27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Ron. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of the uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos - particularly the big red’ species - is now so low that they may become extinct. As a tourist attraction the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to Australia. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately and that the Commonwealth Government take steps to bring control of wildlife under its jurisdiction. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
Mr WHITTORN presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low that they may become extinct. There are insufficient wardens in any State to detect or apprehend anyone breaking the inadequate laws which exist. As a tourist attraction, the kangaroos are a permanent source of revenue to Australia. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the control of kangaroos and other wildlife be brought under Federal jusisdiction.
Mr HUGHES presented from certain electors of the Division of Berowra a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3 December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; and that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Petition received and read.
Mr DOBIE presented from certain electors of the Division of Cook a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3 December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated disillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; and that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
Mr SHERRY presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth petitions 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; and (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for (1) a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities;
Petition received and read.
Mr DUTHIE presented from 650 citizens 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; and (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for (1) a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities;
Petition received. .
– The Attorney-General will remember that the first question he was ever asked by a Government member was asked 6 weeks ago. It arose from my comment on the contrasting treatment by a Rabaul magistrate who had refused bail to the chairman of the Mataungan Association pending his trial on a charge of assault but had released 2 Australian patrol officers on their own recognisance pending their trials on charges of causing grievous bodily harm. In reply the Attorney-General supported a statement which another magistrate in Rabaul delivered, and which he happened to have with him. The AttorneyGeneral tabled that statement but he and the Prime Minister refused to move that the House take note of it and so be permitted to debate it. I ask whether the honourable and learned gentleman has noticed that a Supreme Court judge in Rabaul has now quashed the conviction of the chairman of the Mataungan Association and has said that there had been a definite miscarriage of justice in that, among other reasons, the accused had been unable to call a witness because no effort had been made to find the witness and he could not locate him as he was in custody at the time.
I ask the Attorney-General whether he will obtain and table His Honour’s judgment and move to permit the House to debate it and also the earlier document which he tabled.
– I remember quite well the situation which gave rise to the first question which was asked of me as a Minister by a Government member. I remember the substance of the answers, or the answer l gave. I remember the statement which was tabled. It was a statement by Mr Quinlivan, Stipendiary Magistrate. I also have seen the newspaper report of the judgment of the Supreme Court judge to whom the Leader of the Opposition referred.
– You have a copy of it.
– No, in fact I do not. The honourable member is very toey this morning. It is a pity that he did not come on television the other day and debate with me. But I shall call for or ask my colleague the Minister for External Territories to call for a copy of the judgment. The Leader of the Opposition has stimulated my interest in the matter and I shall read it. I shall .then consider whether it would be appropriate or inappropriate to take the course that my honourable and learned friend has suggested. I will give it due consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy the following question: How many Russian spy ships alias survey ships have been sighted in recent weeks off the Australian coast, and at what locations? Did Royal Australian Air Force planes quite by accident when on a routine exercise discover one of the survey ships - or Russian Pueblo, if you like it better - accompanied by a submarine when it was situated south of Kangaroo Island monitoring or listening in on Woomera and Pine Creek? Did the ship close down all electronic and radio circuits as soon as the RAAF planes were discovered by them to be in the vicinity? Was the sighting reported and if not, why not? If it was reported, was the incident made public?
– The only Soviet vessel that I am aware has been sighted in proximity to the Australian coast line in recent times was the sighting off the West
Australian coast near Albany. I am unable to answer the other questions asked by the honourable gentleman but I will make such inquiries as may seem fit. May 1 take this opportunity of observing to the honourable gentleman and to the House that Article 2 of the Geneva Convention on the High Seas, a convention to which this country is a signatory, provides for freedom of navigation on the high seas. Therefore, if a vessel is sailing on the high seas there is nothing that this country in any way can do.
That Article is only cut back by a further Article in the Convention - Article 22 - which provides that a merchant ship may be boarded by a warship if there is reasonable ground to suspect that the merchant ship is engaged in piracy or slave traffic. Beyond that there is no jurisdiction conferred on a warship. Another Article in the Convention provides that a warship has complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any state other than the flag state.
The position is simply this: If there is a foreign vessel sailing on the high seas and there is no act of war by that foreigin vessel, there is no jurisdiction conferred in international law upon this country to intervene in any way. Finally, may I observe in regard to the technical question that the honourable gentleman asked that I will make such inquiries as may seem fit and I will convey the answers to the honourable gentleman.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any substance In the report that the 8th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment is to be withdrawn from Vietnam thus bringing about a reduction of approximately 750 in the number of Australians serving in South Vietnam. I further ask the right honourable gentleman whether the battalion is to be replaced by 2 battalions of South Vietnamese forces. Is the Australian Army assistance team to be stationed in the Phuoc Tuy Province? When will the right honourable gentleman be in a position to make a full report on these matters which have been foreshadowed with considerable confidence by the Press?
– I think the honourable member and the House will know that the Government has announced that its policy is that should the judgment be that the situation in Vietnam has reached a stage where further considerable allied troop withdrawals can safely take place some Australian troops will be phased into the next significant withdrawal at some stage during that withdrawal. This clearly is what the honourable member knows. The question of just when that should occur and the troops that would be involved in it would be matters that would probably be stated in this House at the time the stage has been reached when the Government should make a statement on this in the House and should not be the result of a question based on Press speculation. But these matters will be discussed here.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister for Social Services by reminding him that yesterday the honourable member for Perth asked the Minister for Immigration whether he was aware of the concern and resentment of elderly migrants who found that, in spite of naturalisation, they are denied the age pension because they have not been in Australia for 10 years and he referred to their complaints of being treated as second class citizens. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the 10-year residential qualification relating to the payment of age pensions applies equally to persons born in Australia. Is it also a fact that the Australian Labor Party, when in power, fixed this residential qualification at 20 years, not 10 years? Further, is it not a fact that the Australian Labor Party also required migrants to become Australian citizens before being eligible to receive age pensions and is it not a fact that it was this LiberalCountry Party Government which removed this bar to the receipt of pensions by migrants?
– The honourable member’s long and honourable association with the Government members’ social services committee will have made him particularly well informed on this matter. What he has suggested is in fact correct. This Government and its predecessors have done more in this field to help migrants than any other government has done. It was in 1966, if I remember correctly, that the naturalisation qualification for pensions was removed. It was in 1962 that the residential qualification for age and invalid pensions was reduced from 20 years to 10 years. This applies equally, of course, to Australian citizens and other people. In regard to widows pensions, it was in 1952 that the residential qualification was reduced from 5 years to 1 year when the husband died in Australia, and in 1968 it was removed altogether so that the pension now becomes immediately available. I will be happy to provide the House and the honourable member with a detailed account of what the Government has done in this field, but I suggest to the House that we have gone as far as it is possible to go in helping migrants who meet some misfortune when they arrive in Australia. We have to have some tests, of course, so that the pension is not paid merely to tourists coming in temporarily, lt is reasonable and in accordance with the practice of other countries that there should be some tax paying or contributory history before a pension becomes immediately payable. It is true, of course, that pensions payable in Australia are vastly greater than the pensions available in the countries from which many of these migrants come.
– 1 address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. What restrictions have been placed on the release of 50c coins? Who was responsible for the release of these coins into circ.nation? Is there any reason for a shortage of these coins? Will the Prime Minister inquire to determine whether more 50c coins can be put into circulation?
– Part of the answer that I will give to the honourable member is a recollection only and it is possibly not correct, though I think it is. I believe, from recollection, that the original difficulty about the 50c coins was that they were round coins and were very easily confused with the 20c coins and, in fact, were claimed to be so confused. They were withdrawn and a new 12-sided 50c coin was struck so that this difficulty would be overcome. I am not aware that there is any particular shortage of these coins but if there is I will seek to find out the reason for it and let the honourable member know. apolloxiii
MrWHITTORN -I ask the Prime Minister a question. To what extent, if any, has the Australian Government offered its services, such as the Navy or the Air Force, to help the astronauts arrive safely back on earth?
– I have no information of our offering services such as the Navy and the Air Force but, on the other hand, as soon as the difficulty was known the United States Government got in touch with the Australian Government and asked that we make available the 210-foot diameter dish at Parkes which was required because of the need to pick up signals which were sent with a very low electrical impulse. The United States Government needed such a piece of equipment in order to pick up those impulses. It also needed various alterations - and I am sorry that I am not a technical electrician on this - to the equipment which would help in the control of and general being in touch with the astronauts. This, of course, was immediately put in hand by the Australian Government. I have every reason to believe that, through the Department of Supply, the Australian Government did all it was asked and, indeed, all that it could. We could only wish that we could have done more.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that patients in mental hospitals in South Australia are being denied both hospital and pension benefits purely on the ground that they are unfortunately suffering from a mental illness and not a physical illness? Is it a fact that people admitted or transferred to certain wards in mental hospitals are denied both benefits? Further, is it a fact that if these same people were admitted or transferred to an approved nursing home or to a psychiatric clinic in a general hospital they would be entitled to either one or the other of these benefits? Is it not a fact that the entitlement of patients in mental hospitals to pensions or benefits is not determined on the patients’ illness but on the basis of the ward to which they are admitted? Will the Minister therefore take immediate steps to remove this discriminatory, iniquitous and unjust policy to ensure that the mentally ill are treated with justice and equity? Finally, will the Minister table in the House the charter adopted by the State Ministers for Health at their conference last year on this particular matter?
– The honourable member has asked a long and detailed question. I will be glad to address myself to it and give him a full reply. Part of bis question related to pensions. There are arrangements in certain circumstances for the payment of pensions to patients in mental hospitals but, as he knows, that is the concern of my colleague the Minister for Social Services, and he should seek the information from him, if he really wants it and does not know it already.
With respect to hospital benefits, the situation is that traditionally the Government has regarded the care of the mentally ill as primarily a State matter. When we brought in our hospital benefits scheme the States accepted full responsibility for the care of the mentally ill. They were provided for in institutions run by the States and no charges were levied on them. As the hospital benefits scheme was designed to relieve the patient of some of the costs of illness, it therefore did not apply where no costs were involved. The Commonwealth Government has taken the view that it discharges its responsibilities in relation to the mentally ill through the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act which has made available to the States over the years a very large sum in capital grants for mental institutions. In recognition of that the legislation is so framed as to exclude from the payment of hospital benefits people in institutions wholly or primarily carried on for the mentally ill.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Navy, who represents the Minister for Air in another place. I refer to a television interview last night in which the honourable member for Casey, as usual, demolished the arguments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Did the Minister notice the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that the F111 needed tanker refuelling support from the air equally as much as the F4 and that both aircraft therefore needed aerial tanker support? Is this so? If the Minister is unable to give a factual answer in depth will he make sure he obtains from the Minister for Air the information necessary to refute such an erroneous suggestion?
– I did not have the pleasure of seeing my colleague, the honourable member for Casey, in his encounter with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Angas will appreciate that range is a relative term and is determined by what is carried. Itis my understanding that the precise range of the F111 is classified. Nevertheless it is a matter of public notoriety that it can and does achieve a very substantial operational range without tanker support. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Air, whether he will provide the honourable member with a detailed reply. I would content myself with sayingthat to suggest that the F111 needs tanker support is a refined piece of nonsense.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a supplementary question. When he has secured from the Minister for Air, whom he represents in this place, a considered reply to the question asked by the honourable member for Angas, will he also check the diagrams in the ward room of HMAS ‘Melbourne’ which illustrate the range which in the Navy’s view the F111 can achieve with and without refueling from aerial tankers?
– The Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that the F111 is neither in use by the Navy nor indeed in contemplation by it.
– So it is refined nonsense by the Navy.
– No. The honourable gentleman puts himself in a very difficult position. I will seek from the Minister for Air what information is available on this matter but as far as the Phantom is concerned I would think that it is a matter of public knowledge that to secure maximum operational performance it needs tanker support. It is my understanding, subject to any further information that can be placed before me - unlike the honourable gentleman I am prepared to change my mind when other facts are placed before me - that the F111 does not need tanker support.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the reported Vietcong military aggression taking place in Cambodia, described by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, General Lon Nol, as ‘an escalation of systematic aggression against Cambodia by the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese’, I ask: Has the Australian Government had any request for arms to help Cambodia to maintain its sovereignty?
– I know of no such request that has been received by the Australian Government. I am not acting as Minister for External Affairs. It is possible for all I know that there might have been a message but I know of no such message.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by pointing out that in February, Mr Davis Hughes, M.L.A., Minister for Public Works in the New South Wales Government, met a deputation representing the Newcastle City Council, the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, the Newcastle Chamber of Manufactures, the Hunter Valley Research Foundation and the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, as well as Federal and State members of Parliament, all of whom are interested in building a new graving dock at the State Dockyard in Newcastle. Mr Hughes assured the deputation that after a thorough investigation his Government had decided to build a new graving dock 900 feet long and 150 feet wide with a clearance of 30 feet over the sill. Did the Commonwealth Government offer a shipbuilding subsidy of 33% when the State Dockyard had previously decided to build a floating dock? When did the New South Wales Government apply to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to build this new graving dock and when may it expect an answer? Has Cairncross Dock in Brisbane closed until August? Has this resulted in Australian tankers and bulk carriers requiring docking facilities having to go to Singapore, Hong Kong and other ports outside Australia for docking and repair? Has the closing of Cairncross Dock emphasised the serious shortage of large docks in Australia and the need for a new graving dock capable of docking the large tankers and bulk carriers operating on the Australian coast?
– The change in technology and in the character of shipping that is necessarily part and parcel of the transport revolution which we see about us will obviously bring about changes in docking requirements. There are around Australia a number of docks that will not be available in the future. The floating dock at Newcastle, to which the honourable member referred, is to be replaced. There is also the matter of a dock in Victoria which will be closed when the lower Yarra River bridge is completed. The Australian Chamber of Shipping recently completed a survey of docking requirements around Australia. In that survey technological changes and changes in the character of ships were examined in some detail and, consequently, the different requirements for future docking to which 1 initially referred. The report from the Australian Chamber of Shipping has been forwarded to me and is now under examination by myself and my colleagues who have some connection with ships and with the necessity to determine docking requirements. The New South Wales Government has made two approaches to the Commonwealth Government for assistance regarding the operation of a dock at Newcastle. The first approach, as the honourable member’s question suggested, related to the replacement of the floating dock. The Commonwealth replied to the New South Wales Government indicating that as the floating dock was a ship type construction, the Commonwealth would make available the same subsidy as was available in terms of shipbuilding assistance to any other floating structure, that is, up to one-third of the capital value in terms of the provisions of the Shipbuilding Act. Subsequent to that reply the New South Wales Government decided that perhaps it might be preferable to have a look at some other type of dock and an approach has now been received suggesting that a graving dock of up to 100,000 dead weight capacity might be installed at Newcastle. It is still under examination within the Commonwealth Government but necessarily two things need to be recognised.
First of all the proposal of the New South Wales Government must be taken in con junction with the totality of dry docking requirements around the Austraiian coast. If the Commonwealth is asked and is to contribute towards the provision of a dock we need to assess what are the requirements around the Australian coast, not only in the port of Newcastle. That will certainly involve not just my own Department but also the Department of Defence’ and it will involve discussions with other State governments. The other fact that I think needs to be borne in mind as far as dry docks are concerned is that the changing size of ships and the economics of ships mean that substantially those yards in Australia that have been repairing ships have been doing so quite profitably. It is true that shipbuilding in Australia has not been as economic and consequently the shipbuilding subsidy has taken account of some of the disparity in costs between Australia and other countries, but ship repairing has substantially been an economically profitable operation. This being so. I believe that those yards thai are going into a profitable operation take account of the capital cost and relate the profitability of their past enterprise to the capital cost of a new one. Having said that I can assure the honourable member that the Commonwealth is giving consideration to the proposition of the New South Wales Government.
– i ask a question of the Minister for National Development, representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the imminent scheduling of Boeing 747 jumbo aircraft into Australia and the rumoured arrival of the Anglo-French Concorde aircraft early in 1971, could the Minister advise whether there is any regulation similar to those operating in the United States of America which would allow the Department of Civil Aviation the right to refuse entry of these aircraft into Austrafia should their noise level be above certain tolerable standards?
– I did have some discussions with my colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation on this matter just recently. There is no certainty at the moment when the Boeing 747 will commence operation into Australia, although I believe it would be in the relatively near future. There is as yet no indication of when the Concorde supersonic type aircraft will go into commercial operation and the speculation in the newspapers at the moment may or may not be correct. However, the position in relation to noise standards was, as the honourable member will recall, on Australian initiative made an annexe to the International Civil Aviation Organisation convention which did place noise on a high priority for consideration by a special committee that was set up under that convention. To my understanding, it has met already on several occasions. I would believe that, emerging from the discussions and the recommendations of this international committee, the member countries of ICAO probably will accept some recommendations in the future for the introduction of legislation which would govern this particular problem. But I am looking to a point which could be some time away yet.
In the meantime, the Department of Civil Aviation has certain powers in this connection as far as airports are concerned. So far, the indications with the Boeing 747 are that the PNdBs involved are not greater, in fact are slightly less, than those of the latest type Boeing 707. On the tests so far, this seems to have been borne out, although some further regulation tests will need to be carried out before the matter is finalised. We have no knowledge at this moment about the actual operational problems involving supersonic commercial aircraft. I can assure the honourable member that my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, is fully aware pf the matter and will take in consideration (he representations made by the honourable member.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. ask: Has the Minister in his meetings with representatives of the medical profession on the new health proposals discussed in any way with them a common time for consultation in association with the common fee? Secondly, as indicated by the Minister, the most that a patient will pay for an operation will be $5. I further ask the Minister: Who receives that $5 having in mind that there may well be a surgeon in attendance, an anaesthetist or a radiologist?
– The answer to the first part of the question asked by the honourable gentleman is no. The medical profession has never raised with me the question of basing our medical benefits scheme on the time aspect - in other words, a higher benefit for a longer time spent. This has been floated in various quarters but it has never been raised officially. I think that, generally speaking, the organised medical profession realises that it would be pretty impracticable to organise a scheme based on that principle and that it is reasonable for the profession in its approach to this scheme to accept the swings and roundabouts principle in relation to its fee charging and therefore its benefits.
The second question asked by the honourable gentleman was in relation to the operation where the patient would have to pay only $5. He asked which of the various participants would receive the $5. Of course, this question applies only in circumstances where the patient sends the bill to the benefit fund before paying the doctor. If the patient pays the doctor first, of course it does not apply. If he sends the bill to the fund first and receives a cheque from the fund, this question will arise. The answer to it is an administrative one which has not been decided finally, but it will be done in one of two ways.
The probable way in which it will be done is that the medical practitioner whose fee is the highest - that is generally the surgeon - will have the task of collecting the $5. The alternative would be to divide the $5 in proportion to the charges of the doctors. But I think that it will be done finally in the first way that I have outlined.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. On several occasions recently questions have been addressed to me regarding the wheat quota system now in operation. Will the Minister state what part, if any, the Commonwealth Government took in establishing these quotas and in allocating them to wheat growers?
– I almost get sick and tired of saying this, but the Commonwealth has no rights at all in imposing production controls. This is a sovereign right of the
States and the Commonwealth does not play any part at all in it. If there is a feeling that there are injustices, inequities or anomalies in the way quotas are apportioned to individual growers, they should take up their grievences with their own State Government. The State Government determines what the policy is in that State, generally in conjunction with the wheat industry organisations. As far as the Commonwealth’s role in this whole problem of surplus production of wheat is concerned, for 18 months before the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation made its decision I had been pointing out the problems that were confronting the industry and were likely to arise if we continued to have an escalation of production and difficult marketing circumstances. As a result of this the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation made a decision that there needed to be some restraints put on production, lt determined a national quota and how this should be divided between the States. The Federation did this itself. It required that the Commonwealth guarantee a first advance payment of Si. 10 on that amount of wheat, but then it was up to each individual State to apportion its quota to individual growers. So I say again that if growers feel there is any injustice or anomaly, this is a matter which should be taken up with their own State Government; the Commonwealth has no hand in it whatsoever.
– J address my question to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs. Since there is every reason to believe that the situation revealed in Queensland Government settlements for Aboriginals is widespread - namely, that there is a dangerously high mortality rate among infants after weaning, and permanent health and brain damage ensues for many survivors - will the Minister take steps to create a service to doctors, infant health officers and nutritionists to remedy the situation as rapidly as possible? Does he realise that the Constitution has permitted the Commonwealth to provide such medical services not only since the 1967 referendum but ever since the 1946 referendum?
– The Government does not underrate the seriousness of the position to which the honourable member very rightly draws our attention once again. We not only are examining this matter but have done something - about it. Perhaps the honourable member will permit me to tell him some of the things which have been done. The main thing, I suppose, is the conference which was held in Sydney. We called it the Workshop on Aboriginal Health, lt was held last December under the joint sponsorship of the Department of Health and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. The conference discussed the position of Aboriginal health and came up with a large number of proposals for investigation and . action. Dr Nercombe is engaged at this present moment on a 3-year project of research at Bourke into the general overall position. I think we have subsidised this to the extent of $20,000. Professor Rendall Short, who is from the University of Queensland, is engaged in a long study into this matter. I think we have subsidised this project to the extent of $34,000. Dr Kneebourne is engaged in a project to study the essential intake of fatty acids in the diet of Aboriginal children. Professor Maxwell and Dr Elliott in the Northern Territory have a project going concerning Aboriginal health.
These are all investigations which are proceeding at the present time. Among the things which are being done are these. In New South Wales we have put in $25,000 for community nurses in various rural outback areas, sessional fees to medical practitioners for ante-natal and postnatal care of Aboriginals, and we have got $36,000 which is going out in subsidies to the Far West Children’s Health Service, Bush Nursing Association, Western Shire Dental Service, Daughters of Charity at Moree. Sisters of Compassion at Wilcannia, and the Save the Children Fund. These funds are being disbursed in practical ways to mitigate the position to which the honourable member draws attention.
In Victoria provision has been made for a subsidy on vehicles for nurses visiting Aboriginals. A very big programme in Queensland includes a hospital complex at Lockhart River costing $91,000 and a hostel complex at Mitchell River cost ng $41,000. At Bamaga a hospital complex lor
Aboriginals which will cost $217,000 and another at Hope Vale costing SI 00,000 are proposed. There is a plan for supplementary food assistance, which is of great importance, for children at Weipa, Aurukun, Edward . River, Mitchell River, Mornington Island, Doomadgee, Lockhart River, Hope Vale, Yarrabah, Palm Island, Woorabinda, Cherbourg and other places in this State. It is proposed to spend $130,000 on this project.
I will not take up the time of the House by going into what has been done in South Australia. About $90,000 is being spent on various projects there which I will not detail. In Western Australia $150,000 is being spent. Even in Tasmania, at Cape Barren Island we have a medical social research worker subsidised. I want the House to realise that we are not only investigating these matters but also doing something about them.
– Before I proceed with the further business of the House I would like to say that this morning we have had some rather long and involved questions which required equally long and involved answers. On a previous occasion I have suggested to honourable members that their questions should be as short as possible and that the preface should not be any longer than is necessary. Equally, I have said to Ministers that if the occasion arises to answer a long and involved question the Minister concerned may deem it fit to seek leave to make a statement after question time. I believe that this would be in the interests of the House, generally, that it would make for the smoother and better running of question time, and that it would be in the interests of all honourable members.
– In reply to a question asked earlier by the honourable member for Chisholm I omitted to mention that the 2 Soviet fishing vessels were also sighted some 25 miles from the Tasmanian coast. I would just like to correct the record. Those ships, of course, were on the high seas and in international waters.
– by leave - I wish to give the House some details of further assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth for educational research. The provision of $250,000 in the 1970-71 Budget was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech before the 1’969 House of Representatives election. This provision is another active step by the Commonwealth designed to improve the quality of Australian education and thereby to advance the development of our society. At present the Commonwealth is providing support for educational research in a number of ways. The Australian Research Grants Committee has, since its inception, recommended for support selected educational research projects. During this year, for example, grants totalling $80,000 will be made for educational research under this scheme as compared with 332,000 in 1969. Direct Commonwealth assistance for educational research is also provided in the annual grant to the Australian Council for Educational Research and in the sum of $250,000 which has been made available during the 1967-1969 and the 1970-1972 triennia under the advanced education programme for research into the problems of colleges of advanced education.
The Commonwealth also is providing assistance in other ways, for example, through the special grants for research and research training included in the programme of assistance for universities. In addition there is the support given to individual projects which are concerned with curriculum developments. The Australian Science Education Project is one such development - this is a joint 6 State and Commonwealth programme of research into the development of improved courses and materials for the teaching of science in the first 4 years of our secondary schools. A further research project currently supported by the Commonwealth is an investigation into possible new methods of selection for tertiary studies - in the previous 2 years the Australian National University, the University of Western Australia and The Tasmanian Education Department have been involved with the Commonwealth in this project and in this year it is likely that all Slates will be so involved.
Much is thus being done to support educational research throughout Australia. Nevertheless it became apparent from the number and type of requests for support which were being made to us that there were problems requiring research in Australia which called for additional measures of support. So that we could obtain a more informed assessment of these problems, and of the ways in which they might be solved, a meeting was held in Canberra during September last year. This meeting was attended by a number of Australian educationists from various spheres of interest who met at the request of my predecessor to discuss the general status of educational research in Australia. It was a useful meeting.
The report of the discussions which took place at that meeting drew attention to a number of specific points. It stressed that problems of communication, co-ordination and identification of areas of national importance in educational research exist al all levels of education. The report stated that such work as was in progress consisted for the most part of small projects and that comparatively little was being done in priority areas. Projects and experiments of a similar character were apparently being carried out often independently of each other. Hence the establishment of effective means of communication of research findings and of research in progress was seen by that meeting as one of the necessary prerequisites to any effective expansion of educational research. The provision of $250,000 in the 1970-71 Budget pursuant to the Prime Minister’s promise in the policy speech will ensure these problems are tackled.
I propose to establish a body, to be known as the Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education, to advise me on the ways in which this money should be distributed. With the concurrence of the House, which I shall seek at the close of this statement, I will have incorporated in ‘Hansard’ the terms of reference of this Committee. There are several aspects of its terms of reference which I would like to mention briefly. The Advisory Committee may, itself, propose support for research in areas of importance where little is being done. Equally the Committee may recommend for support projects which are submitted to it for consideration. There will also be an opportunity for the Committee to make a contribution towards measures for the training of research personnel. The Committee will be free to give consideration to proposals submitted from government bodies, such as State education departments, as well as from institutions. Projects will be assessed iri terms of their quality and the contribution they will make to priority needs.
I would like to add a few remarks on the significance of the development aspects of this programme. If maximum use is to be made of available resources, it is important that attention should also be directed to the application of findings and some emphasis will, therefore, be given to interpreting and disseminating the results of research in such a way that they can be readily applied to practical situations. I am pleased to be able to announce that Professor P. H. Partridge of the Australian National University has accepted an invitation to become the Committee’s first Chairman. The membership of the Committee will be finalised in the near future and 1 hope to introduce a Bill later in this session to provide a basis for the operation of the programme. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in ‘Hansard’ the terms of reference of that Committee.
Subject to any direction of the Minister for Education and Science:
– by leave - The Opposition welcomes the statement that has just been made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) and supports the idea of the Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education. We note the appointment of Professor Partridge as Chairman. Professor Partridge is not an educationalist. This is not necessarily a disadvantage. An educationalist might attempt to steer too emphatically in the direction of his own educational specialities and interests. There is however a probability that because the Chairman conies from a university - and after all universities have facilities for research into their own problems - this may lead to pre-school, primary, secondary, technical and agricultural education not receiving the optimum attention. However, I think the personality of Professor Partridge guarantees that the approach will be a broad and generous one.
Although I realise that the $80,000 is not the sum total of the Commonwealth’s activities in educational research, we should still recognise that the $80,000 being spent in this direction this year is not a great deal for educational research, nor will it support a great range of research projects. I should have thought that such a sum could be spent on pre-school education alone, on selected aspects of primary education alone or on secondary education alone. In noting the special research that has been conducted into the teaching of science in the first 4 years of secondary school, it is noteworthy that the great weakness in the Australian teaching result revealed in a comparison around the world is in the teaching of mathematics. It is to be hoped that special efforts will be made to do research into what means can be adopted to bring Australian mathematics teaching standards up to the level to those in the most advanced countries. For the rest, I would like to congratulate the Minister on his statement.
– by leave- I present the official report of the Australian parliamentary mission to Hong Kong, Japan, The Republic of Korea and the Republic of China.
Air and Water Pollution - Aircraft noise - Eyre Highway - Social Services - Electoral - Education of Deaf Children - Television Programme - Drought in Queensland - Wool - -Power Heads for Spear Guns - Nuclear Fallout - Russian Shipping - Kangaroos
That grievances be noted.
– Before calling the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith I would remind all honourable members that this is his maiden speech and I would ask the House to extend their usual courtesies to him.
– I want to take this opportunity to thank the electors of Kingsford-Smith for their confidence in me. It is my personal regret that the one person who was interested in my career is no longer here. I want to take this brief opportunity during the grievance debate to refer to many of the matters I had the opportunity of discussing in another Parliament when on each occasion I said that much more could have been done there if much more had been given here. It follows therefore that the problems of Kingsford-Smith are virtually the problems of the nation, whether they relate to health, housing, pollution or any other matter.
It is most significant to look at what has happened since federation. It is worthy of note that the Constitution made some effort to provide for the division of financial resources. Section 87 provided that the customs and excise duties, which were virtually the only taxes available in the early days of federation would be distributed on the basis that three-quarters of this amount would go to the States and the remaining one-quarter would go to the Commonwealth. Of course we know that times have changed since then. The major tax today, income tax, was invented about 1916.
It is also significant is it not, that right up to the time of the Second World War, when Commonwealth income tax was introduced, the major source of State revenues was the State income tax provisions. Again changes have occurred. The States no longer levy income tax but rely on a tax reimbursment formula. This has created a number of problems. I think the matter is highlighted immediately by referring to the Consolidated Revenue Fund which shows that the amount extracted from every man, woman and child in New South Wales, and indeed in Australia, is $553 and that the reimbursment to New South Wales to carry on essential services is a mere $80 per head. One-seventh is deemed to be sufficient to carry on all those essential services that the people of Kingsford-Smith so urgently need.
Surely an immediate look must be taken at why so much money has to be retained by the central Government. Is it retained only for the purposes of defence? I have listened to a number of debates in the short time that I have been here. I have had no opportunity, owing to the fact that there are so many members here, of speaking, in any one of them. I appreciate and recognise the fact that other speakers have their rights as well. But in listening to the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicating the great rapidity of technical change and in looking at the 48 pages of the circulated copy of the defence statement that he made in this House, it appeared to me that it was more an exercise in English prose than a look at the needs of the defence of the nation or the value of the money that might have been expended. He made the incredible statement that we cannot make South East Asia and the Indian Ocean disappear by turning our back on them. This is a statement that well could have been ommitted
The real question is: What have we done with the money allocated from the tax revenues? I would say that the defence statement leaves much to be desired because no real defence force is available. The clue to the origin of the statement is perhaps on page 40 of the copy that was circulated to honourable members. Three or 4 lines have been deleted. The last Budget was apparently to refer to the replacing of 8 landing craft but that reference was first inserted in and then deleted from the defence statement.
It seems that the defence statement was written some months before the last Budget. It just shows the incredible situation in this Parliament. Words are just mouthed for the purpose of making an expression and not as an attempt to look at real needs.
I have heard the debate on the Vietnam Moratorium. The real issue in the minds of the Australian people is whether conscription is an issue that should have been introduced without a referendum when it was a major issue in the First World War. People who are now concerned about their sons are interested in the fact that there should have been a mandate from the Australian people. It is no use saying, as was said in the defence statement, that we cannot confront the Soviet Union. I think the Australian national spirit is such that we should be prepared and in fact would be prepared to confront anybody if the need so arose.
So the question should be: What has happened to the real value of the moneys that have been collected? The New South Wales State Government has to spend more on education and health alone than it receives from the Commonwealth. In order to run its hospitals it has to rely on collecting a poker machine tax of $28. 5m. This is an indictment of any federal system which has a responsibility for health. It means that the States have to adopt a Las Vegas, lollypop type of economy merely to keep nurses employed. What would happen if the people of New South Wales were not able to contribute that $28. 5m to health?
New South Wales needs 50% more than its present allocation for education. It is spending $300 for each child a year. We have recognised the urgent needs of the State schools, but what about the areas of poverty where there are non-State schools as well? The amount expended there by the State of New South Wales - and this is no indictment of it because it has not sufficient funds to spend any more - is little more than the cost of supplying primary school children with a bottle of milk. Therefore, when we come around to looking at who can go to universities, we find that the people who enter universities are those who have had the best educational background. In the main it is those from the more affluent areas of Sydney. Statistics show that if a child is fortunate enough to have parents residing in a certain area his chances of going to the university are doubled when compared with a child who may not have the same affluent environment.
These things have to be mentioned quickly because of the limited time available to me. I want to mention 2 matters that directly concern my electorate. One is pollution of the air, and the other is pollution of the waterways by sewage. When a question was asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in this House on 3rd March as to what might be done at the Commonwealth level at the Malabar sewerage works he indicated that there was not really a problem, that there had been political interference in the past by the State Government, and that he thought he would hear something from the State Premier about it. This amazes me because there was a meeting in the area in last January at which it was clearly indicated that the Premier of New South Wales had written to the Prime Minister about the matter. That was in January, but in March the Prime Minister was not able to refer to the problem because he had not heard of it. When he was asked a question as to what might have happened at the Premiers Conference he said: ‘Read the papers’. I assume he was referring to the newspapers because no other papers are available; the minutes of that conference are still held in camera. If we examine the problems concerning the Malabar sewage we realise it is not a light matter, because it involves the disposal of the waste of 1 million people. It is urgent that a select committee be set up by this Parliament to investigate the problems of sewage pollution. Such an investigating committee has been set up in the United States of America. For the benefit of the Prime Minister I might mention that the New South Wales Water Sewerage and Drainage Board has never been dominated by the political party to which I adhere; in fact, it has been controlled by those who subscribe to his philosophy. If he talks about outfalls being constructed recently, he should realise that they were constructed in 1890 and 1910. So there is a need in this modern society to construct a better method of sewage treatment.
This morning I heard one honourable member ask a question about the airport at Mascot and about a Pan-Am jet.
– It is the only one available.
– But that airport is the only one available for commercial aircraft. The honourable member was able to ensure that another strip was not built at Towra; otherwise he would not have been here now. When jumbo jets come here under certification the noise level will be greater than that from any other plane that at present comes in. That is known, despite what the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said this morning. The noise from such jets is well above the 108 decibel level. One cannot stop progress, but in what area were the people of KingsfordSmith ever consulted? Why do they have to be saturated with this noise because someone in the Department of Civil Aviation makes a decision? 1 exonerate the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), because I do not think he knows what is happening in his own Department.
