withdraw his remark. He made the statement; he meant it; he still means it. He has spoken since making the statement but has not made any offer to withdraw it. We on this side are entitled to the protection of the Chair. There is no doubt in my opinion that the Standing Orders have been flouted, that they have been flouted repeatedly and that they will continue to be flouted by the Minister for Social Services. I say that we ought to have protection. Finally, I Want to say that this Parliament should be protected at all times from the Minister for Social Services, especially when he has his periods of insanity.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I have to inform the House that the Government has accepted proposals which were made by the United States Government for the establishment in Australia of a joint United StatesAustralian defence space communications facility. The facility will be located at Woomera, and a site survey party from the United States is expected to visit Woomera soon. Construction should commenced in September or October, and the installation should be ready to operate by late 1970. The joint staff of Australian and United States personnel required to operate the station will be between 250 and 300. The construction of the station will be an important contribution to the defence of all free nations. This is a further and most important tangible expression of that close cooperation between the United States and Australia in defence matters which is embodied in the ANZUS treaty. I lay on the table the following paper:
United States-Australian Defence Space Communications Facility - Ministerial Statement, 23 April 1969.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it was not the wish of the Leader of the Opposition that the paper should be noted. I suggest that perhaps the House should go through whatever forms are necessary to withdraw the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
House adjourned at 4.52 until Tuesday, 29 April, at 2.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the decision of the Italian Government, by agreement with the trade unions, following two general strikes in the last 3 months, to raise pensions for retired workers from 65% to 74% of their last salaries immediately, and to further increase them to ‘80% by 1976, will he call a meeting between himself, the Employers Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to work out a similar scheme for the retired wealth producers of Australia?
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Italian scheme to which the right honourable member has referred would have little relevance for this country where the provisions for retirement pensions, which include governmental and private superannuation schemes and the Commonwealth Age Pension Scheme, are not comparable. I can see no useful purpose in calling a meeting of the kind suggested.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. The traffic carried to and from the ports referred to for the 1968 calendar year was as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. The Australian Wool Industry Conference is not a statutory body but an organisation set up by voluntary agreement by federal woolgrower organisations. As such it is free to determine its own procedures including the manner of voting. I am informed that when the Conference voted on the question of a limited relaxation of the merino export embargo, the votes for and against were counted but no record was taken of the names of the individual voters.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Tables with a weekly family contribution rate of: 25c per week (or less) - 20% of contribution income
Over 25c per week but not exceeding 40c - 15% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member enrolled
Exceeding 40c per week - 121% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member
Tables with a weekly family contribution rate of: Less than 35c per week - 20% of contribution income
At least 35c per week but not exceeding 40c - 10% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member enrolled
Over 40c per week but not exceeding 50c - 82/3% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member enrolled
Over 50c per week but not exceeding 60c - 7i% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member enrolled
Over 60c per week - 6% of contribution income plus 75c for each new member enrolled
Because of a number of developments, especially the introduction of higher benefit tables, it has been recognised for some time that the existing formulae require revision. The introduction of revised formulae has received a good deal of consideration in my Department and has been the subject of discussions by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. However, consideration of the matter was deferred upon the appointment of the Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, one of the terms of reference of which was to inquire into ‘the overall management, administration and financial operations of the registered organisations’. The introduction of revised formulae will be further considered in the light of the Committee’s report. 2 and 3. Information supplied to my Department on medical and hospital benefits organisations concerning their individual operating expenses has up to the present been regarded as confidential. The Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance visualised that the annual report to Parliament by the Commission that it recommended be established should include particulars of the operating experience of each registered organisation. The recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry have not yet been considered by the Government and pending their consideration it is proposed to adhere to the established practice.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Healthy upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales- Dentists Act 1934-1964..
Victoria - Medical Act 1958 as amended.
Queensland- The Dental Acts 1902-1961.
South Australia - Dentists Act 1931-1966.
Western Australia- Dentists Act 1939-1967.
Tasmania- Dentists Act 1919-1966.
Australian Capital Territory - Dentists Registration Ordinance 1931-1967.
Northern Territory - Dentists Registration Ordinance 1953-1967.
ns asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. Question 1 attributes to me words that I have not used. However, 1 refer the honourable member to the report of proceedings on 25th and 27th March 1969 (Hansard, pp. 821 and 987-988) for what I said and for the facts. 3 and 4. Question 3 attributes to me words that I have not used. I am not aware of any statement of mine that could possibly be so construed.
ns asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What is the total cost of Australian Naval, Army and Air Force operations in and around Vietnam?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The total cost of Australian Naval, Army and Air Force operations in and around Vietnam to 30th June 1968 was $76.3 54m. This represents the excess over normal costs in Australia for the three Services. The estimated additional cost on the same basis for the current financial year is $42.948m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690423_reps_26_hor62/>.