27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr LES JOHNSON presented from certain citiens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inequalities; (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvements come from the National Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of preschool opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Industry recall informing the House that he had first put proposals for an industry development corporation to the Cabinet in 1966 and 1967? On 14th May last year he said that the proposal was in a state of suspended animation. Can he now inform the House of the factors or arguments which have operated in Cabinet since May 1969 to bring about a remarkable change which apparently has now led to the decision to establish this corporation? Are the reports justified that indicate that this is simply a token given to the Minister by the Prime Minister as a mark of their victory over the former Treasurer, who is now the Minister for External Affairs?
-Order! The honourable member is now out of order in referring to those matters.
– Can the Minister guarantee that when the corporation is established it will have substance and will not be dominated by private financial interests so that the corporation will still be in operation by the time a Labor government comes into office and will be able to be used by a Labor government?
-Order! The honourable member is now making comments.
– If the honourable gentleman will have patience all will be revealed to him.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Has his attention been drawn to the attacks made by the Leader of the Opposition on the integrity of the courts in New Guinea and alleging racial discrimination? In particular, will he examine incidents-
– I rise to order. I submit that such a question is out of order. The Standing Orders say that questions shall not contain statements of fact unless they can be authenticated. The matters which the honourable member purports to state cannot be authenticated. They are not authentic.
-Order! The honourable member may not debate the matter.
– On the point of order, Mr Speaker, I would draw to your attention the fact that the magistrate at Rabaul has seen fit to issue a long statement which 1 would have regarded in some degree as authentication.
– On the point made by the Prime Minister I would like to say that the learned magistrate concerned sent mc a copy of his statement, and it does not authenticate what the honourable member said.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition may not debate the matter. The question now rests with the honourable member for Evans. Can he vouch for the accuracy of the report?
-I can vouch for the accuracy of what I am saying.
– In that case the honourable member may. proceed with his question.
– In particular, will the Minister examine incidents in Rabaul on 8th January last which led the senior magistrate to defend his course publicly against statements arising out of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition? Finally, will he advise on the propriety of a visiting politician wrongly alleging homicide against a young Australian whom he knew to be on bail and about to stand trial before the Supreme Court?
– My attention has been drawn to certain newspaper reports of remarks attributed to the Leader of the Opposition while he was in New Guinea. I commence my substantive answer by saying first that justice is not and never should be a cloistered virtue. The processes of the law should always be subject to legitimate criticism; but a dividing line has to be drawn between legitimate criticism and criticism that passes the boundaries of what is legitimate. If the remarks attributed in these reports to the Leader of the Opposition were in fact made by him I would have no hesitation in characterising those remarks as far beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism of the courts in New Guinea. If, as was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 12th January 1970, the honourable gentleman said that there was a policy of ‘glaring race discrimination in law in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea’ I say for my part that I know of no warrant for such a charge and that such a charge is utterly mischievous as well as being untrue.
– Gaol sentences for natives on assault charges but admonishments for Europeans are scarcely anything but racial discrimination.
– Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– If the honourable member for Oxley will contain his restless spirit in patience I will come to that matter. It was reported in the Papua and New Guinea Post Courier’ of 9th January 1970 that the Leader of the Opposition made a comparison between two cases tried in Rabaul. One, which had not been tried at the time the remarks were allegedly made, related to a European patrol officer charged with an offence of accidentally wounding a native boy. If the honourable gentleman used a comparison of that case with a case involving some indigenous inhabitants who had been charged with violence as a basis for saying that a difference in treatment between the two cases represented discrimination, all I can say is that the remarks of the senior magistrate in Rabaul are a complete refutation of the charge of discrimination made by the honourable gentleman.
– Have you seen his statement?
– Yes,I have.
– Well, table it.
– I would imagine that on reflection the honourable gentleman, if he had his time over again, would think before making such unfounded and untrue allegations. Allegations of this kind are all the more apt to be mischievous when they are made about the administration of justice in an emerging nation - a nation we all want to see emerge to independence and full nationhood. The people in such a country as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are, one would perhaps take leave to say, quite erroneously inclined to attach great weight to utterances made by a gentleman occupying the position of the Leader of the Opposition, particularly when that gentleman is a lawyer and one of Her Majesty’s counsel. The fact of the honourable gentleman’s position accentuates the mischievousness of the remarks attributed to him, if they were made by him as reported. The magistrate in Rabaul has repelled the allegation and I for one would very much prefer to accept the magistrate’s refutation of the remarks attributed to the Leader of the Opposition. I table the document asked for by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! Do you want to have this printed?
– In the course of the answer by the Attorney-General to the question, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Attorney-General might table the document. Consequently it has been tabled.
– Is somebody moving that it be noted? 1 want to speak to it.
– It is just being tabled.
– Mr Speaker, is there a motion that the House take note of the paper?
– There is no motion before the Chair at this stage.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been directed to a report in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ on 27th February concerning the death of an 8-year-old boy while using a snorkel when swimming in 3 feet of water? Was this death due, as is claimed, to a build up of carbon dioxide in the snorkel, which was fitted with a ping pong ball valve? I was informed of this matter in a letter from one of my constitutents, an’ 8-year-old schoolboy. I also ask whether anything can Tie done to protect all children like him from purchasing potentially lethal snorkels of this design.
– The honourable member brought this matter to my attention personally and explained some aspects to me when he did so. I think the ping pong ball valve was associated with a much longer snorkel tube than is usual and this tended in the case of a small child for the child to be breathing the same air over and over again and thus affected by carbon dioxide. It is claimed that one child has died as a result of this. These kinds of snorkels are on sale in a number of sports stores. I am further informed, Mr Speaker, that the Professional Divers Association has warned against the danger of this kind of snorkel. I think this fact should be made known to parents in case there is such danger as is claimed. I will talk to the Minister for Health about this matter and see whether he can get some report, some expression of opinion, from the Professional Divers Association, from physiologists or whichever kind of medical practitioners would be interested in this subject, so that perhaps something more finite could be made known to those parents who may be worried about the safety of their children.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, relates to the proposed standardisation of the rail system between Port Pirie and Adelaide. Can the Minister tell me when the consultants’ report can be expected? Can he assure me that the future of the line between Gladstone and Wilmington and, perhaps, Quorn, will be taken into consideration by the consultants?
– I know that the honourable member for Wakefield has a very close interest in this new line. I understand that the report from the consultants will be availsable to the South Australian and Commonwealth Governments later this week. The contents of that report are not known to me but it is true that several branch lines as well as the principal connection between Port Pirie and Adelaide are covered by the reference to the consultants. As to any particular routes which may be covered, this will have to wait for determination by the consultants and by the Governments after consideration of the report. J can assure the honourable member that it is the intention of this Government, in line with the undertaking given by the Prime Minister, to consider the report of the consultants at the earliest possible opportunity and to proceed with the construction of the line as soon as is reasonably possible.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question on a matter for which he bears responsibility and about which presumably he has acquired some knowledge. Why is it that the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral has not released so far the text of the first interim report of Mr Justice Eggleston’s Company Law Advisory Committee although it has since released the full text of the second, third and fourth reports? As it was in its first report that the Committee recommended the establishment of a companies commission and gave the reasons and details for its proposals, will he arrange for this report to be released also?
– I am aware that the first report of the Eggleston Committee into company law has not been released. The decision concerning its non-release was taken before I assumed office. I may say that for my part I have not specifically considered the question of whether the time is now ripe for it to be released. I shall certainly have inquiries made into the matter and consider it for myself. I should say that as a matter of necessity I would have to consult with my fellow Attorneys in the States.
– All the other reports have been released since the Minister became Attorney-General.
– Yes, I appreciate that. I would ask the honourable gentleman to leave the matter wilh me and I will look into it with expedition.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he can inform the House of any progress being made on the proposal submitted by the Queensland and New South Wales Governments for a water conservation project known as the Border Rivers Project on the New South Wales-Queensland border.
– Recently, I met a deputation from the Local Government Border Rivers Project and we discussed this matter at some length. The deputation was introduced by my colleague, the honourable member for Maranoa. This project or series pf proposals has a relatively long history. I would hate to take up the time of the House in recounting this history at this stage. Suffice to say, Mr Speaker, after some years agreement was reached between the governments of Queensland and New South Wales and those governments have legislated for such an agreement. Subsequent to that, two firm proposals have emerged, one of which is up for consideration at the moment and is supported jointly by the two State governments. It had been submitted under the previous national water programme and is being considered now under the new national water programme announced by the Prime Minister only last October.
This scheme is a proposal for a large dam of about 200,000 acre feet to be constructed on Pike Creek which is a tributary of the Dumaresq River, one of the four border rivers. The proposal is for the cost of this dam to be met jointly by the three governments. The cost of it would be approximately, I think, SI 4m. This proposal, now coming under the new national water scheme, is being examined at present as a matter of urgency by the Commonwealth. I hesitate at this time to indicate what the final decision of the Government will be. But I can assure the House that we would anticipate the proposal coming forward for consideration by the Government during the next few months.
– I wish to direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister given recent consideration, and, if so, what is his attitude, to the proposal that the Postmaster-General’s Department, as a business undertaking, should be placed on a business footing by converting it to a corporation, thereby removing its staff from Public Service Board control, keeping in mind that this would remove also a great deal of the industrial unrest in that Department?
– Consideration has been given by the Government from time to time to changing the Post Office to a statutory corporation. I think that the honourable member is making an assumption when he says that it would take operations in relation to the staff from the control of the Public Service Board. There are many statutory corporations for which the Public Service Board has just as much responsibility as it has for departmental public servants.
I think that it has not been proven that to create a statutory corporation would make the Post Office any more effective than it is at the present time. I know that there has been a move in this direction oversea. America is moving in that way. But honourable members should be reminded that the American Post Office looks after postal services only. When I was in the United States 3 years ago, the loss on the postal service there was S J, 800m in that year. That sort of loss is not to be compared with the situation in the Australian Post Office. While generally a small loss has been incurred in relation to postal services, this loss has been more than offset by the profit made in the telecommunications section. I think that, until it can be shown positively that a statutory corporation is a more effective operation than the Post Office as part of the Public Service, the Government will not be prepared and is not prepared at this time to move in the direction indicated by the honourable member.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen the many letters in the daily Press from correspondents who, having heard modern hi-fidelity radio reception overseas free of noise and static, are now calling for the provision of frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia, strongly supported by the top executives of the Australian radio and electronics industries? For how much longer can listeners be denied the sound quality that is now heard only by the operators in the station control rooms before it is distorted in the course of reception? Will the Postmaster-General revive the plans of 1954 to establish frequency modulation transmitters at each national television station and so enable Australians to enjoy the latest overseas standards, including the advantages of stereo sound?
– The honourable member will know that 2 or 3 years ago I made a very full statement to the House about the provision of frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. This matter had been considered on a number of occasions. Recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have in fact been against the institution of this system in Australia for, I think, some very good reasons. First of all the Government is and has been involved in very substantial expenditure in the introduction of broadcasting and television in this country. There are still a number of areas of Australia which do not have either television or a satisfactory broadcasting transmission available to them. It is believed that our expenditure and our concentration of effort should be with a view to- providing satisfactory services in these areas where none now exists before we expand into other fields. But there is an additional problem, because while we get fidelity of sound with frequency modulation the area of coverage is very small. In the United States of America and Canada progress in this field has been so great that in the United States alone 5,000 stations have been established, but so prolific are these stations that it is almost impossible to tune to the station of one’s choice and obtain the result which might be hoped for by those in Australia who in recent times have been exerting pressure for the institution of frequency modulation in this country. This is a matter which the Broadcasting Control Board has under review on a more or less constant basis in conjunction with its considerations in other areas of broadcasting and television. From time to time the Board issues reports, which are considered by the Government.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Army a question. Has a committee been appointed to examine the administration of the Army and to make recommendations about reorganisation? If so, who are the members of the committee and what are its terms of reference?
– Details of this matter will be contained in the statement to be made by the Minister for Defence.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that substantial evidence exists that a controversial journalist, not long in Australia, actually interrogated allied prisoners of war during the Korean campaign and that this evidence is available from Malaysian Government monitoring records? In view of this evidence and the statements made by certain well respected Australian prisoners of war in Korea, including a journalist, will the Minister make the facts known so that the Leader of the Opposition may inform his supporters and friends on the Burchett passport committee of the nature of their activities?
– The information requested by the honourable gentleman was made known to the House by the Prime Minister yesterday. I can confirm-
– The Attorney-General said that he would do nothing about it.
– For reasons that ought to be well known to the Leader of the Opposition, based on law which he claims to have some knowledge of but obviously not a great deal. It is a well known fact that during the Korean campaign the gentleman referred to by the honourable member for Lilley acted as a propagandist in the enemy lines on behalf of Communist forces. It is also well known and was made plain yesterday by the Prime Minister that the gentleman concerned did interview Australian prisoners of war and interrogate them in a way that was designed to lower their morale and which could have affected their attitude to the war. It is also known that during the Panmunjon discussions he operated as an agent or as a propagandist for the North Korean and the Communist forces, and that he made false allegations about bacteriological warfare during the course of the Korean campaign. Now, these are, I believe, sufficient reasons to refuse a passport to the gentleman concerned. I also point out to the honourable member that of course this gentleman is now trying to vindicate his conduct during the Korean campaign and also his conduct during the South Vietnamese campaign. But this conduct cannot be vindicated; it can only be abhorred by every person who holds the good name and reputation of this country in esteem.
– Has the Attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to a ministerial statement by his predecessor published in his Department’s official ‘Industrial Information Bulletin’ in which the present Treasurer, commenting on the 1967 metal trades decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, said that the Commission had ‘disregarded the most elementary workings of the Australian labour market’; that it had fixed rates without any detailed examination’; that it bad side-stepped its responsibility, and that the issues were too vital for Australia’s economic development and future for him to remain silent. Does the Minister agree that his predecessor made a correct assessment of the manner in which the members of the Commission had, on that occasion, discharged their responsibilities of office? If so, does he believe that he acted correctly in refusing to remain silent in the face of the Commission’s disregard for relevant factors and its action in side-stepping its responsibility?
– 1 do recall my colleague making a statement of this kind. He had the responsibility of office at the time and discharged that responsibility of office as he saw fit. I do not quarrel with what he said. He discharged the responsibility according to his own light. But to carry the matter a stage further, the implication in the question is that because the Minister for Labour and National Service said that at that time one can conclude that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission took note of it and was in some way forced into following what the Government demands that it do. This was the basis of what the honourable member said yesterday. At that time he put it in the most intemperate language and made allegations against the Commission and the Government for which he had no warrant at all and I take this opportunity to deny those allegations completely. There is hardly any need for denial because the standing of the Commission, its independence and its judicial status go without the need of defence for anybody except somebody like the honourable member who is looking for a political vehicle. But another point should emerge, that is, that the Commission recently accepted all of the submissions made by Mr Hawke as an advocate for the unions. Are we therefore to say that Commission is a rubber stamp of the present President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? When Mr Commissioner Winter accepted the submissions of the unions in relation to equal pay in the metal trades industry, are we therefore to say that Mr Commissioner Winter was under the influence of the unions?
The fact of the matter is that unions - organised workers and organised employers - and the Government operate in a tripartite manner in industrial relations and before the Commission and. by statute, the Commonwealth should intervene on matters of public importance. That was never contested by the Opposition at any time, whether in government or in opposition. The Government pursues that course of intervention in that tripartite sense, and it is pointless to say that the Commission is under the influence of any of the three parties when it does what any of the three parties wants in a particular case. The fact is that all parties have to take the decisions of the independent judicial body as it gives them. To put it in the short term, they need to take the good with the bad and, after the decision is given, to honour the decision and apply it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the indifferent standard of coffee that is generally served in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms? Will he take steps to import quantities of Tolai grown coffee from Rabaul, recently praised so highly by the Leader of the Opposition when he was in that area?
– I think the question raised by the honourable member is full of interest, although I would not wish to upset the Joint House Committee by reflecting on the quality of the coffee served in the dining rooms. I did notice the high tribute paid by the Leader of the Opposition to the coffee grown by the Tolai in the Gazelle Peninsula, and noted it with very great interest, but I warn honourable members that it might be some time before such coffee would be available in the dining rooms here because, in spite of the tribute paid by the Leader of the Opposition, there is the slight technical difficulty that no such coffee is produced by the Tolai in the Gazelle Peninsula.
– The Minister for the Navy is no doubt aware that the United States Navy is using the hydrofoil with great success. Has the Minister given any consideration to equipping the Royal Australian Navy with this versatile craft?
– The short answer to the honourable gentleman is no. I would hope that probably next week my colleague the
Minister for Defence will make a statement dealing with the Government’s future defence programme. Future equipment for the Royal Australian Navy will be disclosed by my honourable friend on that occasion.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the official cars of Australian ambassadors and heads of missions overseas are mostly, if not all, of foreign make? Bearing in mind its importance to the national image overseas and the fact that suitable Australian cars are now available, will the Minister ensure that all cars in future provided for overseas missions, including those for ambassadors and heads of missions, are of distinctly Australian make?
– It is the policy of the Government and of my Department whenever it is thought to be reasonable and practicable to ensure that Australian cars are used in the missions and posts overseas. The only reservation is that if there are difficulties of maintaining the vehicles and of getting replacement parts, permission is given to purchase vehicles of overseas origin. So far as the heads of mission, ambassadors or High Commissioners are concerned, we have not insisted that that rule be observed. I do not think in these circumstances we should insist that they have vehicles manufactured in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to a report that President Nixon will shortly announce the withdrawal of further American forces from Vietnam? If so, will he give a definite undertaking to the House, in accordance with Government policy of going all the way with the USA’, that Australian troops will be brought home with a minimum of delay? If not, will he also state what justification, if any, there is for the risk of one more Australian life in Vietnam at a time when the Americans are evacuating?
– The Government has already reported to the Australian people that when a further substantial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam takes place - if it does take place - then at some stage during that withdrawal some Australian troops will be phased into it. On 16th December 1969 I reported to the Australian nation in these words, regarding this matter:
There is no timetable fixed covering at what stage any Australian reductions will be phased into the next United States withdrawal.
I had previously said that some troops would be phased in during the time of that substantial withdrawal. The situation remains now as it was then, and as it was stated to the Australian people then.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories a question. First, will he give the Mouse details of the steps which are being taken to acquire alienated land on the Gazelle Peninsula and restore it to Tolai ownership? Secondly, who is bearing the cost of this action? Thirdly, has his attention been drawn to statements made during the recent visit of the Leader of the Opposition comparing Australian stewardship unfavourably with that of the Germans? Is there any substance in these allegations?
– Yes, there have been very considerable steps taken in providing land for the local people of the Gazelle Peninsula. As no doubt most people realize there has been a great increase in population in that area. I think the population has increased by about 50% over the last 10 years. There are two stages in the process of providing land. First of all, the Development Bank has acquired two plantations in the Kokopo area amounting to about 1,600 acres. This land will be provided on a commercial basis to the people in that area. Provisions have been made by the New Guinea House of Assembly to enable the Bank to undertake this type of scheme.
The second area to be provided for local people comprises about 9,000 acres and this land is situated pretty well in the Gazelle Peninsula. Here again, this land was acquired some years ago by the Administration. I think that about 302 blocks will be provided for local people and the apportionment will be made by a land board on which there will be one expatriate and five local people. I might say that the Tolai people of the Gazelle Peninsula seem to be reluctant to move away from their traditional areas. Last year over 300 blocks were thrown open in the New Britain area at Cape Hoskins, which is not so many miles away. Unfortunately, only about 6 Tolais applied for these blocks. So it would appear that they are reluctant to move away from that area. As to the last part of the honourable member’s question dealing with the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition that our stewardship in New Guinea compared unfavourably with that of the Germans, or words to that effect, I would say, as I have said before on several occasions, that the Leader of the Opposition is prone to make some irresponsible and misleading statements. He has not substantiated this statement, and 1 would say that it is not true.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that in the scale of most common fees published in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’ of 7th February 1970 a prostatic resection operation in Tasmania is listed as attracting a. most common fee of $80 and that the fee for the same operation in Victoria is listed as J>2J0. In view of the excessive difference between the two charges will the Prime Minister give Victorians free air fares to Tasmania, which would save the Government §100 an operation, or will he ask his colleague the Minister for Health, when he returns, to examine this situation and explain to the House why there is a difference of nearly 300% between the two costs?
– I will be glad to draw this question to the notice of my colleague the Minister for Health and ask him either to confer with the honourable member or to advert to it in the House and give the House some further information on the difference in the costs concerning whatever that operation was.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented. I have read the Hansard report of the statements made during question time yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs and the honourable member for Cook. I was accused of ridiculing Australia’s overseas aid programme, of making quite inaccurate statements and of slurring the aid programme. What I was doing was stating some facts that I, as a parliamentarian, believed the Australian people should know. Mr Speaker, may I take up some of the misrepresentations?
– Yes, provided the honourable member does not debate the matter.
– I will not debate the matter. I do not have to. The Minister for External Affairs said that I had maintained that our grains assistance was of the order of 50% and that it happens to be 30%. I direct the Minister’s attention to a publication of his own Department, and might I suggest that he read some of these publications, particularly the first one I will mention, which I wrote. This official publication of the Department of External Affairs states that in 1967-68 Australia extended bilaterally approximately $17m in the form of food aid or other forms of commodity aid of an emergency nature. This type of aid now constitutes a major -
-Order! The honourable member is now going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. I would like the honourable member to condense his personal explanation and say where he has been misrepresented.
– I am quoting from an official document to substantiate a point.
– In making a personal explanation the honourable member is not allowed, under the Standing Orders, to debate the matter.
– I wish to make the point very quickly that the figure in 1967-68 was $17m and the figure for bilateral aid to South East Asia was $34m. Admittedly the Minister for External Affairs is no longer the Treasurer, but I take it that 17 over 34 equals 50% . I should like also to take up some further points. The Minister made some point of the fact that I was not a deputy high commissioner. Admittedly, he is very new to his portfolio and some of the nomenclature of diplomatic-
-Order! I have warned the honourable member already. If he persists I shall have to deal with him.
– The point I am making is that I was No. 2 in the Australian High Commission in Malaysia. I think that what is concerning the Minister for External Affairs and also the Minister for Defence is that on a number of occasions sensitive to the Australian Government I was No. 1.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that if he wishes to continue in this strain it might be better for him to ask the House for leave to make a statement. He is now going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– The Minister for External Affairs said yesterday: “He can contradict me if he wishes’. I ask the House for leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– How long is this statement going to be? I have no desire for any man who feels himself to have been misrepresented not to be able to get up in this House and say: ‘This was alleged against me and this is wrong’. Surely the honourable member ought to be able to do that in short compass rather than ask the House to give him leave to make a statement.
– Leave is not granted.
– I will continue with my personal explanation.
-If the honourable member continues I ask him to be brief, to come to the point and not to debate the question any further.
– As I understand the position, the Prime Minister acceded to the request by the honourable member to make a statement by leave.
– That is not the understanding of the Chair.
– He did not refuse leave.
– I see; so if you do not refuse it you have acceded to it?
– With due respect to your ruling, Mr Speaker, the honourable member has asked for leave to make a statement.
If he has leave to make the statement he should be able to make it in the way he feels it ought to be delivered.
– Order! The honourable member for St George has not leave to make a statement. He has the right to make a personal explanation, which is a matter for the Chair and not the House.
Motion (by Mr Barnard) proposed:
That the honourable member for St George have leave to make a statement.
– Order! The honourable member is out of order.
– If that is so. Mr Speaker, I move:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I shall resume my personal explanation. The allegation is that I was badly misinformed on the price of wheat sold to Communist China. The Minister has not given any evidence to refute my statement.
A further allegation is that the wheat sales were for humanitarian reasons.I had argued previously that they were to extricate the Government from its own scandalous mismanagement of the wheat industry. I adhere to that point and it is substantiated, Mr Speaker, by the observations of the Minister who said that he was approached on this humanitarian question by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen).
– Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented during question time by three honourable members and by three Ministers including the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), all on a new subject in this House - New Guinea. The third question was a maiden one by the new honourable member for
Warringah (Mr MacKellar). He based it on some remarks I was alleged to have made about the German as compared with the Australian administration of New Guinea. My only comments on this matter, Sir, were made on the 4th of last month at the annual council meeting of the National Union of Australian University Students at Melbourne University. This is what I said:
It is a chastening experience for an Australian to be told before 11,000 people by an 80-year- old New Guinean that the Germans were preferable to the Australians.
The New Guinean concerned had been educated and employed by the Germans as a didiman, a German term, which is retained in Pidgin, for an agricultural officer. That is the only reference I have ever made and it was a quotation.
The second question asked came from the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) alleging that 1 had paid tribute to the coffee grown in the Gazelle Peninsula. It is true, Sir, that coffee was grown there before the war. I pay tribute to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who has competence and interest in agricultural matters, that efforts are now being made to resuscitate the coffee industry in the Rabaul area, in the Gazelle area at Keravat. We do in fact already get New Guinea coffee in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. We have done so for years. We get it from the Highlands. It is not the Robusta coffee which is now being grown once again in the Gazelle; it is the Arabica coffe being grown in the Highlands. In Rabaul I paid tribute to the cocoa industry there. I said that the Tolai people could take pride in the fact that the Tolai cocoa project, until the recent council changes, was the largest fermentary project in the world, larger even than any in Ghana.
The first question was asked by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) who alleged - you, Sir, and I know the value of his allegations in such matters - that he could verify the accuracy of a newspaper report.
– It was a completely false statement. I heard the original statement.
– And so also, did the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
MrDobie - He has not commented.
– Vouching for a lie.
– The reports presumably stem from a meeting that the honourable members for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and Oxley and I had - the third such meeting - with the new council in the Gazelle Peninsula. It was attended by about 11 members of that council, all indigenes, and we had a full discussion on every matter which they raised. In answer to their question I did give, as an instance of the disquiet which we found in the Gazelle, the contrasting treatment by the courts in two cases. The first concerned some indigenes charged with assault who were refused bail pending their trials before a lower court and refused legal aid in pending cases. The other case was that of an expatriate patrol officer charged with wounding - not, I recollect, with accidental wounding - who was released on his own recognisance. He was not required to find bail pending his trial before the Supreme Court. I shall not refer to the circumstances of this officer’s case because he is yet to stand trial. I will not pick up the challenge by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) to give the circumstances of the case because this officer has not yet been tried. The expatriates were interviewed by my colleagues and me. The patrol officer accompanied us throughout the Gazelle Peninsula. Since our visit, the indigenes have been released on bail and the previous decision to refuse them legal aid has been reversed. I have made no other public reference to the operations of the present courts or law authorities in New Guinea. I have written to the Minister for External Territories about another case which worried us. He will recollect it as the Ragis case. We have withheld comment until we receive his reply. If there is any motion that the House note the statements that the magistrate made on this matter or on the Mataungan cases in general - to note, for instance, his judgments - then, on this side, we will do everything to facilitate a subsequent debate on them.
– A personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
– Order! The House will come to order. I call the Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, 1 would like to make a personal explanation because it appears to me that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) suggested - and it was inherent in his remarks - that for some reason I misrepresented him deliberately on the question of coffee which seems to be of so much interest to him. I would wish to make this explanation. If indeed what the Leader of the Opposition now says is true, then we have all been misled by the transcript of his speech to the Tolais and by the reports published throughout all the Territory Press. Indeed, it may well be that the Leader of the Opposition did mean to say cocoa’ when he said ‘coffee’ and, if so, I apologise to him for actually accepting what he said, which was ‘coffee’. We will now, if necessary and if it helps the Leader of the Opposition, accept that he meant cocoa instead of coffee, adding merely this, that it is always just as well to have this kind of examination to discover just exactly what it was that the Leader of the Opposition meant when he said something.
– Mr Speaker, there have been several quite serious allegations made to my discredit in the House in the last few minutes -
– Is the honourable member for Evans claiming to be misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented. There are three areas. The Leader of the Opposition stated that he referred to ‘cocoa’ and not coffee’. The transcript of what he said taken from persons who were present-
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! I do not think that the honourable member was involved in the question in relation to cocoa or coffee or whatever it might be. Therefore, he has the right to make a personal explanation as to where he has been misrepresented, not in relation to any other matter, nor shall he introduce any new matter.
– I would like to table the speech that he made, because I believe that it is germane to what has been discussed. But, in particular, it was alleged that I was vouching for a lie when I vouched for the substance of my question.
– I did not make that allegation.
– I went to New Guinea-
-Order! I do not recall this being made by the Leader of the Opposition at all.
– 1 did not make it. The honourable member for Fremantle did and he will vouch for it.
-I do not know who made it. This is not a question in relation to a personal explanation regarding what has been said in the House.
– I am sorry; 1 did not hear you, Sir.
-The honourable member now is making a personal explanation regarding something which has not officially been said in the House.
– lt has been stated-
– I take a point of order.
– I wish to take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Evans will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– My point of order, Mr Speaker, is that you stated that the remarks, that the honourable gentleman was vouching for a lie, had not been made in this place.
– It was.
– Well, it was.
-I said ‘officially made in this place’.
– It was officially made and noted in Hansard. It was made by the honourable member for Fremantle who has repeated h and said that what he said he stands by.
– This was by means of interjection, I take it? Well, I did not hear this. But I will take it. The honourable member may have the opportunity now to refute this statement.
– I vouch for the accuracy of my statement in the question. My question was based on an accurate statement that the Leader of the Opposition on 8th January last made a public attack on the integrity of the courts in Rabaul and that he wrongly alleged homicide against a young Australian whom he knew to be on bail and about to stand trial before the Supreme Court. There is a tape recording of what the Leader of the Opposition actually said before that Council. We interviewed the ABC and other officers who were present and took from them a transcript of what he said. I would like to read about 6 lines of that transcript. The extract reads:
One of the m.a. leaders who is well-educated and speaks very good english is now in jail for assaulting a council officer. Pending the m.a. trial he was refused bail. An Administration Officer who accompanied us-
That is to Keravat gaol - was engaging in revolver practice during which a child was killed-
The District Commissioner interjected: Excuse me, sir; that is not quite correct’. The transcript continues:
Whitlam: You withdraw, or I will remain seated.
Silence. The District Commissioner said: ‘I withdraw, sir, but the child was injured. He was not killed’. The transcript continues:
Whitlam: I thank you for the correction. Anyway the officer concerned is still at large.
These and the other comments that I made, Sir, are based on the substance of information that we received directly from eye witnesses.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Speaker, I have been misrepresented in this matter. I refer to a new matter which was introduced concerning the conduct of the District Commissioner. This was not the first time, when we were visiting council chambers at the requests of councils, that District Commissioners interrupted. On this occasion, the District Commissioner had to be put in his place. He has since, for this and earlier incidents, been withdrawn from Rabaul.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier, when the honourable member for St George was endeavouring to make a personal explanation, you gave him guidance as to how he should keep to the point and said that, indeed, he should -not debate the matter. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is most definitely debating the point.
– This is a reflection on the Chair.
– There is no reflection on the Chair. If the honourable member for La Trobe had continued, I would have taken your point of order. However, this is in the discretion of the Chair.
– Thank you, Sir.
Dr MACKAY (Evans) - Mr Speaker, there is a second point on which I was misrepresented.
-Does the honourable member claim again to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the statement just made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), he said that this statement of mine was incorrect because these Mataungans had been refused legal aid whereas the Australians were not. I point to the document of Mr Quinlevin, the Senior Magistrate, who makes a special point in his statement from his bench to indicate that every assistance - documentary, legal and every kind of assistance - was given to those who sought to obtain the release of these Mataungans on bail. He states that they then withdrew from this application on their own standing. Does Mr Whitlam deny that he said - and it was quoted in every Australian newspaper - that there were glaring race discriminations in law in the Territory?
– Yes, I do.
– I take a point of order.
– Mr Speaker, my point of order is this: Can an honourable member refer to another honourable member in the House by name rather than by his title or by his seat?
-The honourable member is quite right. The latter is the correct procedure.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! The House will come to order. Does the honourable member for Mitchell claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, 1 have been misrepresented, Sir. It has been stated in Melbourne and Brisbane newspapers that I am a member of a group styled a ‘ginger group’. I am not and never have been a member of a fungi club, any clique or caterpillar club in my life.
– For the information of honourable members I present the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the residence and employment of Yugoslav citizens in Australia. I ask for leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– 1 wish to inform the House that a formal agreement has been completed between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the residence and employment of Yugoslav citizens in this country. The Agreement was signed in Canberra on 12th February by Mr Anton Polajnar, President of the Federal Council of Labour of the Federal Executive Council of Yugoslavia, on behalf of the Yugoslav Government, and by me on behalf of the Australian Government.
The Agreement will enter into force when the Australian Government has been notified by the Yugoslav Government that the requirements of that Government’s legislation for the implementation of the Agreement have been fulfilled and the Australian Government acknowledges receipt of such notification. I have been assured by the Yugoslav delegation that these formalities will be put in hand immediately and that migration under the Agreement should commence shortly thereafter. The Agreement will continue in force unless either Government shall have received notice from the other Government of its desire to terminate the Agreement, in which case 180 days after such notification by either Government the Agreement shall no longer have force.
Cabinet approved the opening of discussions with the Government of Yugoslavia in 1967. Preliminary discussions leading up to the Agreement were held in Canberra and Belgrade between representatives of the two Governments, including a thorough discussion on main principles by my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), when, as Minister for Immigration, he visited Belgrade in December 1968. In November 1969 a Yugoslav delegation visited Australia for detailed negotiations with an Australian delegation. The Australian delegation comprised representatives of the Department of Immigration, the Department of External Affairs, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Social Services. The advice of the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Science was also taken by the Australian delegation. In accordance with the usual practice on agreements affecting immigration the text of the Agreement was referred to all six State governments and each signified that it had no objection to the signature of the Agreement as proposed. Finally, of course, the Agreement was approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council.
Yugoslav migrants are no strangers to us. There has been a long history of successful Yugoslav settlement in Australia since the early part of the century. In the I920’s there was a substantial inflow, mainly to Western Australia. Over recent years migration from Yugoslavia has steadily increased - last year nearly 13,000 Yugoslavs settled in Australia. They are now a major element in the migration programme, ranking third after Britain and Italy. Yugoslavia represents an area from which suitable migrants can be obtained in greater numbers. Many are skilled workers and they are a particularly important source of highly trained metal workers who have little difficulty in fitting into the local industrial situation.
There are now more than 100,000 Yugoslavs in Australia to which must be added their Australian bom children. They have proved themselves to be excellent settlers, industrious, well-qualified in their occupations and, except for a very small factional minority, have been very law abiding. Between 1945 and 1969 nearly 46,000 Yugoslavs have taken Australian citizenship. This represents approximately 74% of the Yugoslavs then eligible to apply for citizenship. Yugoslavs are now working in a wide variety of jobs throughout Australia, notably in the steel and motor industries, on development schemes, in the brown coal industry of the Latrobe Valley and in the Queensland canefields
The Agreement which I table today formalises migration from Yugoslavia and places it on a stable and continuing basis. No actual numbers have been specified in the Agreement but provision exists in the procedural arrangements associated with it for the Yugoslav Government to be informed annually of Australia’s requirements. The aim will be to maintain a reasonable balance between skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, nder the terms of Article 22 of the Agreement assisted passages to Australia will now be available to selected migrants from Yugoslavia. Persons 19 years of agc and over will contribute $A25 towards the cost of their transport to Australia; the balance of the fare will be met by the Australian Government. Persons under 19 years of age will not be required to make any personal contribution towards their travel. This places Yugoslav assisted migrants on the same basis as migrants from other countries. The extension of assisted passages to residents of Yugoslavia will place migration to Australia within the financial reach of a larger section of people. It will facilitate family reunion, as in the past for financial reasons some Yugoslavs preceded their families here, lt will avoid the social consequences of separated families in future migration and, by easing the financial strain of migration, strengthen and speed successful settlement in Australia.
The Agreement which honourable members have before them describes the facilities for settlement of Yugoslav citizens. It records the rights they enjoy and the obligations they undertake in common with Australian citizens and other migrants. It affirms their eligibility for social service benefits and to share in official accommodation and housing schemes. It also provides for advice to Yugoslav migrants on the acceptance of vocational qualifications in Australia and records that the Australian Government will endeavour to advance the acceptance of Yugoslav qualifications within the framework of Australian laws, regulations and practices. As in other migration agreements the rights of Yugoslav settlers as residents and as workers are set out. Australia undertakes to extend to Yugoslav workers and their families the facilities available in Australia for migrants to learn English.
The procedural arrangements agreed upon between the two Governments in pursuance of Article 22 of the Agreement provide that the Australian Government will select migrants for Australia in accordance with its requirements. It has always been basic to Australia’s post-war immigration policy that the right to determine who may be admitted to Australia for permanent settlement rests with Australia. In this Agreement the procedural arrangements preserve this right. The selection procedures will provide for an assessment by Australian officers of the general suitability, health, character and the potential of the individual to conform to Australia’s concepts of political and social behaviour. As with all other countries from which migrants are taken, Yugoslavia has a legitimate and reasonable interest in the number and occupational categories of those moving to immigration countries. To safeguard this interest the Government of Yugoslavia, again in common with other governments with which we have migration agreements, requires a co-operative part in the actual processes of emigration and in the decision whether a person may be accepted. The final decision on whether a migrant is to be accepted for Australia will however rest with the Australian Government. This bilateral approach to selection is not exclusive to Yugoslav migration. In one form or another it exists in all countries with which we deal. Even in Britain the Government can insist on joint approval of persons receiving assisted passages.
There has been some public comment about the implications of Article 20 of the Agreement, which deals with a Yugoslav settler’s liability for military service in Australia. The position is that Yugoslavs, like all persons ordinarily resident in Australia whether British or of any other nationality, are required to register for national service in the same way as Australians. However, in accordance with section 35a of the
National Service Act 1951-68, men who have rendered continuous full-time service in the permanent forces of Australia or in the naval, military or air forces of a country other than Australia are granted recognition of such service in determining their national service liability.
The new Agreement merely gives expression to this provision of the National Service Act. It provides no preferential status for Yugoslavs. This is not unique to the Yugoslav Agreement and in any event the benefits of this provision of the National Service Act are applicable to migrants from all countries irrespective of a migration agreement.
This, of course, is the first migration agreement signed with a Communist government. As I have said, migration from Yugoslavia has been a fact for many years. Through it we have benefited greatly by an infusion of migrants of excellent personal quality and who are sought after by employers because of their industry and aptitudes.