From answers to questions we have received the alarming information that $55m has been spent at Mascot for the doubtful result of one airstrip, whereas for an expenditure of half that amount we have gained the benefit of establishing airstrips at Tullamarine and Essendon as well. This highlights the problem of this Parliament: It is far too remote from the details and problems of the people. Its elected representatives here have little opportunity to put forward cases that people want them to raise. The real issues could readily be solved if more emphasis were given to the needs of people, particularly if they were investigated by committees or otherwise, and if we determined whether money was well spent. The whole purpose of any person being elected to the Parliament is to make constructive criticism.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to raise with the House and the Government a matter of great interest to the people of Western Australia, many aspects of which are of national importance. It is a proposal that would bring closer together the residents of that State and those of other States. It would provide for an improvement in the mobility of our defence forces. These things are surely desirable. It would improve trade and tourism and would make Western Australia closer to the Commonwealth. That surely is desirable. 1 refer to the completion of the sealing of the Eyre Highway in South Australia. There are 311 miles of that road unsealed, extending from the South AustralianWestern Australian border into South Australia towards Ceduna. Highway No. 1 stretches, almost completely sealed, 5,000 miles from Cairns in Queensland right around to a point 700 miles north of Perth. It traverses 5 States and has only this section of 311 miles of unsealed road in South Australia.
The Western Australian Government has surfaced all its section to the border, the last part of which cost $9.5m. The South Australian Government has sealed the section from Lincoln Gap to Ceduna at a cost of $5. 25m out of its own resources, and from Penong to Ceduna at a cost of $1.38m. At present 46 miles are in the process of being sealed, but at this time there are only plans for surveying beyond that. Thus South Australia and Western Australia have made very substantial allocations of their own funds for sealing the Eyre Highway. As the House is aware, the Commonwealth road grants formula, which is desirable from many points of view, cannot cover every situation. This is such a case. There is a limit to the amount that South Australia can spend on rural arterial roads in accordance with the agreement. The formula, I repeat, does not suit this case. Western Australia has given a high priority in the allocation of its funds for the sealing of the Eyre Highway and I pay tribute to the Government of that State and the Premier, Sir David Brand, for ensuring for 8 or 9 years that the Western Australian Government planned and formed this road. It was a farsighted approach and expenditure from Western Australia’s allocation has been in the national interest. But the priorities that the South Australian Government sees are different. It gives priorities to other roads and I understand that in this region it has given priority to a road going towards the south, as is its right.
So it is my contention that the Commonwealth Government ought to make a Commonwealth grant for the completion of this Highway since with the road formula devised, granted the benefits of it in other spheres, does not cover the case of providing for a sealed highway across the nation. I believe that the facts of this case demand a grant, and I will elaborate that in a moment. Of all the miles of Highway No. 1, which extends around Australia, at this time the 311 miles to which I have referred are the most important part to seal. That section at this moment is the most essential link in the Highway. If a State such as Western Australia does all it can to cover the link and another State through which the road passes does not give that link a high priority, surely it is a case for the Commonwealth Government to come to some agreement concerning the unsealed remainder. I point out that it has been calculated that 62 per cent of the traffic passing over this road in South Australia comes from outside that State.
As to more detailed reasons I refer, first, to trade and tourism. Many trucks and a a great deal of transport go across the Eyre Highway. Wear and tear on this transport is tremendous. Anyone travelling along the Highway will see the many discarded and worn tyres which are mute witness to the condition of this unsealed section. I point out that even in a distance of 5000 miles, 311 miles of rough road which is used by all States is a long way. As it is, this section acts as a considerable deterrent to the average and small car owner and to inexperienced drivers. One cannot at present travel at an average cost on this highway; to many people the costs are prohibitive. Traffic on the Highway has doubled in the last 3 years. At present it carries about 100 vehicles a day. It has been estimated, I would think fairly that this could be expected to double or treble if sealed. From the tourist point of view there is also the question of accommodation. Motels at present are situated at intervals of 200 miles and doubtless with increased traffic the number of motels would be greatly increased. However the major point I wish to make is that this is the sole road connecting Western Australia with the other States. It provides the only present practical road communication with Western Australia and, as such, it affects a complete segment of the transport industry.
I now refer to the defence aspect. Although priorities for this expenditure on defence have not been set very high, nevertheless preparedness is essential to any de- fence. In Western Australia there are many who feel that their significant defence requires the utmost in mobility. If the road is not sealed, what will be the position in an emergency should large numbers of vehicles of the armed services be needed and, as happens from time to time, they strike 311 miles of mud or 311 miles of dust?
The last point to which I wish to draw the attention of this House - representing Western Australian Liberals as I do - is the need to bring the people together and improve the national identity of the people of all States. There is in Western Australia a widespread feeling of isolation from the rest of Australia, a feeling which is intangible but very real. An average man should be able to travel on a sealed highway to and fro without prohibitively high costs. Of course this applies to all communications between east and west. Good communications are of tremendous national importance. My proposal is that the Commonwealth should initiate negotiations with the South Australian Government towards a scheme involving joint expenditure. Perhaps there could be a Commonwealth grant spread over a fairly lengthy period of 5 years. Such a grant would be for the Government to determine in accordance with its priorities and resources, financial and labour. The Commonwealth has tremendous responsibilities and has to consider all its priorities. I am making today a plea for a higher priority to be given to the Eyre Highway. South Australia has come to the conclusion that out of its funds it cannot give a sufficiently high priority to sealing the highway. That shows that the importance of the highway, highway No. 1, is not sufficiently recognised by South Australia. as a high priority rural arterial road. Western Australia has by sealing its own section shown the priority it gives to the highway. The only way to overcome difficulties arising from the decision taken with other priorities in view is for the Commonwealth to make a special grant. This type of highway clearly was not envisaged in the formula.
So I make a plea for the upgrading of that priority in the national interest. As things stand there is no end in sight and there is no reason why at this stage the Commonwealth and South Australian governments cannot make a plan to seal over a period instead of putting off the matter. I believe the Commonwealth can do something; nothing has been done. We can do better than that. It is intolerable, in the national interest and in a country of Australia’s stature, to leave this road unsealed. I ask the Government to re-examine the matter. The west and east are divided by great distances and indeed, some history. In welding the national identity, such matters as these - small in themselves - are of great national significance. It is 2,500 miles to Perth - let us bring it closer.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, Grievance Day is one of those rare occasions when back bench members are allowed to say anything in this House. But the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) took up 10 minutes of the time allotted to the Grievance debate to read a statment that could have been made at any time of the day. 1 enter an emphatic protest against these procedures which take up the time set aside for the Grievance debate. I invited the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to come into the House but he informed me he had a meeting of Cabinet this morning. I want to raise a matter that concerns the Department of Social Services. As honourable members are aware the rules relating to the period for questions without notice each sitting day do not permit the asking of any questions relating to Government policy. As a consequence it is my intention to refer to a matter within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Social Services that may well have been put as a question.
I refer to the supplementary allowance of $2 per week and its payment to retarded invalid pensioners gainfully employed in sheltered workshops. I submit to the Minister that either these pensioners should be exempted from the means test applicable to the supplementary allowance or the means test should be liberalised in certain cases. To illustrate my point I refer to a case on which I made representations to the Department of Social Services. The young lady in question is unfortunately retarded and is in receipt of an invalid pension. She is employed by the Eastern Suburbs and Central Aid Retarded Persons industries at a sheltered workshop in Redfern which was officially opened by the Minister last year. I had the honour to attend the function. This person is employed and receives $2.50 per week. Because she receives this sum she is entitled only to 50c a week supplementary allowance due to the means test which provides a maximum of $3 a week, including income and allowance. This means that she is actually working for 50c a week because if she was not employed by ESCARP she would receive the full allowance of $2. If the means test was liberalised or waived in respect of retarded persons the cost to Consolidated Revenue would be microscopic. The ESCARP organisation is doing a magnificent job in providing the necessary facilities for the employment of these persons. The organisation is largely dependent on donations and money raised from other sources to carry on its good work and I wish it every success in the future.
I wish to speak for only about 2 minutes more because some of my colleagues also want to speak during this limited period. I draw the attention of the House to one aspect of the . last Federal election. The writs were issued on Monday, 29th September, and the election was held on 25th October, just 23 days later. The officers of the Electoral Office in New South Wales are in a very difficult position and I am not blaming them for what happened. As honourable members are aware the issue of writs means the closing of rolls for the supplementary rolls. As a consequence I received my rolls less than 2 days before the day of the election. In the electorate of Phillip, a very important electorate which was won by the Speaker, only on the donkey vote, we received the supplementary rolls only on the day before the election. This means we could not help the many people who came to both the Liberal and Labor Party campaign rooms to see if they were on the roll. It this right? Should supplementary rolls be issued only the day before the election? It seems to me to be stupid.
I got in touch with the Chief Electoral Officer in New South Wales on 3 occasions about this matter and he informed me that it was not the fault of his officers and that they were being held up by the printer. He said there was a priority to the country areas and the supplementary rolls to those areas were being printed and sent out first. I do not see why country electorates should get priority over the city electorates in this matter. They are already getting everything in their favour now, especially in regard to numbers of electors on the roll. Honourable members in country electorates want everything. I believe writs should be issued at least 6 weeks before an election to give the printers a chance to get the supplementary electoral rolls out so that those people working not only in the Labor Party campaign rooms but also in Liberal and Country Party campaign rooms can help any persons who come in to ascertain whether they are on the roll.
– The word Education’ has been so bandied about in recent years that one wishes one could find a synonym rather than use the word. Within the broad field of education there is today an activity we identify as the education of the deaf, lt is a bona fide, honest to goodness activity and it is necessarily related to other fields. It is a subdivision of the broader field of education generally. This is definitely a little known field. It was unknown to me until I became acquainted with Brother McGrath of St Gabriel’s School for Deaf Boys, Castle Hill. It is a fallacy to suppose that by failing to deal with a particular problem you cause the problem to go away. You cannot solve a problem by submitting that it is of little importance. This is an attitude which you do not state openly or expressly and thus invite criticism; you simply take it for granted that the problem can be ignored. This approach you insinuate silently and insidiously .
I say quite deliberately that no subject has been more studiously neglected than the education of profoundly deaf children. For the most part these children have normal intelligence. Their vocal cords are as healthy as yours and mine. Yet they are leaving school at 15 or 16 years of age, unintelligible and well nigh illiterate. They are entering a world in which economic and scientific advances require higher and higher levels of education. Such a situation must border on the criminal. The needs of deaf children are not recognised. There is a general lack of awareness that a crisis exists in this field, but the crisis will continue to exist so long as governments determinedly and successfully close their eyes to the ever widening gap between the deaf and society generally.
Unfortunately, due to a slight epedimic of german measles in 1 965, about 1 50 profoundly deaf children were born in New South Wales. They have a hearing impairment of between 90 and 100 decibels but they have an intelligence quotient of 100 or more. Such a child will probably follow the general pattern and leave school at the age of 16 years with at best a grade V or grade VI education - much the same as he or she would have had 20 or 25 years ago. Of course, there are the isolated and admirable examples of deaf children achieving fame despite the substandard facilities offered to them, but our education system is not directed towards this minority group. In the last 9 years 63 of the children in a school for profoundly deaf children in Missouri have graduated from formII at the school for the deaf to form III in schools for children who can hear. Nine of those deaf children have proceeded to tertiary education. The comparison between what can be clone in Missouri and what is done in this country should be embarrassing.
Deafness is the most profound handicap a child may bear. The great Helen Keller, who regarded her deafness as a far greater handicap than her blindness, once said: Ours is not the silence that soothes the weary senses. Deafness isolates cruelly and completely because hearing is the deepest philosophical sense that man possesses.’ The impact of deafness on the communication process, the development of language and the acquisition of knowledge is difficult to estimate because language is the indispensable tool of: learning, acquired with very little effort by the child who can hear but acquired only after great effort and determination by deaf children.
In calling for opportunities for deaf people to realise their potential we must appreciate that theirs is a unique handicap. Whatever money might be spent on children whose brains have been damaged - I recognise the urgency of their need - we must remember that because of their handicap they will not attain more than third or fourth grade of academic study. The vital fact of profound deafness is that for the most part these children do not suffer from brain damage. They have normal intelligence and given the opportunity they would realise unlimited potential. It is inevitable that the future of these children will be already decided while ever the present attitudes of State and Federal governments persist.
Let me be frank: The disability resulting from severe deafness is both complex and pervasive and calls for a range of educational and other efforts that are equally complex. State governments cannot fail to foster the declining status quo in their respective States. The Federal Government will need to offer a programme of planning grants to be used to assist and to encourage the States to develop individual State plans for the education of the deaf. This they will have to do through national studies and subsequent legislation so that they and the Commonwealth can provide funds for the planning of an aggressive attack on the needs of deaf children. Undoubtedly we all are sympathetic towards these children, but we have not done enough to enable them to realise their full potential.
– I wish to refer to the controversial play ‘Son of Man’ which has been televised in all States by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I congratulate the ABC for having the courage to present such a controversial play on television. I believe that we learn from controversy. The play will be shown for a second time on Channel 3 in Launceston tonight. 1 saw it on this channel about a month ago. The play has been criticised in the Press, in letters to newspaper editors, and in this Parliament. It was shown originally on British Broadcasting Corporation television in April last year. It was produced for the BBC by Gareth Davies. The role of Christ was played by Colin Blakely. The play was written by Denis Potter. He is a self confessed agnostic but when asked whether he set out to ridicule Christ, his message and his work Mr Potter said that he had not. I have my doubts about that. One wonders why Mr Potter would write such a play and have it filmed for television if he did not have some ulterior motive. Yet I will try to be as fair as possible to him and his ideas this morning.
If you have only read the script and not seen the play on television you will not have much criticism of it. The language used to proclaim the message in the gospel of Christ was telling and forceful. Taking the speaking of the story in words alone, the effect on the unbiased listener would be quite dramatic. There is no attempt to ridicule or belittle or condemn or distort Christianity as such in this film, in my opinion. The incidents of Christ’s life as depicted become very real and very alive, and they certainly produce a very favourable reaction in most sections of the community. But coming to the film itself - this is where the trouble lies - the influence and the impact of individuals and personalities come into it. The producer had to choose someone to play the part of Christ, who is the central figure. He chose Colin Blakely, who gave an adequate portrayal within the limits imposed by an agnostic producer. That is the best I can say about Colin Blakely. He is a caricature of the Christ we have studied in the Gospels and have come to believe is the Christ. In Christ’s day there were no photographers, no artists and no Press. No historical record of Christ exists in film or pictures. None of the Gospel writers bothered to describe Christ’s height, size, weight, or vital statistics. His features are a mystery. Was He tall or short in stature? Was He thin or corpulent? What was His complexion like? How did He dress? These questions are not answered in the Gospels. We are forced to build the likeness of Christ and His stature from selfimagined patterns. If honourable members were artists and were each asked to draw Christ I am sure that everyone would approach the question differently and the result would fee extremely varied. Yet we would all be trying sincerely to interpret him as we think He was. But after making allowances for this I believe that Colin Blakely is not typical of Christ as He was.
It is said that Denis Potter wanted a hippie Christ to appeal to the hippie generation. If so Blakely as Christ is undoubtedly a gross distortion and a gross caricature because Christ was no hippie. He was not loud mouthed, though He spoke with great conviction and intense sympathy and understanding and sometimes with frightening forcefulness. He would not be dirty, decrepit, unkempt, scruffy, or half naked as Potter’s Christ was. Potter distorted and falsified authenticated history. His play lacked scriptural perspective because the Christ he portrayed was not the Christ of the Gospels, To present Christ as an unkempt, dirty, loud mouthed, ill tempered and confused rabble rouser is to distort the Gospels. Far from being confused Christ plainly knew why He was given His 3-year mission, why He was born when He was born, why He had to die or was going to die, and where He was going. He knew this from beginning to end. This is crystal clear in the Gospels. But Potter showed a different type of Christ. In the play he portrayed Christ as uncertain and in doubt even as to who He was. The Christ of the play - Potter’s Christ - was born and built out of humanism and agnosticism.
Jesus of Nazareth was poor in the worldly sense. He lived an open air life. Most of His teaching was in the countryside. He was under the blazing sun many days of the year. There was nothing soft about His life. He often did not have a bed to lie on. He must have walked hundreds of miles in the 3 years of His ministry in Palestine. He would therefore be strong limbed and gaunt rather than corpulent. He would be tough and wiry rather than flabby. He would be suntanned rather than pale after a life in extremely hot conditions and climate. He would be tidy rather than unkempt, intense rather than flippant. Colin Blakely was flippant. He gave a shallow, flippant portrayal of the most desperately serious mission ever undertaken by a citizen of this world. Many people shuddered as they listened to Colin Blakely and watched him play the sort of Christ Denis Potter wanted him to portray. I am not blaming Colin Blakely. He could be a good actor in any other role but he was told to give a certain interpretation which he did. He did it well from Potter’s point of view but it was not the Christ of the Gospels he portrayed.
Now let us have a look at the characterisation of Pilate as played by Robert Hardy, Caiaphas the High Priest as played by Bernard Hepton, and Judas and the other disciples. These portrayals were excellent and authentic. I congratulate the producer on the choice of characters and the way those characters portrayed Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas and so on. The suspense in the scenes of the Garden of Gethsemane and the trial by Pilate was superbly maintained. The crowd scenes in the countryside during Christ’s teaching programme were authentic and well done. Please remember that this man was trying to concertina a 3- year ministry into a 1-hour film. It was a bit disjointed as a result. The clearing of the temple episode caught all the anger, disgust and frightening authority of Christ and was splendidly done. The Cross scene was dramatic and realistic but I have one query: Would the Christ who stood before Pilate at his trial silent, uncringing, and masterful, struggle as they nailed Him to the Cross? This would be supremely unlikely. At this point in the film the director over-dramatised and slipped from reality. One criticism of the film is that it was too violent. But I disagree. It is not generally known by people in this century that the times of Christ as well as several years before and many decades after His death were amongst the crudest and most violent in history. These times are described in Josephus’ books, particularly ‘The War of the Jews’, which tells the terrible story of the fall of Jerusalem between 66 and 70 A.D. He lived between the years 38 A.D. and 100 A.D. or a little later, being born 5 years after the Crucifixion. He was the official historian of those times. Compared with the activities described by Josephus, many of Hitler’s works were child’s play. The Romans did not mess around when they decided to get rid of rabble rousers, trouble makers and so on.
The final comment I make is that the film had to end somewhere in Christ’s story, lt ended at the Cross. Had His story really ended at the Cross we may never have heard of Him. There would have been no Bible, no church and the thrilling story of the Acts of the Apostles planting Christianity across Europe would never have happened. But there was a Resurrection. The film will make people think. Most people can pick what is real from what is unreal. Most people will ignore the crudities and accept the dignified, authentic sections. Many people will appreciate the challenge in the message of the film while expressing great disappointment at the sort of Christ portrayed by Colin Blakely. 1 again congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Commission on its courage in showing the people of this country this controversial film.
– I think all honourable members are indebted to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) for a very colourful and interesting resume of his reaction to this controversial film. The subject with which I wish to deal for a few minutes is the drought which continues in the north and in fact in all parts of Queensland. An impression has been given that because cyclone Ada came sweeping down the Queensland coast and huge volumes of rain came pouring down over certain sections of the State the drought was over. This is an impression that is not shared by Queenslanders and most decisively not even considered by people who are associated with the drought areas. Unfortunately from the moment I was elected to this House I have represented nothing but critically drought affected areas. That is a very sweeping statement but it is quite correct. Some rain has fallen in north western Queensland. There has been some relief in my own home area of Cloncurry and Mount Isa, but even this has been very patchy. Apart from that there has been no real relief at all. Let it be perfectly clear that there has been no real relief at all. It was imagined that because quite plentiful rain had fallen in the central highlands the drought, at least in some parts of that area, was over. The farmers in that area who had had 2 successive complete crop failures planted again thinking that at last they would have a crop that would bring them some sort of return for their heartbreaking efforts. But again they were to meet nothing but complete disappointment because there was not sufficient moisture in the ground to bring their crops to a point where they could be harvested. So there was the third successive crop failure.
This perhaps was tragedy enough in (hose particular areas. I am not getting dramatic or emotional. I am merely stressing the realities of a most serious situation existing in my own electorate and in many other parts of Queensland. This would have been bad enough but there is the additional burden of the depressing situation which exists in the wool industry. I want to be perfectly clear on this and to give a very emphatic statement as regards the general and almost unanimous feeling of the people associated with the wool industry. I am convinced - and I do not think anyone has attempted to convince me otherwise - that the fundamental difficulty associated with the wool industry at the moment is the price that is being paid for the commodity. 1 believe that this is due to an international arrangement between those who are concerned on a national and international basis with the buying of this product and it is high time that this matter was closely examined and exposed.
There are many people much more learned than I within the industry who are working vigorously to produce an urgent solution to this problem. It is my belief that whatever formula is forthcoming will be quite abortive unless this fundamental illness in the industry - the price that is being paid to the producer for his product - is closely examined. When the price of wool per lb is 32c or 35c and at the secondary and tertiary levels record profits are being made there is something very, very wrong. I do not think that Australia alone can find a solution to the problem. The policy of this Government has been at all times to receive its guidance on wool from the industry itself and one begins to wonder whether this guidance is lacking somewhere along the line. It is high lime that someone was big enough, realistic enough and powerful enough to convene all the nations in the world that are producing wool and to say: ‘We should dig our heels in and not be prepared to receive prices for our product which do not give us a fair margin.’
I am extremely concerned not only with the position of the producer himself; it goes much further than that. I am concerned with the communities on the basis that the existence or non-existence of our communities means the existence or nonexistence of the truly Australian way of life which is in the outback parts of this great nation. 1 am concerned with its survival. I do not think it is a matter of the progress cf the industry, lt is a matter of its survival, unless of course something very drastic is done about it. On the action taken, the results achieved and the urgency with which the matter is regarded will depend the vigour and vitality of these western communities. I refer to the small businessman and to the shire councils which are dependent upon the producer for the great bulk of their rates and on which depend a large work force. The major employer of labour in any of our small country towns is the local shire council. I am not referring to places such as Mount Isa, Blackwater and other mining centres. I am referring to the normal outback rural communities which are so dependent on the wool industry. This is the livelihood of these people who are the ordinary working class in our communities. They do not want to leave these areas. I know that people refer to us as hill-billies and those on the other side of the House sneer at us as they are probably doing now, but I am far too interested in a major national problem to listen to interjections. The survival and the livelihood of these people in outback communities depend on a solution to the problem facing the industry. They do not want to leave the west. Intrinsically they are people who love the country and they would only leave if economic conditions forced them out.
My final point is that the Queensland Government some few weeks ago forwarded submissions to the Federal Government. Those submissions have now been before the Cabinet for some weeks. In reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) last week the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) assured him that the submissions were being processed by the Treasury and there should be an announcement forthcoming with urgency. 1 most earnestly plead with the Prime Minister to make this announcement through his Cabinet as urgently as possible because some of the people involved cannot survive another month. I plead with the Prime Minister to make this announcement as soon as possible and so assist the areas which are afflicted by drought.
– Several weeks ago my colleague the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) brought to the notice of the Parliament the danger involved in the use of a certain type of snorkel. This matter was received by the Parliament, the Press and society in general with some degree of interest. As a result of this matter being brought to the notice of the people of Australia per medium of the Press a friend of mine, Mr Berry of Marrickville, has brought to my attention the danger to the user or to others in close proximity of the gadgets which I have in my hand. They are known as power heads. They are designed for use in the end of spear guns ostensibly for the protection of the user against sharks. In normal use a 12-gauge cartridge is placed in the powerhead at the end of the spear gun and this cartridge detonates on impact with the object speared. However, the power heads can be detonated by hand. Several schoolage boys have seriously injured their hands with this type of gadget. One who is in a shocking state is a boy in the electorate of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who I know is interested in this subject and in the lad. That boy had a hole right through his hand caused by the BB shot.
Honourable members could well imagine the mess that a 12-gauge cartridge could make to a young boy’s hand necessitating surgery, skin grafting and months of hospitalisation. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will be personally interested in this matter because your electorate is frequented by holiday makers in and around Port Macquarie. It is possible that similar instances will crop up there as a result of the careless use of power heads. This would cause you some concern as it would any other member. These power heads may be purchased at sports stores by children or persons of any age. It is time that there was an investigation into their manufacture, and consideration given by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth to their licensing and the banning of their sale to juveniles or irresponsible people.
– Where are they made?
– Tha ones that 1 have here have not the manufacturer’s name on them but I believe they are made in the metropolis of Sydney. This instrument could be used by criminals to carry out bank holdups because it is a concealable weapon. The pistol licensing Acts of most States provide that any concealable weapon of this type firing a bullet through a barrel and operated by a trigger has to be licensed. As you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, a person must have very good grounds before he can become the holder of a pistol licence, yet these weapons can be purchased by any person in any sports store.
I now turn to another matter. An article relating to extensive research carried out in the United States by Professor Sternglass of the University of Pittsburg concerning strontium 90 recently came to my notice. I believe that every peaceloving person would be vitally interested in the latest research of Professor Sternglass who has uncovered unsuspected genetic effects of strontium 90. He says that amongst other effects it has been found to cause an increased mortality of children during the first year of life, and to be so sensitive that it already has resulted in the death of 400,000 children in the United States alone as a result of the nuclear weapons tests which were carried out between 1945 and 1962.
Professor Sternglass has predicted that the employment of anti-ballistic missiles by the United States, even if successful against an enemy’s nuclear attack, would result in the death of all children. He uses that as a powerful argument against the employment of anti-ballistic missile systems by the United States or any other country. He went on to say that the damaging action of even small doses of radiation, particularly on the foetus, has been established and accepted by the scientific community for many years. My colleague the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and other members of the medical profession, as well as honourable members, will agree that some years ago the medical profession recommended that doctors refrain from X-raying pregnant women because of the effects that radiation might have on the unborn child.
I believe that as a result of this research by Professor Sternglass we must have another look at ourselves to see whether we are using all the influence we can in the forums of the world to persuade the nuclear powers to dump all their nuclear weapons in the ocean or in a place where they cannot harm any human being. We have to reconsider the peaceful uses of nuclear weapons in the face of the research conducted by Professor Sternglass if it is proved to be correct.
I do not intend to use the whole of the 10 minutes allotted to me because I know that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) is hoping to speak in the debate later this afternoon, and if I were to use my full time now it could debar him and others, after having spent some hours on research, from putting their case before the House. However, let me say that I was a little amused this morning when the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) raised the question of Russian ships in the Indian Ocean. I listened to him intently. We know that during the last election campaign the
Government said that there was no cause for alarm at Russian naval vessels being in the Indian Ocean. As I have said, this morning the honourable member for Chisholm raised the old Red bogy, as he usually does, by referring to Russian ships in the Indian Ocean. This morning over the national news I heard of an offer made by Mr Kosygin - the offer should be appreciated by the people of the Western world - that all Russian ships now at sea would give any assistance they could to the American astronauts who have been in some difficulty on their journey to the moon. I believe that it is to the credit of the Soviet Union that it has made that offer. It may cause great joy and satisfaction to the world that Russian ships are in the Indian Ocean if the astronauts happen to be forced down in that region, lt is the wish of all of us that they land safely.
There was a great deal in the Australian Press some time ago about the Russian prawning vessel ‘Van Gogh’ taking prawns out of the Gulf of Carpentaria. 1 remember, although it did not get much publicity here, that an Australian vessel ran aground in the Torres Strait and 5 of its crew members were foundering on a raft for 4 or 5 days. The only vessel which left the prawning grounds to go to their rescue - in fact it did rescue them - was the Russian vessel ‘Van Gogh’. Australian prawning vessels under the control of the Craig Mostyn organisation did not offer to pull up their nets and go to the assistance of the stricken vessel. I think that these things have to be mentioned. I can see that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is about to say of mc: ‘He is praising the Russians again’.
– No 1 am not.
– I represent an electorate which believes in justice to all manner of people. You can usually tell what the honourable member for La Trobe is thinking because he is about the No. 2 chief Red baiter. That is all I want to say.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The year 1970 is a very important one in many parts of the world. Australians are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the east coast of Australia by Captain Cook. Europe in 1970 is celebrating Conservation Year. Australia’s contribution to conservation is to foster and encourage the extinction of one of the word’s most unique animals - the kangaroo. Some people, no doubt, will believe that I am exaggerating and, in typical fashion, will make the well known observation: ‘It can’t happen here. We could not possibly eliminate the kangaroo’. But it is happening here. Let me try to substantiate that statement.
An article in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of 9th February this year refers to a report that M million kangaroos may be killed in Queensland this year to meet mounting orders for the fur and leather trade. A Sydney report stated that three American firms were planning to import at least 1 million kangaroo skins from Queensland handlers in 1970. This would mean that in order to fulfil these orders the Queensland shooters would have to slaughter more kangaroos than have ever been killed in 1 year in the State of Queensland during this century. I think that experts warned the Queensland Cabinet that this is about ten times as many as could safely be shot in that State in this period. The Queensland Cabinet evidently placed some reliance on this recommendation because it has reduced the number of chillers operating in that State by more than half. In a Press statement issued on 1 0th December 1969 the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries said that his Department was concerned that the age distribution of kangaroos had become unsatisfactory in some areas and that the blame for this was due to some extent to trade competition.
What kind of trade is it? It is mainly the pet food industry. An article in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of 14th December 1969 stated that Australians are spending more than $100m a year on pet foods. The ‘Land’ newspaper of 4th December 1969 stated that pet food sales had increased by 1 ,200% . One of the main ingredients in a number of brands of pet foods is kangaroo meat. I ask: What species of animal can possibly survive a rate of killing in excess of 1 million a year in one State alone, and in excess of 2 million for the whole of Australia? While South Africa is protecting the leopard, Australia has virtually proclaimed an open season on the kangaroo.
I am aware that in a number of States the kangaroo is a protected animal, but not 1 State has sufficient game wardens to police its laws. I believe that there are insufficient wardens to police effectively even our national parks. Western Australia has 7 wardens and 1 cadet to patrol an area equal to half the size of Europe. New South Wales has 6 men to patrol an area in excess of 300,000 square miles. Queensland recently introduced new laws but, according to an article in the Brisbane Sunday Mail’ of 8th February this year, a professional shooter stated that he had evidence that kangaroos weighing between 13 lb and IS lb were being accepted by Queensland pet food firms. I understand that the legal minimum weight is 20 lb but there are not enough game wardens to see that the law is obeyed.
Pet food is big business and today one can buy tinned kangaroo meat in San Francisco, in Valparaiso and in Hamburg. As Alan Moorehead said in an article in the magazine ‘Animals’ of January 1964, the meat is cheap since the animals cost nothing to raise and no-one need buy a kangaroo; you simply shoot him and he is yours’. As I said, pet food is big business, but I believe that tourism is bigger business. Every year we are attracting a greater number of visitors to Australia and they are spending increasing amounts of money. I believe that many of them are attracted by our unique flora and fauna which they apparently regard more highly than we do.
On 23rd January 1970, the Belgian newspaper ‘Present’ carried a 3 page supplement entitled ‘Stop the Massacre of the Kangaroo.’ On 24th February a petition bearing 115 signatures and protesting against the slaughter of kangaroos was presented to the Australian Embassy in Brussels. I have received hundreds of letters and dozens of petitions containing hundreds of names urging this Government to take effective action to protect the kangaroo. The letters have been written by people of all ages and from all walks of life, and many of these people are judging this Government by its lack of action to provide adequate protection for Australia’s national emblem. Let us not forget that once a species has been eliminated it cannot be brought back; it is lost to the world for all time. Already
Australia has lost a number of species of kangaroo. It will be too late afterwards to be sorry. Let us act now.
A few weeks ago the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) directed a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Chipp) in these words:
What action has been taken in conjunction wilh the Slates lo stop or control the marketing of kangaroo meat for pet food and, in general, to co-operate wilh the Slate Governments to preserve our unique flora and fauna.
The Minister said among other things:
We know that each State Fauna Authority is exercising close control over the preservation of Australia’s flora and fauna. Until such time as the Commonwealth receives representations from the States lo ban the export of kangaroos, the Commonwealth would be loth to move unilaterally in this regard.
I hope I am not being unkind to the Minister when I say that he does not take that line in regard to censorship. He does not leave it to the States to police something which he believes the Commonwealth can do more effectively. I have a great admiration for the courage shown by the Minister for Customs and Excise in regard to censorship. He has not been afraid to do what he believes to be right in a sphere where he cannot be on side, in my opinion, with more than 50% of the community. The matter of conservation is not controversial. I am sure that at least 80% of the community - this is a very conservative estimate - would applaud the Minister if he took action to ban the export of kangaroo products. I realise that there are more departments than his involved in such a decision and that the States are also involved. But I believe that the Australian public wants the Federal Government to give a lead to the States by passing positive legislation.
Let us stop fooling with the problem and show the States that we mean business and that we have a real interest in conservation. We are receiving bad publicity overseas in regard to conservation. I previously mentioned Belgium. Sometime ago I received a letter drawing my attention to a film which was produced in Australia and shown in Canada. It showed clearly that a number of Australian birds and animals were being hunted in a cruel manner to provide sport’ for the hunters, and I am told that it evoked both revulsion and hostile criticism from many people who viewed it. I have been provided with a copy of a letter written by an officer of the Australian High Commission in Ottawa in his official capacity to an Australian lady who was resident in Toronto. It suggested that she might like to express her concern to the World League for the Protection of Animals.
I think it is rather ironical that graziers, who are reputed to be not in the least sympathetic to the kangaroo, should be urging that food should be provided for starving kangaroos in the vicinity of Mildura. This was reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on Tuesday evening. I concede that the responsibility for effective legislation is largely a matter for the States. However, it is not one entirely for the States. Let us, as a Federal Government, not pay mere lip service to conservation and pass the buck to the States. During the visit to Australia of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, who is an enthusiastic conservationist, let us show that our interest in conservation is genuine by taking positive action to protect our kangaroos. Let us make 1970 conservation year in Australia as it is in Europe.
– Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1. o’clock. In accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted andI put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave - I move:
Question - That the House do now adjourn - which Question shall be open to debate. Provided that:
Honourable members will recall that in about the middle of February I wrote a letter to honourable members on my side of the chamber and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for distribution to those on his side. In that letter I tried to set out the sitting dates as far into the future as I could see them, so that honourable members could order their personal appointments conveniently. At that point of time I could see forward only to 21st May in precise terms. In that letter I said that 21st May was to be regarded not as the end of the sittings but merely as far as I could see at that point of time a date to which to commit ourselves.
Later on - I think about 2 or 3 weeks ago - I wrote a letter to honourable members pointing out that we ought to take the normal recess of a week after the sitting week that ends on 21st May - although in terms of this motion, that week would end on 22nd May - and then come back. I pointed out that I could see that we would sit for at least 2 weeks in June; that is, until Thursday, 1 1th June - although, in terms of this motion, that will now very likely be Friday, 12th June. I am bound to say that I hope that we can finish by that date. I do not think anybody in this House would not hold that same hope. On the other hand, naturally enough, we cannot lift the House until the business of the House has been completed.
Therefore, I think it is desirable that we should commence the sittings earlier -I avoid using the words ‘extend the sittings’ because the extension could be at the other end of the day - in order to gain an extra li hours in each period of 3 days and also take half an hour less for lunch on Thursdays. That gives us an extra 2 hours. The House will realise that the time actually spent in sitting on a parliamentary sitting day is usually 6 to 7 hours, and a fair amount of that time is used for nondebating purposes; for example, question time, statements by Ministers and second reading speeches on Bills. So there are inroads into the time that is available for debate on Bills.
