26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Eon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.20 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr JESS presented from certain citizens of Australia a petition showing that there is a crisis in education in Australia; that a transformation of the classroom situation is necessary, where children will have reasonable freedom to develop as self-reliant, independent individuals and where they can learn to function as members of a democratic community; that proper preparation for school and thorough guidance there by qualified teachers are crucial to a proper education for Australia’s children; that the present rate of teacher training is far below the requirement determined by the Martin Report which shows that 75% additional teachers in government schools alone will be required by 1975 compared with those in service in 1963; that to obtain maximum benefit from the education system preschool facilities should be available to all children; that insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements; that adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth Government; that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into all aspects of Australian education.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration, during Human Rights Year, to this most vital matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. The honourable gentleman will be aware of the recent unfortunate fatal shooting of an Australian girl entertainer in Vietnam. Such entertainment is most welcome and is appreciated by allied troops. I ask: Will the honourable gentleman confer with the Prime Minister with a view to granting some form of compensation to the girl’s next of kin?
– I will certainly have a look at the circumstances to which the honourable gentleman refers and advise him after consideration of the particular point he has raised. However, I can say that concert tours to Vietnam normally fall, as I recall it, under three headings: In the first place there are private tours; secondly, there are tours organised by the Army; and, thirdly, there are tours organised by the Australian Forces Overseas Fund. As I understand it, private tours are undertaken as a private venture and any form of insurance or compensation normally would be regarded as a matter for the individual concerned. With Army sponsored tours travelling allowances and medical expenses are paid.
I recall that the AFOF organisation takes out an insurance cover prior to the departure of any entertainers and this would naturally cover an eventuality of the type to which the honourable gentleman refers if it took place in relation to an AFOF tour. With regard to Army tours there is provision for an ex gratia payment which, subject to certain conditions, would follow the lines of a payment to a Commonwealth employee in similar circumstances under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I emphasise in summary that in respect of tours undertaken with Army sponsorship or AFOF sponsorship a cover is provided. However, I will look at the circumstances to which attention has been drawn.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by suggesting that the Minister would be aware of and has probably felt the build-up of a head of steam for the lifting of the curfew at certain capital city airports to permit jet cargo flights at night. Can the Minister indicate, firstly, whether he has received any specific application in this regard and, secondly, what the Government’s attitude is? If the Government proposes to make any change will he reaffirm the assurance that he gave earlier that he would respect the situation of an instrument of the House, namely, the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise?
– I appreciate the interest that the honourable member shows in this matter, particularly as he is the Chairman of the Select Committee to which he refers.
I have read a considerable amount of publicity in relation to this matter. Pressure is coming particularly from one quarter. But so far no application has been made to me or to my Department to vary the restrictions that apply at certain of the major airports in Australia. It is the intention of the Government to maintain the present restrictions that apply. Where they do apply, they operate between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and the only conditions under which they can be varied are in certain emergencies due to weather conditions or some other operational conditions and in special circumstances at peak periods, when authority has been given on occasions, because of the pressure of traffic, for some special flights to be made. These are very strictly controlled. In these cases authority can be given only by the Minister. If any applications are received, of course, they must be considered; but at the present time there is no intention on the part of the Government of changing the restrictions that apply. We certainly will be very interested to see the recommendations that are ultimately received by this Parliament from the Select Committee.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question supplementary to the one he has just answered. I ask him whether the quarter from which he says pressure comes has sought permission to import quick-change Boeing 727 aircraft and, if that is so, whether permission has been granted. I also ask him: Do the economics of this particular aircraft depend on its being available for midnight and early morning flights to the airports serving the three eastern capitals? Were these facts considered when any application on this matter was received from this quarter?
– When we issue permits for aircraft they are for a type of aircraft and we are not concerned with the configuration. As to the permits that have been issued to Ansett Airlines of Australia for the importation of the next two 727s, to the best of my knowledge the first one of the additional 727s coming in will be a complete quick-change version and the second one will be a modified quick-change version. There is a variety of types of configuration as far as quick-change aircraft are concerned. This, of course, is quite a normal practice and a normal situation. I think we should appreciate that quite a number of the F27s operated by the two major operators here at the present time are of the quick-change variety. This applies throughout the world. This has not a direct relationship to the request for operations at night.
The requests that have been made have been made through the Press; they have not been made to the Government. The pressures to which reference was made are not pressures on the Government, except through the form of publicity. As one of my colleagues suggests, this is nothing new. This is a relatively normal process.
The quick-change versions of aircraft are used for carrying freight to ports where they can operate at night, but they are also used for freight operations during the day. This again is a normal practice. The basis of the current publicity campaign is that it obviously would be far more economic to have full utilisation throughout all hours of the night as well as the day. This is pure economics, but there are other factors that the Government has to consider apart from economics. It has to consider the community. I merely re-state that it is the Government’s intention in the existing circumstances to maintain the present restrictions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services in his capacity as Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. He will recall that during a recent visit to the Amata Aboriginal reserve in South Australia he was made aware of the concern of Aboriginals caused by the encroachment of miners on sacred places in the Wingellina Ranges in Western Australia, near the border. Unfortunately at that time a geologist damaged a sacred stone causing consternation amongst these people. Can the Minister say whether he has approached the Western Australian Government on this matter and whether he proposes to take any action to prevent such encroachments in the future?
– I did in point of fact, as the honourable member well knows, visit Amata in his company recently and these matters were taken up with me by the Aboriginals there. I would say that they regard them very seriously and that the sites concerned are of very considerable significance to them. It is also true that some damage has been done to one of these sites, which is of great ceremonial significance to them. These sites are concerned with the Pitjantjara people, whose area extends into Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory and, of course, is determined without reference entirely to State boundaries.
The most important sites appear to be on the Western Australian side of the border. I have immediately taken this matter up with the relevant Minister in Western Australia. I have not yet received advices from him in regard to it. I would feel some confidence that the Western Australian Government would be able to take appropriate action. However, I point out to the House that there are difficulties concerned with this, particularly in view of the fact that the sites are kept secret by the Aboriginals and the secretness of the sites is involved also with their sacredness. This obviously poses administrative problems for which I can see no easy solution at the moment. But I can assure the honourable member that the Government is interested in this matter. We will be in consultation with the Western Australian Government in regard to it and I think it would be inappropriate for me to endeavour at this stage to anticipate the results and outcome of those discussions, except to say, as I have already said, two things: Firstly, in view of the particular circumstances there are great administrative difficulties in protecting a site whose location must not be exactly revealed. Secondly, I have confidence that the Western Australian Government will approach this matter with goodwill.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education and Science. Is it a fact that Public Service scientific officers, administrative and clerical officers, postal workers and computer operators have all recently been granted salary increases by the Public Service Board without prejudice to claims current or pending before the Public Service Arbitrator? Is it also a fact that research scientists and experimental officers in the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and also in the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Supply, have repeatedly been refused such increases by the Board although they have claims dating back to 1966, predating those of officers who have received increases? In view of the need for Australia to retain her best scientists and to reward them adequately for their services, will the Minister direct the Public Service Board to make a without prejudice offer to the CSIRO officers?
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. I ask you for a ruling as to whether questions on notice numbers 1747 to 1749 already traverse this subject.
-Order! Although questions numbers 1747 to 1749 cover a wider range, the question asked by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is not identical with any of them. I call the Minister for Education and Science.
– If I may deal first with the last part of the honourable member’s question, it is not within my province to direct the Public Service Board to do anything in relation to these particular matters. I can say something in relation to research officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation because I have spoken to them on a number of occasions and I also understand that in a number of areas throughout Australia they have approached their local members. They have had increases in wages as a result of the national wage decisions in recent times in the normal processes, and I have been advised that if they were seeking merely to maintain standards that have previously been set, to maintain the competitive position which they have previously had in relation to other groups in the community, the Public Service Board would feel that it was within its province to act. But on the information given to me I understand that this in fact is not what the CSIRO scientists are seeking. I have seen their claims, which seek to establish completely new standards, which would involve at the lower level 40% salary increases and at the highest level about 70% salary increases. I am advised that because they have been attempting to establish completely new standards lifting them out of the previous correlations the
Public Service Board felt that a determination of this nature was not within its province and that the matter should therefore be referred to the Arbitrator. I know that the case has taken some time. I am also advised that the CSIRO staff association has been bringing a great deal of evidence before the Arbitrator. If I may make just one general comment, the Government has taken action to appoint Deputy Arbitrators to try to avoid unnecessary delays in these areas.
– Has the Treasurer any further information to give the House concerning the recent quinquennial review of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund? Is there any possibility that the surplus that was disclosed could be distributed to those eligible for it during this year?
– I have been consistently pressing the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board to carry out both its computer programmes and its decisions on payments to contributors and to pensioners as quickly as possible. The Board and the Department of the Treasury assure me that they are proceeding just as quickly as they can. I think that the main computer job will in fact be completed this week and then it will be tested to see whether it is accurate. From then on detailed investigations as to individual entitlements will be made. It is hoped that by the end of this year the payments will be made to pensioners. It is also hoped that by Easter or around about April it will be possible to make the payments to contributors themselves.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the worsening wheat crisis, is the Government giving consideration to a revision of the Wheat Stabilisation Act to provide more flexible domestic price arrangements, to allow surplus wheat to be sold on the basis of feed grain prices and to stop black marketing? Why is this Government refusing to allow unsaleable wheat surpluses to be sold to drought stricken producers in Queensland and Western Australia at a price at least equal to the 40c rebate arrangement given to Victorian producers in their recent drought - the first in 20 years? Finally, is the Minister aware that in the disastrous drought of 1944, 1945 and 1946 a Labor government paid substantial subsidies on concessional wheat sold to starving stock owners throughout Australia?
– I am not sure whether the honourable member for Patterson understands how the wheat stabilisation scheme operates. It appears from the way he asked his question that he does not.
– Well, who does?
– If the right honourable member will allow me to speak I will try to inform him a little. Last year lengthy negotiations were carried out with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the State governments for the purpose of formulating a new stabilisation scheme. The proposal was for a guaranteed price for a certain volume of wheat to be exported and an agreed home consumption price. After the Wheatgrowers Federation had agreed to have a home consumption price, this price then had to be negotiated with the States. The States then had to bring down legislation setting out what the domestic price of wheat should be, whether for Hour purposes or for stock feed purposes. If there is to be any alteration the whole stabilisation scheme will have to be renegotiated. If there is to be a lower price for feed wheat it will mean either that the Government will have to come in and give a subsidy for feed wheat or that the wheat growers themselves will have to take a lower price for feed wheat.
At the moment the Government has negotiated what I believe to be a very satisfactory and very generous arrangement with the wheat industry to cover it over the next 5 years. It is easy for members of the Opposition to speak loosely and to make idle promises about what they might give to the wheat industry. But if we look at the performances of the Labor Party in previous years we see that its negotiation with the wheat industry threw most of its members who represented wheat electorates out of office. The question of feed wheat has been examined by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I believe that the Federation met yesterday in Melbourne. I have not received any information yet, but the meeting could be continuing today. At the meeting the Federation was to consider many aspects of the wheat industry. One of the most important matters the Federation was to look at was the domestic price for feed wheat.
The honourable gentleman mentioned that the Australian Labor Party subsidised feed wheat in 1944-45. But conditions then were entirely different from what they are today. The time the honourable member talks about was before the commencement of the wheat stabilisation programme. The wheat stabilisation programme commenced in 1948 and has continued ever since. During the period to which the honourable gentleman referred there was no substantial guarantee; there was no wide umbrella of protection to the wheat industry such as there is today.
– What about Victoria?
– The honourable member for Dawson mentions the subsidy given for wheat and oats in Victoria last year to assist producers during drought conditions. This subsidy was given by the State Government without any Commonwealth contribution at all.
– That is not right.
– That is absolutely right, and do not deny it.
-I suggest both to the Minister and to the honourable member for Dawson that private exchanges across the table should cease.
– The decision of the Victorian Government to pay the subsidy was an independent one. If the honourable member for Dawson is considering a subsidy for feed wheat to assist the Queensland growers in drought conditions - and I can sympathise with them in respect of the problem there - to do this, and this is what the wheat growers’ organisations have considered, also, has an interplay on the prices for sorghum, barley, oats and maize. The Queensland Graingrowers Association, which recently met on this matter, rejected the idea of a lower price for feed wheat because of the effect it would have on other grains.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to the report of the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales dealing with the matter of age of majority, which report I under stand was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament recently and which also has been the subject of discussion and consideration by the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. Will the Attorney-General arrange for the report to be tabled in this Parliament and advise the House as to what steps will be taken pursuant to the recommendations contained in the report, together with the attitude to the ancillary matter - not the subject of inquiry by the Commission - namely, that of the voting age?
– This report was obtained by the New South Wales Government from its Law Reform Commission. The New South Wales Attorney-General did make it available to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. He has tabled it in the New South Wales Parliament, as the honourable member said, and he has undertaken that, when it is printed, he will make copies available to us. I will certainly see that by either tabling or otherwise this report is made available to honourable members.
The report itself deals only with matters other than the age of voting - the age of contracting, the age at which one can make a will, the age of consent to marriage and so on. So far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned, we deal with those matters only in relation to the Territories. The Minister for the Interior and I have spoken together and we will be discussing those aspects in relation to Commonwealth Territories.
We have already in the Australian Capital Territory the Wills Ordinance which reduces the age at which a person can make a will to 18 years. As far as contracts are concerned, we have already, by ordinance in the Territory, allowed persons over the age of 18 years to contract mortgages where they seek to build or to buy a home. So far as the age of voting is concerned - the related matter to which the honourable member referred - this involves a great many considerations in conjunction with age of majority. It may involve the question of the adult wage, having economic results. The matter is not one within my administration but primarily is one within the administration of the Prime Minister and, in the States, the Premiers. If any consideration is to be given to that aspect, it will be given by the Prime Minister and by the Premiers.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question supplementary to that which he has just been asked. Last November, in expressing the Government’s opposition to my Adulthood Bill - which still remains on the notice paper for the debate to conclude and for a vote to be taken and which the honourable members for Kooyong and Parkes said they would support - the honourable gentleman said that the question of fixing the voting age at 18 years should not be determined before Mr Justice Manning, the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales, made his report on all other legal aspects of adulthood. As His Honour presented his report on these aspects some weeks ago and recommended that adult rights and duties in all respects should now commence at the age of 18 instead of at the age of 21, and as the New Zealand Government has now decided to give votes to all persons 18 years of age and over at this year’s House of Representatives elections in that country, I ask: Will debate and a vote on my Bill now be allowed to come to fruition after 9 months gestation?
– The Leader of the Opposition suggests that there was opposition to his Bill.
– Only by the Minister.
– It is true that while speaking to the Bill I pointed out that the matter had been discussed by the Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General because it had been referred to them by the Premiers and that the Attorneys-General had come to the conclusion that it was undesirable for separate action to be taken by perhaps one State or the Commonwealth acting alone in view of the fact that we have common electoral rolls that are used for jury service and other purposes. Indeed, it was the view of the Attorneys-General that if action was to be taken it was desirable for it to be taken in concert if possible. Therefore, I suggested during the debate on the Bill that it was inopportune to be debating that particular question and that the report of the Law Reform Commission should be awaited.
Now that the report has been submitted this question can be considered. But it has to be considered in the context of what may be done in the States as well as in the Commonwealth sphere. The Attorneys-General and, I think, the governments of the various States have been considering this matter. Indeed, it was dealt with as an election issue in Tasmania, and no doubt it will be given particular consideration by the Government of that State. I do not think it is for me to determine the manner in which the business of the House shall be dealt with.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen the criticism by certain newspapers of the increase in the superphosphate bounty on the ground that it will be used to produce more wheat? Is the Minister in a position to say what proportion of the superphosphate used in Australia is used for wheat production?
– The Government increased the subsidy on superphosphate for two reasons: Firstly, to assist the primary producers to meet their cost-price squeeze problems and, secondly, to encourage the greater use of superphosphate. The greater use of superphosphate helps the meat and wool growing industries considerably. In fact, 64% of the superphosphate used in Australia is used by the grazing industry. Only 22% is used by the wheat industry. The balance is used on other crops.
– I ask the Treasurer: To what extent does the increase in bank interest rates apply to current loans and overdrafts? Will it affect the existing overdrafts of graziers who have been considerably affected by recent droughts?
– I am not sure of the actual details of the extent to which it will affect individual accounts. Nonetheless I shall try to find out from the Reserve Bank of Australia what the impact will be and will let the honourable member know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to a recent visit to Fiji by the honourable member for Yarra and to certain statements which he is reported in the local Press as having made and to other statements he is alleged to have made since his return to Australia; statements which, mostly, are extremely critical of that country, of its administration and of Australian business participation there; statements such as ‘Get rid of present rulers’ etc. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member seems to be basing this question on a newspaper report, which he has not verified, which is false. If he can verify it, I suggest he be allowed to proceed with his question.
-Does the honourable member for Maribyrnong vouch for the accuracy of the report?
– -I did not refer to the report other than to say ‘statements such as.’ It is not the basis of my question.
-Does the honourable member vouch for the accuracy of the report?
– So far as I know it is accurate.
– Is the honourable member vouching for the accuracy of the report?
– Yes, 1 will vouch for it.
-The question is in order.
– 1 ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to these matters? If so, can he say whether there is any basis to support some of these statements? Does he consider that conduct such as that of the honourable member for Yarra has had a harmful-
-Order! The honourable member for Maribyrnong shall not, at question time, raise matters affecting the conduct, character or motives of an honourable member. That part of the question is out of order.
– I amend it, Sir. Have the actions of the honourable member for Yarra in this regard had a harmful effect on our friendly relations with Fiji?
– A great deal of what the honourable member asks concerns a matter of opinion. However, I do know that the honourable member for Yarra did go to Fiji in June last. He did make some statements, both there and on his return, which I think are calculated to damage relations between our two countries and which deserve, if not correction, at least to be put on a factual basis. For example the honourable member described Fiji as a classic example of colonialism and said that the present rulers there should be changed. Now, that is a term which, used by the honourable gentleman-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister - he should resume his seat, I believe, while I have the floor - said that the honourable member for Yarra said certain things. I believe that, consistent with your previous rulings in this House, it is obligatory for the Minister to verify the correctness of these statements.
– There is no point of order. The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat
– I indicated that the honourable member for Yarra had said that Fiji was a classic example of colonialism. In the minds of some people that phrase is an emotional one. In the minds of other people it is worthy of some praise because colonialism undoubtedly does confer some benefits. When it comes to a question of fact, I understand that the honourable member for Yarra had suggested that the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. had paid cane growers in Fiji one-fifth of the amount that it paid cane growers in Australia. That is a question of fact which I think deserves correction. I understand that in fact the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd pays cane growers in Fiji an amount which is approximately 87% of the price paid to cane growers in Australia, and that the difference can be accounted for by the very different circumstances which apply as between cane grown in Fiji and cane grown in Australia.
Furthermore, the honourable gentleman suggested that Australia ignored Fiji when it should be paying compensation to Fiji. In truth, the Australian Government has close and friendly relations with Fiji. We give Fiji a considerable amount of assistance in various forms of aid. We gave Fiji $180,000 in the last financial year to provide places for students in Australia, and there was the provision of experts, water irrigation plant and such like. In addition, we gave approximately $700,000 worth of grain as a direct gift under the International Grains Arrangement. So in several respects the honourable gentleman’s opinions and statements were not calculated to improve relations between our two countries. But I am happy to say that the ‘Fiji Times’ expressed the view that Fijians were used to viewing with tolerance the oracular pronouncements of people who came there with closed minds and open mouths.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the statements attributed to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in which he described the five power talks as ‘useless’ and criticised Australia for lack of initiative? Is the Prime Minister prepared to confirm or deny the accuracy of these reports?
– I read in the newspaper reports attributed to the Tunku of the kind which the honourable member suggests. I am not prepared to vouch for the veracity of that newspaper report, nor is there a transcript of the actual words which Tunku Abdul Rahman is alleged to have used. However, I think it would be clear to all that our attitude in this matter of providing, in fact, protection or help towards the protection of the security of that area is well known and has not altered since it was first stated in this House in February this year. At that time it was made clear that we were proposing to leave troops in that area, stationed there. It was also made clear that those troops were not under any circumstances to be used for cases of civil disorder or for racial conflicts within the area in which they were stationed. It was also made clear that they were to be used against external aggression only with the prior consent and approval of the Australian Government.
In relation to one other matter, that is the conflict of opinion between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah, it was made clear we felt that our proper course and out best course in that field was to provide diplomatic assistance to seek to bring the conflict to an end. Our attitude having been stated on 2 or 3 occasions, I can only say to the honourable member that I would be sur prised if there were not some exaggeration in the words attributed to Tunku Abdul Rahman on this occasion. I could, perhaps, draw to his attention the statement mads by Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 8th August, I believe it was, at the State banquet in which he went out of his way to say that the decision of the Australian and New Zealand Governments to continue to station troops in that area had been of great assistance to security and that economic progress would result from that assistance to that security.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that more than 150,000 proof gallons of brandy entered Australia last year from France, most of it well known name brands but some of it such that I can describe it only as cheap and nasty? Does the Minister agree that, with devaluation of the franc, a larger volume in the latter category may enter Australia? What recourse does the Australian industry have? Do industry panels operate outside commodity agreements or must damage to an industry be demonstrable before action for protection can be taken through the Special Advisory Authority?
– I have not in my mind any knowledge of the quantity of brandy that is imported from France. I certainly have no knowledge of the quality of that brandy. If the brandy manufacturers of Australia have any cause to fear that brandy may be imported in quantities and at prices that would dislocate the Australian industry, the advice that 1 would give to them would be to consult the Department of Trade and Industry with a view to having an industry panel established on which representatives of the brandy manufacturers would sit with appropriate officers of the Department of Trade and Industry and have put before them all the factual information from month to month. If the facts revealed a situation of damage or imminent damage, the brandy manufacturers would have a prima facie case to ask the Special Advisory Authority for protection. If the honourable member wants to aid brandy manufacturers in his own electorate, he may consult me and 1 will see that the Department makes early contact with the industry.
– On Tuesday last, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) asked me a question about the manufacture of Jindivik pilotiess target aircraft in the United Kingdom. To the best of my knowledge, it is possible that the inspiration for the question came from an article in an American technical journal which I have not had the benefit of reading and which, I understand, is rather loose in its description of the situation. I have made some inquiries into the matter. I find that the Jindivik aircraft which was designed originally to meet the needs of the joint programme at Woomera is wholly assembled in Australia, but one or two of its components, particularly the engine and some control gear, are of United Kingdom origin. In respect of the aircraft which Australia sells to the United Kingdom I inform the honourable member that they are sold without the engine and the control gear fitted. These items are fitted in the United Kingdom. This takes up about the same amount of work as would the normal servicing of the aircraft in use. The Jindivik aircraft sold to Sweden and other countries and those used in Australia in the joint project or by the Royal Australian Navy at Jervis Bay are fully fitted aircraft. I hope that reply satisfies the honourable gentleman as to the degree of production in the United Kingdom.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Yarra claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth). In the question that he asked, the honourable member for Maribyrnong referred to the ‘Fiji Times’. Every one of his references was to a report that is false. If the honourable member personally vouches for this report, it means that he is vouching for a report which is false. He and his friends can work out a satisfactory explanation for that. The Minister for External
Affairs is in much the same position. Every reference that he made to the report in the Fiji Times’, with the exception of two references - firstly, that I described Fiji as a classic colony, and. secondly, the ‘closed mind and open mouth’ statement - is false also. His reference, presumably based on an Australian newspaper report, to the return to Fiji cane growers also is based on a completely inaccurate report. So the whole structure of the Minister’s answer was based upon a false report, and what he said is a complete misrepresentation. I would hope that slightly better standards will prevail in this House.
-Order! The honourable member is now out of order.
That grievances be noted.
– I was most interested to hear what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said, in reply to a question, about a Commonwealth grant of $lm to the State of Victoria to subsidise wheat farmers. I intend to deal with this matter at a later stage, but this morning I wish to devote my 10 minutes to the current wheat crisis. For the past 12 months it has been obvious that a wheat crisis was imminent. It has become obvious also that this explosive issue will erupt at a time dangerously close to the forthcoming federal election. It is high time that this Government came out in the open and told wheat growers the truth about the unholy mess which this industry is in today. The time for platitudes, promises and wishful thinking is over. An explosive economic issue is facing Australia - an issue which can drastically reduce the income and living standards of the wheat grower. If the position worsens, it could also cost the Australian taxpayer larger sums of money through the Treasury and through the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Fund.
The Opposition supports the principle of the broad objectives of the International Grains Arrangement, in that it makes some provision for orderly marketing for export wheat at satisfactory prices. In times of cutthroat competition Australia could not effectively compete with very powerful exporters such as the United States, Canada and the European Economic Community. The International Grains Arrangement provides a gentlemen’s agreement between exporters that there is some obligation at least to try to adhere to minimum prices. There could be no question that under the rather inflexible provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act, whereby the industry is guaranteed a return of $1.45 per bushel for up to 200 million bushels of wheat exported, it is to the Australian Treasury’s advantage to save the International Grains Arrangement at all costs. But can it be saved? Is it worth saving? Is the International Grains Arrangement capable of guaranteeing protection of the interests of the Australian wheat grower? I have the gravest doubts about the backbone strength and ability of the IGA to maintain minimum prices. If Australia maintains minimum prices it is obvious that we will have to accept shrinking quotas.
The following issues, which have an important bearing on the successful operation of the IGA, should be considered: A world wide glut of wheat, a high degree of self-sufficiency in the main importing countries, technological advances in high yielding wheat in these importing countries, the recent devaluation of the French currency, and political pressures in the United States and Canada. The above are all solid arguments why a lowering of the world price of wheat must result in the future. The cold fact of the matter is that the world price of wheat is too high, and no amount of subterfuge or political dodging can disguise this fact. If the IGA collapses and the United States, Canada and France embark on a price cutting war, the average price of Australian wheat realised on the export market must fall drastically. The collapse of the IGA is a distinct possibility which must be faced. If it collapses there will be severe pressures on the domestic marketing system. It can lead only to lower average wheat prices in Australia because of illegal trading in significant proportions. It could even wreck the domestic stabilisation provision if flour mills enter into this illegal trading operation also.
But let us look at the current position. We have approximately twenty-five million acres sown with a carryover of 250 million to 300 million bushels. There will be at the end of this harvest, about 750 million to 800 million bushels to sell. The Government’s approach to this explosive crisis is one of apathy and passing the buck. The Government’s attitude is to blame the wheat industry and to expect the industry to solve its own problems. But let it be remembered that it is the Government’s constant encouragement to wheat producers to expand and increase export income that is in itself a contributing factor to this expansion. The Government has a responsibility to the wheat industry to help solve this problem with constructive and positive policies, not a policy of dodging for cover or of trying to bring on an early election. The Government’s first responsibility must be in the field of temporary and permanent storages, but the Budget has shown that the Government has no intention of doing this.
The Labor Party is firmly of opinion that additional wheat storage capacity to handle wheat and feed grain surpluses in the next few years is a sound investment in Australia. A Labor Government would be prepared to help the industry and the States to finance permanent and temporary storages for surplus wheat and feed grains. The Opposition has always opposed the two price scheme which currently exists under the present wheat stabilisation scheme. A domestic price which will continue to rise with increases within the cash cost index as provided under the formula under the Wheat Stabilisation Act can mean only an increase in illegal trading and a breaking down of the domestic agreement in these circumstances of surpluses and unsaleable wheat. A two price domestic-export scheme for a volatile export industry like wheat, with periodic large surpluses is unsound in principle if orderly marketing is to be maintained. It is obvious that the grading of wheat must be overhauled and streamlined to differentiate clearly between high quality wheat for human consumption and lower quality wheat suitable for livestock feed.
I am convinced that wheat production must be orientated more towards the production of feed grains for export, even if it does mean the collapse of the International Grains Arrangement. Australia has the capacity to produce low-cost but high yielding crops of feed grains comparable with any country and the long term market for feed grains has all the earmarks of being sound or at least far superior to that of wheat. International authorities, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, present telling evidence to support the contention that there will be substantial increases in the demand for feed grains for developed countries, particularly Japan, the European Economic Community and southern European countries, along with substantial increases in meat production. At Australia’s doorstep are both mainland China and Japan, two countries which have enormous potential for meat imports and a China market for feed grains will be of importance.
The broad bases of the Opposition’s policy on wheat are the provision of additional temporary and permanent storages to cater for non-quota wheat in the present stabilisation period as well as for feed grains, some of these storages to be located in highly susceptible drought areas; a continuation of the wheat stabilisation scheme but with a greater degree of flexibility in the fixation of the domestic price and the guaranteed export price levels; and, as Jong as the parameters of the first advance payment of $1.10 a bushel and the total first advance liability of the Commonwealth of $440m are fixed, the provision of individual minimum quotas in the vicinity of 8,000 to 10,000 bushels taking into account the variability of different production regions with drought, etc. The Labor Party believes that there should be the establishment of a No. 1 pool which would comprise wheat required for the International Grains Arrangement, wheat for human consumption in Australia and special reserves for overseas requirements and the establishment of a No. 2 pool to handle all non-quota wheat or quota wheat surplus to No. 1 pool requirements. In association with this additional storage No. 2 pool wheat is to be sold on the basis of feed grain prices if this must be so.
It believes also in the encouragement of greater emphasis on the production of high yielding feed grains. It believes in the implementation of a stabilisation scheme for coarse grains if serious price fluctuations do occur among the various coarse grains as a result of feed wheat sales. And, the Labor Party believes that for the purposes of identification and segregation it may be necessary for a proportion of the No. 2 pool wheat to be denatured. This is being done in other parts of the world. It can be done in Australia. If it is necessary to concentrate on feed grains as an ancillary to high quality wheats, this should be done.
It is obvious to all that something must be done as regards the wheat industry. The only relevant decision taken in this year’s Budget was to increase the superphosphate subsidy. This might increase wheat production in some of the extensive broad acre areas, because those are the areas where it is possible in some seasons to produce wheat at a very low cost of production. It is about time this Government woke up to this crisis. If it is trying to fool anybody as to why it wants an early election, I regret that it will not fool many people in Australia. What it wants to do is to have an election before chaotic conditions arise as a result of trying to confine the wheat industry to the quotas, which will not work in Australia this year. They cannot work. The storages are not there-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is the only Country Party member who is present-
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh is out of order. [Quorum formed.]
Mr BONNETT (Herbert) [11.331- Yesterday, during the discussion of the matter of public importance that was introduced by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), reference was made to the serious drought problem that is affecting Queensland at the moment. The Queensland members who spoke in that debate mentioned the seriousness of the situation but, to my mind, not quite enough. So I take this opportunity today to stress the importance of this problem and to offer a couple of suggestions which, if they were implemented urgently, would help considerably to overcome the situation that exists. At the moment Queensland is going through a period of tremendous industrial expansion. That is well known. But, the economy of Queensland has depended, and for many years to come will depend, mainly on its primary industries and its agriculture. 1 believe that the drought we are experiencing at the moment is the worst we have experienced in the history of Queensland. We have had one fairly good season in 12 years. That is not good enough.
The more I talk about this matter here in Canberra, the more I realise that the people in the southern States do not realise the seriousness of the situation. At the moment graziers are destroying their stock. About 4 months ago one grazier I know had to shoot 2,000 sheep. Graziers were offering their sheep to people in New South Wales, which had just overcome its drought, at 2c a head to avoid having to destroy them. This has been happening in the cattle industry as well. The sugar farmers, who are very badly affected - especially those on the Burdekin and in the Haughton River area - in my opinion will not reach their peaks this year. In fact, the sugar farmers on the Haughton, who depend on the underground water supply, will produce 64,000 tons less than last year’s production, which was well below that of the previous year. If good rain does not fall within 2 months, we will have the spectacle of ninety-two farmers having to leave their cane farms in the Haughton River Valley alone.
The State Irrigation and Water Supply Commission in Queensland has been investigating this matter. I know that it has recommended that boom weirs be built on the Haughton to check the salt water that is encroaching into the fresh water reservoirs with the result that the pumping of salt water is killing the cane. This has been suggested by the Commission, but when it will be put into effect nobody knows. The honourable members who spoke yesterday stressed the position in the cattle, sheep and sugar industries. But the effect of the drought goes deeper than that. It affects all businesses in north Queensland, from the big business to the small comer store. Let me quote one illustration. Something that some of the departmental chaps here in Canberra did not know was that last year in the automotive industry there was an increase of 5.8% in new vehicle sales in
Australia, but in Queensland sales were down by 7% and in north Queensland they were down by 14%.
This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. This is one of the aftermaths or results of this drought. If this happened in New South Wales or Victoria we would hear the greatest scream of all time, and something would be done about it. One of the big problems is the loss of our breeding stock. This is our big worry. The sales of stock at the Royal National Show in Brisbane at the moment are proving that graziers just will not buy stock because of the uncertainty caused by the drought. Yet, in my opinion - this was not stressed yesterday - we still have not felt the full effects of the drought. Briefly, that is the present position.
The honourable member for Dawson mentioned water conservation. I know full well that this is an answer; but it is not the complete answer. I also know that the Federal Ministers concerned are conscious of this problem, because I have brought it to their minds. But one point of which I would remind honourable members is that we have a two-government setup - a Federal government and a State government - and if the State Government does not present its case to the Federal Government the Federal Government just cannot act. When the State Government did call for aid we saw the Federal Government react very quickly. I refer to the dollar for dollar subsidy up to $4m, with costs over and above that amount being mct by the Commonwealth without any worries and without any strings being attached. That is the way it should be. There should be complete and quick co-operation.
I believe that we lack sufficient knowledge of our water resources in Queensland. That is our problem. I will not accept the suggestion that this is the result of a failure on the part of the Federal Government. Who should know better than the State Government what its resources are and how best they can be utilised? We have proof of that in what happened when the State Government called for feasibility studies of the Burdekin River-Bowen River and Nogoa schemes. These were mentioned yesterday by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). There is no need for me to repeat them. I still believe that the State has a big responsibility in this regard. I remind the House - the honourable member for Dawson will know this very well - that it took many months of hard work before I could get the State Government to apply for Commonwealth assistance to undertake a feasibility study of the Burdekin Dam. We worked together on that. I would work with him again on this problem because it is a serious one and party politics should not enter into these matters. Incidentally, 1 believe that that feasibility study is being looked at at the present moment. We are hopeful that we will receive a favourable answer on it. But the responsibility still rests with the State Government to see that it is ready to go.
I realise that it is foolish to build dams or water conservation projects if they are not economic propositions. I believe that we lack the necessary knowledge. But we have not the time to undertake all these feasibility studies. We are running out of time, especially if we do not have a normal monsoonal season next year. There is an urgent need for close co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State now.
The close co-operation is highlighted by a measure that has helped considerably. I refer to the system of beef roads. The Commonwealth and the State have worked together on this system and it has helped tremendously during the drought. The quick shifting of stock for agistment or slaughter has given substantial help. But I have a suggestion to make about the beef roads. If money is the problem, here is the answer. Our beef roads mainly run north and south and the linkage roads probe deeply into the heart of the cattle area in the west. But there is no linkage to the wet coastal belt. If there were a link road from the nearest beef road running north and south, which is over the range, to the wet coastal region behind Ingham and another behind Tully, all that country would be open. The rainfall there is good and constant and plenty of grazing land is available. Stock could be shifted from the furthest part of the cattle area in the west to this country in a matter of 2 days, and it would be saved. The meat works is in close proximity and this movement of stock would enable us to keep up our export and our domestic supply. It would certainly save our breeding stock, about which we will have to worry later.
If the beef road system were linked to the coastal belt behind Ingham, about 50,000 acres of black soil plain would become available. I know that this land is waiting to be used for the growing of grain. It is lying idle now, because there is no outlet for anything that could be produced on it. This is a medium rainfall area, and we would have no worries on that score. The two roads I have suggested would serve most of the Gulf country stock. All this could be happening while we are increasing our knowledge of water conservation and our water resources in the north. The feasibility studies could still go ahead. The cost of the roads I have suggested would be no more than §10m. This is a small price to pay if as a result we save a considerable part of our cattle and sheep and help to maintain this most important primary industry upon which Queensland and the Commonwealth depend. I know that the beef roads programme was planned for 6 years. But I do not care what they call the link roads I have suggested. They can be called development or anything else, but $10m is a small price to pay to help conserve our stock.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to draw attention to the parlous position of the Australian wheat industry. I want to announce to all honourable members present that there need be no doubt in their minds as to the date of the election. They can start planning for an October election, and there is a very good reason for it. Very shortly the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will officially confirm the date I have just given, because the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is Leader of the Australian Country Party, has told the Prime Minister that, unless the Government holds an early election and gets it out of the way before the farmers start to deliver their wheat, all the wheat seats in Australia will be lost to the Government. There is no doubt that this will happen. It must happen, because the greatest tragedy that has ever faced any industry is now facing the wheat industry.