This Agreement is intended to confirm Yugoslavia as a continuing source of such migrants in the future. Australia’s increasing need for a young, virile, adaptable and skilled work force, requires that we look beyond the more traditional sources, some of which are providing, fewer settlers than formerly. There are differences in’ the basic concepts of government between the two contracting parties. The migration Agreement just signed does not alter this fact though it is an illustration that these differences need not affect useful cooperation in various fields. It is both rational and civilised that an important association between countries which results in the movement of people from one to the other should be dignified by a formal agreement.
I present the following paper:
Immigration Agreement Between Australia and Yugoslavia - Ministerial Statement, 5th March 1970. and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– At this stage I would like to say just a few words in reference to the Agreement. The Opposition welcomes the signing of this Agreement which has been outlined in some detail by the Minister for Immigration (Mr
Lynch). In the first place, I take it that the Agreement is broadly the same as the ones applying to most countries with which we have agreements for assisted passages. This Agreement does cement the relationship with a country which the Minister said has already given to us over 100,000 people of whom 74% have seen fit to be naturalised That in itself shows that not only are they establishing themselves but also they are undoubtedly prepared to accept the responsibilities of a new country. This is very desirable. Therefore, we welcome the signing of the Agreement and pay our tribute also - in the manner of the Minister - to the zeal, the energy and the ability they have displayed in industry and in their various vocations. The Agreement also represents, as the Minister has said, a completely new depature by the Government in furtherance of the immigration programme in that it is the first agreement with a Communist country. I do not say this in any way facetiously but this is not the. first time that the Government has seen fit to go to Communist countries when the necessity arose as in trade and other matters - with which we do not agree. It is now a good thing to see the Government, with the urge to get migrants and with certain avenues drying up, looking further afield and not discriminating politically against the countries from which migrants might come. In that respect this is a desirable approach and undoubtedly from what we have seen of the types of migrants who have come to Australia these new migrants will be very desirable citizens.
I note that the Government has a say in who shall and who shall not come to Australia from Yugoslavia but it is to be hoped that the Government is extremely tolerant in respect of political reports on people who might come. I would not like to think that political activities will be a tremendous factor in denying entry to people who will probably be good citizens because we on this side have certain views in regard to appeals and matters of that nature which are not yet accepted by the Government. We would not like to see political activities held against people without a proper inquiry being held in public or without the right of appeal. The signing of this Agreement with a Communist country is a new approach by the Government and, as the Minister said, it opens new avenues. It will be interesting to see what arrangements are made with other countries, probably of similar political persuasion, by this Government. I note also that the State governments have all approved of the Agreement. I take it that they approve of all agreements and in that respect this Agreement is to be no different from any other. I also note from the Agreement that the military provisions apply in accordance with the National Service Act and, of course, it is somewhat regrettable from our point of view that that Act applies at all in respect of conscription. In fact, we oppose it and I hope it will not be long before the Government is able, by legislation, to remove that provision completely from the Agreement because we believe that that Act should be repealed as it applies to conscription not only of migrants but also of Australian citizens.
There has been and, I hope, generally will be full and constructive support of the immigration programme by both sides of the Parliament. It is inevitable that a scheme which was started by the Australian Labor Party when in office should have the support generally of members of both sides of the Parliament but inevitably there must be differences with respect to administration and approach. The fundamentals of the scheme and what it means to Australia have never been denied by members on this side of the House or, 1 believe, by members on the other side. Therefore this Agreement signed with the Yugoslav Government takes us another step forward in a scheme which has brought to this country the best part of 2.5 million people, I understand. With horizons still to be reached and with greater difficulty in getting migrants this Agreement represents a step which, in this age, had to be taken and it is one of which we approve. I do not wish to say more at this stage other than that we welcome the Agreement.
I have read in the Minister’s speech the compliments paid to the Yugoslav people who are here. I have no doubt that they will continue to contribute to the welfare and development of this country. I see also in the Agreement that the Minister has stated that the qualification of tradesmen is a factor not confined to Yugoslavia and I am hopeful that ultimately we can solve that problem in our interests and in the interests of those who desire to come here. I again commend the action of the Government in signing this Agreement and join in the tributes that have’ been paid to those who are here and to those who will come, and trust that we will be successful in adding to the numbers whom we want to make citizens - be they skilled or unskilled - and who can add to our development and expansion through the furtherance of this Agreement. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - On 26th November 1968 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) informed the House of the Government’s decision to enter overseas shipping through the operation in its own right of Australian crewed vessels. As a result of negotiations initiated by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), the Australian National Line is now operating a vessel in the European trade and arrangements have been made for participation in the trade to the east coast of North America. In addition the Line is operating another vessel in the Eastern Searoad Service to Japan. As a logical development of this involvement in overseas shipping the Government has now approved the Australian National Line entering a new shipping service between Australia and the west coast of North America.
The Australian National Line will join with Trans-Austral Shipping Pty Ltd, an Australian subsidiary of the Swedish shipping company Trans-Atlantic, and Elder Smith and Co. Ltd, in a new Australian company to own the vessel. Final details of the new company are currently being negotiated but the vessel will be operated by the Australian National Line under the Australian flag with an Australian crew. In this way the Australian National Line can gain experience in association with a shipowner already in the trade and an opportunity is afforded to another Australian interest to enter overseas shipping.
The vessel will be an entirely new type of vehicle deck ship which can operate at ordinary wharves and does not require special facilities for stern loading. It will offer a joint service in conjunction with two other ships of the same type. These ships will be owned by Trans-Atlantic and Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Ltd of Great Britain. The new operation will be called the Pacific Australia Direct Service and will be a development from the present service offered by Trans-Atlantic under that name.
Operation of a vessel in the west coast trade follows from the arrangements already made for the Line to enter the east coast North America trade in its joint venture with ACTA lines. The new vessel will be much bigger than the largest roll-on roll-off vessel now operated by the Australian National Line. It will incorporate a newly developed quarter ramp loading system which does away with the need for special wharves. I am sure that members of this House will agree that the operation of this vessel will provide the Australian National Line with valuable experience of yet another advanced type of ship in another important overseas trade.
– by leave - The Opposition welcomes the Government’s announcement of the extension of the activities of the Australian National Line into yet another overseas section of our trade. This is a form of activity that the Opposition has been advocating for many years. We have urged that the Australian National Line should be permitted to extend its activities and we hope that with this fourth extension it will continue to expand. Services are already operating to Europe, Japan and the east coast of the United States and now it is proposed to service the west coast of the United States. However I hope that the position will not be allowed to remain static but that the Australian National Line will participate to an even greater extent and will expand its activities until such time as the Australian shipping industry is carrying a reasonable share of Australia’s trade.
Australia is one of the twelve largest trading nations of the world, yet countries with smaller populations than our own already have their own overseas shipping lines. I refer particularly to the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden ;.nd Norway, and to The Netherlands and Belgium. It is only in recent years - in fact, since the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made his statement on 28th November 1968 - that there has been any real move to extend the Australian shipping industry into overseas activities. I am concerned, however, that the Australian National Line could become submerged as the junior partner in some of the large foreign conferences that have been created. For example, in the AustraliaEuropean conference we have one ship out of nine, and the proportion will be even smaller than that later. On the Australia to Japan trade we have one ship. Admittedly the arrangement is for only two ships, one to be operated by the Japanese and the other by Australia.
– Another will be operated later.
– Yes. I am hopeful that the Australian National Line will not be submerged in these conferences which are controlled and operated by overseas interests. I look to the day when the Australian National Line will be permitted to operate as a separate entity, not part of a conference line and not affected by the fixation of freight rates which have acted severely, harshly and to the detriment of Australian industries, particularly primary industries. I believe that there should be greater investigation and research into the type of ships to be employed so that the vessels operating in the Australian trade will be suited to our trade requirements and not so much to the trade requirements of other countries. The Japanese, for instance, have made a specialty of designing and operating ships to suit their trade. I hope that the Government will permit the Australian National Line to engage in research and, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Primary Industry and secondary industry, design ships to suit our trade requirements. I look forward to seeing the Australian National Line functioning as an independent operator and not as part of a conference owned, controlled and operated by foreign interests.
From the limited description of the ship to be used in the west coast of North America trade it would appear that it will be suited to our trade requirements. Australian outports have suffered serious losses of trade from the introduction of new type vessels and this situation will continue and will expand in the not too distant future unless the Government is prepared to take remedial steps to overcome the problem. The wool trade has been seriously affected at a number of outports, not the least my own port of Newcastle which, to some degree, is more favourably placed than other ports like Albany in Western Australia and Portland in Victoria. The Tasmanian trade has been adversely affected. The type of vessel described by the Minister should suit our requirements and may offer some relief to the outports that have been detrimentally affected by the introduction of container ships.
If we are going to introduce new types of ships that will affect the trade at outports, the Government’ should be looking to provide alternative industries in those centres to offset the loss of employment by waterside workers and the loss of income to towns and cities in those regions. The Government should not say: ‘Right, let them work it out for themselves’. When the Government plans for new ships it should plan also to provide employment for displaced labour and additional income to compensate for the loss of income that some ports suffer as the result of the bulk handling of cargo in container ships and other new means of transport.
I should like to get some clarification from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) of matters that are not specifically mentioned in his statement. Are the ships to be built in Australian shipyards?
– No. they are already being built overseas and are almost completed.
– This is a further example of the Government’s complete disregard of the Australian shipbuilding industry which, at the moment, is going through a crisis in respect of continuity of employment in the shipyards. No industry can function efficiently without a continuous run of orders. It is no good placing another order when a ship is almost completed and labour is being dismissed because of inadequate work for the yard. There must be a continual nin of employment in shipyards in order to hold the specialised type of workers. From my own experience I know that men engaged in the shipbuilding industry must understand and be fully conversant with that industry. The methods of construction are completely different from those that are followed in structural steel workshops and in engineering workshops. I regret that the Minister has not been able to answer my question in the affirmative and say that the ships are to be built in Australian yards. The Opposition did not raise any objection to the container ship for the Australia-European trade being built overseas. We did not object to the ship for Australia- Japan trade because I made inquiries at that time and found out that no Australian shipyard was then in a position to provide the ship within a reasonable time. We accepted that state of affairs. But it is now possible for Australian shipyards to build the ships and to have them available in a fair and reasonable time.
– It would not be possible in this instance.
– The Minister says that it would nol have been possible in this instance. The Government did not make the decision to enter the west coast trade overnight. It has been working on and planning this proposal. While the Government was planning this extension of the activities of the Australian National Line it could well have carried out investigations with the Australian shipyards through the Australian Shipbuilding Board to ensure that at least the National Line ship and the Elder Smith ship were built in an Australian yard. I condemn the Minister and the Government for having failed to carry out this part of the activities of the National Line. The Australian shipbuilding industry will not remain docile and accept this kind of treatment much longer. 1 would now like to say something about the manning of the Elder Smith ship. Would the Minister indicate whether the Elder Smith ship is to be manned by Australians or whether only the National Line ship will be manned by Australians? Could he give some indication of that?
– It is one ship which is to be jointly owned by Trans-Austral Shipping Pty Ltd, Elder Smith and Co. and the Australian National Line. That one ship is to be operated by the Australian National Line under the Australian flag. It is one ship only.
– I accept that, Mr Deputy Speaker. Now that the Government has extended the activities of the ANL into this field there are several other matters that f shall raise because I think they should also be- examined. Firstly I refer to the import of phosphate rock. It would appear that by the middle of 1970 there will not be one ship, overseas owned but manned by Australians, operating on the Australian coast. At present 80% of the phosphate rock is carried to Australia in foreign manned ships. The other 20%, I understand, is carried in the ‘Triaster’ and the ‘Tri-Eilis’ which are in the process of being sold. When these two ships are sold there will be no phosphate rock brought to Australia in ships that either have been built in Australia or are manned by Australians. I hope that the Minister will, in the very near future, permit the Australian National Line to move into this trade with ships that are much more economical and more suited to the trade than are some of the vessels at present operating in it.
Australia imports 20.5 million tons of crude oil - 5,438,000,000 gallons of oil- a year. None of this oil is brought here in Australian owned or Australian manned ships. This is a field in which the ANL should likewise bc permitted to expand its activities. Ships designed for the carriage of oil should be built in Australia and should be manned with Australian crews.
I would like to move on and talk about stevedoring, touching briefly on a few points. The Australian National Line should be permitted to carry out its own stevedoring. The ANL is Australia’s largest shipping line but yet it has all its stevedoring done under contract. There is any amount of opportunity and any amount of need for the ANL to do this sort of work itself. I hope that in the not too distant future the Minister will bring down reports similar to the one just presented to the House on the carriage of phosphate rock, the carriage of crude oil and stevedoring.
Discussion of a Matter of Public Importance
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pro posing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to give positive leadership in implementing urgently required measures to halt the growing economic crisis in major sectors of primary industry.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– The interest of members of the Australian Country Party in this matter is quite obvious from the attendance of its members in this chamber. Of course, we completely dissociate the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), who is interjecting, from any semblance of sense when it comes to the discussion of a matter of urgency in relation to primary industry. Look at the attendance of Australian Country Party members. Members of that Party had the hide to interject even before I started my speech, but I can see only four of them on the Country Party benches, and this number includes the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). This is the height of hypocrisy. Although we are now engaged in an important debate on primary industry the paucity of the attendance of members of the Australian Country Party is a revelation. Of course, the Minister for Primary Industry, who is interjecting, does not like what I am saying. When the old Parliament rose 5 months ago it was quite obvious that many important sectors of primary industry, particularly those producing for the export market, were in a serious financial state; and due to the dictatorial attitude of the Government in prolonging the recess for 5 months we saw during that period not one vestige of leadership given by the Government to solve this problem. We have heard plenty of speeches from the Minister for Primary Industry and others on what should be done and the tough attitude that they are going to adopt. But what we want and what the primary industry organisations of Australia want is action. The consistent refusal of the Government to give a positive lead and positive leadership to primary industry problems must be recognised as one of the major reasons why the economic condition of primary industry is deteriorating. Mounting evidence from agricultural districts throughout Australia shows quite clearly that primary producers are becoming grossly disillusioned with the negative and stalling attitude of the Government towards the serious problems of primary industries, particularly those producing for the export market.
The Government refuses to take the initiative - and this is the main essence of my argument today - to introduce constructive measures that are urgently required to halt this serious recession in primary industry, particularly in the wool, dairying and wheat industries. The Government - and particularly the Australian Country Party section of it - takes the view that it can ignore the serious problems of primary industry because the primary producers themselves will continue to support it at elections. This is a very dangerous assumption to dwell upon because, as I have said before, it is becoming obvious that even powerful primary producer organisations such as the United Graziers Association of Queensland are fast becoming fed up with the lethargy and complacency of the Government in solving the serious problems confronting this country. As economic desperation spreads throughout the major primary industries of Australia this feeling against the Government is heightening. Primary producers realise that this Government - no one else - dominated by the Australian Country Party has been responsible over the last 20 years for the formulation of policies which are now wrecking the economic dependence of small farmers throughout Australia in particular.
The Government’s lack of leadership in the field of primary industry is analogous to or resembles that of a ventriloquist’s dummy. The Government adopts the view that it will not initiate action until it receives firm recommendations from an industry itself. We hear such a cry on wool year after year. The Government says that it will not take any action because the industry leaders will not take positive action in respect of prices, for example. The Government should take positive steps and do the job people elected it to do. This is so in respect of major industry organisations such as the wool industry where there is severe, intensive factionalism and agreement cannot be reached. But the Government does nothing. This has been the history of the wool industry since the recommendation by the Australian Wool Industry Conference on the reserve price plan. I was amazed to hear on Tuesday the admission of the Minister for Primary Industry that it had been known for 5 years that the wheat growers were heading for very serious trouble. This information was given in in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard).
– I do not think it had been known for 5 years.
– I will quote what the Minister said. He said:
Anybody who has been associated with the expansion thai has taken place in the wheat industry in the past 5 years must be well aware that the wheat growers were heading for very serious trouble . . .
– That is completely different from what you are saying.
– As I said, and I will repeat it, the Minister knew 5 years ago that the industry was heading for trouble, because he was associated with the expansion. That is what I said, and Hansard will show it. I am amazed that the Minister had the temerity to make such a statement, because it was only last year that we in this Parliament received the first inkling of the serious trouble that the wheat industry was in. when the Government appealed to wheat producers to reduce production. Why did the Government not give them notice 5 years ago to reduce production? Why did the Government not take positive action and initiate legislation, complementary to State, legislation if necessary, to avert these tremendous problems in the wheat industry. Look at the members of the Country Party. They could not care less about the plight of the small wheat grower. This is very well known. As 1 said before, it was only last year that the Government admitted that the wheat industry was in trouble. The Government is guilty of gross neglect not only of the wheat growers of Australia but of the taxpayers also for not informing us 5 years ago of this serious crisis towards which the wheat industry was heading.
The Government’s refusal to implement the reserve wool price programme is an example of its refusing to take the initiative. Here we have a glaring anomaly. The Australian Wool Industry Conference, the so-called parliament of the wool industry, recommended a reserve price plan, but because powerful people in the wool industry objected to it the Government would not take the initiative and introduce it. The plan was put to a referendum and rejected. By contrast, look at the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino breeding stock. That was a different proposition. The Wool Industry Conference recommended that the embargo be lifted, and the Government raced in to lift it. But when an objection was raised, what happened? The Government put its tail between its legs again and did nothing until after the election. This is the Government which is supposed to give leadership to the primary industries.
The Government’s dismal record in refusing to implement a positive policy to minimise the recurring devastation of drought is just one more example of leadership weakness. Its policy is simple. It hopes - and it might be right - that there will never be another drought. But what sort of policy is this? lt says that if there is another drought it will wait until the drought reaches devastating proportions and it will then give the primary producers concessional rebates for fodder transport, etc. This is the extent of the initiative taken by the Government with respect to one of the most important problems of this country. It is over 3 years now since we heard of the great plight of the dairy industry when the farmers asked for the reconstruction of the industry. What has this Government done? Every time a question is asked inside this Parliament or a question is asked outside the Parliament by producer organisations, the Federal Government blames the States. This is another example of passing the buck. While these stalling tactics continue the Treasury prospers, because in the last 2 years there have been allocations, admittedly only Sim, for the implementation of a scheme for the reconstruction of the dairy industry, but of course nothing has been spent.
Let me now deal with an industry in which there are not many votes. I refer to the cotton industry. Here we see the Government taking the initiative. There are not many votes in the industry, but in terms of the number of people in it it is just as important as any other primary industry. What has the Government done in this industry? It has ruthlessly stated that it will take away the cotton bounty in developing areas. W t a contrast! Here it does give leadership - leadership that is completely unjust. Let me turn to the sugar industry. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) should be concerned about this industry, because this year there are all the earmarks of a very large surplus of sugar production in many of the major producing areas of Queensland. But what is the Government going to do? Is it to wait until the crushing has almost finished and then say that the mills cannot take any more cane because the quota under the International Sugar Agreement is only approximately 1 million tons, or will it implement some positive programme and show some initiative to stop the destruction of cane in some areas where the harvesting cannot be put off?
– What is the honourable member’s answer?
– Under the International Sugar Agreement there is some provision for storage arrangements, but we want to see some leadership shown by the Government to the growers, particularly those in the sugar areas of the north where we will have very large surpluses of production. The Government’s approach to the problems of the primary industries seems always to crystallise in one thought - subsidies. 1 give the Minister credit because he is not thinking in terms of subsidies for the dairy industry. The Opposition has stated time and time again that this is one industry that needs reconstruction. But in the wool industry and in the wheat industry - if it gets this way - subsidies will have to be considered very seriously, because it Ls useless to continue payment of subsidies to an industry, whether it be a primary or secondary industry, if we are to have increased surpluses which cannot be disposed of. particularly on the export market.
The Government’s lack of leadership in primary industry, however, is in somewhat stark contrast to its attitude on tariffs.
There do not seem to be any delays in granting tariffs to secondary industries, particularly to some of the more uneconomic secondary industries. But when it comes to giving assistance and leadership to some of the primary industries which are in serious trouble we have these interminable delays. In the dairy industry there has been a delay of 3 years, and in the wool industry it is 4 or 5 years since the AWIC brought down its recommendation for a reserve price programme.
– The wool growers voted it out.
– The Minister says that they voted it out, but why not give the merino producers an opportunity to vote on the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams? Then we saw a wonderful exposition of the new policy of the Country Party after a special meeting of its parliamentary members here some weeks ago. The headlines throughout Australia reported that the Country Party would get tough to help the farmers. One newspaper said:
The Australian Country Party will adopt a ‘get tough’ attitude in an attempt to get governmental approval for policies designed to ameliorate the plight of primary producers.
In the parliamentary session to begin on March 3, it will apply ‘a new measure of determination and boldness in following measures of support’ for primary producers.
The Country Party has been in power in this nation for 20 years. It has been responsible for the formulation of every policy on primary industry. Is it any wonder that the economic position of primary producers today in real terms is probably at its lowest ebb? But the Country Party has said it will get tough. Let it get tough. Let it introduce some legislation into the Parliament. If we in the Opposition think that any Country Party proposals will benefit the primary producers we will support them. But what do the members of the Country Party do? They race round the electorates of Australia criticising the Liberal Party, but look at them when they come into the Parliament. They are meek and mild like defeathered cockatoos. Is this the sort of attempt they will make to get tough?
The Country Party, with its numbers here, now has a chance to get tough. I repeat, if the Opposition thinks that any proposals of the Country Party will give a fair deal to Australia we will support them. Let the Country Party introduce some Bills and see what happens. But will they introduce them? Of course they will not. This is the new policy of the Country Party. It will be the same policy that has been witnessed in this House every year for the last 20 years. Unless the Minister for Primary Industry gives leadership to primary industry it will go down further.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the House today is an urgency motion by the Opposition accusing the Government of giving insufficient leadership in the implementation of important policy matters dealing with rural industries. The first speaker we heard was the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He gave us a somewhat more spirited speech than we had from him in the last Parliament. We all look forward to this sort of performance. The substance of the speech, when analysed, was a little pathetic. In fact it was so diffuse that the Government was attacked on the one hand for giving leadership in some directions and on the other hand, for not giving it in other directions. The argument fell to the ground without any real substance to it. The whole urgency motion was a little sad. It seemed to be more a demonstration of who is going to give leadership in the Australian Labor Party on agricultural policy - Tweedledum or Tweedledee.
In the list of speakers for today were some men whose remarks I appreciate and for whom I have a high regard, such as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen). I think it is a pity that they were passed over to allow the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) to speak in their place. It is quite obvious that in future the Labor Party is going to ignore men who. have been in this House of a number of years and who have something of substance to say. The honourable member for Dawson is a man who normally has something of substance to say, and I have a high regard for the thought that he puts into his speeches, but always there are overtones of the Labor Party’s doctrinaire policies. I doubt very much if he will be able to make a very great impact on the rural leaders and the rural industries of Australia. After seeing the performance by the honourable member for Riverina at Jerilderie last week, and the calamity howling that went on and the cool reception he received from rural leaders there, 1 doubt whether he will make very much impact either.
Rural industries have had a remarkable performance over the past .decade. They have met in a fantastic way the challenges of increasing costs, of difficult marketing and of keeping up with technological advances. Production has gone up. Their efficiency has increased. It is remarkable that while the Labor Party comes here and claims that it can do a better job, it puts up no constructive proposations whatsoever. 1 think it is remarkable also that, even though the Labor Party has been in office for only 9 years over the past 50 years, its performance in dealing with agricultural affairs has left an indelible impression on every agricultural producer in this country. Agricultural producers have been appalled at the doctrinaire philosophies which the Labor Party has adopted every time it has been in office, of knowing what is best for them, of telling them what they should produce, how they should produce it and what price they ought to get for it. This is why the Labor Party has been rejected by the agricultural sector time and time again.
The Government has a splendid record of giving leadership. For a few minutes this afternoon I want to run through some of the things it has done. I want to mention that they have been done against a background of almost unprecedented difficulties in the marketing of Australian commodities and at a time when surplus production has never been as great as it is today. There is also the problem of meeting unfair competition in the various markets of the world by the dumping policies and the highly supported agricultural policies of the developed countries. The Government has managed to cope with these. It will work jointly with the rural industries and their organisations in implementing policies and will not venture into the doctrinaire field that I mentioned, of telling the industries what to produce. By negotiating, consulting and arriving at agreement the Government will bring down legislation to make that possible, as it has done and is continually doing with all types of industries.
There have been difficulties with drought. The Government has come to the forefront by giving assistance of almost SI 00m over the past 3 years. It has come forward with a new, positive programme to assist with water conservation, and this will entail another $100m in the next 5 years. In the field of marketing the Government has assisted in implementing policies of orderly price arrangements within Australia for wheat, butter, cheese, sugar, dried vine fruits and canned fruits. Enormous and highly sophisticated systems of joint government and industry efforts have been developed to explore and exploit new markets overseas, through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Trade Commissioner Service. All forms of taxation incentives have been granted to make this possible. As a Government we have been at the forefront of international negotiations to bring about the great International Sugar Agreement which has given stability to an industry that did not know where its future lay.
We have been at the forefront of the International Grains Arrangement which has ended the absolute chaos in the marketing of grain. We have been at the forefront of all the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade discussions dealing with agricultural commodities. The latest commodity on which we have been able to get agreement on price is skim milk powder. This means that the ruling world price will go up by S3 1 a ton from now on. We have been at the forefront of negotiations with the United States of America for access to that market, thus giving the Australian meat industry the most buoyant period and the highest prices it has ever known. We have been at the forefront in seeing that the abattoirs are up to the required standard to meet the hygiene and sanitary requirements for the American market. We have been at the forefront in opening up markets for our meat products in other parts of the world.
The Government has done an enormous amount to make finance available to farmers so that they can keep abreast of all the latest developments taking place in agriculture and so that they get the credit capacity to purchase and to use the equipment that is coming forward. The carry-on finance available to rural industries is gigantic. In the past 2 years the wheat industry has received credits from the rural credits section of S615m in the first year, and this year it has been provided with up to S444m, of which about $4C0m will bc taken up. There is provision for next season’s crop for credit of up to $407m.
Through the rural credits section we are providing $137m for the dairy industry this year. These gigantic amounts of money are being provided so that farmers across the country will be able to continue to operate on a sound basis. New arrangements are being provided for the wool industry. The wool marketing proposals require large sums of money. For the 60% advance that the wool marketing scheme will need $30m to S40m will be made available, plus another Si 4m for buying carry over stocks. Indirect assistance also is of a proportion never before reached by any government in Australia. This year more than $180m will go towards helping rural industries in all sorts of ways. Money has come direct from the Treasury - taxpayers’ money - to help farmers through these difficult periods.
The Government has adopted many measures, such as the doubling of the superphosphate bounty in the last 2 years, new amendments to our taxation laws providing probate concessions for rural producers and credit facilities made available in the private banking sector over the last 5 or 6 years. These are enormous in their dimensions. The Term Loan Development Fund since it was formed in .1962 has had its resources increased to S372m, the Farm Development Loan Fund at last July had S67m outstanding to farmers on preferential terms and more attractive terms than they can get from normal financial resources, and the Commonwealth Development Bank, which was created in 1960, has lent $257m. Is this the attitude of a stingy, unsympathetic government in providing finance to rural producers? Of course it is not. Yet Opposition members attack the Government for the indebtedness of rural industries. They cannot have it both ways. They must say either that we are not providing enough or we are providing too much money. The fact of the matter is that farmers across this country have been given access to money so that they can keep up with the latest technological developments.
We have introduced stabilisation schemes. Even in the last year we have introduced a new wheat stabilisation scheme. The Opposition attacked it and said it was no good, but the facts are that, because of the decline in world prices, it looks as though we will be paying $30m or $40m in this year, the first year of the scheme, when it was expected that we might have to pay only S2m or $4m. A new sugar agreement has been concluded between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. It will ensure control of production, a domestic price arrangement and a rebate system that will enable fruit to be delivered to canneries at reasonable prices. We have brought forward a dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme. A poll relating to the scheme is being conducted at the moment. Before long I hope that the House will consider an apple stabilisation scheme.
We have seen a tremendous development in research programmes. Almost every sector of agricultural industry has some joint Commonwealth and industry research scheme. New ones have been introduced in the last 12 months. One dealing with the fishing industry will require funds of Sim a year. Within the last 6 months we have brought in a chicken meat industry research fund. We have expanded research in the wool industry. We are now considering a research scheme for the pig industry and I hope it will not be too long before it is introduced. We have proposed a farm amalgamation scheme for marginal dairy farms. Some people have turned this into an opportunity to criticise the Government and myself for being unsympathetic to small farmers. How ridiculous that is. The whole objective of the scheme is to help the small farmers in their predicament. We are also carrying out a survey of the structure of other rural industries so that we can discover the appropriate way to help them if any restructuring is necessary.
But what do we get from the Australian Labor Party? All we have are speeches of panic and gloom. Opposition members think they can obtain some political advantage, that they can capitalise on the adversity of farmers. This is about the cheapest form of demagoguery that there is, but some Opposition members make a practice of it. The Government has taken positive action in the wool industry. Decisions to provide an additional $20m a year to the wool industry have been taken in the last 6 months. We have provided money for marketing, money for research and money for promotion. We have implemented the recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference for a wool marketing proposal. This is the first time that a wool marketing proposal has been implemented in this country. That has been done in the last 6 months. But what wool policies does Labor have? During the last session we had the rather comical spectacle of Labor coming out with 3 different policies on 3 different days. The official policy prepared for the election last year was withdrawn. Labor spent a lot of money on a publication explaining its policy, but we never saw it. We have the arrogance of Labor on the export of merino sheep. These recommendations came from the industry, but now, because Labor does not like what is happening, it incites the trade unions to run this country and to go against the decisions of the Government. All I can say is that it is a shameful performance for any honourable member elected to this Parliament, to incite trade unions to act against decisions of the Government.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Riverina and remind all honourable members that this is his maiden speech.
– The point at issue in this debate seems in danger of being lost. The point at issue as raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is whether action should be taken to help meet the growing economic crisis in the countryside. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), who has just resumed his seat, replied to the honourable member for Dawson. The substance of his speech is that there is no real urgency about the problems in the country areas, that all we on this side of the House are doing is calamity howling, that the Government’s programme has been fantastic and that all of the help that has been given to primary industries by the Government for 20 years has been - I use his word - gigantic. So I gather that all is well and nothing further need be done.
The Minister referred to his ride into Jerilderie. I am glad he mentioned that, because I was delighted to see him in the Riverina. But he rode into Jerilderie wilh a very simple message. He addressed a meeting of nearly 2,000 people, which was sponsored by sixty local government and other bodies to discuss the very crisis that he now denies should be a cause of concern to this Parliament. He said: ‘I have every sympathy with you, but I feel that all possible help has been given. However, if you are in trouble, for goodness sake keep quiet about it.’ That was his message. I recognise that the Minister has his warm supporters, but despite them the rank and file of the people of Jerilderie would have preferred a visit from the other historic character who rode into the town some years before and who at a time of crisis did something positive by burning up all the mortgages he found in the Bank. I am not suggesting that should be done now, but there is a contrast between the one who arrives with tea and sympathy and the other who was stirred to do something more than say ‘Keep quiet’.
As the Minister has mentioned the meeting at Jerilderie I think we ought to examine what was said. The people at it asked the Parliament here and the members who represent them to consider the problems they posed. The President of a Riverina graziers organisation, who is hardly a roaring radical but is a gentleman of great substance and standing whom I respect, told the meeting that the crisis in the countryside was an immediate problem for the Government. He said: ‘Our competitors secure a wide range of support from their governments. Our farmers were encouraged to expand production and now they are being dumped.’ The Minister is fond of quoting the support he receives from the spokesmen of rural industries. The President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales put his finger on wool as one of the keys to the rural crisis. He said in one of his rare bursts of radicalism: ‘Let the Government do something now about the price of wool’. Another wool industry spokesman said that the returns to wool growers were down by 14% but the profitability for the people who were between the grower and the consumer was up by 11%.
The dairy industry spokesman did not seem satisfied at all. He said it was a paradox that the farmers who were second in efficiency in the world and who were receiving the least support in the world were in fact under constant attack and had not been getting anything other than tea and sympathy. The Chairman of the Rice Marketing Board, in a discussion about the help that is being given to primary producers by way of subsidies, put his finger on the key point when he said: ‘Help for whom? Of course, subsidies are mentioned in the city Press and it looks as though every primary producer in the nation gets a cheque in the mail.’ I might say, Mr Speaker, 1 only ever met one who received a cheque in the mail. When I told him I had never met any he said :’I got one. I used to have chooks and when I went out of business they gave me a rebate on the hen tax. Here it is - $2.10.’
In fact the Government has made large sums of money available to the fertiliser complex, $5 1 m, but what happens? What is the result of this? The manufacturers receive the assistance and the growers get an increase in price, as it ultimately comes about. There is no direct subsidisation in the fertiliser field at all.
Let us look at this business of whether there is validity in our submission today, which was put so well by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), that there is a crisis in the countryside. In Victoria in recent weeks 3,000 people have gathered together. The Minister for Primary Industry went to one of those meetings, I might add, and probably had something to say about the crisis in addition to what he said today. These 3,000 people were gathered together by a gall’ant little band of people from the little town of Edenhope. The burden of their message was that they were in trouble; that there was a crisis and that it had to be tackled by the Government. This is what 3,000 people said. There is to be a march of farmers up Collins Street in Melbourne - upset farmers, concerned farmers. The Minister said we should not be raising these silly things in the national Parliament; that we have more important things to do. What is more important than the survival of the rural areas of the nation? The Minister recounted what the Government had done for 20 years. It was all right for him to do that but he was not expressing the view of rural Australia at the present time. If he was then what are farmers doing marching up Collins Street? Then we have Sir Henry Bolte, that well-known radical, saying: ‘I think we ought to support them’. Therefore if we of the Opposition are all wrong we are in extraordinarily good company. The smiling face of Australia, as seen by the Government, does not exist in rural1 Australia.
Of the crisis in rural industry about which we are talking there was not a hint in the Governor-General’s Speech. According to that address, everything is well and the economy is strong. It has a new resilience and has overcome all the problems created by drought, international tensions and financial tensions. The Government says there is no crisis anywhere. Yet rural poverty is getting worse. This has been documented - it is known. It is known to the Minister. If he has any doubts about this I am sure that if he looks at the statistics he will see exactly what is happening in regard to rural poverty in his own part of the world.
It is pretty obvious, Mr Speaker, that the motion moved here today by the Opposition is one that is desired across the nation, in every State, and it should have been treated in a responsible way. The Minister went back over 20 years and said that everything that could be done had been done; that there were no new avenues to be explored. It would seem that that was his reply. I have attended meetings at which everyone says that the Government is in sympathy and that the Opposition is in sympathy. If this Parliament thinks that everything that can be done has been done, then obviously for 20 years there has been nobody present here with any responsibility at all for the rural industries now being in trouble.
How is it that the rural areas are in trouble? Is there a denial today by the Minister that in fact there is a crisis? Is there a claim made that Australia has a national agricultural policy? There was a reference made by the Minister to the need or desire to dictate to the farmers. That is not the case. All that the farmers have asked for, all that the rank and file have asked for, at every gathering convened in the last half year, is for some guidance from the Government.
Here we are now within 6 weeks of sowing wheat and the farmers do not know what they should do, what they can do or what they will be paid for. The Government has lost control of the situation to such a degree, Mr Speaker, that we will never know how much wheat actually was produced in 1969-70. The Minister at one stage said that there was no real worry about the black market. No worry! No concern! The Minister was prepared to concede that there would be a percentage of wheat which would be sold on the black market. The estimate is 20m bushels. It is an estimate; it is a guesstimate. We will never know. Here we are at the present time with some wheat on the farms, some quota wheat not delivered. Other farmers have delivered over their quotas and do not know what over quota wheat they will be paid for. Is it suggested that there has not been an abdication of Government responsibility in this direction? When the matter is raised with the Minister he says that this is a matter for the industry or a matter for the States. Yet it is here in the Commonwealth Parliament that the fiscal responsibility lies and this is where responsibility should lie for a national agricultural policy. Despite all the activity by the Government in the past 20 years, we face this crisis now. There is a clearly defined need for a national agricultural policy to give the producer an opportunity to rise to the challenge. That is what the producer wants.
So far as the seriousness of the situation is concerned, 1 have pages of documentation concerning my own area. Let me just cite one town as an example of the situation and of this crisis which is real and cannot be denied. I refer to a town in which every business house and the co-operative gathered together and announced in the local Press that all credit had finished, that it had ended, that it had to be cash or nothing because of the crisis confronting primary industry. These are not people seeking a pretty apology for a parry record. These are people who are in trouble. I might say that they are not terribly interested in party politics at the present time. They are not terribly interested in politics. But these people have made their protests. They are protesting now. They demand action because there is a crisis in primary industry. What is more, the honourable member for Dawson has done a national service by raising this matter today and I am happy to stand with him.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is with a real sense of regret that I rise to take part in this debate in an atmosphere of anticlimax and disappointment which has been created by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) whom my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) well suggests will become known as the shadow shadow Minister for Primary Industry. The honourable member for Riverina may be expert in publicity. The very success of his efforts in this direction perhaps has led us to expect that he also knew something about what he was getting publicity for. It was a great disappointment to honourable members on the Government side of the House to discover that the honourable member has now been exposed as a victim of his own publicity and has nothing to offer in the way of constructive contribution to the admittedly great and pressing problems of primary industry. The honourable member demonstrated that he is reasonably competent at pulling down but is sadly lacking in ability to construct.
I have never heard anything so insincere and unfounded as this matter of public importance raised by the Opposition. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said, it is an outstanding example of political opportunism aimed at trying to cash in on the present critical position of primary industry. Anyone not familiar with Australian Labor Party rural policies could be forgiven for thinking that the Party is concerned about the problem or that it might know something about it.
Firstly, Mr Speaker, dealing with the question of whether the Australian Labor Party is concerned, not long ago I had the opportunity to hear the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, address an agricultural economics symposium at Monash University. The main tenor of his remarks was that the skill and efficacy with which the rural industry and export industry case had been put to the Arbitration Commission had, in his opinion, been successful in lowering or keeping down the rate of wage rises and that if he had anything to do with it he was soon going to change this situation. If there is one thing that is notable in this area of seemingly constant inflation it is the effect of constant wage rises on the costs of primary producers. Yet according to the President of the ACTU, he was going to accentuate this problem and do so as quickly as possible. He also happened to mention as an aside during the course of his address that the Australian Labor Party seemed to lack a realistic rural policy.
On the second point, the assumption that the ALP knows something about the problems of rural industry, it must have been very embarrassing for its candidates in country areas to have to go about during the last election campaign trying to explain what their policy was. In fact ALP policies are geared to the past and not to the future. Heaven help the rural industries if the ALP ever is in a position to implement its outworn, out of date policies, devoid of any appreciation df modern conditions. Fortunately the Australian country people are not deceived by such policies..