The number of Bills that have been introduced this session, I think all honourable members would agree, has been remarkable. It is remarkable at least in my recollection. I have not known of as heavy a legislative programme having been revealed by the introduction of Bills into the House. At this stage 34 Bills stand on the notice paper and notices have been given of the introduction of 2 others. Then I must say to the House that more Bills remain to be introduced. I hope that they will be introduced as soon as practicable. So this is the biggest legislative programme in my memory in any event. We have had the opportunity to bring in the Bills much earlier than has been the situation in the past. I hope that we can maintain that performance.
Given that this is the last day of 5 weeks of sitting, strangely enough very few Bills have been passed. 1 listed them, just from recollection. There may be others that I have omitted, but I doubt that there are. We have passed the Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill, the Social Services Bill, which related to married pensioners, and the associated Repatriation Bill, the Loan (Australian Wheat Board) Bill, the Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement Bill and the related River Murray Waters Bill and the Navigation Bill which, as the House will recall, was the urgent Bill in relation to the Oceanic Grandeur’. Really, very few pieces of legislation have been passed up to this point of time.
Given the programme that is before us it is desirable that more hours of debate be made available. The first part of the motion, which deals with the earlier start on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as I said, will gain us H hours. 1 understand,
Mr Speaker, that the reduced period for lunch on Thursday and also on Friday can be taken care of by action by the Chair, it being the will of the House. I do have from the Opposition agreement to reduce the period for lunch. Then on Friday we will sit at 10 a.m.; break for lunch at 1 p.m.; recommence at 2 p.m.; and sit until 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. the procedure provided for in the second part of the motion will operate. If that part of the motion is adopted the Chair will at that hour put the motion for the adjournment.
All in all, this arrangement will give us an extra 3 half-hours as a result of the earlier start and an extra half-hour at lunch time, making a total of 2 hours. On Friday morning we will gain 2 hours of debating time because roughly an hour between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. will be used for questions and other matters. Then we will gain 2 hours in the afternoon. That will give us a total gain for the week of about 6 hours. In other words, it will amount to about an additional full parliamentary day even though on Friday we will sit only until 4 p.m. The arrangement for Friday sittings will operate for at least 5 weeks and that for the earlier start will operate for at least 6 weeks. Doing this for 5 weeks will mean that we will have available to us 5 extra parliamentary days which, in terms of the normal 3-day parliamentary week, will represent more than a week and a half. 1 think that the arrangement will make a very great difference to the time available for debates. More particularly, it will enable us to get through the programme which was outlined in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) at the time of the last election, when we were returned to office with not merely a mandate but a duty to implement the legislation. Other proposed legislation was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I have had an opportunity to discuss this proposal with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I believe that it will provide a frame upon which we will be able to reach agreement as to the basis of the progress of legistion through the House.
– The Opposition supports the proposition moved by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) who is the Leader of the House. Indeed, the Opposition welcomes this move, it does so for 2 reasons. Firstly, the sitting time of the House will be extended and this will provide greater opportunity for those of us who wish to participate in debates. The present session of the House of Representatives is notable for the amount of new legislation that has been introduced by the Government. Obviously, if honourable members are to be given full opportunity, as is their right, to debate the legislation which the Government brings before the House then, additional time will be needed. More time is needed to conduct the debate which is necessary if measures are to be fully investigated and considered by honourable members not only on this side of the House but on the other side as well, I repeat that the Opposition supports the proposition moved by the Leader of the House in respect of additional sitting times.
Secondly, the Government has decided to move the adjournment of the House at 1 1 p.m. each day. We believe that this will be a worthwhile contribution to the debating procedures in this Parliament. There is no need for me to elaborate this point. Everyone can appreciate that honourable members will be in a far better position to debate legislation before the Parliament if they are able to adjourn at a reasonable hour each day. I do not want to raise this as an issue because it has been suggested before. “Now the Leader of the House and the Government have proposed that at least until the end of June the adjournment will be moved at I I o’clock each night. The Opposition welcomes this move. My next point is that the Government has decided to sit on each Friday until the end of the session, commencing on 8th May. Some honourable members on this side of the House have made very important commitments for 8th May. There is some disagreement between the Opposition and the Government as to when the Friday sittings should commence. We believe that they ought to commence not from 8th May but from 15th May. The Opposition has decided to move an amendment to give effect to this point of view. The amendment will be moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who will express the opinion of honourable members on this side of the House as to why we seek that amendment. Let me reiterate that the Opposition welcomes the extended sitting hours and the decision to move the adjournment of the House each day at 1 1 p.m.
– I move the following amendment to the motion proposed by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden):
That the date ‘8th May’ in paragraph (1) be omitted wilh a view to inserting the date ‘ 1 5th May’ in place thereof.
The effect of that amendment would be that the House would not sit on Friday, 8th May, but would begin the Friday sittings on 15th May.
In general I, like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), welcome the proposals for the change in sitting hours that have been put forward by the Minister. The operative reason is that a large amount of business is anticipated between now and the end of the session. Another reason which I think it is necessary to mention is that the Opposition has been able to show in the course of the last week that some significant changes in the hours of sitting of the House, and in the circumstances in which the House sits, are very necessary. The House has functioned with greater flexibility since last Wednesday week largely as a result of the action of the Opposition at that time. The proposal put by the Minister now, to say the very least, is not unrelated to that action. The Opposition welcomes the move as a response by the Government to the pressure generated by the Opposition last week. Those people who become a little disturbed about anything that is unconventional should remember that if purely conventional methods are adopted nobody takes much notice of them. Something out of the ordinary has to be done to attract the attention of people who simply go on, day after day, doing the same thing. This is what tends to happen in the procedures of this House. In the next few years we will see some quite deep and extensive transformations in the way that Parliament works. This is a sign of the times. I believe that we are going to have expressions of opinion coming into the Parliament from outside. We are going to see some extensive changes in the way that Parliament works. I believe that as a result the Parliament will become more democratic and less inhibited by procedures that are, in my opinion, outmoded.
I submit that my amendment is significant in principle. There is a very long tradition of support, extending back in our own British history for nearly 1,000 years, for the belief that democracy is what happens in Parliament and also what happens outside Parliament. Democracy depends upon the will of the people. That will has to be formed outside Parliament before it can be expressed in Parliament. One of the deficiencies in Australia in these fat, affluent years is in the way in which the will of the people has been formed outside Parliament. I want to put this thought with the least possible sense of recrimination so that it will be considered seriously by Government supporters. I believe that we should encourage people outside Parliament much more than we do to participate in the formation of a will to be expressed in Parliament. In my 15 or 20 years of political experience and activity more of my time has been taken up in what I. regard as the formation of the will of the people outside Parliament than with matters inside Parliament. I have been concerned with the formation of the will of the people on particular issues with which Government supporters disagree, but I do not think that my actions should hide from them the significance of those issues. I would support, as much in every way, the procedures for the formation of a will that represents the point of view of honourable members opposite outside the Parliament, as I would support procedures to secure ways of getting greater formation of the will of the people who hold my point of view. I would be as much in favour of seeking opportunities for discussion outside the Parliament in support of intervention in Vietnam, as I would be in favour of securing opportunities for discussion outside Parliament for those who oppose intervention in Vietnam. My amendment relates to the formation of the will of the people outside Parliament, and I am seeking greater recognition for this.
With all due respect to everybody, I do not think that honourable members opposite give the same recognition to this process of the formation of the will of the people outside Parliament as they appear to give to the process inside Parliament. They tend to look down on it. They tend to talk about rabble rousers. They tend to talk about anarchy. They tend to ta’k about -nob rule. They do this, I think, quite unfairly and with great exaggeration. I think that this shows a lack of respect for the people in the action of forming a will without which democracy cannot work. I am asking for greater recognition from everybody for action which consists of the formation of the will outside Parliament. I am asking for greater respect for this than has been shown by quite a large number of honourable members opposite - by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) who is at the table, by the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) and by quite a number of others.
I seek to give as much recognition as 1 can to Parliament as a great historical institution. In 1970 it is the most powerful single thing we have in the community, through which people can express their will. There is nothing that rivals it. You may become a shareholder or a director of one of the largest industrial concerns in the country, you may become an archbishop or a cardinal in a very great church; you may become the chancellor of a university; but in none of these places is there anything, through which the people can express their will which rivals Parliament. Anyone who has respect, as I think I have, for the activities outside Parliament must also have the same kind of respect for Parliament as an institution, towards which all this outside activity very significantly is focused. So I express my appreciation for the significance of Parliament in respect of this matter.
This being so, I hope I will be conceded the same kind of recognition when I ask for the recognition of honourable members opposite - more than they appear to me to give it - for what I would call the ‘formation of the will of the people’ outside Parliament by meetings, by demonstrations, by sit downs or by civil disobedience. At the same time, there is an awareness that if one breaks the law, in the hope that this will help to improve the law, one claims this not as a right to escape punishment for breaking the law, but knowing that as the law is. punishment will come. I am prepared to accept that punishment when I break the law, as I have done twice already and have been arrested for doing it. When one claims a right of this kind, it is not that one says: Look, I should be able to go out and break the law and not be touched for it’. I recognise the existence of the law, as it is, and if I think it is wrong and the issue is strong enough, I will break the law. But I am quite prepared to accept the consequences of breaking it. I do not intend ever to resist the application of those consequences to me, if 1 can maintain sufficient and proper control as I will do everything in my power to do. I would not offer any resistance whatsoever.
The reason why 1 moved this amendment is that on 8th May in Melbourne the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign begins with an activity which is going to involve, in Melbourne, an act of civil disobedience. I think that in the course of that activity, some obstruction to a public place might occur, but I would say this about an obstruction: An obstruction is not something exact like 12 inches in 1 foot or 60 seconds in 1 minute. An obstruction is a matter of degree, and when the police take action against the obstruction, they use their discretion about whether they think this particular act is an act of obstruction or not. In some circumstances they will accept the occupation of space in a public place and will never imagine that is an obstruction. They would never think of taking one person to court for occupying space in a public place, but under the same circumstance, if a different kind of person for a different reason, occupied that space for that same length of time, they would very quickly and without a second thought take that person to court.
Whether obstructing a piece of street is an offence or not is a matter of fairly wide discretion. People can assemble in tens of thousands in a public place for the Moomba festival. If a departmental store has some display in the window in order to sell some product, people can assemble there and occupy that space for a great period of time and nobody would think that they should be taken to court for obstruction. But if somebody seeks to occupy that same space for the same period of time in order to oppose the war in Vietnam, there will be clamours that they are breaking the law and that they should be taken to court. That is not good enough. But on 8th May something like that might happen. Some space in the city of Melbourne might be so occupied. I want Parliament to give some respect to this outdoors activity on 8th May by not sitting on that date. I hope that is not too much to ask. I want to be in Melbourne when this happens because I have the responsibility, as much as anyone else, for what might happen, and I want to be there when it does happen.
– Can we record that?
– Yes, you can record it. You can use it until Kingdom comes, if you like. I am as much responsible as anyone else - far more than Peking, Hanoi, Moscow or anywhere else. I am an Australian, and I think I can claim to have - and I am not doing it immodestly - more influence than Peking, Moscow and Hanoi combined, and that is not saying much because they have little influence. I hope I can go on having that influence, and I am asking honourable members opposite to give me an opportunity to go on having that influence and to be able to be in Melbourne on 8th May so that I can have it.
– You can go.
– The honourable member for Balaclava condescends from his great heights. I am not asking for any condescension. I am asking for a serious and rational consideration of the proposition which I am putting to the House. On Tuesday the Attorney-General told the House that he wanted the people to stay away from this demonstration. He said:
I hope that my remarks will be borne in mind by people who, not yet having made up their minds about the Campaign, may be assisted to do so by exposure of the relevant facts.
He hopes that people will not go. He is associated with a Government which has introduced a motion which is going to keep away from that demonstration as many of the 75 members of the Labor Party who have sponsored the demonstration as would want to go to it. Has the 8th May been suggested as the first date for a Friday sitting so that we will be kept away from that demonstration?
– We can close down for the Melbourne Cup.
– There has not been the suggestion of a Friday sitting for quite a long time. Friday sittings might just as easily commence on 15th May as on 8th May. Yes, as the honourable member for
Hindmarsh just said, we can close down for the Melbourne Cup. I would not ask the House to close down for the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign but when certain arrangements have been made by certain members of the House, like myself and others who have considerable responsibilities in respect of the Campaign, and having in mind that these new arrangements are being proposed by a Government that is doing its best to discourage, reduce and break down this Campaign and keep 75 members of the Labor Party who have sponsored it here in Canberra rather than allow them to take part in it, I think there is some significance in the coincidence of those events. I do not want to see this Campaign fail in the sense that I do not want it to be an unrepresentative expression of the views of those who want to take action in it. I want it to be a democratic process; I want it to be a peaceful process; I want it to be an inoffensive process; and I want to be in Melbourne on 8th May to do everything I can to make it into these things. If I am here in CanberraI cannot do that.
– It will be their fault.
– If it were not for the proposed sitting I certainly would be in Melbourne. My amendment asks the Government to do something that is very unusual for it. I ask the Government to take genuinely into account the feelings of the Opposition or some members of it. I am asking the Government not to treat this House as a process for churning out Government decisions irrespective of the way we feel but to begin, if it will, to make decisions that reflect to some extent the way we fee] when there is nothing that should in principle or in great substance prevent that from occurring. I wish I could hear what the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) is muttering about. Perhaps he is saying something that is not unsympathetic? I do not know.
I think the situation that we see arising here is one which sooner or later we must begin to develop - whether we are the government or honourable members opposite are the government - if this place is really to become a democratic institution. The Parliament cannot expect to function forever as it has done over the last 10 to 15 years in which, in my experience, almost every decision that has been made has been formulated outside of this place, has been brought in here and rubber stamped into existence as though this place had no significance at all. I will not say that the Labor Party did not do this when it was in government: I will not say that we might not even do it again. That is the way in which Parliament has grown up. But it is not the best way. I do not think this system can go on forever. I am convinced that people under 35 years of age today see the fundamental defects in the present system and they will not accept it in the way that we have accepted it in the past. I think that attitude is the significance of all that is involved in protest and dissent today and that is why I move my amendment.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
– The amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) is quite extraordinary. It is extraordinary, firstly, because in the last week or so members of the Opposition have claimed that they are not given sufficient time to debate legislation and other matters. They say that the House is undemocratic and have voiced various other complaints. Indeed, the honourable member for Lalor claimed that it was because of the action taken by some members of the Opposition last week that the Government has agreed to introduce the changed hours of sitting. I think the speech of the honourable member for Lalor was effectively made from his point of view. Without being unfair, I think he put his view very fairly. But I believe that others who have an opposing view are equally entitled to put their views. I query the claim that the glorious achievement of last week - it will probably go down as the 4th July of the Labor Party, or some such thing - brought about this suggested change of hours. I am talking about the occasion on which the Labor Party took over the Speaker’s chair and made a mockery of Parliament. But let that be as it may.
The Government has agreed, not only because of pressures from the Opposition - I can assure honourable members opposite that there are people on this side of the House who were sympathetic - to allow the House to sit longer. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) came into this House as a reasonable man and said that he accepted this arrangement on behalf of the Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) came into the House, had a chat with the Deputy Leader and left. So I take it that the Labor Party accepts what has been suggested by the Government and we all know that there has been a conference over it. But only a section of the Labor Party - as suggested by the honourable member for Lalor - is putting forward this amendment.
– Not true.
– Maybe not, but why is it that the Leader or the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party did not move the amendment? They do not suggest that it has their great support. Perhaps they would now say that it has. I would like to ask some of the older members of the Parliament who, as I mentioned last week, respect the Parliament, whether they suggest, as the honourable member for Lalor has - I hope to say something more about this later - that there may be civil disobedience at the gathering in Melbourne on 8th May. The honourable member for Lalor has called for the breaking of laws where necessary and has said that there may be some occupation of the streets. He suggests that the Parliament of this country should declare a holiday so that he and his confreres who wish to do so may attend this gathering. He is asking the Australian Parliament in fact to declare a holiday to make it easier for him and others to break the law of this country and to join the Moratorium. It is the honourable member’s right if he wants to join the Moratorium. I know of no-one in this Parliament who is anxious to retain him here. The honourable member has the whole day and it is his responsibility and decision as to where he wants to be. But surely the Parliament has the responsibility to say whether the interests of the majority of the people of Australia should take precedence over the organisation which proposes to gather in the streets. Do not let him think for a minute that he is speaking for the majority of the people of Australia when he says that the people must be allowed to break the law; when, adopting an heroic attitude, he tells us how long he is prepared to spend in prison. He is not talking for the majority. Mr Stone of the Trades Hall Council and the decent unionists in Victoria have repudiated him. The Trades Hall Council of Tasmania has repudiated him. The Trades Hall Council of New South Wales has repudiated him. The Federated Ironworkers’ Association has repudiated him and has told him that he has no right or justification to call for strikes on that day. When this man talks about democracy, what does he mean? To me and, I think, to the majority of people, democracy means that when a fair and just election has been held - in which the people have been able to vote freely - and the result has been obtained, the Government is allowed to govern. Unless a law is an unjust law in the minds of the majority of people, it should be accepted. Unless it is morally wrong, or unless some very grave reason is involved, it should be accepted.
– Who makes that decision?
– The majority of people, as far as 1 am concerned, and I hope that that situation will continue. That is not the outlook of the honourable gentleman. His outlook, as I said the other night, is that what one cannot gain in the ballot box one will get by breaking the law. I think his philosophy should be brought home strongly to the people. The important question is not whether we think some people are a pack of Corns, whether certain people are collaborating with a pack of Corns or whether or not Russian ships are off the Australian coast. The people must make their own assessment as to what is happening because the final decision must be theirs.
The honourable gentleman spoke about democracy. The definition of democracy should be the genuine one used in democratic countries. Democratic countries face grave problems. What is the honourable gentleman’s interpretation of democracy? His interpretation is the same as that of the Communists. We know that definition. The Communists believe they should get into a country and use all the freedoms of democracy - free speech, free gathering, free association and no censorship - to obtain their ends until the country is brought to its knees. When that has been achieved and when the people are confused that is the time when the Communist objective has been achieved. Australia is a democratic country. We are allowed free association, free gathering, free religion and all the things that we, as the people of Australia, are proud of. I invite honourable members opposite to name any of the other countries that they admire so much in which these freedoms are permitted. If they did that, I would be more impressed than I am by their ravings and by their moralising which, to me, will not bring about democracy as I understand it. I want my children to live in a democracy. I think the Australian people want this. Honourable members opposite have the right at every election to criticise the laws. They do it. They call meetings at the Richmond Town Hall and at other places.
-Order! This matter was canvassed the other day in the debate before the House. 1 remind the honourable member that the question is as to the dates of sitting of the House. I allowed honourable members from both sides of the House a fair amount of latitude in this debate. I allowed the honourable member for Lalor latitude to endeavour to explain his reasons why the House should not sit. I do not believe that at this stage the debate should range over the whole ambit of the coverage that the honourable member for La Trobe is giving now.
– I point out that the honourable member for Lalor had 20 minutes in which to put his propaganda, but 1 have only 10 minutes. I accept that, Mr Speaker, although to me the position seems to be a rather extraordinary one. I am endeavouring to explain why the House should sit on 8th May and to answer the arguments that the honourable gentleman advanced as to why it should not. lt is democratic that Parliament should sit for the welfare, concern and care of the majority of our people. To suggest that it should not sit on 8th May because somebody wants to indulge in civil disobedience is, 1 think, quite extraordinary. 1 hope the people will judge and will accept what they think is the responsible attitude. The honourable member for Lalor asked why the Friday sittings could not start on 15th May. I ask why they cannot start tomorrow. The Friday sittings should start tomorrow. Would the honourable gentleman then suggest that such sittings were inten tionally instituted because the Moratorium Campaign starts on 8th May? I look at this Parliament and I too, as well as the honourable member for Lalor, wonder how long democracy will last in this country and in this Parliament. I recall a speech made by Lord Morrison, a distinguished former Minister of the British Labour Party, who said that if the Labour Party allowed the Communists to join its ranks, did not oppose them and instead collaborated with them and if members of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom were associated with and supported the Communist Party that would be the day when democracy would finish because from there on there would be a forum in Parliament for the views of those who wished to end the Parliament.
I suggest that the honourable member for Lalor, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and their 78 cohorts can go to the Moratorium and can take part in their civil disobedience. As far as I am concerned and, I hope, so far as this Party and the Government are concerned, Parliament will continue to run as it should. The honourable member for Lalor claims to have greater powers concerning the Moratorium than the might of Peking and Moscow. He says ‘I and I alone - the Messiah - have brought about certain states of affairs’. If the honourable gentleman attends the Moratorium and if the result is not what he wants - if the result is tragic, as I hope it will not be - I hope he is man enough to admit in this House after 8th May that the responsibility was his.
– The Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), who is at the table, in a very tolerant manner introduced proposals which were acceptable, with one exception, to the Opposition. To start with let me put right the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), who has just spoken. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) accepted the proposals but indicated that during the course of the debate the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) would move an amendment, which was subsequently moved. That destroys completely the false impression created at the commencement of the speech of the honourable member for La Trobe, when he said that the Opposition accepted in their entirety the proposals of the Leader of the House. The honourable member for La Trobe is a remarkable man. If somebody in the Navy is sacked, the honourable member would wreck the Government. When we want to protest against men dying in Vietnam - he could not care if troops died there year in and year out - he would do nothing about it. 1 remind the honourable member for La Trobe that some months ago the Minister circulated a document setting out the proposed sitting days of this Parliament. Honourable members, as was their right, took the opportunity to make certain commitments. The honourable member for Lalor and others on this side of the House had 8th May booked. No doubt honourable members on the other side of the House had that day booked for other purposes.
As a matter of fact, I am one of those cohorts who signed the Moratorium. Judged by the remarks of the honourable member for La Trobe, I suppose I am in remarkable company today. The honourable member did not make a wild outburst about demonstrations when the 10,000 farmers marched in Melbourne and halted what was going on in Melbourne at that time. If farmers march, it is for democracy and justice. When men want to protest against troops being sent to war - a war in which we should not be engaged - that is anarchy of the worst type and no member of Parliament should join in that protest.I have never heard such hypocrisy in my life as that advanced by the honourable member.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that word.
– What was that, Mr Speaker?
– The honourable member knows the word that he used in relation to an argument advanced by the honourable member for La Trobe.
– What was it?
– You know.
-As a matter of fact I do not. Was it ‘hypocrisy’?
– The honourable member will withdraw the remark.
– The honourable member for La Trobe said-
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw the remark, although I do not know what it was. I point out that the Leader of the House said that this will be one of the heaviest sittings because of the number of Bills to be debated. He said that the sitting would have to be extended for some considerable time because of the heavy legislative programme. I point out to the honourable member for La Trobe that if he had not been loafing around his electorate during the 4 or 5 months of the longest recess in the history of this Parliament this rush of legislation which has been foreshadowed by the proposal now before the Parliament could have been covered in the period when the Parliament could have been sitting but was in recess. That would have allowed all members of this Parliament to be free on 8th May for their commitments in their electorates, as the honourable member for Lalor and others wish to be. What has occurred today is due entirely to the lengthy period that this Government kept the Parliament in recess. Why should we not have met just after the elections last year for a time, and why was the Parliament not called together early in January?
Today we are seeing a classic demonstration of the failure of this Government to face up to its responsibility, and we are seeing its frightened approach to legislative programmes because it does not like to face the Parliament. The honourable member for La Trobe knows that that is true. His speech about the Moratorium and everything else that he raised today was a smokescreen. The fact of the matter is that if the Opposition had not broken the law - if I may use the term - last Wednesday we would not have had this arrangement being proposed today. It is also a fact that to break the law sometimes, as the honourable member for Lalor said, is justified. We proved it here last week. It is significant that the gag has not been moved since that occasion because the Government is frightened to move in that respect, so great is the reaction against it. I am now informed that the gag was moved once yesterday, but the point I make is that to break the law sometimes brings results.
I do not want to speak at great length today other than to say that 1 regret that the debate on the motion for the adjournment will not commence until 11 o’clock at night. It is terribly important for private members to have the right to express themselves in this Parliament. We will be given no opportunity to do it under the programme that the Minister has outlined. Today 5 or 6 members were able to speak in the Grievance Day debate. Recently we have been here till midnight or 1.30 a.m. to discuss matters of interest to private members. I would like to discuss, for instance, Rhodesia and the gentleman who wants to abolish the monarchy, but what is the use of doing it at 1 o’clock in the morning? I would like to raise the question of the Country Party meeting at Warrnambool yesterday, but I want people to hear me before half past 12 in the morning, because it is important that the public know of this disunity in the Country Party and what is happening in respect of it. 1 see no reason why the adjournment debate should not commence at 10.30 each night to give private members an opportunity to speak on these matters. This is one aspect on which I differ to an extent with the Government. It is proposing that the question that the House should adjourn be put at 11 o’clock and that the debate be kept going until later in the night than is justified. Secondly, while supporting the amendment to exclude 8th May from the proposals, I would like to suggest to the Government that it might bring the commencement of the debate on the motion for the adjournment back to 10.30 p.m. for the reasons I have mentioned, in order that members on this side of the Parliament in a private capacity will be given a full opportunity to debate matters in which they are interested. 1 do not want to hold up the business of the House, but I would say to the Leader of the House that he should control some of the more exuberant members on his side of the House. We on this side are dealing with this matter in a national and nonpolitical way. I suggest, in fairness to the Minister, that he brought the proposals in with good intent and in a tolerant and understanding way. To see a good case destroyed by the type of speech made by the honourable member for La Trobe brings no credit to the Parliament or the Government of this country. That is why today I suggest that honourable members should discard completely what the honourable member for La Trobe has said about the Moratorium and the reasons for it given by the honourable member for Lalor, because 1 have been in this Parliament when the Government made sure that our sittings did not clash with the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November. That week was always the week off. Yet today when we seek the right to be at protest meetings against the war in Vietnam, which is morally wrong, which is unjust, in which this country should never have been engaged, and in which conscripted boys are dying at this moment, the Government says that this is not as important as the Melbourne Cup and that we ought to be here instead of adding our support to this protest.
That is the argument of the honourable member for La Trobe. That is one of the reasons, amongst others, why the Opposition says that the commencement date of the proposed Friday sittings should be 15th May. 1 hope that the Leader of the House will show tolerance in his approach, completely ignore the statements made by honourable members opposite and accept 13th May. I remind the honourable member for La Trobe that it was the unanimous decision of the Australian Labor Party parliamentary caucus that we commence on 15th May. That information will bring him right up to date. One thing about the honourable member for La Trobe is that he does not believe in spoiling a good speech by sticking to the facts.
– I am rather sorry that the whole debate has got away from the original subject of the motion which relates to sitting hours of the Parliament. It has unfortunately become a reiteration of the debate we had on Tuesday about the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam Moratorium. I feel that the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) is largely responsible for taking the debate away from the subject. I am amazed to think that the Opposition should seriously suggest that this House should cease to function on a certain day so that its members can take part in what the honourable member for Lalor himself has called an act of civil disobedience. Honourable members opposite may be able to close down the schools on that day, but I certainly do not think that they should be able to close down the national Parliament. However I do not want to go into that matter.
I rose today because I wanted to speak about the hours that are worked in this House. So often we hear from some members of the Press - I say ‘some’ because they are few - who are irresponsible enough to talk about members of Parliament as though we never do any work or never do much at all. This talk overflows into different channels and some people believe it. 1 would like to let the public know the hours that we worked last week, and particularly the hours I worked. Last Tuesday morning I rose at home in Melbourne at 5.30; f left home at 6.20 to catch the 7.30 plane to Canberra. At 9 a.m. I attended a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. The House sat at 2.30 p.m. We had an early night that night and rose at 11 o’clock. I was in bed by midnight. That was a total of 19 hours for the day. On Wednesday I was up at 7.30. I was at the House at 9 a.m. The House sat at 2.30 p.m. We rose, owing to the barney that we had due to the irresponsible actions of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), some time after 3 a.m. I think 1 was in bed by about 4 a.m. That was a total of 20 hours for that day.
On the Thursday morning I rose at 7.30. I was at the House by 9. The House sat at 10.30. I was in bed some time after midnight that night. That was a total of 171 hours. The following morning I was up at 6.15 to catch the plane to Melbourne at 7.30. I spent the day in my office and attended a naturalisation ceremony that night. That was a total of about 15 hours. Then followed the normal weekend functions that a member of Parliament has to attend. We average as a minimum j 5 hours a day. I would like this to be recorded for the information of the Press and for the information of the people. After having seen the films provided by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), on Monday night 1 feel I can only describe the hours we work by the term sadomasochistic. They make it impossible for us to give of our best.
– I could not sleep after seeing the films either.
– Well, of course, the honourable member for Griffith is a very impressionable young man. 1 think that the new hours that have been outlined by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) are very good as far as they go, and 1 support them. But I do not think they will achieve a great deal. I do not think they will assist us to get more work done. They will not make the tempers of certain members any easier. Last night 8 or 9 members spoke in the debate on the motion for the adjournment. If the motion is to be put at 11 p.m., and 9 members want to speak for 10 minutes each the debate will go an hour and a half and we will still be here until 12.30 in the morning. That will mean another 17-hour day and more frayed tempers.
Whilst I go along with the motion and support it as far as it goes. I do not feel that it goes far enough. I believe that the whole question of the sitting times of the Parliament should be studied. I think the slate should bc wiped clean. We should not be bound by precedent, just because a procedure was adopted in the House of Commons at a time when parliamentarians were not paid, had other jobs and wanted to meet in Parliament in the afternoon and during the night. Those days are gone. These days we are paid and it should be the full time duty of a parliamentarian to be here. It seems almost ludicrous to me that we begin our meetings at 2.30 p.m., when half the day is gone. The afternoon is taken up by question time, Ministerial Statements and so called urgency matters with the result that often it is 8 p.m. before we get down to the business of the Parliament. I support the motion as it stands, but believe much more should be done to study the sitting times of Parliament. We might then not only get through more work but we might also get through it without the conduct that occurred last Wednesday night. It was certainly a very disgraceful show. I do not think members of the Opposition quite realised what they were doing at the time. It was late at night and tempers were frayed. If the hours of meeting of the Parliament were better arranged, in a more sensible and less ludicrous style, such outbreaks might not occur.
– It is not often that we have a chance to debate or to discuss the way in which this Parliament is to meet. Unfortunately, this afternoon we ought not to take any longer than we need to discuss the matter as people are waiting to take part in other debates; for instance, in a debate on foreign affairs. 1 will therefore be brief. I congratulate the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) because, in the last 3 minutes of his speech he showed one of those rare flashes of political lucidity which are possible from a Liberal, and agreed with my own sentiments in this matter.
The only thing 1 can say about the speech of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) is that probably it was the most ungracious speech I have heard in this Parliament for some time. I have heard him before. I thought that on this occasion the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) put the case that Parliament should not meet on 8th May as clearly and definitely as possible, and with the least possible provocation. Parliament is not just a part of this city or of outlives. It is part of the life of the whole community. Each one of us is committed to all types of obligation many weeks in advance. In my own life as a parliamentarian, and I suppose as a public figure, I find I am ordinarily committed 6 or 8 weeks ahead. 1 can say to a group of people: ‘I can be free on a Friday afternoon.’
Many people around Australia organise functions on that basis. They are conscious of the symbolism of the Parliament and its membership. Therefore they organise functions so that a member of Parliament can attend, on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning. This is an important feature of Australian public life. By a sudden arbitrary and capricious decision that on that particular Friday - 8th May - 185 members of the Parliament, or 125 members of this House will not be able to fit in with that established practice is quite thoughtless. I do not believe that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) on this occasion acted provocatively in arriving at the conclusion he has reached, but I am afraid that on occasions the affairs of this place are handled arbitrarily and capriciously.
We meet until all hours of the night. We roll on and on until an unheralded hour in the morning while dozens of car drivers are waiting, and the staff of the House are detained, including the officers of this chamber. The news people are waiting. A whole phalanx of the community is tied up by our arbitrary and capricious behaviour in this place and it is time that it was brought into order. As to 8 th May, a large number of people in Melbourne decided to organise for that particular Friday afternoon. They had in mind that they could prophesy that on Fridays members of Parliament would be free to participate. I ask honourable members opposite to do what we suggest as an act of grace, regardless of what they feel about the whole operation to be conducted in Melbourne. I appeal for a simple act of grace by other members of the institution. Equally they are just plain members of this institution. I ask them to admit that for this occasion at least it is not a question of stopping the Parliament of the nation. It is a question of not interfering with established procedures for that week and that week alone. I support the remarks of my friend from Lalor. 1 am able to say without breaking the confidence of a Party meeting - our Party Secretary has just pointed this out to me - that the discussion in our room on this matter was not initiated by the honourable member for Lalor and he did not participate in that discussion. We arrived at a unanimous decision spontaneously that we ought not to meet on 8th May in this Parliament. I address honourable members opposite as another part of the Parliament. You are only a simple part of the Parliament and J ask that you do not agree to meet on 8th May.
I want to spend a few minutes discussing the days and times of meeting of the Parliament. I think this is my twenty-ninth halfyear in this Parliament. In each of those half-years we have indulged in this operation, it is a sort of bi-annual operation that we arrive at the conclusion half-way through a session that the plans we made about days of meeting should not apply. I read some years ago of experiments carried out in the training of animals. They were run along a tube at points of which electric impulses were activated to provide a shock. At the end of the fifteenth run the dog in the experiment learned not to turn in a way that would give him a shock. The cat learned by the end of the thirtieth run. but it took the worm 800 times before he learned how not to receive a shock. We are now on about our one hundred and fortieth half-yearly run since Federation.
How long is it to take us to learn that we cannot continue to run Parliament in this way? Do not tell me we have 660 exercises still to go.
Every session it is the same. Is it not reasonable to take hold of our operations and to ask: ‘How long will this take?’ Last night 5 or 6 members spoke in the adjournment debate. If I had any part in creating an opportunity for them to speak 1 am grateful, although I did become excessively tired. I think it is reasonable in a House of 125 members for 6 of them to speak in the adjournment debate. That number represents only about 5%. Each member on that basis receives an opportunity to participate in the adjournment debate only once in every 6 or 7 weeks.
For years we have been meeting on 50 or 60 days a year. It does not work. Twenty years ago Parliament met on 70 or 80 days a year. This afternoon I put to honourable members that we decide that it takes say, 100 or 120 days of meeting a year to handle the nation’s affairs in this Parliament. Therefore we should put it on a rational and organised basis. For simplicity of arithmetic let us decide to meet on 120 days a year, or in 24 weeks each of 5 days. That would still be shorter than half a year. We could meet in 3 weeks each of 5 days in each month.
We could meet in the first 3 weeks of February, March, April and May, and again in August, September, October and November. In that way 4 months would be left free. We would know exactly where we were going and I offer the suggestion to honourable members for consideration. Like other honourable members, I am involved in family life. Fridays and Mondays become tied up. There is no doubt in my mind that in the next 12 months we will have to change fundamentally our days of meeting. I put forward the proposition that we take the arithmetic I have suggested, analyse it and decide that we will meet in a formal way which will give us adequate time for debate. I do not believe that it is reasonable to continue debates after 10.30 p.m. Almost every other organisation I know closes down at 10 p.m. I think we are acting like idiots to allow ourselves to be dragged continuously through the mill in this exhausting and nonsensical fashion.