When the farmers come to deliver their wheat they will be told that there is no storage because we have not yet been able to sell the wheat from the previous harvest. Although I am the second Opposition member in succession to draw attention to this terrible tragedy that is facing the wheat industry, the only Country Party members sitting here listening to what we have to say are the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) from Western Australia and now belatedly the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). At least I can say that the honourable member for Moore has consistently advocated the case of the wheat farmers right through, even to the point of telling the Leader of the Australian Country Party himself that unless the Country Party gets back to the farmers it has no right to expect the support of the farming community, and neither it has.
I can remember when I first came into this Parliament the present Leader of the Country Party was a raging, roaring lion supporting the farming community. But what has happened? Have a look at McEwen House. If it were ever possible for us to find out who met the cost of erecting McEwen House, we would find that the money did not come from the half-starved farmers who vote for the Country Party. It no doubt came from the wealthy, vested interests that have benefited by the policy of the Leader of the Country Party, who supports tariff increases for the chemical and other industries that are inefficient and do not really need this protection. In the result, it is really the farming community that has had to meet the cost of building McEwen House and it has done so through the purses of those people who have benefited from the excessively high tariff duties that have been supported by the present Leader of the Australian Country Party. The cost of the goods on which these duties are imposed is immediately reflected in the cost of production.
Let us contrast the attitude of the present Leader of the Country Party with the attitude of Sir Arthur Fadden. I recall the time when the Menzies Government was contemplating an appreciation of the Australian currency. Sir Arthur Fadden, who was then the Leader of the Country Party, said, ‘You will appreciate the Australian currency only over my dead body.’ It was a threat from which even the indomitable Menzies had to recoil and the attempt to appreciate the Australian currency was abandoned. When our currency was devalued nearly 2 years ago, apart from a lot of loud noises emanating a long way away at Geneva, what did the present Leader of the Country Party do? Nothing at all. The Country Party did nothing; it made loud noises but took no action. The reason for this is that, with the exception of one or two honourable members, most of the members of the Country Party and certainly all the Country Party Ministers have sold out to commercial and manufacturing interests. They no longer represent the farmers who sent them here. They are here to do the bidding of the Liberal Party and the wealthy backers of the Liberal Party. They ought not to be allowed to use the name ‘Country Party* any longer.
I was born and bred on a farm. I know the privation and the great poverty that the farming community has to face. When the Country Party was first formed many years ago some members of the fanning community like my parents, who continued to vote Labor, said: The members of the Country Party will not stay dinkum. They will go over to the wealthy Liberal Party when it suits their purpose.’ The rest of the farmers around us said, ‘No, we must have a party of our own, a party that will be independent of the Liberal Party.’ But what do we have? We have a Party which calls itself the Australian Country Party and which pretends to represent the country areas but which is nothing more or less than an appendage of the Liberal Party.
Let us examine what this Government has done. Despite all his boasting and all his blustering about his new International Grains Arrangement, the present Leader of the Country Party has completely ruined the wheat industry. An unrealistic price was set. Australia and other wheat exporting countries could not get buyers at that price. A two-price structure was established and the internal price was set at $1.70. This meant that the people who had to buy bread made from Australian wheat had to pay far more for that bread than they should have. As a consequence of that the basic wage rose. As a consequence of the basic wage rising, the price of all the other commodities that the farmer had to buy also rose. So not only were the wage earners no better off because of the increased wages that resulted from the extra cost of the bread they consumed, but the poor old farmer, who has to sell his product at world parity and cannot sell all that he produces beyond the amount set aside for export, was compelled to pay prices artificially jacked up by excessive tariffs and prices that increased following the rise in the basic wage. He was at the receiving end of the deal and could do nothing about it. I ask this Parliament to heed my words. The Government will be very lucky if the farmers do not wake up to the reason for the early election. I am warning the farming community now that if it is not prepared to throw this Government right out neck and crop at the election to be held in October the farmers will find that they will have no opportunity again for another 3 years to rectify the damage that has been done to their industry by the ineptitude of the present Government. They have only one chance and it will come to them in October. If they fail to take it then they will wait for 3 long, weary, dreary, poverty-stricken years before they get their next opportunity.
We could have done plenty but we did nothing. Mr Stott, the one-time Secretary of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, said that we ought to have recognised Red China. He said that this was the best market and that we should have given recognition to it. Mr Stott now holds the balance of power and keeps the Liberal and Country Party Government in power in South Australia. He said: ‘Here is- a country that took a quarter and sometimes a half of the total production of Australian wheat. Yet we do nothing to try to find out what her wheat requirements are.’ We should have an embassy in Communist China. We should have commercial attaches trying to find out what the food production in China is each year so that we can calculate in advance what its possible needs will be in the subsequent years. But we do nothing. Do honourable members think that the Chinese sit back and do not find out what we are doing? The Chinese, contrary to the general belief, are terribly well informed on how much wheat and other food is being produced in the exporting countries. We, one of the major wheat exporting countries, have absolutely no conception at all of what the Chinese require in the line of food, although the Chinese come to us if they cannot buy anywhere else at a better price and say: ‘We will buy from you.’
It is not good enough to have the situation that we have in Australia today. We have a magnificent industry which is now facing the certainty of total collapse. The enormity of the tragic blundering of the McEwen-Anthony approach to the wheat industry must be seen as a contributing factor to the situation that we have at the moment, wherein the wheat industry in the space of less than a year has gone from a state of confidence and prosperity to one of desperation and despair. The Australian Labor Party is prepared to rectify the situation. In October, the general election will come around because the Government dare not wait until November when the wheat farmers will be told that there is no place to put their wheat. Only then will the stark reality of the situation face them. So in October the wheat farmers will have their last and only opportunity for the next 3 years to save their industry from total collapse by voting for the Australian Labor Party.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just heard an emotional and highly political speech from the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron).
– I cannot help being emotional.
– Of course he cannot. He is always emotional. We have problems in the wheat industry, but this Government is grappling with those problems. I should think that the honourable member for Hindmarsh would also be interested in another matter which I want to discuss for a few moments. This concerns the dreadful toll of young lives on Australian roads. In my State the arrival of the age of 18 is a great event for young people. They then become entitled to take charge of a highly lethal machine, a monster which is feared by parents - the motor car. On 25th March 1969 the Melbourne ‘Age’ reported that over 1,250,000 licensed drivers were on the roads in Victoria. Male drivers under the age of 25 years represented 40% of males involved in accidents where there are casualties. Figures just issued show that last year 603 persons between the ages of 17 and 20 and 723 persons between the ages of 21 and 29 were killed on the roads.
These are the most critical years in the lives of young people. These are the years during which they are very eager to get onto the highways in cars. This problem needs very careful and urgent attention.
I should like to refer to some headlines that have recently appeared in newspapers. One in the Melbourne ‘Age’ read: ‘81 die on the roads over Easter’. The report states:
Australia’s Easter weekend road toll stood at 81 dead last night, 24 more than last year.
A headline in the ‘Sun Herald’ of 3rd August 1969 read: ‘Grief Town. 7 die in car crash.’ The report, which related to a dreadful accident in western New South Wales, stated:
This town in the central West is rilled with grief today following the worst road disaster in the district’s history.
The next day the Melbourne ‘Sun’ had a headline reading: ‘10 under 21 die in two crashes’. The report referred to the accident in New South Wales to which I have just referred and to another crash in the Goulburn Valley over the weekend. It stated:
Three teenagers were killed in a car crash on the Lancaster road, 6 miles east of Kyabram, on Saturday.
So it goes on. I live in a country town on a very busy highway and I have some idea of what this kind of news means to a town. Seven families were devastated in that accident in New South Wales about a fortnight ago and the whole town was shocked. A day later this other dreadful accident occurred in Victoria. All of the persons involved in those two accidents were under the age of 21 years. 1 mention only briefly those two accidents but each Monday morning the Press brings out a new casualty list resulting from road accidents, much greater than the casualty lists coming through from Vietnam. How sad it is when one reads of teenage boys and girls involved and how tragic it is for Australia. What are we doing to protect these young people? We seem to have come to accept these dreadful figures. In a recent year 3,249 persons were killed on the roads and 81,148 others were injured. Our death rate is 8.1 per 10,000 vehicles. This is much greater than the rate in the United States which is 5.5, or the rate of 5.2 in New Zealand or the estimated rate of 6.1 in the
United Kingdom. Wise parents and teachers are talking to their children and advising them of the dangers. Prudent fathers are taking their young people to dances and other social functions at weekends and picking them up afterwards. But what of those young Australians who are given more freedom and like speed, alcohol, adventure and notoriety? The Australian Medical Association has recently put forward a policy. I think its work is to be commended but it has not gone nearly far enough. We must get to the core of the problem, which lies in speedy cars and . inexperienced drivers.
What is the answer? We seem to be stumped to find an answer. I guarantee that parents who have lost young people would gladly accept speed limits of 20 miles an hour if their young folk could be brought back. We are bringing in thousands and thousands of migrants each year while hundreds and hundreds’ of our own young folk are being killed on our roads. Anxious parents - there must be thousands of them every Friday and Saturday night - would gladly accept any restriction to relieve themselves of worry and the risks faced by their children who are out at parties and other social functions. All kinds of exercises are being undertaken in regard to road safety. These take the form of conferences and seminars. But we seem to be skirting around the real problems of speed, youth and irresponsibility.
I wonder whether we can ever get to the situation where we can protect our young people from themselves. Of course, we cannot put old heads on young shoulders. Many of these young people do not even get a vote. Some States are tackling the problem with driver education courses in their schools. In South Australia recently 333 secondary school students were given a special course in road safety and driving. A record was made of how they turned out over the next 3 years. Over this period 100 offences were recorded against the 333 secondary school students. A record was also taken of a similar number of students who did not undertake the course. Of this group 370 offences were recorded in a period of 3 years. In the United States of America high school driver education will be available by 1970 to all secondary students who seek it.
I would like to see a greater emphasis placed on this problem in every State of Australia. I wonder how we can control youthful exuberation and disregard for danger? I doubt that we can. I do not know the answer. Perhaps we could put a car curfew on young people. Perhaps we should all accept an enforceable speed limit. I am very pleased to see that a symposium on road accidents is to be held in Sydney shortly. The subjects to be studied are listed under headings such as: ‘The road accident epidemic’, ‘Improving the environment’, Improving driver behaviour’, ‘Accidents, the effect on the family and the community’. I hope that the symposium will also get its teeth into the problem of speed and youthful drivers. I hope that it will really get its teeth into the very great problems of speed and speedy cars, of the cars manufactured today that are too fast for the highways on which they are driven. We need more and more people to become concerned about this problem so that governments and people everywhere will be ready to accept restrictions on everyday driving. One day, I trust, people will be willing to accept enforceable restrictions for the good of all. I am looking to our own Minister and those in the States to take a strong lead in this matter. Let us take strong action. This is a big problem and it needs firm action.
I believe there should be an inquiry to ascertain the economic effects on the community if cars and trucks were governed to, say, 50 miles per hour. Surely, with the various bodies inquiring into road safety an inquiry could be made into the possibility of putting governors on cars. I know that this has been laughed at. We have been told that the public will not accept this. But surely we can look at this problem to decide on the one hand the problems of speedcaused accidents-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is Grievance Day and I grieve with the honourable members for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) over the failure of the Federal Government to plan effectively and adequately the future of the wheat industry. I also grieve with the people of the countryside about the betrayal of their justifiable hopes and ambitions by the present Administration. I grieve about the lack of industry in the country, the loss of population from the villages and towns and the steeply rising prices affecting men and women throughout the whole countryside. I grieve about the problems associated with the export of merino rams which has been threatened or promised by this Administration. I grieve about the more recent drastic action of the Government in reducing the percentage of the petrol tax fund to be directed to road construction and reconstruction in country districts. I grieve over all these things.
Time does not permit me to discuss all of these matters in detail, and I want to address myself to the problems of the wheat industry. I want to make a plea today, belated as it is, to this Government to take action now to halt the drift and to adopt new policies, even as an election death-bed repentance, to try to help the man on the land. I am concerned here about the wheat growers, the traditional growers who depend upon the proceeds of the sale of wheat for their income and for their solvency. Because of the lack of planning and political leadership, bountiful seasons have caused serious problems for the wheat growers of Australia. It is a melancholy fact that too much wheat and too much food are causing economic problems in a hungry world. This is something to be deplored.
Basically there is something radically wrong with the distribution of food in Australia and throughout the world. In the Government’s view wheat farmers have committed the offence of growing too much grain. Farmers who depend upon the proceeds of wheat sales are faced with a bleak future. Quotas for grain deliveries have been fixed and this arrangement will not assure an adequate income for producers whose livelihoods depend upon their labours. There has been a startling lack of leadership in this matter. The Government believes, as does the Opposition which pioneered work in this field, in orderly marketing, the co-ordination of activity and the planning of production so that those engaged in the industry will not be subjected to the laws of the jungle, and so that adequate incomes will be assured.
I draw attention to the fact that the Government has received notice after notice of this matter. I have in my hand eighteen questions asked in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ali of these questions have specifically asked the Government to do something to assure the future of the traditional wheat growers of this country. All of the answers place the ball back in the court of the Australian Wheat Board. Surely, in the final analysis it is the Government that has the responsibility and the duty to attend to these matters. The Government takes the view that the Wheat Board is responsible when prices are being fixed and sales are being arranged. The Government says that it cannot divulge prices, that that would be wrong because the Wheat Board has the responsibility in this field. But when prices are to be cut, as was announced yesterday, it becomes a political consideration and we are entitled to ask: What gain is there for us, for the people of Australia or for the wheat grower?
An editorial in the ‘United Farmer’, which is the official organ of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers’ Association of New South Wales, on Wednesday 9th April, under the heading ‘Over To Mr Anthony’, slated:
At time of writing it would appear that Australian wheatgrowers will have done the right thing by the Government in agreeing, at organisational level, to accept limitations in wheat production.
The urgency of the situation in the great wheat industry to control production has been exacerbated by a remarkable seasonal change in many growing areas, particularly in the major State.
The article discussed the problem and concluded with the following comments:
Now - what’s the Government going to do?
The industry looks like agreeing to sacrifices and many of these will be personal ones likely even to cause heartbreak.
The Government has a clear responsibility, having stood over the industry with a mailed fist in Mr Anthony’s velvet glove, to ensure that the stability and future development of the industry are not endangered unnecessarily on both home and foreign fronts.
The industry has done its bit - a pretty big bitnow it’s over to Canberra.
In this country nothing has been done to plan production. I asked a question in this House about planning. It, too, was referred back to the Wheat Board; the matter was something for the Wheat Board to decide. Surely in matters such as these the Government has a responsibility. This inertia, this bumbling and bungling, this drift that has been allowed to go on, this allowing of matters to take their own course, and finally the fixing of quotas which are unrealistic and unsatisfactory to the man who depends upon the production of wheat for his livelihood, are not good enough. The Government should have been more realistic in facing its responsibilities.
The International Grains Arrangement has failed. Despite the fact that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) agreed to a reduction of Australia’s trading efforts, the United States of America immediately agreed to cut the price of wheat. This was announced in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 17th July. The article read:
US sells below agreed price. A top US Agriculture Department official today admitted for the first time that the United States has been undercutting International Grains Agreement prices for wheat.
We surrendered our markets; we gave away our customers in the hope that the International Grains Arrangement would be sound and that we would be able to help placate the United States of America and Canada. Only yesterday we learnt of the difficulties in the industry. Our surrender of markets and our giving away of customers that we have had over the years, I notice, has been confirmed by Mr P. J. Meehan, President of the Victorian Farmers Union, who is reported as having said that Canada recently had sold wheat to Peru, which had been an Australian market. Despite that fact, we have been prepared to abate our sales programme. I think the time is long overdue when some light should be shone on the wheat industry, on the operations of the Wheat Board and on the conduct of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Trade and Industry, to ascertain what the shippers and the agents have been doing. It seems to me that the farmers cannot get the facts - the truth about the industry - but those engaged on the outside, the agents and the shippers, know the facts. Overseas people engaged in this great industry know the facts. I believe that a disturbing feature of the industry is the fact that wheat sales have been allowed to continue in such a haphazard manner with no-one being responsible. If an honourable member asks a question, the answer is that the matter is one for the
Wheat Board; that no information is available. If we want to know the price and terms of sale of wheat to Communist China or India, we are told that this information is not available to the Parliament. This is not good enough. The replies given to honourable members have confirmed this attitude over and over again. I make this last plea to the Government to do the right thing - and to do it now - to overcome this situation, as far as it is able, to attempt to give justice to the people of Australia and to provide wheat for the starving stock of this country.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will not be drawn away from the subject on which I intend to speak by the speeches we have heard regarding the wheat industry. But first I want to say that when the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) rose to speak, he looked around and said that certain members were present and added, ‘belatedly, the honourable member for Mallee’. He knew quite well I had been called out of the House. I came back immediately I had completed what I had to do in my office. He also knows that for 23± years I have never been late in this Parliament. He knows that my record of daily attendance in the House is unparalleled in any parliament in the world. Knowing these things, he tried to score some paltry political point against me. After that how can anyone take into consideration anything he said? How low can he get? [Quorum formed]
– I raise a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that the honourable member be requested to withdraw the statement that I have got as low as it is possible to get.
– I did not say that. I simply asked the question: When the honourable member for Hindmarsh is willing to say such things about me, how low can he get?
– That is the statement to which I object.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that there is no cause for withdrawal of any comment in the statement made by the honourable member for Mallee.
– Anyone with any knowledge of parliamentary proceedings would know that the honourable member for Hindmarsh is trying to stop me from speaking. There is not the slightest doubt of that. To give an instance of what he thinks about farmers and wheat growers, while the quorum was being formed he said to me: ‘Your main item is skeleton weed’. He thought this would disparage me. In this House my fight for skeleton weed eradication has done so much for primary industry generally and for the wheat growers in my electorate that they will not forget it readily. The honourable member for Hindmarsh was not very high in his praise of the intelligence of wheat growers when he said that if the election is not held before 25th October the wheat growers will vote against the Government because they will find that they cannot effect delivery of their wheat due to lack of storage space. Surely to goodness he does not think that farmers are so lacking in intelligence that by that time they will not know - they probably know now - exactly how much of their wheat can be taken. They are working on a quota system. Does he not know that the quota system was recommended by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation?
I desire to speak briefly about the Australian dried fruits industry. Incidentally, although this industry extends into South Australia, the honourable member for Hindmarsh never mentions it. After the great calamity of the torrential rain that hit the dried vine fruit industry and robbed the growers of about 40% of their income this year, straight away in this House I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I cannot read it all. But he said that if the State Government approached the Federal Government and presented a case equivalent to the case for bushfire damage, drought damage or something which the Federal Government is prepared to accept it would be ready to discuss the matter with the State Government. After that I visited the area where dried fruits are grown and T found devastation. Most of the fruit had been picked. A lot of it was rotting on the racks. That which had to be picked afterwards was only .a small percentage of the crop prior to the rain.
Double rates had to be paid to the people who picked the grapes because they could not pick enough grapes to make a decent day’s pay.
The dried fruits industry is of vital interest to Australia, I represent about 70% of the industry. The matter I have raised is not a vote catcher and therefore the honourable member for Hindmarsh or the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) do not discuss it. Instead, they stand up and make what are mostly inaccurate statements in an attempt to stir up the feelings of some wheat growers. Recently in the Mallee electorate I attended twenty-five report to electors meetings. I found that the actual primary producer wheat grower knows exactly what is happening. I wish to refer to an article which appeared in the Mildura ‘Sunraysia Daily’, which is a newspaper that I am sure everybody in this House has heard of. If they had not heard of it I would not be doing my job. Some disparaging remarks have been thrown at me in regard to this publication. I believe that it is one of the best provincial city newspapers in Australia. The editor of the newspaper, Mr George Tilley, the Mayor of Mildura, Councillor Wright, and city councillors of Mildura visited Canberra recently. Following that visit an article by Mr Tilley appeared in the ‘Sunraysia Daily’ headed ‘Canberra, An Architect’s Delight: It Would Make Our Fruit Men Weep’. The article states:
The whole of the dried vine fruits industry could have been firmly on its feet and Sunraysia given needed finance from the Commonwealth with money spent on architect’s fees alone here in Canberra.
Earlier the article states:
While the Federal Government refuses to provide any relief for growers hit by storms earlier this year, millions of dollars are being poured into projects in the national capital.
Does the Australian Labor Party oppose this expenditure? Does it oppose the proposed expenditure on a fountain in Lake Burley Griffin? Did it oppose the expenditure on the fountains that we can see outside our windows? I believe that this money, or a like amount, should have been given to the dried fruits industry to help the growers get back into production. I object to expenditure on these items when there are people in the country whose life-blood is the dried fruits industry that is so urgently in need of aid. I also object to the paltry arguments that have been put up by the Opposition. The honourable member for Macquarie is continually asking what is being done for the establishment of industries in country areas. He knows that I coined the phrase decentralisation of political representation’. He referred to the need for one vote one value, but we find about 362,000 people in Tasmania have the same representation in the Senate as the 3 million or more people in New South Wales. He does not say anything about that. If we do not decentralise political representation, we will continue to have most of the members of Parliament representing the city areas of Melbourne and Sydney. As a result, we will never achieve decentralisation. The only way it will be achieved is by a practical application of the phrase to which I have referred, decentralisation of political representation’. That is the only way in which everyone will get a fair deal.
I ask the Prime Minister to give further consideration to the dried fruits industry. Even at this late stage the industry is urgently in need of much more finance. A grant of, say, even Si. 5m at this moment would be a great help to this industry which has been built up in the north western part of Victoria.
– I am the fourth Opposition speaker to stand up in this debate and refer to the problems that are facing the wheat industry. It is very disturbing to me to find that not for one moment during the whole of the debate has a Minister who is a member of the Country Party of Australia been present in the House. Only two back bench members of the Country Party were in the House before a quorum was called a couple of moments ago by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). This is very disturbing to me. The Country Party should be taking more interest in the problem that is facing the wheat industry.
During recent months the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has said - if reported correctly, and I have not seen any denial by him - that at least one-third of the farming industry is uneconomical and that the small farmers should move out and find some other form of employment or livelihood. Those remarks are causing a lot of concern because it is felt that if the Government intends to pursue the same line in relation to the wheat industry - and apparently it does - it could mean that the Government will regard any farmer who produces less than 6,000 or 7,000 bushels of wheat a year as uneconomical and will ask him to look elsewhere for a living. This in turn could mean that something like 15,000 wheat producers would go out of production. Such a suggestion may sound rather ridiculous, but it should be realised that it would also mean a reduction in wheat production of approximately 100 million bushels which in turn would bring our overall production back to a figure which is not a great deal beyond the firm delivery quota of 357 million bushels that the Government has laid down. It will be readily seen that the withdrawal of the small producers could go a long way towards solving the Government’s wheat problem. So it may not be such a ridiculous suggestion after all. If a number of small farmers are obliged to leave the industry because of a forced reduction in wheat production it would naturally follow that they would be forced to leave the rural areas. This will mean that many other people will also be obliged to leave the rural areas. I refer to the shopkeepers, shop assistants and others too numerous to mention who are dependent on the business and the patronage of the small farmers in the area in which they live.
I would expect that most, if not all, of the wheat growers realise that production is increasing at a rate well beyond the capacity of the Government to sell. While they are certainly not happy about the situation, they accept that the production must be dampened down to some extent. But it is also realised, and it should in turn be accepted by the Government, that the increase has not been brought about by any significant increase in production by the smaller growers. It must also be remembered* - and this is very important for the future - that the same small farmers - or it may be more correct to say average farmers- in terms of production are our stable or sound producers. They are the genuine wheat farmers who will, if permitted to remain in the industry, continue to produce wheat and will not jump in and out of that particular field of production in the same way as the big producers - -the large landholders - are likely to do as the market for other agricultural or rural products fluctuates. Therefore, the average farmer, the small farmer, the genuine wheat grower - call him what you like - should be protected in the allocation of quotas.
These farmers must not be treated in such a way that for economical reasons they will be forced out of the. industry and will be obliged to hand over their properties to large companies. They must not be made to suffer for some situation to which they have contributed very little if anything at all. This must not be allowed to happen. Surely some responsibility must rest upon the Commonwealth Government to ensure that this does not happen. The very large growers, the St George’s Terrace growers, the Pitt Street growers, the Collins Street growers, the big contractors who go into wheat growing simply for the purpose of getting some taxation reductions should not be treated in such a way as to cause the small growers to suffer for what they have done.
I notice that the Minister for Primary Industry is now in the House. Certainly the more recent actions of the Government, supported by statements made by the Minister, indicate a reverse attitude. But surely it is in the interests of the Commonwealth generally that the Federal Government should do everything possible to ensure that the wheat industry remains in a condition in which it can always be relied upon to provide us with sufficient grain to meet all the markets we can obtain overseas and also to meet home consumption demands, which must include demands for stock food in times or areas of drought. We will not be ensuring that situation unless we protect the average farmer.
So it appears to me that in the circumstances which have caused the increase in wheat production, and because of the great value of the average and genuine wheat farmer in the past, and his undoubted value in the future, it would be no more than reasonable and fair to tell farmers who produce say 10,000 bushels - this quantity could be determined only after an examination of the average situation but I cannot see that it would be less than 10,000 bushels- that they will not be obliged to accept any cut in delivery with regard to the first advance but will be guaranteed payment up to that amount, and that for additional production, while it would be accepted, the return would depend upon the demand.
One of the big problems which face growers under this Government’s restricted delivery plan is that of over-production and limited storage facilities. These things would not pose the same problem in an industry in which production could be controlled, or even nearly controlled. The Government has erred in not allowing a degree of tolerance whereby overproduction could, largely, be catered for. No matter how efficient a farmer may be and even if he knows what his quota will be, he still cannot be sure that he will not either over-produce or under-produce. Surely he is entitled to expect that if through no fault of his own, such as an exceptionally good season, he harvests a substantial or even moderate surplus above his quota reasonable storage facilities will be available to him.
There is another reason why as much surplus wheat as possible should be accepted for storage. The Minister for Primary Industry referred to it earlier this year. We know from long experience that circumstances can change rapidly. If adverse seasonal conditions occur in Australia or some other country any wheat surplus held here will be required and will be very welcome. But having referred to the possibility that we could find ourselves in short supply of wheat following any harvest, it was rather surprising to see the Minister and his Government place a firm limit on the amount of wheat which could be delivered. The Government has laid down that no more than 357 million bushels will be accepted, irrespective of storage availability. We of the Opposition adopt a different view. We say that storage availability should be the only limit and that further storage facilities should be provided year after year. Where necessary, money should be made available to the States to ensure that this happens. Surely, with the ever increasing growth-
– A member of the Country Party says that this is rot. Apparently the honourable member does not think. He is a Country Parry spokesman yet he does not believe that we should provide storage for these farmers but that they should provide it themselves. The honourable member for Hume said, when I suggested that storage facilities should be made available to the farmers, that this was rot. Surely, with the increasing growth of Australia’s population and the world population we can expect to require an increasing supply of wheat and surely this, in turn, will mean that additional storage will be required as years go by. We should ensure that we are never in short supply if this can be avoided. To achieve that objective, when we have good reasons we should make certain that as much surplus wheat as possible is stored so that it can be used as an emergency supply not only to meet normal sales, both home and abroad, but to sell as stock feed should it be required. This emergency supply need not attract any payment until actually sold. It would not only be a safety storage in case of need but also would be a security value for farmers who may suffer a season in which they fail to harvest their normal season’s quota. They then would have a quantity of the previous season’s wheat in the bin.
There is a further disadvantage in the limit that the Government has placed on wheat deliveries. I refer to the disadvantage, indeed the danger, of the development of a black market in the sale of wheat. This could be a very grave problem.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to apologise to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) for using the period of time in which he hoped to speak in this Grievance Day debate. However, reports have reached me in recent minutes to the effect that I and the Government have been severely criticised and that I have shown a lack of interest in the debate now proceeding. I think the listening audience ought to know the true facts. Today is Grievance Day, and on such occasions it is the normal practice for individual members to speak on any subject about which they have a point of view. This does not exclude any honourable member from raising a grievance related to the wheat industry, of course, but if the Opposition wants to have a debate on the industry why does it not take advantage of the forms of the House? Members of the Opposition should be manly, not cowardly. They should not be deceitful and behave as they are today.
– The matter has been on the notice paper for 3 months.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister just said that the Opposition is adopting a cowardly attitude.
– That is not true.
– We have had the matter on the notice paper for 3 months but have not been allowed to discuss it Mr Deputy Speaker, I think you ought to ask the Minister to withdraw the remark.
– There is no substance to the point of order.
– The matter has been on the notice paper since 30th April.
– -Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order, MiDeputy Speaker.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition is raising the same point of order as that raised by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I have already ruled on that matter.
– Members of the Opposition are making a very great show at the moment in order to satisfy their consciences. Honourable members opposite are trying to state their point of view on this subject without having informed me, as the Minister responsible, of their intention to do so. Normally, even when we are debating a motion for the adjournment of the House at which time honourable members may raise any subject, they normally have the courtesy to notify the Minister concerned. Today they not only secretly raise this matter and state their point of view but want to stop other people from refuting their claims. I am not going to let these things go by without refuting them. That is why I am here. I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) make plausible statements to the effect that there has been a certain matter on the notice paper since April and that the Opposition has not been able to debate it. There have been Grievance Day debates during which questions could have been asked about the wheat industry. The Opposition has been able to raise matters of urgency if it wanted to do so, but in the last 6 months not one speaker on the Opposition side has mentioned the wheat industry in this House.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. What right has the Minister to tell falsehoods in this place? He said that not one member of the Opposition has mentioned wheat in the last 6 months. I have made seven speeches in the last 6 months.
-Order! The House will come to order. There is no substance to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Dawson.
– The honourable member made seven speeches but none of them was much good. Certainly none of them dealt with wheat, apart from the aspect of drought and feed wheat. That is the only aspect of the industry that he might have covered. The Opposition talks about its great interest in the wheat industry, but what happened last year when the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was before the House? That Bill aroused interest throughout the nation but only one speaker from the Australian Labor Party rose in this place and set out a point of view. The Opposition should not try to make a show today. If it wants a debate on the wheat industry, then why does it not take advantage of the proper forms of the House to allow a fair, open and frank debate? All of us have been waiting to hear the policy of the Australian Labor Party in respect of the wheat industry.
I have been told that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) today has stated the Australian Labor Party’s policy, and I will be very interested to read what he said. I have been waiting for some time to interpret, amidst all the confusion, just what its policy is. I read reports about the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party held in Melbourne, but a different report came out each day. The Australian Labor Party publicised a tremendous meeting at Temora at which it proposed to state its policy. The Leader of the Opposition was to ‘ be there and the shadow Minister for Primary Industry was to bc there. There were great advertisements in the Press. But what happened when the great day came? Was the Leader of the Opposition there? No. He could not be found anywhere. Was the shadow Minister for Primary Industry there? No. A member of the State Parliament was selected to go along to the meeting to try to interpret the policy of the Australian Labor Party. What happened? I point out that 125 people turned up. There was practically no coverage of the meeting in the country newspapers. There was a bit of coverage of it in city newspapers, and everybody has been reading reports about this great Temora meeting, but nobody can make any sense out of it. If the honourable member for Dawson did get up today and state the Australian Labor Party policy on wheat - and I regret that I did not have an opportunity to hear him - then we are all very grateful to know that at last the Australian Labor Party has a policy.
Let us get the facts clear. Nobody will deny that the wheat industry is going through a very difficult period. It is going through a difficult period, not because of the actions of any particular government or group of people but because of a worldwide over-supply of wheat at the present time. Great difficulties are being experienced in disposing of the amount of wheat which we produce in this country. The wheat industry itself, with a great sense of responsibility, has approached the problems confronting it and has brought forward a proposal which is a sound and reasonable approach to a most difficult set of circumstances. It has asked the Commonwealth Government to support the proposal by guaranteeing the provision of $440m by the Reserve Bank to make an advance payment of $1.10 per bushel of wheat, even though at the time of the next crop there will be an outstanding debt of $250m. This would make a total advance by the Reserve Bank to the wheat industry of approximately $650m, which is four times more than any other industry in Australia has ever received by way of advance from the Reserve Bank.
Honourable members opposite say that we are not interested or that we are not trying to do something for the wheat industry. What we have done - and we stick to a cardinal rule here - is that we have asked the wheat industry to make a reasonable and sensible approach to its problems and to make recommendations to the Government. This has been the cardinal rule which we have adopted. The primary industry organisations who know their problems better than anybody else - certainly better than the Australian Labor Party does - have put up a proposal to the Government, and we support it. Do not try to make politics out of the present position, and do not try to say that the quota scheme is our scheme. Here is what the senior VicePresident of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation said:
My organisation accepts full responsibility in originally assessing the need for wheat quotas, and it was at our request that the Federal and State Governments recognised the correctness of our attitude in endeavouring to come to grips with the current situation involving a surplus to sales potential of at least 250 million bushels of wheat.
Let the members of the Opposition hear the next paragraph in Mr Price’s statement. It states:
Should any politician or political party endeavour to make adverse capital out of the introduction of the wheat quotas, they will be responsible for the greatest disservice ever to the wheat industry of Australia.
That is exactly what the Opposition is trying to do today. It is trying to undermine the quota scheme, which is difficult enough to implement as it is. I was told that the honourable member for Dawson, the shadow minister for agriculture, said this morning that the quota scheme will not work. By saying that, he is trying to undermine confidence in a great scheme which has been submitted and which will be implemented. He says: Tt will not work. Give it away, boys. Do not take any notice of it. Black market your wheat. Do what you like. Let the whole thing go into disorder and chaos’. There are enough difficulties already facing the Australian wheat industry. It has a difficult time ahead. The Government is aware of the difficulties and it is trying to do everything possible to overcome them, as are the State governments and the wheat industry organisations. The proposal which was put forward by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation was supported by every wheatgrowers organisation in Australia. Yet the Australian Labor Party has the audacity to come forward and say: Tt is no good. We have a better idea. We are going to tell you how to run your own industry’. I know how that attitude will be received if honourable members opposite continue to try to make political capital out of this set of circumstances.
– Mr Acting Speaker, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), has alleged that my Party has been unwilling during this Parliament to discuss the wheat proposals in the light of the position of the wheat industry. The Minister made a statement on wheat delivery quota proposals on 30th April last. My shadow Minister-
– Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement. I have been misrepresented.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! Does the honourable member for Dawson wish to make a personal explanation or a statement.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented.
– Very well.
– ‘Before the sitting was suspended, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) accused the Opposition and me of not using the forms of the House to initiate a debate on wheat. The facts are that on 30th April last the Goevrnment introduced into this Parliament its wheat delivery quota proposals. Repeated attempts were made by the Opposition to have this statement debated, even to the degree that it appeared at least three times on the blue sheet. As the Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) knows, he informed me that he would try to put it on either this week or as soon as possible after the House resumed. Yet the Government has not brought this statement forward for debate since 30th April. We have had to use other forms such as a Supply Bill and the Grievance Day debate this morning to have an opportunity to debate the subject of wheat, a most important matter.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the Minister for Air claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I did promise a debate on the statement concerning meat. I made no other statement.
– No. Meat. Before the House went into recess, I did promise that.
– Mr Speaker, I again claim to be misrepresented.