Everyone in the rural industries knows that they are in trouble. I have had several meetings in my own electorate but I have been greatly heartened and encouraged by the responsible attitude taken by people at these meetings. I would like to quote as an indication of this sense of responsibility one of the motions that was passed at the largest of these meetings. It was this:
That the critical situation of the rural economy both requires and justifies urgent and substantial Government financial assistance,
But that in applying this assistance, the Government must have as its aim the long term strength, stability and independence of the rural community rather than attempt to deal with the present difficult conditions by measures prompted by the desire for political popularity.
That motion makes me proud to be a member of the rural community that passed that motion. I completely agree with that resolution.
In other words, when policies are put forward, it is essential that they bs designed to fulfil these objectives. The greatest danger at the present time is that because of the growing economic crisis in major sectors of primary industry, to quote the words of the matter raised for discussion in this debute, hasty, ill-considered policies will be proposed designed merely to take the heat off temporarily rather than to attack the real cause of the situation. Such policies would certainly lead to a much worse situation and, eventually, make the solution even more difficult. Given the sort of policies proposed by the Australian Labor Party, country people would end up as a second rate sector of the community and would be put in a perpetually mendicant position, in pawn to the whims of whatever government happened to be in power. Clearly, from my meetings, this situation is not desired by the rural community. What these people do want is a policy which recognises the vital part that they have played in the Australian economy in past years and the equally vital role that they have to play in the future. They want policies which will enable them to continue to hold their heads up in the community and not become a burden on the backs of taxpayers, which they would become if the policies of the Australian Labour Party were ever implemented.
Government policies must recognise that world trading conditions recently have undergone the most rapid and drastic change in history. The policy for the rural community - and I stress the words ‘the rural community’ because the way in which the Opposition has raised this matter for discussion seems to take it that only primary producers themselves are in trouble - must take account of these international changes and the changes in the economic situation of Australia itself.
Hasty illconsidered policies would make it impossible to arrive at the right solution The matter raised for discussion by the Opposition infers that the Government should be stampeded into making this hasty decision which would result in short term palliatives which are not wanted by the rural community because the rural community knows that these policies would not solve the problems. No-one appreciates this fact better than does the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who is sitting at the table. I heard the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) pay a tribute to the Minister in the address that he gave to the Agriculture Economic Symposium which I mentioned a moment ago. I would like to add my congratulations to the Minister for his responsible courageous statements on the problems of primary industry.
If easy solutions to our problems were possible, they would have been found long ago. The fact is that the real solutions to the problems are complex, difficult and will take time and trouble to work out properly. The Minister has shown how they must be tackled. He is not prepared to see the rural community suffer a steadily declining standard of living without any real effort being made to attack the causes of this decline, not just the complaint itself. I have every confidence that, under the Minister’s direction, realistic and responsible leadership will be shown regarding rural problems and that country people will not be deceived by the efforts of the Opposition to make political capital out of the present situation.
This is what has surprised me more than anything else in this all too short debate. I refer to the fact that the critical situation facing primary industry has been used as a football rather than as a forum to propose sound policies for the future of Australia. If this debate, short as it is, has done nothing else, it has shown the complete absence of any constructive proposals that the Opposition can put forward. We have had the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry speaking. We have had the shadow shadow Minister for Primary Industry speaking also. Between the two of them, we have not heard one constructive solution put forward to these admittedly great and pressing problems. Country people in Australia including the people in my own electorate will not be deceived by these specious attempts to gain sympathy from non-existent policies. The future of this Parliament will show that this Government is well capable under its present leadership of giving a lead to primary industry so that primary industry may fulfil the great role which it must continue to play in the future of this country. I look forward with great pleasure to being a part of these policies.
Motion (by Mr Barnes) proposed:
That the business of the day be called on.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Docs this mean that the Government is gagging this important debate on primary industry?
– Order! It is not for Mr Speaker to say what the Governments policy is. It is my duty to see whether motions moved come within Standing Orders. The motion is within Standing Orders. 1 propose to put it.
Question put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-1969. Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 7 (1970) formally place before Parliament the tariff changes made by ‘Gazette’ notices and published in the ‘Gazettes’ of 2nd, 10th and 17th October, 6th November, 18th, 19th and 24th December 1969 and 6th February 1970. On those dates the Parliament had been dissolved or was in recess.
Proposals No. 1, operating from 3rd October 1969 implements a report by the Special Advisory Authority on metal working machine tools. He has recommended temporary duties to apply to imports of certain general purpose lathes and grinding machines having a free-on-board price below certain specified amounts. Next are Proposals No. 2 operating from 13th
October 1969. These deal with changes arising from the adoption of the Tariff Board’s reports on -
Flexible metal tubing, piping and transmission shafts;
Time switches and movements and parts therefor;
Compressed gas cylinders; and
These Proposals also incorporate some tariff changes of an administrative nature only.
Proposals No. 3 operating from 20th October 1969 implements the recommendations of the Tariff Board’s reports on -
Drawing, measuring and calculating instruments;
Syringes, injection or puncture needles etc; and
Belts, belting and woven cotton fabrics over 15 ounces per square yard.
Proposals No. 4 operating from 7 th November 1969 implements the Tariff Board’s recommendation on chlorine and sodium hydroxide - that is to say, caustic soda. The Government has accepted the recommendation by the Tariff Board for tariff protection by import duty rather than the alternative of providing for protection by duty-cum-bounty. Proposals No. 5 operating from 30th December 1969 implements the recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority in his report on vegetable oils. Temporary duties on a sliding scale basis have been imposed on peanut oil, soya bean oil, rape seed oil, linseed oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, cotton seed oil and maize oil. An additional temporary ad valorem rate is imposed an epoxidised vegetable oils.
Proposals No. 6 operating from 1st January 1970 gives effect to changes agreed to by the Australian and New Zealand Governments for the addition of new commodities, principally goods of iron and steel, to Schedule A of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. Also included in Proposals No. 6 are additions to the list of hand made traditional products of cottage industries from developing countries that are granted duty free admission. These Proposals also contain additions to the range of products which arc eligible for concessional admission under the preferential tariff quota system for goods from developing countries. Proposals No. 7 operating from 9th February 1970 implements a report by a Special Advisory Authority on curtain hooks of base metal. He has recommended that an additional ad valorem duty be imposed on imports of these curtain hooks. A detailed summary of the tariff changes involved, giving the previous rates of duty and the new rates now proposed, is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Belts, belting, and woven cotton fabrics over 15 ounces per square yard.
Chlorine and sodium hydroxide.
Compressed gas cylinders.
Drawing, measuring and calculating instruments.
Flexible metal tubing, piping and transmission shafts.
Syringes, injection or puncture needles, etc.
Time switches and movements and parts therefor.
I present also the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Choline chloride (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Forged steel flanges.
Pursuant to statute I present also Special Advisory Authority reports on:
Curtain hooks of base metal.
Metal-working machine tools.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Mr Brown, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral (vide page 13), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I have been told that on occasions honourable members to whom Divine Providence has given the privilege of moving the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech have said something about their own electorates. It is unlikely that many honourable members will have heard of the electorate of Diamond Valley or will know very much about its character. I should first of all point out quite clearly that the name of the electorate owes nothing to the literary flourishes of Mr Zane Grey, nor are there carried on within its boundaries any mining ventures of the more speculative nature as the name might imply.
The electorate is composed of some 54,000 citizens of this Commonwealth who lead their daily lives like most Australians, who want the things most Australians want - the same opportunities to own their homes, to educate their children and to enjoy some security. They are people who have prospered under this Government and its predecessors. They are businessmen, tradesmen, orchardists, farmers and graziers - people who have sought opportunities and been given them. They are people who now seek an improvement in the quality of their lives - people who want to see their surroundings conserved so that they may enjoy them to the full. Above all they are people who, while being proud of living in the electorate of Diamond Valley and proud of being Victorians, are proud to be Australians. They want to see this Commonwealth set new targets and take new initiatives, perhaps in fields where the Commonwealth has not yet entered. They want to see Australia take a new independence and give a new leadership in this part of the world. And if I had to select one field which concerns them immediately and where they hope to see much more Commonwealth activity, it would be the field of education.
In a country like Australia, which is developing and expanding so rapidly, and where the available resources have to be spread over so many urgent needs, stresses and strains must appear in the education system. In Australia, these strains are inevitably exaggerated. We have cities with sprawling suburbs that have grown at such a pace that their facilities have been left lagging behind. Education is only one facility that has suffered. The money available for education has to be spread so far and so thinly that facilities in many cases have become quite inadequate. Again, the school population has expanded so rapidly that the very provision of accommodation to house it has become a major problem.
I can speak only of Victoria, and I know the tremendous achievements that have been made in education in that State; the number of new schools built, the expanded teaching service, the reordering of priorities to give education a major slice of the State budget, the overall improvement in the quality of education. But even with that major . effort there are still many schools that rely on temporary housing in portable classrooms, untrained teachers, lack of equipment, overcrowded classes. No country in Australia’s position can afford to let that situation continue in any part of the country.
In his Speech, His Excellency mentioned three principal matters his Government would be concerned with in the field of education in this session. The third one is, perhaps the most important, for he announced that the Commonwealth was cooperating with the States in a nation-wide survey of education needs at the primary and secondary levels. The States know best what their own education needs are and the Commonwealth should be guided by what the States say their needs are. But when those recommendations are made, I hope that the Commonwealth will be adventurous, that it will not halt the new initiative it has taken in education, and that if the needs of a national education system call for it, then the Government will not hesitate to take an even greater involvement in education than it has in the past.
The Commonwealth has already made vast expenditures on education and its expenditure is increasing. Only 8 years ago, it spent $55m in direct grants; this financial year it will spend S266m. This Government and its predecessors deserve unqualified praise for this expenditure and for the process the Government has adopted of locating areas of greatest need that can best be met by direct expenditure by the Commonwealth. This increasing expenditure should be an indication of a continuing interest and involvement by the Commonwealth in education. I can only hope, as do my electors, that this involvement will continue, and that when the national inquiry is completed and the recommendations come forward the Commonwealth will take an even larger and more generous part in the national education system of this nation.
His Excellency also said that special grants for educational research would be made. No-one could quarrel with this expenditure. It is only by a continuing examination of the educational process, and scientific research, that there can be a continued improvement in the quality of education throughout Australia. The programme of unmatched capital grants for the construction of teachers’ training colleges will be renewed for a further 3 years and the amount to be expended will be increased from $24m to $30m. Again, this is a proposal which should be universally approved, as it will be a substantial step to overcome the alarming shortage of teachers, and of properly qualified teachers, throughout Australia.
Having said all that, Mr Speaker, about one important domestic matter which properly concerns all Australians, because it is so close to their own concerns and their own hopes for the future, I hasten to add that most Australians are becoming increasingly aware - and those that are not should be aware - that this nation has wider concerns beyond Australia and, indeed, a role of importance to play in the world, particularly in the part of the world known as South East Asia. Previous Governments, and the present Government, have recognised that role and have exercised that role in military assistance and civil aid. No Australian who is properly aware of the place of Australia in this part of the world could deny the importance to Australia of a proper use of military aid to the free countries of South East Asia and generous civil aid to help their progress.
In his Speech, the Governor-General indicated that the Government would continue to give military and economic assistance to the Republic of Vietnam and would continue its Civic Action Programme. Both of these measures are to be welcomed. However, it is unfortunate that the reference to continuing economic aid to Vietnam is the only reference in His Excellency’s Speech to the programme the Government has for further foreign aid to overseas developing countries. The record of the Government so far on aid to developing countries is one of which it can be proud. The quantity of aid that has been given is substantial; we have been selective in the projects we have supported to ensure that the maximum value is derived from all the aid we have given; we have, in contrast to all other aid donors in the world, made free grants, with no strings attached and with no interest payable. We have got Australia to the position where, including our grants to Papua and New Guinea, we give a greater percentage of our gross national product than any other country except France.
There is, however, one aspect of the Government’s policy on overseas aid which can be substantially improved. This is to allow as deductions for income tax purposes donations made to approved voluntary organisations engaged in private aid to developing countries. At present, such donations are not allowable deductions. There are several reasons that have been advanced why such donations should not be allowed as deductions. The first reason is that if these deductions were allowed, the effect would be that the Government would be making the major contribution and not the individual donor. However, this is an argument that is just as much applicable to the normal charity or educational institution that raises money to spend solely within Australia. If it is logical and valid that donations to those organisations should be deductible, when the result is that the Government bears the bulk of the donation, then it is just as logical and valid that donations to organisations engaged on overseas work should be deductible. And the amount involved would be much less than is already allowed by way of deductions for charities and institutions engaged on work within Australia. There are at present about 10,000 organisations engaged on charitable work within Australia which qualify for the deductibility of donations. If donations to overseas voluntary aid organisations were allowed, only a further 20 to 30 organisations would be added to the list.
The second reason advanced for disallowing donations to overseas aid organisations is that the Government would be making a contribution to an organisation engaged on a project and the Government would have no guarantee that the project was beneficial or that the Government’s contribution was being wisely spent. There is no reason why this should be so. It should be quite feasible for the Government to examine the workings of any given organisation and the type of project on which it is engaged to see whether it deserves the benefits of deductibility for donations to that organisation. It would be quite reckless to advocate that donations to all organisations engaged in this work should be deductible, irrespective of the type of work it does, the standard of that work or the countries in which it is operating. It would be necessary to consider all of these factors and to approve or declare which organisations would qualify for the benefits of tax deductibility of donations.
After all, the Government goes through much the same procedure in respect of its own projects, and rightly so. It determines the greatest benefit to be derived from the expenditure of public moneys on overseas aid, and should be able to exercise a similar role in determining which private organisations should be approved to gain the benefits of tax deductibility. Again, it has been argued that such a concession should not be granted because it would not be known whether a voluntary organisation would be successful or not in its fund raising activities, and the Commonwealth would not know in any year how much of its revenue would have to be allocated to voluntary organisations by way of this concession. But, again, this must be the case with the organisations and institutions operating within Australia and the same uncertainty must apply with respect to thenfund raising activities. If this, by itself, is a valid argument for refusing deductibility for donations to overseas aid organisations, then it is an equally valid argument why the same concession should be refused to organisations providing relief within Australia; and that would be unthinkable.
In addition, as I have already said, the concession would necessarily be granted only to approved organisations. One of the criteria for such approval could well be that the organisation has proved that it can readily raise funds from donations and that it can continue to do so. All that I contend for is to remove the blanket and universal disallowance of contributions, merely because they are used for projects outside Australia.
There are, in addition, persuasive arguments why the sort of concession I am contending for should be granted.
In the first place, it would indicate clearly to the public that the Government endorsed and encouraged the efforts of private aid organisations and would stimulate the public to make donations to them and, in many cases, to make larger donations than it has in the past. I believe that the Government does welcome the contributions made by voluntary organisations and has assisted them financially and administratively in coordinating the work they have done. But the denial of deductibility for donations has, in fact, given the impression that the Government is not giving a complete public endorsement of the work that these organisations do, and has discouraged many potential donors. If the Government were to allow deductibility to approved organisations, it would be a public endorsement that the Government gives complete support to their work and would stimulate more people and institutions to donate generously to them.
Many companies and instutions devote a regular sum each year to charitable causes. Obviously, they look to see whether their donations are tax deductible. This is a hard fact of commercial life. Companies and institutions are deterred from donating to voluntary overseas aid organisations at the present because their donations are not tax deductible. If they were deductible, the money they have earmarked for donations would go further, there would be more stimulus to donate to this important work, the voluntary agencies would receive more in donations and the work they engage in could be more extensive. And, in the final analysis, Australia reaps the reward, knowing that it is doing more to help the development of new and struggling nations.
Mr Speaker, I hope that at the appropriate time the Government can reconsider its policy on this matter. If it does so it will be demonstrating even more an unqualified encouragement of the voluntary agencies which are doing so much for our neighbouring countries, and so much for Australia. Australia should not slavishly and automatically follow the precepts and practices of other countries in this or any other matter of policy, but the United Kingdom allows the concession that I should like to see in Australia; Canada allows it; New Zealand allows it; the United States of America allows it and The Netherlands allows it. I hope that the Government will at least examine the situation that exists in those countries to see whether there is some way in which this reform can be introduced in Australia. Mr Speaker, it is a privilege to move this motion and I move it accordingly.
Mr O’KEEFE (Paterson) [3.181- Mr Speaker, I rise to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply so ably moved by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown), lt is a privilege to be allocated this task and I regard it as an honour to the people of Paterson who have elected me to this 27th Commonwealth Parliament as their member. Congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election to your high office and also on the knighthood bestowed on you by Her Gracious Majesty the Queen in the New Year Honours List for services rendered to this Parliament and to the Commonwealth.
I should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to my predecessor, Sir Allen Fairhall, who represented the people of Paterson for 20 years with dedicated service to their requirements and to their needs. Sir Allen occupied ministerial rank during most of this time and frequently represented Australia on important overseas missions with distinction and benefit to the nation. Me will long be remembered by the people of Paterson and Australia for his distinguished services over such a long time.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General has been acclaimed as presenting one of the finest programmes of legislation on record. It provides for many important developments in essential fields. The electorate of Paterson is like many other federal country electorates - a vast expansive area with diversified agricultural pursuits and many varied industries. The electorate’s northern boundary extends over the New South Wales Great Dividing Range at Murrurundi to the Currabubula district and the black soil of the Liverpool Plains. This is a very rich area which takes in the Werris Creek, Quirindi, Willowtree and Spring Ridge districts. It is noted for its sheep, beef cattle, wheat and, of recent years, coarse grains. The development of the coarse grains industry, with the growing of sorghum and maize, has been possible through the establishment of extensive irrigation projects. In this area it is quite common for irrigation bores to produce from 80,00.0 to 100,000 gallons of water per hour, so it can readily be seen that this is an area well suited for irrigation. In Canberra last week the Australian Coarse Grain Growers Association was formed to facilitate the marketing of coarse grains. As with other primary industries, there are many problems in this industry. The object of the coarse grain growers is to get together so that they possibly can load full shipments of grain for export to overseas markets.
Moving south the electorate covers the Hunter River Valley through Murrurundi and Scone, which districts are noted for their sheep, dairying, beef cattle and the breeding of thoroughbred horses. Many famous studs are located in the Scone area. East of Scone, on the Hunter River, is situated the Glenbawn Dam which contains some 293,000 acre feet of water. This dam was completed in 1959 and it has been a great asset to the primary producers in the Hunter River area of New South Wales and to primary production generally. Moving further south the electorate encompasses the rich dairying districts of Aberdeen and Muswellbrook. It may be of interest to note that last year the quantity of whole milk supplied by the Hunter River Valley to the Milk Board was of the order of 23 million gallons. Muswellbrook is a splendid town which is developing rapidly by reason of the big Liddell coal fired generating station which is being established there and through the establishment of some industries. The Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Company, which is a magnificent institution, has a big factory in the region and it manufactures milk powder for export.
Also located in the region are a clothing factory, general engineering plants and quite a few smaller industries. There is also the very big coal industry.
The extension of the wine industry in this district is having an important impact. In February 1967 Penfolds Wines Pty Ltd established its Dalwood Estate winery there. This was opened officially by the late Prime Minister, the Hon. Harold Holt. Since this time Hamilton’s Ewell Vineyards Pty Ltd from South Australia has moved into the district at Sandy Hollow. It has an extensive operation. Many other vineyards and wineries are being established in the area by reason of the suitability of the soil and because it is a good area with fewer hailstorms than many other areas. It is interesting to note that in the 1967-68 period 2,016 tons of wine grapes and 139 tons of table grapes were grown in the Hunter Valley. This industry is growing very fast. It will make a contribution to the local and export trade which over the past few years has increased. Australia exported in the 1968-69 season 1,803,000 gallons of wine valued at S3.395,000. From Muswellbrook there is a spur of the electorate which goes 100 miles west through the rich dairying district of Denman, up through the Goulburn Valley to Merriwa and Cassilis and then over the Great Dividing Range to Coolah which is in the Macquarie watershed. This spur is 80 miles wide and produces sheep, cattle and wheat.
The big Liddell coal fired power station is under construction some 14 miles south of Muswellbrook and will cost $200m. When this station is under full steam it will burn 6,000,000 tons of coal a year. This power station has also provided Muswellbrook and Singleton with much development as many of the employees of the station have built their homes in those towns. The employees of the contracting firms to the power station have done likewise. The Liddell colliery is situated here and other coal mines will be developed in the area. The coal industry is on the up grade in the Hunter Valley and is exporting coal to Japan. One company alone has contracts to the value of S45m with Japan. These towns are receiving the benefit of the power station and the uplift in the coal industry which was in the doldrums in the last few years.
Singleton is a rich dairying area and noted for beef cattle. It has a big factory - the Singleton Co-operative Dairying Company - which also makes a well accepted brand of cheese. A lucerne pelleting plant is established in this district and is exporting lucerne pellets overseas. Proceeding further south through Branxton we come to the provincial city of Maitland which is the hub and centre of a rich and progressive district of primary and secondary industry and commercial and educational activities. This, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would know, is one of the older settled parts in Australia and has rich river flats which produce vast quantities of vegetables of all types, lucerne and dairy products as well as maize, sorghum and indeed all types of agricultural products. It is by far the biggest centre in the Paterson electorate and has a population of over 30,000 people. Its main industries are Bradford Cotton Mills, which employs 1,800 men and women. I might add that this organisation buys thousands of bales of cotton from the cotton co-operative at Wee Waa which is in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). Other establishments in the Maitland area include many clothing factories which employ 416 people: engineering works, 300; brick and tile works, 140; timber and hardware business, 157; and a very big stainless steel works, 150.
Situated in Maitland are the district offices of the Postmaster-General’s Department, including both the postal section and telephone section. The Department of Labour and National Service and the District Returning Officer are also situated in Maitland. It is felt very strongly that a Commonwealth office block could be built in this city to cater for those departments which are at present situated in leased premises. This block could also incorporate the Taxation Branch, the Department of the Interior, the field officer for Commonwealth loans, the Department of Social Services, the Repatriation Department and Department of Primary Industry. Approaches along these lines have already been made to the Government and I trust that every consideration will be given to this proposal. Such a proposal, if it were adopted, would be a benefit not only to the Government but also to the people of Maitland and district who would benefit if all these services were available and rendered under the one roof.
On the Hunter River some 7 miles downstream from Maitland is the famous old town of Morpeth which was the port for northern New South Wales and even south western Queensland in the early days. Morpeth today has a milk factory plant for the Hunter River Co-operative Dairy Company. The district itself is a very fine area producing fat cattle and dairy products. Another spur of my electorate goes north of Maitland. This is the rich Paterson Valley of 425 square miles and it has a population of 2,000 people. This area takes in the towns of Paterson and Gresford and is a very rich agricultural land. It is some of the finest country that 1 have seen in Australia. The Lostock Dam is at present under construction above Gresford and when finished it will have a capacity of 16,000 acre feet and will provide a reliable water supply to those farmers adjacent to the Paterson River.
It was very pleasing to hear in the Speech of his Excellency the Governor-General that $100m would be made available by the Government over the next 5 years for flood mitigation and flood prevention works and for the establishment of small dams in various parts of Australia. This will be of great benefit to primary industries. I suggest that there are plenty of sections in the Hunter Valley and the Goulburn River area where some of these funds could be utilised to great advantage not only for the farmers in these areas but for the nation as a whole. Most farm industries are in serious trouble due to the high cost of production and to low prices operating overseas for some of the items, notably wheat and dairy products, thus causing contracting marketing opportunities with other countries.
Primary industries have suffered from years of drought which still gives rise in some parts of Australia to a major problem in regard to the re-establishment of primary producers. The cost squeeze problem has assumed such proportions and has had such an effect that new policies will have to be formulated to ensure that primary industry is sustained on a profitable basis. Wool, of course, has been the most affected of all. Over the years it has been Australia’s greatest export earner, averaging from the year 1965-66 some $750m annually. As a matter of fact, in the last financial year, the value to Australia of the exported wool clip amounted to $795,507,000. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), along with Government members, have been giving this important problem considerable attention with wool industry leaders, and every effort is being made to solve the crisis which has arisen in the wool industry. Some solution must and will be found to help this great industry which has meant so much to Australia. As mentioned in the Speech made by his Excellency the Governor-General, some steps have already been taken to assist in this direction.
Minerals in many parts of Australia are playing a vital role in our growth as a nation. Minerals are earning foreign exchange, promoting the development of new industries and helping to settle the vast and remote parts of the Commonwealth. These discoveries are the achievements of Australians with courage and vision. Mount Isa in Queensland, with its production of silver, lead, zinc and copper, and Hamersley Iron in Western Australia are leaders in this field. An Australian aluminium industry has come into being and exports of bauxite and alumina are being made. Prospecting for nickel, phosphate and manganese as well as asbestos continues and in 1968-69 our exports of minerals were worth $454,969,000.
Coal has assumed an important role with increased production mainly by reason of huge exports to Japan from Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. In the financial year 1968-69 the value of our export coal industry was SI 17m. In New South Wales this industry has received a big boost from the coal fired generating stations which have been built at Vales Point and Lake Munmorah. The S200m Liddell power station south of Muswellbrook is well on the way to completion. The increased export market will necessitate major expansion in this mining area, and plans are well under way for this to take place. The demand for coal by the great steel industry has increased and has given further impetus to the coal industry. I am happy to say that the port of New castle has a very modern coal loading plant which is a great asset to the industry and to the Commonwealth. The number of people employed in the industry has increased considerably. In my own State of New South Wales there are now 13,000 people in the industry. The figure 2 years ago was 9,000, and for the whole of Australia is of the order of 18,000. It is quite obvious that there will be a shortage of skilled personnel in the coal mining industry in the next 18 months or so, and perhaps the Department of Immigration could have a look at this and get some skilled miners out from Great Britain. Petroleum and natural gas discoveries are increasing and at the present time approximately 10% of the petroleum requirements of this country are provided from local fields. This percentage will increase in the years ahead and will save Australia foreign exchange and will be very important in times of emergency. Experts are of the opinion that by 1976-77 exports of minerals from this country should be of the order of $2,000m.
Abattoirs are established in my electorate at Aberdeen and are owned by F. J. Walker and Co., while the abattoirs at Maitland are owned by the Maitland City Council and the abattoirs at Gunnedah in the Namoi Valley are owned by the Gunnedah Municipal Council. The total number of men employed at these works is in the vicinity of 650. The abattoirs carry export licences and make a valuable contribution to Australia’s export earnings. Of our primary industries, the meat industry is the one bright section. It has been very pleasing to learn of the increased exports of beef, veal and mutton to the United States during this current year. Australia will provide the United States with at least 527 million pounds of these products. The value of these shipments is expected to be in the vicinity of $220m. The Minister for Primary Industry and others in his Department are endeavouring to expand the old established market of the United Kingdom and also increase exports to Japan. He has announced that as from 1969 exporters will be required to earn their entitlement to the United States market by the sale of meat to other markets. This is known as diversification. This policy is aimed at developing, and has developed, markets. For example, sales of beef and mutton totalling 30.000 tons have been made to the Soviet Union and there is a possibility of further sales being made to that country. Worthwhile sales may be made to other eastern European countries such as Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary. The Minister for Primary Industry, the Government, the Australian Meat Board and exporters have all played their part in making these additional exports possible. I pay tribute to Mr J. L. Shute, O.B.E., the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, who has done a magnificent job in the meat industry over very many years. I understand that he retires in June of this year. He has made a great contribution.
The electorate of Paterson has approximately 4 million sheep and lambs and 500,000 head of cattle, comprising 400,000 beef cattle and 100,000 dairy cattle. This region would therefore hope to share proportionately in the more lucrative markets of the United States as well as establishing a diversion to other markets. All exporters should share equally any extra entitlements to export beef and mutton. Although at this stage the Government has not given any direct financial assistance to the States for the decentralisation of industry, I am one of those people who believe that every consideration should be given to such a proposal. We have in Australia approximately 3 million square miles of country and a population of 12.4 million people, 75% of whom live in the seaboard cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Launceston. I appreciate the fact that the Government introduced in 1955 an equalisation scheme for petroleum products to keep country prices within 3.3c of the capital city prices. I also appreciate the fact that beef roads have been constructed in the north and that assistance has been given to projects such as the Mount Isa railway line and others However, it is felt that if more financial aid were forthcoming the States could do a lot more to bring about decentralisation, which is most desirable.
The New South Wales Government, under a separate Ministry, has achieved results and over 430 industries have been brought out into the country areas of that State. I know that Queensland and Western Australia are also very active in this field. I feel that the States do not require assistance from any Commonwealth department of decentralisation but require substantial financial assistance to expand and utilise the first-hand knowledge and experience that they at present possess. The Government must devise some ways and means of helping with the equalisation of telephone costs, lt costs something like 80c or 90c to make a trunk line call some 300 miles from a capital city. Equalisation of telephone costs would eliminate a major locational disadvantage incurred by country industries. Another way in which the Commonwealth could help would be to offer special incentives to decentralise export industries. We must make every effort to build up our country towns and cities and to spread ourselves out over this wonderful country. It would be to our great advantage and assist our self preservation to do this. Mr Speaker, I have appreciated the courtesy extended to me during this speech and I trust that my stay in this House will be of benefit to my constituents and the nation.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition making his speech without limitation of time.
– 1 would like to congratulate the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0’K.eefe) upon the maiden speeches which they have made, and I would wish them, at least for the life of this Parliament, a useful and constructive period in this House. The Governor-General’s Speech was a much more grand document on this occasion than was the previous one several months ago, which was a perfunctory exercise. I do not know whether it lasted for minutes, but it certainly covered some seconds. On this occasion the speech tended to go even beyond the normal length. In many respects it contains the shreds and patches that the defeats at the last election inflicted on Government members, when they received an indication of what needed to be attended to. In the course of the Speech the other afternoon His Excellency mentioned two matters that I want to deal with first, although I do not want to take very long on them. He said, firstly, that a comprehensive statement would be made on Australia’s defence policy in the early days of this session by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I would hope that this nation does not forget that this is the same Government which during the 1963 election campaign promised us the Fill aircraft. We have had the election of 1966 and the election of 1969, and we still do not have the FI 1 1 aeroplane.
– The honourable member is too impatient.
– The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) says that I am too impatient. Since the time that Mr Robert Menzies, as he then was, made the first announcement about the Fill Australia has expended on defence oyer S6,000m.
I would again submit that in that period what is called the hardware of the Services has been orientated around that aeroplane for which we have already paid $300m and which we still have not received. I would commend to honourable members - and particularly to new members - of this House the 17th November 1969 issue of a publication called the ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’, which was issued after the recent general election, entitled ‘Defence Hardware’. For the purposes of this ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’, defence hardware is taken to mean physical defence military resources. The learned writer goes on to say that there must be an attempt to outline the environment within which that hardware can be expected to operate or, put in another way, to discuss the forces that necessitated the acquisition of that hardware. In the period from 1963 to 1969, to which I have referred, out of a total expenditure of $6,000m some S4,000m, or more than twothirds, has been in the non-hardware area. It has been used to provide manpower and to cover the maintenance of the various Services. These figures show us what a tremendous hole there has been in the hardware procurement programme because so many of the eggs were placed in the basket of the Fill. Surely nobody would argue - I am sure that no-one on the Government side would do so - that the Army, Navy and Air Force work in isolation. Buying a piece of hardware with one Service in mind limits what can be bought for the others. Purchases ought to be integrated in some way.
I do not know what would have happened to a Labor government if in 1963 it had said it was going to order this wonderful plane or if it had come along in 1966 and said, as my friend suggests: ‘Be patient. We have not got it yet.’ If in 1 969 Labor had said: ‘We still have not got it’ I am inclined to think that we would have been laughed out of court as a credible government. If the Government is now blithely to say - $6,000m later, without the linchpin, the Fill, and not knowing whether we are going to get it or not - that it is going to embark on a new, comprehensive resurvey of the defence forces, I think the Australian public ought to be a little critical of it. We have already paid $300m for the Fill and we have not received anything. If the implications of the writer of the ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’ are significant for us as a nation on the verge of the 1970s, as well as asking: ‘What do we defend ourselves with?’, we should be asking: ‘What do we defend ourselves against?’
The ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’ refers to reappraising our relations with Asia. I hope that a very early attempt will be made to disengage Australian troops from one area, the area of Vietnam. I hope that the deescalation will not lead to escalation somewhere else, as in Laos. I submit that, at least in the 1970s, Australia’s sphere of influence is in Asia and South East Asia. If we are to exert any influence, it is the belief at least of my side of the House that our influence will be valuable only if it is orientated around the economic development of those areas rather than around the form of military aggression called defence procurement. I hope that these issues will be debated later.
In the remaining time that I have available I want to speak briefly about something that was mentioned here today. I refer to these as rather cold words that I find in the Address-in-Reply:
Full employment has been maintained and considerable expansion has taken place. Commerce and industry, apart from some rural industries, are prosperous.
From what we heard here this morning and again this afternoon it seems that at least there are some doubts in people’s minds as to whether rural industry, broadly speaking, is prosperous. Today I happened to come across one of those numerous publications that are sent to honourable members, this one being the ‘Ricemill News’. I am sure it is well known to my colleague, the honourable member for the Riverina (Mr Grassby). I refer to the ‘Ricemill News’ for January 1970. I .have never noticed that it had what one might call a Labor slant, but this is what it says in an article at page 26 entitled ‘Australian Farm Production to Increase’, it states:
Already, Australia has a potentially serious rural poverty problem on its hands, and for some industries, in particular the dairy industry, this problem is already a fact of life.
The article continues:
Australia as it enters the 70s still does not have a national farm policy, and what farm policies it has for different industries are in many cases antiquated and not attuned to the next 10 years.
Then it goes on to note:
The spokesmen have also asked repeatedly for the formulation of a national farm policy, but thoughts by the Government on the formulation of such a policy have been pigeon-holed.
I repeat that this is not the wild rambling of some Labor columnist; it is a serious article in a rural journal, the .D :—; News’.
– Who wrote it?
– I do not know. Perhaps the honourable gentleman can inform me. As I have already indicated, Australia has paid $300m for an aeroplane that it has not got. We are not sure, when we get it, whether it will do what we thought it would. During the course of the next 12 months the Government is going to underwrite the sum of $3 00m also to pay wheat growers in advance for wheat that may not be sold. Perhaps it will be sold, but at this stage in essence we are paying people to produce something about which there are uncertainties as to its subsequent destination. I simply take these two items - $3 00m up the spout for a plane that will not fly and $300m for wheat that at this stage we cannot sell. Both of these exercises are within the capacity of the Australian economy to finance. I just draw the analogy that, if expenditure of this kind were carefully planned rather than just prodigally spread. What a lot could be done perhaps to re-adjust the balance of the Australian economy. I am one who is rather horrified by the prospects of the city of Melbourne reaching a population of over 5 million before the turn of this century and the city of Sydney reaching perhaps over 6 million by the same date. Already Victoria and New South Wales between them contain 60% of the total population of Australia and more than half of the population of those two States is contained within the two conurbations of Melbourne and Sydney. In terms of expansion of population, the cities are growing relatively faster than are the country areas.
I had the opportunity recently to revisit the part of the world where I was born. That is the Western District of Victoria. I found in 1970 that the same sorts of things are happening there as were happening in 1933. I had to leave the town of Hamilton where 1 was born because there was no economic opportunity there for my particular or peculiar talents, whichever way you like to regard them. That is still the situation. If we mean anything when we say we will halt the growth of the cities, we mean that we will encourage the expansion of population in the non-cities, in the rural areas. In my view this will not be accomplished if we think of towns such as Portland, Hamilton, Horsham and Warrnambool in isolation. This will be accomplished only if we act on a regional basis and then only with the combined co-operation of all levels of government, Federal, State and local.
Every so often in these days a new word seems to be injected into our jargon. The new word coming in now seems to be ecology’. In some respects this seems to mean that we change the old thesis of the cradle to the grave and in the future think of development as a combined process all the way down from the sower to the sewer. I do not use that in any offensive sense. The development of any area has to be considered in the light of the resources available in the area, the technology available in the area and primarily the responses of the people who live in the area. I cannot see that there is any difference between the hundreds of regions - there may be less than 100 - that are viable when areas are aggregated. There is nothing essentially different, for example, between the area that my friend, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and I know, the Western District of Victoria, and the area surrounding the electorate of my colleague from Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), where we are prepared to take millions of dollars and hundreds or perhaps thousands of people to dig a hole in the ground. We are digging the hole in the ground because we think we can find there not something that is wanted primarily in. Australia but something that is wanted outside Australia.
If we think about it, we must agree that that is still the situation with Australia’s wool industry. Broadly the whole of Australia’s wool production is exported, lt is not used in Australia. I sometimes wonder whether, if we were 100 years earlier, if the export trade had been less significant than it is now and if we were starting Australia, we would start it on the basis of a wool industry. Australians have had a great reluctance to do anything except what had to be done internally. Historically, of course, the wool industry has found an export market. I do not claim to be an expert in these matters, .but there seems to be a school of thought, perhaps residing in the Australian Country Party more than anywhere else, which holds that the only people who can talk about wool, wheat, sugar and butter in this House are those who live in the country. Most of us have to’ eat the stuff and wear the stuff and after all many of those who live in the country do not produce these items.
– And you want them to be as cheap as possible.
– As reasonable as possible. I think that the people who live on the land are as entitled to a fair price for their product as are the people who, say, work in factories. At least the trade unions are systematic; I doubt whether the rural industries are quite as systematic. There are divisions between large and small growers. I am fortified by a publication on the wool industry issued recently by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It said that in terms of total production there is a demand for wool, that there is no long accumulation of it. that inflation in Australia has not been any greater than inflation in the countries that have bought our wool and that therefore, in terms of comparative costs, they should still be willing to pay in 1 970 the same real price as they did 5 or 6 years ago. However, that does not seem to be the position. I would submit that something is very much wrong with the marketing of wool in Australia. Far be it from me to submit any simple solution, but I would think that at the moment Australia is in a sense being robbed of about $200m in terms of the potential price of the wool clip. I met some people in the Western District who said: ‘We produced as much wool this year of the same quality as we did in the previous year but received SI, 800 less for it’. This is a product that the rest of the world is still supposed to want. 1 submit that something is wrong somewhere.