– The motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) is significant enough in itself, but far more significant is the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). The significance of the proposed amendment lies not merely in the different choice of dates or the proposed new arrangements, but in the reasons to which the honourable member referred in submitting that the new days of sitting of the House ought to commence on 15th May rather than on 8th May. As I recall his words he said that he wanted to alter the days so that many members of his own Party could, on his own admission, commit an act of civil disobedience in Melbourne. He made that admission. Whether it is illegal or against the spirit of the law is not quite the point. The fact is that the honourable member wants to make this Parliament and its sittings subservient to those aims. That is very important because, for the first time in Australian political history, the Australian Labor Parly is departing from the time worn principles of a reformist party to adopt the role of a revolutionary Labor Party. This was always resisted by every Labor Leader in the past. As the Labor Party grew out of the limber workers in Victoria and the shearers in western Queensland it was always maintained that its actions would be subservient to the legal processes and subservient to the Parliament. Its representatives in the original Labor federation were elected to observe these principles and abide by them. This afternoon honourable members opposite have departed from that tradition and it is an extremely sad occurrence because Labor Leaders in the past, such as Theodore and Scullin during the depression, fought to keep that Party as a reformist party and subservient to the legal processes of the country. Honourable members opposite have thrown those principles overboard. 1 suggest that they have carried into their political structure principles and actions that apply overseas and which have not, up to the moment, applied in Australia.
The honourable member for Lalor suggested that this was an example of participatory democracy. This is the kind of line that he uses. 1 look at the internal structure of the Party of which he is a member and 1 can see that its processes are anything but participatory. However, Mr Speaker, I return to the original suggestion made by the honourable member for Lalor.
– I think that would be a good idea, too.
– The significance of the amendment ought not to be lost in this country. Its significance ought not to be lost as part of the political processes of this country. 1 hope that as a result of his having moved this amendment the Australian electorate will appreciate that the alternative government has altered its very nature - its approach to democracy. I believe that in doing so the Labor Party has imported into its structure practices from overseas that are not acceptable in Australia.
– I welcome the proposal put forward by the Government to change the sitting hours of the Parliament. We are making progress in this Parliament. I do not want to go into the historical background of the reasons for this progress but I think that all will agree that these proposals make for far saner sitting hours than those we have observed in the past. Much legislation is to come before the House. On the Opposition side are many new members who want to contribute to the debates but they have found that they cannot get an opportunity to speak. I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). In fact, I seconded the amendment.
Why do we want to change the commencing date of the proposed Friday sittings from 8 th May to 15th May? The proposal is that we commence the Friday sittings on 8th May and we are asking the Government to make the commencement date 15th May instead of 8th May. I have already commended the basic proposal. Honourable members opposite have asked why we do not want the Parliament to sit on that day. As I said, this is a new proposal and all I am asking is that the date for its commencement be made 15th May. Some honourable members from this side of the House committed themselves some 3 or 4 months ago to sponsor the Moratorium Campaign. As the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said, when the Parliament first met the Government supplied honourable members with a time table and we made our commitments accordingly. But now this proposal has come forward. Government supporters have charged that 75 Opposition members have lent their names to sponsor the Moratorium Committee. They have charged us with setting out to create violence and to achieve by mob rule what we have not been able to achieve in the Parliament. I ask the Government, and particularly the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), to give deep consideration to our amendment. All we want to do is to meet our responsibilities. We want to take part in the Moratorium Campaign so that we can do our utmost to ensure that it will be a non-violent demonstration.
Let me g:ve an example of what I mean. During the visit of Air Vice-Marshal Ky to Australia there was what was probably one of the biggest demonstrations ever held in Sydney. The demonstrators met at the base of the northern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The then Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), addressed the meeting after which there was a march towards Kirribilli House. It had been prearranged with the police that the demonstrators would walk along the footpath past Kirribilli House and return to the base of the northern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Because of political decisions outside the control of the police it was decided that the demonstrators would not be allowed to pass the barricades at Kirribilli House. Elements among the demonstrators wanted to take action and rush the barricades. I suggest that if honourable members are interested they read an account of this affair in the ‘Bulletin’, which has never been a friend of mine. Honourable members know that I have been successful in lengthy litigation against the ‘Bulletin’.
-Order! The honourable member is getting a little away from the motion.
– But I must explain our position - our responsibility. If honourable members read that newspaper they will see that as a member of the Parliament and a responsible person interested in ensuring non-violence I took action to lead the men away from the barricades. I did not want them to come into direct contact with the police which may have ended in violence. What we are now saying - and I am not talking for myself only but for all Opposition members - is that we want to try to ensure that demonstrations will be peaceful. There are circumstances in which we may be forced to take another course, but we try to demonstrate within the law and to accept our responsibilities. Charges have been made by the Government that this Moratorium, to which we have lent our name, is trying to create mob violence outside of the Parliament.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, ls the honourable member speaking to the motion? You did rule earlier to the effect that the Moratorium was discussed last Tuesday.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid would be in order if he is supplying reasons why the date for commencement of the Friday sittings should be altered. The Moratorium can be referred to but it cannot be the main substance of the debate that is before the House. I would suggest to the honourable member that he now returns to a discussion of the amendment or of the motion.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Speaker. I have been trying to keep to the facts. As supporters of the Moratorium we are striving to end the war in Vietnam. Demonstrations will commence in all capital cities and provincial cities on 8th May. We want to take part and to accept our responsibilities. We commend the Government for the proposed new sitting hours but we are asking it not to expect the Parliament to sit on 8th May but to commence the Friday sittings on 15th May. That proposition is fair enough. I do not say that the Government has deliberately proposed that we sit on 8th May, although some people do suggest that it is deliberate. They say that the Government, by introducing this proposal after the incidents in the House last week, is challenging members of the Opposition to ignore their sponsorship of the Moratorium Campaign.
The Labor Party’s amendment is reasonable. I am not trying to score off the Government but I think that all have learned much as a result of the incidents that occurred in this House last Wednesday night. All honourable members - and I am not trying to segregate one side from the other - have a respect for the Parliament.
We want to make it more democratic. We want to make it more understanding. We want to make it more open to appeal. We have respect for this Parliament and we want to make it a better House. All that we are asking is that the Government give us a fair go. If the Government is fair dinkum it should accept the Opposition amendment, particularly after making charges against the Moratorium. The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) particularly, after making the charges that he made the other evening about the Moratorium, should advise his colleagues to accept our amendment.
– Mr Speaker, the Parliament has before it a motion which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) decided that the Opposition would support save for the substitution of the date 8th May for that of 15th May. That decision was announced at 2.25 p.m. We have spent 1 hour and 10 minutes talking about a wide variety of things; but essentially we have been talking about a Vietnam war protest movement which will culminate on 8th, 9th and 10th May, of which, I think, 75 parliamentary members of the Australian Labor Party are sponsors. We had a wide ranging debate on this movement on Tuesday. In some respects that debate has been revived today. Its revival today centred on the 20 minutes during which the attention of this House was occupied by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). There has been circulated in the chamber a list of speakers for a debate on foreign affairs which arose following a ministerial statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon). There is the name of at least 1 honourable member on that list who is a new arrival in this Parliament. 1 have observed his anxiety and agitation. He is hoping that he will be able to make a contribution to that debate on foreign affairs which, it was well known to every honourable member, would last until the suspension of the sittings for dinner. If the time had not been spent on this protest movement, according to the calculations of the Whip that honourable member would have been speaking now.
– A member of the Government parties or of the Opposition?
– A member of the Opposition. The Government does not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. It seems to have been suggested that there was some kind of plot hatched by the Government to have the first Friday sitting on 8th May in order in some way to embarrass the honourable member for Lalor and others who feel as strongly about Vietnam as he does. This is not the case. The choice of8th May was a perfectly obvious one because that date is in the first week that the Parliament returns after the next recess. Therefore it is the obvious date to choose. 1 do not want to pursue the philosophy outlined today by the honourable member for Lalor. I want only to draw out of it something which ought to be seen, which ought not to be hidden by the way he spoke and the words he uttered. According to what the honourable member said today he elevates the shaping of public protest to equality with the national Parliament. As a general statement it is one which I would hope not a single member of this House or of the Senate would accept. But this was stated to be the personal credo of the honourable member for Lalor. He not merely equates the Vietnam protest with Parliament, he subjugates Parliament to that protest. In order to achieve the subjugation he moved the amendment we are discussing so that this national Parliament would not sit in order that he could attend the protest meeting in Melbourne. As a proposition this is not merely preposterous, it is ludicrous, and it will not be accepted by the Government.
If we care to carry the proposition further, are we then not to meet if the Australian Council of Trade Unions is holding a congress? To carry it further, are we not to sit if there is a meeting of a group of people which a member of the Country Party, or the Liberal Party or the Labor Party wishes to attend because he feels it more important to formulate their will than to come here as the elected representative and express their will? The reason why we are here is to express the will of the people. To suggest that we cease expressing it in order to go elsewhere and formulate it is to miss completely the. purpose of the election of members to this Parliament.
Sir, I listened to other parts of the speech made by the honourable member for Lalor. I recall in particular one statement he made. He said that he hoped he made it not immodestly. I accept that it was not made in any sense of bravado or immodesty. I accept it as the honourable member’s sincere and honest belief. His statement was that he had more influence than Peking, Moscow and Hanoi combined. He therefore saw it as imperative, as his duty, to be at that meeting in Melbourne in order that it might be controlled and made a peaceful demonstration.
– So that I could help.
– So that he could help control it and make it a peaceful demonstration by means of that influence which he says he has and which he believes he has.
DrJ. F.Cairns - By the way, my statement does not mean so much because I am assuming that Hanoi, Moscow and Peking do not have that much influence.
– The honourable member was elected to this Parliament on the same day as I and a number of other honourable members were elected. They include the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) as well as a number of honourable members on this side of the House. As the honourable member for Wills so engagingly put it, that was 29 half-years ago. It was over 14 years ago. During the intervening time I have heard the honourable member for Lalor participate in the debates in this Parliament. He has proved himself to be a very able man, as his academic qualifications would show. In his performance in debate he has been a very vigorous and competent speaker on economic and trade matters as well as broader issues - but especially on economic and trade affairs. When I looked at him and listened to him today, as he said something immodestly, I reached the melancholy conclusion - and I say this without malice - that he is a casualty of Vietnam. I look forward to the time when the honourable member will come back into this House riveting his attention on affairs here rather than being more concerned, as he said, with the formulation of will outside rather than inside the House.
The reason given for this amendment is that the honourable member for Lalor and others want to attend the Vietnam protest meetings on 8th May. For all the reasons I have given in reply, the Government will not accept the amendment. Mr Speaker, I believe we should vote on this matter now and take up no more of the time of the House. I move:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 4
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the date proposed to be omitted (Dr Cairns’s amendment) stand part of the question. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 April (vide page 763), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the House take note of the following paper:
– We are continuing the debate on foreign affairs which was left off over a week ago, a debate which has already demonstrated the different policies between the Government and the Opposition in this Parliament. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) in his speech clearly showed how we must adapt our plans to the new situation which faces us in the 1970s, a situation influenced particularly by the statement of President Nixon to Congress on 18th February. In this statement the Minister has recognised the dangers which in the past led to over commitment, especially in Asia. The United States is now expecting her allies to bear a greater share of the burden of regional defence. Australia also must avoid the dangers of over commitment and making statements and policies which cannot be backed up by our resources. This means that in the 1970s it is certain that our area of influence is going to be much more confined than in the past, but that at the same time in that area we are going to have much greater responsibility for ensuring our own survival and protecting not only our present way of life but also that of the people living in the friendly nations close to our shores.
Quite clearly our major areas of influence is to our north-west where we must maintain friendly relations with Malaysia and Singapore as well as with Indonesia. Our policy towards those nations has already been spelt out by the Minister in his statement, and other speakers have referred to it in this debate. But I believe that there is another area over which we should be prepared to assume greater responsibility. That is to our north and to the east. As I have already stated in this House, we have only to remember 1942 to realise the dangers to Australia when the islands of New Guinea and the South West Pacific are controlled by nations unfriendly to us. We must never allow this situation to occur again. Changes are already taking place in the South Pacific. Western Samoa, Tonga, Nauru and, to a certain extent, the Cook Islands are already independent nations. Fiji is likely to become independent before the end of this year. The Solomon Islands and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands will be likely to have internal self-government before the end of 1971. Clearly, therefore, British influence in the South Pacific is going to be very minimal within the next 2 years. It is equally certain that as British influence is withdrawn the peoples of these islands are going to look elsewhere both for economic and strategic security. Surely it is vital to our own future security that these people should turn towards Australia and to New Zealand for help and protection, rather than to any other nation.
Now is the time for Australia and New Zealand to realise that they have an increasing responsibility for this part of the world. Already the new leaders of these emerging nations are asking themselves what sort of pattern is going to emerge. Where can they seek economic aid to improve the standard of living of their people? But more importantly, the question is being asked in many places: Can they survive as independent small nations or should they consider some form of loose federation? It is at this time of change that both Australia and New Zealand should be ready and willing to be available for advice and help. We do not seek domination or colonies, but we should be prepared to be good neighbours. There is no doubt that, in some respects, many of these islands are already dependent economically on Australia. They also look to New Zealand for help in many ways - as, for instance, the close relation between Fiji and Wellington, for assistance in education. There is therefore already a reserve of goodwill and friendship.
But there are signs that in the past we have not always realised the importance of cementing that friendship. It is, I think, well known that Britain would have liked to have handed over responsibility for the Solomons to Australia over 10 years ago. By refusing the offer at that time we hoped to encourage the British to stay in this area for a longer period. But I believe that by so doing we threw away the chance of gaining more quickly the friendship of the people of those islands. Four years ago the Government of Fiji sought leave to raise a loan of about $8m in Australia. I think it was a pity that we turned down the request at that time. Our refusal was misinterpreted in Suva and created some bitter feeling towards Australia. Since then we have helped to mitigate this feeling by 2 loans of, I think, about Sim to enable Fiji to buy flour. But the original resentment still exists.
More recently a quite unintentional action of our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was misinterpreted by Suva. When he was returning from the United States after his visit to President Nixon he stopped in Nadi for 48 hours. It was a private recreational visit and consequently he did not see any of the leaders of Fiji at that time or make a Press statement concerning the need for friendship between Australia and Fiji. However, subsequently, attacks were made on Australia by ‘The Times of Suva’ on 19th July 1969. These attacks have done much to damage relations between our two nations. I think it is also a pity that the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) has in the past done much to inflame public opinion in the trade unions of Fiji and to damage relations between our 2 countries. But these are actions that lie in the past. We must now realise that we need a conscious and well thought out plan for the future. The costs surely are not great when compared with the cost of economic and defence aid for Malaysia and Singapore, but the rewards can be significant. lt is important, I. feel, that any moves that we may be prepared to make should be made in conjunction with and after consultation with the Government of New Zealand. One result of the departure of the British from this part of the world should be to make us realise our greater degree of defence nakedness, and should help to draw the two Anzac nations closer together. There should be more discussions not only between Ministers but also between individual members of the Parliaments of these 2 nations, lt is helpful that members of this Parliament can travel to New Zealand once every Parliament. To my mind it would be good if there could be similar movement in the reverse direction.
My own view is that the ideal solution for the governmental structure of these islands of the South Pacific would be some form of loose federation. Before this could be achieved it would be necessary for it to be preceded by a period of working together in some form of common services agreement on lines similar to the East African community. From talks that 1 have had with members of Parliament in this area J believe that there are already people whose thoughts are moving in this direction. I would hope that this federation could include Papua and New Guinea, for it is not possible to think about the political viability of the islands in the South Pacific without considering the future of Papua and New Guinea. It is to be regretted that it is unlikely that the people of this Territory will be able to take over political responsibility for themselves at the same time as their neighbours in the South Pacific do so.
There can be no doubt that the eventual aim for Papua and New Guinea must be political independence. This does not mean that the Territory will be economically viable any more than the other islands that I mentioned earlier in this speech. I feel certain that the Australian people will continue to be happy to provide grants in aid to Papua and New Guinea for many years to come on a scale comparable to our present efforts, but I do believe that it is in the interests of the people of Papua and New Guinea and the people of Australia that the moves towards, firstly, internal selfgovernment and, later, political independence should be accelerated. I am certain that there are no valid reasons today for Australia to remain in control of this Territory other than the need to ensure the wellbeing of those people for whom we are responsible. Our aim should be to hand over control to a nation that will seek to be on terms of warm friendship with us. My view is that the longer we stay in control the harder it will be to succeed in that aim, because stresses are likely to arise which could exacerbate relations between us and the present reserves of friendship and goodwill could evaporate. 1 believe that there are lessons to be learned from the history of those new nations in Africa and in the Caribbean that have become independent over the past 10 years. I cannot believe that our record of administration in Papua and New Guinea is so markedly different from the records of other administering powers that the future history of this nation will be so different from that of other new nations. In fact, I think we are fortunate in being able to watch the train of events elsewhere and possibly therefore able to learn some useful lessons. Ten years ago I made a speech in this House after returning from a visit to Africa. At that time, I remarked on the oft repeated slogan ‘Good government is no substitute for self-government’. I found it hard to believe then that so many nations would risk the removal of good governmental structure before the self governmental structure was ready to take over. Yet that is exactly what happened in so many countries all over the continent. Tensions developed in so many countries of Africa which could only be controlled by the process of self government. This process just had to happen.
Today, there may be some honourable members in this House who say that we ought not to hand over control to the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea at present because they might make a mess of the situation. Of course mistakes will be made. But the same tensions are arising in Papua and New Guinea as we saw in Africa. I have learned the lesson that, in these circumstances, good government is no substitute for self-government. We must hand over responsibility for internal self-government before the tensions reach breaking point, and while the new leaders are happy to ask for us to be at their elbow and to provide help and advice. Political advancement is even more important at this time than economic growth, and if there should be a conflict of policy between these two aims, the former should have priority. My chief concern is the difficulty that the new leaders of Papua and New Guinea will experience in trying to weld together into one nation 2i million people of vastly different tribal backgrounds. Recent history in other parts of the world would lead me to think that the task is too great at the present time. Instead, I would feel that there is a much greater chance of success if power could be decentralised as far as possible. A federation rather than a unified state should be our aim.
If power were decentralised in the next few years from Port Moresby to the outer parts of the Territory, I think it is probable that the structure would hold together. If, on the other hand, the present trend towards greater centralisation continues, there could be dangers of secession. Australia would then be faced with a difficult choice, involving tremendous conflicts of interest. We would do well at this moment to pause to consider what those future problems might be.
At this stage of my remarks 1 will tend to sum up what I have said. Is it too much of an ideal to contemplate ultimately a federal structure for all the English speaking islands of the South West Pacific? History shows that a federal structure imposed from above is unlikely to succeed. But a federal structure that emerges as a result of small independent nations coming together to help each other to meet common needs and possibly common external threats can become a practical possibility. This theme is well illustrated in the Caribbean.
The first federation in the West Indies was imposed by the British Government when it handed over control. The strains were too great and the federation broke up. But there are now signs that a new federal structure could develop through the development of CARIFTA - the Caribbean Free Trade Area. I suggest that it is very much in Australia’s interests that there should be common interests and common purposes throughout this area. Our immediate aim should be to formulate our own concept of what this future should be in consultation with the leaders of these newly emerging nations. We should help to provide facilities for the leaders to meet together to talk about these matters. One body that could help in this task is the South Pacific Commission which should be reorganised to take account of the changing situation. Another body is, of course, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. At present, the South Pacific Commission is run by the metropolitan powers - Britain, the United States, France, Australia and New Zealand. These nations supply most of the funds for the work of the Commission, and, to a large extent, dictate its policy.
As power is being handed over to these newly independent countries, so also should the leaders of these countries have a greater amount of authority to decide how the funds of the Commission are to be spent. The annual conference of the Commission is the one forum in this part of the world in which the leaders of these new nations can meet together. It would be useful if the work of the conference could be reorganised so as to enable these new leaders to consider matters which will be of common interest to them in the future. It would be certainly helpful if the conference were to be attended by Ministers from Australia and New Zealand in order to enable them to hear at first hand the problems which are likely to arise in this part of the world. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has also recognised the need to promote meetings of members of parliament of these countries and, as a result, a regional conference is to be held under its auspices in Wellington next February.
One thing which is certain is that changes are taking place in the South Pacific and these changes are bound to effect change in Papua and New Guinea. Our policy towards Papua and New Guinea cannot be isolated from our general external affairs policy. At this moment history is being written in a region of the world which is vital to our security. In some ways this region could be considered as being as important to our interests as the region of South East Asia and Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand have a wonderful opportunity in the next few years to influence policy throughout this area. If we neglect this opportunity other nations may take over and assume leadership in our place. Surely this is not a risk that we can afford to take.
– I believe it would be fair to say that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) has just made a very thoughtful contribution to the present debate on foreign affairs. He dealt largely with the position in the South Pacific region. The honourable member made what I consider to be a number of very worthwhile suggestions. He referred in particular 13667/70- If- 148J to the problems of Fiji and other islands in the South Pacific region. His comments about the need for foreign aid in this area are very relevant to the present debate. If I may interpret the honourable member’s remarks in relation to the question of Australian assistance in this area, I think he really had in mind the need to increase our economic aid not only to the islands in this region but also, I would hope, to the countries in the South East Asian area for which we have some responsibility.
The honourable member for Casey also made some worthwhile and, I believe, sound remarks in relation to the situation in Papua and New Guinea. If I again correctly interpreted what he had in mind, the honourable member was putting a case - quite properly - for early self government for the people in this area. The honourable member for Casey drew a parallel between the situation which could develop in Papua and New Guinea and the situation which has developed in some of the African countries. I think that what the honourable member was suggesting could happen is in fact very close to the situation which did develop in South East Asia. Unless the Australian Government - regardless of whichever party may be in office - is prepared to look realistically at the situation in Papua and New Guinea and to give some consideration to the problems which have developed in recent years as well as to the point of view which has been expressed by some people in Papua and New Guinea to the effect that they have every right to determine their own political destiny and they should have this right as soon as possible, a similar situation could develop. I agree that if there are to be priorities between the question of political development and economic development then, quite obviously, the emphasis should be placed upon political development. I believe that the matters to which the honourable member for Casey referred during the course of his Speech are matters of significant importance. I believe that he made a very constructive contribution to the debate. The honourable member for Casey did not, of course, deal in great detail with the matters raised by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) when he delivered this statement on behalf of the Government about a fortnight ago.
This House has become familiar with a sort of Cook’s tour speech on foreign affairs, which takes up one country after another in geographic sequence. In his first set piece to this House the Minister for External Affairs has rejected this approach and concentrated on a few topics. He has given the House a series of unexceptionable and abstract principles which leave practical judgment and action suspended where he found them. It is a speech lacking in either authority or decisiveness.
To be fair to the Minister his speech was circumscribed by the flashy statement delivered a fortnight earlier by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Despite the shallow content of the analysis of the Minister for Defence, he did have a list of new defence hardware to announce. Naturally, this aspect was a popular and, I believe, desirable part of the speech of the Minister for Defence on that occasion. The Minister for Defence prefaced this shopping list with a series of notes on the strategic setting which preempted much of the ground of the Minister for External Affairs.
It was unfortunate, also, that the Minister for External Affairs had to have his text vetted by Cabinet. This was a remarkable departure from the traditional practice, which has been that only the Prime Minister clears statements on foreign affairs. This procedure was followed last year when the former Minister for External Affairs refused to be alarmed about the presence of the Russians in the Indian Ocean. Now the present Minister, a man of immense experience and seniority in the Liberal Parry, has had his text sifted and amended by men considerably inferior to him in ability, experience and seniority. In these circumstances it is easy to comprehend why the content of the Minister’s speech should be so disappointing.
The core issue of the foreign affairs setting facing Australia at the moment is the future of Indo-China. This was emphasised in the sections of the Minister’s statement which concerned Laos and Vietnam. As an addendum to his prepared text the Minister gave a few random thoughts on Cambodia. They were based in the main on a note from the Cambodian Ambassador in Australia. Cambodia did not rate a mention in the original draft, but because of an abrupt change in the course of events the Minister had to say something about it, although it did not fit in with the themes he had prepared. The Minister has since gone overseas for a fortnight without elaborating on these cursory comments or fitting them into the wider strategic setting of Indo-China. This is unfortunate because more and more the focus is switching from Vietnam to the whole of Indo-China. The dangers manifest in Vietnam for the past few years now apply in equal measure to Laos and Cambodia. It is a tragic possibility that in the months ahead we will be referring again to the Indo-China war and not the Vietnam War. If this happens the world will be ferried back in time to the early 1950s and 15 years will have been completely wasted.
At the moment attitudes to the Vietnam war have crystallised into three main groupings. The first is commitment to a complete military victory in Vietnam. This attitude was frankly put in a recent statement by Mr Frank Serong, formerly a distinguished Australian soldier and now a senior adviser to General Abrams in Saigon. According to Mr Serong the revolution in Cambodia has given the Americans and the Thieu Government an undreamed of opportunity to end the war in 6 months.
Mr Serong did not elaborate but the implication of his remarks is that decisive military victory could be achieved by extending the war from Vietnam to Cambodia. In this way the frontier between Cambodia and South Vietnam could he sealed off and North Vietnamese units denied the use of Cambodian provinces as a sanctuary. Undoubtedly this sort of thinking is very tempting to the military commands in America and South Vietnam. But the weak Cambodian army would need very substantial assistance to contain the powerful North Vietnamese units in Cambodia. An extension of the war on this scale would undoubtedly provoke a much higher level of activity by the North Vietnamese in Laos.
So far the offensives of the North Vietnamese in Laos have been intended to achieve as much as possible with a minimum of effort. Apart from their nuisance value these limited annual offensives are dictated by the commercial motive of securing the opium crop each year so it can be sold and earn foreign exchange.
Any extension of the war in Cambodia would bring a marked change to the almost ritual war in Laos. Undoubtedly the North Vietnamese have the strength to sustain much greater effort in the three regions of Indo-China. Certainly they have been weakened, as the Minister pointed out in his statement, but they retain in North Vietnam very powerful reserves which have never been committed to the war. It may be possible to vanquish the Communists in Indo-China by military means but it would mean a war in which North Vietnam would have very marked advantages. But this would require a massive military effort extending over several years and bringing in its train the destruction of the whole Indo-China region.
The second group of attitudes covers what might be termed the middle ground. This is the position of the Labor Party and has been lucidly outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his speech on this debate. The essence of this approach is the achievement of a negotiated settlement in South Vietnam with the objective of neutralising the whole of Indo-China. On the run of events since President Johnson started to scale down the war, the best the Americans could achieve would be the stabilisation of Indo-China on the basis which existed early in 1968. This would mean a Communist North Vietnam, an independent South Vietnam with a much more broadly based Government than the present one, a neutral Cambodia and a neutral Laos. It may still be possible to achieve such a solution but I believe the chances are diminishing.
In this context the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Holyoake, has stressed the need for restraint, cool judgment and a concerted diplomatic effort to find an acceptable solution. In a statement made last week to the Standing Committee of Asian and Pacific Council in Wellington, Mr Holyoake pointed to the dangers of a general war in Indo-China. He said further:
Indeed the most sensible approach may well be to call an international conference at which all the parties concerned could be represented to work out the outlines of a regional settlement.
The New Zealand Prime Minister made it clear that New Zealand would pursue such an initiative and suggested that the existing machinery of the Geneva conference should be used. Mr Holyoake has swung to the prudent view that a military solution in Vietnam is not feasible and that some form of a political compromise must be sought. This shifts the New Zealand Government to the ground consistently occupied by the Labor Party and stated concisely by the Leader of the Opposition.
The third approach is one which has never been contemplated even remotely in the thinking of the Government, lt has been stated with quite brutal frankness in the United States by Senator Fulbright; it is the ultimate acceptance and recognition of Communist supremacy in Indo-China. This may be extremely unpalatable; it may also be inevitable. Senator Fulbright said that the plain fact to come out of the Vietnam war was that North Vietnam was the paramount power in Indo-China. He said further:
I do not advocate a Communist dominated IndoChina. I merely propose to accept it if it arises from the local power situation as something unwelcome but tolerable.
This is the sort of tough minded thinking on Indo-China which is being put forward with increasing persistence in the United States. It is part of a growing recognition that Indo-China matters not a jot to America’s security or basic interests. According to this way of thinking the issues in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are inseparable and a political settlement must be negotiated which applies to all of them. Faced with the alternatives of plunging in altogether or getting out altogether, the Americans should get out altogether. Supporters of this line concede the Communists have the initiative and can vary the battleground as they like; they do not have to light in the open field against the Americans. Such thinking, repugnant though it may be, should be part of the contingency thinking of a responsible government on foreign affairs. Unfortunately, it is completely beyond the limited scope and unsophisticated analysis of the Minister’s statement.
In summary, the Opposition finds itself aligned with the huge volume of thoughts of people who want a negotiated neutrality for the whole of Indo-China. The Government still clings wistfully to hopes of a military victory which cannot be obtained at an acceptable price. This is part of the fairy tale quality which suffuses all the foreign policy thinking of the Government. It cannot formulate and conduct a successful foreign affairs policy because it takes an issue and simplifies it to the point of absurdity. It reduces issues such as the Vietnam war to a choice between winning and losing and a choice between hard policies and soft policies. There is not the slightest concession to flexibility or compromise which must always be the foundations of successful external policy.
I mentioned earlier the Minister’s uneasiness and evasiveness on Cambodia. The overthrow of Prince Sihanouk can only accelerate the overall deteriorating in IndoChina. It raises the possibility that the last haven in Indo-China as yet untouched by war will not be spared the bitter fate of Laos and Vietnam. Whatever the motivations behind the coup against Sihanouk, it can only drive him irrevokably into the Communist camp. There must be grave doubts on whether the military regime can maintain the stability and neutrality Sihanouk brought to Cambodia. The best that can be achieved with this regime would be a period of instability and racial strife with no slackening of the North Vietnamese hold on their bases in Cambodia. The worst would be the absorption of Cambodia into a full-scale Indo-China war. The last vestiges of stability and responsibility in IndoChina may have been lost with the Prince’s fall. Sihanouk has a ready made army for his restoration in the North Vietnamese units based in the eastern provinces of Cambodia.
I want to conclude with some brief comments on President Nixon’s Guam doctrine on which the Minister placed considerable reliance in his statement. The essence of the doctrine is America’s retreat from a policy that was grandiose and global to a stance that is restrained and cautious. There have been many conflicting interpretations of the doctrine and there are many inconsistencies in its exposition. What is quite clear is that in future America will define its interests much more rigorously than in the past. America is committed to helping some 42 nations against external aggression. Australia is one. Tn the past these commitments have involved America in military intervention in Greece, Guatemala, Lebanon, Cuba, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Very few, if any, of these interventions can be justified in the cold light of retrospection. What President Nixon seems to be saying is mistaken assessments have been made in the past which produced hasty and misconceived commitments. In the future American intervention will be based on a scrupulous rigid definition of American interests projected over a long term period. There will be no more abrupt interventions to support anti-Communist dictators or in response to momentary flare-ups anywhere over the globe. In the past hasty commitments have been made and America’s interests have had to be bent and redefined to fit in with accomplished facts. In a commitment such as Vietnam this has produced an inevitable progression of further involvements. Since World War II the United States and Australia have held common interests; in the years ahead they are likely to diverge sharply. The focus of United States attention will lift from South East Asia where, in the words of Senator Fulbright it does not matter very much for the United States in cold, unadorned strategic terms who is ruler. In the 1970s it is obvious that America will look directly across the Pacific to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and beyond to China and Russia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I refer to the remark by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) that the Government had a fairy tale policy. I remind him and all Australians of his speech last September to the Fabian Society during which he stated that if the Australian Labor Party won the election it would withdraw all our forces from Vietnam regardless of our military situation, and regardless of our allies’ situation. He also wanted all personnel, Navy, Army and Air Force, withdrawn from Singapore and Malaysia. He would have renegotiated the AustralianUnited States base agreements so that - and here is his fairy tale - Australia would have been able to settle down in an almost Utopian situation where it could implement the democratic Socialist policies of the Australian Labour Party. What a statement. It is quite unrealistic and is quite Fortress Australia in concept.
In supporting the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) in his comprehensive, thoughtful and far-reaching statement I say that the Parliament and the country have had placed before them a frank and clear outline of Australia’s foreign policy. The Minister has made it clear that he intends to take the Australian people into his confidence in defining the line that the Australian Government will follow in order to play its part in the development of a peaceful, progressive and secure South East Asian and Pacific region. I believe that the Government has adopted a constructive and positive approach to the problem of Asia which should ensure that Australia will become a trusted leader in the future developments that take place in the region. Australia must be active to ensure stability and security in South East Asia. This is one of the primary objectives of the Government. The security of Australia must be foremost in our minds.
We could never enjoy any real security or even a sense of security if we turned a blind eye to the problems of South East Asia, to the aggressive and subversive policies of the Communist planners and nations, and especially to the recent activities of the Soviet Union in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia. Australia cannot ignore its responsibilities in assisting peace and stability east of Suez - in particular in Malaysia and Singapore - after the proposed British withdrawal next year. Australia needs to maintain strong ties and alliances with the United States, New Zealand and other friendly powers, particularly Japan, in the Asian and Pacific region. Australia could never enjoy real security if it turned a blind eye to the need to further the development of the industrial and economic growth of Australia. The ties and alliances that I have mentioned would enable Australia to increase its defence capacity and its ability to help the developing South East Asian countries and to ensure a sound basis for their ecoonmic and political stability.
The Minister for External Affairs has stated that Australia’s future is bound up with the future of the Asian and Pacific region and that the Middle East and Asian regions are potentially the most explosive in the world. Thus it is in our interest that we give all the support within the scope of our resources to the policies which will lead to mutual co-operation with those South East Asian countries in need of assistance. This will require the increasing aid to the economic and social developments of the South East Asian countries to enable them to provide better living standards and trading opportunities for their people. A fine example of this aid is the $53. 8m grant to Indonesia to further promote its economic development. Whilst Australia can take some comfort from the Nixon doctrine reaffirming that the United States will honour its treaty commitments and will provide a shield against nuclear threat, Australia cannot escape its own responsibilities and efforts to ensure a peaceful progress in South East Asia and the Pacific. We cannot accept the Labor Party policy of Fortress Australia. The Minister has confirmed that the Australian Government will continue to encourage the same responsible effort by the Asian and Pacific countries to develop their own resources for their own defence and regional cooperation towards collective security. Such a policy of self help by all nations concerned will strengthen their chances of resistance against aggression, which is beyond their own military capability.
The greatest threat to the free world comes from the Communist powers. It is fortunate that the United States has assumed - not without some reluctance - the burden of counterbalancing Communist expansion around the world, especially in our region. This effort is not being fully supported by the European powers which are more content to settle into European isolationism. Nor is it supported by the honourable members opposite. The intended and unfortunate British withdrawal from east of Suez emphasises the growing European disinterest in the eastern and Asian scene. Surely this invites us to take a distant view of Europe and to concentrate our attention militarily, politically and in respect of trade in South East Asia, the Pacific, and North and South America as our immediate spheres of interest. No immediate military threat to Australia appears imminent and a global war must be assessed as unlikely, except by misadventure, but we live in a potentially explosive region. The dominoes are falling.