– Order! I inform the honourable member for Dawson that if he is making a personal explanation he will not be allowed to debate the subject matter.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson)- The Leader of the House (Mr Erwin) has informed us that he promised a debate on a statement on meat. I inform him that there is no statement on meat. There is a Bill dealing with meat. Apparently the Leader of the House does not know even his own legislation.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to put into effect the announcement made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech on 12th August to the effect that the Government would legislate to assist organisations conducting homes for the aged to meet the cost of providing adequate accommodation and personal care services for residents who, while suffering from a degree of frailty, do not require full-time nursing care. Assistance towards the provision of nursing care is, of course, already available under the
National Health Act. The assistance we now propose to introduce will, in effect, take the form of a $5 a week subsidy for eligible residents. Before I proceed to give details of the legislation, however, it might be helpful if I were to say something about the aged persons homes programme, as it has been developed over the past 15 years.
After the scheme started the accommodation provided was largely self contained, in cottages or flats, because the people who were the first occupants were generally well enough to look after themselves. Inevitably, as the years went on, the residents became progressively older and more in need of care. In consequence, two additional forms of accommodation were brought into the scheme: Firstly, the hostel type, where some degree of independent living is still possible, but where such things as meals and similar services are available for people who are no longer capable of providing for themselves. Secondly, nursing accommodation, for those who were wholly or partially bedridden, or required special nursing facilities.
The cost of running the nursing accommodation is largely covered already by the subsidy of $2 per day for light nursing cases, and $5 per day for heavy nursing cases, which is paid over and above the normal age pension which for single pensioners is now to be $15 per week and over and above, where applicable, supplementary assistance of $2 per week. Thus aged persons homes organisations can go into this field without imposing any heavy strain on their finances: The hostel type, however, may still require some assistance, and this Bill aims to provide that assistance by granting a subsidy at the rate of $5 per week in respect of residents over 80 years of age. It is estimated that such persons comprise, on the average, nearly - but not quite - one half of the residents in these hostels.
– All residents over 80 years of age will get that subsidy?
– Yes. Let me come back to the scheme as a whole. It is, as I have said, a three-tiered scheme, with the Government providing two-thirds of the capital cost of all three types- -self contained, hostel and nursing. Up till the end of last year, some 32,617 beds had been provided since the scheme started in 1954. Of these, 16,573 were of the self contained type, 12,924 of the hostel type, and 3,120 of the nursing type.
I am pleased to say - I have given details of this to honourable members already - that last year we approved the record number of 3,342 beds, of which 1,795 were self contained type, 1,018 hostel type and 529 nursing type. I am glad to say also that preliminary indications are that for this current year we shall again beat the record.
– What does the Minister mean by ‘beds’? Does he mean so many beds per cottage?
– No. I mean so many beds in total. Grants approved under the scheme total over $92m, of which nearly $13m was in the last financial year. While in some cases there is what is called a donation’ made by the first resident, we estimate that nearly two-thirds of the beds are being provided in the first instance on a charitable basis, free of ‘donation’; and that as more and more come up for second and later occupancy this proportion will increase. In fact we shall be building up a stock of beds available on a charitable basis for people who are in need of them. May I take this opportunity of thanking those who have worked with the Government in organising and maintaining these homes for the aged. We contribute twothirds of the capital cost, but we leave the responsibility of running them to the various charitable bodies - both church and lay bodies - which have volunteered in this field. My Department stands ready to help and advise all those who wish to undertake such projects.
While the Government is proud of what we have been able to achieve in cooperation with the voluntary bodies, we do not intend to rest on our laurels. We are constantly seeking ways and means of further encouraging and stimulating the activities of organisations in the community which are willing to dedicate themselves to the care of the elderly. When the Aged Persons Homes Act was last before this House, which as honourable members will recall was in 1967, legislation was approved to extend the range of eligible organisations to include local governing bodies. At this point I would like to say that while the Government is not unappreciative of the indirect contribution that municipal and shire councils have been making by means of grants of money and land to other eligible organisations, the direct response by councils has fallen short of what we had hoped for. So far, only some half dozen local government organisations have participated directly in the scheme. May 1 add, however, that there may well be greater opportunities for them to participate indirectly, by sponsoring or becoming one of the co-sponsors of local organisations formed to establish aged persons’ homes under this Act. May I record that some twenty such local government bodies are already thus participating indirectly and that a further thirty have indicated their desire to assist and are discussing ways and means of doing so.
Local government bodies are, of course, constituted under differing State laws, to which they must conform, so that their opportunities may not be uniform throughout Australia. Could I suggest that more of them might find it possible - provided, of course, that their State law so permits - to make donations to organisations which are establishing homes under this Act within their own local boundaries. It is worthwhile pointing out that such donations would attract the Commonwealth $2 for $1 subsidy even if their source were borrowed money, provided, of course, that they were outright donations to the organisation concerned. This is something which is not always fully appreciated. I take this opportunity, therefore, of asking honourable members on both sides of this House to remind local governing bodies in their electorates that they are eligible to participate in the Commonwealth $2 for $1 subsidy scheme along the foregoing lines.
– Can members of the Opposition present the cheques?
– Members of the Opposition can most certainly present the cheques, and I should be very glad to see the co-operation of members of the Opposition on the same basis as Government members in this. I am looking forward to this very much.
– I think I will be representing the Minister at the end of this month.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh says that he will be representing me at the end of this month in some ceremony. I shall be happy to treat members of the Opposition in the future, as in the past, on exactly the same basis as honourable members on the Government side.
Municipal and shire councils are uniquely situated to promote the welfare of their aged citizens, both directly and by encouraging the establishment of community bodies to resolve particular local problems. I am sure we all look forward to the time when the provision of homes for the aged will more and more become a feature of local government activity in Australia, as it is in many countries overseas. I do not, of course, suggest that local government participation should in any way supplant the activity of those kinds of organisations which hitherto have taken the main advantage of the Government’s $2 for SI offer. Such other bodies will, I am sure, remain the mainstay of the scheme. We should like to encourage them to continue to increase the work that they are doing for this very worthwhile objective - the better housing of our elderly citizens. The amount of the maximum subsidy payable in respect of homes under the Act has been increased on two occasions and now stands at $4,400 for each single unit of accommodation and $6,000 for each double unit.
With the co-operation of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, a panel of architects has been set up to give advice on the design and planning of suitable accommodation for aged persons. Amongst other things, it is at present preparing material for a booklet of guidelines, which will be invaluable to organisations and their architects engaged in the planning of aged persons’ homes throughout Australia. A 22- minute colour film dramatising the need for aged persons’ homes, and suggesting ways in which community organisations may be set up to meet the need, has been produced for my Department by the Commonwealth Film Unit. This film has been widely screened throughout Australia and I think I can say that it has been acclaimed for the forthright way in which it directs attention to the needs of the aged members of our community.
Positive steps have also been taken to stimulate the building of more nursing accommodation for infirm and chronicallyill aged people. As from January 1969 the basis upon which nursing accommodation for aged people was eligible for capital subsidy has been widened. Organisations conducting or establishing normal accommodation for the aged may receive capital subsidy for nursing accommodation on the basis of one nursing bed for every two residential beds provided by that organisation in the same State. Organisations operating in the same city, town or district may now pool their nursing bed entitlement and, in addition, organisations which wish to concentrate more on nursing accommodation may arrange to take over the nursing bed entitlement of other organisations which may not perhaps wish to enter this field. I direct the attention of honourable members to this and ask for their assistance in extending this into their own electorates. I address this appeal to the Opposition and to the government parties.
I have already pointed out that, on top of the capital subsidy available under the Aged Persons Homes Act, organisations may also obtain assistance towards the expense of providing nursing care through the receipt of Commonwealth nursing home benefits under the National Health Act. As well as the normal nursing home benefit of $2 a day, which has been in existence since 1963, the Government recently introduced a new higher rate of benefit - $5 a day - for patients requiring intensive nursing care. With the Bill now before the House the Government is advancing yet a step further with its programme of assistance to the aged. Having achieved a notable degree of success in encouraging the establishment of accommodation at which aged people may live normal, independent lives, and having directed additional assistance towards the extra costs involved in caring for the chronically ill and infirm aged, we are now turning our attention towards the intermediate category of elderly people who, because of advancing years and frailty, are unable to live in a normal domestic environment without help, but who do not yet require full-time nursing care.
The Government is deeply concerned at the fact that many people, whose only infirmity is the frailty of advancing years, are sometimes being admitted to nursing homes and other similar institutions unnecessarily and thus find their sphere of activity and scope for living unduly curtailed. It is not kindness to put them in a position in which they are not able to live the full life which is available to them in accordance with the faculties they still possess. We have reached the conclusion that if these people were given an adequate standard of personal attention they could continue to live normal lives, which is what they want, for many more years. This Bill accordingly introduces a new benefit to be known as a personal care subsidy, which will be paid to organisations providing approved personal care services in what is generally known as hostel accommodation.
– Organisations? Why not put it in the homes of people?
– We are putting it in the homes of people, because we have a home care programme. I am not for one moment suggesting that everybody wants to go into an aged persons home. What I want is a situation where people who desire this will have an opportunity to do it, but the people who want to stay in their own homes will be encouraged to do so and they will be helped with the Government’s home care programme to have the facilities.
– Is the Meals on Wheels organisation included in this?
– Meals on Wheels helps many people in South Australia.
– The honourable members remind me of Meals on Wheels. This is a voluntary organisation and one of the most commendable in the community. I should like to take this opportunity, if I may, to commend entirely the operations of the Meals on Wheels organisation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is from South Australia where this organisation has developed to a higher degree than it has in any other State. If you will not pull me up, Mr Speaker, because this is irrelevant, I would say that I hope that other States will follow the example of South Australia in this regard.
I return to the Bill. This benefit will be at the rate of $5 a week and will be paid at 4-weekly intervals on the basis of $20 per 4-week period for each person aged 80 years or over residing in such accommodation. The subsidy will not be payable in respect of residents living independently in cottages, flats or home units, for whom assistance is already available under the States Grants (Home Care) Act, nor for residents occupying beds in registered nursing accommodation, for whom Commonwealth nursing home benefits would already be payable.
A survey made by my Department indicates that over 3*00 of the homes established since the introduction of the Aged Persons Homes Act in 1954 are providing the accommodation envisaged by this legislation and that approximately 6,000 people, or 46% of the total number of residents, would be in the 80 and over age group. This figure of 46% is showing a tendency to rise because of the very desirable increase in longevity by reason of what we have done. In my view this 46% will rise to 50% or over in a relatively short span of years.
The qualifying age of 80 years has not been selected arbitrarily, but because it is generally accepted as the age beyond which people can be said to be in the frail category. As I mentioned previously, approximately 46% of the occupants of hostel accommodation are at present in the 80- plus age group, and honourable members will be interested to know that in a report published in 1967 a New Zealand Board of Health Committee on the Care of the Aged recommended, after comprehensive research, that a maintenance grant be introduced to assist with the cost of providing adequate staffing for the care of frail and infirm residents in homes for the aged on the basis of the number of aged residents aged 80 years and over. I think it is preferable to have some easily determined criteria for this category rather than to have some kind of complicated test for individual cases.
Returning to the details of the legislation before us, an eligible organisation will be a non-profit organisation as defined in section 2 of the principal Act. It will not be necessary for a home to have been established with the aid of a capital grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act in order to qualify for approval of the personal care subsidy, but it i intended that a home will be required to provide meals for its aged residents and to employ sufficient staff to help the frail residents with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry, the general oversight of their medication and for a staff member to be available on the premises at all times in case of emergency. These are provisions, of course, for the benefit of the aged persons concerned. While the basis for payment will be the number of aged persons aged 80 and over, it will be expected that the homes receiving approval will provide personal care service to any of their residents in need of it, irrespective of their age.
The Bill provides for the premises in which personal care is being provided to be specified. This will permit part of a home to be accepted as eligible. Payment of subsidy will not be interrupted because of any temporary absence from homes of residents on holidays, or in hospital, infirmary or sick bay, provided the period of absence does not exceed 28 days. Subject to all necessary information being supplied promptly, organisations will receive their first payment within 28 days of receiving approval of their accommodation and personal care services. It is estimated that expenditure under this Bill, which will be charged to the National Welfare Fund, will be $1.4m in 1969-70 and $1.7m in the first full year. Cumulative increases can be expected in subsequent years. I hope that they will occur as this service grows.
There is one other provision in the Bill to which I draw attention. From the inception of the Aged Persons Homes scheme in 1954 until 1957 only the actual building cost in a construction project was eligible for subsidy and any land cost had to be borne wholly by the organisation establishing the home. In 1957 the Act was amended to permit subsidy to be extended to include the cost of land purchased after 22nd October of that year. This commencing date was necessary at the time in order to avoid pressure for re-opening of the amount of assistance granted for projects begun in the period 1954-1957.
As this period is now far in the past, there is no longer any question of reopening grants made prior to 1957 and the continued existence of this restrictive provision in the Act is tending to cause anomalies. For example, an organisation which owns land acquired prior to 1957, on which it now wishes to build an aged persons home, cannot have the value of that land included in the capital cost for sudsidy purposes. But if the same organisation sells its existing land and with the sale proceeds buys another block of land, the purchase of this second block qualifies for subsidy under the present provisions of the Act.
This is an anomaly, and there seems no reason why an organisation wishing to build on its own land should be placed at a disadvantage by either having to forgo subsidy equivalent to two-thirds of the value of the land or alternatively having to resort to involved deals in order to become eligible for subsidy for the site on which a home is to be erected. The opportunity is accordingly being taken to repeal the embargo on subsidisation of land acquired prior to 22nd October 1957. The cost to the Government of this measure is expected to be relatively small, probably of the order of $100,000 a year.
Mr Speaker, this Bill merits the enthusiastic support of all honourable members. The introduction of this personal care subsidy, together with - the capital subsidy already provided for aged persons homes; the subsidies for senior citizens’ centres; the housekeeper, home help and paramedical services provided under the Government’s home care programme; the recently introduced subsidy for State nursing home beds; and the nursing home benefits contained in the National Health Act will provide a comprehensive programme of assistance to aged people in general, and to the frail and needy aged in particular. Not only members on the Government side but, I hope, the whole Parliament will be justly proud of what is being done. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-1969 and formally place before Parliament the tariff changes published by ‘Gazette’ notices on 6th and 30th June and 11th and 31st July while the Parliament was in recess. Background to each change, except in respect of urea, was sent to honourable members at the same time as the ‘Gazette’ notice. A summary of all the changes made by the proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. On urea, the Tariff has been redrafted to make substantive provision in the Tariff for the continued duty-free admission of urea for use as a fertiliser. When these subjects again come before the House for debate a full background to the changes will be provided for the convenience of honourable members at that time. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Floor and wall coverings.
Cloves and mittens.
Electric circuit breakers and switch units.
Pursuant to statute I present also Special Advisory Authority reports on the following subjects:
Cherries, preserved by sugar - drained, glace, or crystallised.
The Tariff Board’s report on wheel trims and the report by the Special Advisory Authority on knitted shirts do not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1850), on motion by Mr Fairhall:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition supports both of these measures. The Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill repeals the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act of 1966. Honourable members will recall that that legislation was introduced in that year because a number of servicemen had expressed their intention to contest parliamentary elections. The Act of 1966 referred only to national service officers and national servicemen. The Bill that we now have before us provides that serving officers and men of the defence forces will be entitled to contest parliamentary elections. The attitude of the Opposition on this question is that any member of the defence forces - national serviceman or member of the permanent military forces - should have the opportunity to contest parliamentary elections, provided he can satisfy those who have the responsibility for making a decision.
This is a timely and appropriate piece of legislation. A former member of the Army is standing as a Government candidate and an Army officer who served with distinction in Vietnam and is still a serving member of the forces is a Labor candidate in a Sydney electorate. Previously, serving officers who left the Army to contest elections had to depend on the Public Service Act. Section 47c of that Act provides for the reappointment of persons who have retired from the Commonwealth Service to become candidates at elections. I have already pointed out that in 1966 the Government provided machinery to enable national servicemen to resign and contest the elections. That legislation was introduced after Labor members in this House at that time had drawn attention to the position that then existed. We raised the status of national servicemen as electoral candidates. The Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill was then introduced. It was debated in this Parliament. That legislation has now been superseded and absorbed into the present Bill.
The Opposition wholeheartedly supports the basic principles of this Bill. It provides the machinery for members of the defence forces and the citizen forces to stand as parliamentary candidates. It removes the constitutional disqualifications which hitherto were placed on members of the defence forces and allows them to express their political convictions. We believe that they should be allowed to express their political convictions in the same way as other citizens. This is significant because in the past members of the forces have been given no encouragement to express political convictions that might conflict with their Service loyalties. The principle should be recognised once and for all that a serviceman need not stifle dissenting views on government policy because of his basic loyalty to his Service.
It is a healthy sign when senior officers and other members of the Services take the initiative of standing as parliamentary candidates in order to be able to express their political convictions in the same way as any other citizen of this country has the opportunity to express political opinions and his own political convictions as a candidate for one of the various parties. It should emphasise the point that a member of the Services can hold dissenting opinions and express them at the polls and still be a completely loyal member of the Services. This is a refreshing trend in the armed forces which, by their very nature, in the past have generally tended to conservatism. I believe that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) would probably be one of the first to agree that until recent years members of the armed forces were given little encouragement to express their political convictions as parliamentary candidates.
Although, as I have already pointed out, this matter was first raised by Opposition members back in 1966, one should congratulate the Minister for Defence on bringing forward a measure that widens the opportunities for serving members of the defence forces. When the first Bill of this kind was introduced, concern was expressed at the discretionary nature of the powers of reinstatement provided in it. I know that the Minister in his Bill has referred to this question. But the language of this Bill is still discretionary. It provides that members of the Service who resign may be reappointed and reinstated, not shall be reappointed and reinstated, with full entitlements. This is similar to the wording of the Public Service Act, which also is discretionary. The provision in the Public Service Act seems to have worked justly, but the Minister should assure the House that it is intended that reinstatement with full entitlements shall be virtually automatic.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Defence said that the release of a serviceman to stand as a candidate would depend on the appropriate Service Board’s assessment of the military demands of the Service. This is not clearly spelt out in the Bill. It seems that an officer who sincerely and genuinely sought to stand for Parliament could be excluded if the Service decided he was indispensable for ohe reason or another. This could open the way for infringement of the basic rights that this legislation is designed to provide. Therefore, I hope that the Minister for Defence will assure the House that this situation will not arise and that the Board or the appropriate authority considering a serviceman’s application to stand as a parliamentary candidate will judge his application on the merits of the situation at the time and not on the military requirements that might involve the continued service of an officer or a serviceman. I hope the Minister for Defence will take the opportunity to assure the House that this situation will not arise.
We believe that the right of reappointment and reinstatement should be automatic, but we recognise that there may be circumstances of grave national emergency in which the refusal of permission to a senior officer occupying a key position could be justified. Such refusal would be justified only in a national emergency. Again I say that this is a point that the the Minister for Defence should clarify for the information of honourable members. He should reassure the House about the use of these discretionary powers and say to what extent they are intended to apply.
As I said when I commenced to speak in this debate on behalf of the Opposition, we support these two Bills which provide machinery for servicemen to stand for election to Parliament and to be reappointed without loss of entitlements. The Bills deal admirably with this question. It is quite certain that any future rights to furlough, pay and other entitlements, including parti cularly those relating to rank, of a serving member of the forces will be guaranteed if he is not successful in contesting a parliamentary election. The Opposition agrees that this principle should apply. With the one or two reservations which I have already mentioned and which I hope the Minister will explain to the House, the Opposition supports the two measures now before us.
– I would like to make it plain at the outset that I oppose the Bill. I am possibly the Only member of the two Houses who will oppose it. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has said that the Opposition supports it. I will not force the issue to a vote, much as I would’ like to see everybody in the House except myself sitting on the one side. I personally have the highest respect for members of the Services. I would be surprised to learn that this Bill was introduced at the request of any member of the regular Services, especially at the request of a professional officer. Several aspects of the Bill cause me concern. Without reflecting on the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), I feel that the Government may have said: ‘Well, for the sake of convenience, let us give it to the lot of them’.
The 1966 Bill Was introduced to cover the situation of national servicemen, who are in a completely different position from that of the professional officers. Since the inception of the Australian Army and the British Army, young men have entered the Service and have endeavoured to gain selection for the military, naval or air colleges and so become professional officers. They clearly understood when they joined that they were to be the servants of the people, which means servants of the government of the day, and that they were there to serve any Party without prejudice and without impairing their impartiality and ability to obey the wishes of the government of the day and thereby the wishes of the people.
– Does that not apply to the Public Service?
– It may, but I unfortunately, for personal reasons, may have put the Army on a slightly higher scale. I think in the past we have relaxed the Public Service requirement and as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, perhaps this has not worked to disadvantage. However, I well remember one member of the Department of External Affairs who left his post and sought political honour. I think he left without obtaining much honour at all from the whole conduct of the affair. The clauses of the Bill to which I object solely relate to the regular officer or the officer of the Citizen Military Forces or the Reserve who is serving full time. The point I want to make is that, when he joined, he clearly understood what the basis was. There is nothing that prevents him from standing for Parliament, as long as he is prepared to offer his resignation. In other words, if he feels strongly enough that he must take some action, that he must oppose the Government and that there is need for a voice from the Services to be raised, he then says: I will resign and I will stand’. If I may say so, I have been waiting for one of them to do this for some considerable time, but as the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act is at present constituted there have been some problems.
Let us understand the situation as it applies in other countries. The legal positions of regular servicemen in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia who wish to stand for Parliament are very similar. In all cases the soldier must be discharged and the officer must resign or retire before he can take an active part in politics. In Australia sections 44 (iv.) and 45 of the Constitution set out the requirement for those holding offices of profit under the Crown. This includes members of the armed forces. This matter has been looked at in other countries in respect of the professional Services. I am not talking about the soldier or the national serviceman; I am not talking about the part time soldier, but about those who choose the Services as a profession. It has been decided that they should not enter into politics without resigning their commission and then naturally they have their own rights.
In discussion with Ministers and others who have positions of responsibility in respect of this Bill I have been told: ‘Oh well, there will be only a few cases. It does not matter.’ As far as I am concerned there is a principle involved. It is a principle that the regular Services have held and approved for a long time. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has mentioned that a senior officer is standing as a candidate for the Liberal Party. To the best of my knowledge the person concerned is a captain - I do not think he is a senior officer - and he has resigned his commission. It is also correct that an officer of the Department of External Affairs is standing as a candidate for the Australian Labor Party. Let us look at this situation. This man was in a sensitive area as far as Australia’s foreign affairs are concerned. He had to be removed from that area because he had publicly proclaimed that he was going to stand for the Opposition Party. It is his perfect right to do this. He has been moved from where he was posted and I presume that he is now in charge of the artistic arts or something like that in the Department of External Affairs. I suggest that it is not possible and should not be possible for him to be used in any sensitive posting abroad or within Australia, most certainly until the Federal elections take place.
The Deputy Leader has said that senior officers should have the right to express their disagreement with government policy. The Bill provides that on the proclamation of the writ or when nominations are called a person has the right to go before the Military Board or other appropriate Service Board and to say: ‘I wish to stand for the Labor Party, the Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Communist Party.’ It is not reasonable to suggest that that is the time when he has commenced to take an interest in political affairs either within or without this country. He must have declared himself before that. His allegiance to party must have come before that. A man of the highest integrity - which I contend most serving officers have - who goes into the political arena and appears in a debate on television - he may be a Government candidate or an Opposition candidate - in respect of Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak, the Government defence policy or tha strategic assessment, cannot be expected to put forward or accept a viewpoint put, for instance, by a Minister, when he knows that there is some information that the Government spokesman is not revealing. He cannot be expected to sit there without giving seme indication of information that may have come to him during his serving career or from his posting. It is all very well to say that the Official Secrets Act will prevent disclosure of information. I do not believe it for a minute. I think it is practically impossible for a man, confronted in a debate in front of an audience, not to use information which he has available to him. I do not think he should be put in this position.
Let us take the argument further in respect of the gentleman from the Department of External Affairs. What is to happen to his carrer afterwards? Admittedly, he is a senior officer of the Department. Is the Government, knowing his views in respect of foreign affairs and defence, to appoint him to some post overseas where he is to forget what he stood for and what he said was right and to argue for what he believes is wrong? In a situation like this, this Government or a Labor Government would certainly not be expected to return a General of the Army to the post of Chief of the General Staff or Adjutant-General which he occupied previously. The Deputy Leader says that he hopes there will be automatic reinstatement in rank. What are we to do? Are we to have tame generals as officers in charge of entertainments, because they certainly could not be returned to such positions as Chief of the General Staff. This could not be expected of a Labor Government or a Liberal government. As I said, the political commitment must come earlier than the issue of the writ. One could have the Chief of the General Staff standing for the Country Party, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff standing for the Labor Party and the Adjutant-General standing for the Liberal Party. What a magnificent Military Board and what magnificent decisions one would get in the period of 3 or 4 months before the election took place. What co-ordination we would get if afterwards they were reinstated in their posts. The Liberal Adjutant-General would know what the Chief of the General Staff felt in respect of Vietnam. The Labor Deputy Chief of the General Staff would know what the others felt in respect of something else.
I suggest that not sufficient thought has been given to this Bill. I suggest that the permanent Services do not require it. Other countries when looking at the matter have realised that there could be a position of embarrassment which should not be allowed to occur. I have no objection to the position that exists in the United Kingdom in relation to field-marshals who are of that rank for life but are not serving.
I have no objection to the application of the provision to a member of the reserve of officers. I have no objection to its application to members of the officer corps of the Citizen Military Forces. But a Regular serving officer, who knew the terms under which he was engaged and who has 5 years or 7 years to serve should either resign his commission or wait until he has served his term and then stand for Parliament.
During an inquiry conducted by the House of Commons a member of the Admiralty stated:
The fact that a candidate remained a member of the Royal Navy and, failing election, would revert to the Service would have disadvantages both for the candidate and for the Service. He might well, during his election campaign, feel inhibited from expressing freely and openly such opinions as reflected on tha Service or on defence matters, or the views which he had expressed publicly might raise serious doubts of his suitability to carry out the duties on which be was previously engaged or for which he might be required. It would be embarrassing to the Admiralty and the naval authorities if, when deciding on appointments or transfers, or even on the employability of an unsuccessful candidate, they were forced to take account of considerations arising from activities entirely outside the naval service. It is also clear that the discipline of the Service is liable to be impaired if two members of the Service can stand as opposing candidates in the same constituency.
One may well say that that will not happen, but it could happen and I see no reason for making it possible. The report continues:
The principle that office debars from membership of the House, and that that office must be surrendered before candidature for Parliament is announced, is consistent with the maintenance of the political impartiality of the Forces, and of members of the Forces. The reversal of that principle would, by allowing the recognition of political activity, albeit within certain limits, create a breach in the long-standing policy of strict political impartiality on the part of members of the Services. It is recognised that the special arrangement for National Servicemen who are unsuccessful in an election to return to the Service to complete their obligation under the National Service Act may appear to run counter to this. . . .
But in fact it does not. There is a great difference between the man who is compelled to serve and the man who elects to serve, knowing the conditions under which he will serve. An article in the Political Science Quarterly’ - I can read only a section of it - states:
The events in France in May 1958, to say nothing of those in Egypt, Iraq, the Sudan, Pakistan, and the nations where the military pronunciamento has been hallowed by tradition, do indeed suggest that the political difficulty of keeping under control the potential ‘men on horseback’ cannot yet be altogether discounted. In successor states’ in particular, communities which have been cut loose from their constitutional roots, where traditional’ patterns of obedience are disturbed and political regimes cannot count upon that automatic and unthinking obedience to constituted authority which only the habit of generations can breed, the danger of military intervention in civil government is constant.
If we go on we can find further opinions expressed in respect of the services by very distinguished men. I would like to refer to an article entitled ‘Should Politics Be Taboo?’ which was written by George D. Patterson in the ‘US Naval Institute Proceedings’. The article states:
Next, the naval officer as the local representative of the military establishment must work effectively with State and local officials and must contribute to good relations with civilian populations near his base. To do so, he must involve himself in lbc life of the civilian community; if he is to remain within the proper limits of his profession, he must have a line understanding of the local political structure. He should support undertakings of value to the community as a whole, but he must avoid becoming entangled in the web of local politics. His task is by no means easy. He must, for example, make public speeches on a variety of occasions, yet he must avoid statements which could be interpreted as giving support to any particular partisan political group. The laudable desire to inform members of the community about the nature of the Communist challenge must not lead to talks which confuse socialism with communism. Sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, the naval officer is committed to the defence of a particular political organisation; he is not officially charged with the defence of an economic structure. He should avoid confusing economics and politics just as he should avoid confusing the educational discussion of political affairs with rhetorical speeches in the service of partisan politics. Unless the military officer can succeed in maintaining these distinctions, he risks classification as a spokesman for a particular political pressure group; such classification of one who should be a spokesman for American democracy in general may cost him the confidence of the American people. Military officers must remain representatives of the United States; they arc sworn to defend the interests of the whole nation, rather than those of any particular group.
Those words apply equally firmly to the professional officers of the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force.
Let me read to the House an article which deals with the oath that is taken by a citizen of the United States when he joins one of the military colleges and accepts his obligations as a professional officer. The article states:
The professional military man must bear the awesome responsibility not only for his own life but also for those who serve under his command. Further, when an officer takes his oath of office he swears that he ‘ . . . will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . without any mental reservation . . . ‘ Through this oath, responsibility of the military profession goes beyond self and those under one’s direct command. It extends to the survival of our Nation. With total commitment and total responsibility comes the total dedication to country which characterises the American soldier.
That is what has characterised in the past and I hope will characterise in the future the Australian professional officer in the three Services. 1 have had some experience of living with professional officers - particularly those in the senior ranks. Indeed, I have heard their opinions of governments and of Ministers. But they have never gone out into the public forum and attacked Ministers or the Government that they serve because they have accepted the fact that it is their responsibility to serve under the government elected by the will of the people. I question what these two clauses could bring about in regard to professional officers. I think that these clauses are thoroughly unnecessary.
I would like to read just one final extract which was written by Montgomery in 1946. Referring to Moses, Cromwell and Napoleon, he said:
The three leaders whom I have considered succeeded so long as they kept in mind their clear military purpose and were not deflected from it by other considerations. But many battles have been fought for political and not for military reasons, and these have been the graveyard of many a soldier’s reputation. The soldier is the servant of the politician and is therefore bound to be subject to political pressure. He must be strong enough to resist such pressure whenever it conflicts with his clear military purpose.
I agree with certain things that were put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I believe that we should not consider that serving officers of the regular forces do not have political opinions. They do. Indeed, they should be trained in politics. They should be trained to understand politics so that they can train their men in what the outlook of the Government is when they are serving in a foreign post. They should be able to maintain discussion with people from overseas. But this is a very different thing from an officer coming out and bearing a placard to the effect that he supports a certain policy at an election time.
Let us look at the situation we have in the forthcoming elections. Let us look at the difference between the Government’s defence policy and the Opposition’s defence policy. One policy provides that we should have troops serving abroad and that we should accept responsibility for our near neighbours under certain circumstances. The other provides that we will have no troops abroad and maintain that we have no requirement for this or for that. One policy also provides that we will maintain a force which will be ready to go at a moment’s notice anywhere, whether or not we have the landing facilities or whether or not we are confronted by hostile forces.
We could have the situation where serving members of a board or senior officers will be expected to go out and stand on a platform with the Leader of the Opposition and support his viewpoint. It may be that we may have on our side serving members of the forces who will be standing with our Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and supporting our policies. But only one candidate can win. What happens when the member of the forces who may have lost returns to his Service? What a situation we will be confronted with. I am quite amazed that the Opposition supports such an idea. I think that if any party is likely to have candidates against it, when and if it ever gets into government, it is likely to be the Labor Party. I think it is quite inconceivable to have a serving member - by that I mean men who are serving now, and who are in a position of confidence - standing against a candidate, proving him wrong, and taking action which could embarrass him. Let me state again that my reason for opposing the Bill is solely, as I said at the begnning of my speech, that I think that a professional officer is the servant of the people and of the Government. He clearly goes into a Service understanding this. He knows the terms of his appointment and if he wishes to protest or wishes to stand for Parliament, he resigns. That is all I have to say in respect of that matter.
In association with the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill we are discussing the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill.
As far as I am concerned, if we pass the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill we must also go along with the associated Bill. I would certainly not disagree with the second Bill. But, again, I look with some cynicism on what we are saying. If a man wants to resign, he goes to a military board, an air board, or whatever it may be and the authority involved will give him permission to resign to stand for Parliament. He can then get up and attack any Minister or the Government. Indeed, I cannot but be cynical in respect of one instance. If a certain captain of a certain aircraft carrier had been able, under this Bill to stand for Parliament and stand against certain Ministers of certain Services, he could have gone out with his pension. The Commonwealth could have been saved a lot of money. Frankly, I oft-times wonder at the wisdom we apply after certain things are over.
– He had a better advocate here.
– May I conclude with this statement: I see the situation also where, for example, a General or Admiral stood for the Labor Party and an Air Vice-Marshal stood for the Liberal Party and the Labor Party won the election - let us look at impossibilities and dreams now that we have found the mood. Let us think of the situation where this man goes back to the Air Board and says: T stood for the Liberal Party and I lost’. Perhaps unconsciously he may have given away certain information or taken certain actions that were an embarrassment to his Service. Let us suppose that he is not reinstated as the second member of the Air Board or he is not reinstated as member for personnel. I can imagine the great political racket that would be taking place in this House. I can name the members who would stand and cry injustice’ and who would demand that this man be posted back as the second member of the Air Board. But would it be possible or reasonable to do this after the man had, perhaps unconsciously, as I have said, given away information or had created the impression that our Services were in a certain condition or that our policies were wrong? Would it be reasonable to reappoint him to his former position? What a political outcry we would hear from all sides of the Parliament.
I do not think this Bill has been properly thought out. I do not think the principles enunciated in the Bill are as well chosen as they could have been. I agree with the Bill except insofar as it affects the professional officers of our Services. I feel confident that they are proud of the traditions under which they work and which have been built up since the commencement of our Services. These form part of the esprit de corps of our regular Services. I think that this legislation emanates from some politician or public servant who has suddenly decided: The existing provisions have been a bit hard; let us pop new ones through - after all, I may not be here to see the final result’.
– in reply - The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is weil known in the House for having strong opinions and, most importantly, for expressing them very well, at length and powerfully, as he has done today. He is quite entitled to do that, of course. One knows that he spends a good deal of time thinking about military matters. We listened with great care and considerable attention to what he had to say on what is a very important subject indeed, but he must have underrated the capacity of the Government to understand certain changes in thinking patterns that are going on in the modern world. In the closing passages of his speech he referred to the esprit de corps of the senior officers of the Services and to their great sense of responsibility to the codes which heretofore have governed their participation in public matters. If that feeling still holds - and I am perfectly certain it will - then those senior officers in whose probity he expressed so much faith will show that nothing has happened to tarnish the great reputation of the Services of which they are members.
In a situation of this kind it would be possible to find any assortment of odd circumstances to illustrate a point, provided one takes some way-out and hypothetical situations, but these things do not, as the honourable gentleman attempted to mak: them do, illustrate a principle. The views which he expressed to the House this afternoon tend constantly to undermine that very great confidence which he expressed himself as having in the senior officers of the Services. He spoke as though an officer were covered by no sanctions whatsoever. He read the oath of office taken when an officer enters the Service. That oath does not cease to bind an officer in his public utterances, and I would like to believe that the senior officers in our service, as well as in any other service, would certainly keep before that particular officer the obligations of his major responsibility to his Service.
It is true that to this point in time permanent servicemen have not had the right to engage in politics by standing for office. Now we propose to give them that right because we believe that this is in keeping with modern trends of thought. We do not believe we can restrict them, as the honourable gentleman wishes to do. We do believe that the matters which concern the honourable member are safe in the keeping of those senior officers who will seek to enter politics. I have not the slightest doubt that the number will be very few. Equally I have not the slightest doubt that the code of honour generally adopted by senior officersis such that, if they wanted to enter politics and thought they might feel inhibited, they would adopt the course to which the honourable gentleman referred and resign from the Service before standing for politics. The safeguard is written into the Act in that there is a discretion which resides in the Military Board.