I also found in the town of Koroit, which my friend would possibly know, that potatoes were being sold at $10 a ton. By my arithmetic $ 1 0 a ton is near enough to ic a lb. Yet in my greengrocery shop I. pay 4c a lb. What happened in the long chain from the time the potatoes were under the ground until they reached my mouth to raise the price from the ic that the grower received to the 4c that the shopkeeper received? I do not think that the shopkeeper is getting the rake off either, but somewhere along the line somebody is getting more than he is entitled to receive. The potato grower in Koroit is entitled to a fair price for his potatoes and in my view it is much more than $10 a ton. In my view the grower could be paid more than $10 a ton and potatoes could still bc sold at the same price of 4c. Somebody along the chain of distribution should receive less and the grower should receive more.
These are problems that we must solve, if we want to be realistic. There is no difference between systematically putting some kind of industry half way between Portland and Warrnambool or Warrnambool and Hamilton, for instance, and digging a hole in the ground for Poseidon. It is wrong of the Government to think that something wonderful is being done in 1970 with the creation of a new organisation to be called the Industry Development Corporation. I submit that what is wrong with Australia at the moment is that we have not properly husbanded our savings to get the greatest economic development possible. We have allowed others to come in and do by default what we should have been doing ourselves. Again I draw the attention of honourable members to this interesting article contained in the most recent issue of the ‘Australian Economic Review 4th Quarter 1 969’. The article is headed: ‘Aspects of Financing the Mineral Industry in Australia’ and was written by Mr P. J. Rose. Table 3 in the article shows the sources of new share capital of Australian companies. In the period from 1959 to 1967 - 8 or 9 yearspeople in Australia purchased new shares worth SI, 159m in undertakings but people outside Australia bought interest in Australian companies to the value of SI, 143m.
I submit that there is no need to have an organisation to harness more overseas development. In reply to a question asked yesterday the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said that he could get 8% interest on his idle funds in London. At what rate does he think people are going to invest in new banking institutions? Are they going to do so at less than 8% or more than 8%? I submit that the economic development of Australia in the future is dependent upon interest rates being brought down rather than increasing. This has been the policy of my Party in a nutshell: That more people in the community are advantaged when interest rates are low than are advantaged by interest rates being high. If interest rates are high it means that the profiteer and the speculator gain and that the person in dire economic circumstances pays far higher for his standard of living, for his goods and services and for the roof above his head than in conscience he should. I hope that in the next 10 years we will plan more systematically the development of this great country of ours to stop the drift from country to city.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honouarble member’s time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Denison I remind the House that this is his maiden speech and I ask that the usual courtesy be extended to him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, much as I would like to tell you about the discriminating electors of Denison or to speak of matters attracting wide consensus such as parliamentary salaries, I intend rather to consider a subject without which the Governor-General’s Speech would have had very little meaning -democracy. In doing so I want to draw attention to some related matters and prac tices which crossed my mind before I thought about the prospect of entering this House.
It is likely, Sir, that never before has democracy been subjected to such widespread criticism as has been the case since the end of World War II. Much of the criticism has been marked by superficiality. Some of the criticism has been deserved but some has been insidious. Every democracy, by its very freedom, contains the potential for its own subversion. If there is developed a conspiracy to subvert it can operate under the protection of the freedoms to which it is directly or indirectly opposed. As W. H. C. Eddy pointed out, any such conspiracy: is able to exploit for its own protection not merely the rights essential for maintaining free institutions, but also the ignorance and incredulity of most citizens and a set of techniques for confusing the issues and causing attempts at exposure to rebound and damage not the conspiracy but its critics.
One of the great weaknesses of democracy in this country has been the absence of consistent constructive criticism from within the political arena but outside the Parliament. Nowhere in Australia have we had a Malcolm Muggeridge, a William F. Buckley Jnr or a Bertrand Russell - people with notable learning who question our institutions, our direction, our establishments. Lest it be thought that by establishments I mean Liberal Party governments, I should mention having spent most of my political life under a State Labour government as establishmentarian and conservative as any good reactionary could wish.
The lack of educated criticism in Australia has meant the lack of good public argument in the proper sense of that term. In general our politicians and others in the public view have been prone to regard criticism of policies or practices as personal denunciations. Only 40 years ago that great explorer and geographer Griffith Taylor was effectively ostracised from this country for having the temerity to reveal that a large chunk of its interior was desert. When Donald Campbell gave it good publicity by driving over it at several hundred miles per hour we were much happier. Less than 10 years ago neither major political party -to their undying shame - would buy into what 1 believe to have been the greatest issue of public morality here during my adult life: the dismissal of Professor Orr. Even now when Lord-somebody takes his first breath of Australian air on the tarmac and is asked how he likes it, he is away to a good start if he answers: ‘What a lovely smell of gum trees’, and is patently a liar because kerosene is the dominant odour, whereas he is away behind scratch with the public media and others if he says honestly: It’s too damned hot for comfort’.
But what, you may ask, Mr Deputy Speaker, has this to do with democracy? It has much to do with it. Democracy can flourish only in an atmosphere of trust, out of an inclination to recognise the truth, and with an intent to protect those who expose the truth however hard the establishments and the vested interests are knocked. He who would speak out deserves our praise, not our condemnation, provided only that he speaks with conviction and with reasonable knowledge. Therefore one can accept, if not agree with, an assessment that the war in Vietnam is unjustified; but if the same assessor equates the role of the United States of America to that of Nazi Germany one’s credulity is overtaxed, one’s intelligence is affronted and the proponent of the line is suspect in point of knowledge or of judgment or even of motivation.
There is. of course, a tendency to exaggerate in a political system such as ours which depends on persuasion rather than coercion. Our democratic viewpoints are inclined to be expressed in blacks and whites. Hence we encounter from time to time the manifestly absurd proposition that one or other of the major parties in Australian politics is incapable of initiating anything worthwhile. Such extremism nevertheless can be forced on political spokesmen by the danger which lies in failing to dramatise party policies. Thus the concentration of the Liberal Party’s realistic opposition to Communism in a pamphlet of the 1966 Federal election campaign was so dramatically effective as to provoke numerous accusations of oversimplification. But in my experience the protests came - apart from those who bluntly resented the success of the message - from people who were prepared to read a 10 or 20-page document on the rights and wrongs of
Vietnam and assumed, through their political ignorance, that most of the electorate was prepared to do likewise.
Herein lies another major problem of latter day democracy: How, with universal franchise, to disseminate information at adequate levels of detail? If the information released by governments is too scanty or over-generalised, the more learned critics complain that the public is being kept in the dark or treated with contempt. In matters of national interest such as defence it is well nigh impossible to avoid the charge; on questions of a domestic nature we come closer to the waitress in the San Francisco restaurant - more, even all, can be revealed. It is hard to see that the problem ever will be thoroughly solved. What is involved, therefore, is an element of trust and understanding between a government and its critics; but excepting the truly neutral critics, of whom there are few, those involved are constantly beset by the need to make political capital out of an issue, to show their proposals in the best light and their opponents’ in the worst.
The political role of the public media is not exempt from criticism. It is a source of wonder that opposing political forces so often can make equal accusations of bias about the same political commentaries. We cannot resolve that here. But one facet of the subject is overdue for comment. This is the charge that our newspapers overwhelmingly favour the status quo. May I suggest a close analysis of the editorial and reported materials. It is quite common to find editorial support for the right of the political spectrum while the front page story favours the left. Since the front page scanners probably outnumber the editorial observers by 100 to 1, the oft-repeated charge of conservative Press influence bears examination. I say that knowing of one case where an independent candidate for election received sustained support to the tune of 120 column inches under 10 captions of 36 point type or larger, while the major party candidates were almost ignored.
I realise, Mr Deputy Speaker, that these matters may be no revelation to you. But I do wish that some of the critics of political processes would give sufficient thought to the system to comprehend that political argument can rarely be the same as academic argument. That is not to say that any political argument should be based on other than fact or at least impartial analysis. If I may put the point more succinctly, whether or not politics is the science of exigencies or the art of the possible, democracy is surely the art of compromise.
Nevertheless, even if the more professional critics of the democratic society are prepared to accept this assessment, there remains the problem of those who protest at being excessively remote from the seats of power and lacking in any influence upon the decision makers. If I did not in some measure sympathise with their frustration, I would not be here now. Yet I believe that al’l too often the form of their militancy is unjustified. By this I do not mean that their complaints are necessarily unfounded or that entrenched conservatism should not be prepared to change. What I do mean is that, in the main, they should stop complaining and start participating, for, as I see it, participation is the keystone of a healthy democracy. In this society, there are few barriers to active involvement in political organisations; nor should it be pretended that these are the only vehicles of influence. Many other social groups bring pressure to bear upon the elected decision makers, often a good deal more blatantly and with more narrowly vested interests than the political parties themselves.
However, despite the opportunities for involvement, many are not involved, physically or mentally, with the democratic process. Reasons are numerous: deference, embarrassment, apathy among our more passive citizens; among the would be activists impatience couples with adherence to the principle of least effort in finding that the machinery of democracy grinds slowly to produce a coarser flour than suits the purist’s palate. In my view, the educated and the vocal who opt out deserve little of our sympathy in their inability to influence events. Those who genuinely feel unequal to the task provide a more intractable problem. Liberty offers few advantages to the weak if its results merely expose them to the power of the strong.’ In fact, they need not be exposed, but merely to think they are, to constitute a significant imperfection in the fabric of democracy. It can be very frightening to feel totally powerless.
This leads me, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the nub of my discussion. Among the many definitions and interpretations of democracy, I find its qualities best expressed in the phrase ‘equality of opportunity’. Not everyone will share the preference. But there is a world of difference between this definition and perhaps its most frequent misuse, as a synonym for equality. Even in this egalitarian society of ours, we are not all equal. Nor can we be made so, short of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. Frustrating as it may be to some, 12 million prime ministers are not a practical proposition. That the possibility exists for any one of the 12 million to become prime minister is the crucial issue. It does exist but it is an unequally distributed possibility.
The most effective means of providing a rough approximation of equal opportunity is education. Access to an effective education system therefore is vital to a democratic society. But it is not necessary to put everyone through the same mould, to reject, for example, the concept of independent schools, to prove that opportunity exists. Much has been made lately of the economic disparity which can be found among individuals in modern democracies, with the explicit or implicit corollary that the system stands condemned. The much greater and wider spread discrepancies of earlier and current autocratic and feudal societies also might be used to point up the progress which our admittedly imperfect system represents.
Another bone of contention, which is related to economic inequality, is that the sons and daughters of the less skilled workers in the community are less likely to receive a university education than the offspring of professional workers. How the recent discoverers of this long known condition propose to remedy the situation is something I await with avid interest. The negative contribution of poor environment of course can bc turned to positive account by exposure to the attractions of learning. But do those, like Mr Wertheimer in the journal ‘Dissent’, who advocate demonstrative action to redress inequalities, also have a remedy for inherent differences in individual intelligence? Do they propose less education for the mentally well endowed so that we can attain parity of educational achievement between the sons of bricklayers and the daughters of teachers? Or do they have more drastic solutions? lt has been cogently argued that already 20th century educational philosophy has moved away from intellectual training and towards social adjustment. If we reach a stage where that proportion of the population which is capable of developing trained and critical minds should subordinate the sharpening of its intellectual skills to the doctrine of togetherness, then I concur with Professor Monro that it becomes ‘at least arguable that de Tocqueville was right, and that we are paying a very heavy price indeed for democracy’.
Surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, the will to develop all the innate skills of our people is the hallmark of a liberal democracy. If in so doing a normal distribution of ability and hence of earning capacity and perhaps of influence becomes evident, the whole society must gain through the variety and complementary of its components. But what about the chap at the bottom end of the spectrum, say trie egalitarians? I submit that, despite its imperfections, this democracy is sufficiently liberal for him to move from that position if he has the innate capacity. If he has not, no amount of conceivable legislation will make him prime minister. By the same token, a liberal democracy must guard the self respect of its citizens and ensure that no one worth his salt goes to the wall. This is recognised, in those forms of assistance which the State renders the individual and which require constant review.
The problem of protecting the weak and guarding against gross inequalities of opportunity may be more difficult to solve when the units are somewhat larger than individual people. Take, for instance, our electorates. Few, if any, are recognisable entities geographically, economically or socially; nor with boundary changes do they long maintain historical continuity. In fact, I represent, with the possible exception of the two Commonwealth Territories, the electorate which most nearly constitutes a functional entity: the business core, the inner suburbs and some outer suburbs of the Hobart metropolitan area. That to me is a source of pride and satisfaction.
But, while it may assist my determining with some confidence the needs of the area and its people, it does not ensure that their representation shall be more or less effective than that of their counterparts elsewhere. That depends not only on my powers of persuasion and my relative standing in government or opposition but also on general policy emphases, as for example between rural and urban areas, and on the decisions of State legislators and others. So, whatever equality we have under representative constitutional government is of the Orwellian kind, where some are more equal than others. It is important therefore that those who are less equal today should have the chance to be more equal tomorrow. 1 do not think anyone could properly deny that the changes can be rung in our operative system, lt is not, of course, an easy system to operate. I wonder how many of those on the political sidelines understand the problem of conflicting loyalties - a problem not always solved by Disraeli’s advice Damn, your principles; stick to your party’. Nor from the evidence is the fragmentation of parties or even their abolition a practical solution.
A more mundane requirement of effective democracy than allegiance to principle or to party is, 1 believe, the need for accuracy. Facts are much more telling than speculation even if they take less space on the page or less time on television. In particular we need to know what others are talking about. Our language and our nomenclature are increasingly less precise in their application. Legions of people, including many in universities, say ‘this’ when they mean ‘that’. Others emulate Australian Broadcasting Commission interviewers and stress unimportant prepositions instead of nouns and verbs. Any speech made yesterday is described as historic. Democracy can be defined as something unobtainable without Hare-Clark. Does anybody really give thought to the southern hemisphere as a unit except when we think that something we have built may, if we do not look too closely at Brazil or Argentina, bc the biggest in it? Despite a most cogent newspaper article in 1967 by Professor Spate. Australia is still all too commonly placed ‘in Asia’. Mr Deputy Speaker, if Australia is in Asia, then the United States is most certainly in Russia and you and 1 are in the Senate - or is it the other place?
If we are to control and guide the future of our society in a world of rapid change the need for information and the emphasis on its accuracy will increase. In a society where rapid advances in technology are not automatically advances in human values or the quality of life, education in ideas will become more important. If there is a crisis today in industrial democracy it stems, as Sir Isaiah Berlin suggested in a rare interview, from: . . (he difficulty of combining … the political participation of the majority of a given society in the processes which control our lives, “with the inescapable need for highly trained experts and .specialists for the purpose of controlling the very elaborate machinery which human ingenuity . . . has created.
Mr Deputy Speaker, my time is running short and so, like Lady Godiva, I draw toward my close. I look forward to contributing to the discussion of specific legislative proposals as they come before this House. All will depend for their effective implementation on the maintenance of representative institutions in what I believe is still one of the leading examples of a liberal democratic society.
-I call the honourable member for Robertson and remind the House that this will be his maiden speech.
Mr COHEN (Robertson) [4.29- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I first pay tribute to the 25,000 people of Robertson who sent me to this place and to the magnificent band of Labor supporters who worked so hard and effectively during the election campaign. It is to their great credit that 20 years of defeat in Federal elections has not dimmed their enthusiasm. May I also pay tribute to my opponent, Mr Bill Bridges-Maxwell and his supporters for the very tough and hard but fair campaign which they fought.
I believe that it is traditional for a new member in his maiden speech to range over those subjects that are of special interest to him - a sort of persona] manifesto. It should not be too difficult to bring those subjects to light in this debate as most of the areas of special interest to me were either totally ignored in the Governor-
General’s Speech or lightly glossed over without any real attempt to get at the basic cause of the ills that exist. I have the honour to represent not the largest or the smallest electorate in Australia - not the wealthiest or the poorest - but certainly the most beautiful. For those who are unfamiliar with the electorate of Robertson - some people tend to confuse it with the town of Robertson in the electorate of Macarthur - it is that area of land usually designated as the central coast of New South Wales; the area between the cities of Sydney and Newcastle commencing at Moonee on the Hawkesbury River in the south and extending to Swansea on the shores of Lake Macquarie in the north, lt is unquestionably an area to which nature has been generous. It is an area of gently sloping and wooded hills, superb lakes and lagoons, magnificent beaches and a general atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that is in striking contrast to the hustle and bustle, the industrial smog and the urban ugliness of metropolitan Sydney and Newcastle, lt is an area that through its beauty and its bellbirds has been immortalised by Henry Kendall. I paint this picture not because 1 wish to wax poetic or make honourable members jealous but because the great natural beauty of the electorate of Robertson is highly relevant to the case for special treatment that 1 shall he putting before this House.
The central coast developed originally as a rail head for agricultural produce, dairy produce, citrus and timber but in more recent years, particularly since World War II, it has become, because of its great beauty and charm, a retirement haven for senior citizens, a pleasure resort and one of the few places left within miles of Sydney where young people not able to afford the exorbitant prices being charged for land in Sydney could build a home at a reasonable price. This development has created a number of difficult problems. The first is the enormous strain now placed upon those workers who, through economic circumstances beyond their control, are forced to travel long distances to work. Many spend up to 4 hours a day travelling to and from Sydney. The second problem is caused by the high proportion of aged people who now reside in the electorate. The shires of Gosford and Wyong have probably the highest proportion of aged people of any shire in Australia. They have approximately 18,500 people over the age of 60 years, or 23% of their population, compared with the national average of about 12*%. Later I shall outline the multitudinous problems that a society such as ours creates when its elderly citizens, both superannuitants and pensioners, after a lifetime of contributing to the welfare and prosperity of Australia, are given a small1 pittance to eke out a subsistence living and are then forgotten. lt is a measure of the Government’s inability to get to grips wtih the problems of aged people that we now see another few small attempts to patch up the present creaking social welfare legislation. While we welcome the assistance to the meals on wheels scheme and the payment of standard rates of pension to married couples who have lost the economies of living together, it appears that minor adjustments such as these are handed out from time to time to make it appear that the Government is genuinely concerned with our elderly citizens without ever really understanding the needs of the aged. Where in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was there one suggestion of an awareness that yesterday’s workers are ill equipped through their employment history adequately to enjoy the extra years that medical advances have brought them? Where in the Speech or in any recent legislation is there recognition of the loneliness and boredom that is one of the least recognised problems facing the elderly? Last year the Government passed an Act to provide finance for the establishment of senior citizens centres and the recruitment of social workers, dependent on the States joining on a one-third basis with local community organisations. Perhaps the Government cri1 now find a way to force its Liberal Party colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament to make the States Grants (Home Care) Act of 1969 operative.
The other reason why I stress the unique beauty of the central - coast is because a little more than 18 months ago the New South Wales State Planning Authority released its outline plan for the Sydney region in which it proposed an increase in population in the central coast area to 500,000 by the year 2000. The year 2000 may seem too far in the future for many honourable members opposite to imagine, as they live mostly in the past, but if I remind them that it would be equal to the period since the beginning of World War II they may be able to realise how quickly the year 2000 will be upon us. Of course, not all of these people will arrive in the year 2000; they will come in an ever increasing flood during the next 30 years. It would be fair to say that at least 200,000 people will be in the central coast in 10 years time.
We have a unique opportunity in the Central Coast to avoid the mistakes of the past - the mistakes made in all the metropolitan areas of Australia. We have the opportunity to avoid many of the problems that exist in today’s cities. In the past few months the question of environment has become not only an issue of local or national concern but an issue that is occupying the attention of the nations around the world. We are now aware that progress that leads to a diminution in the quality of life of its citizens is not progress but regress. Never a day passes without some new outcry against air and water pollution, traffic congestion, destruction of our flora and fauna, despoliation of our beaches and urban ugliness and visual chaos. Couple these crimes against nature with the continued shortage of amenities that affect the everyday lives of our citizens - sewerage, schools, hospitals, recreation facilities, roads and highways and one becomes aware of the ghastly lack of planning that has accrued since our society developed into primarily an urban society.
Where in the Governor-General’s address was there recognition that these problems exist? I forgot who it was - it may have been the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - who said Liberal governments never act, they only react. Having almost lost an election it is now in the process of attempting to do something about the crises that have existed in many areas such as the health and rural fields in an attempt to salvage some of its tattered image before the Senate elections later this year. But once again it has missed the bandwagon.
The Leader of the Opposition has for many years urged the Government to do something about the chaos in the cities and now that the issue is in the forefront and has been taken up by all the mass media, the Government demonstrates its complete inability to gauge the tempo of the times by ignoring the whole question of environment altogether. What is needed is a recognition by the Government that not only do these problems exist in today’s cities but that they ought to be combated and that they can be avoided in tomorrow’s cities by good town planning and civic design. lt should also recognise that good planning and design will only occur if and when governments make available to local and semi-government authorities the sort of finance that will enable them to employ the expertise they so desperately need. Or as the Labor Party suggested in its policy speech, for the Government to provide the experts - the ecologists, demographers, architects, engineers and town-planners - and then provide them with the wherewithal for them to make their suggestions and recommendations a reality. As I said before, we have a unique opportunity to create a magnificent city for the proposed newcomers who will be coming to live on the Central Coast. We have the councillors and the public spirited and civic minded citizens with the imagination and vision to seek and accept the advice of experts. All we need is a government that will no longer stand aloof from these challenges and give us the financial assistance and expert guidance we so desperately need.
I would like to touch briefly on a number of matters that I hope to be speaking on in more detail when the opportunity arises, for they were motivating factors in my deciding to become a political activist. I have always been concerned with the question of prejudice, whether that prejudice be based on class, religion or race. Today the world seethes with racial unrest - in the United States, in parts of South East Asia, in sections of communities all over the world. However, at least today’s discrimination on the grounds of race or colour is either formally disowned where it exists, or legally discouraged with varying degrees of conviction and success.
There remain only two States in the world where racial superiority has been raised to a fine legislative art. These countries are South Africa and the illegal regime of Rhodesia. What concerns me is the number of members on the other side who warmly champion the causes of these two oppressive regimes.
The people of Australia have just had the opportunity of hearing one honourable member revealing his sympathies and his place in the political spectrum. Of course, he is only one of a small group who have revealed themselves from lime to time on the other side for their espousal of every extremist cause in the world. One or two departed from this place at the recent federal elections but unfortunately many still remain. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stands condemned for his action in appointing one of their number to the Ministry. One can imagine the reaction amongst our neighbours in the near north or in the newly emerging countries of Africa and Asia when they read of the appointment of the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen).
While 1 concede that all members on the other side do not sympathise with the attitude of this particular group - and I commend the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) for his question to the Prime Minister on Tuesday - it seems to me that there is an attitude of racial superiority prevalent amongst some honourable members on the other side that is demonstrated in the Government policies toward South East Asia - in particular Vietnam - towards New Guinea with its paternalistic colonialism, its immigration policy and its inability to carry out a concerted attack on the question of Aboriginal advancement. It is covert rather than overt racism for it often to pretend to be doing this by doing a little window dressing. When one gets down to examine the situation in regard to Aboriginal affairs in detail one finds that little has in fact been done.
That leads me to the last subject and the one T intend to deal with in more detail - the subject of Aboriginal advancement. It is now nearly 3 years since this Government was given the green light by the Australian people to get on with the job of lifting the Aboriginals out of the mire of despondency and degradation that they had wallowed in since the arrival of Captain Cook, almost 200 years ago to the day. During recent weeks I have had the privilege of visiting north western New
South Wales with the Labour Caucus Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. What a great gap exists between the myth that Aboriginals are making giant steps forward and the reality that exists on the squalid shanty settlements on the outskirts of these country towns.
Having read the speeches of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) over the past 3 years, one would find it difficult to criticise the Minister’s basic grasp of the problem or his genuine desire to seek advancement for Aboriginals. Having studied the many forward looking changes introduced by the Minister, such as the creation of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, the setting up of the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises, the Study Grants for Aboriginals, the employment programme to assist Aboriginals and the amounts of money passed on to the States for disbursement throughout the fields of education, health and housing, one would have expected to see some radical changes already taking place in the standard of living of the vast majority of Aboriginals. Instead we found them still living in conditions that are scandalous in the extreme.
During the visit the Committee viewed living conditions of Aboriginals on a number of reserves, a former station and a housing settlement and of those settled in townships. The Committee also visited a hospital, a pre-school kindergarten, a school, a police station, hotels and a Returned Services League club. We also talked with council officers, school teachers, local graziers, business people, police, a doctor, a Child Welfare officer, ministers of religion and publicans. In general, the housing conditions of Aboriginals were unbelievably bad. From figures we received there appear to be at least 148 tin humpies dotted throughout the area. Figures we were able to collect were as follows, and these are only estimates, as no accurate figures appear to be available:
We also found 12 sub-standard homes on the Aboriginal Station approximately 7 miles out of Walgett. It was difficult to assess the number of people living in these humpies, but it seems to be well in excess of the normal European content of a home. There seemed to be general agreement that there were from 5 to 6 people per humpy, although for the sub-standard homes we received a figure of 148 people - an average of about 12 per home. This would mean that approximately 1,000 people, of whom well over half would be children, are living in tin shanties, patched up with bits of hessian, with earthen floors and generally living in conditions little better than those in which one would put an animal.
There was evidence of some activity in housing and we were informed that IS homes had been built in Walgett during the past 18 months or so. This, however, would leave approximately 74 families living in sub-standard conditions. All Aboriginal problems are inter-related and none is more obvious than that of health. The deplorable housing conditions create unsatisfactory conditions for personal hygiene, with the subsequent high rate of ill health amongst Aboriginals, particularly children. Figures shown to us illustrated that the high infant mortality rate of 87 per 1000 was 2i times greater than the white infant mortality rate of approximately 35 per 1000.
It appears that the average Aboriginal family has approximately 6 children to a white family’s 3 children. Aboriginal mothers lack the training and knowledge to provide children with proper pre-natal and post-natal care and this results in an extreme danger period for infant mortality between the ages of 6 months and 4 years. The medical officer at Collarenebri District Hospital, Dr Kalokerinos, put forward the theory that lack of proper nutritional diet, together with lack of immunity to European diseases and the appalling housing conditions that continually cause re-infection once a child has been brought back to health, were major factors in the high incidence of ill health and infant mortality among Aboriginal children. Moreover, even if death did not occur at an early age - I stress this as a most important point - these constant illnesses of Aboriginal children caused by lack of proper nutritional diet were primary factors in Aboriginals in many instances having a mental development below that of their white counterparts. By the time an Aboriginal child had reached school age it was often 2 or 3 years behind its white contemporaries.
To support these theories I should like to quote from an article in ‘The Medical Journal of Australia’ of 21st February 1970 by Dr David G. Jose and Mr John S. Welch of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane. The article states:
Growth measurements and clinical data were obtained from 2,250 children on six Aboriginal settlements in Queensland. Growth retardation affected up to 50% of Aboriginal children aged between 6 months and 3 years. Severe retardation occurred in 16% of this age group and was accompanied by anaemia and infection. At two missions where early infant feeding was supervised children showed normal growth patterns, suggesting that Caucasian growth standards also apply to Aboriginal children. Genetic factors influenced growth variations in some areas. Clinical and dietary findings, lower concentration of nutritional factors in the blood of growth-retarded children in relation to normal controls and growth responses following the addition of specific nutrients to the diet, suggested a deficiency of multiple nutritional factors in these children.
Nutritional deficiency in pregnant mothers and infants and inadequate early infant feeding were considered primary initiating factors, but infections with subsequent intestinal malabsorption were important secondary factors precipitating and maintaining growth retardation. A high proportion of children dying from gastro-enteritis or pneumonia, or found to be suffering from deafness, had a previous history of growth retardation. Some evidence was presented that children with growth retardation have poorer educational and employment records than children with normal growth.
Let me again quote Dr H. C. Coombs, Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs. In an address to the Australian College of Physicians on Aboriginal Health Dr Coombs quoted Dr Moodie .of the School of Tropical Health, Sydney University, who reported that compared with births representing 2% of the population, total Aboriginal deaths in the appropriate category represent 10% of all infant deaths, 28% of all deaths in the 1 to 2 year group, and 9% of all deaths in the 2 to 4 year group. The rate of 28% for the second year crf life is 20 times the Australian average and is, he reports, not declining. 1 stress this matter because if the Government is genuine in its desire to advance the Aboriginals to the level of the rest of the community, it ought to get to the root cause of Aboriginal backwardness and attack the problem where it begins - through ill-health caused by inferior and scandalous housing conditions and lack of proper postnatal care and education. ‘
It was most difficult to obtain accurate statistics on Aboriginal employment, but it was generally conceded that employment was extremely difficult to find on a permanent basis for Aboriginals in the whole area. A considerable amount of study would have to be done to draw accurate conclusions, but the impression one gained was that only a small percentage of Aboriginals had regular employment, large numbers were itinerant workers, many received irregular work, and quite a number were almost permanently unemployed or unemployable. One interesting fact which did arise was in consultation with local shire officers at Bourke and Brewarrina who informed us that the best situation regarding Aboriginal employment had occurred during the drought. This rather surprised members of the Committee who naturally inquired why. We were told that during the drought about $700,000 had been made available for draught relief and that this had been used to employ Aboriginals in various public works in the community - road building, kerbing and guttering, parks, etc. The officers pointed out that Aboriginals became used to working regularly and receiving a regular weekly cheque. They mentioned also that the local graziers on receiving their cheques spent them at Palm Beach and Toorak, but not in the local community. They said that they preferred to give the money to the Aboriginals because it had to be spent locally.
They said that during this period there was a marked improvement in almost every aspect of Aboriginal behaviour, with greater reliability, less drunkenness, fewer social problems, etc. They pointed out also that as a number of Aboriginals with large families would receive from $20 to $30 per week in unemployment benefits, they could not understand why the Government did not make up the difference to at least the basic wage of $42.30 and ensure that Aboriginals had full employment opportunities. lt was quite obvious that almost all the unskilled jobs and menial tasks were performed by the black population. Few, if any, appeared to hold positions higher than this.
One conclusion that drew was that as the north west area is so badly served with first class roads and the greater part of inter-town transport is upon black soil or gravel roads, the opportunity to solve two problems in one by providing the finance to build tar sealed roads could be made if the Government would grant special assistance. Unfortunately time did not permit a thorough investigation of education but only a very cursory glance at Collarenebri school and little more than a S-minute chat to some of the school teachers. We were pleased to see the new pre-school kindergarten at Bourke which seemed to be well appointed and run by teachers with great enthusiasm for their work. We were informed at Collarenebri that a pre-school kindergarten had commenced and had received a paltry grant of $1,200 from the Federal Government.
I see that my time is just about to conclude. Unfortunately I have not been able to say all that I would like to have said about this tour. I suppose an opportunity will arise shortly when I will be able to do so. I should like to comment on a community attitide which was rather disturbing. Most of the people with whom we spoke - I exclude quite a few because there were some very enlightened people in the area - described the Aboriginals as being lazy, dirty, unintelligent, unskilled, unreliable and sexually promiscuous and. said that generally speaking little could be done to help. What was terribly important was that those most involved with the Aboriginals - the police and school teachers - seemed to have had little training or understanding of the problem.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) on the way in which he delivered his speech. I thought it was very good of him to refer as he did to his predecessor, Mr Bridges-Maxwell, for whom I, and I am sure everybody on this side of the House as well as on the other side, have a great respect. He was a hard-working member of Parliament and a conscientious one. Frequently when a man such as this loses his seat it is not through any fault of his; often it is because of the political climate that has been occasioned around him. He is lost to the country and, therefore, is not able to bring to us the benefits which otherwise he would have brought. I sometimes think it is difficult for members of Parliament, particularly at election time when we have the leaders of the political parties going out and competing with each other. We hope it is for the betterment of the people and the country, although frequently I doubt it. 1 think it is sometimes purely to obtain or retain power. It is not for the betterment of the people and the country.
It is difficult for a conscientious member of Parliament, who discharges the job that he has to do in Canberra, to compete with those who are at home attending all the small functions, saying all the palatable things because they have no responsibility and who can promise anything because they do not have to perform. However, let me say that I enjoyed the speech of the honourable member for Robertson. The major portion of it was a description of the beauty of his electorate. Indeed his electorate sounds Idyllic. I would suggest to him, however, that it is usually considered bad form for a new member who is making his maiden speech to criticise any member from the other side of the House because that member, through courtesy, is not able to interject. I heard the honourable member refer to one newly elected Minister as a racist. That Minister did not have the right to rejoin nor did members on this side have the right to object or interject. I think that the honourable member for Robertson should reconsider his remarks.
I should like to ask the honourable member a question, without supporting either the South African or the Rhodesian policy. When I first came to the Parliament about 10 years ago it was just after the Sharpeville incident and I remember listening to members from both sides of the House talking with authority about South Africa. I thought to myself what magnificent speeches they were making and what knowledgeable and great men they must be. I assure the honourable member that I have a different opinion today. Let it be said that I tried to find out which members had been to South Africa to see the problem confronting the people there. I discovered that only one member, from the Australian
Country Party, had been to South Africa. The other honourable members had never been there to see the situation at first hand. 1 should like to see how the honourable member and his colleagues opposite who criticise everything haphazardly would react if they were confronted with situations that face others in the world.
– There has never been an inhibition on the Liberal Party.
– I will accept that also, lt is approximately 10 years since I came into the Parliament; at times it seems like 100 years. When I was standing at the table with the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) waiting to be sworn in yesterday I looked across and saw the increased number of members on the Labor side. They looked very impressive - colourful, I might say, in certain instances. I thought to myself: ‘There are the men who have stood and gained office and who now come to represent the people in their electorates’. I am not saying that this applies only to honourable members opposite because it applies to all members, but my main reference is to members of the Opposition. While prayers were being read I wondered to myself how many of the members opposite would stick to the things that they believed in; how many would stand and be counted for the things they believed in when they did not agree on a question of principle; how many would make their objections clear in this House. I wondered whether we would see, as usual, a 100% stand for the Labor Party’s policy. How often have I and other members from this side gone from the house and said to a Labor member: ‘You do not believe in what you were just saying’ irrespective of whether it related to conscription, Vietnam or something else, and the rejoinder has been: ‘No, but in my speech I did not say anything against it’.
This is the Parliament of Australia. Honourable members opposite are representatives of the people and we are representatives of the people. The Parliament will work only as long as we realise that we have a responsibility, at times above Party allegiance, for the betterment of the people and the betterment of Australia. One thing that concerns me at this particular time is the way in which the publicity media - television and the Press - refers to the Parliament. It seems to me that according to television and the Press all we do is to elect leaders. It does not matter how important we may think the Parliament is or how important we may think we are - and I wonder whether we are important - the Press and television seem to make it a competition between the leader of one party and the leader of the other party.
– Are you in favour of an appointed Ministry?
– That has nothing to do with it. If the honourable member has not made his maiden speech I would suggest that he does not interject. Is what the publicity media say right? ls that what we wish? If only one man elects the Government what is the point of our having public meetings? What is the point of our having opinions? The strength, the power and the future of the Parliament in the decade of the 1970s could well be proven or could fall by the wayside according to the behaviour of all of us as private members. It is the strength of Parliament that each member has a voice, and that he has the right to disagree with his Party. If I disagree with the Government I can say so, and do say so. It seems to be fairly common for the Press to talk about divisions within the Government parties. Perhaps there are some disagreements, but let it be understood that we are allowed to disagree and, if we wish, to cross the floor of the House. This is done. But it has yet to be seen that anybody from the Opposition can do this.
Captain Sam Benson, the former member for Batman, belonged to the Defend Australia Committee which endeavoured to see that Australia had sufficient defence services and that Australia’s foreign affairs and defence policies were adequate. He was expelled from the Australian Labor Party. If one looks at what is happening today it seems to be accepted by members opposite as perfectly all right for the Victorian President of the Labor Party to chair a meeting of shop stewards and to call on our troops to mutiny. This, to me, is an extraordinary set of values. I cannot understand why the Government has not taken action in respect of this treachery, because treachery it is when troops are fighting abroad and calls are put forward for them to mutiny. We may well wonder where we are going, where we are being led by the minority in the Labor Party and their fellow travellers, those who are next on the spectrum, as the honourable member for Lalor mentioned.
What is happening in this country? At the moment the Labor Party is strongly supporting the suggestion that the Government should give Mr Burchett a passport to travel abroad and to go to our ambassadors and foreign ambassadors who should give him every assistance. If honourable members read the passport they will see that this is what it provides. Members of the Labor Party are pressing for this. I went into the Parliamentary Library and I got as many books on Vietnam as I could. I was curious to find whether this Mr Burchett was mentioned. Each reference was to the Australian Communist author, Mr Burchett, who was speaking from behind the North Vietnam lines or speaking from Hanoi and North Korea. All I can say is that if we feel that he is the type of person we should be supporting, and not the many others who deserve support and have better cases and are in more need of support, I do not know where we are going.
Regarding the call to mutiny that I mentioned, what are we doing about it? Where does the Labor Party stand? It seems that the Labor Party supports Burchett. The Labor Party supports the call for mutiny because the Victorian President of the Labor Party puts it forward. On the question of the breaking down of censorship, it appears that there are members opposite who would let everything in. I distinctly recall the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian State House saying in respect to one play that was banned that he saw nothing wrong with the play, for after all he had read the same sort of language in a public convenience. I suggest to the Australian Labor Party that the general public does not wish to have its moral standards reduced to those of public conveniences. I think that the Labor Party should accept that suggestion.
I now turn to the subject of the drug marihuana. What is the outlook in Australia with regard to drugs? We find there are pressure groups supported by the academics and by members of the Labor Party who are obviously the free thinkers who suggest that these things should be made free and open to everybody. What sort of nation will Australia become if the once great Labor Party now in opposition in this Parliament now propounds this kind of thing as a major issue? Without doubt I think there has to be a rethinking in this country.
What is the policy of the Labor Party in respect to the Vietnam conflict? Its policy seems to have been consistently changed. Admittedly it now seems to have a slightly more unified effect, but is it the true policy of the Labor Party or is it the patched-up policy which was put forward at the last election and is to be put forward for the Senate election later this year? Does the Labor Party intend to pull out all our troops from Vietnam? Will the Labor Party assist South East Asia? What is the defence policy of the Labor Party? Its defence policy seems to me to be something that will certainly not give Australia strength and standing in the South East Asian region. I think its policy is to get out and leave it for the enemy, but I have no doubt that ultimately it will be able to make a compromise somewhere.
There is so much that needs to be said in this Parliament that one will have to say much of it on other occasions. I think that the points mentioned by the Governor- General are essential; they were promised in the policy speech before the last election. The Governor-General said:
This year we commemorate the discovery of Eastern Australia by Captain Cook, two hundred years ago in the past.
This is what I want to say. He said:
Now we turn our eyes to a future which, more than ever before, is rich with the promise of achievement if we have the will to achieve.