A new dimension has emerged in this scene with the recent growing Soviet interest in the Middle East, the Indian
Ocean, and the South East Asian region. The Soviet Union is clearly involving itself in the Indian Ocean and the South East Asian area for several reasons. I believe some of those reasons are. first, to face China on yet another front; second, to extend the influence of Russia as a world power; third, to fill the power vacuum in South East Asia consequent on Britain’s withdrawal and, perhaps, in anticipation of a slowing down of United States activity and influence should the Vietnam conflict be satisfactorily resolved; and, fourth - this is the most important to us - to compete with Japan, Australia and other countries for the growing trade opportunities which will develop in Asia.
As the Minister emphasised, whatever Russia’s motives are we can be sure that her involvement emanates from her self-interest and desire to be the ruling Communist power. To those gullible Socialist Opposition members who believe that Russian motives are based on a spirit of Socialist goodwill and their desire to achieve South East Asian stability and peace, let me say that the Russian support of the North Vietnamese has enabled that conflict to continue. Let me remind them of the Russian technical, financial and military support of the dangerous President Sukarno, who nearly led his country into the hands of a Communist coup.
We must not be gullible or foolish. The Soviet Union remains the greatest threat to world peace. She is engaged in a political and ideological struggle with Mao Tse-tung and China because she seeks political supremacy in the Communist world. We should not forget the Russian suppression of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and of the millions of Baltic and Slavic people. I say: Beware of the Russian motives. We must be concerned to see that these new Russian activities are not detrimental to our own security and to the security of our region.
I believe that the emerging Russian involvement in South East Asia should stimulate all non-Communist countries and people interested in the region to form strong regional associations to counter this new form of Communist penetration. I think it is appropriate that we should reflect on the degree to which we have developed our foreign affairs policies since
World War II. Our development in the field of foreign affairs has been quite remarkable. The successive Federal Liberal-Country Party governments over the years can claim great credit for our progress in this field. For instance, until World War II. we scarcely had a policy on South East Asia or Asia. Australians regarded themselves then as Europeans living in a country remote from their origins. Most Asian countries were colonies of the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, France and Portugal, with the exception of Thailand, Japan and China.
Australia opened legations in Japan in 1940 and China in 1941. Our first diplomatic mission in a foreign country was opened in Washington in 1941. The Pacific war changed this attitude that we previously had. Our security is no longer solely dependent on Europe. The United States proved to be a most powerful ally during the last war. Post-war years have brought independence to our neighbours - India. Indonesia, Malaysia, Indo-China, Burma and other countries - with consequent unrest. Independence has not solved all the problems. In fact it has intensified economic and political problems. It has exposed those countries to Communist pressures. A wave of international Communist subversion and aggression has throught unrest to Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Korea, Indonesia and Indo-China as it then was.
After the Communist revolution in China in 1949 Australia rapidly orientated its policy and thinking. We saw the need to co-operate directly with our neighbours. We encouraged and welcomed United States involvement in the Pacific and in the South East Asian area. The Australian diplomatic service built up rapidly after World War II and by 1950 we had 7 posts in Asian countries. Today there are 18 diplomatic posts, including posts in all our neighbouring countries. This has been the policy of successive Liberal-Country Party Governments. Australia enjoys membership of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and ANZUS. It initiated the Colombo Plan and is a foundation member of the Asian Development Bank. Such membership is vital to preserving the economic and political freedom and security of the independent states.
Australia has militarily supported the United Nations against Communist aggression in Korea. Alongside Britain in the 1950s it helped Malaya to defeat Communist insurgency. It has assisted the Malaysian Government during the confrontation with Indonesia and has undertaken defence support of Malaysia and Singapore after the United Kingdom withdrawal in 1971. Australia has responded to requests for military assistance from the Republic of Vietnam. It has fulfilled obligations under the ANZUS Pact. The dreadful Vietnam war has held up Communist insurgency throughout South East Asia. We have sought close political and diplomatic relations with Asian countries and a new relationship with Indonesia. We have helped by contributing to such important associations as the Commonwealth of Nations, the Asian and Pacific Council and ECAFE. In South East Asia only Japan surpasses Australia in terms of the economic impact it can make on the area.
Most of our neighbours are economically under-developed. The political stability and security of the area depend on their economic progress, know-how, development of natural resources and, in some cases, agriculture. Australia’s bilateral aid to Asian countries up to June 1969, which is mostly given through the Colombo Plan, has cost more than $254m. For the year 1969-70 it will cost $40m. A much heavier programme has been extended to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for which we accept responsibility. The Australian Government has worked to assist Indonesia. We want to see a stable government in that country. I welcome the recently announced 3-year programme requiring the expenditure of $53. 8m to assist economic development in Indonesia.
I deal now with prospects for the 1970s. The 1970s will inherit the unsolved problems of the 1960s, and some new ones. The British withdrawal from east of Suez, apart from Hong Kong, will cause great problems. There will probably be less United States military presence than previously, but the area will need a steady United States presence and economic assistance. The complete withdrawal of the United States would be disastrous.
We will see an immense population growth and a need to accelerate economic growth. The population of China is now roughly 700m, that of India is 530m and Indonesia’s population is nearly 120m. World population will double by the year 2000 with the growth mostly in Asia. We will see greater efforts to improve the standard of living in Asia which is now at about onetwentieth of Australia’s nutritional standards. Goods and services that we regard as basic necessities are beyond the reach of the masses of these people. The standards of health and education in Asia are poor. These problems must be overcome. There is a need to accelerate the economic growth and trade outlets of the countries in South East Asia. Mainland China will become an increasingly significant force, a potential giant. The world needs to reach an accommodation with China to help resolve the Indo-China problem. The future security of the region depends largely on our success in this direction.
What is likely to happen after Mao Tsetung is succeeded, as likely to occur in the 1970s? There is a possibility of a continuance of Sino-Soviet rivalry and possible conflict. We will see Japan as a major economic power in the region. Japan now has the highest gross national product of any country and she will play an important role in the area, both economic and political, and probably will re-emerge as a military power. In the 1970s Japan’s national income will more than double. Indonesia should continue to consolidate its economy by its own effort and with our assistance. The smaller countries will continue to have many problems - political instability, economic rivalry, territorial disputes and trouble from minorities and racial and sectarian groups. It is in our interests that these countries make economic progress and secure trade opportunities. Japan’s expanding activities, if properly directed, will play a useful role in generating that higher level of economic activity which will be essential if the poorer countries of the region are to become more prosperous.
Australia’s objectives and role should be to continue to grow strong economically - only in this way can we increase our own defence capacity - to populate our country and to increase our overseas trade. Moreover, if we grow economically stronger we will generate a capacity to give economic and political security to the area. We should be alert to the winds of change. We should not be negative in our approach to achieve greater security. We should attempt to build a community of nations. The 1970s are likely to be a period of change. There will be a period of great opportunity. Let us grasp this opportunity more firmly by cutting in on the deal all Australians, young and old.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) when denouncing the Labor Party’s proposal concerning the Foreign Affairs Committee said that the Parliament could not ever have public sessions of the Foreign Affairs Committee because no-one giving evidence before it in public would give away any information. I could not imagine a clearer guideline for his own statement on foreign affairs in this House than that he spent his time avoiding giving away information. He certainly has not provided any information that would be useful to any enemy of Australia and he has not provided any information that would be useful to this Parliament.
The honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) said one thing that made me want to rise to my feet and cheer wildly. He showed a perception so rare that I would like particularly to commend him for it. His statement was to the effect that we should beware of assuming that in Papua and New Guinea the first thing that we ought to do is have economic development and that we should regard political development as secondary. Take warning from Nigeria which had magnificent economic resources and a level of political relationships and political development which caused those economic resources to be used to finance one of the bloodiest civil wars in history which lasted for almost the longest period in history and which involved genocide of the people of Biafra. Of what avail is the development of the economic resources of Nigeria if the Moslem north loathes the Catholic eastern region inhabited by the Ibo and if there is a mutual struggle for supremacy? Political development will determine how the economic resources of Papua and New Guinea shall be used.
When, with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), I visited the men whom the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) with his characteristic looseness called ‘those extremists’ on their prison farm at Keravat - I refer to Melchior To Mot, Damien Keruku and Daniel Rumet - 1 was reminded irresistibly of what Lord Attlee said concerning certain colonial leaders: ‘1 hear that they are in prison. I expect to meet them at the next Prime Ministers’ Conference as Prime Ministers’. If there was anyone whom I thought would be future Prime Ministers or leaders of Papua and New Guinea it was the three men we visited in prison. When we got back to Port Moresby we informed one of the highest officials of the Administration that the Mataungan people had told us that Councillor To Rangis, while wearing his crown badge, had been struck down by a patrol officer who had then fined him. We told the Administration official also that the Mataungan leaders had said that this was the crown striking the crown and they wanted redress. The patrol officer was assuming the right to determine the boundaries between what the natives regarded as their land and the planters regarded as their land. This was pooh-poohed. We were told that we were sympathetic to extremists.
Now the higher courts of Papua and New Guinea have declared that Councillor To Rangis was denied natural justice. His accuser was his judge and, what is more, his accuser struck him down and fined him. One of the officials in Port Moresby said: if we knew that and if it is true, the patrol officer would be dismissed’. But these were elements in the Administration that seem to have been determined to blame the Mataungan leaders when their position was not known. Now Mr Justice Minogue, speaking of two of the other men we visited, has said that they were denied counsel; that they were denied witnesses; that certain evidence should have been admitted; that they were denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, and that their trial was a miscarriage of justice and it should be quashed and a new trial held.
The Leader of the Opposition did not say that the courts of law discriminated against the natives. He said that the law in Papua and New Guinea discriminated against the natives. But the Supreme Court of the Territory has said in effect that the courts of law discriminated against the men whom we saw because of their miscarriages of justice and denials of natural justice. I do not want to say anything more on that, but the significance of what the honourable member for Casey said is very important. I say to the Government: Get a defensible, intelligent and justified political relationship with the Mataungan leaders and stop lying about them. Or, if what you are saying is not a lie, find out the truth about them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I remind the honourable member for Fremantle that the word he has used is unparliamentary.
– Very well, I withdraw the expression. These men’s case has never been refuted. The Mataungan position was simply that the Tolai people handed over to the Gazelle Council, when it was a native council, the management of their economic resources because under the laws only the local councils could borrow from the banks. Therefore when expatriates came onto the Council and it was made multiracial it automatically involved management of their economic resources by Europeans, including Europeans who had always been opposed to their cocoa projects which upset them. New European members of the Council had actually spoken against these projects. It was the fear that the change in structure of the council was a subterfuge for taking over their economic resources. The loss of native land has been a striking feature of the Gazelle Peninsula. The Mataungans were misrepresented as political propaganda against the Leader of the Opposition but this campaign has seriously misrepresented the position in the Gazelle, and it is very important that in the relationship between our two countries nothing should be misrepresented. If the Government does not believe in their case, for heaven’s sake state what it is and do not misrepresent it when you are trying to refute it.
The Minister or External Affairs had hopes, I infer from his statement, for a continued British presence east of Suez. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had no hope, as far as I could infer from his earlier statement, for a continued British presence east of Suez. I think we should look at the likelihood of a British presence east of Suez, not in terms of what we wish but in terms of the fundamental purposes of the United Kingdom. In the past Britain occupied positions in the Persian Gulf, Malaya and Singapore to screen the Indian Empire. British authority extended all the way from the coast of Palestine to Malaya. This was the reason for the British positions east of Suez. The defence of the Indian Empire was the rationale of policy. The other places were the outposts. There is no longer an Indian Empire. This fact affects British policy in 2 ways. It obviously takes away a case for maintaining large forces east of Suez. Secondly, since Britain has no power base and no ‘home’ presence in Asia, as she had when she had 3 million loyal Indian troops under her command in the Indian Empire, British intervention in Asia is likely to be limited at most to minor actions in peninsulas, never to an endless and undefinable commitment on the broad mainland of Asia. If we look back at British intervention in Korea and Malaysia, it will be noted that the British forces with their allies were in a position to establish a complete defensive line of force right across the peninsula and to screen both ends of the line with naval forces. There was not a limitless commitment. If you invade the general mainland of Asia you undertake a limitless military commitment and you cannot prevent the forces opposed to you from being augmented in power. The Americans have found very great difficulty in preventing the reinforcement of the armed forces with which they are confronted in Vietnam.
Sir Robert Thompson has been extensively quoted by Government speakers and 1 would like to draw attention to an extremely wise statement of his. He said:
One fact of life emerges. The less the justification, the quicker the successful action must be. There is no doubt that if victory in Vietnam had been achieved by 1963, there would have been resounding applause all round, and even if achieved in 1966, after the commitment of the United States forces and the bombing of the North, little harm would have been done and most criticism would have been stilled. The longer the period and the larger the scale of the involvement are likely to be, the better must be the cause if damage to the grand strategy is to be avoided. This all leads to the awkward conclusion that it is safer to back a quick winner who may be wrong than a slow loser who may be right.
The Soviet Union is extremely conscious of this. That country made a quick and devastating intervention in Czechoslovakia, and the world has very rapidly forgotten.
The United States has a protracted war in Vietnam and as it drags on more and more people in Europe and elsewhere are being alienated from her.
The other factor, in the British foreign policy stand, is the new strategic assessment of Europe. Historically, British strategy was always to form an eastern alliance against a central threat. When the threat came from Napoleon’s France, alliance with powers east of France took place, that is, with Prussia and Russia. When the threat came from Imperial Germany the answer was an alliance with France in the west and Czarist Russia in the east. With a threat from Hitler’s Germany, there was an alliance with the Soviet Union on the eastern side of Germany. Always the central expanding threat has been countered by a British alliance further to the east. Today the’ Soviet Union has created a supra-national Communist military force and claims the right to use it to exercise surveillance within Communist countries. The use of East German, Polish and Soviet troops to invade Czechoslovakia in August 1968 demonstrated this. If the Soviet Union can get rid of the Chinese distraction on its eastern border its possibilities of surveillance over Albania, Yugoslavia and Rumania may begin to operate, and then from the forcible consolidation of the Communist bloc the Soviet Union may be well placed to dominate western Europe.
British policy therefore has changed. There is no ally further east and therefore British policy is to consolidate western Europe economically and militarily as a defensive screen. Troops east of Suez can play no part in countering a Soviet thrust to the Channel ports. British foreign policy is turning exclusively towards Europe. We must accept this as a fact of life. I would like to see 2 things happen in the world. Firstly, I would tike to see some government have the sanity to say that it aims to create a sane world. We suffer from a surfeit of the philosophy of the Nassers and such who say that they want to eliminate Israel or others who want to eliminate the political ideologies in Asia of which they disapprove. Everyone has this idea: Delenda est whomever you do not approve. But very few will stand up and articulate that the fundamental aim of foreign policy is to create a sane world.
I do not believe only in withdrawal from Vietnam. I think it would be a highly intelligent action for the governments of the world persistently at the United Nations to create an ideological ground swell which demanded a Soviet withdrawal from Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, a Western withdrawal from Germany, and a withdrawal from Vietnam. There is a very strong case for everybody getting out of everywhere that troops are stationed among foreign populations because these interventions are almost invariably attempts to control what very largely is not their business to control. To raise this demand persistently would for once put the Soviet bloc on the ideological defensive. I am not going to say that withdrawal would happen within 48 hours. The embarrassments of the Soviet Union in relation to China exist because China has the intelligence to raise ideological issues about her borders and about Soviet domination of subject nationalities which have put the Soviet Union on the ideological defensive. The Soviet is in the position of being a satisfied’ imperial power possessing all sorts of territories and controlling peoples over which and whom she really has no claim. China is in the position of being a revolutionary power vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. The Soviet leaders understand this very well. Australia ought not to be satisfied with a. world of occupying troops going on occupying for ever or for years after a war. The issue of withdrawal from all these areas ought to be constantly raised by the Australian Government.
I would now like to comment on some of the remarks made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). I am not impressed by anyone saying that one must not be an isolationist. Maybe isolationism is an extremely unintelligent policy. I think it may be. But I would be very glad to hear such a policy refuted. I would like to hear the refutation of Fortress Australia. Why do honourable members opposite assume, for instance, that America is likely to be involved in a war in defence of Australia? We have lived for 80 years with the statement that Britain is defending Australia. Australia intervened on Britain’s behalf in the Sudan war, the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War. We intervened in Malaysia probably on her behalf and perhaps our own. and in Korea on behalf of the United Nations. There is no evidence whatever that Britain over that period of time was ever likely to be involved in a war on Australia’s behalf. This is not to contend that where Britain was a force for world sanity she should not have been supported. But this business of turning every fact of history into the myth that Britain is defending Australia ends rational discussion. I think it is extremely likely that Australia will be repeatedly involved in wars on behalf of the United States and extremely unlikely that the United States will be involved in war on behalf of Australia. At least that ought to put you in the position in relation to your allies where you do not need to be servile and mendicant.
I think that the North West Cape strategy needs to be looked at, not hysterically but rationally. The one weapon in relation to which the Western world is most at a disadvantage is the nuclear armed and nuclear powered submarine. These vessels threaten Western cities such as New York, London, San Francisco, Liverpool, Yokohama, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne, Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. All of these cities are on the coast. A submarine can stand out to sea a few miles and send an atomic, nuclear or hydrogen rocket into such cities. Such a sudden attack cannot be detected or intercepted. The West, with all its great industrial centres on the sea boards - 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water - is overwhelmingly at a disadvantage with this weapon - the one weapon that is being controlled from Australia. The theory is that if anybody decides to knock it out by a nuclear attack on Australia the United States will counter with a nuclear atttack on our behalf.
De Gaulle asked the simple question: ‘If a nuclear attack is made on France will the United States on behalf of France make a nuclear attack on the other power - the Soviet Union, shall we say?’ His answer was no, because that in turn would provoke a nuclear attack on the United States. He asked the logical question: ‘Why should150 million Americans die for France?’ I ask the logical question: ‘Why should 150 million Americans die for Australia?’ In war it would be a very good propagandist action to knock out with nuclear weapons every thing in Australia that relates to American nuclear controls. The attacker would not then have reached the point of no return where he was provoking an uncontrollable war because it is extremely unlikely that the United States would regard this as the casus belli for the exercise of nuclear weapons. I have just put this rationally. Honourable members opposite can shout if they like and go around saying that what 1 say is against the North West Cape base. What we want is a rational explanation and rational discussion of these strategic matters - not this constant attempt at intimidation by saying: ‘You must not say this. It is isolationism’ or, ‘You must not say this. It is Fortress Australia”. All of these matters are open to examination and discussion to determine strategic facts, and this is what our foreign policy debates ought to be devoted to.
– First of all I wish to say a few words about things that have been said in the course of this debate. Then I propose to follow a new track that has not yet been pursued. Finally I will come back to the well trodden ways. I, like the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) entirely agree with what was said by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) in regard to New Guinea. I need not repeat that.
The honourable member for Fremantle has argued that British intervention in Asia is unlikely, at least on any substantial scale. I would agree with him entirely. I agree with the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) rather than with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr . McMahon) on this matter. When Great Britain lost India she lost her empire and the power that she was able to deploy in this part of the world. At the same time, there might conceivably be some small British force which might be deployed in a very local situation in an area such as Malaysia. But that is a small hope. The last matter that was raised by the honourable member for Fremantle - indeed it has been raised by the Opposition generally - relates to isolationism being, as he says, a policy that at least ought to be examined and possibly a right policy for Australia. I have not time to deal with that now. I hope, when I have dealt with a rather novel aspect, to come back to that if I have time.
Now I want to say something about the situation of Australia in her foreign relations, in particular because I do not think that either the Government or the Opposition has worked out any satisfactory policy. We are still trying to find our way in a totally new situation that Australia has never confronted before. In this connection I come to the Department of External Affairs. 1 am not one of those who believe that public servants should devise our policy for us; but they certainly should be able to help. So I want to say something about the organisation of that Department. There is a prima facie case for a thoroughgoing inquiry into it.
Between 1911 and 1914 there was a royal commission into the British Foreign Office. In 1943 a White Paper was presented. Various important changes were made from that time until 1962-63, when the Plowden report was tabled. Then in 1968-69 the Duncan report was made public. If over that period it was necessary for the British to look into the organisation of their Foreign Office, surely the time has come for us to have a look at our Department of External Affairs. When we consider that in 1939 we had one diplomatic post abroad - that is to say, the post of High Commissioner in London - and now,as the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) pointed out, we have many posts all over the world, and when we consider that our Department has grown up like Topsy, then surely we cannot be in any different position from the United Kingdom and it is time we had a look at the organisation of our Department. That is a prima facie case.
Now I come to some detail in support of the case for a thoroughgoing inquiry of the type made by the Plowden Committee. Australia at the United Nations, for example, is less fortunate than the mythical hero Achilles because it has 2 vulnerable heels. The first is its policy in regard to southern Africa. These are matters that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the course of his speech in this debate. But in fact they were raised publicly by me before that, and the fact that he has raised them also makes no difference to my attitude on them. By our votes in the United Nations, by our trade with Rhodesia and by the establishment of an embassy in Lis bon recently, for example, we have appeared to align ourselves with the minority white regimes in southern Africa. By ‘southern Africa’ I mean South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal with its 2 territories of Angola and Mozambique.
We live in South East Asia on the rim of a continent inhabited by people who do not have white skins, and we have to live with them. Therefore, it is an extraordinarily stupid policy to associate ourselves with regimes of that kind. Let me quote Security Council resolution 253 of 1968 insofar as it is applicable in regard to our trade with Rhodesia. It states:
The Security Council,
Recalling and reaffirming-
Certain resolutions that I need not detail:
Decides that, in furtherance of the objective of ending the rebellion-
That is in Rhodesia:
Certain things including:
The sale or supply by their nationals or from their territories of any commodities or products but not including supplies intended strictly for medical purposes, educational equipment and material for use in schools and other educational institutions, publications, news material and, in special humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs
Anybody who says that our sales of wheat to Rhodesia come into that category simply is incapable of understanding the plain meaning of words. We are in breach of the Security Council resolution. Yet, as I have said, we live in this part of the world and we do these things.
As far as an embassy in Lisbon is concerned, why do we need it? This raises the question of the criteria that we apply when we open an embassy in any part of the world. When our trained and experienced diplomats are strained to the limit as it is, why do we open an embassy in Lisbon? I suppose the reason is that we are scavenging around the world for factory fodder; we are looking everywhere for immigrants. I suppose we think that opening an embassy may help. But apparently we pay no regard to the effect that that action may have on our relations with southern Africa and therefore our neighbours in Asia.
Our second Achilles’ heel is New Guinea. I need not enlarge upon this since much has been said about it already in the course of this debate. It is true that in New Guinea our interests, the interests of the local inhabitants themselves and the interest of the A fro- Asian group in the United Nations are one. The net result is that in the United Nations, because we have these two Achilles heels, we hide in corners for fear that if we should come out and say something we may be attacked on account of our relationship with southern Africa and our problem in New Guinea.
We are one of the most distant parts of the world and a country through which nobody passes to go anywhere else. We are one of the most geographically isolated countries in the world. We play no part on the stage of the United Nations, although it is a world stage and what happens there and what we do and what we do not do is reported back to all the capitals of the world. This is the fault of Government policy, not of our representatives. A country like Malta or Trinidad and Tobago plays a greater part in the United Nations than we do. That is one example to show why some examination ought to be made of the formation of our foreign policy, because we do one thing in relation to southern Africa or New Guinea, but we are faced with a different situation when we get to the United Nations.
Where is the co-ordination of policy? Where does the policy of the Department of External Affairs co-ordinate with the policy of the Department of External Territories. In fact, our policy is not being coordinated but is galloping off in all directions. I am putting up a case to indicate that there is need for an examination of the functioning of the Department of External Affairs. My second example is that the High Commissioner in London still reports to the Prime Minister or to the Prime Minister’s Department. He does not report to the Department of External Affairs. It was many years ago that Canada made its representation in London similar to the representation in the other parts of the world. The British themselves have consolidated the Foreign Office and the Dominions Office. Nobody’s nose will be put out of joint. This is a plain anomaly. It is time that the High Commissioner in London reported to the Department of External Affairs. I am merely giving examples of plain anomalies and things that need looking into in this field. -
There is a lack of long-term research - a think tank or whatever you like to call it - in the Department of External Affairs. This situation has recently been brought to light. For a long time there was no research section at ali. Then a relatively junior was appointed, but he appears to have been forgotten and so nothing has been done about long-term policies. The Department is distracted with its day to day activities and business and so never gets down to any long-term considerations. Often the desk officers have never been into the areas of their responsibility and know nothing about them. I have met a senior member of the Department - a First Secretary - who has never been in a continent for which he was responsible in the Department.
So far as Communist China is concerned, most of us know that the United States has a very large organisation in Hong Kong, which is an obvious listening post to read the Chinese newspapers and to hear what it can from those who come out of China. I have reason to know that our information about what happens in China is extremely limited. What is the relationship of the Department of External Affairs with the Department of Trade and Industry? 1 have already instanced the sale of wheat in Rhodesia. Did the Department of Defence consult with other departments before it established the Pacific Islands Regiment, before it put in the barracks where it put them or before it decided what kind of educational training the PIR would have? Did it consult on the political consequences? Obviously this is most important in relation to what we do in New Guinea. I have already mentioned that the Department of Immigration has been responsible for the establishment of embassies in certain countries to suit its needs notwithstanding that there may be no other adequate reasons for having posts in those countries. There is also the question of bringing in specialists from outside the Department of External Affairs, whether they be from universities or elsewhere. In an age of technology when, in our external relations, particularly through the United Nations and its agencies, we have to deal with matters such as nuclear weapons, the development of the sea bed and so forth, there is obviously a place for technologists with the highest qualifications. Where and on what terms should they be recruited? I have mentioned the academics who might be used. All these things need looking into.
Besides this there is the question of Asian languages, which are difficult languages. Are adequate incentives given to those members of the Department who take the trouble to learn them. If a man has taken the trouble to learn a difficult Asian language, is he to be removed from that area after he has served there for a year or 2 and sent to Europe or somewhere else? It is a mattter of how officers who have specialist knowledge, whether in languages or otherwise, are posted.
Again there is the question of aid. One case that came under my notice was when we installed broadcastting equipment - loud speakers - to deal with insurgency in Thailand. The fact that was overlooked by the gentleman from the Australian Broadcasting Commission who. inspected the installation on behalf of the Department was that there was no electricity available there. Finally there is the question, of the study of Asian affairs in our universities. Some may of their own motion start, say, a department of Indonesian studies; but there is no coordination in all this. I was very impressed many years ago when I went to England. This was at a time when England was the centre of the empire, when people went out and came back from all the corners of the world with an enormous fund of knowledge and information. The languages that could be studied at an English university and the cultural studies on Asia and elsewhere were simply by-products of Britain’s having an empire. We are on the fringe of Asia and have to know as much about our neighbours as Britain ever did about her empire, yet there has been no co-ordinated attempt by the Department of Education and Science to see that these things are studied in a systematic way. We should be a centre for the study of the cultures and languages of Asia. These are matters to which I think it is important to draw attention.
May I make a few remarks in conclusion? I see that my time is running out and that I will not have a chance to deal with other matters or to move along the well-trodden paths. But I would like to quote some of the conclusions of the Plowden Committee, to which I drew attention earlier, not be cause these are necessarily more important than others but because they indicate the scope of an inquiry of this kind. These are some of the conclusions:
Our need for efficient overseas representational services is likely to increase rather than decrease. Their tasks will grow wider in scope and become more complex and exacting.
What about the tasks for our diplomats with the expansion of our interests and our needs? Other conclusions were:
A greater degree of specialisation in languages, areas and functions is required withtin the . . . Service.
Although there is a need for functional departments in the Foreign Offices, as much work as possible should be assigned to geographical departments.
Policy planning’ work should be developed and geared in with policy-making in the overseas Departments and within Whitehall as a whole. There should be close contact with outside experts.
Information work in the Diplomatic Service must be regarded as essentially an activity designed to further policies and should be undertaken by career members of that Service.
The Diplomatic Service should have a unified legal section with a structure of its own and common recruitment.
Should we have a special legal section, or should we rely on the Attorney-General’s Department? Another conclusion was:
Recruiting standards should be maintained. There should continue to be a system of over-age entry.
Is there a necessity for this here? The conclusions go on:
There is greater scope for borrowing university and other talent for periods of temporary service.
With certain exceptions, all civilian officers now attached to overseas Missions should in future serve on secondment.
Speaking of conditions of service for members in it, the report states:
A second annual concessionary journey should be granted for children at school to join their parents overseas during school holidays.
This is very necessary for us. Another conclusion was:
Compensation for service at specially difficult posts should take the form of annual home leave.
A further conclusion was:
An increase in expenditure on amenities is called for, particularly at difficult posts.
I quote these things merely to indicate that surely it is time we had a look at them here. We have gone on from 1939 to this day without any thoroughgoing inquiry into these matters. I would not like it to be thought that anything I have said is critical of the officers of the Department of External Affairs. Indeed, I think that all of us who have been abroad have the very highest opinion of these intelligent, dedicated and educated men. They are men who present the very best image that Australia can possibly have. Nothing that I have said reflects on them in the slightest degree. Indeed, I would greatly regret seeing any lowering of standards in the Department. On the contrary, service in the Department should be a career that will attract the very best people that we have in this country, and this depends so much on the conditions of service and the work which they have to do.
I am sorry that 1 have not had time to deal with other matters, but this was something that I felt ought to be said. Our opportunities to speak on these matters in this place are very limited indeed, as some honourable members have remarked in the course of the last week or so. Our opportunities are limited, so i have taken the opportunity of saying these things that I believe ought to be said. We are still in search of a policy. Neither the Government nor the Opposition has found one. 1 am not suggesting that the Department of External Affairs alone should find the policy, but it can help, lt is high time that there was an inquiry like the Plowden inquiry, unless we do not produce here the type of people who can conduct such an inquiry - intelligent people with sufficient breadth of mind. If we have not got them, it is high time that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) tried to find out why we lack this type of person.
– Firstly, let me compliment the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) on his speech. He always makes a worthwhile contribution, and as one of the newer members of this House I am highly impressed with his independence. He touched, briefly, on a subject about which 1 intend to speak, and that is the question of southern Africa. On
Tuesday evening of this week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his reply to the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) detailed the appalling record of this Government’s support in the United Nations and at home for the white supremist regimes of South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal. He demonstrated quite clearly our standing with neighbours in the near north, the newly emerging countries of Africa and almost all the other countries in the world. Through our consistent support we have become identified as a racist country. 1 heard of an experience of one of the new Government Ministers who, when on a tour of South East Asian countries recently, was shocked to find in what low esteem we are held in these countries. Those we call our allies are aware of our immigration policy that excludes most of those with coloured skin. They are aware of our treatment, or should I say lack of treatment, of the Aboriginal. They know of our desire to delay our departure from New Guinea because of our sympathy for expatriate business interests. All these black marks against our national record pale beside our support of these regimes.
The Government has never bothered to explain why it has such an affinity for South Africa, Rhodesia and Portugal. What disturbs me, however, is that it has never repudiated publicly those members within its own ranks who go past the Government’s official1 stance and actively campaign both at home and abroad for a closer relationship and who champion the cause of these regimes in every public or private forum available and who tend to confirm the view that Australia is a racist country.
In my maiden speech 1 made mention of three members who are admirers of the white southern African dictatorship. Let me detail some of the recent statements by two of these honourable gentlemen. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) caused quite a stir, just prior to the opening session of this Parliament, when he appeared on Rhodesian television, and I quote from a text of the Salisbury interview that appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ on 28th February 1970:
Question: How similar do you think Australia and southern Africa are, both in climate and outlook and so on?
Answer: Well we are very similar as far as climate and people and in outlook, but politically we’re a little different, I think. You’re much more advanced that we are. At the moment we’re almost a communist state.
Sounds incredible doesn’t it?
There was an unintelligible question and Mr McLeay continued:
Answer: Oh I deplore it. And it’s interesting to come and see the way that you’ve got on top of this problem. In fact, I’m taking home some of your pieces of legislation and I aim to introduce them as private member’s Bills to see if we can do something about this.
– Who said this?
– The honourable member for Boothby.
– To what Party does he belong?
– To the Liberal Party. Later in the interview he concluded:
And I would like to see a much closer alliance between South Africa and ourselves. I’m disappointed to note that we don’t even exchange attaches. It seems to me that this is crazy.
Well I suppose that depends on who your psychiatrist is.
Now, let us look at some of the more eloquent ramblings of the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). On page 419 of Hansard on 12th March of this year, when speaking on the defence statement, he said:
The Communist attempt at world conquest today has two objectives. One is to capture the rice bowl of South East Asia and the other is to take over the Cape route . . . from the Atlantic into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Cape today, irrespective of whether you like the internal policies of South Africa, Rhodesia or Portugal-
Then some unruly member on this side of the House - I believe it was I - exclaimed: We do not’, and the honourable member continued:
No I am not particularly in support of some of the things that are going on there and I agree with you, but they are their internal policies and as was said by the man whom I consider to be the best leader in Africa- and I might mention that he does not name this person:
If I co-operate with them I have more chance of changing what I dislike than of driving them more and more into the arms of the extreme right wing by ostracising them’.
It is an interesting exercise in political gymnastics to classify Mr Vorster as anything other than extreme right wing. The honourable member continued:
The pattern today is that Russia is steadily coming down the African continent in order to take over the Cape because the Cape is the Gibralter of the International situation today.
What the honourable member is saying, in effect, is that the South Africans are not bad chaps really, that they are the bulwark against Communism and that we in Australia should overlooktheir little idiosyncrasies about not liking blacks and join with them in a defence pact as we are also threatened by the downward thrust of Communism through South East Asia.
It is not my intention to examine this time the honourable member’s ‘downward thrust’ theories or the graphic picture he paints of the so-called Communist influence on the newly emerging countries. There will be plenty of time in future debates to deal with that drivel. What I want to demonstrate is just what sort of allies the honourable members for Boothby and Chisholm suggest we align ourselves with. I ought to be able to demonstrate two things: Either they are abysmally ignorant of the true picture of the internal policies of the white supremists or, much worse, they are aware of, and do in fact agree with and sympathise with, their attitude and policies.
It is important that this House be made aware of the true political philosophies of some of the honourable members on the Government side. For a party that is so used to fighting political campaigns with little else than the smear, one could be excused for quoting the old cliche about people in glass houses. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is that so few people are really aware of what the real picture is, and I include politicians in this criticism. It is my belief that if every member in this House was fully aware of the situation rather than the glossy Kruger National Park image that South Africa presents to the world, then we would rip the veneer of respectability and acceptability that these members have from them. They would be shown for what they are - overt supporters of Totalitarian and Fascist regimes.