Regarding the reinstatement of an officer, it is quite foolish to believe that people who hold political views are incapable of setting them aside so that those views do not influence the kind of service that they render to their country or to their Government. There is no-one in the House who does not disagree in a small or major degree with the policy of the Government he serves. Most of us manage to live very comfortably with this situation. Most of us manage to understand that the greater good is the one that has to be preserved and therefore we give our loyalty to the main function of serving the Parliament instead of voicing some disagreements that we may have with the Government. Although the honourable gentleman may entertain some concern as to the end product of the Bill, which I hope the House will pass today - and I know he has put down some quite powerful statements as to the effects that might ensue - I do not believe that this concern is real in any shape or form. If there should be a danger, then the officers who might represent that danger will be caught by the reinstatement provisions of the Act, to which I have referred. Of course there are difficulties about applying judgments in cases of this kind. If we are to be constantly deterred by the difficulties which arise from making judgments, then we will do nothing at all. So the honourable gentleman’s advocacy, powerful though it may be, deeply held though his feelings may be, is not sufficient to lead the Government to make amendments to this Act.
In respect of the comments offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the Government welcomes the support of this legislation by the Australian Labor Party. I find little difficulty in giving him and the House the kind of undertakings he seeks and the assurances he seeks regarding the discretionary provisions in this Act. In the first place it was pointed out that a member wishing to be transferred to a reserve, wishing his period of service to be terminated or wishing to be discharged from the Service for the purpose of standing for an election may be so transferred provided he convinces his appropriate Service Board that his application is bona fide and that the exigencies of the Service permit his being discharged or transferred as the case may be. In the course of my second reading speech I particularly underlined the fact that the exigencies of the Service would need to be considered by the appropriate Service Board before it would be obliged to transfer or otherwise to discharge a serviceman for the purpose of standing for an election. I do not think that we can approve any other course. I think that other honourable gentlemen in the Opposition may rest assured that the mere passage of the Bill, in these terms, is the best indication to the Military Board or to the Service Board of what the Government has in mind.
We have put the legislation on the books purely for the purpose of making it possible for servicemen to stand for an election. We have put in the provision that they may, in certain circumstances, be reinstated. The Bill gives rights and proper discretions to responsible Service Boards. I have no doubt at all in my mind that those discretions will be applied objectively before permitting a serviceman to be released from the Service and therefore to stand for Parliament if he so wishes, provided that there is no powerful overriding reason why he should not be so discharged. I point out that to this point of time the permanent serviceman at least has not had the opportunity to stand for Parliament. Now we propose to redress that situation and to give him a right to stand for Parliament. But the right is not absolute and it is not absolute in only this one respect. I am sure that honourable members will understand that the amount of effort and time that goes into the training of a serviceman and the enormously important position which that serving man or officer may occupy at the time he wishes to contest the election are reasons which oblige us to retain, on behalf of the Service Boards, a discretion to withhold approval in certain cases. I cannot imagine any set of circumstances in which a Service board would not apply that discretion objectively. The same discretion is available for application at the time of reinstatement. Once again the passage of the legislation in these terms will be an indication to the Military, Naval or Air Boards that the Parliament expects that man to be reinstated under the conditions laid down, with his defence forces retirement benefits and other benefits preserved. Therefore, we have some regard to the fact that he should be reinstated. But there must remain only the one discretion, which should be properly exercised by a responsible Service Board. With those points in view, I hope that the Opposition will accept the assurances that have been given in regard to the important but manageable discretion that has been left with the Service boards.
– An amendment to clause 6 of the Bill has been circulated in my name. Clause 6 reads: (1.) Where an officer has been transferred to a Reserve under section 7 of this Act, an enlisted member has been discharged from the Defence Force under section 8 of this Act or the continuous full-time service of a member has been terminated under section 9 of this Act, the Minister shall, when he is satisfied that the result of the relevant election is certain, declare, by notice published in the Gazette, that he is so satisfied. (2.) The Minister shall, before making a declaration under the last preceding sub-section in relation to an election, have regard to any dispute, and any proceedings in relation to a dispute, with respect to the election.
After sub-clause (2.) insert the following subclause: (3.) The Minister may, for the purposes of sub-section (1.) of this section, treat the result of an election as being certain if, at the expiration of thirty days after the return of the writ relating to the election, the validity of the election has not been disputed in accordance with law and the Minister has no reason to believe that it will be so disputed.’
– The amendment is desired to permit the Minister to publish a notice in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’ that he is satisfied that the result of the election is certain a month after the return of the writ referring to that election, if he has not been informed of any dispute regarding that election. The date on which the notice is published becomes the declared date for the purposes of the Act. Under the clause as originally drafted, there were doubts as to whether the Minister could publish such a notice before the expiry of all of the periods provided under the Commonwealth and State electoral Acts within which the election could be disputed. The declared date is important because it fixes the commencement of the period during which an application for reinstatement must be made by a person who wishes to be reinstated and also fixes the commencement of the period during which a notice requiring a person to complete his period of engagement in the defence forces must be served. It is important that there should be an early determination so that persons affected can be informed as soon as possible whether they will be required to complete their period of engagement with the defence forces.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fairhall) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May (vide page 2124), on motion by Mr Swartz:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fairhall) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 November 1968 (vide page 2874), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purposes of this Bill are twofold. Firstly, the Bill provides for an increase in thenumber of representatives of the meat producers on the Australian Meat Board. At present there are five. It is the intention of the Bill to make provision for another producer representative. Secondly, the Bill gives the Australian Meat Board the right to issue, suspend or cancel export licences. The legislation will allow any licensee the right of appeal to the Minister against a decision of the Board. There is no doubt that the legislation will improve the benefits accruing to the meat industry.
The Australian Meat Board is smaller than many other boards, but my experience over the years leads me to believe that it is one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, marketing boards in Australia. One rarely hears of arguments or problems concerning the Australian Meat Board. There is no doubt that it is held in high regard by those interested in the meat industry in Australia, from the cattle producers to meat processors and exporters. I believe that the Board is very fortunate in that it has as its Chairman Mr Shute, who has been in that position for a large number of years. He is dedicated to the interests and welfare of the meat industry m Australia. Over the years, there have been some very sincere and dedicated men on the Board. Although these men may have had strong political leanings in one way or another, in all of my experience I have yet to hear of any instance where they have allowed politics to come into their thinking when making important decisions in respect of all sections of the meat industry, including the export of the products of the industry. The Australian Meat Board, as it is constituted at present, is very fortunate to have experienced men representing the meat exporters. I should point out that in many quarters there is a great degree of suspicion between the cattle producers and the representatives of overseas meatworks. I have always believed that the inclusion of a meat exporter on the Board gives the Board good balance.
The present composition of the Meat Board also includes a Commonwealth representative. At present the representative is Mr Giles from the Department of Primary Industry. I am sure the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) agrees with me - as would honourable members from both sides of the Parliament - when I say that we are very happy, and consider ourselves lucky, to have on the Board a man of his calibre and knowledge. Mr Giles, for many years, has specialised to a great degree in the Australian meat industry. Speaking on behalf of some members of the Meat Board, I know that he brings to the Board great knowledge and balance. I know that these attributes are appreciated also by the Chairman of the Board. I congratulate the Minister, and the Government, on having a most efficient producer dominant board - a board representative of the primary industries concerned. I think that one of the principal reasons for the Australian Meat Board being so efficient is that it has been small in composition and has been able to weigh and evaluate the various arguments put to it.
The Australian Meat Board has played a major part in the development of the Australian meat industry, particularly the beef industry in which the major problems have occurred. There were export problems during the Second World War and the post war years when government to government buying was in operation. The Meat Board played a major role at that time with respect to this agreement. The Meat Board also played a major part in the 15-year meat agreement. There was some controversy at that time. I think I am right in saying that a Labor government initiated the agreement and it was then carried on by governments formed by the present Government parties. As I said, there was some controversy at first about that agreement but the people who had most to gain by it - the exporting interests, which at the time were principally in Queensland - fully supported it with the possible exception of those in one area, the Maranoa area, who were lukewarm about it. The 15-year meat agreement proved to be of great benefit to Australia. For the first time it provided Australia with a guaranteed long term beef market. This was the United Kingdom market. The agreement also provided Australia with a minimum floor price plan which was of benefit to Australia in the period 1957-58 when deficiency payments were necessary.
It was in 1957-58 that for the first time since the end of the Second World War the Australian beef cattle industry got into serious economic trouble. In 1954 the United Kingdom suspended beef rationing and there was increased production continually in that country which led to a lessening of demand for Australian frozen beef. We were faced with a very grave situation in 1958. I can remember attending in Brisbane a meeting of the Australian Animal Industry Committee at which it was said that the beef industry was facing a crisis because our only real market was the European market which was dominated by Great Britain. All of us know the story of what happened then. Out of that crisis we entered in 1958 the American market. Since that time the Australian cattle industry in particular has benefited greatly from the American market, principally because of the type of beef required by it.
We have seen great changes in the structure of the Australian meat industry. Whereas earlier over 90% of Australia’s beef exports were from Queensland, since our entry into the American market there have been great increases in beef exports from Victoria, in particular, as well as New South Wales. So far as the American market and overseas promotion for our beef are concerned, the Australian Meat Board always has been at the helm in negotiations. It has watched over the beef industry and the other meat industries. It has met regularly and has carefully weighed and considered the various regulations. At all times it has tried to make the best decision for Australia’s advantage.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member for Dawson but I remind him that the framework of this Bill is limited to increasing the number of meat producer representatives on the Australian Meat Board from 5 to 6, the matter of export licences and the matter of appeal. I do not think I should let the debate range too widely and I ask the honourable member to keep this in mind.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I hope it applies to all speakers in this debate. Judging by the list of speakers who wish to take part in this debate, and because of the importance of the meat industry, I would have thought that they would like to discuss at some length some of the problems in the beef industry. I accept your ruling and will concentrate on the amendments to the Act which are now before the House for consideration.
One of the principal amendments in this Bill relates to increasing the number of meat producers on the Meat Board from 5 to 6. As I said earlier, the Australian Labor Party considers that the Meat Board is an efficient compact body. It has done an excellent job. However, there is a deficiency in the composition of the Board. It does not include, as it once included, a representative of the publicly owned abattoirs in Australia which deal with the freezing and export of meat and meat products; nor does it include a representative of the employees engaged in slaughtering and preparing meat and meat products for export. Representatives of these two groups were included under the terms of the Meat Export Control Act of 1935-53 but when the Meat Board was reconstituted those two positions were dropped. It is therefore the intention of the Opposition to move amendments in Committee to enable two additional members to be appointed to the Meat Board, one representing the publicly owned abattoirs and one representing the employees.
I should make clear that hygiene and meat inspection are of paramount importance in the production of export meat. Judging by events in the past it is quite clear that there is plenty of room for improvement, particularly with respect to coordination and the availability of technical services in these fields. Employees in the meat industry are, after all, the backbone of any meat works and the Opposition believes that the inclusion in the composition of the Board of a representative of the employees will be of great benefit to it. Secondly we believe that there are important public utilities in Australia which play a major function in the killing and treatment of beef and other meats and in arranging for the export of those products.
There is one aspect of the Bill about which we are not particularly happy, although we will not move an amendment regarding it. I refer to the fact that the final decision in all these matters rests with one person - the Minister. We believe that this is a dangerous precedent to set in the meat industry. The Minister will be able to call in independent advisers if he wishes, but I believe it would have been far better if such a responsibility came within the scope of regulations so that the Parliament itself could have some say on action taken in particular cases. The Bill proposes to allow one person to sit in judgment on an important decision. In future, when a person makes an application for an export licence, the Board will deliberate. If it is not prepared to grant a licence, this person will be able to come to the Minister and say: What about it? Will you have a look at the case?’ Naturally, I suppose, the. Minister will refer the question back to the Meat Board for advice. Of course, he will be able to receive very valued advice from his own Department, and then he will make a judgment. We object to this proposal.
The second important point refers to the suspension and cancellation of licences. Earlier this year we witnessed the fiasco that took place at the Brisbane abattoir. A lot of harsh words were directed against the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Primary Industry. These harsh words were uttered, not only by meat industry representatives but also by
State Government officials. Naturally, I did not know the background to this matter. It is quite obvious to everyone that something must have been wrong. Whether the coordination was good enough, or whether the meatworks management was given sufficient warning is another matter. The abattoir was closed down suddenly at the peak of its killing season. If we take any notice of the meatworks management, there seems to have been utter confusion at the time.
– It was given 18 months notice.
– The Minister said that the meatworks was given 18 months notice, and I accept that. As I said, I do not know the background to the case. It is quite possible - probably this is the truth - that the fault lay with the meatworks management. One can only read between the lines of the hue and cry that took place at the time. The same comment applies with respect to the suspension and cancellation of licences. Neither the Bill nar the Minister’s second reading speech makes it clear how the Meat Board will operate in relation to this question. Thus far the inspection services have reported through the Chief Veterinary Officer to the Secretary of the Department and the Minister. I am not clear about how the Meat Board itself actually will work in passing judgment on the suspension or cancellation of licences. If a licensee has his licence suspended, he will be able to appeal to the Minister and I assume that the Minister will appoint an independent tribunal or independent advisers who will sit in judgment on the particular case. We admit that the position will be better than it was previously, but we do not believe that we should implement legislation under which the Minister may sit in judgment on an application for the suspension or cancellation of licences.
I had proposed to speak at some length about hygiene, about the inspection services of the Department of Primary Industry, and about the role of veterinary officers, particularly in the fields of bacteriology and microbiology which are becoming very important in meat inspections as opposed to visual inspections. But you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have ruled that I have to confine my remarks to the two provisions of the Bill - firstly, the increase in the number of meat producer representatives on the Board and, secondly, the new powers of the Minister with respect to the suspension and cancellation of licences. I do not wish to say anything more about the Bill.
As I said previously, I only wish you would allow a wider debate on the Bill so that we could discuss the problems of the cattle and meat industries, hygiene in meatworks, the role of veterinarians, the shortage of veterinarians, and the United States Health Act as it applies to meatworks. But as I understand your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, it would be out of order to discuss these matters. You said that we have to concentrate purely on the provisions in the Bill. I think this is a shame, because if we had a wider debate it would give us an opportunity to air some of the issues which are confronting the meat industry, particularly the present serious position which has arisen regarding quotas on the American market.
At the present time we have a quota of approximately 225,000 tons. At the end of July our export performance was approximately 180,000 tons, leaving 45,000 tons to be exported before the end of the year. Because of the very serious drought in Queensland in particular it will be very difficult to regulate the turn-off of cattle to meatworks, as desired by the Board, so that there will be a steady flow of manufacturing beef to the United States. In view of the ruling that it is not in order to refer to matters other than those stated specifically in the Bill, I will conclude on that note and indicate that I will move two amendments at the Committee stage.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel that probably later in my speech I will be asking for your ruling as to how far I can get off the immediate provisions of the Bill. I regret that because of the ruling given by the previous occupant of the chair to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), it might not be possible for me to discuss this subject as I would have liked. The first provision of the Bill, which relates to the increase from five to six in the grower representation on the Australian Meat Board, will be welcomed by all producers from the southern States. They have been without representation on the Board since 1964. Appointments to the Board are made by the Australian Meat Board Selection
Committee, consisting of nine members, including the Chairman of the Board. These men have the responsibility of recommending to the Minister appointments to the Board. Because of the importance of this industry to Australia, it is a weighty responsibility.
Under the terms of the original legislation the principal criterion for the selection of Meat Board members was their ability and experience. I understand that this criterion will still apply. But it has always seemed quite remarkable and very curious to me that the Selection Committee should have been unable to find a man of the requisite ability and experience from the southern States. Surely in the State of Victoria, which in 1967, despite its small area, produced more meat than any other state in the Commonwealth - a fact which might come as a surprise to some members in this House - there must be many men who are perfectly capable of giving first class representation to the industry. I have never been able to understand why since 1964 the Selection Committee has considered that that State, which on occasions has been the leading meat producing State in Australia, was not capable of producing a man with the requisite ability and experience to serve on the Meat Board.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), in his second reading speech, made it quite clear that the Government hoped that the additional member provided for in the legislation would make it possible for the southern States to be represented on the Board. It is this word ‘would’ that concerns me. Because of the way in which the members of the Board are appointed, it is not in the Government’s power to ensure that the representation envisaged and hoped for by the Government will in fact result under this Bill. All 1 can hope is that the words of the Minister will be taken to heart by the selection committee and that a more equitable representation of producers will enable the Australian Meat Board to fulfil more efficiently its very great responsibilities. These responsibilities have been highlighted by the recent difficulties experienced in the export of meat to America, which is easily our largest market.
At this stage I would like your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, on this matter. Having had the chance to discuss personally the problem of our meat entering America, I ask whether I will be allowed to canvass the idea further or whether it is outside the province of this debate?
Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he stay within the confines of the debate, which covers two major points; firstly, the appointment of a new member to the Australian Meat Board and, secondly, the issue of licences and appeals to the Board. Outside that area, I think the honourable member will be out of order.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir. On the second matter concerning licences, would it be in order to discuss the question of certain disease problems which will be posed by licensing? Would it be in order to canvass that?
-I think the honourable member would be out of order.
– Could not the honourable member try space technology or anything like that?
– I have tried most other avenues open to me. Mr Deputy Speaker, I think nearly all speakers on this Bill will be very circumscribed in the matters to which they are allowed to refer.
– I rise to take a point of order. Would it be possible for the honourable member for Corangamite to explain fully, as the honourable member for Dawson did, those points that he was not able to canvass?
-Order! The point of order is without substance.
– Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, this will ensure that my speech will be a very brief one. It seems to me that the main problem facing the Australian Meat Board, including its new member when finally he is appointed, will be that the market for Australian meat may not expand at the same rate or as quickly as Australian production. That is why I am so concerned about the marketing question. Anybody who has been around Australia in recent years must be aware of the enormous potential for increased production that exists, particularly in the northern areas of Australia including those areas suited to the tropical legume pastures, such as Townsville lucerne.
It is certain that the domestic market trade will not be able to absorb all this increased production. When access to markets is dependent upon political decisions which are quite outside the control of this Government there must remain a degree of uncertainty on the future prospects of the meat industry. It is not that our meat will not be in demand. It is the old problem of getting access to these markets.
So, much as I would like to develop that idea further, I shall say merely this: The problems that this situation poses will be a great challenge for the Australian Meat Board. They will be a challenge that will tax the capacity and the imagination of its members, including the new member to be appointed. The provisions of this Bill will strengthen the ability of the Australian Meat Board to face and, we hope, to surmount the problems f acing it. It has to be successful not only for the sake of the meat industry but also for the sake of the Australian economy. I support the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, first I wish to express my disappointment, in common with the disappointment expressed by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), that the debate on this Bill could not have covered a much wider range. It is not my intention to traverse all the ground that has been traversed previously. I wish to say, however, at the beginning that I support the amendment foreshadowed by the honourable member for Dawson. I do not intend to criticise in any shape or form the Australian Meat Board. I think that it has done an excellent job. It has done that job in recent years under most difficult conditions. I think there is a lot of meat in what I am going to say now. The heading of the article that I hold in my hand is: The Meat in the Export Sandwich’. It says:
It is not necessarily a safe thing to sit on an all-powerful export market.
Those would be the sorts of conditions that the Meat Board has had to meet and shows the changing conditions that have entered into the meat trade during the time that we have had an agreement with America or have had some arrangement for export of meat to America.
Again I say that such are the ramifications of these things or such are the problems that plague the industry in these times that, I feel, a need exists for the responsibilities of the Board to cover a wider field. I think it is true to say that, since the regulations relating to the export of meat to the United States of America have been introduced, there has been, as indicated by the honourable member for Dawson, a tremendous amount of dislocation in the industry. In fact, I do not think anyone could deny what I say.
I am sure that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who is at the table, will not deny what I am going to say. The rigid conditions imposed on the export of meat to the United States of America have intruded themselves into working conditions and have even caused contravention of awards in every abattoir in Australia. It is factual to say too that much of the trouble has been due to the failure of the owners of these abattoirs and meat killing establishments to comply with the regulations. As the Minister indicated a little while ago, 18 months before it was closed the Brisbane abattoir had some indication of what would happen if it did not comply with certain regulations. As a consequence of this failure to comply, many of these abattoirs and killing establishments have been closed down. What concerns me is that unemployment has resulted. That is my reason for seeking here and now, along with the honourable member for Dawson, trade union representation on the Australian Meat Board. We seek also representation by a member from the employers’ field on the Australian Meat Board.
Briefly, as has been indicated by other speakers, the Australian Meat Board is in this Bill given authority to cancel or to suspend licences. Cancellation or suspension of a licence must have a serious effect upon the livelihood of members of the Australian meat industry employees unions. Disruptions of any kind present difficulties to union officials who are called upon to explain to their members the reasons for the disruption of their employment. No-one will deny that the union officials have done a tremendous job not only in trying to educate the workers in the industry that they represent to comply with the regulations of the Department of Primary Industry but also in trying, in an endeavour to keep their members working, to educate the employers also. A study of these regulations wiM show that they are becoming more and more severe every year. I have here an article from the journal which is put out by the Australian Meat Workers Union referring to certain sections of the regulations. It states that employers have endeavoured to induce those working for them to cut across the regulations as laid down by the Department of Primary Industry. The article is headed ‘Battle for Survival’ and it reads:
As the Department of Primary Industry regulations become more stringent and export licences continue to be under review, union members must show greater interest and co-operation on the job if the industry is to survive.
It makes reference to a section of the Department of Primary Industry regulations and lays down certain advice to members about daily man hours. The employers did try to have the regulations changed, and there were attempts to break the regulations in one way or another. So the union set out what it expected its members to do. The article continues:
NOTE: Members must fully realise the seriousness of the situation AND ARE INSTRUCTED not to exceed the 13 per man per hour speed under any circumstances.
REMEMBER excessive speed and carelessness could be responsible for the loss of the exporting licence at your place of employment and no licence could mean NO WORK!
I read that to give some indication of what the union is trying to do, and perhaps I will1 elaborate on that later when 1 read a letter from the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board to the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union.
The Minister stated in his second reading speech that a member of the Australian Meat Board needs to be a man of ability and experience. With this I agree. I ask: Who else but union officials can provide the ability and experience needed to cope with the problems of the men on the job? Who else knows more realistically the difficulties of the employer? Who else can more effectively convey to the workers information, directions and the conditions that they must observe to comply with the desires of the Australian Meat Board and the Department of Primary Industry? The meat industry, as has been indicated - one does not have to be a Rhodes scholar to understand this - is one of the most important industries in this country. Such is the importance of this industry to Australia that it needs the broadest possible representation on the Australian Meat Board. Indeed, such is the importance of this industry that it is absolutely essential to have a trade union representative on the Board. I further ask: Who better understands the facilities needed for the treatment and killing of livestock for human consumption than the union officials? It may not be generally known that there have been quite a number of incidents resulting in stoppages in the industry because the regulations have been enforced by people unaware of the award conditions in the meat industry. The nature of these stoppages can be gleaned from an article I have here about an incident that happened in Hobart on 29th April. It reads:
Nearly 150 slaughtermen have gone on strike throughout Tasmania. They are protesting against changed killing conditions which they claim will cost them as much as $5 a week . . . The Tasmanian secretary of the meat workers union, M. J. Swallow, said yesterday that slaughtermen . . had walked off the job yesterday.
He referred to various abattoirs in Tasmania. He went on to say that the strike was due in some respects to the failure of the employers and the Department of Primary Industry to inform the men what was required of them under the export regulations. The article continues:
The unrest in the industry began when slaughtermen were called to do extra duties under Department of Primary Industry regulations. Slaughtermen claimed the new award appeared to give them weekly increases, but that the extra work reduced their return.
The presence of a union official, with his knowledge and understanding of awards, on the Australian Meat Board could do much to prevent such wasteful stoppages. In this regard I refer to a letter which was written to the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union by Mr J. L. Shute, Chairman of the Australian Meat Board. He wrote:
Just a brief note to say how pleased I was to read in the Meat Employees journal the article which appeared on page 9 (November/December issue). I feel that your appeal to the membership of your organisation for their co-operation in meeting the requirement of certain of our export markets is well timed and, believe me, is highly desirable. Please accept my thanks for the lead that you have given in this direction.
The employee, the employer and the country all suffer from the consequences of stoppages like these. I have some of the largest abattoirs in Australia in my electorate. W. Angliss & Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd, Thomas Borthwick & Sons (A/ Asia) Ltd, R. J. Gilbertson Pty Ltd, Smorgen Consolidated Industries Pty Ltd, Newport Freezing Works Pty Ltd and J. H. Ralph & Sons Pty Ltd are but a few of the operating companies. Just over the river from my electorate are the Melbourne City abattoir and the Newmarket sale yards. The great majority of the people who work there live in the electorate of Gellibrand.
Thus it will be seen that I am interested in any problem that arises in the meat industry, whether it be on the side of the employer or the side of the employee. In fact, I go so far as to say, as I suggested before, that the Australian Meat Board needs employer representation also. Indeed, I would emphasise that much good could result from liaison between the employer level and the trade union level. It would help the intelligent application of regulations and prevent stoppages. It must be realised - I think the Minister is well aware of this - that if the meat industry is to survive it must expand. The home market must be assisted to expand, and the export market must be protected. It is not generally known that the per capita consumption of meat in Australia is decreasing to a tremendous degree. A statement was made by the Secretary of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales recently in which he said:
It is that in the face of rising meat production in the more affluent countries of the world, international trade in meat remains precariously balanced, and so does the beef cattle industry. A few years ago, Australian producers were being told it was not a question of where to find markets for beef, but rather of how to find enough beef for the markets then opening up.
Now that Australia has risen to the occasion, as she did during and after World War II, the possibility of over-production once again looms on the horizon as it did in 1957-58 before the US market became available to Australia. The industry will now be able to do some stocktaking, and so determine whether the pace needs to be slackened.
Meat exporters now seeking out new markets so as to gain their export entitlements for the US market should soon be able to advise the grazier of the extent to which other parts of the world are capable of absorbing supplies of beef and mutton.
At about the same time the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) made a special statement. Among other things he said that it was difficult to understand why the United States should be taking steps to curtail meat imports at a time when domestic meat prices in America were at or about record levels. I cite these comments to indicate the extent of the worry that must be experienced at present at the employer and employee level and at the level of the man on the land.
Another problem that is facing Australia is the importation of prime lamb from New Zealand. This is another facet of the industry which should be looked at. It has been raised from time to time in this House. I am reliably informed that one of the main problems in the meat industry is overcapitalisation. In Victoria, for instance, facilities are available for the treatment of approximately 20 million sheep and lambs annually, but the numbers treated in the past 3 years have averaged 13 million annually. The facilities for the treatment of beef cattle exceed the number of cattle treated annually. The situation is much the same in respect of pigs and calves. These conditions are applying at a time when there is a definite decline in the per capita consumption of meat in Australia. The poultry and fish industries are having a great effect on the consumption of meat. I think that all people would agree that the home market is the best market and should be the first market protected.
These are problems that face the Australian Meat Board. These are the reasons that prompt me to advocate a trade union representative as a member of the Board. The situation is desperate, as the Secretary of the Graziers Association of New South Wales has pointed out. New markets must be found. We must take advantage of the rising standard of living in the countries to our north. The industry must not be allowed to decline. Encouragement must be given to increase the availability of cattle for slaughter. This, of course, is not the responsibility of the Australian Meat Board. I suggest, however, that the time has come when the Australian Meat Board should be authorised to investigate these matters. The industry has such national aspects that the problems that are steadily projecting themselves into the industry must have more than a casual investigation.
Much discussion today is centred on curtailing our wheat production. Any land that is going out of wheat production could be converted to beef production. There is need for the improvement of pastures. There is need for greater water and fodder conservation, for improved breeding methods and for better farm management. If the beef industry is to cope with the inroads that poultry and fish are making, there must be a reduction in the price of beef, and the Australian Meat Board could be the instrument to bring this about. A similar situation applies in relation to lamb and mutton. The increased consumption of poultry and fish is due to the high prices being charged for beef, mutton and lamb. Indeed, such are the prices being asked for prime beef, mutton and lamb that these commodities are fast disappearing from the menu of the average wage earner. No-one can deny this. Price is the greatest factor operating in the decline of the home market. It is a factor that must be considered urgently. This is something that the Australian Meat Board could examine immediately.
The matters that I have mentioned arc but a few of the means to improve production and consumption of meat. They are, in my opinion, matters that the Australian Meat Board should be vested with the authority to investigate, control and direct. To do this the Board needs much wider representation. A step in the right direction to achieve this would be the inclusion on the Board of a trade union representative and an industrial representative. In supporting the proposed amendment advocating that a trade union representative be appointed to the Board I conclude with the remarks of the Secretary of the Meat Industry Employees Union who said:
The future of the industry depends mainly on the increase of production of livestock for slaughter. There should be plans to increase production by 10% annually.
To implement such a plan, it will be necessary to enthuse producers of the need to fulfil such a plan, not only in their own interests but in the interests of the meat industry and the economy of Australia.
I agree with those remarks and I suggest that the Government appoint to the Australian Meat Board a representative of the trade union movement and also a representative from the employers’ organisation.
– This afternoon we are debating the Meat Industry Bill and I think it is appropriate that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) should take note of the expressions of concern from various sections of the Parliament about the composition of the Australian Meat Board. In fact, the Opposition has proposed an amendment to enlarge the present Board. I intend to mention the need for increasing the number of marketing representatives on the Board. My electorate of Griffith contains the Brisbane abattoir which is perhaps the largest in Australia, and many of my constituents are employed there and depend on the meat works for their livelihood. Earlier this year and in the latter part of last year many of them were affected when the export licence of that abattoir was cancelled for some time. At that time I took the opportunity to visit and examine the meat works to try to see for myself what was wrong. I hoped that the licence would be restored at an early date. It will be accepted that I have an interest in this legislation. Like every Australian I have an interest in ensuring that world markets continue to open up to us rather than that the present situation should continue with the United States imposing quotas which cause our markets to shrink.
Today members of the Government parties and members of the Opposition have praised the work done by members of the Australian Meat Board under the chairmanship of Mr Shute. If we examine the composition of the Board we note that the members representing the meat producers are Messrs Hughes, Horwood. Langfield, Allingham and Wright; that the Government’s nominee, an officer of the Department of Primary Industry, is Mr Giles; and that the members representing meat exporting companies are Mr Anderson from South Australia and Mr Morris from Victoria. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that the Minister virtually has the right to veto a nomination to the Board. The meat exporters are subjected to this situation and the Minister need not necessarily appoint their nominees. I believe, as does the honourable member for Dawson, that there should be some latitude in this regard.
It is interesting to note who our representatives overseas are. Our representative in London is Mr Muirhead, in New York Mr Stenning, and in Tokyo Mr Wilson. It is not my intention to cast aspersions on any of these men but when I recall that Mr Muirhead was a marketer, Mr Wilson was an executive of the meat exporting companies and Mr Stenning was a veterinarian in the Department of Primary Industry, I wonder where our present troubles lie. Perhaps we should be looking at the meat industry as a trade matter rather than a primary industry matter. Matters concerning the sugar industry are handled by the Department of Trade and Industry.
– Who says they are?
Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) seems to have quite a bit to do with the negotiations in that industry. Matters concerning the wheat industry are treated very much in the world of trade. I fully realise the importance of the home market to the meat industry and the importance of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry. But I do not believe that in the field of overseas markets we are getting the horse traders that we need. We are getting the representatives of the producers. Though they are very able and capable men I am advocating today that consideration be given to the inclusion of more exporters - men who are hardened and practised in the trading world. I hear murmurs from the Country Party benches. Members of the Country Party are right behind the producers. The producers do a good job.
Just as the honourable member for Dawson was restricted as to the scope of matters that he could cover in this debate, I am prevented from moving into various areas. But I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry will take note of the need for more representation of the exporters instead of filling positions with producer representatives to satisfy the feelings of the various State producers.
– So that there may be no confusion about my keeping within the bounds of this debate, let me refer to the actual purposes of this Bill.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said:
The first is to provide for an increase in the number of meat producer representatives on the Australian Meat Board from 5 to 6. The second is to empower the Australian Meat Board to issue, cancel or suspend export licences, and to provide the applicant or licensee with a right of appeal to the Minister against a decision by the Board.
It might be interesting to have a look just for a moment at the composition of the Australian Meat Board. It is a Commonwealth statutory authority. It is the body responsible for controlling the external marketing of Australian beef, mutton and lamb. The Board’s primary function is to ensure that Australian meat exports are marketed in a manner which will safeguard the long term interests of the Australian meat industry.
The Board, which for some years was essentially a regulatory body, was reconstituted in July 1964 to enable it to undertake additional measures of meat market development and diversification, with finance being provided by means of a levy on cattle, sheep and lamb slaughterings. The Board regulates overseas marketing by means of an export licensing system. The Board has power to control the kinds of meat that may be exported by licensed exporters to particular places or to particular agents and representatives. For the purpose of meat market development, the Board has power to undertake measures to promote meat in Australian and overseas markets. In addition, the Board has power to purchase and sell meat in its own right where there are special marketing problems or where market circumstances preclude the effective participation of private traders.
Action to create the Australian Meat Board was initiated by the Government, and at no stage was this action opposed by the growers concerned. The Board was established in 1935 on the recommendation of the Meat Advisory Committee. The function of the Board at that stage was to advise the Government and carry out the task of allocating United Kingdom quotas to individual Australian exporters under the restrictive import provision of the Ottawa Agreement. The Board was reorganised on a wartime basis, but in 1946 the wartime organisation was disbanded and the Australian Meat Board was reconstituted. The history details that I have do not go much further than that, but it is necessary to have this background information.
As at July 1968 there were nine members of the Board. They consisted of an independent chairman and one Commonwealth Government member, both appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry; five producer members selected from a panel of names submitted by a selection committee comprising members of the main federal producer organisations; and two exporter members who are also appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Australian Meat Board met eleven times in 1967-68. Unlike other marketing boards, it does not have an executive committee to undertake business between meetings of the full board. That is rather significant The Board also maintains a representative in London, two in North America and another in Japan. The Board’s headquarters are located in Sydney.
That is the background of this Board, which exists to cope with one of the most developing industries in the Commonwealth. Among all the primary industries, this industry is based on sound economic conditions, on a price structure which has been maintained and on a vitality which up to the present has been maintained at a fairly high level. Over recent years the accent has been on the marketing situation as it exists with the United States. Here we have a rather extraordinary situation in which there is a voluntary quota system and the industry is warned by smoke signals, flares and all sorts of alarm bells when this quota is being approached.
I have been associated with fairly close discussions with people in the industry familiar with the scene in the United States. There emerges one rather interesting feature which is based on a political situation that is unique to the United States. It is a situation in which there is official recognition of lobbying. Lobbyists in the Congress in Washington are registered. That is an extraordinary situation. It has been suggested that in our activities in this direction we have fallen far short of what is done by other nations. For instance, I believe that the Japanese have registered lobbyists who work continuously and most strenuously in employing all possible measures to stimulate particular trade associations that they have with the United States.
I am informed that in the United States there is a very strong feeling among some most influential members of Congress that trade with Australia should be stimulated to a far greater extent. The actual significance of this lobbying aspect in our association with the United States Government has yet to be verified; but it is interesting to reflect upon it when we are thinking of a board which will be increased in numbers if this Bill is approved. I am quite sure that the good sense of the members of this chamber will prevail and that this legislation will be approved. It would be interesting to examine rather more closely the merits or demerits of our having an official lobbyist in the United States. Of course, we have the most magnificent of all lobbyists, our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). He is a lobbyist of international status and a man of unsurpassed ability and reputation in all the Western nations. However, I and other members of my Party have had some pretty close discussions with certain people from overseas, and this idea could have possibilities.
Let us have a brief look at the background of the industry which necessitates increasing the number of representatives on the Board. Here is an industry that is developing to such an extent that the body responsible for it must be increased. When we look at northern Australia we see a vista of unprecedented possibilities. We see the vast areas of the Gulf represented as far as the producers are concerned-
– I rise on a point of order. I have no wish to limit the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy on this Bill, but as you know full well, Sir, it was pointed out to me and to the honourable member for Corangamite that this debate is restricted to a discussion of the increase in the number of meat producer representatives on the Australian Meat Board and to the empowering of the Board to issue, cancel or suspend export licences. I would hope that, if the honourable member for Kennedy is given latitude, it will be extended to other honourable members.
-The honourable member for Kennedy did wander a little, but, as I understand it, he was dealing with the Australian Meat Board and is still doing so. I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to confine himself to the Bill before the House.