As I said, the matters referred to in the Speech are essential. They will be expensive, but they are necessary. I wonder if in this decade the situation that we are in, where our major former Commonwealth partner is vacating the South East Asian region and where there is a possibility that the United States of America will withdraw from the area, does not constitute a challenge to this nation to stand on its own feeL I wonder if it is necessary each time that there is an election to promise more and more to the people merely to achieve power. I wonder if this is what the people of Australia want. 1 think that what the people of Australia want is to be told what we could be; to be told what our responsibilities are; to be told what the threats can mean for the future and what we have to do to prepare. 1 think that the people are even prepared to be told that we may have to make some sacrifices to achieve our objectives. I feel that this country can be a great nation. Aus.tralia faces a great challenge and has a great part to play in this part of the world, but I am not convinced by any of the political parties that we are aware of the true position at this time and are prepared to give the leadership which is necessary because of our sophistication and our industrialisation and because of the opportunities that we have had. I would like to think that someone will come forward and lead Australia into the 1970s, because much will depend on leadership. It is not just a matter of ‘give me this and give me that’. I think that in any democracy it should be a matter of saying: ‘What can I do and how can I help’. I would like to hear this feeling propounded more by those in power and by those in opposition who seek to gain power.
Another matter for discussion is that of Commonwealth-State relations. 1 do not agree that this is just a matter of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and the State Premiers meeting and distributing the available financial cake among the Commonwealth and States. I accept that the States have enormous problems, but I think that the question ultimately is one of how federation will work and how we as representatives of the people of Australia - not just the executive government - feel that this country should be run in the future. I was disappointed that the Premiers seemingly did not put forward a request for Federal aid for government schools. It is my firm belief that the Federal Government should give aid not only to private schools or for libraries and so on but for the development of government schools in expanding outer electorates and the inner city electorates. I am no longer able to argue that State governments are responsible for government schools and therefore aid is being given to private schools in the main - and I agree with the dual education system. It is not good to go to a school in my electorate, whether it be a high school or other type of school, and see a glorious library fully stocked with magnificent publications and then go to a small government primary school and find too many children in the forms, insufficient conveniences and inadequate facilities such as playing fields. 1 feel that the Premiers have to some extent made it difficult for us members of Parliament who were prepared to argue for a direct grant to these schools so as to bring them up to private school standards. The Premiers have accepted the proposition put forward by the Prime Minister so we can hardly say that we do not think it is sufficient. I hope that before long there will be in this House a debate on CommonwealthState relations and that these matters will be discussed by the whole Parliament. As I said before, and as has been mentioned by the honourable member for Bradfield in conversation outside this House, sometimes it appears that decisions are made and stated by the Executive outside Parliament without reference to Parliament and members learn of them by reading about them in the newspapers. It is wrong that we as members of Parliament should learn these things from the newspapers. These policies should be announced in the Parliament so that honourable members as representatives of the people of Australia can query the Executive there and then as to its intentions and its reasons, not 3 months later when the policy has been fixed and we as members of Parliament come into this House and find there is nothing that we can do about it.
In conclusion 1 want to say that 1 have been in this Parliament for 10 years. When I came here I said that I was proud to be here. I am proud to be here today. I have seen some great, honest and courageous men in this place, but I feel that democracy will work and continue only as long as there are people who are prepared to query occasionally a decision of the Executive and stand up in this House and say: ‘I represent the people, not just a party or a power combine.’ I would like to think that in the future the rights of individuals will be important, that small things will be important. In the past, when I have raised some matter, some have said: ‘Oh, it is only one person, let’s fix it up later. It doesn’t matter about him.’ If this Parliament does not concern itself occasionally with the rights of individuals then ultimately individuals in Australia may not count. I apologise for the way in which I have moved from bough to bough in my speech but I mean the things I have said. If I do not remain in this Parliament 1 will have enjoyed being here; I hope, however, I will be here in future Parliaments, and I am afraid I will continue to be reasonably independent, but that will be my responsibility.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Kiilen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1967 in a number of ways. As was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech last October, the limit on the value of a home that may attract a grant will be raised from $15,000 to $17,500. Other amendments will widen the forms of savings that are acceptable for purposes of the scheme, and extend the classes of persons who may become eligible for a grant.
The major purpose of the scheme is to encourage young people to save steadily for a period of years for the first home they own after marriage. Since the inception of the scheme in 1964, some 164,000 home savings grants totalling about $71m have been paid to assist young couples, and widowed persons with dependent children, to own and establish their homes. The amendments now proposed will permit more young people to qualify for a grant, and allow others to receive larger grants by making some presently excluded savings acceptable for purposes of the scheme. I propose now to draw to the attention of honourable members the signficant proposed changes in the scope and application of the scheme, and to give the reasons for these changes. I may explain that notes explaining the purpose of each clause and sub-clause of the amending bill are being made available.
The value of a home, including the value of the land, in respect of which a grant may be paid will be raised from $15,000 to $17,500. As we all know, the cost of many homes has been rising. The most significant reason for this has been the widespread upward movement in the value of developed residential land in many cities and towns. Another reason is that the average cottage being erected today for young families is much better equipped, and is therefore a better home than it was a few years ago. The increase in the limit on the value of a home by $2,500 approximates the rise that has occurred in the cost of the average home acquired in Australia since the limit was last raised. The cost of some homes has, of course, risen by more than this amount, but the cost of many others has risen by much less.
Another amendment will extend the forms of saving acceptable for purposes of the scheme to include moneys held in savings bank accounts and on fixed deposit with trading banks that have not been designated as home savings accounts. The great majority of young people who apply for a grant have held their savings in a designated bank account or in one of the other acceptable forms for the required period of 3 years. But there are some who, even though they have been deliberately saving to obtain their own homes and have been depositing their savings in a bank account, have either not requested the bank to designate their accounts as home savings accounts, or failed to have had this done for the minimum period of 3 years before taking steps to acquire their homes. Under the existing provisions these young people, who have been saving for homeownership for the minimum 3-year period and have deposited their savings with a lending institution that makes sizeable and long-term loans for housing, are ineligible to receive a grant. Amongst their number are many newcomers to Australia who, possibly because of language difficulties, have been unaware of the acceptable forms of saving until it was too late for them to become eligible for a grant.
Our decision to abolish the statutory requirement that acceptable savings with banks must be in accounts that have been designated as home savings accounts does not mean that we no longer wish young people to put their savings into a home savings account. In our future publicity about the scheme we will continue to urge young people to open a home savings account, because a passbook so designated is a continuing reminder to them of the desirability of saving to own a home. On average, applicants who designated their accounts when they commenced to save have saved more than those who failed to designate, or delayed designating, their accounts.
A further amendment will extend eligibility for a grant to divorced persons aged less than 36 years with one or more dependent children. The eligibility and other provisions relating to these persons will bc broadly similar to those applying to young widowed persons with dependent children who were admitted to the scheme in November 1966, There will also be a transition period, in this case up to 31st December 1970, during which the acceptable savings of eligible divorced persons may be held in a wide variety of forms.
One difference concerns the treatment of savings held at times prior to the dissolution of the marriage. In the case of a widowed person, savings held at times before the death of the spouse are acceptable where those savings were held in the name of the widowed person or the deceased spouse, or in their joint names. However, both parties to a divorce may later become applicants for grants either in respect of a home acquired on remarriage, or of a home for the accommodation of the divorced person and the dependent children. In the case of divorced persons, the treatment of savings held before the dissolution of the marriage will be the same as that which applies in the cases of married applicants, that is to say, savings that were held in the name of the divorced husband will be regarded as his savings, those held in the name of the divorced wife will be regarded as her savings and those held in their joint names will be regarded as having been held in equal shares by the then husband and wife.
Under the existing provisions, where savings were held jointly with a person other than the present spouse, no part of these joint savings is acceptable. It is proposed that this provision be amended to permit the acceptance of one-half of savings that were held by a person jointly with a former spouse. This amendment will have effect whether the person is applying for a grant as a divorced person caring for dependent children, or as a remarried person with or without dependent children.
All the amendments referred to so far will take force on or after 27 October 1969, the first day of business after the recent general election. With respect to the prescribed date, it will be the date on which the applicant entered into a contract to buy or build a home or, as an owner-builder, commenced its construction. It marks the close of a person’s savings period for purposes of the scheme.
Another amendment will permit the Secretary, in exceptional circumstances, to determine that an applicant’s prescribed date was a date other than on which construction of the dwelling was commenced. In some cases, an applicant obtains approval from the local government authority to build a small section of the dwelling, such as a single room or the garage, for use as a temporary home until he is in a position, some time later, to proceed with construction of the remainder of the dwelling. At present the applicant’s savings period ends on the date on which construction of the room or garage commenced. The proposed amendment will permit the Secretary to determine that the date on which meaningful construction of the dwelling commenced be regarded as the applicant’s prescribed date in these cases.
The Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues has recently renewed its request that savings with credit unions be acceptable for purposes of the home savings grant scheme. Lending by credit unions is still predominantly by way of loans of less than $1,000 for such purposes as the purchase of furniture, household equipment and motor vehicles and meeting the cost of medical and educational expenses and home repairs. However, a few credit unions are making loans of $4,000 or more over periods of up to 10 years or even longer to their members to assist them to acquire a home of their own.
Our offer of a home savings grant has always been regarded as being made for two main purposes. These are to encourage young people to save to acuire their own homes after marriage and to hold their savings with the major institutions that make relatively high-ratio and long-term loans for the acquisition of a home, and thus increase the volume of savings available for lending for home-ownership. And we see no reason to alter these purposes. Acceptable savings for purposes of the scheme should be savings deposited with institutions that make large and long-term loans at a reasonable rate of interest in connection with the acquisition of a home. Consistent with this, we have so far made no provision - other than in respect of the initial transitional period that ended on 31st December 1964 - to accept savings with a credit union, because no credit union was close to being able to do this.
Included in the Bill now before the House are a number of amendments that will permit savings with a credit union to become acceptable, provided the union can satisfy a number of conditions. These conditions are set out in clause 5 of the Bill. Broadly, they are that a credit union regularly makes a significant number of loans for the construction or purchase of homes, and that these loans are comparable in size, interest terms and repayment periods with loans made for these purposes by banks and building societies. The Bill will permit a credit union to be approved for purposes of the home savings grant scheme. The conditions of approval include that at least 20% of its total lending in its most recent financial year was lent to assist its members to own their own homes, that a minimum of $50,000 was lent for these purposes and that these loans were made at an effective interest rate of not more than H% per annum on a reducing balance basis. As applicants for the grant are required to hold their savings with institutions that make relatively large and long-term loans for the acquisition of a home, it is reasonable that a credit union, wishing to have savings with it accepted, should have made in its most recent financial year a significant number of such loans. One condition of approval of a credit union will therefore be that at least 15% of its total lending in its most recent financial year, that is to say, about three-quarters of the 20% of its lending that must be in loans for the construction or purchase of a home, shall be loans of not less than $7,000 and be repayable over a period of not less than 12 years. Needless to say, a credit union seeking approval will be asked to give an undertaking that it will continue to meet these conditions during each subsequent financial year. Failure to meet these continuing conditions will mike a credit union liable to have its approval withdrawn. The Bill permits approval to be withdrawn, but only after 6 months notice.
The Bill also provides that savings held by an eligible applicant for a home savings grant with an approved credit union shall be acceptable for purposes of the scheme where his prescribed date was not earlier than the first day of the financial year during which the credit union met the conditions necessary for approval. To assist honourable members let me give an example. Suppose a credit union meets the necessary conditions during the financial year which ends on 30th June 1970 and that the Secretary of the Department of Housing is satisfied shortly after the end of the year that it has met those conditions in its 1969-70 financial year: savings held with this credit union by an eligible applicant for a grant where the applicant’s prescribed date was as far back as 1st July 1969, that is to say, the beginning of the financial year in which the credit union met the conditions for approval, would be acceptable not only at his prescribed date but also at his earlier savings dates. These are the conditions on which the Government is willing to accept savings with credit unions for purposes of the home savings grant scheme. It is appreciated that very few, if any, credit unions are as yet in a position to meet these conditions. But once these amendments are approved by Parliament, the door will be open for savings with a credit union to become acceptable if it wishes to make a reasonable effort in lending to its members for the acquisition of homes.
The amendments proposed in this Bill will, I am sure, be welcomed by the many thousands of young people who are acquiring their first matrimonial homes or who are saving for that purpose. The amendments are in keeping with the practical and positive programme that has been outlined by the Government. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to $4,500,000 for war service land settlement in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania during the 1969-70 financial year. As honourable members are aware the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital moneys required for the war service land settlement scheme in those three States. It is anticipated the money will be made available in the following approximate amounts: Western Australia, $1,900,000; South Australia, $1,946,000; and Tasmania, $654,000.
Just over $4m of this money is needed to meet the requirements of settlers for working expenses and for stock, plant and, where necessary, the replacement of plant purchased previously. This $4m is expected to be matched by the receipts for repayment of advances made to settlers during earlier years of the scheme. These repayments are, of course, paid to the credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Honourable members will recall that one of the basic principles of the scheme was the concept that lack of capital was not to debar an otherwise eligible ex-serviceman from participating in war service land settlement. In fact, most settlers have borrowed their full financial requirements from the settlement authorities. The authorities for their part accepted a charge over the assets concerned as security for the money advanced. Many settlers, particularly those allotted farms in the more recent years, have as yet been unable to improve their financial position to the stage where they can operate without further borrowing. Since they are generally not in a position to offer acceptable security to banks, stock firms or other lending institutions, they still need to have recourse to credit from within the scheme. About $490,000 of the $4,500,000 will be needed for development work mainly on block drainage of irrigated holdings at Loxton and Cooltong in South Australia and for limited farm reconstruction work on some farms created from large-scale developmental projects where those farms have not achieved the level of productivity desired under the scheme.
A small sum will be charged under the heading of ‘acquisition’, being costs associated with perfecting the titles of lands already paid for and developed, or payments required as a result of minor changes in area found on survey. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to empower the Minister for National Development to authorise survey parties to enter upon land to carry out mapping surveys, to place or remove survey marks and where necessary to do limited clearing by trimming, lopping or cutting down trees or bushes so as to establish clear lines of sight. The Bill provides for due notice to be given to the land owner in advance of entry upon land and of any intention to trim, lop or cut down trees or bushes. It requires the surveyors to avoid as far as practicable causing damage to property and, where it is unavoidable, as far as practicable to repair the damage. The Bill provides for compensation for loss or damage to property as a result of survey operations. The amount of compensation may be determined by agreement or, in the absence of agreement, by action against the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction. The Bill also prohibits, under penalty, the unlawful damage, destruction or removal of Commonwealth survey marks, and provides for the Commonwealth to recover the cost of repair or re-establishment.
Ali countries have a need for maps and the more a country is developed so does the need increase for many different types of maps for a multitude of purposes. The Division of National Mapping of my Department already produces a wide variety of maps. With the increased activity in exploration for minerals there has been a strong demand by industry for various types of maps produced by the Commonwealth. In 1968, for the first time in Australia’s history, this vast continent of almost 3 million square miles was covered by a uniform series of mapping at 1 : 250,000 scale, 1 inch on the map representing approximately 4 miles on the ground. For the past decade and longer these maps, as they have become available, have been used in assessing Australia’s resources in minerals, water and forests, for many administrative purposes and for the broad planning of beef roads, better alignment of highways and railways and for general development planning. Although extremely valuable for these purposes this series of 1 : 250,000 maps is as yet uncontoured and has been inadequate for detailed investigations. Only limited coverage at larger scales has existed, chiefly around the eastern seaboard and some in Western Australia, most of it being of World War IT vintage. For the forthcoming census next year the Division is producing a very wide range of maps for the collection of statistics, ranging from maps of small areas for use by individual collectors to smaller scale maps of each State and to statistical maps covering the whole of Australia. For the first time the Bureau of Census and Statistics will be provided with an adequate variety of maps for its many purposes.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources procures and records geostatistical data in respect of geology, mineral resources, the earth’s gravity and magnetic fields all of which is recorded on base maps produced by the Division of National Mapping. The Department’s Water, Power and Geographic Branch arranges primarily through State authorities for the recording of statistics on surface and underground water and pro duces maps showing the geographical location of this data. It also produces an atlas of Australian resources and is active in the production of geographic maps showing the resources of particular regions. The Forestry and Timber Bureau of my Department collects and collates information on forest statistics for timber inventory surveys and advises on forest management including fire fighting. In all of these activities map positions are required in varying degrees of significance. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has a varied requirement for maps through the activities of its Divisions of Land Research, Soils and Wild Life Research. The Division prepares and produces aeronautical charts and special visual terminal charts for the Department of Civil Aviation.
Good topographic maps are of course essential1 for defence planning and defence operations. Close liaison exists between the Division of National Mapping and the Royal Australian Survey Corps. Maps are produced by both agencies to mutually agreed basic specifications and when each map is printed enough copies are provided for both civil and defence purposes. These topographic maps are of particular importance as they show the shape of the terrain, the location of all natural features, mountains, streams, lakes, coastlines and all1 man made features such as towns, homesteads, roads, railways, airfields, reservoirs and the like, all in their correct positions. These maps are the basic source from which all other maps for special purposes are produced. In 1965 the Government, realising the basic importance of larger scale mapping, authorised a 10-year accelerated programme of topographic mapping of Australia at a scale of 1 : 100,000 (approximately 1.6 miles to 1 inch) with 20-metre contours. This programme is now well launched and already over 200,000 square miles of mapping in manuscript form has been accomplished. This work is the responsibility of the Division of National Mapping which undertakes part itself, arranges part to be carried out under contract and receives substantial contributions from the Royal Australian Army Survey Corps. Alt the 6 State Lands Departments have now converted to metric scale mapping to help achieve the 10-year programme.
Nevertheless this enormous task will require every modern aid and a very concentrated effort if it is to be completed within the allotted period. My Department accordingly has acquired and will continue to acquire much modern equipment. Special air survey cameras have been introduced which, from a height of 25,000 feet, can photograph an area of 140 square miles on a single photograph. Distances of up to 200 miles are measured with electronic equipment. The whole country is being covered by a dense network of levelling surveys and additional heights are being obtained by contractor operated airborne radar equipment in the large areas of very flat country in Australia.
In order to provide the accuracy necessary in country of greater relief the Weapons Research Establishment of the Department of Supply has developed special laser equipment that will provide the necessary elevation data from an aircraft flying at a constant height above sea level. Laser equipment is also used to measure horizontal distances between ground stations to a very high order of accuracy. Electronic computing equipment is now used to process all field data into co-ordinate form. Electronically operated stereo plotting machines have been obtained. When fitted with a stereoscopic pair of air photographs and set up to fit the ground survey data these will automatically extract contour data and produce an orthometric photograph showing all the ground detail in its correct map position with all the distortions of the original air photographs removed. This product is called an orthophotograph and successive orthophotographs can be joined together to form an orthophotomap, which is bound to appeal to many map users, especially in the lesser developed parts of Australia.
For many years now the officers of my Department have been engaged on various types of field surveys, including topographic, geological and geophysical surveys, undertaken in the course of preparing maps for Commonwealth purposes. To make maps it is essential, in the first instance, for surveyors to go out in the field. They must methodically cover the country with a pattern of geodetic control stations which is the basic framework for the production of a topographic map. Ground measure ments must be made, geographical positions must be determined by astronomical observations, networks of levels must be run to determine the relative heights of features and then the multitude of detail is plotted from the air photographs. Because of higher resolution cameras and improving geometric qualifies of the photographs coupled with the ability to measure greater horizontal distances by electronic methods the density of the pattern of ground control is gradually diminishing but there will always be a requirement for surveyors to move over the ground, establish marks and make measurements.
In the course of these surveys they need to enter on private land as well as on Crown land for the purpose of placing geodetic station marks, beacons and reference marks, making measurements and observations to other stations and carrying out various other operations. The geographic positions of the stations are determined and their precise locations are identified on air photographs. Usually these stations are located on vantage points with a commanding view over the surrounding country. So that intervisibility between adjacent stations may be established it is frequently necessary to fell or lop trees and bushes and clear other obstacles. It is the practice for the party leader to contact the landowner or occupier in advance to explain the purpose of the survey and to obtain his agreement for the emplacing of marks and for whatever clearing operations are necessary. The officers are always very careful to cause as little damage as possible and movement over the property is kept to a minimum. They are most mindful not to cause any disturbance to stock, particularly if lambing is in progress or there is stud stock on the property.
Most owners are fully co-operative and in fact take active steps to prevent any damage or disturbance to the survey marks or destruction of the beacon by fire or vandalism. This happy situation is brought about by careful explanation to them of the importance of the marks in the mapping and general development of the district, and by the exercise of courtesy and reasonableness on the part of survey party leaders. Occasionally, however, a property owner objects to any entry on his land bv a government employee and disputes the necessity for the survey. Wherever possible an alternative acceptable site for the goedetic station is chosen. However, it sometimes happens that no other alternative is possible if the aims of the survey are to be achieved and statutory authority to enter upon the land would be desirable.
The provisions of the Bill are not intended to alter the existing practice whereby survey parties moving into a district or on to particular properties take steps to advise representative persons by advance letter or personal contact of their intention to carry out the proposed operations. Where the possibility exists of damage to trees or crops, the cutting of fences or interference with stock, the alternative possibilities of location of the operations are discussed. Where any damage requires making good, such as damage to roads, filling in of holes or repairing of fences, local arrangements satisfactory to the property owner or local authority are made. However, the use of the powers set out in the Bill will prevent any hitches in what must, of necessity, be a tightly scheduled and close knit operation if the 10 year mapping programme is to be completed on time. Tt will also serve to ensure that the- rights and property of landholders are adequately protected. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Gorton, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will fulfil the Government’s undertaking to assist the Australian film industry, lt provides for the establishment of an Australian Film Development Corporation which will administer a fund with an initial capital of Sim, The Corporation will make loans to film and television producers. It will be able to guarantee repayment of loans, including bank overdrafts, made to producers of Aus tralian films. It will be able to join with producers of Australian films under arrangements which will entitle it to receive a share of the proceeds without being liable for any debts which may be incurred. It may also, subject to ministerial approval, participate in the formation of a company for the distribution of Austraiian films. The Corporation will seek to encourage the production and distribution of Australian films of high quality. I should perhaps say, Mr Speaker, that when I refer to films of high quality I do not confine my meaning to films of technical excellence or those with an artistic content which could win a festival award, but be commercially unsuccessful. The Corporation will seek to encourage the production of films which are box office successes and which have those excellences of production, camera work and technical presentation which justify the description ‘high quality’.
The fund is intended for investment in films: lt is not intended as a giveaway project, lt indicates our optimism that such investment will be successful in all ways but it is not intended as a vehicle for underwriting the full cost of a film or films. Producers of films will still be expected to have a substantial equity in a film and to show faith in their artistic and commercial judgment, and I hope that distributors will also be prepared to invest, at their judgment, in such enterprises. We believe that after a period of time properly made investments will be returning profits to the Corporation and there will then be no need for the Government to replenish the fund each year. That is our objective and the measure of the scheme’s success will be . judged partly on this.
So we expect profits in money terms but at least as importantly we expect profit in human values. A flourishing film industry in Australia will employ talented Australian writers, artists, directors, actors, musicians and technicians. Many of them have all too often had to leave this country to pursue their chosen careers. Their talents have added distinction to the productions of other countries. But I know many of them wish to return again home. We hope that they will be able to do so as a result of the action here suggested. Further, film and television distributed throughout the world is perhaps the most effective means by which the image of a country can be pro- jected abroad - the most effective means by which the ideas and way of life of a nation can become known throughout the world. We hope this Bill will help Australia in this way.
It is now apparent that Australian interest and support is beginning to be available for local productions and it is my Government’s hope that money provided by the Corporation will act as a catalyst to encourage private capital to invest in Australian productions. In other countries considerable investment in film production is forthcoming from banking and other financial institutions. Let us hope and urge that this support, along with that support from distributors and exhibitors which I have mentioned, will be forthcoming here.
The corporation will consist of a chairman and four other members - each appointed for periods not exceeding 5 years but eligible for reappointment. Members will be appointed from amongst persons of standing and varied experience but without pecuniary interests in the business of making, distributing or exhibiting films, or in a corporation carrying on such a business. The Corporation will be required to report annually to the Minister with appropriate financial statements. The Minister will be required to lay the report and financial statements, together with the report of the Auditor-General, before each House of the Parliament. lt gives me great personal pleasure to introduce this Bill. It expresses the Government’s belief that we should devote ourselves not only to building great new factories and smelters, not only to wresting produce and minerals from the earth of Australia, not only to material standards, but also to involvement in and encouragement and development of the Arts. The human values we will thereby nurture, the satisfaction we will offer to individual development, the improvement of- the quality of life are essential for any nation if it is to merit the description ‘great*. 1 believe this Bill will help us to attain these aims and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1 46).
– The Opposition wishes prosperity to the Film Development Corporation and to an Australian industry which will now open greater avenues for talented Australians. It is a modest enough beginning at this stage. The British Film Finance Corporation, which was introduced in 1948 by Mr Harold Wilson, was funded initially with £Stg5m. In 1963 the report of the Vincent Select Committee of the Senate, where the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) then sat, recommended support for an Australian film industry with an additional expenditure of $2m. It is timely for me to make yet again a plea for another long standing project in the field of the Arts. It is 4 years ago this month that Prime Minister Holt received the report of the National Art Gallery Committee of Inquiry. No steps have since been taken to establish the Australian National Gallery Trust Fund which it recommended. Although an architect for the gallery was appointed over a year ago, the members of the interim council recommended a year ago have not yet been appointed, nor has the director who was recommended in the middle of last year. This means that no plans can be made for the building, no bequests can be attracted for the collection and no house can be provided for the collection, such as it already is.
The Parliament meets again this week after the longest actual recess in its history. lt is a new Parliament. It has more new members than any Parliament since 1949 when, of course, the Parliament was nearly doubled. There has been a greater change in representation than in any Parliament in our history. The changes are the results of retirements, electoral redistribution and, above all, electoral retribution. This afternoon four recruits to the Parliament made their maiden speeches. Two of them are seasoned parliamentarians from the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Two are younger men of very great promise. Whatever our politics may be in this place we can all be proud of belonging to a body which attracts men of this capacity and with this dedication. I join those honourable members who have already spoken in congratulating them on their first speeches. We look forward to similarly fine contributions from them.
Forty-four per cent of honourable members on this side of the chamber were not in the last Parliament. Due to changes on this side, this is the best qualified Parliament to sit in this place in terms of academic qualifications, lay experience and public service. I have noticed that nothing stirs the personal resentment of honourable members opposite as much as the possession of qualifications by honourable members on this side. I have already noticed, for example, that the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) seems to have attracted that same sense of outrage that used to be reserved for the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I have no doubt that the honourable member for St George will thrive on such attentions just as the honourable member for Dawson did, to the great enhancement of his stature in the Parliament, in the country and in his electorate.
This longest recess in our history has been used in a variety of ways. The opportunity was taken - after the elections - to reject the joint request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and Public Service organisations for 4 weeks annual leave for public servants, thus completing the Prime Minister’s sabotage of this proposal during the Prime Ministership of his predecessor. It was used to lift the 40-year-old ban on the export of merino rams, in defiance of a resolution of the Senate and in spite of undertakings given by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) during the election campaign to industry leaders that no further action would bc taken on the ban until further consultation with all sections of the wool industry. The post election period has been used to increase a whole range of fees and charges in areas where the Commonwealth can exercise responsibility - to increase university fees, which are three times what they were 10 years ago, and medical, hospital and pharmaceutical charges and local government rates and charges.
We may suppose that the Government’s time and energy were consumed in the preparation of the document we are now debating. If so, it was an effort of resurrection rather than creation. The GovernorGeneral was obviously much more at home and much more at ease in delivering this, his second Address. Well he might have been. For a vast number of the proposals he was obliged to announce he had himself discussed, indeed approved, as a member of the Cabinet which he left nearly a year ago. Indeed, he had heard some of the proposals in Addresses by his precdecessors. Let us look at the legislative programme from this new look Government.
In 1968 the Governor-General’s Address promised ‘My Government’ - that is the Gorton Government - ‘will legislate to improve the scheme of Commonwealth employees compensation’. The present Speech says ‘early legislation will be introduced to improve and extend the scheme of compensation’. In fact in November 1964 the then Treasurer, the late Harold Holt, promised to promptly consider Labor amendments. In May 1967 the former Treasurer, Mr McMahon, said:
The most exhaustive and detailed review of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act is now nearing completion and it is anticipated that the necessary amending legislation will be introduced in the Budget session.
The right honourable gentleman was referring to the Budget of 1967. For the second time a Governor-General’s Speech has promised to effect the recommendations of the Melville Committee on the portability of superannuation. The report was received by the Prime Minister in the month he took office. Public servants are presumably to regard it as a great favour that the new arrangements are to apply ail the way back to 1st January this year.
We have now been promised legislation to implement one of the 30 recommendations of Mr Justice Manning’s bills of exchange report of May 1964. In May 1967 the former Attorney-General told me: ‘I am making every effort to have the proposed new Cheques Bill introduced in the next sittings’. He was referring to the Budget session of 1967. In February last year he told me: ‘The final draft is nearly completed’. Yet now in 1970 we are to have only one of the 30 recommendations implemented.
The Governor-General promises an Institute of Criminology ‘after further consultation with the Stales’. In the ministerial statement last May of the present Minister of Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), when he was AttorneyGeneral, he said: “The Commonwealth and the States have now reached agreement’. Such is progress.
We are told that there is to be a uniform code of discipline for the Services. Sir Allen Fairhall promised it in November 1965 ‘at the earliest practicable date’. In October 1968 he promised the legislation for the next session; that is 2 years ago. There are two other specific defence proposals. We are told that investigation into the cost of a causeway in Cockburn Sound has begun; one may hope that this study will be considered with greater despatch than the feasibility study promised by Prime Minister Holt in August 1966 and received in January 1968. We are told that the development of Learmonth airfield will shortly start; this was promised by Sir Robert Menzies in November 1964 but no new works were ever carried out.
There will he a Bill to approve the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Port Pirie and Adelaide; in fact the Parliament passed such an Act in 1949. There will be a Bill to establish the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation; this was announced by the last Minister for National Development in September 1967. There will be a grant towards the cost of the irrigation project in the Bundaberg region; the proposal was put forward by the Queensland Government in 1966. There will be television stations in 38 remote areas; they were announced by the PostmasterGeneral 6 months ago.
Yesterday we learnt that the Government is still hoping to iron out the difficulties it is having in reconstructing Australian dairy farms. The previous Governor-General announced such proposals both in February 1967 and in March 1968. They follow from the report of Sir Mortimer McCarthy’s Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry which was constituted in July 1959 and reported in August 1960.
There will be legislation forthwith to establish an Institute of Marine Science. When this proposal was first advanced by Senator Dittmer in September 1963 and by Senator Murphy in May 1964, the Prime Minister, then Minister-in-Charge of Com monwealth Activities in Education and Research, asserted that the proposal had no high priority, tie again brushed the subject aside when Senator Murphy raised it again in May 1965. As recently as November 1968 he again captiously dismissed it when it was advanced by one of his own followers in this House. Also in November 1968 the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill was passed and a companion Bill on non-living natural resources was promised. The first Bill has not yet been brought into force and the second Bill has not yet been introduced.
A proposal to make members of credit unions eligible for the homes savings grant was voted down by every Government member when the Australian Labor Party proposed it in 1964 and 1965. However, this evening the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), who launched the amending legislation in this place, made it clear that the concession is a nullity. The proposal to raise the limit on the home value by $2,500, which was promised by the Prime Minister to operate from 27th October last, could have been introduced, debated and passed on the 1-day sitting of 25th November. Tt requires a 1-line amendment.
There are other matters which have been in previous Governor-General’s Speeches but which are not in this. What has happened to the proposal for a Commonwealth Superior Court? On 22nd January 1963 the Solicitor-General announced that the Cabinet had authorised Attorney-General Barwick to design a new Federal Court. Sir Garfield Barwick wrote an extended article on the proposal for the initial issue of the Australian National University Federal Law Review in June 1964. In May 1967 Attorney-General Bowen - there seems to have been a hiatus under AttorneyGeneral Snedden - made a ministerial statement outlining the proposals. In March 1968 the former Governor-General stated:
My Government will prepare legislation for creation of a Commonwealth Superior Court to relieve pressure on the High Court.
In November 1968 Attorney-General Bowen gave a second reading of the Commonwealth Superior Court Bill. The Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the last Parliament. The present Governor-General’s Speech makes no reference to the proposal. What has happened today?
Such is the product of Cabinet’s combined efforts during the longest recess in the Parliament’s history - this legislative blockbuster, as it was heralded. I do not want to build these aspects of the Address out of proportion. I cannot follow the Prime Minister into every pigeon-hole. I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt. The fact that so many proposals contained in this programme have been delayed 20 years or 10 years, or 8 or 5 or 2 years, or the fact that many of them have been contained in previous Speeches from the throne is not necessarily proof that they will receive no better fate this time. Still less is it an argument against the merit of any of the particular proposals. It is, however, an indication of the nature of Liberal promises and Liberal performance and this brings me to the really crucial criticism. For this very reliance on resurrected or rejected proposals underlies the essential nature of the Governor-General’s Speech. It fails utterly as a document for the seventies. It charts no new course. It strikes out on no new lines. Where is the promised identification and rectification of the issues of the last campaign, the issues on which the people spoke so clearly last October?
Education - ignored almost entirely; in the health field - a wilful stubbornness in propping and patching up at vast additional expense an unjust and inadequate scheme; the literally vital matter of hospitals ignored; cities ignored utterly; in a passage which acknowledges the growing burden of State debts, the far more onerous burdens on local government and semi-government authorities altogether disregarded; total nonrecognition of the intolerable burdens of land costs and interest rates on home buyers; the critical need for long term restructuring of our primary industries is by-passed; nothing of the sense of urgency about aboriginals which the national disgrace and the national mandate of 1967 alike demand; refusal to acknowledge that in New Guinea our international reputation is absolutely at stake.
These are specific issues, all of them of great importance to all Australians as individuals and as citizens. What we do on each of these matters will go a long way to determining what sort of community and nation we are to become. Beyond even that, there has to be some attempt to define a national objective; there has to be a statement about the sort of life we wish our people to enjoy - those who have been born here, those who have come here and those who will come here. The GovernorGeneral’s Address acknowledges the economic bonanza we have hit upon through the great mineral discoveries. It acknowledges the economic advantages that will accrue from technological advances. No attempt at all is made to answer the fundamental question: What do we do with these advantages? To what extent and by what means can all Australians share in these advantages?
There is to be created, largely by the process of resurrection and refurbishing I have described, a flurry of legislation to simulate the illusion of energetic government; but such a process does not mean purposeful government, presiding over a nation with a coherent set of purposes and goals, either at home or abroad. On this side we believe there is one clear goal that this national Parliament should set for itself, which should define and motivate each specific action we take: It is the goal of equality. The true quality of our national life will be principally determined by the way in which and the rate at which we advance towards true equality. It is this that gives meaning to our possession of prosperity. If I interpret the history of this country and the character of our countrymen correctly, it is this search which alone can give any worthwhile, enduring meaning to our fortuitous possession of this most fortunate, peaceful and privileged continent in this most turbulent and deprived region of the world.
Yet this Address, this programme for the first Parliament of the seventies, ignores or opposes this objective wherever it states an intention in an area of policy which could promote it. The clearest indication of this is in three of the most important domestic items in the Address: The proposals on taxation will presumably be central to this year’s Budget; Commonwealth-State financial relations will dominate discussions in seven parliaments in this year when a new financial agreement has to be framed; and the health proposals form far and away the most important legislation in this session.
The Governor-General’s Address repeats in even vaguer terms the vague promise of the Prime Minister to reduce taxation, made last election. His undertaking is, in the terms of his policy speech:
To reduce personal income tax, over the 3 year period beginning with the next Budget, that at the end of that time we will be providing relief, to lower and middle income earners, ot the order of $200m as compared with me amounts which would be payable by them under the present income tax structure.
By the 1972 Budget, Commonwealth revenue will be not less than $1 2,000m. The promise is to collect only $11, 800m rather than $ 1 2,000m. As to the beneficiaries of this generous forbearance, the Prime Minister defined middle income earners as those on up to $16,000. By no classification can people on $16,000 a year be described as middle income earners. In no country in the world, except apparently Australia, would or could they be so described. Barely 20,000 of 5 million taxpayers in 1968 earned $16,000 or more. Indeed, there were only 64,000 earning $10,000 or more.
But the taxation issue at the last election was not merely about the weight of the taxation burden; it was really about the incidence of taxation. By comparable world standards, higher income earners and companies are not highly taxed; but by such standards, our lower and middle earners - the genuine modest and middle earners, not the $16,000 a year men - are among the highest taxed in the world. This has happened by the simple device of leaving the tax schedules unchanged since 1954. Inflation, and wage increases to keep pace with it, have done the rest.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has exposed and explained what has been happening every year since 1958. Low and modest income earners have simply been inflated into higher tax brackets; their incomes remain low or modest, but they pay tax set for an income which was worth half as much again in 1954. Given the resources and requirements of a modern society, we shall all be paying more tax in 3 years’ time. In this situation, it is not at all to the point to talk of reducing the total tax burden by $200m in 3 years’ time. It is a wonderfully unverifiable undertaking. What is required is a redistribution of the tax burden - in short, more equality in sharing it.
Last week, in humiliating the Liberal Premiers, the Liberal Prime Minister heavily deployed the argument that income tax is an essential, indeed the essential, weapon in the armoury of economic management. In fact income tax is only marginally important in that sense; if they succumbed to that argument, the Liberal Premiers deserve the humiliation and contempt they got. The income tax is a crucially important instrument - but for political, social and national reasons. It is the principal instrument available to a government to redistribute wealth. Properly applied, it is the fairest means of raising significant revenue.
In the Australian federal context, it is of fundamental importance not only as an equaliser between persons but as between States. This is the true meaning of uniform taxation. This was the true meaning and design of its introduction by the Curtin Government in 1942. It was designed to ensure equality of sacrifice among Australians wherever they lived, for the purposes of prosecuting the war. And while the need of our society is no longer -to ration scarcity or share sacrifice but to share abundance and equalise prosperity, the objective and means remain- the same.- This is the real reason why the Commonwealth cannot contemplate, more importantly why Australians would not- tolerate, disposal of any. of the fair and equal revenue raising means which the Commonwealth -now -has, and which it alone now has. It is a question of justice and the rights of all Australians, lt is not a question of power; it is a question of equality among Australians wherever they happen to live. The tragedy of last week’s fiasco was the total failure of any of the Liberal and Country Party leaders, State or Federal, to come to grips with any question of justice or equality or need as between Australians or between the States.