The average Australian man in the street, when asked what he thinks about South Africa, would probably say he had a vague idea that apartheid in South Africa meant that the blacks were not paid quite as well as the whites, that they had to use separate public facilities and that they could not play in multi-racial sporting teams. He would have a vague disquiet about apartheid and probably say he did not support it. What he would not know is how completely apartheid has separated, segregated, humiliated, oppressed and suppressed the lives of the 16 million who are black or coloured, to the point where they have been reduced to little more than numerical units for the white man’s labour force. They are treated little better than we treat our livestock.
What I want to highlight is that the very evil that the members for Boothby and Chisholm and I believe the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) wish to save southern Africa from - Communism - could hardly be worse than the present ideology they now live under - Fascism. Playing cricket and rugby does not make people democrats. What one ought to do is trace the political history of the present clique that rules and has ruled South Africa since the Nationalists ousted General Smuts in 1948. Adolf Hitler had few greater admirers than Dr Malan, Mr Strijdom, Dr Verwoerd and Mr Vorster. They added to their racist doctrine, virulent anti-Semitism and formed an unholy alliance with Boerenasie - the Greyshirts an organisation that imitated in style and content the Blackshirts and Brownshirts of Nazi Germany. While the present regime has outlawed the Communist Party, the Pan African Congress, the African National Congress and the Congress of Democrats and has caused the total disintegration of the Liberal Party, openly Fascist and antiSemitic organisations and individuals are allowed to continue with their activities unchecked. World Nazi organisations have branches in South Africa where the political climate is regarded as being particularly favourable to them. The Mosleyites of Britain are constant visitors to South Africa. May I quote William Webster, an envoy of Sir Oswald Mosley who in 1962 had an audience with Mr J. W. F. Haak, a recent guest of the New South Wales Government, who at that time was Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs. He said:
The Nationalists have the right idea. They are much shrewder than you think. They are following the same path as Hitler did, but they will not be as hasty as he was. They are going very slowly now, but they will smash their enemies in the end.
In this sphere of politics South Africa has not unnaturally replaced Nazi Germany as the fountainhead of inspiration for the world’s Fascist organisations. If the great struggle today is regarded as being not between Jew and Gentile, but between black and white, then it is understandable that in the eyes of Fascists the world over, Vorster and his predecessors should be seen to have assumed the tattered mantle once worn by Hitler. They have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Nazi Germany.
It is possible that some members will accuse me of being emotional so for the rest of this speech I intend to detail some of the more exquisite pieces of legislation that have been enacted during the 22 years of Nationalist rule. I hope those members on the other side who have legal1 experience - and I believe there are quite a number - will listen intently and appreciate the finesse with which successive South African governments have raised discrimination to a fine legislative art. The Acts brought down by successive South African governments - Acts that were introduced under the cloak of democracy - are such that they violate almost every single article of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. They have made a mockery of the word democracy’ for they have created a society where 3± million white people have unprecedented power over the rights and freedom of 16 million black and coloured people. The label on the package is ‘Apartheid’, meaning separate development, but the contents and the reality are racial dicrimination, exploitation and degradation. The whole structure of South African society is based upon discrimination between the different racial groups. The essence of government policy is the separation of the people of different racial origins and the elimination, as far as possible, of contact between them.
Racial classification was officially introduced in 1950 with the Population
Registration Act. Under the Act the population was divided into three categories: white, Bantu or black, and coloured. The Government has power to proclaim subcategories for certain categories within the Bantu and coloured categories for certain purposes. The following sub-categories have been proclaimed for coloured persons: Cape Coloured, Malay, Griqua, Chinese, Indian, other Asian and other coloured. Japanese are classified as white - an interesting distinction, a distinction that our friends on the other side would appreciate as it blends in perfectly with their own philosophy of ‘business above all’. Who says capitalism does not have a heart?
Whatever one can accuse the South Africans of. one cannot accuse them of not being methodical. Having classified people into racial groups they then set about separating them. The Bantu Trust and Land Act 1936. the Rural Coloured Areas Act 1963 and the Group Areas Act 1 966 achieve this. These Acts of legal land piracy effectively maintain the ownership of 87% of the land in the hands of 20% of the population. Their avarice knows no bounds. What little they give to the 16 million nonEuropeans is invariably the least productive and least viable. How have they managed to maintain this permanent ascendancy? Quite simply by keeping the control of the Parliament completely in the hands of the white minority. Only Europeans are eligible for membership of the Parliament. A total of 160 members of the House of Assembly is elected by the European electorate of South Africa. The black man, the coloured man, the Asian - a total of 16 million people - have no say in the government of the country in which they live.
The Bantustan system of internal selfgovernment for Africans makes a mockery of democracy and is a distortion of history. A step in this direction was taken with the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act in 1959 which divided the African population into 8 national units. The Transkei Constitution Act 1963, established the first partially self-governing homeland or Bantustan in the Transkei. Now comes the crunch. Bills passed by the Transkei Legislative Assembly are subject to the assent of the State President.
Now let us have a look at some of the other little pearls of legal restriction that will give honourable members a clearer picture of what is occurring in South Africa. In 1960 there existed 2 organisations that represented African political aspirations - the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress. After the massacre at Sharpeville, the Government enacted the Unlawful Organisation Act 1960 which enabled the head of State to declare any organisation unlawful if he was satisfied that the safety of the public or the maintenance of public order was, or was likely to be, seriously threatened as a consequence of their activities’. The Government thus had the power to place a blanket ban over all organisations that were in any way critical of its administration or policies. The Prohibition of Improper Interference Bill, published by the Government in September 1966 will prohibit, members of one racial group from taking part in the activities of political parties or organisation of another racial group.
Having divided, separated, categorised and restricted the movement of and between the various racial groups, how do they shut them up? Quite simply, they introduce censorship, with the Suppression of Communism Act 1950 and the Publication and Entertainments Act 1963. The later Act relates to the publication, production, importation or distribution of any “undesirable” publication or object’. Undesirable is defined as any publication that ‘brings any section of the inhabitants of the Republic into ridicule or contempt; is harmful to the relations between any sections of the Republic; is prejudicial to the safety of the State, the general welfare or the peace and good order’. So much for the freedom of the Press and freedom of speech.
Having in mind the recent debate over Mr Wilfred Burchett, the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) should take particular note of the South African Citizenship Act 1949, which empowers the Minister of the Interior to deprive a South African citizen of his nationality if convicted of high treason, sedition or public violence. If he leaves the country without a passport he is deprived of his nationality. An African - that means a black man - is regarded as an alien, a foreign migrant when resident in white South Africa.
So far so good, but now let us look at one of the real gems. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriage Act 1949 bans all intermarriage between people of different races and the Immorality Amendment Act 1950 makes it an offence, punishable by 5 years imprisonment, for a male and 4 years for a female, for a European and a non-European, to have sexual intercourse. One might legitimately ask: Where do the 3.5 million Cape Coloureds come from? If the honourable member for Boothby is thinking of introducing some of the legislation he studied when in southern Africa he might try himself out on a few of the labour laws. I should be interested to hear Bob Hawke’s remarks if the Government copied the South African industrial conciliation Act. Under these Acts, unions are separated on racial lines but the African unions are not recognised by law and they are denied the right to strike under the Bantu Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act 1953. To instigate or take part in a strike is an offence punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for 1 to 3 years, or both. Or perhaps the Bantu Labour Act 1964 would appeal more to the honourable member for Boothby. Under this Act it is a criminal offence for Africans:
These are the laws that honourable members opposite defend. The Act continues:
Time is running out. Unfortunately I have not the time to go into detail on these matters. It is about time that honourable members opposite thought and read about what is going on in South Africa. They should read the South African laws. If they do they will find out that they are defending Fascism of the worst type. Just because the South Africans play cricket, look like us and dress like us does not make them gentlemen.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fox) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Australian Canned Fruits Board to pay to canners from the Canned Fruit Excise Fund a proportion of the excise paid by them in the period 1st January 1969 to 27th March 1969. The excise is imposed on specified varieties of canned deciduous fruits and mixtures thereof entered for home consumption and is the income source of the Canned Fruit Excise Fund. The Fund is utilised by the Australian Canned Fruits Board in carrying out its functions in relation to the export marketing of canned fruit. Up to the 31st December 1968, the Board used this Fund principally in the payment of market development allowances to assist exports of canned fruit to difficult markets. Another important use was to finance promotion ventures in various overseas markets. The rate of excise was reduced about 12 months ago, after a recommendation from the Board, from 30c per dozen 29 oz cans to 5c per dozen 29 oz cans. The chief factor in this decision was that following an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the United States of America the payment of market development allowances from the Fund on export of Australian canned peaches to major export countries was discontinued from the 1st January 1969-
When these payments were discontinued the Canned Fruits Board immediately asked the Government to reduce the rate of excise. In the event, measures to effect this reduction could not, for administrative reasons, be concluded until the end of
March 1969 and consequently collections at the high rate continued for about 3 months after the payment of market development allowances ceased. The net result is that the Board has substantial moneys lying idle in the Fund and has recommended that a large portion of these moneys, representing the excess over its current requirements be returned to the original contributors of excise over the period 1st January 1969 to 27th March 1969. The Board has decided to increase its expenditure in 1970 on promotion from the Excise Fund and the refund will be at a level which will enable sufficient moneys to be retained for this purpose. Under the present wording of the Act it is not permissible for the Board to make refunds of moneys paid. The present Bill is to enable this to be done. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
- Mr Speaker, i move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a motion being moved calling for the tabling of pertinent correspondence between the Commonwealth and the States and other relevant documents relating to all agreements or understandings on the ownership and control of off-shore resources.
– 1 second the motion. [Quorum formed.]
– The object of the motion that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition to suspend the standing orders is to allow this Parliament to consider a motion to be proposed concerning the right of the Parliament to study all relevant documents and to ascertain whether or not - as is now commonly known - the exMinister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), entered into an agreement with the States on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, backed with Cabinet approval, with respect to the ownership and control of off-shore resources: whether in fact this undertaking or this agreement is contrary to the proposed legislation which was foreshadowed by the Governor-General; and whether that legislation is a breach of the arrangements made with the States.
If in fact the Commonwealth Government through its then responsible Minister - and he was a responsible Minister and a man who has the respect of this side of the House and, 1 believe, the respect of the Government side of the House - entered into an agreement or an undertaking - not necessarily a legal undertaking - with responsible State Ministers with respect to the administration, control and ownership of off-shore resources, it is imperative that this Parliament be given the right to analyse and understand what is meant by that agreement or undertaking. Parliament, Mr Speaker, is entitled to know. It is entitled to know the facts because the legislation which has been foreshadowed by the Governor-General is one of the most important pieces of legislation relating to matters between the Commonwealth and the States to be introduced into the Parliament
– Mr Speaker, may 1 interrupt the honourable gentleman. 1 apologise for doing so. The motion. that he has moved is for the suspension of so much of the standing orders as’ would prevent a motion being moved calling for the tabling of certain pertinent correspondence. Are there any motions to be moved subsequent to this motion? I wonder whether the honourable gentleman will provide me with copies of any morions to be moved subsequently?
– I do so now. If the previous Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt, and his Cabinet endorsed an undertaking made by- the then Minister for National Development with the responsible Ministers of the States, it is necessary for this Parliament to have a clear and concise understanding of that undertaking. How are we expected to consider this most important pi see of legislation when a very responsible former Minister has stated that there was an agreement and that this foreshadowed legislation is in fact a breach of that agreement? How are we on the Opposition side or honourable members on the Government side expected to consider rationally and sensibly this legislation when we do not know whether there has been an agreement? That is the purpose of the Opposition’s motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
We want to make it clear to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Ministers that we do not want to see Cabinet decisions or submissions or information which is privy in every sense of the word. We simply want the evidence that must be available, the correspondence between the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Premiers; correspondence between the former Minister for National Development and his State counterparts; correspondence between the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) and State Attorneys-General; and pertinent minutes of the meetings between the former Minister for National Development and the State Ministers for Mines. If this correspondence is tabled it will show quite clearly whether there has been an agreement or understanding with respect to the administration of this proposed legislation. Such an agreement or understanding is fundamental to the whole purpose of the legislation. How can we be expected to debate responsibly when we do not know whether an agreement has been made? As I said before, we do not want confidential information in the form of Cabinet submissions; we want simply the correspondence that has gone between the Commonwealth and the States in this respect.
It is the view of the Opposition that there has been an undertaking or agreement. If there has not, why would responsible State Ministers say that there has been a distinct breach of an undertaking between the Commonwealth and the States. The South Australian Premier has stated that the Commonwealth move has come in the face of a clear undertaking given previously. The State Ministers collectively on 26th March voiced their concern at the discourtesy of the Federal Government in announcing the new policy without first honouring the agreement that talks would be held with the States. On 13th March 1970 the State Ministers for Mines and the AttorneysGeneral met in Melbourne and issued a statement saying that the Federal Government had broken a clear understanding. Arc we to believe that the former Minister for National Development is deliberately trying to mislead this House? Are we to believe that the responsible State Ministers for Mines and some of the AttorneysGeneral are making this up? This is the reason why we want the information. This is the reason why the Opposition believes that this Parliament is entitled to the information.
If it is good enough for the former Minister for National Development - his judgment and integrity are respected by honourable members on this side of the House - to maintain that there was an agreement then we also believe there was an agreement. Our belief is backed by the statement given by the State Ministers for Mines and the State Attorneys-General. This is the important fact the Parliament wants to know. I do not wish to delay the House for this is purely a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. However it is our intention to move in this way so that the Prime Minister will have the opportunity either to prove or disprove the allegations made by the former Minister for National Development. If he tables in this Parliament the evidence that we want it will show whether the Prime Minister or the former Minister for National Development is telling the truth. It is as blunt as that. Only by tabling this information will we find out the facts of this matter. On the one hand we have the former Minister for National Development. He is backed by the State Attorneys-General and the State Ministers for Mines who maintain there has been a breach of an agreement entered into by the former Minister for National Development with the backing of his Cabinet and the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. It is the Opposition’s belief that we cannot go ahead and consider this legislation until we know whether an agreement was in fact made and, if it was, the contents of that agreement.
– Mr Speaker, I would suggest to the mover of this motion-
-Order! The honourable member for Cunningham has seconded the motion. Does the honourable member wish to speak now?
-I call the honourable member for Cunningham.
– When this legislation is introduced by the Government there will in the ensuing debate be under discussion probably the greatest national asset that we possess. Accordingly it is of the utmost importance that all possible information be made available to this Parliament and, above all, to the Opposition. Throughout the whole history of legislation and negotiation relating to natural gas, oil and the continental shelf generally we have from time to time pointed out the illegality and the unconstitutional nature of the various arrangements which have been made. In particular a situation has arisen where the responsible Minister, who guided through Parliament this legislation, such as it was, and who negotiated the various agreements with the respective State Governments, has seen fit to refuse to serve under the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). There could have been no more overwhelming and damning vote of no confidence.
– Order! The honourable member for Cunningham may give his reasons for seconding the motion seeking the suspension of Standing Orders, but he should confine his remarks to that area.
– It is of the utmost relevance that the relationship between the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) should be clearly understood. An allegation has been made - it has yet to be answered - about the circumstances under which an alteration of government policy was made. An allegation has been made that the Department of National Development was by-passed and that the responsible Minister was instructed that under no circumstances was he to communicate to his Department the terms of the arrangements that were being entered into or the negotiations that were then being pursued. Even the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) when this legislation was first introduced chose to characterise it as being legally unenforceable and stated in no uncertain terms that if it were challenged it would undoubtedly be ruled invalid. The agreement on which every one of these negotiations centres was circulated at the time the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and associated Acts were being considered. I quote from clause 25 of this Agreement -
-Order! The honourable member cannot debate the subject matter of a Bill when speaking to the motion to suspend the Standing Orders. At this stage the Chair cannot see the relevancy of these remarks. I have warned the honourable member that this is a fairly narrow debate confined to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He can state his reasons but he cannot debate the Bill or any other Bill relating to it
– I do not propose to debate the Bill but, with due respect to you, I propose to quote two clauses which are extremely relevant. They illustrate the looseness and the illegality of the whole position. The first of these is clause 25 which says that the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States shall not be capable of being varied or revoked or of being determined by any Government except by agreement between all of the governments for the time being parties thereto. Clause 26 stated:
The Government acknowledges that this Agreement is not intended to create legal relationships justiciable in a Court of Law but declare thai the Agreement shall be construed and given effect to by the parties in all respects according to the true meaning and spirit thereof.
It was essentially a flexible arrangement. It was one which had to be re-negotiated from time to time. It was one in respect of which the Minister for Social Services said: There was a power of State veto that could be exercisable against the Commonwealth.’ We seek in particular the production of certain minutes that were produced by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) at a party meeting, giving details of discussions between the 6 respective State Ministers. We seek the production also of a whole chain of correspondence all of which is directly relevant to the present situation. We press the matter and we consider that we are entitled to this. If the Government fails to produce the correspondence, this can only be interpreted as an indication that it has skeletons to hide in its cupboard and that it has created a most difficult situation for itself, one for which the Prime Minister is solely to blame.
– I would suggest to the mover and seconder of this motion that there is really no need for them to press the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in relation to this matter or at least in relation to the matter that is before the House. I understood the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) to wish to have presented to the House all copies of correspondence between the former Prime Minister, Mr Holt, and former State Premiers and between the former Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, and the Ministers of the States concerning the off-shore oil agreement. Now, those decisions were taken in the time of a former Government and a former Prime Minister and quite frankly they have nothing whatever to do with the question which the House is now to debate, which is the question not of off-shore petroleum but of resources other than petroleum. This is nothing before us now at all. Therefore I would not undertake, and I do not believe it has any relevance, to produce that kind of correspondence between a former Prime Minister which led to legislation which has been passed by this Parliament and by all the State Parliaments, which is still in force and which it is intended shall remain in force, concerning the search for off-shore petroleum. This has no relevance to the motion before us at all.
But in regard to the other matters which the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who is in charge of the Bill! for the Opposition has raised, speaking for myself I would have no objection whatsoever, without a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, without a vote, I would be perfectly happy to undertake - in relation to matters other than petroleum matters- - to present to this House what it is that the honourable member could have asked for without going into this great song and dance. I would be happy, in relation to matters other than petroleum, which is not the subject before the House at all, and therefore the motion could have no relevance to it, to present to the honourable member for Dawson any correspondence between the Prime Minister - that being myself - and the State Premiers on off-shore mineral resources other than petroleum. I do not believe there has been any correspondence but if I can find any I will be happy to present it. As to the previous Minister for National Development and the State Ministers for Mines, I would be happy to present correspondence on offshore mineral resources other than petroleum. I would be happy to present any correspondence between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the State Attorneys-General on these matters which are now before us in this Bill. Provided the States will agree - and I will ask them to agree - I would be more than happy to present the pertinent minutes of the meeting between the previous Minister for National Development and the State Ministers for Mines. These are all the things that are asked for in the motion before the House now. These are the only things that can be pertinent to the debate before the House now and I will undertake without the necessity for the suspension of Standing Orders - but I must get permission of the State Ministers for Mines to do it as they are not exclusively our property-
– They will give you that all right.
– The honourable member says that they will give me that. I think they will but I think it necessary purely, if you like, as a matter of courtesy to arrange that this should be done. I would be delighted to present these to the House and I will undertake to do so now.
– Well, vote for the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I do not need the suspension of Standing Orders to enable a motion to be moved. I have undertaken to do it and I would be glad to do so. Indeed, whether a suspension of the Standing Orders were carried or were not carried, if the honourable member wishes to push it to a division I will still keep an undertaking to present these papers that are asked for to the House so that they can be discussed in relation to the Bill, but I would not undertake to present previous correspondence concerning a completely different matter. At least, without consideration I would not be prepared to do that because this is a matter which has already-
– Why not?
– ‘Why not”, I am asked. Because this has nothing whatever to do with the Bill before the House which is one to deal with other than petroleum. It is one to deal1 with off-shore resources other than petroleum and therefore correspondence in a previous government concerning petroleum can have no relation to it at all, but in relation to all these matters before the House I now undertake, provided the State Ministers for Mines will agree, to present to the House all these matters asked for. I agree that it might well help in a discussion of them. If the honourable member wishes to push forward with his motion, that is up to him, but whether it is carried or whether it is not 1 will keep the undertaking I have given to him now.
– Mr Speaker-
-In view of the-
– Not in view of anything. I want to-
-Order! In view of the Prime Minister’s assurance to the House and to the honourable member for Dawson I ask the honourable member whether he still wishes to carry on with this motion or does he wish to withdraw it?
– Carry on.
– As I was saying. I am a bit bewildered by all this. I read this morning of an upset in the party meeting at which one ex-scholar of Geelong Grammar virtually accused another of telling lies. Now judging from what-
-Order! Before the honourable member starts to debate this motion perhaps I might be able to be of some assistance to bini. I inform him that a debate on a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders is a very narrow one.
– I am becoming very curious about this business. It seems, from looking at the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), that he looks fairly confident. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) does not appear to be suffering from any degree of guilt in the matter, but one of them must be mistaken. You, Mr Speaker thought I was going to say something else, but I said that one of them must be mistaken. I know what you were thinking, Sir, and so was I thinking the same thing. The only way to resolve this matter now that the old boy network seems to have broken down over this issue is to have all of the documents. I wish that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) would listen to what I have to say for how else will they know what I want? The only way in which we can resolve this thing is to have all of the documents. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to say: ‘Look, one of the Premiers might say ‘I do not want you to table it’. This agreement has been made or letters have been written, so let us have a look at them - concerning not only off-shore oil and minerals but also anything else. If we have sovereign rights in the area about which we are talking we have sovereign rights over all things, oil and minerals, and 1 am pleased to see that the honourable member for Farrer is nodding approvingly at what I am saying. This, df course, is true. If an agreement has been made and has been broken as the honourable member for Farrer yesterday at the party meeting accused the Prime Minister of doing-
– Were you there?
– No, but I had a very good representative there, one of your side who always tells me what happens when anything goes against the Prime Minister, oddly enough, and he told me that he is ready to cross the floor and vote against the Prime Minister on this.
– Order! The honourable gentleman knows very well that that is not in accordance with the spirit of the Standing Orders.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has pressed this request. How on earth can we make an intelligent decision on the matters that come before this Parliament unless we know the facts? How cao we get the facts unless we get all the letters? Judging from the look on the Prime Minister’s face, he has nothing to hide.
– I have already told you that you would get them. I do not know what you are worrying about.
– No, you said only some would be available. Judging by the look on the face of the honourable member for Farrer who is smiling his head off at the moment, he has nothing to hide. But somebody has something to hide because you have had an awful shemozzle at the Party meeting.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will deal with the subject matter before the House or I will have to take some other steps.
- Mr Speaker, I suppose if you are going to prevent me from stating my case, I will have to accept that. It simply means we cannot present our case as we want to present it, but I would just like to know who is telling the truth. Let us have a division on the matter.
Motion (by MrUren) proposed:
That the honourable member for Hindmarsh be heard.
– There is no need for the motion. He sat down of his own accord.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Dr Patterson’s) be agreed to
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The object of this Bill is to carry out the Government’s decision, concisely stated by His Excellency the Governor-General in his speech at the opening of the present session, to introduce legislation asserting and establishing the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to exercise sovereign control over the resources of the seabed off the Australian coast, from the low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf. At present, the State governments also claim sovereign rights in this same area. The Commonwealth believes that, except in respect of internal water’s as they existed at federation, the States have no such rights. The legal issue is presently unresolved. The Government’s view is that it would serve Australia’s national and inter national interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable. This will be a matter for decision by the courts.
The present Bill declares and enacts that sovereignty in respect of the territorial sea and its seabed is vested in and is exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth. It makes the same provision in respect of the internal waters of Australia, except as they existed at federation. In respect of the continental shelf, it declares and enacts that sovereign rights for the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the shelf are vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth. The present Bill will be followed later in this session by an off-shore mining Bill by which the Commonwealth will exercise sovereign control, in respect of mining for all minerals other than petroleum, on the seabed and in the subsoil of the whole area to which the authority of the Commonwealth extends. But neither Bill will affect the existing agreements between the Commonwealth and the States concerning off-shore petroleum or the legislation giving effect to those agreements.
The exercise by any state, that is to say any country, of sovereign legislative authority and proprietary rights beyond its land territory is part of its international relation and is regulated by international law as well as by the domestic law of the State itself. The international law of the sea is expressed partly in the form of customary rules that reflect the practice of states. In addition there are now several recent and important multilateral treaties or conventions, to all of which Australia is a party. I refer in particular to the four conventions which were adopted at the United Nations Conference on the law of the Sea in Geneva in 1958. These were the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone; the Convention on the High Seas; the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas; and the Convention On the Continental Shelf. All of these conventions are now in force. Australia, as a member of the United Nations, participated in the negotiations of these conventions, and in relation to other states the Commonwealth of Australia is exclusively responsible for the exercise of the rights and duties that the conventions embody. As between Australia and states which are not party to one or more of the conventions, their respective rights and duties are of course regulated by the general or customary international law, of which indeed the conventions were in large measure declaratory, and in which also the subsequent practice of states has tended to follow and adopt the rules embodied in the 1958 conventions.
As a matter of internal or domestic law, it is part of the prerogative of the Crown, in the absence of legislation, to determine the areas to which its sovereignty extends and within which it will exercise its sovereign rights. The sovereign authority of a state within its land territory - 1 use the term ‘state’ in its international sense - is recognised also by international law; indeed, the unquestioned recognition of the sovereignty of the state within its land territory is the foundation on which the whole system of contemporary international law may be said to rest. In respect of claims by a state to exercise authority beyond its tend territory, the position is less clear, and the extent of the recognition accorded by international law to such claims has varied considerably in the course of modern history. For present purposes, however, it is clear that, at least since the end of the 18th century (in effect, that is to say, throughout the whole history of British settlement in Australia) international law has recognised a belt of the open seas adjacent to the coasts of Her Majesty’s dominions as being within the sovereignty of Her Majesty. This marginal belt of the open seas has been variously described, but in contemporary usage it is now generally known as the territorial sea. This is the name that it bears in the relevant Geneva conventions.
The territorial sea is measured outwards from a baseline along the coast. Normally this is the low-water line. But most of the world’s coastlines are cut into by indentations commonly known for instance as gulfs, sounds, bays, estuaries or inlets which vary enormously in respect both of width of entrance and depth of penetration. The universally recognised practice of states has been to treat as integral parts of their territory, just like inland lakes and rivers, the more fully enclosed areas of sea within the indentations of the coast. Where the whole of a bay is thus claimed, it has been customary to draw a notional straight line from headland to headland across the entrance, to serve as the baseline for measuring the territorial’ sea. Rules have been established to determine which indentations may be so treated, and to these rules 1 shall have to return later. All the waters of the sea on the landward side of the baseline of the territorial sea are known as ‘internal waters’.
The only significant difference between the territorial sea and the internal waters of a state is that international law confers on the ships of all states a right, known as the ‘right of innocent passage’, through the territorial sea of any state. This is part of customary international law, and’ it is fully stated in the 1958 convention. Subject to I qualification that I shall mention later, a coastal state is not obliged to accord to foreign ships the right of passage through any of its internal waters.
Beyond the internal waters of . a state and its territorial sea lie the ‘high seas’. The central doctrine of the international law of the sea, as it emerged from the 19th century, is summed up in the phrase, -‘the freedom of the high seas’. This doctrine comprises the freedoms of navigation and overflight, of fishing and of laying submarine cables and pipe-lines. Modern technological development led, however, to the recognition by international law, in the years that followed World War II, of the exclusive right of a coastal state to control the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the seabed and subsoil not only of the territorial sea but of areas beyond it and adjacent to it. The critical step in the evolution of this recognition was taken by the United States, in what has become the historic ‘Truman Proclamation’ of 28th September 1945. Other states followed suit, including Australia in 1953 with proclamations directed particularly to ensuring Australian control of the living resources of these submarine lands - the pearl shell oyster in particular. The submarine lands concerned came to bear the generic title continental shelf.
The subject was taken up actively by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, and a Convention on the Continental Shelf was adopted in Geneva in 1958. The .position both under customary international law and in the 1958 convention is expressed in the current rule that the coastal state exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources’. Honourable members will notice that this formula does not accord to the coastal state ‘sovereignty’ in respect of the continental shelf, but only certain specified sovereign rights’. These rights, moreover, are expressly stated in the convention not to affect the legal status of the superjacent waters as high seas; the same rule exists under customary international law, as the practice of states at present stands.
International law has adopted specific, though flexible, rules for determining where the territorial sea and the continental shelf begin, but not for determining their seaward limits. As to the breadth of the territorial sea the practice of states varies enormously. Claims with varying degrees of recognition range from 3 to 200 miles. The measure of disagreement at the Geneva Conference was so great as to prevent the adoption of any provision as to breadth for inclusion in the 1958 convention. At present, 12 miles seems to be the most widely favoured breadth. Australia, however, in common with the United Kingdom, the United States, France and a number of other states, at present asserts a 3-mile territorial sea, and is not bound to recognise any wider claim on the part of other states.
Basically, the continental shelf is a geological or geomorphological concept. The central idea is that what is generally called the ‘continental shelf is the natural prolongation, into and under the sea, of the land territory of a coastal state. How far out, and down, the coastal state’s rights should be recognised as extending has not so far been resolved. There are strong arguments that they would continue down to the point at which, by stages known as the ‘continental slope’ and the ‘continental rise’, the adjacent seabed descends to and merges in the deep ocean floor, or what is generally known as the ‘abyssal plain’. Just to complete the current terminology, let me mention that the upper ‘shelf proper, together with the ‘slope’ and the ‘rise’, comprises what is generally known as the continental margin’. The 1958 convention leaves undefined the seaward limit of the continental shelf. What Article 1 says is that, for the purpose of the Articles, the term ‘continental shelf is used as referring to: the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast but outside the area of the territorial sea to a depth of 200 metres or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas.’
The extent of the submarine areas thus brought within the limits of national jurisdiction and authority is at present the subject of active discussion in the United Nations. For present purposes, however, it is not necessary to adopt any fixed position on the international questions involved. The present Bill is concerned rather with the internal or domestic question whether Australia’s internationally recognised rights, whatever their extent is or may become are exercisable by the Commonwealth or by the States.
In the case of a federal state, where for domestic purposes supreme legislative and executive power is divided between the federation and its component states or provinces, the question frequently arises whether the control of off-shore resources is exercisable, as a matter of internal constitutional law, by the federation itself, or by its component states or provinces, or is shared between both. This question has been specifically answered by the courts in both of the 2 overseas federations which are of particular interest to Australia - the United States and Canada. In the United States, the matter was litigated in the Supreme Court by the State of California, and subsequently by other States. In Canada by virtue of a special legislative provision, the question was referred to the Supreme Court, at the instance of the Federation itself in relation to the Province of British Columbia. In both federations, the Supreme Court answered the basic question in the same way. Sovereign control over the mineral resources of both the territorial sea and the continental shelf was held to be vested in the Federation alone, to the exclusion of the component States or Provinces.
In all candour, I should inform the House that in neither of these two federal communities has the Federal Government maintained in its entirety, as against the
States or Provinces, the full extent of the authority accorded to it by the courts. In the United States, Congress expressly vested in the coastal States, by its own legislative Act, complete authority over the oil and gas resources of the territorial sea, though retaining for the United States sole control in the outer continental shelf. In Canada, negotiations between the Federation and the Provinces are still in progress, but the Government of Canada has offered the provinces the administration of limited areas adjacent to the coast, and a share of the revenues from off-shore mineral exploitation in the areas federally administered. But I repeat that, alike in the United States and Canada, the Constitution was held to vest exclusive off-shore control in the Federation, as the Government asserts in the present Bill here; the concessions to the States and Provinces were not required by law but were made as the result of political decisions, the question of legal authority having already been answered in the Federation’s favour. The Commonwealth Government likewise has made clear to the States that in asserting sovereign legal authority in the off-shore area it has no intention to exclude the States altogether from administrative responsibilities in, or from the revenues arising from, the exploitation of off-shore mineral resources. But it is, we think, necessary first to clarify fully the legal position.
Here in Australia, as honourable members will recall, the Government reached a compromise in 1967 in respect of the control of the oil and gas resources of offshore areas that was different from what has been done either in the United States or in Canada. By agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the constitutional issue was expressly set on one side. Both the Commonwealth and the States reserved their respective legal positions in their entirety, but established the control of off-shore petroleum resources on a dual basis, designed to avoid the uncertainties and delays of litigation and to give to the interested private companies a secure title which would warrant their proceeding immediately with the extremely costly venture of off-shore exploration and exploitation.
The agreed method involved the enactment of identical or mirror-image legislation by the Commonwealth and each State, each providing for the issue of permits in respect of mining for petroleum on the sea bed of the territorial sea and the continental shelf on the basis of a common mining code. Every successful applicant would receive permits under both the Commonwealth and the State Act. The Stales would administer the common scheme. The State Minister responsible for mines would therefore act in two capacities - in the exercise of powers derived respectively from the legislation of his own State and from that of the Commonwealth as well. In granting permits, the State Minister would act in accordance with the decision of (he Commonwealth in respect of such distinctively federal matters as external affairs, defence, overseas and interstate trade including navigation and shipping, fisheries beyond territorial limits, and postal telegraphic telephonic and other like services. Royalties would be divided between the Commonwealth and the States.
The scheme of the off-shore petroleum agreement was fully explained by the previous Minister for National Development on 1 8th October 1967, in his second reading speech on the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill, 1967. For present purposes it is not necessary to enter further into the details of these arrangements. They were accepted with a view primarily to facilitate and expedite the work of off-shore oil and gas exploration and exploitation, and in this objective they were highly successful.
The basis of the constitutional compromise of 1967 was criticised by some at the time, and honourable members will recall thai one of the terms of reference of a select committee of the Senate, appointed after the passage of the 1967 Act, was to report on the constitutional aspects of the petroleum legislation. Subsequent events have served to underline the strength of the view which indeed the Commonwealth had put to the States during the earlier discussions, that strictly in point of law the Constitution would permit the Commonwealth to go it alone in ihe whole off-shore area below low-water mark, including both the territorial sea and the continental shelf. 1 refer first to the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which 1 have already mentioned and which was given shortly after the British North America Act the exclusive right to control the off-shore mineral resources of Canada, .outwards from the low-water mark, belonged to the Federation, to the total exclusion of the Provinces. Then a year ago, in an address to the Australian Conservation Foundation, Sir Percy Spender, Q.C., a distinguished former Commonwealth Minister and member of this House who later became President of the International Court of Justice, expressed the view that the off-shore rights of the Commonwealth under the Australian Constitution were as complete and as exclusive of the rights of the States as those established by the Supreme Court of Canada as belonging there to the Federation.