– I rather thought that remarks about the necessity for the increase in the number of members of the Board might be associated with the Bill. However, I would not wish to go beyond the purposes of the Bill. Let us look at the necessity for empowering the Australian Meat Board to issue, cancel or suspend export licences. On this matter of licences, may I say that, when the whole concept of issuing licences to killing centres is considered, a completely new outlook should be adopted in relation to abattoirs in inland centres. At the moment we can look across the whole vista of the Australian scene and find very few killing centres scattered here and there. When we look across the northern part of this great nation of ours we find killing centres only at such places as Katherine; they are very few and far between. This results in a tremendous economic loss. It is a loss that is engendered by the lack of a sane outlook on the allocation of licences.
Throughout northern Australia, there has always been a tremendous demand for killing centres. Meetings have been held from time to time and surveys have been made amongst producers. I can remember very well one survey that was made in the northwest of Queensland. A circular was sent out dealing with the possibility of establishing a killing centre on a co-operative basis amongst producers in the north-west of Queensland. It was suggested that the lulling centre should be in the area between Cloncurry and Mount Isa. The result was a 90% affirmative vote for the establishment of a killing centre. Many interesting facts emerged from the survey. One cause of concern was the walking of stock. In those days it was more precisely the droving of great herds to the coastal and southern killing centres. Now stock is transported by huge road trains that are able to travel very conveniently over the magnificent beef roads that this Government has caused to be constructed.
Until 19S7 we had corrugated, rough roads that were almost impassable. The transport of stock was utterly impossible.
Unfortunately in those days we had a Labor government that was completely unaware of the problems of inland Australia. Now in the new era that has emerged in inland areas we have great beef roads. I wish I had had time to get the figures on the loss of weight of beasts. The loss is appalling and it shows the need for the establishment of inland killing centres. I hope that, with the increase of powers for the Board, this aspect will receive full consideration and a far closer look will be taken at the possibility of establishing inland killing centres.
When we think of killing centres and the issuing of export licences, we immediately think of the magnificent work that this Government has done through the Com.monwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, particularly that section of it in Townsville. Research work has been done on legumes and pastures for northern Australia. This work will result in a tremendous increase in the herds, not only in the number of beasts in that part of the country but in the quality of the beef and mutton. Consequently, the need for killing centres becomes so much more urgent. With this increase in herds will come the demand for vast quantities of superphosphates, which will be distributed over the higher rainfall areas. The production of meat and the quality of the meat produced will be improved tremendously. I thoroughly commend the Bill. I am sure that all honourable members will solidly support the Bill as it has been presented by the Minister for Primary Industry and I commend it to the House.
– This Bill, which amends the Meat Industry Act 1964-1966, has two very clear purposes. It adds to the Australian Meat Board an additional member representing meat producers and it increases the powers of the Board with respect to the granting, cancellation or suspension of export licences. I do not believe that the Opposition has made out a case supporting the amendment that it intends to move in the Committee stage. On the other hand, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), supported by other honourable members who have spoken, has made his case for the additional member on the terms proposed in the Bill and this is not contested by the Opposition. This additional member will provide representation for the southern States of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The producer section in those States has not had this representation, but the States do have representation by meat exporters. One of them, Mr Anderson, comes from South Australia and the other, Mr Morris, comes from Victoria. However, the Minister’s proposal would provide a better geographic basis for the representation of producers themselves. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) was a little worried about the use of the word ‘possible’, but as I understand it the intention of the Minister is to see that these southern States do receive this representation.
The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) foreshadowed that in the Committee stage he would move an amendment which would add to the Board a further two members. One would represent publicly owned abattoirs. I do not know why this representation is restricted to publicly owned abattoirs, but nevertheless that is the amendment. The other member would represent employees engaged in the slaughter and preparation of meat or meat products for export. I can find nothing specifically objectionable in the amendment. However, if we agree, on the basis on which the amendment is advanced and on the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Dawson, that these two members should be added to the Board, we should also consider adding someone to represent consumers and others could argue with equal force that additional members of the Board should represent retailers, shippers, transporters and any number of other people who could be regarded as directly or indirectly associated with this industry. I do not argue for a moment that the employees or the abattoirs which employ them in this industry are not more directly associated than some others. Certainly they are not more directly associated than the producers themselves. But the fact is that the honourable member for Dawson has completely failed to point out where there is a lack of commonality of interest as between the employees in the industry, the abattoirs themselves and the producers.
– I pointed it out.
– It may well be that there could be a lack of commonality which I think the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) might have touched on, in that the employees in the abattoirs are more directly concerned with seasonal fluctuations in the trade where they are experiencing a loss of wages.
– They are concerned with the export regulations intruding into their . awards.
– I did not quite get that. I must have missed the honourable member’s remarks. I will take very close note of them when reading Hansard. The fact is that there may be a lack of commonality of interest where the effect on the employee within the abattoir is more direct and more immediately felt than it is on the producer, where there is a fluctuation in the presentation of cattle onto the market and the presentation for slaughter for export. I believe that this could be overcome to some considerable extent if there was a change in the basis on which employees are paid within the abattoir system. Methods of payment vary but there is not a very close relationship between the payment for time and the numbers of stock slaughtered. There are some unofficial stops, there are some some unofficial quotas and there are some official ones, but the fact remains that this kind of work would be better organised on a straight piece work basis. It is piece work although it is done by a team, unlike shearing where the shearer does the complete job on the sheep and earns according to that particular piece of work. This work is done by a team but it could certainly be organised in such a way that it would be paid on a piece work basis and would enable employees to earn at a very much higher rate when there was a faster delivery onto the market. They would also be able to work much longer hours and get paid for it, to this extent parallelling the primary producer himself who has considerable variation in the hours he works. There would, of course, also be periods of much shorter hours.
– What about changes in the regulations?
– I suggest there should be substantial changes to the regulations. I believe that these changes, involving what I have already suggested, could be beneficial to the industry and particularly beneficial to the employees within the industry. But it would also bring closer together the commonality of interest in the whole of the marketing system as between employees within the abattoirs, the producers and the abattoirs themselves, and would enable them all to have a common interest in processing livestock as and when it is presented as well as having a commonality of interest in the end result, delivery onto the market.
As this debate has been confined very properly to these two particular intentions of the Bill I am not going to canvass the whole of the activities of the Australian Meat Board. I am not going to refer to the educational programmes with which the Meat Board is concerned and I am not going to refer to the involvement of the Meat Board in technical help in an advisory capacity to packers. I am not going to refer to the Meat Board’s great interest in surveys of the market in the Middle East, South East Asia, Japan and the United States of America. I am not going to refer to the continued activity in influencing the development of international standards in livestock so that the Australian industry will not be disadvantaged as these standards are adopted by importing countries. I am not going to refer to the high prices received for Australian beef and mutton in the United States of America, nor am I going to canvass the fact that in America we can exploit much more greatly the potential for fat lamb marketing. I am not going to refer to the interest of the Board and the valuable work that it has done in the mechanical skinning of sheep and the study it has made of the manual slaughtering and skinning of sheep and cattle. I am not going to refer to the work of the Meat Research Laboratory, nor am I going to refer to the interest of the Board in pilot laboratories which have done a great deal of valuable work in helping to develop the technology of meatworks.
While this debate has been confined in a way which many of us regret, I do want to express my appreciation of the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson, and to support them, in complimenting the Meat Board on the excellent job it has done. At the same time it is obvious from the things that I have mentioned but not canvassed that the Meat Board has areas in which it can do a great deal more. There are areas to which I will not refer such as the fact that within Australia there is a division of opinion between lamb producers and beef producers, and the Board is often in a difficult position when it comes to promotion within this country. Equally, the Board is in a difficult position when it comes to promoting within America against the kind of producer opposition that occurs there and to which we are not strangers within our own country.
I think I have demonstrated that the Opposition’s support for the amendment it proposes to introduce in the Committee stages of this Bill simply does not carry sufficient weight because it has not demonstrated the lack of commonality of interest between the producers who are now on the Board, the representatives of exporters who are now on the Board and the other people who the Opposition proposes to put on the Board. Nor has it been demonstrated that if the Parliament did agree to the additions to be proposed in the Committee stage the Parliament should not equally consider representatives of consumers, retailers, shippers, transporters and others? The fact is that this could produce a Board which becomes unwieldy in size, and by rule of thumb I do not believe that any board of this nature can possibly work if it is greater than twelve in number, and the Opposition’s proposed amendment will be pushing it immediately to that limit.
I believe it can still be argued that there is sufficient commonality of interest between the representatives now on the Board, with the additional one now proposed, and the other people concerned within the industry although, as I have said, I believe that some changes within the industry, particularly as to the matter of payment to abattoir employees, could be made in order to increase that commonality of interest. It is certain that the whole of the industry and the activities of the Board do concern not only producers but also everyone directly employed within the industry, and this does most certainly apply to abattoirs and abattoir employees. In the electorate of Eden-Monaro we have the full gamut in the fact that we do produce beef and lamb and we also have an export abattoir in Goulburn which is a major abattoir in New South Wales. We are also not without interest in another abattoir which is in another place very close to us. We are very much concerned with this Bill and 1 have no hesitation in supporting it.
– Because of the announcement made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) honourable members have a limited time in which to speak to this Bill. The Minister has cut the debate to ribbons. Unless we transgress the Standing Orders we can speak to this Bill for only about 5 minutes. I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro) and my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr McIvor) upon the way in which they skated around the difficulty and managed to complete very constructive speeches. Northern Australia is not the only place where beef is produced, nor is the Eden-Monaro district. Beef is produced in Tasmania also. In my electorate there are about 20 different types of agricultural activities including the raising of beef, which is very important to Tasmania from an export point of view. In Tasmania we have our own abattoirs. The latest abattoir established is at Longford, which is just out of Launceston in my electorate. Here some 80 people are working in the excellent facilities set up by the Victorian firm of Gilbertson Butchers Pty Ltd. This facility has been a big help to the economy of northern Tasmania and in particular to the town of Longford. The town of Longford was hard hit by floods a few weeks ago, and the losses sustained by the company amounted to about $100,000, but it has been decided to continue with this industry.
The first provision of this Bill is excellent, but it is long overdue. Why did it take 5 years to decide that there should be another representative on this splendid authority, the Australian Meat Board? Why should Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have been excluded from this Board for such a long time? These States should have been represented on that Board from its inception. At last the Government has decided to add another member to that Board, bringing the membership to six. Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will at least be represented by a man from one of those States. If one looks at the Commonwealth ‘Year Book’ one realises why the Government has now decided to add another member to the
Board to provide the representation for these three southern States. The figures set out in the ‘Year Book’ as to the number of sheep and cattle in Australia are quite surprising. They show that in 1967 the number of sheep in Tasmania were 4,321,000; in Victoria, 31,229,000; and in South Australia, 17,864,000. That was a total of 53,424,000. At that time the total number of sheep in Australia was 164,237,000. The figures show that in 1967 the number of cattle in Tasmania were 522,000; in Victoria, 3,528,000; and in South Australia, 687,000. That is a total of 4,737,000. The total number of cattle in Australia at that time was 18,270,000. In 1967 those three southern States produced 32% of Australia’s sheep and 20% of its cattle production.
Those figures show what a remarkable contribution Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are making to Australia’s total sheep and cattle production, and at last those States will be represented by one person on the Australian Meat Board. This is the reason why my party is so grateful to the Government for bringing this Bill before the House. The Tasmanian Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Labor Party’s Tasmanian Rural Committee have both been pressing for an increase in the membership of the Board. The Federation has been seeking this increased membership for longer than our Committee but our Committee is only 3 years old.
The second interesting feature of this Bill is that the Board and not the Minister will now be responsible for the issue, cancellation or suspension of export licences. The Minister for Primary Industry has been getting a very rough time and no doubt he is glad to get out from underneath this responsibility. In Tasmania recently on the north west coast a meat works had its licence withdrawn and was forced to close down. This has occurred in other parts of Australia and it has led to confusion amongst the working people and the meat producers. This action throws the whole industry in the particular area out of gear. Up to this time the Minister himself has been making these decisions but now they will be the responsibility of the Board. However, there is a rider to the new provision. Licensees of abattoirs and meat killing works who have had their export licences cancelled or suspended may appeal to the Minister against the decision of the Board. The Minister may deal with the appeal or may appoint independent persons, if necessary, to examine the appeal and make a recommendation to him. This is a big improvement. Opposition members will speak on the representation of employees of the Board at the Committee stage of the Bill. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro is relatively new to this Parliament.
– You are an old bloke.
– Certainly not. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro apparently does not know that there are many boards in this country which include employee representatives. If it is good enough for one board to have employee representation then it is good enough for others. The pattern of all producer boards in this country should be to have employee representation. Why make fowl of one and fish of another? Why say that one board is exempt and another is to have representation? When the Australian Labor Party was in office before 1949 it established the principle that employees should be represented on such boards. Even the Meat Board had an employee representative up to 1964. Is there any industry where the employee has a more difficult task to perform than that which is carried out in an abattoir? How many honourable members in this House have been through an abattoir facility? How many have been through particular sections of an abattoir? It is not a very nice place to work in. Some employees are obliged to work amongst blood, offal, and so on.
– Get back to the employees.
– The honourable member has not been through every part of an abattoir. He may have been through that part where they bone the meat. Other sections are not as pleasant. These employees should be represented on the Board and should be permitted to have a say in what goes on in their industry. It would give them a greater interest in their work to be able to make a contribution at board level. It would be a step towards recognising the rights and status of employees in an industry of this nature. Because of a dramatic increase in the number of persons engaged in Australian meatworks due to increased exports of meat to the United States in recent years it has become more important than ever that employees in the industry should be represented on the Board. We will press this issue to a vote in this chamber, I imagine.
The honourable member for Gellibrand made a splendid and detailed speech. Perhaps the Chair was not listening carefully, because the honourable member seemed to get away with dealing with the subject in a very wide fashion. He pointed out quite clearly the rights of employees, problems associated with wages and such matters, and why employees definitely should sit around the board table with meat producers, government representatives, meat exporters and so on. If an employee were so elected, he would play his part and do honour to his industry and his fellow employees in sitting each year with members of the Meat Board and helping them in their discussions, particularly at the grass roots level of the meat killing section of the industry. We of the Opposition support the Bill and intend to move two amendments to it.
– I will not keep the House very long. I appreciate that the debate is somewhat limited in scope. I assume that when the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that his colleague got away with a good speech he meant that his colleague widened the scope of the debate a little on that occasion. Had this been another occasion I would have explored the export position of the Australian beef industry to some extent. However, at this time perhaps I should do so only in passing. At markets such as that at Smithfield there is a tremendous difference in the pattern of exports of beef, mutton and pig meat, as well as other meats, from this country.
When the Selection Committee of the Australian Meat Board appoints a representative from the southern areas of Australia - which I presume is precisely what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has in mind - the appointment will assume a great deal more importance than the appointment of a representative from the northern areas, because today we are faced with all sorts of new methods of exporting and selling our meat overseas.
These new methods fit the agricultural pattern of the southern States to a very great degree. I refer, for example, to the advent of dairy beef. I can see no reason why the new appointee should not only be cognisant of the value of top quality export beef today, but should have also more than a nodding acquaintance with alternative forms of beef produced in Australia.
At Smithfield market today on many occasions top grade dairy beef is outselling the traditional beef of Great Britain. That type of beef is not wanted today. In many cases pure Friesian steers are selling at comparable values. I think this gives an idea of the room for a change in the pattern of our export trade. At Smithfield today Romanian bull beef is being sold at premium prices. When the appointee of the Selection Committee takes up his position it is to be hoped that he will be someone with such a breadth of knowledge and imagination that he can help the Australian Meat Board where necessary to change the pattern of trade that is at present apparent in meat exports from this country.
In the past the Australian Meat Board has helped greatly with the issuing of licences in a variety of places in Australia. I refer particularly to Murray Bridge Meatworks Pty Ltd at Murray Bridge. This is quite a recent example of a meatworks that has an export licence. It operates under stringent conditions in somewhat old premises. The conditions quite properly are insisted upon by a Commonwealth department. The premises have been renovated to a remarkable degree and the men working there, I would like the honourable member for Wilmot to know, enjoy very good conditions. They do not have to slush through the sort of conditions about which the honourable member for Wilmot was trying to tell us but perhaps feared to get too close to the bone, if I could put it that way. This is a good factory and is an example of the intelligent approach that the Meat Board has adopted to improve the distribution of meatworks operating in the export field throughout Australia.
I do not wish to traverse the remarks of previous speakers in this debate. I simply point out that I support the basis and historical significance of this measure as outlined very clearly by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I support his remarks. I come back now to some of the remarks of the honourable member for Wilmot which directly affect the amendments to be proposed by the Opposition. I remember a man in South Australia for whom I had a very great respect for many years. He was a tremendous character, a typical Australian and a really rough diamond. I refer to Sir Walter Duncan. He always said that from the point of view of functioning the best board that he knew was a board of three, subject to quorum conditions, with one very agreeable member and another one away sick. There is a lot of truth in that statement and also in the remarks of my friend the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Munro).
We do not wish to start a proliferation of different interests on a board that is not affecting the production of meat in Australia but is purely concerned with meat exports. If we start a proliferation of membership there will be no end to it. I think the honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that it would be necessary to have representatives of the consumers, the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, different factions involved, and of shippers, as a logical extension to the argument. Bearing in mind the statement of Sir Walter Duncan which I have quoted, I beseech honourable members to make sure that we do not get back to a Meat Board composed of nine representatives. Today it has fewer members but because of the geographic distribution of beef production in this country it has become logically a matter of having most of the representatives from Queensland and New South Wales, with membership also from Western Australia. There is nothing wrong with that arrangement.
The honourable member for Wilmot asked: ‘Why has this been so for five years? A member from the southern area should have been appointed five years ago. What has caused the delay? Of course, the delay, if it can properly be considered as a delay - and I certainly do not so regard it - has been due to the pattern of meat exports from Australia. As other States have become involved - I remind honourable members of the Murray Bridge Meatworks which quite recently has entered the export field - the export component of the industry has built up quite considerably. The honourable member for Wilmot quoted total production figures for Australia. It was a rather erratic set of figures to quote considering that we are debating a Bill to authorise the appointment of a member to a board concerned entirely with exports of meat, and not total meat production. The most accurate figures I could find on this subject are at page 47 of the latest report of the Australian Meat Board. I shall cite, State by State, figures tor exports to the United States of America. 1 consider that these figures are slightly more significant in terms of the Bill, although they deal only with the major section of our export trade, than the figures quoted by the honourable member for Wilmot.
The significance is even more marked when we consider the figures for total production of beef, veal, mutton, lamb and offal from the States concerned. In round figures the total exports from each State were as follows: New South Wales, 28,000 tons; Victoria, 66,709 tons; Queensland, 103,295 tons; South Australia, 7,300 tons; Western Australia, 14,000 tons; and Tasmania, 5,500 tons. Exports from the Northern Territory were about 5,500 tons. These figures, which are for exports, have more significance than the figures quoted by the honourable member for Wilmot. Consequently, I regret to say that I must come down against the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I regret having to do so because if this had been a board dealing with both internal and external sales from the industry I believe there would have been some reason to have a wider representation on the board, but this is not so. Many of the abattoirs mentioned by the honourable member for Wilmot would not, from their description, cater for the export market; otherwise he would not have been so fainthearted at the blood and one thing and another flowing about. At an export abattoir today this does not happen. I reiterate that I shall support the Bill and also the amendment proposed by the Government which will alter the time from which the amendment to the Act will operate. I shall oppose the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to tie in my remarks so closely to the Bill before the House.
– The purpose of this Bill in my view can be divided into two parts. The first purpose is to provide an increase from five to six producer representatives on the Australian Meat Board and the second purpose is to deal with the issuing and cancelling of licences for export. I hasten to remind some members of the Opposition, despite their efforts to secure an increased membership of the Board over that proposed by the Government, that this Board deals chiefly with exports and not with meat generally. It is my desire this evening to speak for a few minutes on that portion of the Bill which deals with an increase in the number of producer representatives on the Board. I think most honourable members are aware that prior to 1964, when the principal Act was last amended, the Board was composed of 12 members and that in 1964 the representation was reduced to 9 members, only 5 of whom were producer representatives.
The concern of most graziers in the southern States is that three States do not have a producer representative of their interest on the Board. It is true, as was said by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), that we have 2 producer representatives for Queensland, 2 for New South Wales and 1 for Western Australia, in addition to representation by two meat exporters, a Commonwealth representative and a chairman. Unfortunately there is no representative from Tasmania, Victoria or South Australia. I would not hazard a guess as to how many times since 1964 I have received representations from various organisations, particularly those in Victoria, and from individuals who are active in various sections of the industry and who support a claim that the southern States should have representation on the Board.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) spelt out quite clearly that the additional member would add to the possibility of getting a member from the southern States. However, I think we should remind ourselves of how these members are appointed. Perhaps some honourable members are not aware that members are appointed to the Board by a selection committee which is composed of members from the two major meat organisations, namely, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers
Federation, with an independent chairman. On the selection committee Western Australia has 2 representatives, Victoria has 2, New South Wales 2, Queensland 1 and South Australia 1. It is obvious that if this selection committee were to play State politics - I do not accuse it of doing so - because the three southern States have only three of the eight members the tendency would be for members of the northern States to look after their own States, as I am endeavouring to look after mine at the moment.
It has always been recognised that appointments to the Board from those nominated to the selection committee take into consideration the ability of those who are nominated. I do not wish to dispute this point as I believe it to be a sound principle to get the best men for the job, but I will not accept the argument that there are no suitable men in three of the southern States. I know personally some of the individuals who have been nominated from time to time and I know that in the southern States we do have men of ability, despite what might be said by members from the north. The question with which we are faced is: Why should the southern States have a representative on the Board? The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) referred to the number of lambs produced in the south and the honourable member for Angas referred to tonnage. Perhaps I could now convert those figures to a percentage of meat produced in Australia.
It will be found that in recent years Victoria has been a very big contributor to the percentage of meat produced and to the percentage of meat exported. In 1966- 67 Victoria produced 32.3% of our meat, in the following year it produced 31.3% and in 1968-69 it produced 28.6%. Compare those figures with production in New South Wales which has two representatives on the Board. In the 3 years mentioned New South Wales produced 26.4%, 27.3% and 27.7%. Queensland, which also has two representatives on the Board, in those 3 years produced 23%, 23% and 24.8%. It can be seen from those figures alone that of the States mentioned Victoria is the biggest producer. I come then to exports where a similar situation will be found. Taking the same 3 years, Victoria’s exports were 34.8%, 33% and 27% of the total. In the same years, New South Wales, which has two members on the Board, exported 11.5% - only about one-third of Victoria’s exports for that year - 12.9% and 13.5%. Queensland was the biggest exporter, having exported 38.8%, 38% and 41.8% of total exports in the relevant years. So it can be seen that this is a pretty lopsided affair. Victoria certainly plays her part in production. She is the biggest producer of all the States as well as being the second biggest exporter of all the States. Naturally, because of this situation she is the biggest contributor to our various levies. I appeal to the selection committee to give every consideration to the nomination which will be coming from either Tasmania, Victoria or South Australia after this Bill is passed and becomes law and when the committee is faced with the prospect of appointing an additional member. 1 cannot go along with all of the remarks that have been made by members of the Opposition. I direct attention to one point that was raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) who was somewhat critical of the capacity of the killing works in Victoria to handle the amount of stock that comes to it. I think I am correct in saying that he mentioned that the capacity of the abattoirs in Victoria in respect of lambs is in the vicinity of 20 million whereas only approximately 13 million pass through them. The honourable member must realise that seldom is the precise number of stock forthcoming to take up the capacity of the abattoirs. This applies throughout Australia. It is necessary to have a reserve of killing capacity to handle the stock coming forward at peak times.
I am very pleased to support this legislation which provides for an increase from 5 to 6 in the number of producer representatives on the Australian Meat Board. I reject the amendment put forward by the Opposition. I believe the honourable member for Angas covered this aspect very well when he pointed out that it is unwise to overload a board which is dealing with exports with people who have no real direct concern with the relevant commodity. The Board is dealing with a commodity which belongs to the producers and it is only natural that producers should have a say in the matters with which the Board deals from time to time. I support the Government on this matter. I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry on introducing a measure such as this. I am sure that when the issue is placed before the selection committee the committee will implement the thoughts that the Minister spelled out very clearly in his second reading speech when he said that he hoped that the southern States would receive their just representation.
– in reply - I should like to take a few moments to sum up those remarks which were relevant to the subject matter of the Bill before the House. The Bill has a long title which would limit the scope of debate. However, due to the lenient character of the various deputy speakers who have occupied the chair today, a little extraneous matter was brought into the discussion. First of all, I thank those honourable members who expressed confidence in and kind remarks about the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Mr Shute, and also the members of the Board. The Board has earned itself a very high reputation and has won for itself the confidence of Australian meat producing organisations and the industry. I believe that it is doing a tremendous job in helping to foster export sales of Australian meats - beef, veal, mutton and pig meats. In addition I should like to express my appreciation of the progressive attitude that the Board has to many problems Sometimes, however, one does have to q question the Board’s appointments to various -s positions. I know that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) would question me on that aspect so 1 will say no mee about it.
There seems to be some mis understanding about the nature of an export licence and an abattoir registration. An export licence is given to a person or a firm bv the Australian Meat Board to permit that person or firm to carry on export operations An abattoir registration is issued by the Australian Meat Board to an abbattoir which meets the qualifications tH hygienic standard that are necessary before meat can be exported to the United States and to other markets. Some honour members digressed from the subject of ~ Bill and talked about abattoirs, the standards of abattoirs and the difficulties confronting many abattoirs.
The intention of this Bill, first of all, is to take from the Minister - at present myself - some of the power that he now has. At present the Australian Meat Board recommends to the Minister the issue, cancellation or suspension of an export licence. Once the Minister has made a decision there is no-one to whom the person concerned can appeal against that decision. This Bill provides that the Australian Meat Board will have the right to issue, cancel or suspend an export licence. If there is any reason to dissent from the ruling of the Australian Meat Board the person concerned can interview the Minister who can have the whole matter re-examined. The Minister has the authority to re-issue a licence if he thinks that the person concerned is a fit and proper person to have an export licence. The main qualification for an export licence is good character, repute and credibility on the part of the person seeking it. Those aspects, as well as the applicant’s capacity to perform as an export agent, have to be examined closely by the Board.
The other part of the Bill deals with increasing the membership of the Australian Meat Board. It seeks to increase the number of producer representatives on the Board from 5 to 6. Since the reconstruction of the Board in 1964 by my predecessor, the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), the Board has consisted of 5 producer representatives, 2 exporters and a chairman appointed by the Government after advice from the Meat Industry Selection Committee. For almost 6 years since the new Board was formed the 5 producer representatives have come from either Western Australia, New South Wales or Queensland. There have been no representatives from the southern States of Australia - Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania. It is just fate that this has happened. There is a joint industry organisation known as the Selection Committee. It is comprised of four members representing the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and four members representing the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The Chairman is appointed by the joint group. The Committee submits to the Minister a panel of names from which to select the number of new members to be appointed to the Australian Meat Board. The procedure is to appoint two members to the Board one year, two members the next year and one the following year. The panel submitted contains four names, and it is the responsibility of the Minister to choose the appropriate number from that panel.
The people who have been chosen over the years have carried out their jobs with distinction. They have now gained experience and no doubt have been able to demonstrate great ability in fulfilling their positions. There has been no reason for either the Selection Committee or the Minister to make any change in the men appointed to the Board. This, of course, has not met the desires of people in the southern States who, after all, do produce a large proportion of Australia’s meat. In fact, 40% of the meat produced in Australia today comes from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. This means that 40% of the levy collected for research and promotion is contributed by those States.
To try to overcome what might appear to be an anomaly, the Government has agreed to increase the size of the Board from five to six members. That is the intention of the Bill now before the House. The Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment which proposes to increase the size of the Board by another two members - one representing the employees and one representing public abattoirs. I should point out that the Australian Meat Board is responsible principally for the export of Australian meat. The Board was reconstructed in 1964 because at that time it was considered an unwieldy and cumbersome body which did not operate as effectively as it should. On the old board were representatives of various other organisations which were not directly concerned with the export of meat. In my view, the inclusion of the extra representation suggested by the Opposition would not add to the effective operation of the Board. Representation of public abattoirs and employees on the Board is not considered necessary by the Government or by the producers who finance the Board. The reason is that the Board is not concerned with the terms and conditions of employment of meatworks employees or the operational procedures in meatworks. These matters are the responsibility of the owners of the meatworks. As far as public abattoirs are concerned, they are not associated with the actual trading of meat for export or the implementation of meatworks procedures. These are the responsibility of the Department of Primary Industry which consults with the industry on meatworks procedures through the Meat Industry Advisory Committee on which’ public abattoirs are represented.
If a public abattoir has a bone of contention about inspection standards, then it has the right to go before the Meat Industry Advisory Committee which consists of representatives of all the proprietary meat packing companies, representatives of public abattoirs and representatives of service abattoirs. The technical officer of the Australian Meat Board is also a member as also are the Chief Veterinary Officer of my Department and his assistant as well as the chief administrative officer of my Department and such other technical Government officers as may be required to give information or advice on matters concerning standards and procedures in abattoirs. For these reasons, I do not think it proper that public abattoirs should be represented on the Australian Meat Board. Therefore, I shall have to reject the two amendments that have been foreshadowed by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3. (1.) Section 8 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
Omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following subclause: (1.) Section 8 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word nine’ and inserting in its stead the word twelve’;
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (1.) the word ‘five’ and inserting in its stead the word ‘six’; and
by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following paragraphs: -
one member to represent publicly owned abattoirs and freezing works which deal with meat or meat products for export from Australia; and
one member to represent employees engaged in the slaughter and preparation of meat or meat products for export.
The Opposition has stated its reasons for seeking representation of public utilities and employees on the Australian Meat Board. There is no point in going over the ground again.
That the sub-clause proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 37
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr Anthony) agreed to:
In sub-clause (2.) omit ‘January’, insert December’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– Throughout this Bill, when reference is made to the licensee applying to the Minister for Primary Industry, whether it be for application, suspension or cancellation, the time mentioned is ‘within 90 days’. My query is simply: Why 90 days? Does he believe that in most cases it would take about 90 days? Particularly with respect to the cancellation of a licence, economics could be involved in the actual’ stoppage of a meat trade.
– The honourable member asked why 90 days is the chosen period. It is thought that this is an appropriate time to allow the Minister to choose an independent person to investigate the suspension or cancellation of a licence where the licensee makes an appeal to the Minister. Of course, it does not necessarily follow that the investigation will take 90 days. It could be less than 90 days, but that is considered an appropriate time under normal circumstances.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - Last night the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) said that the statement I made on Tuesday afternoon implied that I had made a charge of treachery against the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I made no such charge, nor do I intend to make it, nor do I in any way impugn the patriotism of the honourable member for Reid. What I convey is that the honourable member had very close associations with members of the Soviet Embassy at that time and that it was unwise for him to have such close relations. Further I said, and I believe, that those associations, whatever other matters may have also influenced the honourable member, led the honourable member to ask a number of questions in this House which might not otherwise have been asked by him. But I have not alleged and do not allege that this was done with any ill intent by the honourable member, nor do I impute treachery or lack of patriotism to him.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I desire to acquaint the House with the position that existed prior to the statement I made on Tuesday, 12th August 1969, in regard to a statement that was made originally in the House on 29th November 1962 by the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), who is now the Minister for Air. On that day he made allegations about myself and two other honourable members in regard to certain relationships with a member of a foreign embassy. Following that statement by the Minister for Air what I considered to be libellous articles were published in two Sunday newspapers. The following week I instituted litigation in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In fact, that litigation lasted for 6i years. I was able to finalise the matter only a few weeks ago. I went through every court in the land.
The day before yesterday I explained how the declaration was challenged by the newspapers. An appeal was then heard before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Following that there was a 13-day jury trial and then an appeal against the verdict to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. A further appeal was heard before the Full Bench of the High Court. Following an appeal to the Privy Council a second trial was granted which lasted for 7 days in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. A further appeal was then made to the Full Bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which awarded a third trial on one count. However, the newspaper concerned and I were able to settle the matter. Of course, the newspaper apologised. I had cleared my name. But the allegation made by the present Minister for Air still remained in Hansard. On 12th August, immediately after question time, I rose and sought leave to make a statement. I made that statement to clear the record. The Minister for Air chose to reply to it and in replying he made a wild accusation. I wish to quote part of what the Minister said. He said: . . the honourable member tor Reid would not have had a leg to stand on if I had named another member of the Russian Embassy at the time, a Mr Gamazeishchikov, who was here repeatedly with Mr Skripov. If I had named Mr Gamazeishchikov, I would have been able to prove Mr Gamazeishchikov had been in the electorate of the honourable member on a number of occasions.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) interjected and said: ‘What does that mean?’ The Minister replied:
It means that he was asking questions here in this House which were led off by the Russian Embassy. This is something that the honourable member for Reid cannot answer. I know it to be true.
Subsequently, I rose to make a personal explanation. I answered the first two charges that he made. I will not quote them. In regard to not answering what he had said on that occasion, I said that I was unable to reply because a former Minister for Immigration - Mr Downer, as he then was - gagged the debate. I was prevented from speaking by only one vote. The name of the Minister for Air is recorded as being in favour of gagging the debate and I am recorded as being against doing so. I return to the latter part of this serious charge. There was a lot of noise and because I was sitting at the rear of the chamber I could not hear the remarks that the Minister made in reply to the interjection by the honourable member for Newcastle. Later I heard from some of my colleagues what he had said. I saw the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, who sought permission from the Minister for Air to let me read the full statement. I raised the matter with the Leader of my Party, Mr Whitlam, who in turn, as the House is aware, moved that the Minister for Air withdraw the wild allegations that he made or be required to prove them. Prior to the suspension of the sitting the Minister made a further statement in which he withdrew certain remarks but repeated others. He said that under no circumstances does he impugn my patriotism nor does he say that I am treacherous to my nation. But he referred to my association with certain persons. I will quote what he said. He said:
What I convey is that the honourable member had very close associations with members of the Soviet Embassy at that time and that it was unwise for him to have such close relations.
The Minister was referring to the debate on the communications station at North West Cape. Before I go any further I wish to point out that there is no proof of any close association. I have publicly admitted that I had a casual acquaintance with Mr Gamazeishchikov, whom I found to be a rather pleasant person. I believe that there are good Russians as well as bad. Everybody knows what my views on Russia have been of late, particularly since the invasion of Czechoslovakia, but I am not going to go around scorching every Russian. Be that as it may, I had a casual association only - a very very slight one. But the Minister, without any proof, said that I had a close association. He does not submit any evidence. He has no evidence. He went further in his statement and said: those associations, whatever other matters may have also influenced the honourable member, led the honourable member to ask a number of questions in the House which might not otherwise have been asked by him.
He is now changing his ground. I refer again to his speech on 12th August. He made an accusation on that occasion. I will quote him correctly. He said: ‘I know it to be true’ - that the Russians led me to ask questions. I explained to the House how the article I saw in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 28th February 1961 prompted my first question, which was asked on 16th March 1961. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the article in Hansard.
CANBERRA, Monday. - Australian defence experts have suggested that the U.S. Navy build the first atomic power station in Australia.
They have suggested to an American technical mission that an atomic reactor be used to provide power for a proposed multi-million pound U.S. Navy radio station in Northern Australia.
The technical mission, the second to visit Australia for the project, has been investigating sites for the station in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.
The station would be used for maintaining contact with U.S. nuclear submarines in the IndianOcean and for general naval communications.
The Minister for Defence, Mr A. G. Townley, agreed last year to the technical missions coming, to Australia to inspect possible sites.
A decision by the U.S. Navy to build the station would require an agreement between the United States and Australian Governments.
Australian defence experts have stressed that an atomic reactor power source for the proposed station would be economical and convenient, particularly now that the U.S. has developed small reactors.
It would also be to Australia’s advantage because it would provide an excellent opportunity to test the economics of nuclear power in the outback.
Defence authorities discount the possibility that the United States would decide to establish a submarine base near the station.
It is understood also that defence authorities are trying to persuade the U.S. Navy to set up the station at Talgarno in Western Australia.
Talgarno, at the other end of the Woomera rocket range, was to have been headquarters of the “impact” area for the tests of the British Blue Streak rocket, now abandoned as a ballistic missile.