This is most clearly shown by the Prime Minister’s acceptance of responsibility to collect the receipts tax on behalf of the States. The Governor-General’s Speech goes much further than the Government’s earlier promise to collect this tax until June this year. The Federal Liberal Government now presumably intends that the receipts tax should become a permanent fixture of its remaining Budgets. The important thing about this tax is not its constitutional validity, but its unfairness and inefficiency.
In Victoria, it is grossly unfair. It is true that the present Federal Government is directly responsible for this tax. In 1967 the former Treasurer, now Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), encouraged, rather urged, the States to follow the Western Australian example and impose it.
– Who said I did that?
– Sir Francis Nicklin is my authority for it, and he has said it again and again. He refused to implement it in Queensland. But he disclosed the advice which the former Treasurer pressed on to the other States, which was to follow the Western Australian receipts tax which was introduced 3 years ago. Only a week before the High Court judgment, the present Treasurer (Mr Bury) nominated the receipts tax as the most appropriate growth tax for the States, and even suggested that it could be used to raise $800m rather than a mere $80m a year. So there is no doubt that the Federal Government bears moral responsibility for the imposition of the receipts tax in the first place; this gives it now a responsibility to provide the States with the amount which the tax would have raised. But there is no responsibility to perpetuate that particular tax, in that particular form. The consequence of the Commonwealth’s present undertaking is that a tax, unfair in its incidence, complex in its application, inefficient and costly in its administration, will continue indefinitely. There is no evidence that the Government offered or thought of any substitute.
What, in particular, are to be the consequences for Queensland and Victoria? Any Commonwealth tax must be uniform between the States. The Constitution prohibits discrimination in taxation matters between them. Queensland levies a receipts duty of 2c in every $100; the other States levy lc in every $10. So the Queensland rate will have to be increased by 400% to equalise with the other States. Victoria imposes the tax on wages and salaries. It happens to be the one perfectly valid application of the tax. But in a statement by the Prime Minister in June 1968, he correctly described it as ‘doubly objectionable’. It would be inconceivable for the Commonwealth now to impose this ‘doubly objectionable’ Victorian impost in the other States; yet what method is proposed to recompense Victoria for the loss of this source of revenue - certainly valid, but to the Prime Minister ‘doubly objectionable’?
Essentially, what has been created is a phony crisis. Except in terms of the internal affairs of the Liberal Party, there is no CommonwealthState crisis. There is a crisis in school finance; there is a crisis in hospitals finance; there is a crisis in city finance. And these three great items - schools, hospitals and cities - together form the most crushing burdens, not only on the State Budgets, but on the resources of civic and semigovernment authorities. It is the failure of the national Government to accept proper responsibility for schools, hospitals and cities that has created the impasse in what is always referred to as Commonwealth-State financial relations, but which should be referred to as Commonwealth-State-Civic finances and functions.
The States would not have needed to raise the receipts tax if the Commonwealth had accepted a proper measure of responsibility for schools, and had established the machinery of a schools commission to inquire into and report on the needs of schools of all kinds and at all levels. There would have been no need for the recipts tax if the national Government had established a hospitals commission to assist in the modernisation and regionalisation of hospitals. There would have been no need for the receipts tax if the national Government had accepted at least as much responsibility for civic finances and functions - in land acquirement, in welfare, in culture, in transport, in pollution - as national governments in any comparable country, in either federal or unitary systems, already do and have done for decades past.
The Governor-General’s Address gives formal sanction to the Prime Minister’s undertaking to assume part of the States’ debts - ‘say up to a billion’ as he put it. Neither Federal nor State Liberals have ever acknowledged the equally great and far more rapidly growing burdens of local and semi-government authorities, or have given these authorities adequate access to national financial resources. In the year before last the revenues, including net revenue of business enterprises, of local government and semi-governmental authorities was 80% of the revenues of the States.
Three years ago - and that is the last year for which the former Treasurer could give me figures - the debts of local government and semi-governmental authorities were already 75% of the debts of the States; their annual interest liability was 85% of that of the States; their capital repayments each year were half as large again as those of the States.
Local government authorities are compelled by the Australian Loan Council - without whose approval they cannot borrow - to devote between one-quarter and onefifth of their rates to servicing their debts; they are compelled by State laws to pay between one-fifth and one-sixth of their rates to road, lighting, fire, planning and similar authorities. I have given the latest position, but looking over the developments of the last 15 years and longer, one can see how the trend in every case is working against local government authorities and semi-governmental authorities. Sure, the States are unable to finance the functions which the Commonwealth has allowed them to exercise unaided, but still more local government and semi-governmental authorities are in that position due to the combined indifference of the Liberals, Commonwealth and State.
The consequence is great and growing inequalities between areas within our cities. The inequalities between suburbs today are greater than they ever were between States. Generations ago the Commonwealth provided machinery to reduce these inequalities between the States - and the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been operating for well over a generation. That machinery should now be applied to reducing inequalities between regions, and within regions, of which the most notable and most populous are our great cities and provincial centres.
Yet all these great matters - matters fundamental to the quality and equality of the life of all Australians - were treated last week merely as a question of the philisophy of Liberalism. The conscience of the Liberal Party is irrelevant to the needs of the people of Australia. The people themselves rightly believe that arguments about centralism and States rights are irrelevant to their needs. It is not a question of sovereignty, but common-sense. If the Liberals, State and Federal, cannot create the machinery for continuing consultation and commonsense co-operation between Federal and State leaders, governments and instrumentalities, then they will soon have to make way for those who can, and indeed for those who already do consult and co-operate.
The health proposals provide the clearest example of all of how this Government is dedicated to propping up privilege and perpetuating inequality.
I shall not now canvass the ground so ably, but necessarily briefly, covered by the member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) yesterday; but this much must be said: For the sake of a word, for sheer doctrinaire determination to preserve the existing system, the people of Australia, as taxpayers and contributors, are being compelled to provide an extra $54m to provide lower benefits for patients than the alternative proposals put forward by my party would provide at no extra cost and for a lower contribution for the vast majority. Further, and worse, the lower and modest income earner will continue to pay more than the wealthiest. The essence of the Liberal scheme is that the Commonwealth benefit to which all taxpayers contribute can only be obtained by those taxpayers able to contribute to a private fund, and that all contributors, irrespective of their income, must pay the same fees with the rider that the richer one is, the greater the entitlement to tax concessions. The essence of the Labor scheme is that every Australian shall be automatically a beneficiary, and that his contribution shall be determined only by his ability to pay, and his treatment shall be determined only by his need; we determine his ability to pay by the best available means - his family’s taxable income, and we determine his needs and those of his family by the judgment of the doctor of his own choice. The Minister for Health devoted four columns of Hansard of his statement to a philosophical defence of what he called the ‘voluntary’ principle. He defends as ‘voluntary’ a scheme which compels every taxpayer to join a private scheme in order to receive benefits for which he pays taxes.
He says the essence of the principle is that contributions must be clearly separated from tax payments. Yet in the same speech he announced - I applaud the announcement - that the Government will accept the recommendation of Mr Justice Nimmo’s Committee to facilitate automatic deduction of contributions from wages and salaries. The Government’s intention is that the vast majority of wage and salary earners will undergo automatic deductions; and we are asked to believe that there is a great difference in principle and in effect between a deduction made by an employer at the instance of the Government in its role as the proposed Health Insurance Commission, and a deduction made by an employer at the instance of the Government in its role as the Taxation Branch. The difference in principle is trivial; it is limited to the difference in an entry on the pay slip. The difference in practice will be quite considerable; because almost every employee will be paying from 10c to 30c a week more under the new scheme than he would be under the alternative proposal.
In one proposal of this GovernorGeneral’s Address, and one only, do we find some recognition of the concept of equality - not, certainly, the equality between Australians, but at least equality of Australians in their own country as against foreign investors. At least I take it that this is the concept behind the proposal for an Industry Development Corporation - the McEwen Bank.
– It went through unanimously.
– The new Treasurer seemed to fumble the arguments for it when he was asked a question without notice about it. I welcome the proposal in principle, if with provisos. I could hardly do otherwise as I have been prompting the Deputy Prime Minister since 1967 when the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party put this embryo in a ‘state of suspended animation’, and more particularly as I promised it in my own policy speech last October. I was the only Party Leader in that election who promised it. My main proviso would be that the corporation should be capable of dovetailing into the other methods of direct government intervention which I outlined in that speech. I have used ENI and IRI in Italy, as models. These corporations, of which the IDC will be an Australian forerunner, have been used benevolently and fruitfully by democratic socialist governments in Italy.
Lest I make the blood of honourable members opposite run cold, I will refer rather to the Canadian model - the proposed Canada Development Corporation, to be established this year. The Corporation is being sponsored by the Canadian Finance Minister, Mr Edgar Benson. It originated in the report of the Canadian Privy Council Office Task Force on Foreign Ownership and Structure of Canadian Industry. It is to have the same objectives as the IDC as proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, and as proposed by me as one of a three point plan for direct government participation in the development, ownership and processing of Australian resources. According to the report, ‘the Canada Development Corporation will be created as a large holding company with entrepreneurial and management functions, to assume a leadership role in Canada’s business and financial community’. Further, ‘it would have the capacity to draw on the expenditure of the financial community and to provide a focal point for the mobilisation of entrepreneurial capital’. The report points out - and I want to make it clear I had never read this when I was making the same point last year about the IDC - ‘Its size and quasi-public character would enable it to make a unique contribution in organising the consortia of investors, domestic and foreign, thereby carrying out large projects beyond the capacity of a single institution and throughout maintaining a clear Canadian presence*. Further, the report says the CDC should be permitted and encouraged to be active in all sections of the economy. And, as the report states so excellently and succinctly, without limiting the generality of its operations, it should specifically be active in the area of resource development and the rationalisation of Canadian industry’.
As to the present proposal, we can so far identify its nature and purpose only by the series of negatives in which the Prime Minister has purported to say what it will not do and what it will not be; what it will not appear to do; what it will not appear to be; what, according to his understanding - and all it can be is his understanding at this stage - it will not do and what it will not be. As the Prime Minister says, we must await the ‘fine print’ - but fine print in an Act of Parliament is not immutable. This is not the law of the Medes and Persians. It can, after all, be amended by Parliament. At this stage. I can only say that I watched its conception with interest; I deplored the attempted abortion; I rejoice in the official birth enunciation by the Governor-General; I shall gladly act as midwife, and stand as godfather; but above all, in time to come, I will happily adopt this infant and ensure that its growth into lusty manhood is not impeded by any inhibitions about its dubious paternity. In short, under a Labor Government, the IDC will be used for the democratic socialist purposes I outlined in my policy speech, and the Act which establishes this Corporation will be amended by us to secure those purposes.
I have spoken of matters in the GovernorGeneral’s Address which concern in one way or another the great question of equality at home. Of the very worst inequality of all there is no mention in the address. We are informed without further comment that the armed forces will increase from 83,794 last year to 86,500 by June. We are asked to forget that most of this increase will have been procured by a conscription which has never been justified to the Australian people as something necessary and inevitable, much less desirable. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that it was irrelevant that the Gates Commission had recommended to the President of the United States that the compulsory draft in that country be ended, and had reported that the Australian Government could have raised its army requirements by better conditions and improved benefits. Among the things that are very relevant is that the Gates Commission - a foreign commission - should have been the first and only body to make any analysis or undertake any research whatsoever of the Australian situation about recruitment requirements or possibilities.
The whole case for conscription in Australia rests on a single simple assertion by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964 that it was impossible to raise men in the required numbers in a full employment economy. This assertion has never been officially queried or analysed. Sir Robert’s two successors have followed him in making no effort to raise or retain recruits by treating the Army as an essential occupation and providing rates, conditions, opportunities and postservice benefits accordingly. The Government refuses to contemplate even the suggestion that the initial volunteer period might be reduced to 2 years, though the present Min- ister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) throws out the suggestion that the period of service for conscripts might be reduced to 18 months.
This reduction in the length of conscript service may occur, as we are told, ‘after Vietnam’. When and what is ‘after Vietnam’? The Government now puts into the mouth of the Governor-General the words:
Should the future situation permit a further substantial withdrawal of troops . . . some Australian troops will be included, at some stage, in the numbers scheduled for such withdrawal.
Let me repeat those words - ‘Some Australian troops will be included, at some stage in the numbers scheduled for such withdrawal’. In such words, and in such a fashion, do we decree that men shall still be sent to die - not for a cause, not for a reason, not for a crusade, not for wives or families or country, but so that ‘some’ may be ‘scheduled for such withdrawal’ at ‘some stage’. And in such a fashion, with such calm objectivity, did Haig consecrate his butchered hecatombs.
We are told, in this Address: ‘My Government believes that aggression must be seen to be unsuccessful . . .’. It is incredible that a Prime Minister, at this time, after the experience of the past 3 years, should write these lines, or oblige the Head of State to utter them in reference to Vietnam, on the very day that the Prime Minister of Laos appeals for the Geneva Conference to reconvene to protect his country from overt aggression from North Vietnam. To justify itself, to hide the total failure of its policy in Vietnam and in this region, this Government, and in particular its leader, clings to its original disastrous myth about the nature of the war in South Vietnam, and the needs and nature of the continuing conflict in the whole of the old French colonial territories.
This Government never had any purpose in Vietnam other than to keep the United States involved militarily on the ground in Asia. It has sought to achieve this end by prolonging the war. In particular since 1967, every Australian endeavour has been used to impede or sabotage any American initiative designed to end the war, err to resist any American effort to modify the war by obtaining and maintaining negotiations. At any time during 1967 or 1968 it would have been possible to secure the negotiations which did in fact begin at the end of 1968. The incalculable price of that delay was the political destruction of a great President, the disintegration of the world’s greatest political party and the near disruption of American society. But if negotiations had begun in 1967 or early 1968 it would have been possible to extend them as a basis for the settlement in all the old French colonial territories.
The object of such negotiations would have been neutralisation - and it was an objective quite capable of achievement right up to 1968. In the years from 1965 to 1968, anybody on this side who suggested neutralisation of the region as an objective was denounced and derided by honourable members opposite. Today, nobody expects that we can get so much. Only yesterday, the Minister for External Affairs declared that Laos proved the domino theory. I was under the impression all these years that the domino theory would not operate as long as North Vietnam was ‘taught that aggression did not pay’. If the Government believed that, it would be far more perturbed and angry about what North Vietnam is doing in Laos than about anything that has ever happened in South Vietnam.
The same Minister for External Affairs who, as Treasurer, said in 1968 that the Liberal Party believed in ‘resisting aggression everywhere in the world wherever it occurred’, the same Minister who has always denied our contention that the war in Vietnam is essentially a civil war, now brings in a prepared statement which says that the Laos conflict now is as vital to our interests as Vietnam was supposed to be in 1965 - and for exactly the same reasons.
Will these Bourbons never learn? There is one real hope for Laos. It is that the negotiations on Vietnam should be once again taken seriously and urgently, and raised to negotiation for a settlement of the whole region. This Government has persistently downgraded these negotiations ever since it failed to prevent them. To the extent that its shortsightedness, not unmixed with a certain malevolence, has influenced the situation, this Government bears a real responsibility for what is now happening in Laos. Tt is true that the world does not hold us responsible for the Vietnam disaster although I believe history will show our responsibility and culpability to be greater than now appears. But the world does hold us, and rightly holds us, fully responsible for what we do in New Guinea.
The Governor-General’s Address, like all official statements on New Guinea, implies that the question of self-government and independence for New Guinea can be settled without reference to any nations other than Australia and New Guinea. The plain fact is that Australia would not have been permitted to remain in New Guinea as trustee had she not promised to prepare New Guinea for independence. Two months ago. the governments of 112 nations in the United Nations, including our great and powerful allies, called on Australia to transfer full executive and legislative powers to elected New Guineans. The Address repeats the trite and meaningless formula that the timing of self-government and independence is to be based solely on the wishes of the people of New Guinea.
The fact is that all the important steps Australia has taken in the political development of New Guinea have been basically decisions made in Canberra, not in Konedobu. The very changes announced in the Speech itself are decisions of that kind. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) verv accurately pointed out yesterday that the people of New Guinea, including its political leaders, are suffering verv grievously by confusion deliberately spread bv expatriates, including officials, as to the real meaning of terms like self-government and independence. Invariably one finds that men who will at first express doubt as to their readiness for self-government wi’l nonetheless agree with local control of every item forming the structure of government. In other words they want selfgovernment and they want it now.
The member for Fremantle, the member for Oxley and I found throughout the Territory that one of our greatest difficulties was to reassure the people, even members of the House of Assembly, that neither selfgovernment nor independence meant the end of Australian aid. This false notion is deliberately fostered by some expatriates, again including some officials. The greatest single step towards the political education of New Guineans this Parliament itself could advance would be to make a formal declaration that Australian aid and Australian assistance will continue after independence. My Party would support such a declaration if initiated by the present Government and will introduce it when it becomes the government.
New Guinea is a country where it is particularly difficult to get at the truth. The Prime Minister, on receiving two authentic telegrams from planters and a spurious telegram from the Gazelle Peninsula Council, instantly replied that the Government believes the Council is acceptable to the majority of the Tolai people and described the Mataungan Association as extremists. Two months before, after a painstaking hearing and in a painstaking judgment, the magistrate who was mentioned in question time this morning had commented:
Since military and other aircraft brought into this little town more armed police than the Canadian authorities are reported to have sent to protect their largest city, Montreal, with its population of 2 millions . . . and since a police helicopter had been waking their babies as it sought out the Mataungan people, the speculation very naturally was as to the kind of people these Mataungan people are.
The learned magistrate concluded: ‘ . . . there is no evidence that the Mataungan Association is against anything except the Multi-racial Council’. He found as follows: (i have) the very heavy duty of publicly announcing that it is my considered opinion that the Mufti-racial Council elections of early 1969 should have been cancelled.
– Was this before the assaults or after?
– It was in the determination of that and other cases, 2 months before you rushed in to make your first comment ever on New Guinea. The Rabaul police operations cost a million dollars. A referendum would have cost $2,000; a referendum was rejected on the grounds of cost.
The situation in the Gazelle represents a fundamental breakdown in racial partnership. But such problems are inherent in the unnatural situation Australia and Australians find themselves in in New Guinea. There can be no true partnership between a ruler and the ruled. There is not one aspect of the many sided task we have to do in New Guinea - in defence, in development, in commerce, in welfare, in education - in which the value of the Australian contribution will not be enhanced when we cease also to be rulers. Only then can there be a partnership on that basis of equality which acknowledges the full manhood and dignity of each. And in this sense, what we have to do here at home, what we have to do in New Guinea, reaches for that same great goal - equality.
– This is the first occasion since the last election on which the people of Australia have had an opportunity to listen to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I believe they would be very disappointed to note that on this occasion the Leader of the Opposition did little to substantiate the confidence of the people who returned increased numbers’ to the Opposition side of the House. It was interesting to note at one stage during the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition that he had no more than 2 of his front benchers supporting him. Most of the time he had 5 out of a total of 12. At no time did he have more than 6. At the end of his remarks I think there were fewer of his supporters in the chamber than when he started. Even I, as a mere back bencher, feel that I can claim a better percentage of support from my colleagues than he can from his. No doubt the people of Australia are very disappointed indeed.
This afternoon we heard from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), both experienced members of parliament. They put forward their side of a situation, as one would expect. I think the easiest way to sum up my advice to these gentlemen would be to say that if they want to succeed in the future they should put forward some suggestions which are practical and workable. I believe that those three honourable gentlemen whom I have mentioned have vilified the past, distorted the present, and shrunk from the future.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to pass on my personal congratulations and the congratulations of the constituents of Wimmera to Mr Speaker, firstly on his re-election to that important position and secondly on his recognition by Her Majesty. I would like also to congratulate the mover, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and the seconder, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), of the motion before the House. I believe that both these gentlemen have made excellent contributions to the debate as, indeed, have some of the other new members who have contributed to it so far. This reminds me of a statement by the Leader of the Opposition. He cannot even count; a few minutes ago he said that four honourable members made their maiden speeches this afternoon. In fact, there were six.
I take this opportunity of thanking the people of the Wimmera electorate - the people I represent - for returning me to this, the Twenty-seventh Parliament, despite all the comments which have emanated from the Opposition over a period of time that the people have lost confidence in the Government. I sincerely thank the people in my electorate for their confidence in me.
This evening I wish to make a few comments about the problems of primary industry in Australia. I think it would be fair to say that not since the 1930s has Australia faced such a challenge as it does today. That was the time of the depression when there was unemployment. A similar situation exists today, but possibly for a different reason, that reason being the cost of production to the primary industries, a world glut of our commodities and, naturally, a lack of demand, finishing up with low prices. I recall vividly as no doubt most honourable members in this place do, that in the early 1950s there was a huge cry throughout the world for increased production of foodstuffs. Unfortunately, today in most primary industries, the reverse is the position. Perhaps one exception is the wool industry. Australia can dispose of its wool at a price. If it were not for the Japanese Trade Agreement, heaven only knows what the price would be today because we all realise that the vast bulk of our wool is exported to Japan. The tendency of the Opposition is to blame the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), the Australian Country Party, and the Government.
– Hear, hear!
– Honourable members opposite are interjecting. I am interested to hear some interjections supporting that statement.
This is what Opposition members have been doing for quite some time. This is why T. suggest that the Opposition is misleading the people of Australia. It knows very well that it is not anything that has been done by this Government that has affected the wheat industry. The trouble in that industry has been caused chiefly by a lack of demand on the overseas markets. If the Government were to be changed, as the Opposition would like, what would be seen? The wheat industry would go right back to the conditions that existed in the early days of stabilisation when the return to the average wheat grower was about £6 10s a week, with about a 3% return on capital. This is what would happen if the Opposition were to gain control of the government benches.
Let us look at some of the comments made by the new president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke. I do not have time to read them all. When he was addressing a meeting at the Monash University he declared that his organisation would strongly resist further efforts by the employers and the Government to use arguments about the cost price squeeze and its impact on farmers as a reason to hold down wage levels. I do not think Mr Hawke is a supporter of the Government. I believe the problem must be isolated and an answer looked for. Today Australians are told that they have a very buoyant economy, that they are living in prosperous times and that they have full employment. But does this apply to the rural sector? Anyone who understands the rural situation will appreciate what producers are thinking at the present time. Unfortunately, prosperous times and full employment can and do increase costs. The rural sector cannot pass on such costs.
If one looks at statistics from the Reserve Bank one finds that rural advances^ have never been higher than they are today. In 1959 they amounted to $41 lm. In subsequent years they were $980m, $993m, SI, 050m, Sl,088m, Sl,152m, $l,302m, Si, 414m, $l,608m, Sl,875m, until at the present time they total $ 1,972m. This is an all time high. If one looks at the trading banks alone one finds that advances to the rural industries have increased. The figure in 1949 was $2 14m. Today it is $939m.
This is a very big increase. In what sector of the rural industry do we see these increases? These figures exclude term losses from the trading banks which at present total S725m. We find that in 1961 the figure was S220m for the grazing industries, chiefly the wool industry. Today it has increased to $327m - a 50% increase in 8 years.
Wheat is in an even worse position. It has gone from $36m to $94m or an increase of 250%. Dairying has gone from $83 m to $102m, which is not a great deal of difference. The combination of other rural industries has gone from SI 10m to $22 1 m. If we look at primary producers throughout Australia we find that the average advance is in the vicinity of $8,000. If we are mindful of the fact that there are many primary producers with a small advance or, in many cases, none at all this means that many of them have borrowed a substantial figure. Of course, it is no good for these people to continue to borrow if they cannot service that particular debt. During the same period rural deposits have remained static so it cannot be said that because of inflation one borrows more, one has more and one finishes up with more. That is not the case at all. ft is a case of the deposits remaining static.
Many of the wheat and wool industry people are heading for a very rough time, lt is true that they have certain advantages. They have a privileged rate of interest ranging from 6% to 71%. Unfortunately, in the past I believe that this low interest rate has had a tendency to create a form of cheap money and as such this has tended to encourage people to chase land and other items which, of course, over a period has increased the price. Low interest rates have been partly responsible for increasing land values, but I am not suggesting that we should increase these rates because this would mean that people would be paying a high rate of interest on a highly valued piece of country, but I believe we should follow this thing through by perhaps reducing the interest rates even further until these people find themselves out of difficulty even if it means that we have to go to the Treasury to do so. Overdrafts are increasing and whilst they are increasing so will the costs of the primary pro- 10722/70- R-Pl ducer rise, particularly when we see in some instances an increase in costs of up to 3% in a year.
Wool prices are equal to 1949 levels. Wheat prices are even worse. In the 1947- 48 season the average return to the wheat grower less freight was $1.43 a bushel. The last year for which figures have been made available - that is the last year for which the pools have been finalised - was 1964-65 in which we saw a price of 134.9c a bushel, less freight. The estimate for the present pools that have not been finalised, will be well and truly under that figure - a very grim picture. Added to this grim picture is the fact that we are in a time when growers cannot dispose of their surplus wheat and some form of restrictions have had to be introduced. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has repeatedly mentioned in this House and in numerous places outside these restrictions were applied at the instigation of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and were supported by the States. But the Opposition is trying to sheet the blame for these restrictions on the Minister for Primary Industry and it has succeeded politically. The Minister is the bogyman as far as honourable members opposite are concerned. They have convinced a lot of people that this is the situation whereas in actual fact it is not.
I believe the primary industries are facing a tough time. I can bear out this statement. If we look at the taxation returns of primary producers we find that the mean income of primary producers in the 20 years from 1947 to 1967 has increased by only 50% and I venture to say that in the next 2 years or so it certainly will not be anything like 50% more than the 1947 figures. Why is this? It is, of course, because of the lack of demand from abroad for our primary products and the substantial increase in costs at home. According to a lot of people the Government has done nothing. I cannot go along with that claim. Since it came to office in 1949 this Government has contributed tremendously to the growth of our primary industries. The real question is: Is this contribution enough? If we listen to some people the answer is yes and if we listen to others the answer is no. I believe that the real answer is somewhere between those answers. I might add that that is not a political answer. But I believe, as do many other people, that further assistance could be given to primary producers, but only after negotiations with the industry concerned. The Opposition will, of course, promise the world but we must remember that it will be on its conditions and not those of the primary producers. As a member of Parliament and a member of a Party which believes in free enterprise 1 will not tell the industry what is good for it. We will make suggestions at appropriate times but it is still up to the industry itself to decide how it will handle its commodities from time to time.
During recent times the Opposition has put forward all sorts of suggestions to deal with the wheat problem and I suppose it would be fair to say that very few of the suggestions put forward would be workable. There are certainly differences of opinion amongst members of the Opposition. In fact, they are numerous. I recall that last year a Labor candidate in a wheat growing electorate in Victoria had a completely different opinion to the one held by a front bench member of the present Opposition, namely the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). These people do not even seem to get together with their ideas. A few moments ago I mentioned Mr Hawke. He, of course, believes in a shorter working week and in higher wages. He has confessed that he believes that the small primary producer is uneconomic and must go. If he gets his way these are the sort of things which will not help primary producers. I am sure he would have the support of many members of the Opposition here today.
Let me quickly enumerate some of the things the Commonwealth Government has done to help the primary producer. It has provided a depreciation investment allowance of 40% in the first year and 120% over 5 years. It also proposes to reduce estate duty by up to 50% for primary producers. A Bill covering this will be brought down shortly. Another proposal is the averaging of incomes over a 5 year period up to an amount of $16,000. In addition there are concessions on forced sales of stock in times of adversity. While on the subject of income tax, I hope that the Treasurer (Mr Bury) will take a very close look at the suggestion I have put forward to him in relation to paying income tax on what we call over-quota wheat that is not acceptable to the Australian Wheat Board. Following this case through one finds that it is possible, unless something is done about it, for a primary producer actually to be paying this year income tax on wheat that he cannot sell - it has no value at all - and, of course, next year be will find himself in a position where he will not be paying any tax at all.
There is no need for me to talk about the superphosphate bounty because its importance is well known to primary producers. The tractor bounty and the research programmes are other forms of assistance to primary producers. Let us look at wheat stabilisation. Since 1961 the Commonwealth has paid out $155m as a result of an agreement with the wheat industry. We recognise that in the early stages of wheat stabilisation the growers contributed not less than $200m to the wheat consumers in Australia. This was at a time when the price was high. We do not hear very much about that today. Of course, when that $200m was made available by the wheat growers it had a different value from what it has today; no doubt it would have been equivalent to $500m or $600m today. Under the present plan and in present conditions of wheat selling it is possible that in this year alone the Commonwealth contribution will be as much as S40m.
Then there is the Commonwealth contribution for devaluation compensation, wool promotion research, dairying and so on. These are some of the matters in respect of which I believe we must give credit to the Government. I remind the House that during the regime of the present Minister for Primary Industry more money has been paid out to rural industries than under any previous Minister for Primary Industry during a similar period. This is a great tribute to the present Minister. I thank him for what he has done for primary industry. I have complimented him on numerous occasions and I believe that when the history of this crisis is written he will stand high in the minds of the people. I believe also that State governments could make a contribution to assist in some of the areas that I have mentioned tonight. They have a responsibility for railway freights, decentralisation and things of this sort. The Commonwealth Government can help in other ways.
There is ample room within the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for help in solving some of our rural problems. This idea of asking an individual subscriber to pay as much as $2,000 in order to continue his telephone service in some areas is just not acceptable. It is ridiculous to think that people must put up with that sort of thing. Then there is the unfair cost of trunkline calls between centres. Numerous people in Australia today have to make a trunkline call to their local or nearest business centre. This is a very high penalty that they must pay for living in remote areas.
I could not resume my seat without making a very brief mention of the wool industry. This is another industry which is in a desperate situation. Many graziers have paid high prices for land, stock and machinery. Their rates of all types are high because of high land values. Their normal operating expenses are high because of the increased cost of living. Yet at a time when all these costs are increasing we find that the price of wool has now reached the level of 1949 values - a very low price indeed. We cannot blame the Government for any of this because we have a free auction system and countries throughout the world can send their representatives here to bid for the wool as they wish. On two occasions the Government has advanced a proposition for the Australian wool growers, but on each occasion it has been rejected by referendum.
Recently the Government has assented to a proposal known as the cost compensation scheme which, it appears, will go the same way as the other two propositions went. On a number of occasions 1 have been asked what the Government intends to do about this, but I believe that the fundamental rule applying to most industries is based on orderly marketing with grower control. This is the fundamental principle and it is one that the Opposition at present seems completely to overlook. The growers want to have control of their own industry. Some years ago we thought the answer to all our problems would be solved by the establishment of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the members of which were appointed by two grower organisations and finally by a third organisation. We thought that through this body a group of people would for the first lime be able to speak for the industry. Unfortunately, this was not the case. People are starting to lose confidence in that body, for a number of reasons. Possibly it will be found that the biggest percentage of growers has the smallest voice. Many growers are now asking that appointments to the AWIC be made by referendum so that the individual growers will have a voice on the Conference.
I propose now to repeat what I said earlier about primary industries. We have a free enterprise government and we must be prepared to accept the wishes of people in the primary industries rather than dictate to them. Often government dictation would appear to be palatable, but in the long term it could mean the total socialisation of the industry if we had a change of government and direction from the government. I conclude by saying that the objective should be for the industries to aim at unity among themselves through their organisations. They should present a united front and have the backing of their leaders. If they are wrong it is up to the individual’s to correct the situation. The industry can then put forward a sound argument and a justified case. Subsidies are a short term answer; certainly they are not a long term answer.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Scullin and remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, it is with a great deal of pride that I participate for the first time in the debates of this Parliament. There is pride in the fact that I am one of the relatively small band who have transferred from membership of a State legislature to membership of this House. There is pride also in the electorate of Scullin which I represent and in which I have resided for most of my life. Its boundaries, which include the State electorate of Reservoir which I had the privilege to represent for over 8 years, encompass well developed industrial and residential areas. Within its boundaries are a wide range of community facilities including a university, a large hospital, schools of all types and so on. In fact it is very much a cross section of urban Australia, with people from all walks of life pursuing their day to day activity with all the hopes and aspirations that we have come to expect from Australians. Therefore it is not with specific aspects of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech as they affect my electorate that I intend to deal but rather with a couple of matters arising by inference from that Speech as they affect all of us.
I mention in passing that 1 listened with interest to the honourable member for Denison (Dr Solomon) in his analysis of democracy and the need for participation and training in it. As a Parliament we ought to be concerned with political ideas and ideals, prompting our community to be concerned in the same manner. But what do governments provide for the youth of our community? In what way do we educate the young for participation in democracy? They are served a solid sectionalised and professionalised diet of education from the close of their primary school days. If one follows to the tertiary field one realises the narrowness of training at universities, institutes of technology, teacher training colleges and so on. There is cause for alarm at the end result. They are offered narrow vocational techniques and promise of material success, but there is little air of community responsibility. They see little of moral and ethical values among their elders. Perhaps this is the reason for the growing turmoil among the young and among students, particularly on issues of conscience, as a reaction against the aridity of thought in our community on these matters.
The Australian Labour Party was founded by men who strove for the wider horizons of education, the principle of loyalty to their fellow workers and their community, the need for associations to achieve these purposes and concepts of justice and democracy for every individual. In fact, I believe these were Australian ideals. Australia is a young and developing nation, and what a pity it is that for want of leadership in the right direction these ideals are being obscured. As a former State member it is only natural that I share in the growing political awareness of the problems of Commonwealth and State relationships. Here, however, as exemplified by the Government’s programme outlined in His Excellency’s Speech, the overriding consideration is the financial relationship. I believe there are some more important con siderations and so I will deal only briefly with the financial aspect. The sordid aspects of this financial relationship in recent years have degraded our parliamentary institutions in the public eye. In his speech tonight the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made comments on many of the details of this relationship. The faults are on both sides. Every defect in State government policy or administration is excused by reference to lack of Commonwealth finance. Failures of accommodation, staffing and facilities in the State education system, even where sound planning and policy is palpably absent, are excused on financial grounds. The blame for the inbuilt inequalities in the State education system, brought about by the purchase of facilities and equipment on the iniquitous subsidy system which forces parents to pay heavily and means that areas of greatest need are those least able to obtain these extras, is placed on a parsimonious Federal Government, and perhaps with partial justification. This stands, even when exorbitant prices for school sites and expensive building contracts are revealed and subsidies to privileged private schools to the detriment of Government schools are realised.
States abrogate their initiative in tertian’ education by saying that the Australian Universities Commission dictates the terms of development and maintenance of tertiary institutions. It recently appeared to dictate a great increase in university fees and yet fees, from the point of view of government, are a negligible contribution to university finances. Bold thought is confined to the election platform and bold action is never seen, yet thousands of young people qualified for entry to tertiary institutions are turned away.
In the hospital field, for example, Victoria’s hospitals have accumulated deficits of SI Om. This is blamed on Commonwealth activity or inactivity in the health field. I have no confidence that a slavish adherence to the voluntary health insurance system is going to provide any solution, yet onethird of that State’s deficit is from workers compensation and motor accidents - in other words, insurance cases where simple legislation by the States requiring forward funding by insurance companies would easily solve this without major economic upset. So. on the State side we have the loud plaints of such governments, particularly at election time, against the Commonwealth. As I have said, the Commonwealth is not without guilt. Too little account is taken of the needs of the community in the face of the Commonwealth’s overall control of revenue. Tied grants by the Commonwealth to the States are not necessarily bad things, but they must be applied in a way which will lead to effective forward development in various fields. At the moment they are not necessarily being applied in this way.
In the social welfare field we see a hodge-podge produced for pensioners. Certainly the aged receive their age pensions, but of a kind bearing no relation to needs. States are forced to cover the greater part of the cost of pensioners’ hospital treatment. Transport concessions, which would not be necessary if pensions were adequate, are supplied by the States. Low rental housing is a further strain; and so one could go on. There appears to be no combined Commonwealth and State examination of needs in so many areas where provision of facilities is necessary. If so, why was the report of the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research of an incidence of poverty of nearly 20% in our community received with such amazement? The Victorian Government, in fact, appointed a committee from among its parliamentary parties’ backbench members to investigate this matter of poverty. Its findings must have been so alarming that they have been clouded in a shroud of deepest secrecy ever since they were concluded.
It is fair for State governments to point out that the rate of increase in their tax reimbursement grants is so much less than the rate of increase in Commonwealth tax collections. For Victoria in 1969-70 the increase in the tax reimbursement grant was only 81% on the previous year’s figures yet the predicted increase in Commonwealth tax collections was 171%. Nor is it surprising that States resent that the payments which they have to make to bear interest and service charges on their debts is not taken into account when payments are made by the Commonwealth under the formula. Such payments for Victoria in 1969-70 were $154.5m. These included some reduction not only on the interest payments but on Victoria’s public debt, including liabilities to the Commonwealth. But enough of the need for an enlightened attitude in Commonwealth and State financial relationships.
There is a deeper, more far-reaching view to be taken of relations between Commonwealth and State Governments. It will be realised that State governments are essentially governments of provision whose essential role is to provide physical assets in the way of schools, roads, transport and so on. Since the adoption of uniform taxation, at any rate, the Commonwealth Government is not only a government of provision but very much one of finance and decision. Its actions in the financial field determine the economics of the community in every field. Its decision making powers in so many fields of policy, upheld by its financial powers, determine Australia’s development in a way in which no State government can affect or, indeed, could effect. Yet this parliamentary division of functions and responsibility resides in a distribution of constitutional powers arrived at in the 1890s when no-one would be expected to have envisaged the development of Australia, the change in social and economic attitudes in our community and indeed throughout the world, the massive advances in technology that have produced these changed attitudes and the alterations that have occurred in the distribution of personal wealth and power. Thomas Jefferson is often quoted in discussions on the evolution of constitutions. He said:
In questions of power, let no more be beard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.
And bound down by the Constitution both State and Federal Parliaments have been. I do not deny the very real protection the Constitution has given individuals and groups, but it is a horse and buggy constitution for a space ship age. There is no more fascinating story than the development of our Australian Constitution and the great struggles and the conventions which were held in developing it. Through the story there runs the foresight of some, the conservatism of others, the attitudes of the capitalists of the day who had reached the height of their power and the slow gropings of the developing Labor movement which was then achieving the militancy and unity it needed for nationalism and its concept of democracy. Eventually it was the propertied gentlemen who decided the main principles of our Constitution, taking what was best from the States and giving it to the Federal Government and leaving a suitable environment for themselves in the State field. But as 1 have mentioned, although the Constitution does reflect the attitudes of that time, times have changed considerably. Even the lower portion of our system of government - local government - now needs greater consideration. It is this form of government which feels most heavily the burden of our present system. This evening the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke about this need and of the provision of normal municipal services. Increased welfare services are also being forced on local government by subsidy in the way of baby health centres, elderly citizens’ clubs, creches and so on. Its source of revenue is rates on properties which takes no note of the ability of the citizen to pay and so may bear heavily and unfairly on individuals.