Sir Percy Spender urged that the views he had expressed should be tested in the High Court of Australia. The present Bill could provide the basis for litigation to that end. But I should mention also that in August 1969, in the case of Bonser v. La Macchia the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and Mr Justice Windeyer look occasion to state their considered opinion on the respective off-shore rights of the Commonwealth and the States. A fisherman had been convicted under the Fisheries Act of the Commonwealth of using prohibited gear some six miles off the coast of New South Wales, that is, beyond the territorial sea. On appeal, he contended, inter alia, that the Act was invalid, because Commonwealth power did not extend beyond the territorial sea. All 6 members of the High Court rejected this contention. Three justices did not consider the matter further at all, one did so, but without finding it necessary to decide the further questions involved. The judgments of the Chief Justice and Sir Victor Windeyer do not therefore constitute a formal decision by the full High Court. They are, however, however, obviously relevant for present purposes. Sir Garfield Barwick held that:
Great Britain, and not to her colonies or her dominions or their territories in their own right’;
In these circumstances, the Government feels that, without prejudice to the petroleum agreement and to the action that has been taken in pursuance of it, the constitutional issue should now be decided once and for all, and without delay. Until it is so decided, the Commonwealth cannot either disclaim responsibility for what is done in off-shore areas or itself take appropriate action. The Bill asserts what the Government believes to be the rights of the Commonwealth, broadly in accordance with the judicial views I have mentioned. If the States are not prepared to accept as definitive the judgments of the Chief Justice of Australia and Mr Justice Windeyer in Bonser v. La Macchia, it is their right to commence proceedings which will raise squarely for decision by the full High Court any issues they wish to contest. It remains to touch briefly on the main lines of the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, leaving until the committee stage any questions of detailed exposition, which indeed could become very technical.
The Bill is short, and does 3 main things. Firstly, in the formula customarily used where an Act is regarded as stating the law as it already exists, as well as possibly making new law, the Bill declares and enacts that the sovereignty in the territorial sea is vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth - this is in clause 5; similarly that the sovereign rights of Australia for the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the continental shelf are vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth - this is in clause 10; and that sovereignty in the internal waters of Australia, with the important exception of waters that were internal waters of the States at the time of federation, and still remain such, is likewise vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth - this is in clauses 9 and 11, which must be read together.
Perhaps I should say a word or two more about the question of internal waters. As I have said clause 9. vesting in the Commonwealth the sovereignty in respect of these waters, must be read together with the saving provision in clause 11. This latter clause makes clear that the Act will not apply to waters that at federation were within the limits of a State and still remain within the limits of the State. If clause 9 stood alone, it might give rise to apprehensions that the Commonwealth was claiming sovereignty in respect of the waters of bays such as Port Jackson or Port Phillip. But clause II makes clear that the Bill does no such thing. These bays and harbours were within the limits of a State at federation, and remain so. The same will be true of the internal waters of many bays, gulfs, inlets, ports or harbours around the coast.
One obvious example of the kind of internal waters to which clause 9 does apply, and in respect of which sovereignty is clearly exercisable by the Commonwealth, may be found in the Northern Territory. Here, any interna] waters were within the limits of South Australia at the time of federation but passed to the Commonwealth when the Northern Territory was surrendered. Nothing in clause I I will, or for that matter should, prevent the application of clause 9 to these waters. But there are also off-shore waters which have become or may become internal waters of Australia by virtue of changes in international law since federation. Clause 9 will operate in respect of these waters, and sovereignty will be exercisable accordingly by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth.
The second main thing that the Bill does is to provide for the delimitation of coastal waters. Both customary international law and the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea now recognise the validity, on deeply indented coasts or where there is a fringe of islands in the immediate vicinity of the coast, of using as the baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea a straight line drawn from headland to headland along the coast, instead of measuring from the low water mark and thereby following all the sinuosities of the coast. It is emphasised in Article 4 of the Convention that the drawing of such baselines ‘must not depart to any appreciable extent from the general direction of the coast’. Waters on the landward side of the baseline are, of course, the internal waters of the coastal state.
The inevitable result of drawing straight base Lines along a coast will be to bring into the category of internal waters areas of sea that formerly formed part of the territorial sea, or even in some cases of the high seas beyond. Accordingly, by Article 5 of the Convention, the coastal state is obliged to accord a right of innocent passage through areas which previously had been considered as part of the territorial sea or of the high seas. Since these waters are to be subject internationally to the same regime as the territorial sea, they should be subject to the like Commonwealth control.
The same principle applies in the case of bays. At the time of federation, the general law was that the baseline of the territorial sea followed around the coast except where it encountered a bay whose width at the entrance was not more than 6 miles, that is, twice the then generally accepted breadth of the territorial sea. In that event the baseline of the territorial sea passed as a notional straight line across the entrance from headland to headland. Article 7 of the 1958 Convention now permits a bay-closing straight line up to 24 miles in length, either across the entrance or, in the case of wider bays, at the point where a straight line of no more than 24 miles can first be drawn.
As I mentioned earlier, it is part of the prerogative of the Crown to declare the limits of the territory in which it claims sovereignty. The Bill, by clause 6, gives to the Governor-General statutory authority to exercise these powers by proclamation, not inconsistently with the Territorial Sea Convention. Honourable members will notice that clause 6 makes specific provision for the determination from time to time, by proclamation, of the breadth of the territorial sea. As I mentioned earlier, there is no universally accepted rule on this point at present, either by convention or in the customary law of nations.
The provisions of clause 7, dealing with historic bays and other historic waters, and clause 8, dealing with the issue of official charts, can perhaps be left for exposition at the Committee stage. But I should note that any bays or waters declared in pursuance of clause 7 to be historic, as contrasted with bays that were already historic before federation, would come into the category of post-federation internal waters, to which clause 9 would apply.
Thirdly, the saving provisions of the Bill ensure that the establishment of the sovereign rights of the Commonwealth in off-shore areas will not impair existing State ownership and control of wharves and other port facilities, and will not create anything in the way of an automatic legal vacuum, especially in the territorial sea. It would do so if it rendered invalid all existing State legislation in the off-shore areas to which the operative provisions of the Bill apply. But it is clear, and was expressly recognised by the Chief Justice and Mr Justice Windeyer in Bonser v. La Macchia, that pre- 1900 the colonies were competent, as the States still are, by virtue of their plenary power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the territory assigned to them, to make laws that would operate extra-territorially - that is to say, beyond their land boundaries and in and on the territorial sea and, where necessary, the high seas beyond. There are many such laws in existence. Criminal law is an obvious case. State mining legislation is another.
What the Bill necessarily implies is that henceforward the off-shore legislative powers of the States must always be read as subject, by reason of section 109 of the Constitution, to the. paramount and invalidating effect of an inconsistent Commonwealth law. But clause 13 makes clear that State laws, existing or future, are not to be invalidated by the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Act in and of itself, unless of course a State were to pass an Act expressly declaring for instance that, in defiance of clause 5, sovereignty in the territorial sea was exercisable not by the Commonwealth but by the State itself. With such extreme and hypothetical exceptions, clause 13 ensures that if a State law, existing or future, is to be over-ridden by a law of the Commonwealth, it would have to be done in future and ad hoc. An example which will come at once to mind will be the proposed new off-shore mining legislation. This may be expected, when it comes into opera tion, to displace any existing State law inconsistent with it and to exclude any such State law for the future.
Similarly, clause 13 makes clear that the Bill, when it becomes law, will not of itself either limit or exclude the operation of any Commonwealth law, existing or future. Any future modification of Commonwealth law will likewise have to be effected ad hoc. A particular result of clause 13 is thus to ensure the continued operation of the offshore petroleum legislation, both Commonwealth and State, as enacted in pursuance of the 1967 agreement.
I have mentioned that this Bill will be followed later in the session by a Bill which will apply a mining code to the off-shore areas in respect of which the present Bill establishes Commonwealth authority. That later Bill will provide the detailed rules under which mining titles may be issued and exploration and exploitation carried on for all minerals other than petroleum. Under that legislation policy decisions will fall to be made by the Commonwealth and such matters as the selection among applicants, the settlement of areas to be granted and of work obligations will be subject to the direction of the Commonwealth Minister.
We do hope that it will prove possible to arrange with the States for them to administer that legislation somewhat as they administer the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation of the Commonwealth, but subject to what I have just said about Commonwealth responsibilities. If the States cooperate with us in this way in administration we propose that they shall receive 60% of all royalties that may be payable to the Commonwealth, and also all administrative fees.
The legislation will contain provisions enabling the Commonwealth to honour titles granted by the States before it came into operation and it is our intention, broadly speaking, to honour such titles where they were granted before 26th September 1969, or after that date if there had been consultation with and concurrence by the Commonwealth. I commend the present Bill to the House.
– Before moving that this debate be adjourned I seek your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, to ask the Minister a basic question the answer to which will help us in studying this Bill. Does the proposed legislation include the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria? In other words, if the legislation is passed I assume that the Commonwealth will have exclusive jurisdiction over the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria, that by definition the Gulf of Carpentaria is not an inland water of a State.
– As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is aware, at present the Gulf of Carpentaria is largely international waters. At the moment the territorial sea is under the jurisdiction of Queensland. So from low water mark out the present legislation would give sovereignty to the Commonwealth. I might add that the definition of internal waters is something we have to discuss further. I have mentioned that we hope to be able to obtain agreement from the States about administration. A number of these matters relate to a further Bill which will not be available for a few weeks.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Corbett)I wish to inform the House of the following appointments of senators and honourable members to be members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Senators Buttfield, Sir Magnus Cormack, Maunsell and Sim have been appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senators Bishop, Drury and Wheeldon have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Senator McManus has been appointed toy the Acting Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate. Mr Calder, Mr Donald Cameron, Sir John Cramer, Mr Fairbairn, Mr Katter, Mr McLeay, Mr Street and Mr Turner have been appointed by the Prime Minister. Mr Bryant, Mr Cohen, Mr Cross, Mr Kirwan, Mr Morrison and Mr Reynolds have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
Consideration resumed from 15 April (vide page 1182).
Clauses 1 to 4.
– Clause 4 amends the Act to make provision for divorced persons with dependent children. The scheme is being extended to include divorced persons less than 36 years of age with 1 or more dependent children who have entered into a contract to buy or build a home on or after 27th October 1969. The clause defines a dependent child and makes provisions with regard to traditional savings somewhat similar to those that apply in the case of widowed persons. The clause will permit the acceptance as permissible savings of one-half of savings that were held by a divorced person jointly with his or her former spouse. Acceptable savings will include an approved interest held in the name of the divorced person and any children of the dissolved marriage. The amendment widens the definition of spouse to include, when acceptable savings are being calculated, a person who was a spouse of the eligible person during the former marriage. This will permit the acceptance of one-half of the savings that an eligible person held jointly with his or her former spouse. This provision flows from the 1967 legislation which made provision for widows. Honourable members will recall that when the legislation first came before this House the Labor Party moved amendments to bring widows within the scope of the Act. Those amendments were not accepted by the Government but in 1967 the Government introduced amending legislation to bring widows within the scope of the Act. The legislation is now being further broadened to bring divorced persons with children within its scope. These provisions will affect only a relatively few people. They are limited in their scope but they will be of assistance to some people. The Opposition does not oppose the clauses.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 5 - (Approved credit unions).
– Clause 5 relates to credit unions. Later I will move that the clause be postponed, and the Opposition will seek a vote on the amendment. At the second reading stage I moved:
That the clauses of the Bill relating to credit unions should be redrafted to give credit union savings complete and unconditional recognition under the Act.
Because this is a money Bill I am unable to move that amendment in committee. Our only recourse is to move that the clause be postponed. At the second reading stage we criticised the Government for its treatment of credit unions. We accused the Government of being guilty of perpetrating the thimble and pea trick on credit unions. Either the Government is ignorant of the operations of credit unions or it has distorted the facts. Under this legislation the minimum amount which a credit union may lend for housing purposes is $7,000. Of the $100m held by the Australian credit union movement 70% is held by credit unions in New South Wales. Under New South Wales legislation the maximum amount which a credit union may lend for any purpose is $4,000. In other States although credit unions may not be restricted in their lending by Acts of Parliament, their activities are controlled by ordinances requiring that they obtain permission from a registrar before they may increase the advance. In the Australian Capital Territory the maximum amount that a credit union may lend as a secured loan is $2,000. In the case of an unsecured loan the maximum is $800. There is no limit in Queensland. In Victoria the limit is $3,000; in Tasmania $2,000; and in South Australia $2,000.
I have discussed this matter with credit union officials. No discussions had taken place between the Government and the credit union movement before this legislation was drafted. No discussions on the matter had taken place between this Government and the New South Wales Government, which is of the same political persuasion as this Government. Yet, it seems that no negotiations have taken place with the New South Wales Government. It seems that no contact has been made at all with even the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon). There has been no contact between the 2 Ministers who are responsible for these matters and who sit together in the same Ministry. I am referring to the Minister for the ulterior who is responsible for credit unions within the Australian
Capital Territory and the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) whose responsibility covers the homes savings grant scheme. I do not know whether or not this is hypocrisy or whether it is done to create a smoke screen. It seems to me that no real understanding of the problem exists. Credit unions in fact were not set up to provide loans to the extent that has been laid down in this Bill. The conditions that have ben set out in this Bill are stringent.
Let me read to the Committee what the Credit Union Federation says quite clearly about the matter. It states:
At no time has the Federation indicated to the Government that credit unions have any intention or desire to enter substantially into the long term housing loan field. In the co-operative movement, this type of lending is adequately handled by the building societies. Credit unions primarily exist to supply consumer credit and personal loans at reasonable rates of interest to their members. The Federation, therefore, seeks complete and unconditional recognition of credit unions under the Homes Savings Grant Act.
These are the facts relating to this proposition. The credit union movement is not geared to meet the requirements of this Bill. One must equate the requirements of the Bill with the amount of money loaned by the credit union movement. If we examine the proposal from the credit union movement we note that, in New South Wales, the credit union serving the Electricity Commission of New South Wales spends 14% of its money for loan purposes on homes, alterations to houses, extensions or improvements of one kind or another, or on the purchase of land. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Staffs Association Credit Union devotes 12% of its loan money to this purpose. The Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board Employees Credit Union provides 17% of its money for loans for this purpose while the Sydney City Council Employees Credit Union spends 14% of its loan moneys in this direction. Some 16% of the loan moneys of the Motor Transport Employees Credit Union is used for this purpose. These are some of the percentages regarding credit union loans in New South Wales.
The Bill under consideration requires that a credit union, to be an approved organisation, must spend some 20% of its assets in the housing field. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in
Hansard a table produced by the credit union movement showing the number of credit unions in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 and their assets:
The following is an analysis of the sizes of credit unions based on 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 balance sheet figures. The analysis has been made on total assets.
If the Minister for Health (Or Forbes), who is at the table, examines the document that I have just handed to him, he will note that, in 1969, there were 307 credit unions throughout the Commonwealth. Of that number, 234 have assets of not less than $150,000. The other 73 credit unions have assets ranging from $150,000 to over $1m. This table shows that at least 234 of these credit unions will be disqualified immediately under the provisions of this Bill because they have not spent at least $50,000 for loan purposes as specified in the Bill in the last financial year for housing purposes.
Let me explain to the Committee the group into which credit unions fall. Credit unions are a group different from other groups. A credit union is made up of a number of people with a common bond. These people agree to save regularly together and to lend their savings to one another at the lowest possible rate of interest. In this way, these people assist each other to improve their financial position. Members of credit unions should have personal associations which bring them into contact with one another and which give them a strong sense of responsibility to the entire group. Members of credit unions can be employees of one organisation, members of the same church, union or lodge, residents of a well-known defined community area and so on. Members of credit unions are a collective cooperative group. Credit union members are small knit groups. Individual credit unions do not seek to be big organisations. It is about time that this Government was a bit fair dinkum in regard to the credit union movement and stopped its hypocrisy which is evidenced by the fact that it has laid down in this Bill such stringent conditions which it knows credit unions cannot meet. That is why I will move that this clause be postponed in order to allow the Government to redraft the Bill in consultation with the credit union movement with a view to allowing credit unions unconditional rights and permitting them to come within the scope of the Homes Savings Grant Act. Therefore, Mr Chairman, I move:
That the clause be postponed.
– The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, the matter which is at present before the Committee has been a subject of controversy for a considerable period. I feel that the Committee would be remiss if the Minister in charge of this legislation at the table now, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), did not take the opportunity to convey publicly the reason why the Government has resisted the overtures made on behalf of the credit union movement.
– I will.
– This matter has been canvassed in another place on previous occasions. It was the subject of enormous controversy and of a major political crisis. I recall that occasion very well. At that time, the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was in the other place and was at the helm of the Government parties which were in opposition to the credit union movement.
Recently, the credit unions of this country, which have reached very large proportions now, held their national conference. Foremost among their considerations was their desire to have their movement included among the lending authorities whichbenefit under the provisions of the Homes Savings Grant Act. There are only 3 recognised financial institutions in which people may deposit their savings as distinct from investments. These are the savings ‘banks, the building societies and the credit unions. As my colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), has pointed out the credit union movement is the only one excluded from the operations of the homes savings grant scheme. I think that everyone has the right to know the reason for this exclusion. Is it a philosophical prejudice on the part of the Government and Government members who perhaps have some preference for major banking institutions? Do they in fact wish to discourage the expansion and growth of the credit union movement which already is starting to assume significant proportions in this country as it has done already in many other parts of the world?
It is interesting to note that the conditions imposed by the Government in offering to admit the credit unions to this scheme are such that the credit unions almost certainly are unable to meet these conditions. I think that perhaps the most significant part of the second reading speech by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) was when he said referring to credit unions, and after outlining the various conditions to be imposed, said:
It is appreciated that very few, if any, credit unions are as yet in a position to meet these conditions.
Is it just accidental that the credit unions will be excluded or did the Government look at all the difficulties and say: ‘We will create sufficient difficulties to ensure that they just do not get into this scheme at all’. Fancy the Minister saying that the purpose of the legislation, amongst other things, is to include credit unions and then saying that it is appreciated that very few, if any, credit unions are in a position to meet these conditions. Obviously the matter needs some explanation. I know the size of the movement and I would remind the Minister of the significance of the Government’s rejection by imposing these insuperable difficulties. According to the publication Credit Unions and the Economy’ by B. B. Dickinson, B.Com., A.A.U.Q., A.B.I.A., an economist with the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd, the credit union movement in this country is very large indeed. He says:
There are now approximately 600 credit unions in Australia representing nearly 220,000 persons with total assets of about $100m. Credit unions are strongest in NSW where there are 330 unions with 160,000 members and assets totalling nearly $50m, while Victoria has 163 credit unions with assets of around $8m.
He then goes on to outline the phenomenal growth of the credit union movement.
The conditions imposed seem to be purposely designed to exclude the credit unions. They must direct 20% of their total lending to assist members to acquire homes. I think it has been carefully ascertained that the diverse demands of credit unions are such that very few, if any, actually meet that condition. So the 20% figure seems to have been arrived at for the express purpose of providing an effective barrier. A minimum of $50,000 must be lent in a year for housing at $7i% per annum on a reducing balance basis. This is a very hard matter to resolve when one starts talking about interest rates. It depends on the kind of interest system that operates. A great deal has been said about this and I am sure that most honourable members have had the detailed submission - it numbers some 5 pages - of all the credit unions in this country which was formally conveyed direct to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin).
During the course of the second reading debate no explanation at all was given as why these insurmountable conditions have been imposed. I take this opportunity to prevail upon the Minister to come clean. Does he intend to impose conditions that will discourage people from belonging to the credit union movement? Is the Government intending to make people - especially young people - realise that there is just no prospect of them receiving assistance for the financing of their homes if they continue to belong to credit unions. In Canada where legislation similar to the homes savings grant legislation operates there was an entirely different approach. The credit union was among the first to be accommodated. There was a deliberate policy to accommodate credit unions. I believe the Government should adopt a positive attitude. It should recognise that these are small groups of people who have an affinity for each other. It is most unreasonable to impose financial limitations on the capital they hold because that would be against the basic principles of credit unions. One of the important basic purposes of credit unions is to provide democratic processes and practices by which people can have a say in the regulation and deployment of their collective savings. In small establishments, such as banks, electricity authorities or retail organisations, these processes and obligations are undertaken with the utmost seriousness and a democratic practice operates.
To require the credit unions to have a large amount of capital in excess of $50,000 obviously has the effect of defeating the basic democratic purpose of the movement. I hope that the Government, and especially the Minister, will not hide behind any ritual of the Committee but will be frank and give the genuine reasons why the Government has so persistently stood against the admittance of the credit union movement to the home savings grant scheme.
– I do not propose to speak at any great length because I do not think it is necessary to do so. We heard the same arguments last night as we have heard tonight for the admission of credit unions . into this new scheme. Opposition members know as well as we do that credit unions were not established to meet the purpose for which this scheme was designed. They know also that those bodies are authorised as lending bodies and their savings are not of a kind that should be recognised in this scheme. It is just common sense that young people should be encouraged to save for the purpose of getting a home and that is the fundamental purpose of this legislation. Where should they put their savings for a home? They should put their savings obviously into an organisation that lends money for the acquisition of homes. This is simple. No-one has anything against credit unions at all. They do a very good job in providing the means of saving for consumer spending. Practically the whole of their business, big as it is, is on this basis. They lend small amounts of money for the purchase of land and for improvements to homes. But fundamentally they are not constituted for the purpose of providing home loans on a basis that will encourage people to save for homes.
The obvious organisations for this purpose, as I said last night, with great respect to savings banks or anyone else, are the: permanent building societies of Australia. They are obviously the places where young, people should deposit their savings. I do not know of any other organisation, savingsbank or anything else, that will pay the same rate of interest on deposits. Depositors get. 6% per annum on their savings and their savings can be withdrawn at any time. If. they find themselves in a position where they need the money for other purposes they can withdraw it on giving notice to the building, society. In what other organisation in Australia can anyone get 6% for money that can be withdrawn on demand? If they continue to save until they have enough for a: deposit on a home or have saved for 3 years, which is the period laid down in this Act, they become eligible for the $500 grant from the Government. What is more, being subscribers to a building society they have no difficulty whatever in obtaining up to 90% of the value of the home they are buying with finance from the building society at a rate of interest slightly over 1% more than the rate they were paid on their savings. What better proposition could there be than that?
Therefore there is actually no need for the credit unions to be disturbed about this. As a matter of fact it is a generous offer by the Government to include the credit unions or to encourage them to lend some of the money that was deposited with them for the purpose of home ownership. I know that at the present time - and I think that the Government would have been quite aware of this - very few, if any, credit unions can meet the conditions laid down, but they can alter their charters, if they so wish to meet the conditions laid down. It is really very generous of theGovernment to make this offer to the credit unions if they want to enter into this field’ of lending. But it is begging the question for the Labor Party to move an amendment of this type to postpone the clause and to have further argument about this. The matter is perfectly clear. If the credit unions wish to alter their basis to enable them to be lenders to home owners in a major way the deposits by their customers will be recognised as savings under this scheme and they will be able to get the grant of $500. All I can see is that the Opposition is using this as a sort of political weapon. The Opposition thinks that there are politics in this matter.
I think that the credit unions, those who lend to credit unions and those who deposit their money in credit unions know full well that if they want to save for a home there are other avenues available to them for the deposit of their money that may be better for them. In other words, if they want to save for consumer expenditure they should go on with the credit unions but if the credit unions want to alter that the matter is open to them to do so. I think the Government has been very generous in this regard. I cannot see how the Government could possibly agree to the amendment proposed by the Opposition. As I said, the Government has been more than generous in allowing depositors eligibility for grants provided the credit unions will lend not less than $7,000 on the purchase of a home, which is really a very small amount. To get recognition on this basis is more than the credit unions could have expected in the circumstances. There is -nothing against the credit unions let me hasten to say, but this is not the purpose for which they were established and mere are many other established avenues, such as building societies, set up for the exclusive purpose of assisting people to own homes.
– The Australian Labor Party once again puts forward a case for the inclusion of the credit union movement in this scheme. Many people heard His Excellency the Governor-General say at the opening of this session of Parliament:
My Government will introduce legislation immediately to amend the Home Savings Grant Act … to liberalise other aspects of this scheme and to provide that, if a credit union meets the conditions which will be required, savings deposited with that credit union will qualify for the purposes of home savings grants.
This is the very thing about which we are speaking. I think it is summed up very aptly by the journal of the Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association of the Commonwealth Public Service when it headlined an article:
Stop the cheering. Few, if any, Credit Societies will qualify for Savings Grant Scheme.
This is what happened. Conditions have been applied which make it impossible without amending State legislation in the case of New South Wales and virtually impossible because of the financial positions of the credit unions in the other States for them to fulfill the conditions which require loans of up to $7,000. I am not arguing against that, but there is a requirement that 20% of their deposits be used for housing and not less than $50,000 per year is to be provided by way of housing loans. I am quite certain that the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) who is representing in this place the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) interprets the term ‘by way of housing loans’ to mean not loans for assistance in the purchase of homes which credit unions are providing at present but complete loans for the purchase of homes.
There has been in this Government right from the very inception of this scheme a prejudice against the credit union movement. In the first instance, a time was given for the withdrawal of savings from credit unions by prescribing a period within which savings in credit unions would be recognised; after that date the savings had to be transferred to a home savings account. Credit unions have had a number of deputations to the various Ministers for Housing. They believed that they were getting somewhere but now they have been shown that once again the gate has been closed to them by the application of conditions which will mean - and quite possibly this is the intention - a restriction of membership of a credit union movement to persons over 35 years of age to whom all these conditions in the home savings scheme mean nothing at all. While we have this continuing prejudice against the credit union movement the Opposition would like to see further conferences with the Minister and the Department of Housing by the credit union movement to allow it to make some progress towards meeting the conditions. Credit unions are doing quite a lot in the way of bridging finance and this has been stated time and again during this debate.
Last night I mentioned how the credit union movement or some major credit unions in Queensland have been assisting. In the ABC Queensland Credit Union, for instance, 27% of loans for assistance for housing represented 37.2% of the value of all advances. In the Clerks Credit Union 18.2% of loans for assistance for housing represented 27% of the value of all advances. Percentage wise credit unions are qualifying but not to the extent of the $7,000 or the minimum amount of $50,000 per year. These are impossible conditions that are being placed upon the credit union movement, which has done much to reduce the cost of the purchase of a home, firstly, by making available bridging finance at reasonable interest and reasonable rates of repayment, and secondly, by assisting in the purchase of the things that make a house a home - furnishings, home improvements, extensions and the like. But there still seems to be prejudice and this will, if carried to the ultimate, mean that persons under 35 years of age are being discouraged by this Government from joining credit unions because when the time comes to purchase a home their savings will not be recognised.
I support the amendment put forward by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). It is not the type of amendment that we would make to the Bill if we were the Government, but we are restricted, as was quite rightly pointed out by the honourable member initially when addressing himself to this clause, and it is impossible for us to change the allocation. The amendment that we have put forward was the only method by which we could ask the Minister and the Government to do something worthwhile to recognise that the credit union movement is encouraging young people to save for their homes. This is said to be the initial purpose of this legislation - to encourage young people to save for the purchase of homes and to put money aside for this purpose. Various principals of the credit union movement are going to organisations such as guilds, churches and lodges to encourage their members to save more. These people have a closer affinity than have people who are saving with banks. The credit union movement is doing a commendable job in training young people to save and encouraging others who have not previously had an opportunity to save to do so now. It is doing a commendable job in the provision of finance to help in the purchase of a home. By placing these restrictions on the credit union movement so that savings with a credit union will not be recognised, the Government is restricting membership of the credit union movement to persons of 35 years and over.
– I rise to speak because the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) made a statement that the Government had made a generous offer to the credit union movement, that it had placed these conditions before the movement and that the credit unions are very fortunate to have these proposals put before them. I would like to mention the stringent proposals and then the House can make its own judgment. To qualify, a credit union must be making loans to its members for the purpose of acquiring a home. Loans must be made at an effective rate of interest of not more than 7½% per annum on a reducing balance basis. At least 20% of the total lending of credit unions in the most recent financial year must have been by way of housing loans. At least 15% of its total lending in that year, or about three-quarters of the 20%, must have been in housing loans of not less than $7,000 to be repaid over a period of not less than 12 years. The total lending by the credit union in relation to housing loans during the financial year must be not less than $50,000. A credit union seeking approval must give an undertaking that it will continue to meet these conditions in each subsequent financial year.
Let us examine a few of these requirements. First of all, let us deal with the 7½% interest rate. What does this 7½% interest rate mean? Does anyone here really say that an Organisation such as a credit union can continue to make loans over a period of not less than 12 years at7½% interest? I was at the conference of permanent building societies today and I was informed that at present the rate of interest that they pay on deposits is 6% and their ruling rate on loans is 7% to 7½% . Their assets exceed thousands of millions of dollars. I spoke to the secretary of one of the permanent building societies and he told me that the flow of money at 6% interest was drying up. How can any organisation, whether it be a [permanent building society or a credit union, hope to get money from the public °when organisations such as General Motors Holden’s Pty Ltd are offering 9%. Yet this rate of 7)% is put forward by the Government.
The Government is trying to force credit unions into long term lending when in fact this is not the function of the credit unions. It has clearly been stated that the permanent building societies were set up for this purpose and not the credit unions. But surely the Government and its supporters know that the credit union movement is making a great contribution to those people who desire to acquire a home. They make a contribution if a person wishes to alter or extend his home. For instance, if a person own a 2 bedroom home, there is an addition to the family and he wants to add another bedroom for the children, loans are available from the credit unions.
We know that the ruling rate of interest of hire purchase companies is 10% flat, which is 19% to 20% reducible. The credit unions compete with the offsprings of the private banking institutions. We know that some honourable members opposite are spokesmen for the private banks. We had one such honourable member speak yesterday. There is a bankers lobby here. They have the right to speak on behalf of the bankers, so why can we not speak on behalf of the credit unions? Of course, if honourable members opposite want to make this a political issue, I say we support the credit unions because the credit union movement is a collective co-operative movement. It is a non-profit making organisation consisting of people who join together to help one another. There are 3 major hire purchase companies which practically control the whole of the purchase of land. A person cannot get a loan at less than 12% reducible. Of course, one of these companies is owned wholly by the Bank of Adelaide; 42.89% of another is owned by the Bank of New South Wales; and 30% of another is owned by the Bank of Scotland. These spokesmen of the banks, who are in the Government ranks and who are Government supporters, in fact are frustrating the credit union movement. I ask responsible Government supporters to reconsider this position.
The 13th annual report of the New South Wales credit union movement said this about the homes savings grant scheme:
During the year the Federation made further approaches to the Federal Government seeking recognition of the credit union as an approved savings institution for homes savings grant purposes. Emphasis was placed on the rapidly increasing role that credit unions are playing in assisting young couples to establish homes and the providing of second mortgage loans and the finance of other essentials such as home appliances and furniture. The Government further continues to ignore these factors by insisting that only financial institutions providing long term housing loans will be approved.
Of course, the Government’s latest generous proposal is that credit union organisations have to start providing long term loans.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honourable member interrupts and asks: “What is wrong with that?’ The fact is that the honourable member does not understand the purpose of the credit union movement. A credit union might be established by a group of people working together in a company or in a department. For instance, a group of people in the Sydney City Council formed a credit union. I pointed out to the honourable member earlier that credit unions in New South Wales control 70% of the assets of the movement. It has 234 credit unions with assets of $150,000. Many of these lend more money for housing than do the larger credit union organisations but they have been disqualified because, under this legislation, they have to have lent at least $50,000 in their last financial year and to give an undertaking that they will continue to spend $50,000 each year on housing, and housing alone. I ask the Committee to support our proposition.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) put:
That the question now be put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the clause be postponed (Mr Uren’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave - taken as a whole.
– I desire now to confine my remarks to clauses 9 and 12. May I say, before commenting on those clauses, that the Minister for Health, who is in charge of the Bill in this Committee, has not seen fit to reply to Opposition members’ contentions or views. The Minister did not give the Government’s views on clause 5. I want to place this protest on record because my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) expressly desired to have, and I certainly expected to hear, the Government’s explanation of why it would not accept our proposal that the Bill be postponed in order to allow the credit unions to be included unconditionally.
The amendments proposed by clause 9 will permit money held in a savings bank account or on fixed deposit with a trading bank to be treated as acceptable savings for the purpose of this scheme. If these accounts have not been designated ‘Homes Savings Account’ these amendments will apply in respect of persons whose prescribed dates were on or after 27th October 1969. Again, we wish to criticise this aspect of the Bill. In our amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time we wanted to alter the date from 27th October 1969 to 31st December 1967. It was arbitrary that savings commence from 27th October 1969 whether or not the account was stamped ‘Homes Savings Account’. We asked that this be back-dated. I know that there was confusion even in the Government’s own party room as to the date from which these people should be considered. I am going to make it clear so that there will be no confusion among Government supporters as to why we put forward our amendment to the motion for the second reading. We were not allowed to move the amendment in Committee because this is a money Bill. In 1968-69 alone 1,062 applicants were rejected. This represented 24.7% of total rejections or 3% of the applicants determined. The Government should consider this group of 1,000-odd people and allow them to backdate their saving to the time that we have suggested. The Government should be lenient in that regard and allow these people to be brought under the Act.
Under clause 12 of the Bill the value of a house and land for which a home savings grant may be paid is to be raised from $15,000 to $17,500. The Government has recognised that this extra amount is needed to purchase a home. When the home savings grant scheme first came into operation in June of 1964 the maximum allowable cost for a home and land was $14,000. In 1967 it was increased to $15,000. It is now being raised to $17,500. This is a recognition to some extent of inflationary trends. In my speech during the second reading stage I was able to give figures to show how the cost of land in the various suburbs of Sydney had risen between 1959 and 1969. For instance, in the suburb of Guildford where I live the average price of a block of land has risen from $2,000 to $6,500. In fact Mr R. S. Prentice, the President of the Master Builders Association of New South Wales stated in his recent report to Cabinet that land prices had increased by 182% during the last 10 years and that the average price of a home had risen by some 67%. In fact the average cost of a block of land in the metropolitan area of Sydney is $6,800. In Melbourne it is $4,520; in Brisbane it is $3,800: in Adelaide it is $2,670; and in Perth, according to my report, it is some $6,000.
Many honourable members, particularly those who live in the Sydney metropolitan area, know that it is very difficult to get a block of land in an area which votes conservatively, if I can use that term, or which supports Government members, whether it be areas of Belrose, St Ives, West Pymble or Pennant Hills. It would cost at least $9,000 to $9,500 to purchase a block of land in these areas. Yet supporters of the Government, particularly those who live in the metropolitan area of Sydney, are supporting the proposal to increase the amount to only $17,500. We believe that it should be higher than that to allow people to get the benefit of this scheme.
In the past I have branded this scheme as thimble and pea legislation. I have shown the effect that an increase of even one half of 1% can have. On a $15,000 loan repayable over a period of 15 years it would mean an additional $711 in repayments. For the same loan over 25 years the additional cost would be more than $1,300. Not only should the maximum value of a home attracting a grant be raised to at least $20,000, but the minimum grant should be increased to at least $1,000. The Government on the one hand recognises the inflationary trend and has raised the maximum value for a house and land from $14,000 to $17,500, but on the other hand it has not raised the amount of the grant. I believe that the maximum value of a home for the purposes of the scheme should be at least $20,000 and that the grant should be increased to at least $1,000. That would be nearer to 1964 values.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I also want to refer to clause 12 of the Bill, which provides that the maximum value of homes eligible for a homes savings grant will be increased from $15,000 to $17,500. There are 2 weaknesses in this clause, as there was in the section that it seeks to amend and as there will be in any clause which seeks to regulate this position by setting an arbitrary limit on the value of eligible homes. The first weakness of this approach is that it takes no account of continuing increases in housing costs. The second weakness is that it takes no account of differing conditions that apply from State to State and even from region to region in the Commonwealth.