More than £1 million was spent at Talgarno on an airstrip, engineering and maintenance shops, and air-conditioned offices and staff quarters.
If the Talgarno site is chosen, the Australian Government probably will sell the U.S. Navy the installations there.
The Minister for Air seems to be a little lost. However, we have to be a little sympathetic with him because he is the one who has been making the wild accusations. Returning to the story, we then went into recess. If honourable members like to look up the records they will find that I received a very negative reply from the then Minister for Defence, Mr Athol Townley, to my question. As I said, we then went into recess.
During the parliamentary recess I saw the matter referred to again in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st July 1961. Upon returning to Parliament, on 15th August 1961 I again directed a question to the then Minister for Defence, Mr Athol Townley. Again, as honourable members will see, I received an evasive answer and therefore I put a question on notice, to which I received a reply in September that year. No further questions were asked by me in 1961.
A statement was then made by the then Prime Minister on 17th May 1962. I explained to the House previously that the then Prime Minister made that statement on a Thursday morning. I had my name down to speak in the Grievance Day debate. I made a few personal comments and expressed a very fervent national feeling. This was in May and, as honourable members know, we again went into recess. Honourable members will find that upon the Parliament resuming I asked a further question, in August, of the Prime Minister. Honourable members will find that I continued to ask the Prime Minister questions. I kept on nagging, which is my right, and the Prime Minister kept on giving evasive answers. I kept at him because I was seeking information. Only one other honourable member joined me in that agitation and that was the then Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable A. A. Calwell.
I have laid my record on the line. I have told everybody where I obtained my information. I even expressed the views in this Parliament prior to the Minister making his wild accusation. I said that any views expressed by me about the then proposed North West Cape base were exclusively mine and were based on my national outlook. Any view expressed in this House by me on defence, on foreign affairs or on economic matters are based on my national outlook. I think that any honourable member has a right to express his own national feelings and he does not have to apologise. He does not have to dot every T and cross every T as I have done in this House, to explain himself. That is what I had to do - to fight in every court in the land to clear my name. Yet the honourable Minister for Air comes into the chamber and smears me. He says that he does not want to make any reflection on my character. The Minister knows of my war service, that at least I served for better or for worse. I have no better and no worse war record than any other honourable member in this House, and I have never tried to pretend, but I have seen some hell and I have seen some horror. I have seen men die not by ones but by thousands. I have seen the brutality of war and I lived for 31 years in hell camps. I have a warm feeling for the country I represent. I am a little concerned about this garbage being uttered by the Minister for Air. It is about time that he was man enough to stand and either prove what he says or withdraw it. I ask honourable members to read this last statement which was made to try to save face. I would point out that these incidents were spread over a period of 18 months. Could any honourable member imagine a member of a foreign power saying to me: ‘Look, Tom, will you ask questions about that radio communication station?’ I might point out that those questions in Hansard bear the heading ‘Atomic Energy’. If honourable members look at the newspaper articles they will find that when this project first started it was a kind of pie in the sky.
These newspaper articles came in very handy, especially when I sued the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. Mr Skripov was supposed to have initiated these questions. When we rolled up our information and said that in fact it was the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which was my source, the newspaper people were a little embarrassed. The barrister appearing for the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ at the time said: ‘Mr Uren is a type of man that no newspaper should libel - let alone the “Sydney Morning Herald”, good old “Grannie”.’ It appears that I was the nicest man in the world at the time. I said to the executive chief of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, Mr Leek: ‘You know, Mr Leek, I would have had to pay £5,000 for the reference you gave me’. However, returning to this serious subject, could any honourable member imagine that a member of a foreign power could influence any member of this House to ask questions of the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister? Could you imagine any honourable member not knowing that that would be wrong? Could you not realise that he would know that it was treacherous to his own nation to seek information for a foreign power?
I will now go back into history. As honourable members know, in 1961 the
Communist world was a monolithic world. There was no division between China and Russia. There was no division between any of the Communist powers. The Communist world was a monolithic one of which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the centre. It would have meant that I was subservient to a foreign ideology and that 1 was prepared to sell out my position. I have never tried to hide my political position. I am a Socialist and I am proud of it. I belong to a Socialist party. I have tried to carry out the socialist policy in a humane way. Our Party is truly a national party. We stand and represent all fields of thought. We want to bring some decency and some freedom to this Parliament.
My statement tonight has been a little longer than I thought it would be but I am sick and tired of this spurious argument. There is not one ounce of truth in the statement by the Minister and I ask him to withdraw the accusation or to prove it.
– by leave - Just before the dinner suspension I made a statement. It was a positive statement. It was a positive statement as far as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uran) is concerned in that there was no act of treachery that I believed on his part. I made a positive statement that he was a good patriot - a positive statement. I also made a positive statement that there was no ill-intent on his part. (Opposition members interjecting) -
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat for a moment. I would remind honourable members that the honourable member for Reid was extended the courtesy of the House and was heard in silence. I suggest that in a matter such as this the same courtesy be extended to the Minister for Air.
– I repeat that I made a positive statement that I believed there was no ill-intent on the part of the honourable member for Reid. The rest of my statement I believed to be true.
– Do you believe him?
– I do. I accept what the honourable member has said. I accept what the honourable member has said tonight.
– by leave - In my statement tonight on the international situation 1 shall speak mainly of the Asian region, and in doing so I shall draw not only on the reports and assessments of our Australian representatives there but also on some of my own first-hand contacts. Since April, I have visited Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, and I have attended meetings of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, the Vietnam force contributors and the Asian and Pacific Council. I have also attended the five-power defence meeting, and - last Friday - the ANZUS meeting. What I am going to say now draws on impressions I have formed from all those contacts. I shall discuss first the policies of the United States of America, and then the Soviet Union. I shall pass to some specific problems in our region, and end with a few words on something which is not regional but is of current interest, the non-proliferation treaty.
United States Policies
President Nixon has now been in office just over 6 months, and it is gratifying that in that time he has taken occasion to visit a number of countries in Asia. This bears out his remarks to our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), which were reported to this House on 15th May, about the importance he attached to Asia and that it was the purpose and the determination of the United States to continue to participate in the Pacific and to strengthen the forces of freedom and progress in Asia. The firsthand contact between Australia and the United States, marked by talks in Washington in April and again in May between our Prime Minister and President Nixon, were continued last week by a visit to Canberra by the Secretary of State, Mr W. P. Rogers.
The Australian Government has followed with close interest President Nixon’s recent visits to countries in Asia, and has noted that not only have they been a great personal success for the President but they have made a very valuable contribution to increased understanding between the United
States and the countries he visited. Australians particularly welcome President Nixon’s firm statements that the United States will continue to fulfil its treaty commitments. We had no doubt on this score ourselves but in view of interpretations given in some quarters of the President’s policies it was useful to have the President’s own clear reaffirmation of his determination to maintain those commitments. As a Pacific nation, Australians greatly welcome President Nixon’s recognition that both geographically and historically the United States was a Pacific nation and must continue to play a significant role in the region.
The Australian Government has noted that President Nixon has emphasised thai the security of countries in the region must primarily be a matter for themselves. Australians have no quarrel with this. We have always believed that successful resistance to aggression, either direct or indirect, depends in the last resort on the will and ability of the peoples of the countries subjected to this aggression. Outside countries can give help and support and even, as in the case of Vietnam, assume for a while the main burden of fighting to give the people time to prepare themselves. But the enemy cannot finally be defeated unless the job is done by the peoples under attack. We were glad to see President Nixon’s strong reaffirmation that the United States will continue to give material and economic support to those countries who need it in resisting subversion and indirect aggression.
President Nixon has said that there should be no more Vietnams and this is a statement that Australians heartily endorse. The way to prevent any more Vietnams is to ensure that other countries threatened by subversion are able to develop sufficient strength themselves to prevent aggression reaching the proportions which it reached in Vietnam. When I say ‘sufficient strength’ I do not mean only military strength. I mean decent standards of living, efficient and honest administration, harmonious relations with neighbours, and the easing of communal tensions within a country.
While the main task of this has to fall on the country concerned, and cannot be done for it by anyone else, other countries can and should help. They can give direct assis tance, economic and otherwise. They can help in building an appropriate international framework of co-operation for security and development. This is a problem of which the Australian Government has been conscious for many years. For example, we believe that our contribution to the defeat of armed insurrection and subversion in Malaya in the 1950s was by no means unimportant; and by establishing a radio network, building feeder roads and providing police training we have contributed something to Thailand’s ability to resist subversion. But the problem of subversion is a constantly recurring one. In trying to assist the countries threatened there are of course very difficult political problems, as well as practical ones, to be overcome. Substantial and active support by the United States is needed and we are glad to see from what President Nixon has said that this need is fully recognised by the United States Government.
The President has spoken during his recent tour and on a number of previous occasions about his hope that additional efforts will be made within the region to strengthen its security. Australia’s own participation in the Five Power arrangements with Britain, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore helps to build regional security and demonstrates our willingness to accept responsibilities. I will say more about our commitments to Malaysia and Singapore later in this statement.
The Soviet Union in Asia
I turn now to the subject of the Soviet Union in Asia. During the past year or so, there has been increasing interest and activity by the Soviet Union in the Asian region. Examples are the movements of ships of the USSR Navy in the Indian Ocean; the development of diplomatic and trade contacts with Malaysia and Singapore; and Mr Brezhnev’s speech in Moscow on 7th lune when he told the World Conference of Communist Parties that the Soviet Union was ‘of the opinion that events are putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia’. The Australian and USSR Governments have also been in contact, both in Canberra and in Moscow, on matters of bilateral interest and also in discussing wider issues. Mr Gromyko, the Foreign Minister of the
Soviet Union, said in a speech in Moscow to the Supreme Soviet on 10th July that the prerequisite and potential for an improvement of our relations with Australia exist’.
The Australian Government has naturally kept these and related developments under observation. Australia has to be watchful, but need not panic whenever a Russian appears. It has to avoid both facile gullibility and automatic rejection of opportunities for co-operation.
– It depends how often, how many and what sort, doesn’t it? The Australian Government at all times welcomes the opportunity of practical and constructive dealings with the Soviet Union, as with any other country, and this has been the basis of our approach to each issue. In principle, it is natural that a world power such as the Soviet Union should seek to promote a presence and a national influence in important regions of the world such as the Indian Ocean area. The limited degree of naval penetration of this area up to date was described by me in answer to a question earlier this week. Reason for concern arises when the scale or methods or objective of the promotion are calculated to jeopardise our direct national interests or to endanger the general security and stability in the region. In judging this, we cannot cast out of our minds the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia and the pernicious doctrine of ‘limited sovereignty’ which the USSR attaches to other communist states. Undoubtedly, these USSR acts and doctrines have constituted an impediment to international co-operation, and I hope that the Soviet Union will take these repercussions into account when weighing its future actions.
The proposals of Mr Brezhnev for collective security in Asia have not been set out in any detail. It appears that at this stage the Soviet Union itself is exploring reactions of other countries before trying to convert the idea into any firm or detailed proposal.
The objective which Australia has been working for over a period of time has been, as I said earlier, the development of regional co-operation to promote and sustain the security and economic advancement of all the countries of the region. This requires many kinds of measures, including programmes of economic assistance and more international effort to provide markets for underdeveloped countries and to stabilise prices of commodities entering into international trade. It requires the countries of the region, through peaceful processes, to settle disputes between themselves that stand in the way of regional co-operation or which might produce suspicions and tensions within the region. The Prime Minister suggested in his statement to this House on 25th February that a series of non-aggression pacts between countries of the region could play a part in this process of removing suspicions or fears of any resort to force from inside the region. If co-operation can be maintained and strengthened among countries of the region - including, of course, Australia - we will have made important advances towards ensuring that South East Asia will not be a source of weakness in the total pattern of world security. If the Russian proposals prove to be in line with these general objectives, and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them with close interest.
Any realistic plan for regional security, however, must take into account the possibility of large-scale invasion, or aggression from outside - and the most likely would be from China, possibly using its nuclear capacity as blackmail to support its large conventional forces and using subversion. Here I am talking about the possibility, not proclaiming the certainty, of large-scale aggression from this source. I am not prejudging China’s short and long range intentions. But elementary prudence does, in the light of what China itself has been saying, require us to look to the region’s protection against such a threat. If such a threat eventuated, the countries of the region would naturally look for outside support and they would deserve it because of their own efforts for self-defence.
In this evolution which I have just referred to, two points seem important to the Australian Government. It is not constructive to work towards a situation where one great power simply replaces another great power as a predominant factor in the region. And we do not want to see Asia, any more than any other region of the world, divided into spheres of influence between the great powers. It follows from what I have said that a substantial withdrawal at present of American strength would leave in the region a weakness which might very -well tempt Peking to press southward or let it feel free to make moves against its northern neighbour. Such a situation would not be in the interests of anyone in the region, nor, indeed, of the Soviet Union, nor of the world.
The Soviet Union today is greatly concerned by the current and long-term implications for it of the regime of Mao Tse-tung now in power on the mainland of China. Many armed clashes have taken place along the borders between the two countries, of varying degrees of seriousness. Peking has been pouring out attacks and vituperation against the Soviet Union, and ideologically there are many differences between them. Peking has been trying to gain control of Communist movements in many parts of the world, particularly underdeveloped areas. Some of the Soviet Union’s actions in respect of the Indian sub-continent stem from its awareness of the dangers in Peking’s exploiting Indian-Pakistan differences. Some persons might take pleasure in the clashes between Peking and Moscow. Insofar as it means that they are not ganging up on the rest of the world, it does of course ease the position of many other countries. We must hope that the differences between them do not lead to actual conflict. On humanitarian grounds, one does not wish to see suffering and devastation. On wider grounds of international polity, one must never forget that hostilities have a habit of spreading or leading to unpredictable consequences. It would therefore be unthinkable that we should take any comfort from any outbreak of hostilities between the Soviet Union and Mainland China.
Australia’s desire, first expressed long ago and repeated many times, is that an accommodation should be reached which would have the result of putting the mainland of China into the international community but which would not sacrifice the Republic of China or the right of the people of Taiwan to determine their own future. There is needed some responsive action from Peking which can be pursued by ourselves and other countries. Part of an accommodation would be that China would allow its neighbours - the Soviet Union as well as countries like India and those of South East Asia - some assurance that the mainland of China is a country they can live alongside without threat of armed aggression or internal subversion directed from Peking. This is what we all have to work for.
Before I leave this subject, let me quote from my remarks at the opening of the SEATO Council meeting in Bangkok on 20th May:
We, for our part, feel deep concern about Communist subversion and insurgency, which we assess as a threat, present or potential, to stability and security in South-East Asian countries. . . These problems have to be approached without over-simplified thinking. We have to distinguish between subversion and legitimate dissent, between rebellion and necessary change. We have to take account too, of the differences between Peking and Moscow, and of the reflection of those differences in South-East Asia. All this makes it unrealistic to slap labels indiscriminately on every form of unrest and to attempt to cope with them all in the same way.
I turn now to specific matters in our region and take Vietnam first, where, regrettably, large-scale fighting is still occurring. Four aspects of this situation need to be borne in mind - the military, the political, the negotiations in Paris, and the attitudes of other countries - and they are al] inter-related. The first two I shall only briefly outline. The fighting of course continues, though at present at a lesser scale than formerly. Outwardly, this is reassuring, but on the evidence available, it would be reckless to conclude that this necessarily represents a permanent diminution on the part of the enemy. Indeed, even in the last few days there have been several vicious attacks by the enemy in South Vietnam. Military activity by the North Vietnamese and their associates not only persists in neighbouring countries; it has been noticeably stepped up in Laos.
Internally, the effectiveness of administration within the Republic of Vietnam continues to improve. The long-term future of that country will, as it must, depend as much on the vitality and effectiveness of political institutions as on the achievements of its armed and civic forces.
In Paris, the peace negotiations have so far made no progress. There has been no reciprocal response from the other side to the gestures, to the constructive and balanced proposals, that have been made by the Republic of Vietnam and the United States and the other force-contributing countries. The two noteworthy statements by President Nixon on 15th May and President Thieu on 1 1th July, supported as they were by Australia and the other countries contributing forces in Vietnam, have not been matched. In Paris, the other side may think that they need only sit on and contribute nothing constructive and confidently await further concessions. If that is their thinking, I believe they are making a mistake. They are also making a mistake if they think that time is more on their side than on that of the allies. The strength and capacity of the South Vietnamese forces are increasing. The North Vietnamese on the other hand have for a long time been losing men at an exceptionally high rate, and heavy losses to them are continuing. They have failed to attract popular, spontaneous support in the south; the economy of the north is experiencing increasing difficulties, and a point must exist where the strain on the resources of the north must be such that it even jeopardises there the revolution which they are so determined to reproduce in the south.
At the ANZUS Council meeting last Friday, 8th August, the representatives of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States reaffirmed the determination of their Governments to continue support for the Republic of Vietnam and for the right of the people of South Vietnam to exercise self-determination’.
Some reduction in United States forces has occurred and further reduction will be announced as conditions warrant. The possibility of further reductions, together with the possibility of Australian forces and those of the other allies being phased into any further reductions, will be related to the progress of the peace negotiations, the level of offensive actions by the enemy, and the capacity of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam. As the forces of the Republic of Vietnam increase in strength and effectiveness, they have been able to undertake a greater share of the military task, and have expressed a will to do so by replacing with their own forces those removed by the United States. These matters will be the subject of the closest consultations between the governments concerned, including Australia. In the meantime, what more in the way of constructive proposals can reasonably be expected of the Republic of Vietnam? Or of the United States, or Australia? Are we expected to throw in our hand? That will not be done. Reasonable and equitable proposals, and gestures, have been made in good faith from our side, in both the military and political fields, and it is up to the other side to make a reciprocal response if the fighting is to be brought to an end.
Malaysia and Singapore
Another area of special interest to Australia in recent months has been Malaysia and Singapore. The statement by the Prime Minister in this House on 25th February still stands as the firm policy of the Australian Government. This policy guided the Australian delegation at the second Five Power meeting in Canberra on 19th and 20th June when Australia met with Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. That meeting agreed on how to pursue detailed action on many practical matters and to institute working procedures arising out of the British withdrawal of forces by 1971.
I shall not pretend that there are no loose ends left or points of disagreement among the countries involved, but none of them should constitute a barrier to co-operation in achieving the purposes that all five powers share. In a recent statement, Tunku Abdul Rahman made what has been interpreted in some circles as disparaging remarks about the Five Power arrangement, and in particular about the Australian role. He spoke off the cuff in Malay and there is no official text, but the tenor of what he has said is known, and in many respects it is not inconsistent with Australia’s own approach. Our objective, which we share with all the participating countries, is regional security; Australia with New Zealand is making a contribution, not bearing by itself the whole burden. Australia wants to see Malaysia and Singapore build up their own forces, and it is assisting them to do so. We have always stressed that good relations with the countries which are neighbours of Malaysia and Singapore are also necessary, and we have made it clear that the Five Power arrangements are not in any way directed against them. Indeed, the arrangements supplement what they may be able to do for themselves, or with each other, to strengthen the overall security of the region from external threats and armed attack. I do not think that it is helpful to analyse every word that may be said on every occasion in Malaysia or Singapore, or Australia, or elsewhere. Words spoken on particular occasions are not always applicable to a general situation. The Australian Government must rely on the normal channels of communications between governments for an expression of the views of the other governments concerned in relation to our proposals to assist in regional security.
There has, in this connection, been some public discussion too about the use of the terms ‘Malaysia’ or ‘Malaya’, to describe the locality of our commitments to the countries of Malaysia and Singapore. I repeat that the Australian position remains precisely as stated by the Prime Minister in this House on 2-5th February. Our particular commitment is on the peninsula, where our forces are stationed. It is designed to give an additional assurance beyond the capacity of Malaysia and Singapore to provide for the security and stability of the whole of that area against external aggression or against subversion and infiltration externally promoted and encouraged.
J should point out, however, that the benefits of the training, equipment, and other military assistance we are giving directly and unconditionally to Malaysia and Singapore will strengthen the whole of their armed forces. Moreover, use of the Australian forces outside the Peninsula is not necessarily excluded in all circumstances. In all cases, use of Australian forces on, or outside, the Peninsula will be decided by the Australian Government, exercising its judgment in a particular situation. Australia has said that it recognises the present boundaries of Malaysia, and the fact that the people of Sabah have freely chosen to be part of Malaysia. We do not believe that the Philippines, who are in dispute with Malaysia over Sabah, intend to attack Sabah with military forces, and we see no reason to define more precisely what we would do in a hypothetical situation which we do not expect to arise. The Philippines has given us specific assurances, as recently as when I was in Manila last June, of their intention to resolve this dispute by pacific means, that is, without resort to armed force. We believe, as stated by the Prime Minister on 25th February: ‘that the best contribution we can make to the peaceful settlement of that dispute is by diplomatic means’. I, myself, indicated in both Kuala Lumpur and Manila recently, that we are ready to lend whatever assistance we can, and which might be sought from us towards this end.
Australians have been grieved at the internal troubles in Malaysia, manifested by the clashes between the Malay and nonMalay elements in the population, parti,cularly Chinese, and by the suspension of parliamentary processes. I do not want to comment publicly ‘ on internal Malaysian matters, because such outside comment is not likely to be helpful. We all wish that Malaysia should retain the stability and general racial harmony and progress for which it has had a reputation in the past, and that every section of the community will come to feel that it has a stake in the country and in its future.
Let me pass now to another area. The act of ascertainment has been completed inside West Irian, and the bodies consulted have signified a desire for the Territory to be incorporated in Indonesia. Reports are to be submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations by his representative, Mr Ortiz Sanz, and by the Indonesian Government. Pending the submission of those reports, I shall not comment on the conduct of the act of ascertainment. Australia is not itself a party to the process. Our interest is as a member of the United Nations and as a neighbour naturally affected by stability and progress in an adjoining territory.
Some voices have been raised in Australia and elsewhere in criticism of what has occurred. I remind the House that the international community could not face this problem by wiping the slate clean as though nothing had happened over the past 50, or 25, or 10 years. Continuance of Dutch rule had proved untenable, and the agreement of 1962 between the Netherlands and Indonesia was the best that could at that time have secured general acceptance. Many of the elements of difficulty or dissatisfaction today arise from past history and from the facts of the situation, including the state of development, economic and political, in West Irian. These elements are troubling to Indonesians and to the Dutch and others, as much as they are to Australians.
Some critics talk of the morality of what has been occurring. I ask in turn: Is it moral for outsiders to incite people in New Guinea to embark on courses of resistance or violence for which they would receive no effective outside backing? Is it moral to incite them to move towards a national independence which they could not by themselves sustain and for which, again, they would be unlikely to secure effective outside under-pinning in political, economic or any other terms, from the international community?
I have sketched the sort of considerations that face any responsible government or person who has in mind both the interests of the people concerned and the intractable facts of history, geography, and economic and political development. Now we must look at the future. What is happening should not mark an end, but a threshold to new development in the interests of the people of West Irian.
In the time available, it is not possible for me to cover Government policy in all areas of international affairs, and one which I will only touch on briefly is Australian activity in the field of international economic relations, especially our support for economic development efforts in the region. I attended the 25th session of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in Singapore last April. Our active participation in ECAFE, and our support of other bodies whose purpose is to foster constructive regional co-operation, especially the Asian and Pacific Council which met most recently in Japan, are tangible manifestations of the resolve of this Government to further and deepen the sense of community which is now emerging in our region. I am convinced there is a growing vision in Asian countries of the security and economic strength which can come from increased mutual assistance and co-operation. Australia’s harmonious involvement in the area has nourished this vision and our aim will be to help it grow with sensible and practical programmes of economic, social and cultural growth.
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
I want, finally, to set out the Australian Government’s present position on the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. This treaty could bear directly upon Australia’s national security not only for the present but far into the future, and upon our capacity to exploit advancing technical knowledge for peaceful development. Before making a decision in regard to Australian adherence to the treaty, the Government has a heavy responsibility to study and assess all its consequences for this country. The objective of the treaty is to limit the further spread of nuclear weapons among the nations of the world. The Australian Government fully supports that objective. The question is whether the present treaty will effectively achieve that objective and in a way which will not seriously damage Australian security or inhibit our own national development. These are not questions which can be hastily answered and the Government has a duty to take all the time necessary to reach a sound and wise decision.
Honourable members have on several previous occasions been made aware of the aspects of the treaty which give the Government principal grounds for concern. In summary they are as follows: First, we wish to know the degree of support which the treaty will ultimately attract, particularly from nations with an existing nuclear capability, and nations with an existing or future potential for such capability, and Asian nations generally. Secondly, we wish to know the precise nature and content of the safeguards agreements that non-nuclear parties must, under the treaty, conclude with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thirdly, we wish to know whether and, if so, to what degree, the treaty might inhibit - or, alternatively, promote - the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nuclear explosives. Fourthly, we wish to know whether and, if so, how the treaty would affect Australia’s economic and commercial interests in regard to the application of nuclear developments.
The Government is continuing its examination of these grounds of concern and is in consultation with other key countries in regard to them. Many other governments are engaged in a similar examination. The treaty has so far been signed by 92 countries but only 18 have ratified. Its two main sponsors, the United States and the Soviet Union, have signed but have not Mt ratified. Some further period will elapse before the Australian Government is in a position to make a final decision. The delay is caused, not by procrastination or inability to make up our mind, but by the need to watch developments and to satisfy ourselves on matters which, in part, are dependent on what others do.
The Australian Government would like to see an effective treaty to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Provided we were satisfied that Australia’s long term security was not endangered thereby, we would like to see it followed by further measures of disarmament and of arms control. We would like to see controls and limitations placed on al’l powers, great as well as medium and small. We would like to see disarmament take its place as part of a worldwide drive to raise living standards, promote human rights and establish peace on conditions of justice and equity. It is unrealistic to expect this to happen now or even quickly. But it is not unrealistic, when opportunity offers, to work now towards that end. That is what the Australian Government is doing and will continue to do with the resources at its disposal.
I present the following paper:
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 14 August 1969.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) speaking without limitation of time.
– The Opposition welcomes the first statement to Parliament on international affairs by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) since he took office more than 6 months ago. It is the first ministerial statement on international affairs which the Parliament has been able to debate for more than a year. Not since the autumn session of last year has a Minister for External Affairs - the present
Minister or his predecessor - or the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a comprehensive statement on international affairs and Australia’s foreign policy. True, in that time we have had a number of debates on specific aspects of the conduct of our affairs abroad, either in the form of ministerial statements in response to some development of American policy in Vietnam or, more frequently, by way of Opposition motions on matters of public importance. Further, from the Prime Minister we have had two statements this year on his two visits to the United States and we had his statement of 25th February on our relations with Malaysia and Singapore which was officially designated as a statement on defence. Except, however, through Opposition initiatives, the House has not had the opportunity for more than 18 months to debate comprehensively and coherently the broad question of Australia’s relations with her neighbours and her place and role in world affairs.
This represents a striking and significant departure from the Government’s practice in the previous decade. It was not always thus. One recalls with affection, if not with unqualified admiration, the lengthy lectures in which the Minister’s predecessor gave us his views of the weltpolitik and the more elegant if less original discourses of that Minister’s predecessor, not to mention Sir Robert Menzies’ Olympian essays into the grand simplicities of international life. Better still does one remember the zeal with which Government back benchers entered and prolonged these debates. Ill-disposed persons might even suspect that the Government’s present relative reluctance to have regular debates results from a realisation that such debates no longer operate to its political advantage. Such persons might even suggest that the great international issues, particularly Vietnam, had consistently been used by the Liberal Party for purely internal political purposes; and that the contrast between the number and vigour of the debates on Vietnam in 1965 and 1966 and their current infrequency and inconclusiveness has been due not to a Liberal view about the nature and importance of the war but to a Liberal view about the usefulness of that war in domestic politics.
I must be more charitable. I suggest that the relegation of international affairs to a secondary place is principally the result oi deep Government confusion on the conduct and course of those affairs. This confusion has come partly from personal failures on the part of Ministers: The inexperience of the present Minister has left him illequipped to surmount or reconcile the inept interventions of the Prime Minister and the gratuitous interventions; the ill-concealed and ill-considered lobbying of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), of all persons, on one of the crucial questions of our time; and the ineffectual interventions of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), the last of the Cabinet old guard. It was good to see in the speech of the Minister for External Affairs tonight that the Department of External Affairs was at last standing up and slapping down the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of Defence, the Department of National Development and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission hawks. Thus there has been a failure to come to grips with the march of events. Essentially this failure is not merely a failure of persons but a failure of philosophy - a failure of Liberal perception about the nature of events in our region and the nature of Australia’s true role in that region. And the totality of that failure is summed up in one word; the most brutal, the most terrible word of our time - Vietnam.
The Liberal approach has been based on fear, its exaggeration abroad and its cultivation at home. Part of the approach has been to maximise the threat and minimise our own capacity. And its consequence under three successive Prime Ministers has been to inhibit the development of an independent foreign policy, in relation to both our neighbours and our allies. From time to time, there has been an attempt to give this policy, or lack of it, a gloss - the gloss of forward defence’, the resistance to the downward thrust of China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans’. It is put more crudely in answers to the gallup poll - ‘better to fight them there than here’ - though those respondents are no more crude than the late Prime Minister who proclaimed: Tt is bad luck for the people of Vietnam that the battlefield of freedom is their backyard’.
And in the pursuit of this intellectually and morally contemptible concept - and of course it is at heart a racist concept - Aus tralia’s foreign policy has gone badly off course. We have contributed directly and deliberately to the prolongation of a war whose sole achievement has been its own continuance. That prolongation has delayed and may prevent the internationally guaranteed settlement and neutralisation of IndoChina which is the sole hope for an independent Laos and probably for an independent Cambodia. Our intentions in Malaysia and Singapore are seriously questioned. Most importantly of all, our relations with Indonesia altogether lack that intimacy and urgency appropriate to our nearest, largest and most significant neighbour. Our sole regional alliance, SEATO, is a deadletter. Even our principal alliance, ANZUS, has not been allowed to produce the fruitful consequences for our region which would come from the full co-operation of Australia, the richest country in our region, with the United States, the most powerful, generous and idealistic nation on earth.
In this general scenario of failure, the Prime Minister has managed to introduce in inimitable style the element of farce. We are not, it now appears, to have quite a policy of forward defence; not exactly to fight freedom’s battles in other people’s backyards; and we are not to be the ‘policeman on the beat’. There is a new dispensation: ‘We are not to be the sheriff; we are to be part of the posse’. Presumably, this time we’ll head ‘em off at the pass. I must confess when the Prime Minister first used this expression, at the Liberal Party Council in Victoria, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Two days later it turned up again at the Liberal Council in South Australia. It reached its full flower one day later in Brisbane at, according to the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ - an authentic organ of Liberal opinion - a meeting of ‘600 women at an afternoon tea function, arranged by the Liberal Party’s State Women’s Council’. Now there is a body to hear pronouncements of foreign policy. The Prime Minister said:
We have taken the decision that we will not be the sheriff in that region to which we belong, as England was claiming to be, because we cannot fill the role of sheriff. Nor do we want to.
But we are prepared to play our part in that region as relatively strong members of the sheriff’s posse.
And we will have visible, in the area to the north, Australian troops showing this approach.
I hope the 600 Liberal ladies had better luck than the Minister for External Affairs, who said after the Five Power Conference: I can’t interpret what is in the Prime Minister’s mind’. I doubt whether England, from Raffles to Percival, ever claimed to be sheriff of the area. Certainly the United States - with a much greater experience of sheriffs- would not accept that role for itself, now. Who is the sheriff?
The first need for this country is that those who frame its foreign policy should cease speaking in terms of absurd and shallow slogans. It would not perhaps matter so much if these slogans were simply a mode of speech; but clearly under this Government they have become a substitute for thought. The slogans have become the policy. Meeting the ‘downward thrust’ becomes the rationale for going into Vietnam; the backyard of freedom becomes the rationale for staying there. The policeman on the beat isolates a battalion in Singapore, presumably awaiting a call from the sheriff. To be fair, the Minister resisted the temptation tonight.
The second need is to get a rational perspective of our role in the region. Such a perspective can come only from a balanced view of our real strengths, the capacities and limitations of our resources, the protecttion and opportunities as well as some of the risks which our geographical, economic and social situation may entail. If we are not a country uniquely protected - though it must be confessed that few countries have been so generously endowed and fortunately sited - neither are we uniquely threatened. An obsession with China is not a policy: It is a neurosis. The new threat from Russia which is now seen by the Minister .for Defence but denied tonight by the Minister for External Affairs, as he did earlier this week in answer to a question, and indeed denied by the Minister for Defence himself only 9 months ago in a surprising answer to the honourable member for Moreton, is even more imaginary.
Ironically the very people who in 1956 asserted that Suez was worth a world war now welcome its closure because it impedes the entry of the Russian Navy into the Indian Ocean. And the statements of the Minister for Defence on Russian threats illustrate how perfectly good and necessary decisions may be made for wrong reasons.
The warnings of the Minister for Defence were presumably the prelude to an announcement on naval support facilities at Cockburn Sound. Three years ago the late Prime Minister announced that the Government would investigate Cockburn Sound. Experts were engaged to make a feasibility study in March 1967. The Minister sailed the Sound in the Senate compaign of that year. The experts tendered their report in January last year. Now it is perfectly proper that Australia should have naval and marine facilities on the Indian Ocean, and the studies point obviously to Cockburn. We need them because we are as much an Indian Ocean power as we are a Pacific power. For that reason we should have naval facilities there, as we should have had them in 1961, when the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) first promised them, not because of the presence of a Russian flotilla in the Indian Ocean in 1969.
The Minister for External Affairs put this matter in some perspective tonight. Later he asked on the subject of Vietnam: What more could Australia be expected to do? One thing I suggest is to promote cooperation with Russia. He showed at many passages in his speech tonight that be understood the situation of Russia in Asia and in the Indian Ocean. Co-operation with Russia has always been necessary if Vietnam is to be neutralised, so let us co-operate with Russia as America has wanted to do if we really want to consider fresh solutions for Vietnam and its neighbour states.
The third need is to frame an over-all, consistent and attainable objective for our defence and foreign policy. What should be our aim in our region? I suggest that an attainable and rational objective is summed up for Australia succinctly in the words of The British White Paper on Defence of 1967: ‘to foster developments which will enable the local people to live at peace without the presence of external forces’. The present Government’s whole policy for our region is predicated on the very opposite of this definition - that is, that the garrisoning of a handful of troops in Singapore represents a meaningful contribution to what is called ‘stability’ in our region.
It has seldom happened, even with this Government, that a decision has been so quickly invalidated by events. It is true that the maladroitness of the Prime Minister contributed mightily to the exploding of his awn thesis. His intervention at the Five Power Conference was a personal disaster. Essentially, however, the decision has been rendered nugatory by its inherent invalidity. The garrisoning of a battalion in Singapore cannot, of its very nature, promote what must be our prime aim - to enable Singapore and Malaysia to stand on their own feet. If the commitment were larger than it is, it would in fact detract from that objective. As it is, it is merely irrelevant in relation to its achievement.
Further, it is now clear that this decision has not been conducive to good relations between Australia and Singapore and Malaysia. In the debate on this matter in March, some members opposite asserted that this decision was an appropriate and inescapable response to requests from Malaysia and Singapore, lt is doubly clear now, as indeed it was clear enough in March, that this is just not so. The desire of Malaysia was to keep the troops in Terendak on the peninsula. The Government is to bring them back to Singapore against the wishes of Malaysia. The view of the Singapore Government was that they should be kept in Terendak. Mr Lee Kuan Yew has not been markedly obsequious in his expression of gratitude to the Australian Government for one whole battalion. He said in February: ‘From the Singapore viewpoint, they cannot add very much to security which we already have with our own forces and we have no problems of counterinsurgency’. In Canberra in June he repeated his opinion that the battalion would have been more useful in Malaysia. So it is now quite useless for the Government to pretend that this was a decision wanted by Singapore or welcomed by Malaysia. It is at the core of the misunderstandings and frictions which occurred at the June Five Power Conference.
The Government has placed strict limitations on the use of these troops - very proper limitations, even if expressed with gratuitous offensiveness by the Prime Minister. What would we say if ANZUS was said to apply to the eastern half of Australia? That is the parallel of the Prime Minister’s reiteration of the word ‘Malaya’, because ‘Malaya’ is not now a political term; it is only a geographic term which has overtones of political tension in Malaysia. Yet if one examines these limitations against the actual situation in Malaysia and Singapore, and the current and likely needs of Malaysia and Singapore, one is brought irresistibly to the conclusion that these troops represent, not a military force, but a military token.