What can we do about it? Do we leave this unsatisfactory situation as the apologia at all levels for defects in government performance or do we show the same drive and imagination that led the fathers of our Constitution to hold their great, and for those days representative, conventions, to find common grounds for the alterations that are needed? Even the State-righters should be interested in this for it is obvious that only a bold approach can lead to the solution of their problems. I do not accept the fears expressed of centralism for I feel that central government is not to be confused with central bureaucracy, lt is certain that smaller units are needed for regional administration and even to some extent local policy formulation in a way that even the States cannot offer. Should we not look at where the power of government and its delegation should reside and what rules should govern its delegation? The States realise that even they as they are at present defined cannot effectively do this. The States are moving more and more to regionalisation of services such as health and education.
Tasmania is the only State with a natural boundary. The boundaries of the other States are largely political accidents. No natura] regions such as the Riverina, which is divided by the New South Wales and Victorian borders, exist. This from time to time gives rumblings for a new State, but it is only a rumbling. No action is ever taken, and action is needed to overcome the difficulties. After 8 years of frustration of serving in a State Parliament with all the practical restrictions for effective action that abound there and the difficulty in progressive planning, I am convinced that State governments are becoming more and more the complete lackeys of the Commonwealth and that some form of the centralist view would be the best form of government we could have. 1 realise full well that many will disagree with me, but I challenge them to say that they are satisfied with the present situation. I challenge them to join in the demand for a re-examination of the constitutional structure and the presentation of proposals to the Australian people to alter it. Even in my centralist view there is a role for the States or a smaller equivalent type of regional unit to play, but shorn of its expensive trappings and high membership, with clearly defined administrative and governing roles laid down on principles in keeping with present day’ demands. My question is: Who will take the initiative in pursuing this vast problem? Surely that initiative should reside in this Parliament.
The other matter to which I want to refer to briefly is pollution which the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) mentioned in his maiden speech tonight. Various aspects of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech lead us to a consideration of the degradation and pollution of our environment. References dealing with dam construction, eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis in cattle; forestry development, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s proposed nuclear power station, research into wild life and marine science are all relevant to the degradation of our environment. President Nixon in a recent State of the Union message said:
The great question of the 70s is: Shall we surrender to our surroundings or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water?
He might also have added every animate thing to these inaminate factors.
To put it on the most material basis, man for all bis brain, his form and so on can be reduced in scientific terms to a series of chemical reactions. Some of these chemical reactions can be reproduced in the test tube, but others as yet cannot. From time to time great concern is expressed as to what will happen in the test tube. What chemist would expect the chemical reactions that he desired to produce under laboratory conditions to proceed in a normal way in the presence of impurities? Yet these are the very conditions under which we expect the chemical reactions of human beings and other animals to proceed. We degrade, pollute and ravage our environment in every way imaginable. Our society is being called the ‘effluent society’. 1 hope I will have time to illustrate how apt that description is.
The chemical armamentarium we use in food production and preservation, in the extermination of pests, in the treatment of disease not only due to bacterial or other parasites but due to degenerative diseases, all lead to further contamination. Massive physical projects take their toll. Certain irrigation projects which in the short term produce beneficial results may in the long term with constant leaching of salts and their re-deposition abolish the productivity of the areas concerned. We are all familiar with the problem of dust-bowl conditions in grossly defoliated areas. In fact conservationists who deplore the destruction of large amounts and numbers of flora and fauna are indeed referring to a portion of our environmental degradation. In the publication ‘Science USA’ the author Gilman points out that scientific research and development in 1965 took one-sixth of the United States Budget. This involved in excess of SUS15 billion. From other sources I have ascertained that only $US57m of this was devoted to research in pollution control.
Just as the picture in America is one of complete ravaging of the environment due to industry so it is with other industrialised nations. Even the smaller areas are concerned. About 18 months ago in Suva, Fiji, the local Press spoke about the new cement works there and the emissions of smoke which were causing pollution and about which they were concerned. We can assume that in Australia we are at the stage where we can do something about it. One might feel, if one thinks of the smog in places such as Los Angeles, Detroit and
New York, that there is no hope of it happening here. Yet the number of motor vehicles in Australia has increased more than one and a half times in the last decade. In petrol use per capita we are out-ranked only by the United States of America and Canada. In 1967 we burnt 1,820 million gallons of petrol. Can we be sure that there are not densely populated areas which possess the physical and geographical features that will cause the inversion and the photochemical reaction that produces the irritant and toxic substances from such fumes?
In Victoria, the State inefficiently runs a Clean Air Division. It is very proud of the fact that it has never launched a prosecution through that Division and in fact today the number of complaints its receives is onetwentieth of what they received 10 years ago. It is very true that people can complain and nothing happens. There have been factories in my electorate which pollute the environment. Promises are made that the situation will be remedied but the result is stained and damaged laundry and corroded duco and metal on cars and houses. People have complained of smarting eyes, running noses and respiratory infection. This is the way we ravage the environment with pollution. Gauges in the city of Preston, for example, show that 9 to 10 tons of dust per square mile per month are deposited over areas of the city. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) would be aware that in the Herne Hill area something like 70 tons of dust per square mile per month is deposited. This figure has been revealed by dust gauges. But the evidence of pollution does not stop there. This week in the House we heard comments about sewage in Sydney Harbour. It is not so long ago that it was proposed to dump great amounts of Melbourne’s sewage into Port Phillip Bay. In this case the sewage was not important but the detergent and chemical content was because this would have damaged all the flora and fauna of the Bay with great degradation to the uses of that area for man.
I am not able to completely cover this problem. I have tried to respect the customs and usages of this House under which the House hears an honourable member’s maiden speech in silence. There are many matters of a much more partisan and possibly more controversial nature which could be raised. But I believe this Government just has not applied itself to these matters I have discussed in the urgent way needed. There is an urgent and pressing need for notice to be taken of parliamentary structure and of the prevention of environmental degradation. I trust I have raised matters of sufficient substance concerning them to engage the future attention of the House.
– I call the honourable member for Holt. I would remind honourable gentlemen that this is a maiden speech and I would ask that the customary courtesy be afforded the honourable member and that he be heard in silence.
– I am pleased to be the first elected member of this Parliament to represent an electorate which bears the name of Holt. Up to the time of his tragic death in December 1967 few names would have been better known throughout Australia and indeed the Asian countries than the name of Harold Holt. I am sure the people of my electorate are deeply aware of the honour that has been given to them which will perpetuate the name of a much loved and respected Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. I also feel it is appropriate that I should spend the first few minutes of my maiden speech and join with other honourable members to record my allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. As head of the British Commonwealth, the Queen is a source of hope and inspiration to many people and it gives me very much pleasure to have this opportunity of expressing my continued loyalty to her. Without a doubt, Great Britain and, for that matter, Australia and many other countries, are passing through a difficult period - a pagan one where the great emphasis is on materialistic gain. Of course, the more of these things we get the more we want and the less time we have for the more important things in life.
Many people today say that Britain is on the way out as a country of power and influence. I well recall many people saying this in the early days of the last war and we all know what happened then. As a matter of fact, people have been saying or making this statement for a century or more. But the fact remains that Britain survives and continues to play an ever increas ing part in world affairs. Surely the quality that makes a country great is our loyalty and allegiance to each other and our loyalty to the Queen. These precious things are going to live on long after all our materialistic possessions have disappeared. Britain has handed down great traditions over the years. This is a challenge that the young people of the British Commonwealth countries must face up to. It is entirely in their hands. We have a young Queen in a still younger Commonwealth who is setting a magnificent example of service unto others. All we need do is to follow her way of life.
This leads me to speak of the changed pattern in world affairs and particularly of what is happening in Asian countries and our responsibility to people in these countries. Yes, we certainly have responsibilities towards those who have less. Each and every one of us has a responsibility. Today, too many people are inclined to turn their heads on one side and say that it is not their responsibility and that it should be left to the Government. This attitude, of course, has applied for far too long and it is one of the main reasons why a great deal has not been done to help the people in these countries. Never before have so many people in the world needed succour. Every day the story of their plight is told. They range from the aged and needy in our great cities to the hungry people of India; from the orphans in Vietnam to the victims of racial discrimination.
I think the great danger lies in the fact that it no longer shocks us to know that these great tragedies are occurring. We are no longer shocked today to know that ten thousand people in Asian countries died of starvation and neglect and that another ten thousand will die tomorrow and so on. Out of every 20 children born in many of these countries 10 will die in infancy and 7 out of the remaining 10 will be stunted both mentally and physically for life because of malnutrition in childhood. Only 3 out of 20 survive the ravages of hunger. When we take time off to think about this situation we tend to shrug it off without any thought of personal commitment. We tend to sit back and wait for someone else to act or to see what the government or governments will do about it. Today we must realise that our true destiny lies in Asia. If we wish to continue to live in peace and harmony and maintain our high living standards it is so essential that we have strong independent countries to the north of us. It is so essential that we make great sacrifices to help the people of these countries grapple with their many problems of poverty, privation and neglect.
Here 1 would like to direct my remarks to foreign aid, as I am sure that one of the best ways to win friends and influence people in these countries is through economic aid - that is, self help and practical assistance which will enable these people to help themselves more effectively. As president of For Those Who Have Less, a voluntary agency which sends livestock to these countries, 1 can speak with some experience on this matter. As the majority of the people in these countries are dependent on agriculture for a living, 1 think our major effort should be directed along the lines of agriculture and livestock. With the closing of the Suez Canal most of the Pacific and African countries are looking to Australia for good breeds of livestock. I envisage Australia within a few years as a huge stud farm from which the majority of these countries will draw good breeds of livestock to build up their herds and flocks. I predict a great demand for exotic cattle from Australia within the next 5 years. 1 instance a country like India, where approximately 80% of the population live in some 600,000 villages. In the majority of these villages life has not changed very much over the years. I know that some villages close to towns now have power and better communications, but speaking generally things have not changed a great deal. For most of the village people life goes on much the same. Their main objective is to live in happy family communities and to grow sufficient food to survive. Strong, independent and self supporting villages are so essential in India today. Everything possible must be done to retain the villages as separate identities. India’s great strength lies in the village communities. Today these people are totally dependent on nature. When they have good rains, food is plentiful. When drought conditions prevail, food is scarce. However, on most occasions they are able to grow sufficient paddy and vege tables and receive sufficient bulk food. The diet is not a balanced one, as they lack protein.
Help is urgently needed to provide animal protein. Of course, India has plenty of cows. As a matter of fact, India and Pakistan have half the world’s population of cows, but those cows do not give very much milk. The cows are kept for three reasons. One is to produce motive power, that is, they carry something on their backs or pull a cart. They are kept also to produce dung, which is dried out and used as a slow combustion fuel. Milk is really a by-product of the other two operations. Naturally, the cows do not give very much milk. 1 venture to say that milk is the most important food item in India and in many of these other countries today, particularly insofar as the women and children are concerned, because there is just nothing to supplement the mother’s milk. This is where the high mortality rate exists - not at the infant level, but after the child has been weaned, that is, between the ages of 1 and 5 years. It is here where help is urgently needed to produce better milk producing cows.
Being aware of these factors, my Society has concentrated on sending good breeds of high producing cows to India and many other countries. Many good projects have been established in most States in India. Approximately 5 years ago we sent a consignment of Friesian cattle to Harringhata in West Bengal. The cows are kept purely for milk production and breeding purposes, but the bulls are used to upgrade the better types of indigenous cows. The progeny from these crosses greatly lift milk production. The hybrid vigour comes out in the cross, and milk production is raised to approximately 4 times that of the indigenous dam. Some 16,000 cows at Harringhata are being replaced with these cross animals as quickly as they can be bred. Two thousand of these cross bred cows will be in production by the end of June, and hundreds more are calving every month. The Indian authorities are so pleased with these cross animals that they have now been introduced in most States.
Only 15 months ago the United Nations started a similar project at Harringhata. Here some 1,200 indigenous cattle were purchased, and these have been inseminated with Friesian and Jersey semen. It is the intention of the United Nations to evolve a new breed of cow. They are hoping to provide a cross bred cow that has fiveeighths exotic blood. No doubt this will take quite some time to produce because they will have to cross the crosses; but without a doubt they will eventually evolve a better type of cow. Similar cross bred programmes are under way in most Indian States. Many of the good bulls we have sent to these various States are used in artificial insemination centres. It is quite a common sight to see illiterate farmers walking their cows, when they come into season, 20 to 25 miles to have them inseminated with Friesian or Jersey semen because they know that if they get a cross bred calf it will1 mean more milk and more rupees.
Similar programmes are under way with sheep and pigs. Here the females are kept purely for breeding purposes, while the male animals are used for upgrading. On my recent trip I was greatly heartened to meet in these countries so many keen, young, dedicated animal husbandry and agricultural people who are anxious to do something for their country. While they have this spirit these countries will show much progress in the field of agriculture. This is exactly what has happened in India and Pakistan in recent years. They have an abundance of these dedicated young people who are anxious to help their country. But good breeds of animals are needed to enable them to do this job effectively. India and, for that matter, all developing countries can overcome their hunger and unemployment problems only through a prosperous primary industry. One of the problems in the village area is that the farmers are working with unproductive animals - cows which give very little milk, pigs which are scavengers and sheep which cut hair and not wool. It is a matter of introducing new cross bred animals into the village areas. In this way farming will be more economical. The indigenous farmers will take greater interest in their livestock, which will in turn give them greater purchasing power and assist the economy of the country. Of course, all developing countries, particularly Australia, built up their secondary industries on prosperous primary industries.
Many voluntary agencies have been doing very effective work in these countries for a great number of years. I would like to see any increase in the Colombo Plan funds channelled through those agencies which are assisting at a government level on self help projects. Large incentives are given today to industry and commerce. I am crf the opinion that the work which is carried out by the voluntary agencies in these countries is of equal importance for three reasons. Firstly, aid given through voluntary agencies is generally better utilised. Secondly, voluntary agencies are able to make direct contact with the private sector, which is where the great need exists. Thirdly, thousands of people work through these voluntary agencies and are able to give these projects the warm, human, personal touch which is sometimes lacking at a government to government level.
The work which the voluntary agencies have been carrying out amongst the underprivileged people has been going on for many years and the assistance which has been given is considerable. Perhaps of equal importance is the encouragement and hope which goes with the assistance. Aid from voluntary agencies is able to penetrate into distant villages where government assistance is not always available. For this reason we must give them greater support. Therefore, I would like the Government to give urgent consideration to channelling a percentage of its Colombo Plan funds through agencies which directly assist foreign governments. The problems in these countries are great and challenging and must be faced up to for many reasons. On humanitarian grounds alone I think we must do more to assist the people in these countries. It was never intended for one moment that we should have most of the good things in life whilst so many millions of people do not have the bare necessaries to survive. Whoever set this world in motion never intended for one moment that there should be such a great disparity between, to put it another way, those who have less and those who have more. The sooner we do something about the matter in a voluntary and sacrificial way the better it will be. My second reason is that I think it is in our national interest that the living standards of these people be raised. Even if they are raised 5% in 10 years it would open up a huge potential market to Australia. My third reason is that if we wish to continue to live in peace and harmony and retain our high living standards it is essential to have a strong India today because no country could possibly ignore a nation of 500 million people, armed both morally and with a sense of purpose. Today approximately half the people of the world do not know where their next meal is coming from. In times of war I have seen Australians share their last cigarettes with enemy troops who but a few hours earlier had been trying to kill them. In the world today we have hundreds of millions of peaceful people who in the main bear us no grievance and who wish to be our friends, yet they are dying of starvation. If this is not throwing down a challenge to the people of Australia I do not know what is. It should certainly stir us out of our complacency. I believe it is the duty of our leaders, both religious and political, and the duty of our leaders in industry and commerce - trade union leaders, heads of schools, ex-service organisations and women’s organisations - to throw down this challenge to all with whom they come in contact.
I firmly believe that if Australians were presented with the real facts about what is happening in these countries they would take up this challenge just as readily today as they have done in times of other great crises. It is for this reason that I am pleased to have the opportunity to mention some of my thoughts regarding the people of these Asian countries. I should like to see the Government doing more along the lines I have suggested; that is, to channel a percentage of Colombo Plan funds through these voluntary agencies, because the great human problems of these countries must be faced up to in our time.
– I call the honourable member for Perth and in doing so remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech. It is unnecessary for me to remind honourable members to extend the normal courtesies to him.
Mr BERINSON (Perth) [10.171-1 want to take this first opportunity available to me in the Parliament to thank the electors of Perth for their support and for the confidence they have expressed in the Party whose platform I represent. The recent surge of support for the Australian Labor
Party in Western Australia has been remarkable both for its extent and for the circumstances and period in which is occurred. As recently as 1958 Western Australia had only one Labor member in this chamber. Today there are six. Last October our numbers here were doubled, and though these figures alone are, of course, significant enough they are all the more so for the fact that this increased Labor representation required the defeat both of the third ranking member of the last Government - the Minister for Externa] Affairs - and of a former Minister for the Navy.
As impressive, however, as the extent of the swing has been, I want to suggest that at least equally significant are the economic conditions in which the swing has taken place. There is a view commonly held, and with a great deal of authority and experience to support it, that a government should always be secure in times of economic prosperity. The reasoning is that at such a time the public will support the status quo rather than risk any possibility of detrimental economic change. Yet over the past decade, over this period of increasing support for Labor and increasing antagonism towards the Government, the Western Australian economy has been extremely buoyant. This leads one to ask: Why should we have this apparent paradox? Why should a government lose support when all the external indicators suggest that it should in fact be gaining it? The answer involves many complex factors but I want to mention only two which continually came to my attention during the recent election campaign.
The first was a sense of sheer boredom with the present Government and the second was an utter disillusionment with a prosperity which does not permeate to the average citizen. For years Western Australians have been assured by successive Liberal governments that they live in a boom State, in a State on the move. In an abstract and impersonal sense that is no doubt true. Enormous wealth has poured into the State and has been generated within the State over the past decade. However, the question is: Who has benefited as a result? The answer must be: Very few. Higher wages, increased, overtime and a mineral boom of staggering proportions have not produced a higher standard of living. On the contrary, this standard is constantly being eroded by increased prices and increased charges, and not least by the effects of Commonwealth Government policy. On the one hand, Commonwealth payments in areas such as social services, education and housing have been too low and have been inequitable; on the other hand, a scale of taxation at least 10 years out of date has made Commonwealth collections too high, and inequitable.
The vote at the recent election was meant to be a rebuke to the Government and obviously has been accepted by the Government as a rebuke. It now remains to be seen just what the Government will do about it. If the Governor-General’s Speech and the early Bills presented to the Parliament are an indication, it will not be doing nearly enough. The problems of the elderly and sick will not be solved by paying 10c a head to Meals on Wheels. The problems of land prices and rent levels will not be overcome by fiddling with the home savings grant scheme. Nor is it possible to have any realistic confidence in the proposed changes to the health scheme. In the judgment of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) - I refer to the Honourable Minister’s statement at page 36 of yesterday’s Hansard - the success of the amended health scheme depends on a suitable arrangement for periodic adjustment of fees and benefits. Yet almost in the same breath we are advised by the Minister that no such suitable arrangement has in fact been arrived at.
I would like to leave the discussion of specific items of Government policy for other appropriate occasions in order to deal with some aspects of Commonwealth and State relationships. Let me introduce the subject in this way. In the recent election the Labor Party placed considerable emphasis on questions such as the cost of land and rent, education, hospitals and urban development, all areas the essential control of which lies with the State governments. After the election we were accused of in some way misleading the electorate by this concentration on what were said to be primarily State issues. Of course, the short answer to that charge is to be found by reference to other matters such as conscription, Vietnam and the means test, which we also stressed and which are clearly and purely of Federal concern. But it seems to me that this criticism of the Labor Party for its emphasis on so-called State matters should be answered in a broader way. What needs to be said is that in these days of State reliance on Commonwealth finance it is no longer realistic to discuss State and Federal responsibilities as though they are independent and exclusive. They are not, and the sooner we acknowledge this frankly the sooner there might be some prospect of our facing up practically to the future relationship of the Commonwealth with the States.
In reporting the result of the Premiers Conference last month the ‘Daily News’ of Perth used on its billboards the headline: Shock For State Premiers’. The story was that the Premiers had requested at least a partial return of income tax powers and had been shocked at the outright rejection of the proposal by the Commonwealth. May I say that I for one would have been shocked had there been any other result. I simply do not believe that it is in the nature of political institutions to relinquish powers that they already exercise. I would go further and say that I do not believe that political institutions will refrain from increasing their powers when it is open to them to do so.
This has in fact been the pattern in Australia, where we have observed an increasing Federal dominance of the system as Federal governments have come to realise the extent of the power which the Constitution, as interpreted, bestowed on them. This has been the pattern of political development in this country; there is no reason to doubt that this pattern will continue and personally I welcome that prospect. I welcomed it on the ground of economy; I welcome it on the ground of efficiency; I welcome it, above all, on the ground that the very concept of Australian nationhood requires that the needs, the problems and the demands of Australians should be met on a national rather than on a fragmented basis.
It seems to me that too much of the discussion by the Premiers and others proceeds on an unsupported assumption that in some undefined way the interests of the nation will be better served by a return to greater States’ rights and reduced Federal powers. It is easy but cheap and superficial politics to erect an argument and to attract public support on the basis of an appeal to parochial patriotism. But somewhere along the line we have to ask: Are we to be one great nation or six mini nations, and if the former why cannot our affairs be managed nationally and with a national outlook? The founding fathers of this nation bequeathed us a federal system. It was the right and, indeed, the only practical form of organisation to propose for 1900. But many things have changed since then; not least the fact that the federal system is simply not operating in the way that the founders anticipated. They foresaw a balanced partnership between the Commonwealth and the States whereas what has developed is a very lopsided relationship indeed with the Commonwealth clearly dominating the field.
In this state of imbalance there are two alternatives open and it seems to me a pity that only one alternative ever seems to be considered. The first alternative is to attempt to correct the imbalance by reinforcing and renewing States’ rights. The other is to consider a conscious and orderly transfer of power to the Commonwealth, especially in such areas as transport, education, health and housing, where the Commonwealth increasingly is required to foot the bill on matters over which it has no direct control. Until now most discussion on the subject has been restricted to consideration of the first alternative. That is natural enough because what discussion there has been has taken place at the State level where there are special interests to preserve. The argument most often raised against centralism at such times rests on an appeal to fear of control from distant quarters. Remoteness of the seat of government is equated with unconcern and unresponsiveness. Conversely, geographic proximity of the seat of government impliedly assures the reverse. This sort of view is common and popular but will not stand examination.
I do not believe that our social services would be better if we had seven social service departments rather than one. I do not believe that our postal services would be more efficient or our defences more effective if each State had its own post office and army. On the other hand I do believe that this nation would have been far better served by one central railway authority than by the seven we now have. The same might be said of our roads, schools, hospitals, houses, companies administra tion, and drugs and poisons control to mention only a few. As well as the prospect of increased economy and efficiency which would flow from national rather than fragmented control there is a further and perhaps overriding advantage to be gained from a fusion of responsibility with financial capacity.
Too often, legitimate claims for assistance are frustrated by a shunting process which has been developed to high degree by both State and Federal governments. This process has the Commonwealth saying that it would like to support a given appeal but that the matter is beyond its constitutional authority, and the States saying they would like to help and they do have the authority but please go back to the Commonwealth because only it has the funds. This cynical and frustrating procedure has been used time and again not as a reason but as an excuse for inactivity. Until 1961 it was used to excuse the Commonwealth from direct financial assistance to preuniversity education. Until the GovernorGeneral’s Speech this week it was used to excuse the Commonwealth’s refusal to assist with the training and treatment of spastic children. For years it was used to excuse the Commonwealth from participating in the upgrading and standardisation of Australian railways, and it was still relied on, as indicated in Hansard of 18th March of last year, to excuse the national Government from the provision of what is obviously a national facility, and that is a first class sealed east-west highway.
I appreciate that in arguing for centralised authority in Australia one opens a wide and contentious topic, lt is also, if past experience is a guide, only a long-term though also a certain prospect. Let me argue then, in the short term, for at least this much: That the Government refrain from using its constitutional limitations to justify its inactivity in any given field. It is better to say that you do not want to, or do not feel able to use Commonwealth funds to assist spastics, or to attack land prices, or to make kindergartens free, than to indulge in what is now everywhere recognised as a transparent device.
I come from a State which has always been conscious of its isolation from Canberra and the difficulties which can flow from that isolation. It is the only State ever to have determined by referendum to secede from the Commonwealth. But since then a war, a depression, advances in communications and transport and, not least, uniform taxation have made all such sentiments obsolete. ‘Centralism’ recently seems to have become a dirty word in some quarters. I do not know why. It involves nothing more or less than dealing with national affairs on a national basis. I regard that as clearly desirable. History suggests that it is also inevitable. We will be better served, however, if it comes as a result of conscious decision and planned development. I believe it is time to give serious attention to both.
Debate (on motion by Mr Pettitt) adjourned.
– by leave - On 22nd December 1969, an F111 A of the United States Air Force crashed during rocketry exercises. The investigation into this accident revealed that the left hand wing had broken off in flight at a fault in the D6ac steel wing pivot fitting. All aircraft were then grounded, and save for seven aircraft since released for special flight test purposes, remain grounded.
A number of committees, including the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board ad hoc Committee, were established to advise the Secretary, Department of Air Force, on the many scientific and engineering aspects of the problem. To assist in the Australian evaluation as affecting F111C aircraft, three scientists of the Aeronautical Research Laboratories of the Department of Supply were sent to the United States of America to augment the engineer staff of the Royal Australian Air Force Project Manager.
As the fault in the D6ac steel material of the wing pivot fitting had been undetected by the non-destructive testing methods used during manufacture, the conclusion was reached that faults could exist in other D6ac steel components already installed in all F111 aircraft. These events have established a set of circumstances markedly different from that which prevailed when the Government on 5th December announced the decision to accept the aircraft. The nature of the fault in the D6ac steel introduced a new and serious element which has not yet been resolved. Information such as is available indicates the certainty of further considerable delays in delivery of our aircraft.
The Government has decided thatI should visit the United States at an early suitable opportunity to discuss the whole matter with the United States Secretary of Defence. Mr Laird has himself said that the United States must consult with the Australian Government on any modifications to the F111 contract. All aspects of the matter will be canvassed. I emphasise that no decision can yet be made concerning the future of our F111C because the scientific and engineering problems have not yet been resolved. The purpose of the visit is to canvass the possibilities concerning the F111C.
If in the course of discussion it appeared desirable to do so I would expect to explore the alternatives to the present F111C, and here I would point out that the United States Secretary of Defence himself recently said:
I believe we do need in our tactical air force structure the capability available in the F111, but I also believe that if we are going to be plagued with a continuation of these problems we must explore other alternatives.
– by leave- Mr Speaker, the last occasion on which a Minister for Defence made a hurried visit to the United States of America was in 1963 to order the F111. Now, 6 months after the last federal election to be held in this country - that was in October 1969 - the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is to make a trip to the United States ostensibly for the purpose of investigating the F111 but quite obviously, from what the Minister has said, for the purpose of cancelling the project.
The Minister for Defence has had his nose well and truly rubbed in the whole sorry mess of the F111. After only a few brief months in office, he has been humiliated and made foolish by an overenthusiastic commitment to the F111 aircraft. It is just over 3 months since the Minister, in the first freshness of his accession to this office, committed himself with incredible gusto to the F111. In a spurt of showing himself to be a man of action and decision, the Minister said that the Fill would be delivered early this year. He announced an expedited programme to obtain the plane and have it operating from Australian airfields. Like his illustrious predecessors, including Sir Robert Menzies, Sir Allen Fairhall, the late Sir Shane Paltridge and the late Mr Athol Townley, he has been hopelessly frustrated and belittled by the albatross of the Fill. He has to appear in this House tonight and admit the complete failure of the expedited programme.
Mr Speaker, it has been obvious for at least 2 years that the Fill programme was futile, that the plane despite its great merits had very serious problems, that it was too costly and that it was not relevant to Australia’s needs. For the first time, the Government has conceded all these points. The timing of this announcement is significant because another quarterly payment for the Fill is due at the end of this month. So far, this country has outlaid $207m of the purchase price without getting a single plane out of America. Another substantial payment, probably at least $10m, is due in 3 weeks’ time. With training and other costs, this will mean that at the end of March this country will have spent at least $220mon the Fill.
In the United States, the plane is encountering tremendous difficulties and it is gravely open to doubt whether it will ever assume an effective professional role. I give as one example the future of the reconnaissance version to which this Government is committed. Quite obviously, the effectiveness of the FI 1 1 will be nil without a reconnaissance version. To develop this version - the so-called RF1 1 1 - an appropriation of $US15m was made in the United States defence budget. This was rejected by Congress which refused to allocate funds for a reconnaissance version in the 1970 budget. This reveals the lack of faith of American legislators in the plane. It also indicates the very limited role envisaged for the Fill even if it overcomes the present severe structural deficiencies outlined by the Minister.
There has been an immense volume of debate on the Fill in this Parliament. I believe that we are rapidly reaching the situation where there is little more to say on the suitability or the viability of the Fill. But the Minister for Defence must clearly understand that the Opposition in this Parliament and the people of Australia will want to be informed, indeed they should be informed, on what arrangements this Government will make if it decides not to proceed with the Fill purchase and what arrangements will be made to recover the $207m that has been committed by the taxpayers of this country towards the purchase of the Fill. So the Minister can expect that the Opposition will need to be further informed on these matters.
I think the implications of the Minister’s statement are very plain. The hint of con.cellation is very strong. The inescapable conclusion is that the Minister is going to America to scrub the Fill and to find an alternative. The Opposition agrees that this is the only course left. We have been saying it for at least 2 years. It is tragic that this Government has rejected opportunity after opportunity to get out of this mess before now. The whole Fill exercise has been a very tragic one. The best that can be hoped for is that something can be salvaged from a sequence of events for which the Government must accept complete responsibility. The Opposition hopes that the burden on the Australian taxpayers will not be too great. Certainly, in the event of cancellation there must be some considerable losses.
The only course open to the Minister is to try to negotiate an acceptable alternative, and this means the purchase of an aircraft already in service. I do not want to make any predictions, but there must now be an overwhelming probability that this alternative will be the Phantom aircraft, which has been rejected repeatedly by the Government. I have said repeatedly in this House, on behalf of the Opposition, that this was the most suitable aircraft for Australia’s needs. I pointed out in this House more than 12 months ago that, if it was suitable for West Germany, if it was suitable for the United Kingdom, if it was acceptable to Israel and if it could be made under licence in Japan, then quite obviously it was suitable for Australia’s requirements. The Government is now confronted with the unpalatable task of accepting the Phantom as an alternative.
The Minister for Defence has had to make a very abject about-face from his confident remarks of December. With a little caution and forethought he could have avoided this humiliation. The country can only hope that he possesses the negotiating ability to extricate the Government from this fiasco with as little financial loss as possible and with a suitable alternative fighter-bomber to assure Australia’s security.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– This week I have been deeply concerned by an action that has occurred in this House on more than one occasion. During this week accusations and charges have been made, firstly, by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and in reply to a follow up question asked by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and, secondly, by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) in reply to a question asked today by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs made serious allegations under privilege against an individual. 1 do not propose to argue the facts, for or against, in regard to the individual. But these serious charges were made under privilege. The law of this land is such that every man is presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty. So that this matter might be treated seriously this evening I saw the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) early this afternoon. I told him that I intended to raise this matter as one of principle. It is not a matter of mud slinging. It is not a matter of name calling. As far as I am concerned the allegation involved is a very serious one. I believe the charges that have been made against this man are so serious that if he did, in fact, commit these crimes he has committed probably the most serious crimes that any Australian could commit against his nation. The allegation is that in a time of war he permitted himself to be used by the enemy against Australia. I know there are technicalities - that official war was not declared in Korea. It seems that the allegations stem from incidents in Korea.
If these allegations are true action should be taken against this man because what he has done amounts to the crime of treason. This gentleman who has arrived in this country has stated clearly that he wishes to have an inquiry. He is prepared to face charges in order to clear his name. I think an inquiry could do this. He says he is a loyal Australian. So as to get at the facts the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), following upon the reply of the Prime Minister, asked the Attorney-General:
Is it thought that Mr Burchett has broken any law of the Commonwealth? Alternatively, now that he is in Australia, is any investigation being undertaken to ascertain whether he has broken any law of the Commonwealth?
The Attorney-General replied:
I do not propose to give any opinion as to whether Mr Burchett has broken any law of the Commonwealth. What I will say, however, is that I, as the principal law officer of the Crown do not propose, as at present advised, to bring any charges against him in respect of-
There was an interjection and further discussion. The Attorney-General went on:
I do not propose to bring any charges. It is proper that I should say that in answer to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition.
This is the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral who is responsible for the laws of this land. He says he will not bring any charges. Following that statement a further question was asked today by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). In reply, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) went further than the Prime Minister. He made more serious allegations. I do not need to read out what these allegations are.
I ask the Attorney-General, with his understanding of law, whether one can state as evidence in a court of law: ‘It is a wellknown fact, etc.’? Can the phrase ‘it is a well-known fact’ be given as evidence in a court of law? Can we in this Parliament say: ‘It is a well-known fact, etc.’, and then convict this man in this Parliament which creates the laws under which men are tried. It is this Parliament which determines the law of the land. I do not even want to raise my voice. I am deeply concerned that people in this Parliament can continue day after day to make these serious allegations when the man says: ‘Look, I am prepared to face an inquiry. I am prepared to be charged. You lay the charges and I will face them.’ This is the Government of the country. This is the Parliament of the country. I believe that we have to fight for the freedom of everybody in this land irrespective of his politics. It does not matter what he may be.
I have heard it said by a wonderful friend of mine that if a Communist is not free in this country then we are not free. I could use the words of Martin Luther King when he said: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. We in this Parliament have to live up to this ideal. I ask the Attorney-General, who is responsible for the laws of the land, not to use this Parliament to say: ‘It is a well known fact’ and to go on to make further allegations. Is it evidence merely to say: ‘It is well-known fact’? Is that sufficient to convict a man? I could get up and say that something is a well known fact about certain people on the other side but the Attorney-General knows and I know that that is not the right thing to do. 1 was incensed about certain well known facts concerning the Prime Minister being brought forward in this place. I walked out of the place because I did not agree with the accusation. While I am in this Parliament I will stand up for every individual, whether he is big or small and whether his politics are to the left or to the right. I hope that the Government faces up to its responsibility and stops these wild charges and allegations unless they can be proved. The man has said: ‘Look, I am prepared to go before an inquiry. I am prepared to be charged’. All that I say is: ‘Put up or shut up’.
– I should like to support the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), and without denigrating him in any way I want to be more positive in what I have to say on the same subject. I rise tonight to express my own deep indignation at the Commonwealth Government’s attitude towards a third generation Australian, a man who was Australian born, and a foreign correspondent for 28 years. Because of his frank writings concerning facts as he saw them he has been persecuted by this Government in that it has withheld from him a passport which is so important to his livelihood and is so important to his wife and three children. I refer tb Wilfred Burchett who, I believe, has the sympathy of the majority of the Australian electors at this time. I am surprised at the Government making another grave political blunder in view of the results of the election held on 25 th October last.
I have always been of the belief that any Australian citizen, no matter what he has done or is alleged to have done at home or abroad, can never be deprived of his Australian nationhood or the shelter of his own country; but this Government has adopted the attitude of a leading Fascist country by preventing this internationally famed Australian journalist from entering his native land. I understand this right and privilege has been denied Burchett for 8 or 9 years. This man has pursued every lawful and diplomatic means to obtain an Australian passport. In the absence of evidence to the contrary I believe most of what I have had the opportunity to read in his book today. I recommend to fair-minded government supporters that they read the book and analyse for themselves what is true, what is slanted and what is untrue. Mr Burchett was deprived by the Government of the right to come home to his native land to see his 90-year-old father who was in the twilight of his life. It is something for which the Government should be utterly ashamed forever, as should every Government supporter who has supported this attitude. The Government has adopted an attitude in respect of this man which it has not adopted with some of the worst Nazi war criminals, to whom it has given shelter. I shall refer more to that aspect if time permits.
What has Burchett done? What has been alleged against him to bring about this extraordinary action by the Government? We have read in some Australian newspapers that he interrogated Allied prisoners of war who had been captured during the Korean War. If we believe what we read in his book we know that he did interview prisoners of war. I should imagine that this would be the normal action of a foreign correspondent who was anxious to establish the truth so that he could report to the world.
– Do you believe all this?
– Empty vessels make loud noises. Several written statements and confessions obtained from Allied prisoners of war were brought to Burchett’s notice. These related to the alleged use of germ warfare by ihe Allies, including the United States, in the Korean War when, it was alleged, germs were dropped over North Korea and northern China. Burchett does not hide the fact that he did interview prisoners. He even has given the Government the names of witnesses, should they be needed. In his book he states that he interrogated prisoners of war, whom he names. If 1 might interrupt my remarks, the honourable member for Reid has said that the Government could bring witnesses to Australia to give evidence and the Government should charge Burchett if he has committed an offence. It could be done more easily today than just after World War II. At that time I remember being in Central Police Court in Sydney when an Australian Army officer named Charles Cousens was charged with sedition, collaborataing with the enemy and broadcasting enemy propaganda over Radio Tokyo. The Government of the day brought out a female Japanese radio broadcaster, Tokyo Rose, or some other person from the Japanese radio station, to testify at his trial. If I remember correctly my respected Leader’s father-in-law prosecuted for the Crown on that occasion. Witnesses were brought out from Japan then, so if there is any charge to be laid against Burchett the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) should have no trouble in obtaining witnesses to testify whether Burchett interrogated Australian prisoners of war. Burchett has supplied the names of witnesses in his book ‘Passport’.
As for dropping bacteriological bombs on North Korea and China, let us face reality and truth. Does any man who has read anything about the Korean war believe that this was not done? Of course it was done. Any man who does not believe it is hiding his head in the sand. I personally believed it long before I read this book. When I was overseas I read a report by an international commission of scientists - one from Britain, one from Brazil and one from Poland - which, at the request of the North Koreans and the United Nations, personally investigated the charge. They obtained exhibits and carried out tests. Burchett spells this out clearly in his book. He explains that the Allies dropped canisters containing germ contaminated insects which could breed and in which there were an abundance of flies, fleas and mosquitoes and poisoned wheat which rats would pick up and further contaminate the community. I am more convinced than ever that we did break the Geneva Agreement made in about 1924 by resorting to bacteriological and germ warfare during the Korean War. This is to our everlasting shame and disgust, and it shames the flag of the United Nations. Let us be truthful about it. From the knowledge I have now I believe that the only crime Burchett has committed in the eyes of the Australian people and of the world is the crime of telling the truth, if it is a crime. Something that I will never be guilty of whilst I am a member of this Parliament
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will restrain himself.