Malaysia has three problems that involve or might involve force. The most serious beyond all is the communal question, the task of establishing the rights of the races and the relations between the races. This is solely a Malaysian question but I deplore the actions of the Malaysian Government in gaoling without accusation or trial the new member of Parliament who is organising secretary of the Democratic Action Party, fraternal party with mine. The Australian Government itself accepts that Australian troops cannot and must not be involved in this. Secondly, there is the dispute with the Philippines over Sabah. Again, the Australian Government accepts, indeed insists, that Australian troops will not and cannot be used. In this case, we have a clear disproof of the theory that a military presence gives diplomatic leverage. We stand impotent in this dispute between two friendly nations. Thirdly, there is the problem of guerilla insurgents in the far north, from across the Thai border. This is manifestly not a task in which the Australian battalion would be usefully engaged and, indeed, the withdrawal from Terendak is the clearest expression by the Australian Government that it has not the slightest intention to allow them to be so engaged. Further, it is that one of the three problems which the Malaysian Government most firmly insists on its own ability to handle.
So we are left with the sole presumed value of this battalion - a token. But a token of what? The Malaysian and Singapore governments are certainly not sure. For the Minister for Defence it is a vestigial token of forward defence. For the Prime Minister it is a token of the posse, ready to fling itself on its horse and gallop off madly in all directions. The Minister for External Affairs tonight has tried to reconcile the various views in Cabinet. Whatever it is, it is not a meaningful and relevant response to our real task in this region, which is to help build the economies and societies as well as the defences of the countries in the region and, again in the words of the British White Paper, to foster developments which will enable the local people to live at peace without the presence of external forces. The squadron at Butterworth is in a slightly different category. A battalion in Singapore will not help Singapore or Malaysia develop their own Army. The squadrons do serve an interim purpose in helping Malaysia build up an adequate air force. The batallion represents no exclusive or transferable Australian skill; the squadron clearly does. Here again the primary - indeed the sole - objective should not be lost to sight: It is to assist Malaysia, among the other countries of the region, to train, equip and man an air force of her own.
For our own Army, its appropriate role is clear: It is determined by our situation, our resources, and our strengths. We require a highly professional, highly mobile Army. Our particular strength will never lie in numbers - even in regard to Malaysia, not a particularly populous country in Asian terms. We are speaking of an Army of sixteen battalions. Our strength will lie in our skills, our adaptability, our mobility and, without braggadocio, our prowess. A wise country will concentrate on its strengths. Developing and sustaining these strengths depends on the professionalism and mobility of the army. Expanding that professionalism and testing that mobility require constant training with and within the countries of the region. And in such training exercises, conducted not only abroad by our Army but here in Australia in exercises with our neighbours, we would foster not only the strength of our own Army but the strength and ability of theirs. It would be the military part of true regional co-operation. It would be a basis for a build-up of our own defence industries. It would be a genuine contribution to our own security, and to regional security, in strong contrast to this Government’s barren, backward-looking concept of an isolated and maybe immolated garrison with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Nowhere has the barren and backwardlooking approach of the Government been more clearly illustrated than in its attitude to the American alliance. It is common ground between the parties that this is the crucial, fundamental document in our international relations. The Prime Minister has discovered that ANZUS is not so much a treaty document as a ‘spirit’. Let us accept that and examine how the ‘spirit’ of this alliance has been interpreted and applied by successive Liberal governments. In a sentence, the Liberals have encouraged America in her over-reactions and resisted and resented America in her more fruitful initiatives. It can be illustrated by four examples - Vietnam, China, regional aid and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Government members are now silent or sullen on developments in Vietnam, just as they resented and resisted every attempt to end the war since 31st March last year. The Government still refuses to use any influence to end the war or affect its course. Until 31st March last year, the war was supposed to be fundamental to our whole foreign and defence policies. We were at least supposed to have a policy in relation to the war and aims to be achieved through that war. Now it has come to the point where the Minister for Defence can reduce, as he did on 8th July, the Government’s objectives to the following sentence: The war is inevitably drawing to an unpredictable end at an indefinite date’. So much for the Government’s view about ending the war.
As to the objectives of that war, the Minister for External Affairs himself produced this statement at his Press conference in Canberra on 17th June. He was asked: Australia wouldn’t object if Communists were excluded from free elections?’ The Minister: ‘No. If Communists were excluded by name, we wouldn’t have any objections.’ Question: ‘Would Australia object if in the course of negotiation this point was one of those which was conceded?’ The Minister: ‘No. I don’t think we have strong views one way or another at this point in time.’ Two years ago, recognition of the National Liberation Front in the political settlement of this war was treason’. That was the word used by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). As the Treasurer said on 2nd November 1967: ‘It would give the impression that we did not care whether Communism succeeded in the whole of South East Asia’. Now the Minister for External Affairs says that we do not have any ‘strong views one way or the other’ about the nature of the political settlement and we have no views about bow and when that settlement should come. For what objective then are Australians to continue to be wounded and maimed and killed? Quite apart from this basic question of stopping the suffering and killing of this war, there is one urgent reason why it must be ended. This involves the future of Laos and Cambodia as well as Vietnam. Every month that this war drags on lessens the possibilities of co-operation between the United States and the Soviet to neutralise this whole area. Only such a settlement can save the independence of Laos certainly, and Cambodia probably. Every month the war is prolonged lessens Russian influence in Hanoi. That influence, hitherto infinitely greater than that of Peking, is an essential element in reaching a political settlement in this area just as it was an essential element in getting Hanoi to the conference table in Paris.
It would be a tragic mistake if deescalation of the war were thought to be a substitute for ending it. it is our task to use our influence with the United States and to assist the United States in ending it. Two years ago the Australian Government’s intransigent opposition to ending the bombing was used by those in the then American Administration who supported the bombing. Today the Australian Government’s refusal to contemplate handing over responsibility for Phuoc Tuy Province is used by those vestigial elements in the present Administration who support prolongation of the war. Tonight the Minister merely pleaded: ‘What more can we do?’
The Australian Government should now make it clear in both Washington and Saigon that Australian troops will no longer be used to prolong this war or to keep America bogged down in it. If the mora!1 arguments have no force with this Government, then the political arguments about the fate of Laos, if this war is prolonged, should. The Minister tonight assented to the proposition that there will be no more Vietnams as far as the United States is concerned. Ending the actual Vietnam quickly is an essential ingredient in assuring there are no more Vietnams anywhere for anyone.
– What fantastic logic you use.
– The Minister for External Affairs knows as well as anyone does that if North Vietnam has committed aggression anywhere, it is in Laos. He also knows as well as anybody does that the Americans will do nothing about that North Vietnamese aggression in Laos and that the Australians will do nothing about it either.
I have spoken of the need for cooperation between the United States and the Soviet in the Vietnam settlement. The detente with Russia is the basis of President Nixon’s foreign policy. A critical element in the detente is the success of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Our support for that treaty is the most important request the United States has ever made to Australia. The Government’s attitude on this matter constitutes one of the most discreditable episodes in the history of the relations between our two countries. Until July the most one could say was that the Government was culpable in continuing to drug the chain in this matter. Since March 1968 the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that his Government’s policy was not to oppose the treaty but to seek clarification on certain of its provisions. The extra nature of the Government’s reservations has never been disclosed, but still one was entitled to assume that its policy was one of general support. Then came the intervention of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) at the Liberal Party Speakers Club meeting on 13th July. He stated outright opposition to the treaty and he has not yet been repudiated by the Prime Minister. The Minister for External Affairs did not expressly repudiate him tonight. He returned to the position of 18 months ago, that is, we are still awaiting clarification.
In his essay into foreign policy, the Minister for National Development gave three reasons against signing. He said that the methods of international inspection would open the way to industrial sabotage. He knows very well that the treaty gives signatory nations the right to exclude inspectors to whom they may object He said that future governments should not be bound. He knows very well that the treaty provides withdrawal without penalty or sanction on 3 months notice. He said that it would achieve nothing unless every country signed it. He asserted that only eighteen nations had ratified it. He failed to mention that ninety-two countries had signed it. The fact is that the United States, in sponsoring and promoting the treaty, never contemplated that every country would sign it. It was never contemplated, for instance, that China would sign it in the foreseeable future. Is it suggested that in sponsoring this treaty the United States wishes to endanger countries unfriendly to China? It is precisely because of China’s self-exclusion that the United States and Britain provide guarantees under the treaty. The treaty is not a nuclear disarmament treaty, lt is designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to nations not now having them and to reduce the risks of nuclear war inherent in the possession of nuclear weapons by a large number of nations. It is not nuclear disarmament but it is a necessary first step towards it. Every nation which signs it reduces the inherent risks. I repeat, it is crucial in America’s effort to reduce the risks of regional and world nuclear war. It is the key to the detente which the United States now seeks with Russia, the coauthor of this treaty. Tonight, the Minister said that we had to be sure of the extent of support for the treaty. If ninety-two nations have signed, why should we not be the ninety-third? Why should we be the last to sign?
Australia should not only sign the treaty but, even more importantly, should try to influence other countries in our region to sign. Australia is incomparably placed either to promote or to scuttle the treaty and its aims. The Minister for National Development has left little doubt how the present government will use that influence - against the United States and Britain, against a detente, against disarmament.
Tonight the Minister spoke about the need to bring China into the community of nations. He avoided the usual denunciation of China, but he gave no indication at all that the Government should take initiatives to bring China into the community of nations. He takes the fruitless attitude that China must first show itself worthy to be a member of the community of nations. This of course means we stand fast - we take no initiatives. Canada is willing to do so; Japan is prepared to be a bridge: the United States has never been so amenable to suggestions from her allies that the mutual animosity be reduced, lt is a remarkable change from Mr Rusk to Mr Rogers on this matter. It is an opportunity we should not let pass. After 20 years of hysteria, not all on the part of China, it is not to be thought that rapprochement will be rapid or easy. These initiatives must be taken now and China being what she is, they must come from our side. With Japan, Australia is incomparably well placed to influence the United States in this direction.
The other important field of co-operation with the United States and Japan in our area is in building the economies and societies of the countries of our region. Significantly, at a time when the United States has cut her overseas aid to an alltime low - since the war - her aid to Indonesia increased. Equally significantly, and most regrettably, the Australian Government has been slow to follow the American example. 1 cited the facts on 26th March last and honourable members will remember the circumstances in which the Prime Minister at last announced a decision after 10 o’clock the following night on the eve of his first visit to President Nixon.
The Minister for External Affairs has just expressed the view that the United States will continue to show an interest in our region. Indeed, a great power like America could not do otherwise. It will however not be primarily a military commitment. It will provide new opportunities for Australia to participate, by precept and example, in the task of helping to build the societies and economies as well as the defences of our region.
I sympathise wilh the Minister in having to find a rationale and reconciliation in his speech for the conflicts and confusion in the present Cabinet, in particular with the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Defence, and in particular and above all the Prime Minister. In one sense the current confusion of policies and aims is welcomed. The old Liberal certainties and shibboleths have succumbed to the march of events and the test of truth and time. We may be at the end of an ora of foreign policy as Liberal propaganda. The whole thing is in the melting pot. lt is an excellent time for the fresh approach that will come from a fresh government.
– The statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) tonight was carefully considered and constructive. One would imagine from listening to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that Australia is regarded around Asia with suspicion and distrust, but in fact quite the opposite is the case. Australia is regarded internationally as being honest and a country that fulfils its commitments. I should like to deal in detail with some aspects of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, but in the time at my disposal I may not be able to do so. The Asian nations have recently been very apprehensive of the attitude of the United States of America. I am happy to be able to say, confidently, that since the world tour by the President of the United States most of their fears would have been allayed. They would be reassured by the President’s statement that the United States will fulfil its commitments and by Mr Rogers’ statement while in Australia that the United States regards itself as a Pacific nation which cannot and will not evade its reponsibilties
The fact that the United States has a capacity to produce about two-fifths of the world’s gross national product emphasises the truth of the statement that the United States is the only nation in the free world which can do anything to resist the totalitarian powers which have ambitions of world conquest. Their own words reveal that to be their aim. I feel that United States involvement in South Vietnam became larger and has lasted longer than they had contemplated, but there are other points mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition which should be considered. It must be remembered that Government supporters have always been very clear in their loyalty to this Government’s policy on defence and external affairs. In giving assistance in South Vietnam it has never been an ambition of America, Australia or any other country involved there to win a war. The purpose has been merely to establish peace and to give the South Vietnamese economic viability and stability.
The fact that America has now commenced a thinning out of her forces in South Vietnam is indicative to me of two things: Firstly, it places right on the line the question whether the Communist forces are genuine in their attempts to arrive at a peaceful settlement. Thus far the Communists have shown no reaction. Secondly, in this role that America holds as the defender of the democratic world its involvement has put her in a situation in which she is less flexible in her powers and less able to exert power and be an influence in other parts of the world. I am quite certain that this is one very good reason why she is reducing her forces in Vietnam. But the war in Vietnam is being decided more by the propaganda media of the United States than by the forces in Vietnam. One of the frightening things which are now evident throughout the world is that the forces of propaganda are for evil and that in most cases these media seem to express the Communistic viewpoint and do not fairly stress any other view.
One area which seems to have been forgotten is Korea where today about 750,000 men are committed on a full military basis across the demilitarised zone. All the arms of war are there and there is continuing activity and continuous patrolling. A divisional commander of one of the Republic of Korea’s forces described the situation adequately when he said in answer to a member of a delegation who had expressed surprise at the magnitude of the operation: This is the front line of democracy’, after which he hesitated for a while and added: Your front .line’, referring to us in Australia.
Korea is a country which in 15 years has more than doubled its gross national product. In the last year it increased its gross national product by 13%. With onethird of its budget committed to defence expenditure and with the fourth largest standing army in the world it is still able to do this. The people of Korea work long hours at arduous tasks to support their economy and they seem to be happy to do so. But at the same time they have a rifle in the cupboard to defend their way of life.
– Are they frightened by Communism?
– They have an inherent fear of Communism, as have the people of Taiwan, the people of South Vietnam and the people of Thailand. All these are people who know what it is to be confronted by Communism. They are as afraid of it today as ever they were. The Leader of the Opposition referred at great length to our commitment in Singapore, but he made the reference in a frivolous sort of way. The fact of the matter is that our commitment in this area is a practical demonstration of the fact that we are prepared to do something. These people need us there. There is perhaps some misapprehension in the minds of the Malay people in that they cannot separate Australia and New Zealand from the United Kingdom in understanding the magnitude of the forces that we are able to put there. But it is of very considerable value, politically and for defence, that we have our Air Force at Butterworth and more than a battalion of troops at Singapore. What the Leader of the Opposition quoted as a statement made by the Prime Minister of Singapore is very different from what one of his chief advisers told me about our presence there. The Leader of the Opposition said that our presence there was of no value. That is far from the truth. It is important that we have troops there and it is important that our troops remain there for as long as those countries want them. Taking troops each year into these areas is of no value militarily or in our relationships with the countries concerned. The Asian people would be likely to get a wrong impression, as anyone would, and believe that some difficulty might be arising if troops were moved in and out of the area each year.
The situation in Malaya itself is a most unfortunate one. As was well said by the Minister for External Affairs, we do not make any contribution to the solution of the problems of Malaya by magnifying its difficulties in any way whatsoever. I am most concerned at the possibility of the Malays endeavouring to persuade the Indonesians to help them to suppress internal trouble It would bc disastrous if that did happen. I hope that it does not. The 38% of the people of Chinese blood living in Malaya are not accepted as an integral part of the community. While that state of affairs exists the situation will remain a very difficult one. I express the very sincere hope that the National Operations Council, which was established when the constitutional parliament was suspended, will take steps to ensure that the present state of affairs does not continue for very much longer because I believe that every day that it continues could bring misunderstandings and a worsening of the situation. However, I will not say any more about that because I think the situation is very delicate.
It is unfortunate that the number of people who lost their lives in the riot was greatly minimised in reports that came to us. Far more people lost their lives than we were told. It is difficult to assess the correct number and it would serve no purpose to exaggerate the situation. It would only aggravate the position. One can only hope that the Malay Government in its wisdom will see that it cannot allow a situation to continue in which the rights of the Chinese minority are not recognised. 1 have referred to the understanding of and bitter opposition to Communism that the people in Asia in general have. They have lived with Communism and they have had to fight it. They have given a great example to people throughout the world. In this regard I have already mentioned Korea. Taiwan is an island of 13,000 square miles. That is less than one-third of the area of my electorate of Riverina. Something less than one-third of Taiwan is fertile land.
– I hope that they have a better member to represent them.
– They could not have a worse opposition. The people of Taiwan are most unfortunate. From an area about one-ninth the size of the Riverina electorate Taiwan produces enough food to feed fourteen million people and to have a slight surplus. They are apparently well fed and in most cases are reasonably housed. They have a tremendous task ahead of them. What they have done is an example of great organisation and of the fact that people in those circumstances must believe in the system under which they are living. If they did not they would not make such a tremendous effort.
Malaya is making great strides and wc hope that it will continue to progress economically. Singapore is a great example of what can be done by good organisation. It has shown too how to overcome the difficulties associated with having people of mixed races in a country. The Government solved the problem by showing its trust in the people of different races by putting rifles in their hands. Three-quarters of the people are Chinese and one-quarter Malay and you find them in the police force, in the army and in all sorts of executive positions. Singapore has made great headway and is the pivot point of the area.
As was stated by the Minister for External Affairs, Indonesia is the other key country in the area. It is a nation of nearly 100 million people. I have referred already to the fact that they are of similar blood and race to the Malays. Those 100 million people went through very difficult times and now they have a very real understanding of Communist influence. One would have to see Indonesia now and have seen it 3 years ago, as I did, to realise the headway that the Indonesian people are making. It is tremendous. They still have a long way to go and it is of great importance to Australia that they succeed. We must take calculated risks economically to assist them to achieve a viable economy and to develop their very fertile country.
The whole situation in this area is in a very fluid state. A solution of the Vietnam problem is of tremendous importance. Nothing more could be done than has been done by the United States and her allies to try to get North Vietnam to negotiate a settlement. The Leader of the Opposition conjured up all sorts of things to show that he was right and that the Government was wrong. Nothing has transpired to indicate in any way that the attitude adopted by the Government was wrong. We should never have started this war if we now allow the Communists to win in a settlement. That is the one great hope that the Communists have. They claim that democracy will not stand up to prolonged difficulties. I have referred to the propaganda machine in the United States. While I was in an Asian country - I will not identify it for obvious reasons - I met two seamen, one a captain and one a first mate, in a hotel. They were on a ship which was plying between Singapore and Haiphong and between Hong Kong and Haiphong. When they both spoke in disparaging terms of the situation in North Vietnam I asked the captain why he was engaged in shipping to that country and he told me: T am in it simply because I made £5,500 sterling in 3 months’. He told me about the situation in Haiphong. He said that he bad been in port for 42 days. He remembered that because he got treble pay. He had seen only five motor cars and three motor cycles. He told me also that stocks in shops were depleted and that you could not buy any consumer goods. The people of North Vietnam were beaten militarily and knew it but they were not beaten psychologically because they believed that they had the Americans beaten psychologically. The ship’s captain told me: T was in America 6 months ago and saw a television programme which depicted American soldiers walking into an ambush. The commentary was: “These men who are suffering here could be your brothers, your husbands or your lovers’. This is where this war is really being won, not on the battlefield. I have mentioned on other occasions the need for regional co-operation in this area. It is a must if the free nations are to survive. It is something that we must endeavour to .promote in every way. Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said in an endeavour to impress the people in what was obviously an election speech, what we are doing in this area is being accepted and applauded. I am quite certain that the overwhelming majority of Australians believe that we are bound to fulfil to the best of our ability the commitment into which we have entered in this area. They realise that we cannot shrink away from this obligation at this stage; and they do not expect us to do so. Geographically, we are a part of this Asian setup. We are a trusted nation. We have been trusted because successive governments of this country have behaved in a responsible way and lived up to, not shrunk away from the commitments into which they have entered. I support the statement made by the Minister this evening.
– This is the first major debate on foreign affairs to be held in this House for some months. It is the most important debate on South East Asia to be initiated since the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on 25th February committing Australian troops to Malaysia-Singapore after 1971. Significantly, it will be the last major opportunity for members of this House to debate the important issues of defence and foreign policy before the Federal elections.
In the months since the last debate on foreign affairs, the steady erosion of the Government’s long-held conventional wisdom on South East Asia and overseas commitments has continued. But possibly the most remarkable feature of the Minister’s statement was the complete about face in Government policy towards Soviet Russia. It is difficult to believe that this was cleared by the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. Rather, it seems to have struck the Minister with the force of revelation that world Communism is not wholly evil; that the Russians are human beings and can be negotiated with.
In particular, the Minister said the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean is innocuous and that it may be possible for Australia to take part in regional negotiations with Russia in Asia. A few weeks ago, the Minister for External Affairs was ranting hysterically about the Russian incursion into the Indian Ocean and its potential danger to Australia. I wonder what the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), and those two notable pro-Russians, Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Paul Hasluck, and the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) think of this sort of heresy.
International Communism is no longer a monolith. Nor, it seems, is the LiberalCountry Party Government of Australia. I have never seen the Government’s ranks so stunned as they were tonight by the Minister’s apologia for the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, similar enlightenment does not gleam through the remainder of the Minister’s text. However, there are in the text some faint glimmers of realism in the Minister’s observations, particularly on Vietnam. But in sum his statement is a disappointing parade of discredited policies, of irrational assessments and of illogical strategic appreciations. 1 give one example of this stale and sterile thinking. It is a statement which is at the core of both the Minister’s statement and the futile rationale which still dominates the Government’s policy objectives. The Minister said that any realistic plan for regional security had to account for the possibility of large scale invasion or external aggression. He went on to say that the most likely source of such invasion or aggression would be China, possibly using its nuclear capacity as blackmail to support its large conventional forces and subversion. This view of a regional threat from a militant China is not a tenable one; it has the old fashioned reek of the electoral ‘cry wolf tactics which were exploited for year after year by the former Prime Minister. It is an approach that is no longer accepted by the United States. More significantly, in Japan, which is highly vulnerable to
Chinese aggression, there is not the slightest sense of fear of China; there is so little sense of threat from China that Japan has been able to observe its constitution and limit its military units to self defence forces.
China certainly has decided military superiority over its neighbours or any combination of its neighbours. Despite this superiority and its central position, basically it is not a strong nation; it lacks the economic potential of Japan and certainly it is not remotely comparable with the two great super powers, Russia and the United States. 1 believe the Minister has overstressed the threat of nuclear blackmail from China. China will certainly extend and develop its missile capability, but even a most pessimistic projection of this build up would not give China the capability of running even the slightest risk of inviting attack by the strategic forces of the United States or of the Soviet Union. The Chinese army may be large, but it lacks the capacity to extend Chinese power much beyond its own territory or the areas immediately adjacent to it. The Chinese navy is a small one made up mainly of coastal defence vessels. Its air force is largely a defensive fighter force. The overall strength of China confines its forces to a defensive or internal context or, at the very worst, a limited role of aggression very close to its borders. Yet, the Minister can still put forward the immediate threat of China as the linchpin of Australia’s defence calculations.
China aside, the greater part of the statement was devoted to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has dealt at length with the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I intend to concentrate my remarks on the other two issues of crucial importance to Australia. On Vietnam the Minister’s statement is an historic manifesto. It marks the first official recognition by the Government that the Vietnam war is coming to an end, that the military objectives for which the United States and Australia entered the war have not been obtained and are unobtainable. An openended commitment has at last become a finite commitment. The Minister is even able to refer without obvious pain to the phasing out of Australian forces. This is a pointed contrast to the great torrent of rubral righteousness that has poured from the Government on this fearful war.
I have lost count of the number of reiterations from the Government that the corner had been turned, that the war was being won, that hearts and minds were being captured. I forget how many comparative body counts have been put to this House to show how the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces were melting away. I do recall the Prime Minister’s advice to Australian forces at the height of his belligerent phase to take no notice of the things in Paris called peace talks. Honourable gentlemen will recall his more recent statement that it would be a shabby thing for Australia to make a phased withdrawal, that it would redistribute the burden with disastrous consequences to the Saigon Government. Now the United States Secretary of State, Mr Rogers, has made it plain that the United States is not the slightest jot concerned about the end of the Australian contribution, that in real terms the burden Australia is shouldering has no significance. Mr Rogers has said unequivocally that Australia’s commitment is of no concern to the United States, that Australia can withdraw when it wants to and that the presence or absence of Australian troops will not matter in the final washup. In plain terms, a commitment made to one American President matters nothing to his successor.
The Minister made some attempt to rationalise the Vietnam war in rather more subtle terms than some of his colleagues. He said rather blandly that the objectives of the allies in Vietnam were to assume for a while the main burden of fighting to give the people time to prepare themselves. Prepare themselves for what? For the inevitable political contest between the Communists and the Saigon Government? The Minister would have been more honest in his approach if he had recognised this as a certain result of 14 years of American commitment to successive Saigon governments. The Minister said that the strength and capacity of the South Vietnamese is increasing. From personal observation, I would agree with that statement. He said further that the strength and resources of the North Vietnamese were dwindling. I have no way of verifying this nor has any other honourable member. Successive intelligence reports of deterioration in the capacity of both the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong have proved to be sadly astray. In many provinces of South Vietnam - in particular, the central provinces and the western provinces along the Cambodian border - there is no sign of any tapering off in the Communist threat. As a general conclusion I think it is fair to say that the Saigon Government has made progress in some regions, particularly in the northern provinces, but in many provinces its impact on Communist capability and control has been negligible. I think the Minister has been overoptimistic in his assertion that the Communists are running out of time and that time is in fact on the side of the Americans and the Saigon Government.
The Minister has stated that it is not Australia’s intention to throw in its hand. It is impossible to understand what he means. President Nixon is clearly bent on withdrawal and a negotiated settlement; Thailand has announced that it will withdraw its force of some thousand men from South Vietnam; the Philippines unit of engineers will be withdrawn; and New Zealand is examining and redefining its commitment with an eye to withdrawal. This leaves, as opposed to withdrawal, only the troops of South Korea, which have always been in South Vietnam in the role of mercenaries. Yet the Minister says on behalf of the Government, and presumably on behalf of the United States Government, that they do not intend to throw in their collective hand. In the context of unfolding events in South Vietnam, Paris and the United States, this is an absurd and incongruous statement. It is disappointing that the Minister made no reference to the need to broaden substantially the support of the Saigon Government if it is to compete on effective political terms with the Communists when the time inevitably comes. In particular, it is shameful that repeated opportunities have been passed over by the Government to state Australia’s objections to the shameful features of the Saigon administration.
One case to which I wish to refer tonight is the case of Mr Dzu, who was runner up in the presidential elections of 1967 as a peace candidate. He was subsequently imprisoned because be advocated an end to the bombing, recognition of the National Liberation Front and the commencement of negotiations. Despite the correctness of his prophecies and his policies he remains in gaol. To the best of my recollection the Australian Government has never protested about the shameful confinement of a man whose principles and policies have since been adopted by the American Government. There are other objectionable cases of political imprisonment and newspaper censorship which have been ignored by the Government in its commitment to Saigon.
The Minister did not refer to the future of the Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province and to plans to transfer the struggle there to the South Vietnamese. With an election imminent it is the Government’s clear duty to tell the people how it proposes to disengage from Vietnam and the timetable for disengagement. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Vietnam policy adopted by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. This policy recognises the inevitability of the withdrawal of all forces from Vietnam. It affirms that upon election to office a Labor Government would immediately notify the United States of its intention to withdraw. It would then work out a timetable with the United States Government and the Saigon Government for Australian withdrawal. Quite obviously, in the light of Mr Rogers’ remarks, this would neither surprise nor disturb the American Government. It would then be possible for Australia to disengage in a responsible way with the complete support of the American Government, which has affirmed the right of other participants in the war to make their own decisions on the necessity and timing of withdrawal. That is the present policy of the Labor Party.
We approach the end of the war with no feeling of complacency although we insist on the correctness of our analysis and interpretation of the flow of events in Vietnam. There has been no satisfaction for this Party in seeing a great country, which has made an immeasurable contribution to humanity, making grave miscalculations and floundering in a tragic war. The aim of all governments must now be to heal and rebuild Vietnam.
The Minister dealt at length with the Government’s commitment to MalaysiaSingapore. He did little to clarify the confusion flowing from the events of recent months. According to the Minister, Australia’s primary commitment is to the peninsula of Malaya. He said that this was made clear in the Prime Minister’s statement on 25th February. In this policy announcement, the Prime Minister did refer indiscriminately to Malaya and Malaysia. Yet the whole tenor of his statement is that the Australian commitment extended to the whole of Malaysia and to Singapore against externally inspired aggression. There was no reference by the Prime Minister to the peninsula of Malaya. Quite clearly the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore did not understand the principal commitment as being confined to the peninsula of Malaya. It was not until the Prime Minister’s pointed use of Australia’s commitment to Malaya, during the Five Power talks, that doubts multiplied. These have culminated in the trenchant remarks of the Malaysian Prime Minister and the Malaysian Ambassador to Australia about the uselessness of the Five Power arrangements. The Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs have tried to discount these statements but no credence can be placed in a government which has failed to give a firm and coherent justification of its commitment to Malaysia-Singapore.
The Minister tonight has further obscured the commitment by claiming that Australia’s particular commitment is to be the Malayan peninsula where the forces are stationed. What will happen when the bulk of the troops are transferred to Singapore? Is the particular commitment then to the island of Singapore where the forces are to be stationed? The Minister said, further, that the use of Australian forces outside the peninsula was not excluded in all circumstances.
In the light of so many vague and conflicting statements it is not surprising that the Malaysian Government has lost faith in the Australian commitment and looks on it as worthless. It has taken less than 6 months for the policy announced by the Prime Minister on 25th February to be reduced to absurdity. Furthermore, the inherent dangers in the commitment, which were stressed by Opposition speakers in the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement of 25th February, have been reinforced by the tragic racial riots in Western Malaysia. In these circumstances the gravest risks attend the stationing of Australian troops in the region.
In summary, the Minister’s statement is a disappointing document. It contains one notable initiative - the realistic assessment of the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean and the chances of regional cooperation with Russia in Asia. Unfortunately the Minister has not applied similar sanity and logic to his analysis of the threat of China, the future in Vietnam and the Government’s commitment to Malaysia and Singapore. Perhaps out of misguided loyalty to his predecessors and his colleagues he has maintained a firm adherence to a ruinous policy of forward defence. The Minister has refused to recognise that the urgent tasks for Australia in South East Asia today are disengagement and reassessment.
If one had the time one could deal with other subjects that are of significant importance in a debate of this nature. I refer to the question of rehabilitation in the South East Asian area and the responsibility which the Australian Government must bear for the rehabilitation not only of South Vietnam but of the whole of Vietnam. This is a clear responsibility of this Government, since we have been one of the major allies in the conflict in that country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is noted for his contributions on defence, certainly on the defence aspect of foreign policy. His Party has on more than one occasion rued the day when he has spoken on its behalf, and it rued the day on which he published his manifesto on foreign policy - the one whose principles guide him in his deliberations in these matters. Let me refer to one sentence in that manifesto. It is simply this: ‘Australia’s strategic frontiers extend no further than its land mass’. In other words, they do not extend beyond its borders.
– Its natural boundaries.
– I will make a slight alteration to the words, to read: ‘Australia’s strategic frontiers do not extend beyond its natural boundaries’. In the light of those principles the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has enunciated a policy on Malaysia, a policy on Vietnam and a policy with respect to the Russian Navy in the Indian Ocean. I hope that we might look at these matters a little further as we go through both his speech and that of his leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). But before we do, I think it is worthwhile recapitulating for one or two moments the aims of foreign policy and, in doing this, examining what is the present Australian situation, what has been the position of the Opposition, and what is now the position of the Opposition which was decided at its Federal Conference.
A foreign policy is an instrument of vital interest to this country, and it is to be understood to operate in several ways. All of these ways are themselves subject to the strategic interests of this country. These can be understood economically, diplomatically and militarily. I hope to look at the strategic decisions on foreign policy which have been made by the Opposition over the last decade and a half, economically, militarily and diplomatically. In economic decisions related to the strategic sense of foreign policy, I do not think it should ever be forgotten that the Opposition opposed the development of trade ties with Japan, which are an essential part of our foreign policy and an essential part of the standard of living in this country. Tied in with that is the Opposition’s decision with respect to our delegations overseas. The Opposition opposed diplomatic representation in Taiwan. It has supported, ad nauseam, recognition of Communist China against the wishes of the free people in Taiwan. The Opposition has done this continually over the years. Diplomatically, one would never forget some of the statements made in 1962 by the former Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) concerning Indonesia. Add all these decisions up and you have chaos in Australia’s present strategic position.
Let us look at the situation militarily. Militarily, the Opposition opposed the decision to send troops to Malaya in 1955.
It has opposed it in most years since. It has strengthened its opposition to Australian troops in Malaysia in 1969. In fact, the Opposition has turned further left. It has opposed also the stationing of American bases on Australian soil and the stationing of joint bases on Australian soil. One has only to recall the decisions concerning Woomera and the United States base at North West Cape. If one could draw over a few years the summary of the decisions of the Labor Party on Australia’s strategic position, it would simply mean this: Economically, the country would bc more impoverished; diplomatically, this country would be infinitely more isolated than it has been; and, militarily, we surely would not have even the friendship of powerful allies overseas. This is all based upon the simple principle enunciated so disastrously by the present Deputy Leader crf the Opposition.
Our present position in Asia is based upon two principles. We promote and we depend upon regional security. We, as part of that principle, acknowledge above all that our strategic boundaries extend beyond our own land mass. One has only to go to Rabaul and to see there Admiral Yamamoto’s bunker to realise that this was the headquarters of the chief of the Japanese Naval Staff in the south-west Pacific area during the last war and to understand also that it would be incredibly tragic were one to adopt the principle concerning the strategic interests of this country which has been stated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
A little bit of history is useful. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia is an important country. It is important to Australia because it illustrates so many principles concerning strategic security. Let me merely say this: Great Britain made a great mistake in 1933 because, for a moment, even with newpaper support, it adopted the very principle, concerning its strategic interests enunciated by the honourable member for Bass, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It adopted the principle that the strategic interest of Britain did not extend to Europe and did not extend to the border of eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia was sacrificed. Britain nearly suffered supremely for that abrogation of the principle of strategic security.
Czechoslovakia also illustrated another principle which is important. It is that, if there are areas of vital interests, to opt out of an area and to sacrifice an interest in that area and to allow that vacuum to be filled by a greater power enables a situation to occur which is not reversed easily. If Australia, as the most powerful nation in South East Asia, opts out of that area and allows a vacuum to occur, which’ is desired to be filled by Russia and in which Communist China has interests, we will not reverse the decision easily. Again, the principles of strategic areas of interest applies.
With respect to Cuba, might I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that in 1962 all the might of the United States of America was required to reverse the position there when the vacuum that was created was filled for a short time by the Soviet Union. If that situation occurred in this part of the world, and if the vacuum were filled in South East Asia, we would not have the power or the might to reverse such a position.
Let me refer again to Czechoslovakia. It is significant for another reason. In 9 or 10 days we celebrate, or perhaps I should say we commiserate over, the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact. Before that pact was signed in late 1939 we well remember that Czechoslovakia had not been completely occupied by the Germans. The interests of the Government had contracted to certain areas. Sudetenland had been sacrificed. Then when Stalin indicated in his speech to the 18th Party Congress in the Soviet Union on 10th March 1939 that the green light could be given to Germany, that country annexed Slovakia the following week. The lesson to be learned from this is that if we give the green light to a great power to go into an area with impunity that decision will not be reversed. There are lessons to be learned from Cuba and mere are lessons to be learned from Czechoslovakia, and I am rather sad that the Opposition does not seem to have learned any of the lessons of history so far as strategic security is concerned.
Let us for a few moments go over the policy decisions of the Labor Party and see what effect they would have had on
Australia. It is fair to use history in this sense and it is fair to use it analytically. Dean Acheson once made a few comments on his wife’s opinions of his interpretations of foreign policy. He said:
My wife likes to say that Dean gets more fun out of tables than he does out of policies because a table will either stand up or fail down and you don’t know whether a policy is any good until about 20 years afterwards.