– This would be a purer place and would be more respected - it would be one of the most respected Parliaments in the world - if more members of this institution were to stand up and tell the truth and let the people of Australia deliver judgment on them. ] ask the Attorney-General, before it is too late to alter his decision in this case in which his Government is persecuting a man without right and without evidence. If this man is guilty of a crime, charge him and let him defend himself in our courts which I am confident would deliver judgment on him and find him innocent.
– lt is always a pleasure to listen to the passion of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) when he is espousing causes. Indeed, bis passion seems to be aroused mainly on questions that affect people like Wilfred Burchett, the Cuban issue and other issues that seem to relate, perhaps unintentionally, to people who, in my opinion and 1 think in the opinion of a large number of Australian people, are not necessarily friends of Australia or the Australian people. It is indeed interesting to listen to the passion of the honourable member. I liked, as we all did, his sincerity when he banged his book down and said that this country would be cleaner and better if we allowed this man in.
– I did not say that, Mr Speaker. I said it would be better if the truth were propounded in this place.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter has already spoken in the debate.
– I would suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that perhaps if he had consulted with men who had been prisoners of war in the Korean theatre when Mr Burchett went there - and the honourable member for Hunter implies that he was merely doing his duty as a foreign correspondent - he may get a different attitude. I was interested to hear Mr Burchett being interviewed in Australia. When it was suggested to him that his reception at the Brisbane airport had been fairly hot he said: “Why should I be impressed by 200 or 300 people? When 200 or 300 people gather together to protest, that does not mean that the Australian people are not with me. They are’. But when the honourable member for Hunter sees 50 or 100 people gathered together - and this is a failing also of the Australian Labor Party - he suggests that it is the whole Australian community protesting and that the whole Australian community supports him.
The honourable member spoke about the rights of this man and said that this man should be allowed to come in here. But he did not say that when another Australian who is living, and has been living, openly in Rhodesia and not engaging with an enemy came to Australia. The Labor Party protested right, left and centre that this man should be prevented from coming into Australia. ls it only that a Communist gains the succour and support of the Labor Party and of the honourable member for Hunter?
Let us consider the book that he banged on his desk. I went into the Parliamentary Library this morning looking for books in which Wilfred Burchett is mentioned. I have not time to refer to them all but I direct attention to the book ‘Secret Search for Peace in Vietnam’. It is published by Random House and is not an Australian publication. I ask honourable members to see how many times Wilfred Burchett is listed in it. On some occasions he is referred to as being behind the North Vietnam line and on other occasions as being behind the North Korean line. He moves with freedom among and propounds the theories of the people who are fighting against our Australian boys. I have not heard our Australian soldiers get up and support what the honourable member for Hunter has said. I have many books on this subject, but I cannot quote from them all. It is of no use coming into this chamber with only the one book which suits ones purpose. Each one of these books which I have refers to a well known Communist Australian journalist behind the North Vietnam and North Korean lines. What is the Opposition asking? The Opposition is asking the Government to give a passport to a man who has supported the enemy both in this country and abroad and who has made charges not only against Australians but against United Nations forces. The Labor Party claims to support the United Nations when it suits the purposes of the Opposition. But let a Communist make an accusation and it knows which way it will run, and so do we. Indeed, the Opposition is asking us to give Burchett a passport which will allow him to go to any country in the world and to say: ‘I am an Australian citizen supported by the Australian Government and under the Governor-General’s signature and Her Majesty the Queen’s signature it is asked that every assistance be given to me’.
I have seen and spoken with officials of the Returned Services League of Australia. I have heard motions passed by both the Queensland and New South Wales branches of the RSL and 1 have heard of the letters that they have written to the Leader of the Opposition and to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and to the Press over which they have not received any publicity whatsoever. Believe me, they are offended because the Press on certain occasions and the television media are prepared to give this man every bit of publicity and coverage that is possible but when the returned soldiers of this country who are the ones who allow you gentlemen to sit and prance and parade in support of your Communist friends endeavour to put a viewpoint, some sections of the Press say that it is not of interest to the public so they will not print it. I suggest that the majority of the people in Australia agree that this man Burchett has put himself beyond the pale and I do not feel that he should be given an Australian passport. I think that Burchett has made his choice. He has made his bed. Let him lie in it. As to the people whom I represent and as far as the majority of Australians are concerned, I think that the Labor Party is speaking for the minority.
No doubt the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) will give to me some of his high thoughts, but I would suggest to him to go out into the market place and ask the Australian people what they feel about Wilfred Burchett and his rights within Australia. Burchett has been permitted to come into Australia and he is allowed to go out of this country, and as far as T am concerned - and I think I speak for the majority of the people of Australia - he can go back behind the lines of North Vietnam, to Russia or the other circles in which he has chosen to move. He has made his choice. He has made his bed. Let him sleep in it.
– As far as I am aware Australia has never adopted the position that any man was entitled as of right, to a passport. The great jurist. Blackstone, did contend at one stage that the King had no right to refuse any Englishman the right to leave his dominion by refusing him whatever were the travel documents or authorisations of Blackstone’s day. What is important in the case of Wilfred Burchett is to find out what the Government’s theory is on the issue of passports. Burchett, says the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), is guilty of high treason and therefore he should not have a passport. If I were certain that Burchett is guilty of high treason I would say he should be indicted for high treason. That appears to me to be the logical conclusion and not the refusal of a passport.
What is the Government’s theory on the issue of passports? There is in Rhodesia what this Government calls a ‘regime’. We do not call it a government because we do not recognise it. It is in a state of rebellion against the Crown. The CommanderinChief of the Rhodesian Army resigned his position. He said that what he was called upon to do was a violation of his oath and what he in fact should be doing was leading the Rhodesian armed forces to overthrow what we call the ‘self-styled government of Rhodesia’. But all members of that selfstyled government of Rhodesia, including the Duke of Montrose, would immediately be arrested and indicted for high treason if they went to the United Kingdom. That government of Rhodesia is recognised by Portugal and by South Africa. Its accredited emissary to Portugal is Colonel Knox and its accredited emissary to South Africa is Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins, both of whom travel on Australian passports issued by this Government because they could not travel on Rhodesian passports which very few countries in the world recognise.
As far as I understand, the position of the Commander-in-Chief of the Rhodesian Army was the correct one. The members of the government of Rhodesia are violating their oaths of allegiance to the Crown and are in a state of rebellion against the Crown. But three key figures - the emissary to Portugal, the emissary to South Africa and the head of the Rhodesian Department of External Affairs - hold Australian passports. I am not prepared to get up in this House and demand that their passports be recalled. I would like to see a passport a constitutional right. If a person commits treason he is then indicted for high treason. But the compulsory retention of a person inside his own country has not anything to do with a passport. I am not arguing that Hawkins, Knox or O’Donnell should have their passports cancelled. But I want to know on what ground this Government issues passports to men who, on its own theory, operate on Australian passports as emissaries of a regime which is in a state of rebellion against the Crown.
– The House will have noted a most peculiar discrepancy in the positions taken by various members of the Opposition in this regard. The House will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) spoke of things which were in the open because they were things derived from Mr Burchett’s own publications - - things which were derived from his public activities. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said: ‘If these things are true these things are wholly disgraceful. If these things are true this man has done something appalling!’ These are the honourable member’s words; he will find them in Hansard when he looks at the text tomorrow. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr lames), on the other hand, finds what Mr Burchett has done to be wholly admirable. He praised it. He found no fault in the man. The honourable member said that the only accusation against Mr Burchett was that he had told the truth.
So far as the honourable member for Hunter was concerned there was no fault in what is the admitted fact because it comes from Mr Burchett’s own books. But the honourable member for Reid thinks entirely the opposite. This is a most peculiar thing, lt is no good saying: ‘Look, let this man not suffer. Let his wife and children not suffer. Pull out the stops’, because this man has done harm, and done harm to Australia on the international scale. He does the most harm when he misleads weakminded people like the honourable member for Hunter.
– If 1 am weak-minded he is a ratbag.
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word ‘weak-minded’. I substitute the phrase easily persuaded*.
-Order! Now that the Minister has withdrawn, I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw his remark.
– In view of the honourable gentleman’s apology I withdraw the word ratbag’.
– Many people might laugh at the honourable member for Hunter, but we should remember that he occupies a place in this House and he is one of the representatives of the Opposition in this House. Unfortunately, what he says has some significance. The way in which the Communist Party works is through what Lenin described as the transmission belt - the use of other people who are not Communists to take up, perhaps in a sincere belief, Communist ideas and the Communist propaganda and the use of those people to the detriment of their country. That, I believe, is why Burchett is here at this moment. I think that Burchett is in Australia in order to popularise the idea that the Americans and the Australians did engage in germ warfare in Korea. He is here in order to get public acceptance of this propaganda lie. In this, as in other cases, he is acting as a Communist agent.
One thing that has been said or implied by members of the Opposition during this debate and which might be relevant is that these charges should not be made under the privilege of this House. Therefore on this occasion, as on other occasions, I propose to say outside the House the things that I am now going to say inside it. Although I believe that honourable members are fully entitled to the privilege of this House, on this occasion I will not claim that privilege. Obviously what I say here is entirely privileged. What I shall say outside will not be privileged. I say that, in my view, the works and the writings of Burchett, what he has said publicly and on the record, and what he has had publicised in his name stamp him as being a man who has given his heart and soul to our Communist enemies and as a man who acts as their agent and their propagandist. I would say further that I do not know whether the persons who have made statements and published material about the interrogation of prisoners of war will be prepared to come and stand up in court, but I would say that there is evidence that in this interrogation of prisoners Burchett went beyond the functions of an ordinary journalist and acted as part of the machine of our Communist enemies. These are serious charges. If the honourable member for Reid looks at Hansard tomorrow, he will find that these are the charges which the honourable member said would merit the most sincere condemnation and severe penalties. These are the charges which I make in this House and which T will make outside this House also.
Mr UREN (Reid)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) stated that I made statements and quoted from allegations made in Burchett’s book. That is not what I said. I said: ‘If the allegations made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) are true, then the Government should charge Burchett with treason.’ I make it perfectly clear that I referred to allegations made by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for External Affairs. I said that court proceedings should be instituted in the normal way. The Government should either put up or shut up.
– Order! The honourable member may not debate the matter.
– In the life of each Parliament since I have been here I have listened quite attentively to the many insulting remarks levelled at members of the Opposition by way of innuendo by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). I have a little story about the Minister. I think it is always worth while repeating. It is about his collaboration with the Communists. Just let me read a few little excerpts from speeches. In substantiation of the claim that he is insulting, I shall cite an editorial which appeared in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’, which is selfstyled as a paper you can trust and which is recognised by all as the mouthpiece of the Liberal Party. I quote the following passage:
Mr Wentworth, well meaning but unbalanced, is a persistent thora who can embarrass the Government as much with his uncontrolled vehemence against the Labor Party as with his criticism of his own Party.
It is interesting to note that not once did the Minister for Social Services criticise his former colleague and friend, ex-Senator McCallum, a Liberal Party senator from 1955 to 1956, whose daughter, Mrs Curthoys, was and still is one of the leading Communists in New South Wales, having contested the Senate elections as a candidate on two occasions for that Party. Conversely, one could well imagine the tirade of smearing abuse by the Minister if she bad been a Labor parliamentarian’s daughter involved in similar circumstances.
Let us examine some of the exploits and statements of the Minister for Social Services. During the course of an interview on the ‘Meet the Press’ programme conducted by TCN Channel 9 in Sydney, in answer to a panel member, he stated that there were one or two Communists employed by the Department of External Affairs. The Department viewed this charge so seriously that it sought and was supplied with a recorded tape of the interview. This unwarranted statement was made without one iota of evidence in substantiation. The implication was that there was a spy or spies in the Department supplying a foreign power with information. This means, of course, that the officers of the Department would appear in the eyes of the public to be under a cloud of suspicion.
The honourable member for Mackellar was at one time consultant to Sir Bertram Stevens, an ex-Premier of New South Wales, better known as the ‘Budget Faker’. Stevens was responsible for nearly sending New South Wales bankrupt. In consequence, he was sacked as Premier by his own party. In 1938 at a United Australia Party congress held in Sydney the Hon. L. O. Martin, Minister for Justice in the United Australia Party Government, called the police to silence or eject the honourable member for Mackellar. Judge Ambsberg, the Royal Commissioner in the Doyle case, rebuked the honourable member for having approached witnesses during an adjournment of the court, and the judge informed him that he had acted in bad taste. In 1960 the honourable member for Mackellar was an alternate delegate to the United Nations. The leader of the Australian delegation banned him from appearing on television in the United States. The Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’, commenting on the honourable member’s visit to the United Nations, said:
He has made as much impact on the United Nations as would a prisoner trying to get out of Alcatraz with a nail file.
Now I come to the daddy of them all. Years ago, before he was elected to this Parliament, the honourable member for Mackellar operated a newspaper in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area called the Illawarra Star’. During the famous pig iron dispute he was very critical of the trade unions. As a result the unions placed a black ban on his newspaper. As honourable members would be aware, at that time in an industrial and strong union area such as Wollongong-Port Kembla a black ban carried on for any length of time could spell ruin to a newspaper. What did the Minister do? He made a donation of £10 to the strike fund as a softening up process. In addition, he donated a trophy, which he called the Illawarra Cup, for presentation to the best marching unit in the May Day procession. The judges awarded the prize to the Port Kembla branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, controlled by the Communist Party, and the Minister had the honour of presenting the cup to Mr Roach.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is well known that the Minister looks under his bed every night to see if a Communist is there, and by a strange coincidence that is where Mr Roach kept the Illawarra Cup.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar- Minister for Social Services) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– ^ Yes. Although I have said it before in this House, I think I should say again that the incident in 1938 or perhaps it was 1939 - a long time ago, anyway - to which the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) referred, occurred at a time when I did not know what the Communist Party was up to.
-Order! I know that the hour is late and I appreciate that we have had some amusing interludes, but I would suggest to the House that it should come to order. The Minister is endeavouring to make a personal explanation.
– At that time I was so concerned about a possible attack upon Australia by Japan that-
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is this not an apology rather than an explanation?
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I suggest to the Minister that he explain to the House in what way he has been misrepresented.
– I am trying to do that, Sir. At that time I was so concerned about the possibility of a Japanese attack upon Australia that I did not realise that the Communist Party was in the plot itself. I believe that it was honest in its opposition to Japan. I was disillusioned very much.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is now endeavouring to debate the subject. If he wishes to speak-
-Order! What is the point of order?
– The point I make, Mr Speaker, is that the Minister is now debating the subject and is not making a personal explanation.
-The Chair will decide the matter. The Minister is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. I ask him to explain in what way he has been misrepresented.
– Yes, Sir. 1 say that in detail and in substance the remarks of the honourable member for Sydney are not in accordance with the facts.
– I wish to make a few comments on what has been said so far by supporters of the Government. If Burchett is not entitled to an Australian passport for the reasons which have been given by every supporter of the Government who has spoken, he should be charged with treason. Honourable members on this side of the House want to know why, if the charges which have been made tonight by honourable members opposite are believed to be true, the Government is not prepared to lay a charge against him when he is within its jurisdiction. It is not a question of defending Communists or anything of that nature. The principle involved in this issue is the refusal of a passport to a certain person. The Government has stated that the grounds for refusal are his treasonable activities in relation to Australian forces. If that is the case the Government is charged with allowing to go free a man whom it believes to be guilty of treason and against whom the only thing it will do is refuse him a passport.
Let us take the last speaker, the Minister for Social Services. I have never seen him better at chasing the Corns since the days when he was trying to get into the Ministry. Tonight he was in full flight again. He is much better at chasing Corns on this issue, I would imagine, than he is at administering social welfare. If he had half the enthusiasm there that he has shown on this issue we would have the best social services in the world. He is the same Minister who sponsors the selling of wheat to China. He does not mind wool going to Russia. He did a Burchett in his time, too, because his Government sent war materials to the enemy by sending strategic metals, chemicals and tallow and things of that kind to Red China in days gone by. This Government could be indicted on the same charge as it makes against Burchett. It traded with the enemy, it sold the enemy strategic materials. Australian servicemen were blown up in Vietnam by explosives made from tallow shipped to China by this Government. That was not stopped until the Labor Party raised the matter in this House. I do not see how the Minister for Social Services, making the charges that he has made in this House and expressing his willingness to repeat them outside it, can remain a supporter of the Government and a member of the Ministry. I challenge him now to resign his portfolio as a proof of his sincerity in respect of the charges that have been made. Tonight he stated that he believed Burchett was treasonable, that he would make the charges outside the Parliament, that he would do what he believes to be right and expose this man to the public, in the Parliament and outside. If that is the case how can this man, if he values his self-respect, remain in a Cabinet that refuses to prosecute a man whom he believes to be guilty of treason. The only respectable thing that the Minister for Social Services can do, if he honestly believes what he said, is tender his resignation from a government that refuses to prosecute a man whom he, the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister say is guilty of treason to this country. I challenge him to prove his sincerity on this issue, to tender his resignation and let us see where he stands.
The Government of the day had a lot to say about Burchett before he came to this country, but now that he is within its jurisdiction it accuses the man of all kinds of charges but refuses to prosecute them in court. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said, you can go around saying that you know somebody murdered someone, or knocked somebody down or otherwise assaulted him. But such a statement does not prove a thing. Many a man who may well have committed murder has escaped the law because the offence has not been able to be proved in court. Every man is entitled to a trial. No government has been guilty of more infamous conduct than this discredited administration which charges a man with treason, refuses him a passport on that ground, and refuses to set up an inquiry or charge him in a court of law and give him the opportunity to clear his name. That kind of justice went out with the Ark. There is no place for it in this country.
The Attorney-General is an eminent Queen’s Counsel. I have often said I think he must have made a fortune losing cases if this is the kind of judgment he brings forward. The fact of the matter is that he knows the man is entitled to a trial and yet he, an eminent Queen’s Counsel, highly paid and highly skilled in the law, one who should be here to protect the rights of the citizens, stood in this Parliament at question time today and said that a man was guilty of treason but he, the senior man in the Department which administers the law, was not prepared to lay a charge against him in this country. That is scandalous and contemptible conduct of the worst kind. I care not what side of politics a man stands on - whether he be right, left or centre, Communist, Liberal or anything else - he is entitled to a trial. If the Government allows this kind of thing to occur it will become the laughing stock of the world and be completely discredited in the eyes of all who believe in justice.
So let the Minister at the table stand tonight and tell us not why Burchett has not been given a passport but why he has not been charged so that the Government may prove that what it says is right. This is what the Minister must stand up to. I am reminded of an article about passports that appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ a couple of days ago. The article stated:
In medieval times English monarchs exercised Royal control over travel papers mainly to prevent unco-operative priests treading the High Road to Rome.
Today it appears, the Australian Government can exercise the same prerogative, with equally limited rights of appeal, to stop or discourage left-wingers (or right wingers) treading the road to Moscow, Hanoi or Salisbury.
The article goes on to say that a more uptodate assessment on the issue of passports was made recently by the Professor of English Law at Oxford University, Professor H. W. R. Wade, who said:
The modem type of passport is said to have been invented by Louis XIV. Too much of his technique seems to hare stuck to it.
This Government is following that practice today. I cited today that it is the right of every man to receive a passport unless it can be proved that he is not entitled to it. I will just summarise the position. If the charges made against Burchett are true - I refer to the charges which are given as the reason for denying him a passport - there is no place for him in society as honourable members have said. He should pay the penalty for those crimes. But he is innocent until he is proved to be guilty. I had never thought that I would see these circumstances arise in this Parliament in which this Government has refused to lay charges of treason after suggesting that a man has committed treason. I had never believed that in this enlightened age. when we boast of our independence and freedom in this country, we would hear a Minister stand up and say that a man had acted treasonably and that he would repeat the charge outside the House, yet still support a Ministry which will not prosecute that man whom the Minister has quite truthfully said in his mind is guilty of treason.
It is no wonder that the Government nearly lost the last election. It is no wonder that it is on the way out. Who would put up with this kind of administration? You will not give justice to people and you will not protect their legal rights. You deserve to be condemned. I hope you will stand up at this stage and explain why a man you say is guilty of treason should not be charged and at the same time think you can maintain your self-respect in this country.
– I think I should start what 1 want to say by paying a tribute to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) for putting the case that he wanted to put to the House with forbearance and restraint. His words seem to have been spoken a long time ago because, since the honourable member spoke, there has been injected into the proceedings of this House a great deal of thunder and heat and a great deal of laughter. The honourable member for Reid started off to discuss what he regards as a serious subject, with some sincerity and an element of seriousness in his approach to it.
I propose tonight to confined myself to answering the specific question put to me by the honourable member and repealed by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). The specific question is this and only this: Assume for the purpose of the question that the allegations made in this House about the man Burchett are true. That is the assumption upon which the question is based, so I make it for the purpose of answering the question. The question goes like this: ‘Why then do you not put this man up on a charge of treason?’ Let me try to explain to the House in the short time available to me precisely why not. The law of the Commonwealth, the law made by this Parliament for the safety-
– You changed it.
– 1 will come to that in a moment. The honourable member has a wonderful way of leading with his chin. The law made by this Parliament for the safety and the maintenance of the Constitution and the government of the country - I am not referring to the government of the country in terms of the Executive who sit on the front bench here, but the government in the wider sense - is the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1940-60. That Act defines what for the purposes of Commonwealth law is the offence of treason. The Commonwealth Crimes Act, which creates the offence of treason and the allied but lesser offence of treachery, bad no extra territorial operation whatsoever as it stood in 1950 or 1951 when the Korean War was in progress and as it continued to progress during 1952 and 1953. I think I can underline this point by quoting to the House a speech made by a very distinguished predecessor of mine, Sir Garfield Barwick, when he was introducing amendments to the Commonwealth Crimes Act in 1960. Mr Speaker, I quote from Hansard of the House of Representatives, dated 8th September I960, page 1027:
That being the treason section: found in Part II, limit treason to the instigation within Australia or any of its Territories of a foreigner to make an armed invasion of Australia or any part of the Queen’s dominions, or the assistance in Australia, by any means, of any public enemy.
Those words are quite explicit and I adopt them for myself as being a completely accurate statement as to how the law - the Commonwealth’s taw - as to treason stood during the years when the Korean War was in progress. So making the assumption that I am asked to make for the purpose of answering the specific question put to me very plainly and very clearly by the two honourable members to whom I have referred, the answer simply is this: that Burchett could not now be indicted in respect of anything he did in Korea in those years because as the law then stood anything he did in Korea, however treacherous, or traitorous or disloyal or indecent it may have been, was not an offence against Commonwealth law as it then stood.
Now let me come forward to 1960. I think I should say this so that honourable members on the Opposition side of the House might take stock and consider anew whether some of the things that have been said - and I except the honourable member for Reid for he put a very plain question to me - might not smack slightly of insincerity in the light of what happened in 1960 when the Commonwealth Crimes Act was amended. The House ought to be reminded, Mr Speaker, that in 1960, when my predecessor . Sir Garfield Barwick introduced amendments to the Commonwealth Crimes Act so as to give that Act, in all its sections, including the sections relating to treason and treachery, an extra-territorial operation, honourable members who then formed the Opposition - of course many of them have gone - the Australian Labor Party, opposed the amendments, including those relating to the extraterritorial1 operation, tooth and nail, lock stock and barrel.
– Those amendments went a lot further than you say they did.
– But the point 1 am making is one which nobody will deny and I am sure the honourable member for Hindmarsh will not deny it. It is that the Labor Party opposed the amendment which was proposed and passed to give the treason provisions of the Act an extra-territorial operation. I think I have said enough to the House. I have been asked a specific question upon a specific assumption, which I have accepted for the purpose of answering the question, and I say that it is just not possible. However much decent thinking Australians may view with revulsion what this man did or may have done during the Korean war, the plain fact is that the reach of the criminal law does not extend out to get him.
– The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) seems to me to have compounded the sins with which we have charged the members of the Government. As far as I am concerned, there are a number of fundamental freedoms to which every person is entitled and of which he should not be deprived except by the due process of law. Those include freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of political action and, in these modern times, freedom of travel. This Government, by administrative decree - this, is the charge we lay against it; it is not a question of whether Burchett is or is not guilty of this or that - has removed from an Australian a fundamental right. I believe that this is against all those things for which we have stood and fought over the centuries and that therefore it ought not to be tolerated in this day and age.
It is not good enough to say that the Crimes Act is this or that, or that Burchett did this or that. In the world today we need standards set at the highest possible level by countries such as Australia. Let other countries do as they will. Let dictatorships act as they may. But an Australian government ought to act with a proper regard for all the traditional rights of Australians. This is why I have continuously fought for the right of Burchett to be issued with a passport. If he has committed any sins, then he must be charged in accordance with the due process of law. But, of course, to those alleged sins my friend, the Attorney-General, has added the sin of retrospectivity. We did not have a law in 1953 under which we could charge Burchett or assail him, but now we can apply it. But we cannot apply it in a court. So we just do it by administrative action. This, I believe, is a serious sin on the part of the Government.
But there is another matter, that is, the inconsistency of the Government’s attitude in these matters. My friend, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), referred to three people who operate for the Rhodesian Government. As far as I can see, we have a duty in relation to Rhodesia to comply with the requirements of the situation vis a vis royalty, the Crown, British action and the United Nations decisions on these matters. Although we have given some sort of lip service to these requirements as regards sanctions and so on, when it comes to the question of Hawkins, Knox and O’Donnell, we have forgotten those requirements and have issued them with passports. I do not mind the Government issuing Hawkins, Knox, and O’Donnell with passports, but if it issues them with passports it should issue Burchett with a passport. If the principle of freedom of issuing passports is sound for these other men. then it is fair for Burchett.
There is an inconsistency on the part of the Government in these matters, lt chooses friends in this way and it picks its enemies in the other way and it attacks them in such a way that they have no right of appeal. It applies the principle of retrospectivity so far as the Crimes Act is concerned, and it chooses other peculiar friends whom it lionises at various times, such as Krupp, the well known war criminal who came here. I will correct the Attorney-General on the Crimes Act. At the time when the legislation was introduced into this Parliament we opposed a number of provisions in it. We fought them bitterly, as I recall, although I have not the documents before me. One of the matters that particularly affected and offended me was the insertion in the Crimes Act of a provision for guilt by suspicion. I suggest that honourable members read some of the sections of the Crimes Act and the debates that took place at the time of their introduction. The Crimes Act is no credit to the Australian statute book, but the way in which we have persecuted Burchett, the way in which the House has conducted itself in this matter, and the way in which the Government, including the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), has responded to the appeals of Australians to act in a dinkum Australian way, have been a disgrace in the administration of Australian law. As far as I am concerned - I come in contact with this sort of thing so often in relation to the naturalisation of people, the issuing of passports and other administrative decisions - we must by some means or other remove from executive authority the power by administrative decree to withhold from any Australian or any person a fundamental right
– I wish to speak on the single point raised by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and upon which the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has spoken. It was raised by me by way of a question yesterday morning to the Attorney-General. I would like the Minister’s view on a further aspect of this matter which I want to put to him. We will give him leave to speak further on it if he wishes.
The question raised by my colleagues was this: Assuming, as the Government does, that the things which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and other Ministers have said about Mr Burchett are true, why does the Attorney-General not indict him for treason? Those facts which they assume to be true would seem to justify a charge of treason. The Attorney-General has said - I would think quite correctly - that as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth he could not indict Mr Burchett for treason as defined by a Commonwealth statute because there was no such definition at the time of the acts which Mr Burchett is assumed by Ministers to have committed. 1 have not looked up this matter afresh; I am going on my memory. About the only treason case which, I think, there was an effort to initiate in Australia was the case of Mr Charles Cousens which- my colleague, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), mentioned. It was alleged that Mr Charles Cousens bad given comfort to the King’s enemies by broadcasting from Radio Tokyo during the Second World War. The Commonwealth Attorney-General took proceedings for a magistrate to hear that evidence against Mr Cousins and then sent the transcript of that evidence to the State Attorney-General in the State where Mr Cousens was domiciled in the.- hope that the State Attorney-General would find an ex officio indictment against Mr Cousens. In the upshot, the State Attorney-General did not do so because, as I recall, he thought that no conviction was likely. But I do not believe that he refused to find the ex officio indictment against Mr Cousens because he believed that, if the evidence was accepted, there could be no offence then in law or that in law at that time no crime would have been committed.
The treason in that case was alleged to be common law treason, this is, treason under the law of England which each of the Australian States has inherited. I am pretty clear in my recollection that, at that time, the Commonwealth was seized of facts and found witnesses and tapes which would have established that, in its view, Mr Cousens had committed treason under the common law. It is true that the Commonwealth Attorney-General could not have indicted Mr Cousens, but the relevant State Attorney-General could have indicted Mr Cousens.
So, while I appreciate that yesterday the Attorney-General chose not to answer my question on the law and contented himself with saying that, as at present advised, he did not propose to bring any charges against Mr Burchett, he in fact during the last 20 minutes has given reasons why he would not bring any charges against Mr Burchett. I accept his reasons. For myself, I would think that they were sound. But one of his predecessors did, in fact, do what was open to a Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral, namely, have evidence taken before a magistrate and have that evidence transmitted to the relevant State AttorneyGeneral.
I ask the Attorney-General now whether he will state whether he has thought that the facts assumed by the Prime Minister and other Ministers to be true would justify a trial for treason under the common law. The Commonwealth statute, as I understand it, does not displace the common law treason, which is still available in each of the States. I ask the Attorney-General whether he has considered that course, which one of his distinguished predecessors took. I reiterate that if he cares to answer leave will be given now.
– Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to speak again.
– We will give leave.
– Mr Speaker, before the Attorney-General replies may I ask him to defer to me because I want to ask him a couple of questions. I also would like to have his view on a couple of questions of law.
-Order! Does the Attorney-General defer to the right honourable member for Melbourne?
– Mr Speaker, now is not the time for the Attorney-General to be asked for opinions on the law. This is an adjournment debate.
– That is right. I am asking the Attorney-General whether he wants to defer to the right honourable member for Melbourne.
– I would like to ask the Attorney-General a couple of questions dealing with the law, without any heat. I will not take more than 2 minutes.
-Order! The position as the Chair sees it at the present time is that the Leader of the Opposition has given the Attorney-General leave to speak if he wishes to.
– The Leader of the Opposition has not the right to give:-
-Order! Does the Attorney-General wish to defer to the right honourable member for Melbourne?
– I do not want to trespass upon the wish of the House. If it is not desired to give me leave-
-The Attorney-General has been given leave to speak if he wishes to.
– If the right honourable member for Melbourne wants to say something on which he hopes to receive an answer from me, I will defer to him.
– I thank the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) and the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). As I understand the law and as I recollect the law on passports, the situation can be stated briefly as follows: A passport lasts for 5 years and no longer. If it is to be renewed it has to be renewed in Australia or, in the case of people working for the Commonwealth, it can be renewed even if they are outside Australia. If that is the law, then Burchett’s passport has expired; but so, too, have the passports of O’Donnell, Hawkins and Knox. If Burchett’s passport had expired, it should be stated publicly that the passports of those three men have also expired and that they have no right to re-enter Australia.
I believe that all these people, being natural born Australians, have the inalienable right to come back to this country. That is the great principle that we are debating. If the Government does not want to issue a passport to Burchett or to anybody else who in its opinion has behaved disgracefully and can no longer have the protection of the Commonwealth, such persons are entitled to a document of identification to say that they are Australian born citizens. In my view an Australian born citizen certificate is more important than any other document that can be issued, and that should be the view of all Australians. The second point to which I direct attention is the Attorney-General’s observation about the amendment of the Crimes Act in 1960 to validate the extraterritorial activities of Australian citizens.
As the law now stands, does it mean that any person who has reported adversely on Australian citizens or Australian soldiers in regard to the contest in Vietnam can be charged with treason? Is that the fact? If it is, why is not Burchett tried for treason under the new law in respect of the Vietnam war? If he is not to be charged for anything he is alleged to have done in regard to the Vietnam war, is the failure of the Government to prosecute him due to the claim which the Australian Labor Party makes that the Vietnam war is an undeclared war? The Korean War was a declared war. We engaged in the Korean War under the United Nations, but in the Vietnam war there has been no declaration of war. Is the position in regard to the Vietnam War different from that of the Korean War because, in one case, we were legally engaged in hostilities and, in the second case, we are engaged not in a war but merely in an adventure? I should like the opinion of the Attorney-General on these points.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– First of all I would deal with the last point raised by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). He asked me, in effect, about Burchett’s activities in Vietnam and whether anything could be done about them. The answer is that under the law as it presently stands - that is, the Crimes Act which now has an extra-territorial operation - a prosecution for the offence of treachery or the offence of treason cannot be mounted unless the war is a proclaimed war and there is a proclaimed enemy. Those conditions are certainly not-
– Now we are getting to the truth about Vietnam.
– 1 think that is a singularly irrelevant remark. Even at this late stage of the evening the honourable member might have done better than that.
– lt is relevant, if it is embarrassing.
– lt is not in the least embarrassing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) might, in fairness to the House, treat it with the respect with which I am trying to treat it in dealing with questions of law.
– 1 was only commenting on the position.
– The honourable member is behaving like a nasty little person. I am not trying to make political capital. 1 have spoken to the House tonight because I have been asked to say something about the matter of law. That is the answer to the question raised by the right honourable member for Melbourne. 1 give the answer quite dispassionately. 1 do not propose to deal with the other matters that the right honourable gentleman raised because, as he will appreciate, they are not within the area of my ministerial responsibility.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked me about the common law crime of treason. The matters which he raised have not escaped my attention in my consideration of this problem. Because I do think there is virtue in not giving something in the nature of general advice on evidence to people who may be future offenders, all 1 propose to say to the House is that the matter not having escaped my attention or my consideration, I have formed the view that the hurdles, obstacles and legal difficulties are of such a character as to make that particular form of procedure quite impracticable in the circumstances. But I assure the honourable gentleman that I have considered that aspect of the problem.
– What . have you got against him?
M r HUGHES- I have tried not to speak as a politician tonight or as somebody pressing a partisan viewpoint, and it really does little credit to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), as it did little credit to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), to taunt me with little pieces of political invective. It would have been better if they had remained silent.
– I am glad to hear from the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) the reasons why there has been no charge laid against Wilfred Burchett. I can see quite clearly from what the Attorney-General has said that a charge of treason could not possibly succeed because at the time of the alleged offence - as he so clearly stated - there was no breach of the law. It has always been a bad principle for a government to make laws retroactive. We have never said: ‘From now on it shall be an offence to wear horn rimmed glasses and anyone who has worn horn rimmed glasses at any time during the past 10 years shall now be guilty of an offence because he will have committed a breach of the law.’ Looking back on the wartime period we would be shocked if somebody said now that it was an offence to buy a pair of socks without a clothing coupon to match the value of the pair of socks; yet there was a time when it was an offence to buy a pair of socks in this country without a clothing coupon to match their value. This is what we have to remember.
The very reason that laws are not made retroactive is because we have no guarantee that a person who commits an act would have committed the act in question at that time had it been an offence against the law of the land at the time he committed the act. Let me put it this way: How can we aver that Wilfred Burchett would have done these things if it had been at that time a breach of the law of the Commonwealth to do them? But the AttorneyGeneral tackled this question in the correct manner by discussing the law rather than the political implications and the political backwash of the thing. Obviously the man did not commit a breach of the law of the Commonwealth at the time, and we have no guarantee that if it had been an offence against the law of the Commonwealth then he would have acted as he did.
The only other thing that I want to refer to is that the Attorney-General said that the Opposition opposed the 1960 amendment to the Crimes Act which made the offence of which Burchett has been accused an offence against the law of the Commonwealth. He was correct when he said that until that stage it was not an offence and anybody could do it without being accused or without being found guilty of any breach of the law. We did oppose it, but we did not oppose it for the reasons that were suggested by the Attorney-General. We opposed it for several reasons, and it will not take me long to explain to the Parliament why we opposed it.
First of all, let me begin by saying that the penalty for treason under the 1960 amendment - as indeed it may have been prior to I960 - was death. That is the penalty which was imposed. That was the sort of law that the Parliament was then enacting. The Opposition felt at that time that, when a law required that a person found guilty of the offence should be liable to the supreme penalty of death, the person accused of an offence under that law should have a proper opportunity to defend himself against the charge. We felt that the law which was proposed at that time and which was then enacted went too far when it said that treason was not only the offence of killing the sovereign, killing the eldest son of the sovereign or levying war against the Commonwealth, but also included assisting by any means whatever, with the intent to assist, an enemy: specified by proclamation made for the purpose of this paragraph to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth.
When we turn to the proclamation we find that a proclaimed enemy for this purpose means an enemy of and at war with a proclaimed country. The definition of ‘proclaimed country’ is:
Let me show how the provisions could operate and the reason that we opposed them. If India were to declare war on America, or vice versa, and Australia declared America to be a proclaimed country, anybody who sought to support India, a member of the British Commonwealth, would be immediately commiting an offence against the Act and would, if found guilty, be guilty of treason and could be executed for the offence. It is for that reason that we opposed the amendments. The amendments were wrong then and they are wrong now and ought to be struck out as soon as we have in power a government which has any repect for the rights of the citizens of this country.
I conclude by referring to another point. The pride that a person has in being a national of any country springs from the privileges that go with being a national of that country. I am proud of Australia, only to the extent that it is entitled to demand my pride. If I live in a country that gives me no right at all. a country that treats me as a serf or a slave, I cannot possibly engender within my being the same pride as I can as a member of a country which gives me the rights that belong to every free human being. I want to tell the world that I am proud of it because Australia is one of the countries that gives to every person born in it the right to come and go as he pleases. It is because my country gives me rights which some other countries do not give to me that makes me proud to be an Australian. One of the vital tests that has to be applied is one’s right to a passport. I now wonder whether I am a citizen of a country that gives me the kind of citizenship rights that any proud free man is entitled to expect from the country of his birth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.15 a.m. (Friday)
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
Which issues of the German magazine ‘Stem’ have been banned, and for what reason or reasons was the ban imposed.
The following four issues of the German magazine ‘Stern’ have been prohibited:
These issues were prohibited because part of their pictorial content was regarded as being indecent.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700305_reps_27_hor66/>.