When we look at the kinds of policy decisions which have been made by. the Labor Party and which would have been implemented by it if it had been in office, we must shudder to think what the situation would have been not 20 years afterwards but 10 or 15 years afterwards. Having those thoughts in mind, and having in mind also the position of the Labor Party over the years, especially since the major split some years ago, let us consider for a moment the federal conference that was held by the Australian Labor Party earlier this year. These federal conferences are very intriguing. The first 3 or 4 days of every conference are days of great image building, and the most critical decisions have always been made in the dying hours of the conference. One of the most critical decisions made by the recent conference was that contained in the resolution which was passed on foreign policy. Let me read just two sentences of it.
– Oh, go on, read the lot.
– I will read the critical sentences. The honourable member probably could not take in the five paragraphs. This is what the resolution said:
No plans for the stationing of Australian armed forces in other countries are now feasible or acceptable.
There is no leeway to have any air force stationed in Malaysia as in the past and no leeway for a long stage withdrawal of troops, but a hardening of all the policy decisions of the past. The resolution also said:
The policy to station Australian armed forces In other countries is not determined by the security needs of those countries but by the demands of a belligerent minority in Australia.
If I were a soldier serving in Malaysia or Vietnam - and I have a number of relatives who have been in those places - and I read that kind of thing, I can imagine nothing more calculated to erode my patriotism and my will - and one fears that this would be almost the precise reason why this hard and belligerent decision was taken by the Australian Labor Party. It would not have been accepted by that Party in former days. 1 would like to deal for one or two minutes with the arguments presented tonight by the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman has a tremendous capacity in debate. Listening to him speaking about the Indian Ocean and the inadequacies of naval strength in the Indian Ocean, listening to him quoting the British White Paper on defence and listening to him regretting that troops have been moved from Malaysia to Singapore, one could almost have thought: ‘Here is a man who agrees with our position. Here is a man really who thinks that we have not the wrong philosophy but have just made some of the wrong decisions in detail.’ He has an infinite capacity to project one line of thought while, in fact, supporting the kind of policy decision which I enunciated earlier. He reminds me analogically of Stalin who at the height of the purges - at the height of yezovhschina - in which millions of people were done to death said: Nothing is so sacred to the ruler of a nation as the lives of its citizens.’ That comparison is meant analogically and not completely, but I think the point ought to be made.
Then we have a further facet of the argument of the Leader of the Opposition - this capacity to argue in opposites. One would have thought when he mentioned the neutralisation of Vietnam: ‘Well, follow our policy and, of course, you will secure the freedom of Laos and Cambodia.’ They were placed together. One does not need to have been to these places; one needs only to look at a map to be aware at least of some of the constrictions of geography to realise the incredibility of that kind of juxtaposition of principles. To relate his policy on Vietnam to freedom in Laos and Cambodia is incredible. But there it is - the Leader of the Opposition, the man with the image but, unfortunately for him, the man who does not formulate policy. Then we come to Lee Kuan Yew and the Tunku. From all the things that were said about these people one would have thought that Lee Kuan Yew did not welcome the presence of Australian troops in Singapore; that he did not desire
Australian troops to be in Singapore. Yet last week - I have not the precise quote with me - he made it perfectly clear he welcomed Australian troops in Singapore and he welcomed them for their contribution to the security of the area. Did anything of this philosophy or of this attitude permeate the words which were written for the Leader of the Opposition and which he read out?
– He compiled them himself.
– I was merely trying to be charitable. One point is worth reiterating. The Opposition says continually that it welcomes peace in Vietnam. We welcome peace in Vietnam. The Opposition quotes President Nixon. Of course, we have supported American troops in that part of the world, but does the Opposition go a little further and say that it welcomes President Nixon’s approach to the requirements of peace in Vietnam? The requirements for peace in Vietnam which he has enunciated are reasonably clear. He first stated them in 1966 and they were worth reiterating. He said:
There are three minimum conditions we must insist upon with the Communists. North Vietnam must stop its aggression against South Vietnam; South Vietnam’s independence and freedom from Communist control must be guaranteed; and there must be no reward for the aggressors.
He has maintained the broad principles that he stated in 1966. He has made it perfectly clear that for complete American withdrawal he must be satisfied that South Vietnam can remain free; there must be some real results at the Paris peace conference, and there must be some movement towards real peace at the Paris peace conference on the part of Hanoi. So, when the Opposition quotes the President of the United States, does it support the principles which he has stated as guiding his actions? I challenge the Opposition to indicate whether it does. I think we will find that it does not.
Finally, I think this ought to be said: The very nature of this war is that it is directed at the electorates of the democracies. The North Vietnamese General Giap saw the French democracy collapse. He thinks that the American democracy and the Australian democracy and electorate will collapse in their support of a protracted, limited war type of conflict. We know that General Giap erred and failed in this strategy in 1968 in the Tet offensive. We know that he set his strategy in four parts. First he made an attempt to split South Vietnam in 1964-63. He then formulated his 3-year plan for the isolation of Saigon in 1965-67. He then made a desperate effort to detach the northern provinces in 1967-68. But he failed. The Tet offensive was out of character and outside the strategic requirements for Vietnam. It had its effect on the electorates of the West, but most tragically it had its effect on the Opposition and it had its effect on the Leader of the Opposition because the greatest casualty of the Tet offensive, which was precisely aimed at the electorate in this country, was the alternative Prime Minister of this country. I believe that that is sufficient to indicate that such a person should never be entrusted with the making of vital decisions concerning Australia’s strategic security.
– At this late hour of the evening I want to make a short contribution to this important debate on foreign affairs. In the course of the magnificent speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) he made the observation against the Government that obsession with China was not a policy; it was a neurosis. He went on to suggest that the affliction with this neurosis had inhibited the development by Australia of an independent foreign policy.
I do not want to traverse very much this evening the details of the individual countries that were visited by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth). His catalogue was not essentially different from what we have heard from other Ministers for External Affairs in this Parliament over a considerable period. The tragedy is that they always come back and conclude their speeches with the sort of remark which the Minister made tonight and which I will read in a moment; but one feels that nothing very fundamental has been done to achieve what they say they would like to do. This evening the Minister concluded by saying:
We would like to see disarmament take its place as part of a worldwide drive to raise living standards, promote human rights and establish peace on conditions of justice and equity. It is unrealistic to expect this to happen now or even quickly. But it is not unrealistic, when opportunity offers, to work now towards that end. That - is what the Australian Government is doing and will continue to do wilh the resources at its disposal.
They may be fine sentiments, but I suggest that they are far from practical achievement by this Government. One of the tragedies in the world today is that never do we devote to the problems of economic aid and social reconstruction either the same magnitudes of expenditure or the same depths of consideration as we devote to defence expenditure.
Recently I read something in the very sober pages of the ‘Banker’ - a British magazine which is usually devoted to matters such as international liquidity. But in the June 1968 issue there were a couple of artices on government spending overseas. The article 1 wish to refer to is by a Mr W. A. P. Manser, who lists in a table at page 501 the expenditure by various countries on defence. These figures were for 1966 and they showed that approximately $US150 billion was devoted to defence expenditure and that more than two-thirds of it - getting close to three-quarters of it - was spent by what were called the Western alliances on the one hand and the Warsaw Pact countries on the other. For the year concerned, 1966, SUS90 billion was spent by the Western alliances. Of that amount the United States of America, as the preponderant spender, spent something like SUS70 billion. In the Warsaw Pact countries, of which Russia is the principal member, there was an expenditure of $US41 billion. Mr Manser goes on to state:
This, then clearly illuminates Britain’s place in the international arena. World military strength is concentrated in a super league remotely beyond Britain’s reach. It is moreover a super league to the membership of which, because of the economic base required, Britain can never aspire.
I would suggest that at least there is a salutary sort of lesson there as far as Australia is concerned. If Britain cannot aspire to the super league militarily what can Australia hope to aspire to? This is why I suggest that much more consideration should be given to the problems of economic aid rather than merely to the problems of defence expenditure. The difference in the proportions can be seen if one consults the table that has been included in the Budget papers for several years. It is in ‘Statement No. 8 - External Economic Aid’ and it shows for this projected year the total multilateral and bilateral aid to be given by Australia to the rest of the world excluding New Guinea, and for the purpose of this argument I want to exclude New Guinea. The amount is $54m, or $4m more than in the previous year. That is a very small sum in terms of the resources available to Australia.
But I would suggest that it is the kind of approach that we take to these fundamental problems which, in the long run, is the only means of removing the disparity - and I am afraid it is an increasing disparity - ‘between the standards of living in countries like our own. The standards in countries adjacent to us, and because of the form in which they exist, in countries which primarily are those against whom our defence allocations are made. Our defence allocation this year is again of the magnitude of Si, 100m, which is very large by comparison with our expenditure on economic aid. I said earlier that we did not seem to apply anything like the same depth of examination to these problems of economic aid and assistance as we do to the problems of defence. At a time when it seems that Australia’s defence expenditure is in the melting pot - we are not quite sure any more what it is that we have to defend ourselves against - nevertheless we are still prepared to spend considerable sums. Of course, we all know that we spent a very large sum for a very fine centrepiece to our defence strength and strategy which we do not even have at the moment. That is, of course, the Fill aircraft.
I suggest that when one looks at the residue of Australia’s defence preparations this will be seen in more detail when the Budget debate gets under way - it will be seen that this country is left with an arch that has no centre piece. But we are still prepared to go ahead and spend huge sums of money for defence purposes. I am not sure what sort of equipment we will have for the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, but Australia is still committed to spend $1,1 00m, which is slightly less than for last year because the Government cannot find any extravaganza in the defence field overseas. In the meantime the Government is prepared to be niggardly about the amount to be spent on economic assistance.
I am pleased to see that there are members of the Australian Country Party present in the House this evening because I want to quote from a book which I think should have been carefully studied by members of that Party and by those who direct the rural policy of Australia. This book is available in the Library to honourable members but I am sad to say that, although I have read this book outside the Library, according to the tab in the Library there has been only one borrower of the book other than myself. This book is entitled Famine- 1975!’ and was written by two brothers named Paddock. One of the authors was an agronomist with the Government of the United States of America, and the other one served with the external affairs department of that country. Oddly enough, the book contains some reference to Australia. The thesis of the book, if one might put it that way, is that it is the belief of the authors that by 1975 there will almost inevitably be famine in places such as Africa, India and Latin America. We have heard a lot about famine and drought in this House in the last few days, but whilst the people concerned may suffer economic loses the only deaths that occur in Australia as a result of famine are those of hundreds of thousands of sheep and tens of thousands of cattle. The sort of famine that can occur in 1975 may mean the death not of sheep and cattle but of millions of human beings.
The authors of this book in outlining the only feasible solution to the problems of such a famine, mention that the only countries that have disposable surpluses of grain are the United States of America, Canada, Argentina and Australia.
It is ironic that since this book was written in circumstances have changed somewhat as between Argentina and Australia. When this book was written in 1966 the authors were using 1965 statistics. At that time Australia did not feature as a country likely to have grain surpluses by 1975. This is what is written at page 130 of this book:
There are three reasons why Canada, Australia and Argentina will be of little help:
The above-mentioned unlikelihood of major wheat increases in them.
At least that circumstance has changed. I suggest that the words in (b) should be studied by members of the Country Party, and by the Minister for Primary Industry who is responsible politically for the wheat situation.
The reference is to Canada, Australia and the Argentine - are so closely tied to their agricultural exports that they cannot afford generosity on the American scale, that is, to the degree which the coming years will demand.
I presume that a ton is equal to about 35 bushels. On the next page the authors write rather cynically:
My advice to investors looking for a good return on their money is to put it into wheat land in Canada and Australia. It’s a sure thing.
This shows how quickly economic circumstances can change in the world in which we live. Unfortunately, however, the disparities between the rich and the poor parts of the world do not change. They certainly do not change vastly. If we are properly to face the prospect of a surplus of grain on a commercial basis, surely we ought to be commencing to break through to our citizenry that there is a moral sort of obligation, that perhaps what does not appear to be needed today on a commercial basis may be required in a year or two to save human lives. Surely this is one reason why we ought to act a little more seriously in building storage for wheat.
If the matter is to be viewed only on a commercial basis, that is fair enough, but in that event quota rationing should be applied in Australia because, in commercial terms only, there are not many buyers of our wheat I was interested to hear my colleague the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) this afternoon suggest that we may be able to grow more wheat We may have to change the types of wheat, and grow it for feedstock purposes rather than for human consumption. I do not want to go into those arguments tonight. Perhaps I am not competent to adjudicate upon them.
The fearful part of the writings of the Paddock brothers is their suggestion that if this sort of thing is not done the only countries that will be able to help are Australia, Canada, Argentine and the United States. It will be necessary to face what my medical friend the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) would call triage, a term in military medicine. It covers a situation where some people are not worth saving because they are nearly dead; some people can get up and walk away; some people may be treated. The Paddock brothers suggest that unless there is a fundamental reappraisal by those countries with the ability to provide food, and I suggest also a desire or a need to store it, a decision will have to be made. The authors suggest that it might be possible to save Brazil but not Central America; Central America but not Brazil; Nigeria but not the rest of West Africa, and so on. They go on to list the countries that they suggest would be worth saving. The criterion in determining whether a country should be saved is whether you like its politics. I submit that this event need not happen, but it will happen if we continue to take the same sort of attitude to these problems that we have taken in the past. If the Minister comes back and says: ‘Yes, I am in favour of disarmament. I realise that the large amounts of money that we spend on defence could be spent somewhere else but we are not the ones who should begin,’ I ask: What can Australia do in the place which it holds in the world today in terms of these large amounts of expenditure? What, other than for good, can it do to affect the internal circumstance of any country on an economic basis?
Surely the lesson of Vietnam ought to be that no matter what might be the military power of anybody from outside, in conditions of economic deterioration inside a country nobody can foretell what the political consequences will be. I suggest that it is time that we started to build up this moral rather than political sort of approach to these people. Somebody said that the thing is aimed at the heart of our electorates, but it is aimed at our own hearts - at our sense of human decency.
No man anywhere in the world is better than anybody else but any man in Australia has a better chance than most people in other parts of the world - certainly in those parts near to Australia. Surely in the name of humanity these things ought to be done. I do not think it is preaching to mention this sort of thing in a national Parliament. We have had Ministers for External Affairs coming back year after year with the same dismal reportings and urgings about what can be done to remove the disparities. But instead of the disparities being removed they are becoming greater. As a great leader of the Labor movement in New Zealand said, poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Killen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I would like to raise a matter which I believe is of extreme importance in that it affects the rights, freedom of movement and independence of movement of members of this Parliament. At least to some extent, as a result of something which was said in this House by a Minister last night, one has some reservations whether one can enjoy the full freedom which one should be entitled to expect in one’s movements about this House. Last night the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) made three statements. They were positive statements and quite definite statements in which he indicated that a Public Service employee on the staff of the House of Representatives had been the source of information provided to him and to the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) on the alleged movements of several members of the House of Representatives. On the basis of this information the Minister for Air, according to the Minister for Social Services, and the Minister for Social Services as far back as the early part of this decade launched an attack on those several members of the Opposition.
Of course honourable members will have a clear recollection that there has been a continuous chain of attacks of this type on members of the Opposition. It seems not unreasonable to suspect that if there is any substance in the claim by the Minister for Social Services that his information came from an employee on the House of Representatives staff, he continued to obtain this information, if not from the same employee then perhaps from other employees.
– Order! I interpose at this stage to inform the honourable member, if he does not already know, that Mr Tompsitt is a former employee of this House, lt is many years since he left the employment of this House. He left long before my time as Speaker.
– I accept that point, Mr Speaker. I said ‘an employee of the House’. I did not specify when he was an employee. What concerns me in this instance is that the Minister referred to an employee of the House. Many attacks have been made on Opposition members in this House by that Minister, not without some support from some members on the Government side. As a result of this statement by the Minister one has some concern that perhaps there is a continuous relationship between the people who make the attacks and possibly some members of the staff of the House. As I have said, he made three statements. The first is recorded on page 230 of Hansard and it relates to alleged meetings between some members of the Opposition and some members of the Russian Embassy. The Minister said:
These meetings were noticed by one of the attendants in this building, a Mr Tompsitt, to whom I have spoken on the telephone tonight. He was so disturbed by these meetings that he mentioned the matter to the present Minister for Air (Mr Erwin), who was then a backbencher.
A little later on the same page the Minister for Social Services said:
These meetings occurred fairly continually and fairly frequently - so frequently, indeed, that one of the attendants mentioned the matter.
On page 23 1 of Hansard the Minister made the third statement to which I have referred. It appears as follows:
I have only repeated what I was told over the telephone when I checked up on these matters tonight.
The Minister made three separate and definite admissions that a former employee of the House of Representatives who allegedly had seen these events occur was the source of this information for himself and for the Minister for Air. It is a frightful state of affairs if members of the House of Representatives, whether on this side of the chamber or on that side, have to be fearful that their movements about the House are under surveillance by one or other members of the staff of the House and are subject to report to particular people who will try to use, distort and misuse this kind of evidence. It seems to me that this is quite wrong and, in any event, quite illegal. Apart from being illegal on the part of such employees on the staff, it certainly seems that it would be illegal on the part of any member of the House of Representatives to seek this information from a member of the staff, and it would be illegal for him to obtain such information.
I am raising this matter tonight to ask you, Mr Speaker, whether you would conduct an inquiry to ascertain whether the laws, regulations or conditions of employment covering public servants employed in this House have been transgressed by the particular employee concerned if in fact there is any substance in the Minister’s allegation. I direct your attention to section 70 of the Crimes Act which provides:
Any person who, being a Commonwealth officer, publishes or communicates any fact which comes to his knowledge by virtue of his office, and which it is his duty to keep secret, or any document which comes to his possession by virtue of his office, and which it is his duty to keep secret, except to some person to whom he is authorised to publish or communicate it, shall be guilty of an offence.
The penalty is imprisonment for 2 years. In your inquiry, Mr Speaker, will you try to establish whether there has been an offence against this section of the Crimes Act and, if so, whether any action would be appropriate. I understand that when people are engaged by the Public Service they have to sign a form - I have a copy of it and it covers some employees in this building - in which sections 70 and 72 of the Crimes Act are clearly stated to indicate the responsibilities and obligations of a member of the Public Service. Regulation 21 of the Public Service (Parliamentary Officers) Regulations provides:
– An officer shall -
Quite clearly, if any public servant employed in this building is observing and noting the details of movements of members of the House of Representatives about this building, he is going beyond an exclusive application of his efforts to the discharge of bis public duties. I would suggest that this is another section which you could look at. This matter is altogether too serious to be brushed off. There is a strong suspicion among some members of this House that their movements have been kept under surveillance from time to time. -Some members even suspect that, by some method or other, contact is maintained with the security service so that some sort of tabs are kept on some members of the House of Representatives. -
Frankly, I think that this is largely hypothetical. But what concerns me is that the suspicion should be aroused and fostered because of the behaviour of certain allegedly responsible senior members of the Government. That is why I do urge you to investigate this matter in order to see whether any Acts, regulations or conditions under which employees of this House have been employed have been transgressed. I strongly suspect that when the details of the way in which this Minister obtained his information are released a different complexion will be put upon the report; but until this occurs I suggest that there is a duty incumbent upon you, Mr Speaker, to carry out this investigation and to advise this House of your findings.
The situation in this House has not been an altogether happy one. There have been instances in which confidential documents have been misappropriated from the rooms of some members of the Opposition. When one adds this sort of ingredient to the general background which has been thrown up, not by me or other members of the Opposition but by the statement of the Minister for Social Services in this House last night - he went to the unpardonable extreme of naming the source of his information - it is clear that some investigation should be made. The Minister for Social Services is the man responsible for my concern in raising this subject. Members should be free to move around in this House.
Incidentally, I believe that the great majority of employees in this House are decent, responsible people. All of those whom I have met would fit into this category, but I have not met all of them. 1 want to kill this story by the Minister for Social Services or, if in fact the Minister is telling the truth, then I want to see that appropriate action is taken. If we are to be subjected to surveillance and reports through some sort of spy network operated unofficially by some members of the Government, then some members in this House will be severely embarrassed, as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) can well attest, in their movements and activities about the House. This would be grossly unfair and undesirable in this House of Parliament.
– What I have to say concerns the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) personally. I told him 1 was going to speak here tonight, and I understood him to indicate that he would come into the House. Of course, he may come in very shortly. I had intended to speak on the same subject last night, but when the motion for the adjournment of the House was put, the honourable member for Dawson was not in the House, so I did not speak. But 1 said that 1 would definitely speak tonight.
What 1 want to say I will say in the kindliest possible manner. I cannot very well let the matter pass, for one or two reasons. 1 refer to what was said during the debate on the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill in this House on 28th May, which is quite a while ago. It was about the time when the House was to rise. The House rose next day and I. had no opportunity to speak on the subject to which I wish to refer now, although later in the same debate I did make a speech which took up 5 pages in Hansard.
I did not regard the matter to which I. am about to refer very seriously at that time. But only a few days ago someone said to me: ‘You know, if something appears in the newspapers or in Hansard which is not answered we have to take it as being true’. This made me think. I then decided that I. would speak to the honourable member, which I did. I told him that if he would care to rise and explain his derogatory remarks about me on two occasions I would be quite happy. 1 thought perhaps he had made a mistake. He said: ‘I will in connection with the second one, but I will not in connection with the first one’. I am waiting for him to come in, so I am wasting a bit of time. I indicated very clearly that I would speak tonight. He indicated to me that he would come in. I suppose, as time is moving on, I should not wait too long. I now turn to page 2351 of Hansard of 28th May. The first statement to which I wish to refer is not of great importance, although it is completely false, as is the second statement. The honourable member for Dawson said:
I do not wish to canvass the quaint ideas of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) who is now interjecting. He interjects a lot but rarely does he speak in this Parliament on roads.
Later on he said:
Honourable members will see in this debate whether he speaks. He rarely ever speaks on roads in this Parliament.
That is not of great import, but 1 had a look through Hansard and I have taken out a list of the times I have spoken in this House on roads. I know he is just a new member, so he has not many years experience on which to base his statement. To bring him up to date, my list shows that in 1968, when he was a member, I spoke six times.
– Will somebody move that the list be incorporated in Hansard?
– Order! 1 remind the honourable member for Reid that earlier in the night he was heard in silence and I suggest that he refrain from interjecting.
-I am supporting him.
– I am sure that the honourable member for Mallee does not require the assistance of any other honourable member.
– With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate the following list in Hansard:
It has been proved very definitely that the honourable member’s first statement is completely false. I thought he might have come in and said:’I did not know this’. Then I would have been quite happy. But this is only part of the story. He went on to say something to which I took very serious exception. He was quoting quite a lot in this debate. It was getting rather tiresome and I said:
Get on with it.
He appeared to lose all control then. I say in a kindly way to the honourable member for Dawson that one of the most valuable lessons he can learn in this House is that the best victory is the victory of self control. If one cannot control oneself one gets into all kinds of trouble. He said:
If the honourable member wants to talk let him get up and talk; he is incapable of speaking. Me sits there with a grin on his face. Just look at it.
– The honourable member is getting nasty now.
– I am not being nasty in any way at all; I am as kind as 1 can be. I have proved very definitely, by incorporating in Hansard a list of about fortysix speeches and questions, that 1 do speak in the House. Mr Speaker, I wish to ask the honourable member for Dawson what he thought made me incapable of speaking on that occasion. Did he think that I was ill? Was I too ill to stand? Later on in the debate I made a speech which is recorded on five pages of Hansard. It is generally thought by people throughout the country - even by the police - that if somebody is incapable of speaking he is intoxicated. That remark may cause honourable members to laugh. I know that no honourable member in this House would think that I was intoxicated. But it should not be forgotten that Hansard is read by a lot of people who do not know the individual members of Parliament. Everybody in this House knows that I am a teetotaller, but the people outside do not. Therefore, I do not think that the honourable member for Dawson should have used such a method to gain some paltry political advantage over me. I have always extended the very best of goodwill to the honourable member and I will continue to do so, but I do not think that I am going too far in asking him to rise and say that on both counts he was wrong and that what he said was false. Perhaps he did not know the full circumstances and must be forgiven because of that. But at least he should do something to retract the statements that he made on that occasion.
– I rise to support the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) concerning the rather serious allegation that was made in this chamber yesterday by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that a member of the staff of the Parliament had been acting as a spy against-
-Order! I pointed out to the honourable member for Oxley that the person to whom the honourable member for Hindmarsh is referring is not now a member of the staff of the Parliament. He left the employment of the Department of the House of Representatives some years ago.
– He was employed here and while he was employed in the Parliament he acted as a spy against members of this House and conveyed information which came his way concerning the activities - perhaps even the conversations - of members of the Parliament to other honourable members, to Ministers and I have no doubt to the secret police as well. If this happened 3, 4 or 5 years ago when the gentleman mentioned by the Minister for Social Services was employed here and this person was allowed to do it without his actions being reported to you, Mr Speaker, or to the President of the Senate, then the person to whom this gentleman made his report on the actions, movements and conversations of members of the Parliament was recreant to his duty. Sir, you are in charge of this chamber. You and the President of the Senate are jointly in charge of both Houses of the Parliament. All persons employed in this building are answerable to ‘either yourself or the President, or to both of you, and to no-one else. Any person employed by the Houses of the Parliament is committing a most serious breach of his duties and a most serious offence against the Parliament if he conveys to anybody other than yourself and the President information which comes to him. It is doubtful whether he would have the right to convey such information to you, Sir, but I concede that in certain circumstances of gross misbehaviour - and only in such circumstances - on the part of a member of the Parliament he may be entitled to convey to you information about what a member had done.
To convey to anybody inside or outside this Parliament information concerning the movements and conversations of a member of Parliament, or information concerning the people met by a member of Parliament in this place, is something which should not be tolerated. What a hopeless position members of the Parliament from either side would be placed in if this sort of thing were tolerated. This insidious thing could operate just as strongly against people in government as it could against those in opposition. It is just as easy for a messenger to go to a member of the Opposition and secretly convey information to him concerning the behaviour of Ministers or of private members as it is for the reverse to happen.
Every member of this Parliament has a responsibility to protect his right to move freely in this place, to meet freely whomever he wishes to meet, to hold discussions with any person who wishes to come to this Parliament, and to do these things without the risk of being overheard and of the conversations being passed to the other side. One does not have to be in government or in opposition to become the victim of this kind of insidious behaviour, lt is true that the senior public servants can give only to the Ministers the information which is at their disposal. But whether one is in government or out of government no Minister and no private member has protection if for one second a messenger can go to the other side and say that such-and-such a member - naming him - today met so-and-so and soandso or ‘T heard somebody in the toilet say such-and-such’. This has been an old racket. I knew of a person who boasted - 1 am not saying which party he belonged to because this is not the purpose of my exercise tonight - that he sat on the toilet for 21 hours to listen to the conversations of other people. If a member has nothing more to do than to sit on the toilet for 2i hours, that is his business. However, I object to messengers using their time to listen to conversations and to pass on the information so gleaned to members who sit on the side of the House opposite to the members from whom they obtain that information.
Imagine what would happen if the cleaners in Parliament House, who go to a Liberal member’s office to clean papers and letters out of the waste paper basket, then move to an office occupied by a Country Party member, and so on up and down the corridor, visiting 10 or 20 members’ offices gathering up scraps of paper, letters and all kinds of information, were able to pass on that information to somebody who could use it against other honourable members in this House. How could we tolerate such conduct on the part of barmen who stand behind the bar, pretending not to listen to the perfectly harmless conversation of groups of Liberal Party members standing together discussing Liberal Party business in a perfectly legitimate way and the conversation of groups of Labor men further down the bar discussing Labor Party business in a perfectly legitimate manner? Having listened to both sides, after the groups had dispersed they could call someone aside and say: T heard so-and-so say this or that’. The information could then be used in this place or anywhere else against the person concerned.
Honourable members should not say that this does not happen. What an intolerable position it would be if the waitresses were free to repeat conversations they inadvertently hear while waiting on tables occupied by members of Parliament. How intolerable it would be if they were free to tell members of Parliament, Ministers, newspaper reporters or anybody else, what they hear. What an intolerable position it would be if the telephonist who takes every call put through the main exchange were able lo convey to some person other than the person making the call the telephone number, the duration of the call, the number of times the call was made, the name of the person called and, perhaps, in some circumstances what was said. What an intolerable position this would be.
Are we going to allow it? When I say we’, 1 mean members of the Liberal Party, members of the Australian Country Party and members of the Australian Labor Party. Are they going to allow this sort of thing vo continue? All of us are in the same position. Then there is the Library staff. What an intolerable position it would be if the Library staff were free to tell any member the kind of information which another member had obtained for use in a debate. What an intolerable position it would be if the Library staff were to allow members to see the list of books or the newspaper clippings which other members had asked for.
Mr Speaker, this is a serious complaint, and 1 know that you will take it seriously. You have been a good Speaker of this Parliament. Every honourable member, including my friends who find it amusing for me to say this, agree that you have been a good Speaker. You have, to ray knowledge, tried to be impartial to both sides. Now you have an opportunity to do something about this matter, and I know that you will not evade your obligations or attempt to put them aside. You have a duty to protect us all now and to see that never again will any employee in this place be in a position where he will be able to commit the kind of offence which was quite evidently committed on the say so of none other than a Minister of the Crown - giving information to one member about the movements of other members. I wish that I had more time to deal with other aspects, but I think I have said enough to impress this matter upon you because, after all, you are the man who will have to carry it through. You are the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Parliament, and I hope - I do so confidently - that you will see that our rights are protected.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I apologise to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) for not being present when he commenced his speech on the adjournment debate, but I was otherwise engaged. I am not quite certain what he said in the first few minutes of his speech, but yesterday, I think it was, he did see me regarding a speech which I made in this Parliament on 28th May this year. I must admit that I had to try to reflect back to what I had said and the circumstances under which I said it. I must admit that I am still a little hazy about it.
– Why are you hazy about it?
– The honourable member for Boothby is always hazy at this time of night. The honourable member for Mallee remembers the incident quite well - apparently from Hansard. Whilst I was speaking the honourable member for Mallee must have been interjecting at some length. I thought that it was against the Standing Orders to interject, and the honourable gentleman is a great custodian in upholding the Standing Orders. Apparently referring to the honourable member for Mallee, I said:
He interjects a lot but rarely does he speak in this Parliament on roads.
The honourable member interjected and said:
I speak more ‘than any other man in this House.
If he speaks more than any other man in this House -
– On roads.
– You did not say ‘on roads’.
-Order! I suggest to the two honourable members that they address the Chair and cut out private conversations.
– If, in fact, the honourable member for Mallee speaks more on roads than any other member in this Parliament, then he is to be congratulated, but I have doubts whether that is a factual statement. The honourable member has referred to a table. He has not given any proof that he speaks more on roads than any other member in this House. That is what he said.
– The honourable member says that, but he had better not be proved wrong. If he thinks that this is an important matter, I certainly do not. I believe that the other question which he raised, and his remarks on which I heard in full, is a serious matter. In the middle of a statement which I was reading from the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, a voice, which was attributed to the honourable member for Mallee, suddenly out of the blue said:
Get on with it.
The right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) is not present He knows that I am a great lover of birds including parrots. I keep parrots. I have one that talks. By a strange coincidence, the King Parrot that I have speaks words similar to those used by the honourable member for Mallee, only it says: ‘Come off it! Come off it!’ In the middle of my quotation, these words suddenly come out of the blue: ‘Get on with it’ Well, I must say that I was a little unnerved. My reply, having been interrupted in the middle of my quotation, was:
If the honourable member wants to talk let him get up and talk; he is incapable of speaking. He sits there with a grin on his face.
Because I said that the honourable member was incapable of speaking and that he was sitting there with a grin on his face, a constituent of his or some constituents of his apparently think that he was drunk.
– I did not say that
-Order! The honourable member for Dawson shall not by any implication use that word. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I forget the words that the honourable member for Mallee used, but they meant the same thing. If by any stretch of the imagination because somebody sits here with a grin on his face he is under grave suspicion of being under the weather, all I can say is that none of us will dare grin in this House again. If that is the type of constituent that the honourable member for Mallee has, my goodness, I do not know what to think. I say this seriously: If the honourable member for Mallee honestly believes that because he sits there with a grin on his face his constituent will think that he is incapable of speaking because he is - what was the word I used?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member does not repeat it.
– 1 apologise to you, Sir, explicitly.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to say a few words on the matter that has been raised by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) apart from being an outstanding member of this Parliament and a real thora in the side of the Austalian Country Party is an extremely modest man. I feel that, tonight, under the guise of claiming to have been misrepresented and of endeavouring to convey the impression that the honourable member for Dawson had offended him, the honourable member for Mallee has engaged in a bitter premeditated attack on the honourable member for Dawson in an endeavour to destroy his integrity.
Motion (by Mr Lucock) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
How many officers of (a) the Department of Trade and Industry, other than Mr J. F. O’Brien; and (b) the Department of Customs and Excise, other than Mr G. C. Hoffmann, have been investigated by the Commonwealth Police in the last two years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 am informed that in the two years prior to 20th March 1969-
Northern Territory: Tertiary and Technical Education (Question No. 1363)
asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
What (a) tertiary and (b) technical education is (i) available or (ii) proposed in the Northern Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia, the Education Department of that State provides apprenticeship and adult education courses and tutorial guidance for tertiary courses through the Adult Education Centre in Darwin.
Arts, Commerce and Economics, Law and Education to Northern Territory students. The Commonwealth makes a direct grant of $5,000 to the University for this service and reimburses Northern Territory students $13 per subject per term, the reimbursement for third term being paid after the student sits for final examinations. Currently between 30 and 40 students are participating in this scheme. The Adult Education Centre in Darwin provides tutorial services and each year a group of lecturers from the University visits the Territory to work with students.
Northern Territory students also undertake courses with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Western Australian Institute of Technology and the University of London. Arrangements are made for certain students from the University of Western Australia to complete their studies externally. Teachers located in the Northern Territory may undertake some subjects with Teachers’ Colleges in South Australia.
The Adult Education Centre in Darwin provides tutorial guidance as required in all these courses.
A planning Committee for this institution, tentatively called the Darwin Community College, is about to be established comprising representatives of the Northern Territory community, educational authorities and government departments. This Committee will make recommendations to me on the courses to be provided, the buildings needed and the siting of buildings.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
In what circumstances do the Commonwealth Police consult with the Minister or Permanent Head before commencing investigations in a Department.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
If the matter is one which appears to affect the interests of a Department, there will normally be consultations with the Permanent Head of that Department before investigations are commenced.
Teachers Colleges: Places Provided under Commonwealth Grants (Question No. 1482)
asked the Minister for Edu cation and Science, upon notice -
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Appeals to High Court from Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court (Question No. 1582)
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
On how many days of each of the past 5 years have sittings of the High Court been held.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figures given do not include business conducted in chambers at the various Registries, which in the course of a year may be considerable, particularly as in most cases applications for prerogative writs are dealt with in the first place in chambers.
Royal Australian Navy (Question No. 1618)
asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All States and the Commonwealth will participate.
The terms of reference are - “In respect of all levels of education up to the completion of secondary schooling and in respect of teacher education, the surveys will:
Examine the needs of the State in such matters as:
The surveys will have regard to standards of provision required for high quality education suited to modern education systems.”
Each State will conduct a survey of its own educational needs in these areas for a5-year period. Inter-State consultation will ensure a reasonable degree of uniformity in aims and standards.
It is hoped that a substantial report on the progress of the survey will be made at the next meeting of the Australian Education Council early in 1970.
The Secretariat of the Council will collate the results of the separate surveys, assess the total requirements for educational expenditure in Australia and relate this requirement to national resources. The whole will eventually be presented to the Council to consider the findings with a view to formulating a nation-wide plan for the fulfilment of educational needs in accordance with priorities determined by the States.
As the financial resources at present available to the States are not sufficient to meet the needs that would be revealed by the survey, a joint approach would be made to the Commonwealth Government for additional financial assistance for education in these areas.
Mrs Steele said that at the request of the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science it was intended to invite the Catholic and independent schools to conduct their own survey on similar lines as a separate exercise.’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690814_reps_26_hor64/>.