The continuing increase in housing costs means that the new maximum value established by clause 12 will be out of date almost as soon as it is agreed to. On figures already put to the Parliament in this debate, a house costing $16,800 or more today will cost more than the new limit of $17,500 in less than 12 months. Within 3 years - and I remind the Committee that the 2 amendments to the maximum have each taken 3 years to be introduced - the whole increase under the proposal will have been completely absorbed by inflation. To meet this situation it would require annual or even more frequent amending Bills. But that is a very cumbersome and unnecessary procedure, and I would be inclined to suggest to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) that we meet this problem by allowing the Minister to amend the figure in this clause from time to time at her discretion.
The second weakness to which I have referred is really the more serious of the 2 to which I wish to draw the attention of the Committee. This relates to the discrepancy between the benefits under the scheme to people living in the different States. In Western Australia in the year 1965-66 20.1% of all new dwellings completed attracted a homes savings grant. By 1968-69 that figure of 20.1% had dropped to 11.4%. This is a serious enough matter on its own, but I think that the real significance of the drop is to be seen when it is compared with the situation in other States. In the last year to which I referred, that is 1968-69, compared to the 11.4% of homes completed in Western Australia which attracted a grant, the average relative figure for all other States was 26.2% or more than double the figure for Western Australia. The Government has not even shown that it recognises this problem, let alone that it might be ready to act on it. I suspect that this situation has arisen in part because the Government has been prepared to treat its own information too superficially. By way of example, I should like to refer to a comment made by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), representing the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), in the debate on land prices on 19th March 1970. In trying to make out a case that the Opposition had unnecessarily exaggerated the position in relation to increased land prices he said:
The evidence available is that applicants for bornes savings giants - this is a pretty good group to take, because it excludes luxury sales and many of the sales at the lower end of the scale - were on average paying nearly $2,500 for a block of land in 1966-67 and $2,710 in 1968-69.
In the first place, to take an average price of $2,700 for a block of land in 1968-69 is quite meaningless to Western Australians. They know that $2,700 far from being an average price in Western Australia, would not even be the minimum price. I would hazard the guess that the average price today in the metropolitan area of Perth would be almost double the figure quoted by the Minister.
J ask the Minister especially to look at the basis on which he arrived at that average figure, because the basis of that figure was the situation applying to successful applicants for a homes savings grant. He said that ‘this is a pretty good group to take’. My response to that is that it is just about the worst group to take. My reasons for saying that are, first, that land to which these grants applied has, in many cases, been held for a number of years; secondly, it includes land outside the metropolitan area where the main burden of this problem lies; and, thirdly, all the land within this scheme comprises only a small proportion of the whole in Western Australia. It amounted to only 11.4% of new dwellings constructed in the year 1968-69.
I urge the Minister and the Government to be more realistic in their approach to this problem and, at least, to recognise it even if they feel unable to meet it at this stage. I shall give one other example of the apparent failure of the Government to grasp what is happening, thereby limiting its ability to overcome these problems. I refer to a further statement by the Minister in the debate of 1.9th March that I have already mentioned and in which he informed the House that things were not too bad. He said:
Talk of land prices levelling off is completely meaningless unless at the same time reference is made to the plateau at which the levelling off is taking place. Three weeks ago in Perth we had our most recent release of local government land. It is true that on that occasion the price of the land released dropped from its previous levels. It not only levelled off; it dropped by something like 5i%. But what is the help of that when the final figure which was arrived at in spite of the drop was an average price of $9,423?
I say to the Minister and to the Government that talk of levelling off when we are not talking about the level at which that levelling off is taking place, or talk about average prices of $2,700 per block without realising that there are important areas in the country where $2,700 would not even equal half the current average price, or talk about successful applicants for the homes savings grant as being a pretty good example to take in arriving at one’s understanding of this problem is completely fallacious. They are not useful indicators. They are misleading and they hide the problem instead of enabling us to see exactly what the problem is. I think J made it clear during the course of my second reading speech that I am not exactly to be counted among the admirers of this scheme, either as it is implemented or in its very concept. At the same time, the Government has made it equally clear that it is committed to continuing this scheme. If that is the case let us at least ensure that the scheme, as it continues, works effectively and equitably. I should like to feel that the two questions that I have raised and which go to the aspects of effectiveness and equity will have the consideration of the Government.
– I suggest that in the last few minutes thousands of radios throughout Australia were turned off while the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) was speaking. I had not intended speaking tonight but, having listened closely to the honourable member for Perth last night and having spoken after him for 30 minutes, I was rather amazed that he had (he hide to speak tonight. As I said, I did not intend to speak. I hoped that the Bill1 would be passed tonight so that the young people who had been held up by the delay in passing the measure would soon receive their cheques. However, I might let the people of his electorate know, just as I intend letting the people of my electorate know, that during the debate speakers from the Australian Labor Party have risen and have announced to the Parliament that should their Party come to power they will move for the abolition of this scheme. I am fully aware that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who is on his feet, intends to call for a quorum.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is talking about what the Labor Party is going to do. This was debated at the second reading stage and it has nothing to do with the Committee stage or with the clauses now before the Committee.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that, while a certain amount of tolerance has been displayed during- the debate in the Committee stage, he should not spend time commenting on the second reading debate.
– I apologise, Mr Chairman, if the Opposition has been upset by my most pertinent comments.
– Mr Chairman, I make it quite clear that I am not upset by the honourable member’s remarks. AH I am trying to do is to draw his attention to the fact that we are in the Committee stage and are dealing with clauses 6 to 14 of the Bill.
– I refer to the second paragraph of the amendment moved by the Opposition. It reads: that the restored benefit provided by the Bill in respect of those persons who were previously ineligible because their savings were not in a designated homes savings account should be dated to commence from 31st December 1967.
In many ways I am sympathetic to those people who have missed out on a grant because they did not properly designate their accounts away back in 1964 at the inception of the scheme. If the Opposition is sincere about this amendment I cannot understand why it has not set about making it apply from the beginning of the scheme. Honourable members opposite are suggesting that the Government is drawing a line between the people who will be eligible for the extra benefit and those who will not be eligible. As I have explained, those people who on 27th October 1969 did not have their savings accounts designated as homes savings accounts will be eligible under the scheme. But the Opposition proposes that it be taken back to 1967. The Government is fully aware that there must be a beginning for everything. Prior to the last general election the Government said that the first day of business after the elections would be the most appropriate date of operation but the Labor Party, which has suggested that this scheme be abolished, has drawn the line between-
– I rise to order. The honourable member is again referring to the second reading debate. We are now discussing clauses 6 to 14. They have nothing to do with abolishing the scheme.
– The date to which the honourable member for Griffith has referred was also referred to by the honourable member for Reid in his comments. Clause 9 deals with this matter and to that extent the honourable member for Griffith is in order in commenting on that date, but he should not refer to what took place during the second reading debate.
– I will not refer to this matter again. Even tonight the Labor Party has drawn a distinction on the matter of the date. That is something the Government has to face. In these circumstances it is only fair that the provision operate from the last election. I congratulate the honourable member for Reid on his handling of his first major piece of legislation in this chamber, even though tonight is not the first time he has interrupted my attempts to present a good argument.
– Let me put the record straight for the benefit of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). The date ’31st December 1967’ was the latest date allowed in the amending legislation passed early in 1967, following the general election of 1966, for designating accounts as homes savings accounts. People were allowed to change their accounts up till 31st December 1967 to bring them within the scope of the legislation. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) pointed out how under this Government the cost of a home had increased so markedly that the only people in a position to buy land and build a home are those who belong to the 2 wage society. Unless both husband and wife work a young couple has no chance of purchasing a home in the areas described by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Perth.
The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is at the table, did not introduce this legislation, but since he is acting in this place at the moment for the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) perhaps he will answer a query that I have concerning the Bill. Proposed section 26a relates to the withdrawal of approval of a credit union. It provides that a credit union shall, within 14 days after the date of service of the notice of withdrawal, give a prescribed notice to every person who was a member of the credit union at that date or who had applied for membership on or before that date. The credit union must be sure that it does not advertise that it is a credit union for purposes of the homes savings grant. What will happen to persons who have savings in a credit union whose approval is withdrawn? Have they a prescribed time in which to withdraw their money from the credit union and deposit it in a homes savings account? I take it that savings with the credit union while it was approved under this legislation will be recognised but there is nothing in the Bill to indicate that such savings will be recognised after approval has been withdrawn. This is an important matter because a person who wishes lo apply for a grant does not want to make a withdrawal from his bank account until he has signed a contract. 1 have told young couples not to make withdrawals until they sign a contract. It is the savings at the prescribed date that count. What time is allowed a member of a credit union to withdraw his savings from the credit union and deposit them in an approved account?
– 1 direct the attention of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) to clause 5 (9.) of the Bill, which reads: (9.) If an approved credit union -
This gives a person 6 months clear notice in which to transfer his savings to an acceptable form of account.
– I had intended to speak on this Bill earlier but unfortunately for me the Government saw fit to apply the gag. Consequently I am somewhat restricted in now speaking on the legislation. I refer to clause 14. of the Bill. For the information of honourable members, and particularly Government supporters - the few who are here - I will read part of the clause. It reads:
After section 26 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 26a - (1.) Where a notice of the withdrawal of the approval of a credit union for the purposes of this Act has been served on the credit union -
I suggest that the proposed new section is unnecessary. Adequate notice of their withdrawal was served on credit unions by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) who said in his second reading speech on 5th March last: lt is appreciated that very few, if any. credit unions are as yet in a position to meet these conditions.
The proposed new section is superfluous because notice has already been served on the credit unions in the second reading speech. I have had the opportunity tonight to look at the principal Act. I looked at section 26 to which this Bill will add new section 26a. I see here - lo my sorrow do I see it - that another penal clause is added. Another penalty is imposed on the credit unions - those few, if any, as stated by the Minister for the Navy who might be eligible under this legislation. The penalty is the amount of §500.
There are 3 acceptable forms of savings only. Firstly, there are the saving banks; secondly, the permanent building societies; and, thirdly, the credit union movement, which is supposed to be included in this legislation as an acceptable form of savings. But it is not. I see no mention in the Bill before us tonight of any penal clause being inserted in respect of the savings banks. I see no penal clause being inserted in respect of the permanent building societies. But, to my sorrow. I see a penal clause inserted in respect of the credit union movement. This, I think, gives honourable members on this side of the Committee an indication of the intention of the Government and its lack of sincerity in this whole issue.
When we get down to the crux of the matter, we find that the Government is not sincere. The Government has no intention - and it never has been the intention of the Government - to assist the credit union movement. It is an accepted fact that the credit union movement in Australia is just on the way up. If honourable members go back through the history of the countries on the other side of the world - particularly the history of America - and see the extent to which the credit union movement has grown, they will see the reason why the Government and those v/ho support the Government do not want the credit union movement to grow in Australia. The real reason for these provisions is that the Government is paying lip service to, and was not sincere in. its suggestions that it would bring the credit unions into the operations of the scheme. The Government really does not want credit unions to flourish. What is the reason for this attitude? The reason is that if credit unions flourish they will be a threat to the other financial institutions which this Government serves. That is the real reason for the attitude of the Government.
The Government has no intention of helping credit unions. It had not in the past and, 1 would suggest, will not in the future. The main concern of the Government is that the credit union movement is a threat to the fringe banking institutions. That is the real reason. I am sorry to say that, as an active credit unionist myself, I am more than disappointed with the Government on this issue. As an active credit unionist, I would have thought that the Government, realising the benefit of credit unions to our community, would have gone out of its way to assist the credit union movement. The Government has done not one thing to assist. In fact, the Government has put every obstacle in the way of the credit union movement, even clause 14 which is a penal clause. I was going to say, Mr Chairman, that this is the height of pious hypocrisy, but I do not know whether that is an acceptable parliamentary phrase. It is pious hypocrisy to come out and to mouth these platitudes about assistance to the credit union movement. The Government had no intention of assisting credit unions and I suggest that it will give no assistance in the future.
– Mr Chairman, I just want to say a few words-
– Tedious repetition.
– I cannot hear the interjection, if it is worth hearing.
– It is tedious repetition.
– Well, I think the Minister for Customs and Excise is being highly presumptuous. I have not said a word to indicate which clause of the Bill I will speak about. Does he consider everything that concerns the housing of the people of this country repetitious? I take it that the Minister is making it perfectly clear to the Committee that he does not regard the legislation as having any value. Is he criticising his own Government?
I wish to raise a matter which I thought would concern the Minister for Customs and Excise. It is in connection with clause 8 which refers to the residential requirement that a person to be eligible for a grant must bc an Australian citizen throughout the period of 3 years immediately preceding the prescribed date. This is dealt with in proposed new section 14c (c)(i). I think that even the Minister for Customs and Excise whose disinterest is very apparent probably would know that the prescribed date relates to the period when a person enters into a contract to purchase or to build a home. It is interesting to note that, under the heading ‘Failure to Meet the 3 Year Residential Requirement’ the last annual report on the operations on the Homes Savings Grant Act indicates that 399 people were rejected last year. That is 9.3% of total rejections. In fact, 453 applicants were rejected in the previous year. I cannot help but wonder why we must have this provision at all. When all is said and done, the people who were rejected On this score would probably be predominantly new Australians arriving in this country for the first time.
– A lot of British migrants, too.
– As the honourable member for Wide Bay says, a lot of British migrants as well. It is possibly fair to say that these are people who need homes. They arrive here and they are in need of a home. We arc told that, of some 185,000 migrants who will come to Australia in 1970, approximately one-third will settle in the West. In Fremantle and Perth, a very serious shortage of homes exist. Homes are very expensive there. I do not know where these people will live. They could be people who have saved diligently over the years and who have brought their savings with them. They could be people who are able to establish that they have met all the requirements regarding savings in the United Kingdom or in whatever country from which they happen to come. They may have bank books or certified statements which can be checked out in our overseas posts. In every possible respect, they could have complied with the conditions that people are required to comply with in Australia.
They come from a foreign land to this land. 1 do not suppose anyone will quibble with the contention that these people would be among the most hungry section of people in Australia. Yet, the Bill provides that these people are not to be accommodated by its provisions for 3 years. That is to say, if these people fulfil their housing requirement by way of buying or building a home they will be excluded forever from the benefits of this legislation. Does anyone suggest seriously that a person arriving in a place like Perth or Fremantle can rent a home? If these people are unable to rent homes and they commit the offence of buying homes to fulfil their essential housing needs and to provide a roof over the heads of their families, they are excluded forever from the possibility of obtaining benefit under this legislation. In this regard, they are rendered second class citizens.
This kind of discrimination does not apply in other countries. An Australian going to London has an entitlement under the council housing scheme as much as a person who was born in England has. In New Zealand the Government has a scheme which involves the capitalisation of child endowment for housing purposes. Without any residential qualification at all, an Australian going to New Zealand is entitled to derive that benefit once he registers in that country as a citizen of that country. So, it seems to me that here is another shibboleth, another holy cow or another one of the desecrations of the reasonable principle that this legislation is built upon to make it more difficult for the most needy people in this country.
If honourable members analyse the figures which have been set out to indicate the reasons why members of our new Australian community return to the countries from which they came, they will find that employment and the difficulty in obtaining houses are rated very highly. Why do we exclude these people from eligibility under the scheme simply because they have come from another land when they have a very serious housing need and especially when they are able to show, as many of them could if they were required to show, that they have saved in the same manner as Australians have saved to qualify for the benefits of this legislation? The Minister claimed that this matter or any matter concerning the Bill should not be brought up. ls he able to reply to the points 1 have made? Is he able to refute them? Docs he not concede that new Australians have a serious housing problem? Does he not concede that many of them have saved in other countries and may have established eligibility? Does he not concede that Australian diplomatic posts could check this out? All the qualities of thrifty people which would enable them to qualify for the grant can be found in new Australians.
I think this provision is completely unnecessary and should be eliminated from the Bill. I think it has been a most distressing night in total in that every point that has been made, with one small exception, has been completely disregarded by the Government. No attempt has been made to give any answer at all, particularly to the question of the credit unions. I would like to know from the Minister why it is necessary for divorced people to have a dependent child to become eligible for this benefit. It is not necessary for a widow or for other young couples to have a dependent child. Surely the fundamental criterion in this matter should be that the applicant has a housing need and that he has met the requirements in respect of savings.
– There is no requirement that I should do the homework you should have done yourself in the last 3 years while you were languishing in the wilderness.
– Is the Minister intending to give any intelligent answer to the question?
– There is no obligation on rae to waste the time of this Parliament doing homework which you should have done.
– I am not dogmatic in saying that the Minister should answer this. I ask’ any honourable member opposite or Minister whether any explanation can be given about this unnecessary restriction which requires divorced people to have dependent children to enable them to qualify under this legislation whereas widows and other young couples do not need to have dependent children. I contend it is unnecessary, just as it is unnecessary to require migrants to meet a 3-year residential qualification. I would hope that the next time this legislation is being amended these unnecessary restrictions will be removed.
– I will be brief but before we move out of the Committee stage 1 desire to ask the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is at the table, not to make cross-interjections but to answer the question asked by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). Clause 14 of the Bill requires credit unions to notify members and intending members of the withdrawal of approval. Clause 14 states:
After section 26 of the Principal Act the following setion is inserted . . .
That section becomes section 26a of the Principal Act. Sub-section (4.) provides for a penalty of $500. I want to know from the Minister why this penal provision has been inserted to operate against credit unions. I ask the Minister, who has his departmental advisers behind him. to tell me where in this Act there are similar provisions imposing a penalty on the private banking institutions.
We know that during the period from 31st December 1967 to 27th October 1969 the only way a person could hold savings to qualify under this Act was in a prescribed account stamped ‘Home Savings Account’. During that period the savings banks had a monopoly under this Act. Under the guise that th; Government wanted to broaden the proposal to include the credit unions, this penal provision has been inserted, lt is just a lol of hypocrisy because no credit union can in fact meet the conditions. If by some miracle some credit union does meet the conditions it will be subject to this penal provision. I want to know why in the original Act the Government did not impose a penal provision on the banks. I know honourable members opposite are the bankers’ friends and I know they represent the banking institutions and the off-shoots of the banking institutions, the hire purchase companies.
Credit unions are really the competitors of the fringe institutions. Credit unions charge only 10% reducible for consumer goods whereas the fringe institutions, in which the banks are the major shareholders, charge up to 20%. Why has the Government included this $500 penal provision? Why has it not done anything about the banks? Before we get out of the Committee stage I would like an answer.
– I rise to order. Today the House passed a resolution which slated, and 1 quote section (2.):
That until the end of June, at 11.00 p.m. on each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and at 4 p.m. on Friday the Speaker shall put the Question - That the House do now adjourn - which Question shall be open to debate; if the House be in Committee at that hour, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report’ being made the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question - That the House do now adjourn - which Question shall be open to debate.
I therefore submit that in accordance with the resolution passed by the House today the Minister should report progress, the House should adjourn and this debate should be resumed next week.
– Order! The understanding was that the motion passed today would not have effect until next week. This is in the hands of the House. In addition a Bill is now being discussed here and it is subject to an arrangement made between the honourable member leading for the Opposition and the Leader of the House. It was nol considered that the new arrangement would commence before next week.
– On a further point of order, Mr Chairman. 1 do not worry about understandings. I am quoting from the resolution passed, lt was moved by the Minister in these terms: f ask leave of (he House to move a motion relating to days and hours of meeting. 1 voted today on the understanding that that applied forthwith. I am nol concerned with understandings that may have been read into the motion. That resolution was passed and decided by the Parliament, commencing as from today and proceeding to the end of June. I take the point again that the Minister must report progress.
– Again in reply to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Grayndler I suggest that he take into consideration the fact that a debate took place in the House. The understanding was that because of the factors related to the motion and because the commencing hour could not be agreed to, the new arrangement could not commence today but would apply as from next week.
– As you have given that ruling Mr Chairman, you leave me no alternative but to move dissent from your ruling. I say the House should, adjourn at 1 1 o’clock in accordance with the resolution this morning.
– 1 also suggest in regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Grayndler that in a sense the Committee has accepted the situation. It is now past the hour of 11 o’clock and if the question was to have been raised it should have been raised and the point of order taken by the honourable member at 1 1 o’clock.
– Sir, you leave me with no alternative but to move dissent from your ruling.
– I wonder if the honourable member would allow me to say a few words. The position in regard to the Bill is that it has now been running for a considerable time and I would expect that it would be passed in a very short time. I have no doubt whatever that there is nobody in this House who wants to hold it up because it does make provision for poor people. I indicated immediately after the last division - I cannot recall now when that was - that there would be no more business transacted by the House tonight and that as soon as this Bill was dealt with I would move the motion for the adjournment of the House. It seems to me that there could be quite a respectable argument constructed to the effect that the terms of the motion passed this morning ought to apply as from tonight. This question was put to me earlier today and I said that I would have thought that the 11 o’clock rule would not apply until the earlier part of the motion, which relates to the earlier sitting hours, applied which will be next Tuesday. I did not think that the automatic putting of the motion for the adjournment of the House at 11 p.m. would apply tonight. I would not have expected it to apply until next week. That is the way in which I would have understood it. There was no discussion between me and the other side as to this point. Therefore if the honourable member will forgo dissent with the ruling of the Chairman we may be able to finish with this Bill in a very short time because it has been debated for a considerable period. When we get it over with I can move the adjournment of the House and we can all go home.
– I appreciate the points advanced by the Leader of the House but the fact of the matter is, 1 think that every member of this Parliament understood that the debate tonight would finish at 11 o’clock. With that in mind I and about 7 or 8 others thought we would take advantage of the early moving of the adjournment of the House and speak in that debate. If the Government is not to make ruthless use of the gag this debate may well continue, as a debate quite rightly should on an important measure, until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning which is against the spirit of the resolution of the House this morning. As with legislation, one can understand what is written into it but the form of the resolution is what matters. Mr Chairman, you gave a fine ruling a few moments ago when you stated that because I did not rise at precisely 11 o’clock my opportunity had lapsed. I did not rise then for the reason that the Minister just mentioned. I thought that the Bill may have been finished a few minutes later. I give you due warning now, Mr Chairman, that on any other day at 1 minute to 11 o’clock you should have a good look at me because I will be looking at you to see that a debate finishes. I do not know how long the present debate is to continue.
– There is only 1 speaker.
– The honourable member for Reid is sitting at the table on this side and I do not wish to do anything to interfere with any arrangements that he may have in mind. I take the point that an agreement has been reached and a resolution of the
House has not been interpreted as it should have been.I hope that this will not happen again.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has asked a question and although he did it in a most belligerent way I, being a mild mannered sort of person, propose to answer the point that he and the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) raised. In essence they asked: Why have these penal provisions been inserted in clause 14 which is new section 26a? The answer is that the penalty of $500 reflects the very serious view that the Government believes should be taken where young people who are saving for a home are led to believe, mistakenly, that the savings they are making with a particular credit union are acceptable for the purposes of the Homes Savings Grant Act. The proposed new section will protect young people in 2 main ways. Firstly, it requires a credit union whose approval under the Act has been withdrawn to advise each of its members and each prospective member that the approval has been withdrawn. Secondly, it prohibits a credit union that has not been approved under the Act or a credit union that has been approved but whose approval has been withdrawn, from directly or indirectly representing or advertising that it is an approved credit union. I hope that there will be no need ever to invoke the penalty that is provided in this new section. The possibility does exist, however, that some young people could find that they are denied a grant of $500 because they have discovered too late that they had held their savings with a credit union that they had been led to believe was approved under the Act but in fact was not an approved credit union. The Government is concerned to see that this does not occur.
Remainder of the Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Dr Forbes) - by leave - read a third time.
Political Parties - Wheat - Facilities in Rural areas - Opal mining.
Motion (by Dr Forbes) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I want to say a few words about whatI believe is a serious disagreement between the Government parties. If there is one thing that I do not like to see, it is the breakup of what has been a comparatively happy marriage, although it has undoubtedly had its trials and tribulations.I am prompted to make this speech tonight by reason of the conference held at Warrnambool yesterday from which the Country Party Leader and a senior Minister of the Government saw fit to go to a conference in Melbourne. The crux of the situation was that there was a resolution before that conference to withdraw the support of the Australian Country Party from the Liberal Government. I do not blame the Country Party for getting fed up with the Liberals, because most people in this country have felt that way for a long time. But it is interesting to see that in a government, which claims to be united and to have the confidence of the people at this stage, the most predominant and dominating partner is seriously considering withdrawing from the coalition.
At the conference in Warrnambool yesterday the Victorian Country Party rejected moves to break up the Federal coalition with the Liberal Party. The fact that this suggestion has been considered is a very serious blow to the stable government of this country. It is reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’ that after a fiery speech by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), the Country Party adopted a resolution indirectly censuring the Federal Country Party by calling on it to do more for rural industries. This is supposed to be the Party that stands for the primary producer. The report in the newspaper said:
Mr McEwen clashed several times with State CP. members of Parliament during a tense 3-hour debate over the Party’s dissatisfaction with Federal performance.
Anybody who has had a good look at the Country Party members here knows that they are poor performers in any field. At one stage the Deputy Prime Minister threatened to get on his plane and go back to Canberra when the delegate tried to switch the issue to opposing Liberal Cabinet Ministers at the next Federal elections. According to the report, the Deputy Prime Minister went on to tell the delegates not to ‘squeal like stuck pigs’. What a way for him to talk to his supporters. Of course, they have got a hide. They arc going broke and they are kicking up a fuss about it. They ought to go quietly. But this is the kind of thing that went on at the conference.
The report goes on:
However, despite the clashes, Mr McEwen’s 40 minute defence of Federal Country Party actions appeared narrowly to head off an all out rejection by the conference of the principle of coalition government in Canberra with the Liberal Party.
The Deputy Prime Minister is reported as saying:
You will get nowhere by shooting down your front line troops from behind.’
The report added:
There was an angry scene when Mr McEwen told delegates who had criticised the Federal policy on tariffs ‘costs are not the all and end all of your problems.
The report then went on to say:
Obviously angry at his hostile reception by the conference, he told the delegates: ‘The Australian public are your only good customers who pay you what you want. Don’t talk as though only secondary industry is protected.’
Then the Deputy Prime Minister clashed with Mr Bruce Evans, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in Victoria. I thought they loved each other. I thought they were in the one Party. But this is what Mr Evans told the conference:
I want Mr McEwen to do all in his power to ensure that the speech he gave here today doesn’t circulate in my electorate. “This doctrine that you can do more as a Member of the Government is dynamite - it is what the Liberal opponent from my seat is saying.
We ought not to sell the principles and the policies of the Country Party on the basis that it is more important to have power than principles.’
What a condemnation from the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in Victoria of the men who sit in the corner here. The newspaper report then went on:
That is a devastating decision for a Country Party organisation in Victoria to make. Honourable members should not forget that this decision was made after the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of and the most powerful man in the Country Party, had addressed this conference. Instead of asking the Country Party to get right out of the coalition, the conference ‘passed by a big majority a motion that “this conference stresses the urgency of the financial plight of primary producers due to falling prices and rising costs, and informs our Parliamentary members of the power we expect them to exercise from their position of strength within the Government”.’
The report continues:
The conference also passed a second resolution requesting the Federal Parliamentary party ‘to be more actively concerned with the economic plight of rural communities’.
What a condemnation by their fellow colleagues in the Victorian Country Party. In other words, the conference at Warrnambool yesterday stated that the members of this Parliament, who are supposed to represent the Country Party and the primary producers, have betrayed them; and only when the Deputy Prime Minister himself went to this conference in Victoria did it refrain from instructing the members on that side of the Parliament to walk out from the Liberal-Country Party coalition. This is not the only time that has happened. The Country Party was going to leave the coalition when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) was considered for a high office. But now it has woken up that it ought to have gone out on bigger principles than that.
As 1 look at a report in the Melbourne Sun’ I see that Mr McEwen said, amongst other things:
I find it an extraordinary experience to have to come here and spell out to people who have already bad the money in (heir pockets what the Country Party has done for them.
When one looks at that situation - the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) will agree with me - it is shocking that in this country men will not go broke quietly because of the bankrupt policies of the Country Party and the Liberal Party. Is this not a shocking thing in view of the harmony and the goodwill that seemed to exist between these people in days gone by in this Parliament? We see the happy marriage breaking up now and going right on the rocks because one of the partners will not fulfil its marital functions. The Country Party will not meet its conjugal obligations to the Liberal Party and now the honeymoon is over. Anyhow, it was only a shotgun marriage at the best of times. Now, like all shotgun marriages, it is on the rocks and the poor children of the marriage are bankrupt all over the place. I suppose the junior parner, the Country Party, is the poor disgraced wife. The powerful master has all the funds and will not keep the children. So the old marriage is on the rocks. It is sad and distressing, as it must be to you, Mr Speaker, to see this marriage breaking up. Even an appeal from the grandfather of the Party would not bring them back together. It is a dreadful thing to be discarded by your own.
The only matter on which I could extend congratulations to the Country Party in Victoria is its realisation that the Liberal Party is not good to be associated with at any time, and the fact that they have woken up to it should be an indication to the honourable gentlemen who sit opposite that at least one section of the Party shows a little commonsense and realises that all is not well in this ill become marriage that we have seen here for some years. I wonder what the former Minister For Primary Industry thinks about the break-up of this marriage which he moulded in years gone by.
– We are not divided.
– The right honourable member says they are not divided. I am only going by what took place at the conference. I just thought tonight I would stir the embers of those lovely happy days. It reminds me of that old song ‘Those Were the Days’, which says: ‘We thought those days would never end’, lt was sung by that lovely lady in Great Britain. Honourable members can see how these reminders sting honourable members opposite. The happy memories are there but the bitterness comes to the top when marriages break up, and people say harsh things about each other, lt must have been awful to be there and hear the people saying: ‘Get up there and protect the people you are there to protect and give more attention to the rural industries.’ When I hear of a Country Party conference doing this, I think well of the people of Riverina who have sent a man here like their honourable member. I think of the other honourable members from the rural districts who sit on this side of the Parliament and who will stand up for the country people. With a united Opposition here with a great policy, we will do the things that the Country Party is failing to do.
However, it was not my intention tonight to bring politics into this at all. I just wanted to remind the House of what is happening on the opposite side, of the disunity that exists in the Liberal Party and the Country Party and the distrust of the Country Party organisations of their own members. Of course, above all else I place on record my regret at the failure of another shotgun marriage which has gone the way of all marriages of that kind.
– I would like to direct the attention of the House, particularly the Government, to a problem which is being raised at every opportunity by telephone, by letter and by every other means. I refer to the guidance which is urgently desired by wheatgrowers in relation to what the Government expects them to do in the 1970-71 season. Men and machinery have been standing by to put in the 1970-71 crop. Good rains have fallen, particularly in the Riverina. I quote the Riverina as an example of the position across the nation. The growers have wanted to take advantage of this particularly fortuituous rain, but even at this late stage there is still no guidance forthcoming. The growers have not been told what they are expected to plant.
– I sincerely hope not. I want to deal with the situation of the growers who have delivered their quotas for the 1969-70 season. In some cases they have delivered a little extra following the State shortfall, but among them are growers who are still holding thousands of bushels of wheat. Just recently some growers in one district of the Riverina told me that individually they had 6,000 bushels of wheat still to deliver. They wanted to know whether, if they delivered the wheat, they would ever be paid and, if so, when. They wanted to know whether, if they did deliver the wheat and were paid a return, it would affect what they would be permitted to deliver in 1970-71, and what they would be paid at that particular time. The tragedy is that still no answers have been received to those questions. Someone might say: This is an extraordinary situation where a member of the Federal Parliament, a member of the national forum, has asked a whole series of leading questions about what growers should do at this particular time when there have been rains’. The growers ask: ‘What should we do?’ The growers do not speak about what they would like to do; they ask what the Government would like them to do. They are asking for guidance. Do honourable members know what answer is given by every Federal member in every rural electorate? It is this: ‘We cannot say*. The reason is that the Government has not made up its mind. There are no decisions as yet.
– Which Government?
– Who said that? In our country at this particular time there is only one government. In every State of the Commonwealth and in the Commonwealth sphere the same people are in power. There is the same Liberal-Country Party coalition administration. That is a fine triumph. It is a tremendous thing. It is the greatest achievement that we have seen in our generation. The governments in all the States and in the Commonwealth sphere are of the same political persuasion. There is no room for division. There is no room for argument. There is one government in our nation. It is true that there could be 1 or 2 little differences, but surely to goodness with a united coalition, with a monolithic government and unanimous decisions, one could assume that there would be no argument in the States or in the Commonwealth sphere as to who does what. The decision would be the same.
In the absence of firm commitments many farmers will seek to sell what they have. At the present time there are many growers in the countryside who have delivered the quota of wheat that has been given to them. Many farmers have been given a little extra as a result of the shortfall. Many growers still have thousands of bushels. Let us take some of the people whom I represent. They have 6,000 bushels. Do honourable members know what they do? They write to me and say: ‘If I deliver the 6,000 bushels will I be paid for it? What will I receive? Will it be deducted from this season’s quota?’ I hope that some honourable member can answer me, because I have not got the answers. I hope that if anybody has the answers he will tell me now, because the Government has not given the answers yet. What is the position? The farmer says: ‘I am in a situation in which I have to meet my hire purchase commitments, my land tax, my rates and the capital repayments to the banks’. Does the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) argue with me?
– No, I am not saying that.
– Are you saying that this is not the position? Are you saying that there is not a heavy burden on the people? Are you saying that there is not a heavy burden on wheat growers? Well, I hope you are not. You should stand with me now, because the farmers are in desperate need of collateral.
-Order! I suggest to honourable members on my right and also to the honourable member for Riverina that any remarks that they wish to make should be made through the Chair and not in personal conversation.
– I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for your guidance once again. If I speak with some emotion on this subject it is because of the situation of the people whom I represent. There is no room for equivocation on this subject.
– You are no help.
– Yes, you can interject, Mr Minister. Tell me what you said. Speak up. He is interjecting, Mr Speaker. What are you saying to me? Tell me that the people are not in trouble. Tell me that the quotas are not designed to disregard the needs of the people who have pioneered the wheat industry. Tell me that. Is that right?
– I said you are no help.
– I. am no help? Mr Speaker, if because of your kindness and generosity to the Parliament at this particular time you wish to disregard the interjection of the honourable and distinguished Minister, 1 put on record that he said in effect that what I am saying is no help. He says in effect that what I am saying is of no value. He is saying that the protest I am making tonight at this particular hour, approaching midnight, on behalf of wheat growers who are seeking guidance is of no consequence. He is saying in effect that I should not raise it. He is saying in effect that I should be quiet in this chamber. I have been quiet all day. I have listened to honourable members debating everything under the sun. Until this hour of the evening
I have not heard anybody deal with the deep needs of the people who have worked very hard and done a great job on behalf of this nation and who are on the brink of disaster. If the Minister is telling me that 1 should not raise these matters then 1 am ashamed of him. I mean it sincerely, and I will tell him so on any platform.
I am here, Mr Speaker, for one reason and that is that I believe in the people who have pioneered the countryside and I believe in the family enterprises which are at present in peril. I believe in the family enterprises which, incidentally, many people say have reached the stage of expandability. The Minister knows that to be true.
– That is what Hawke said.
– Hawke? Who is he? Does he represent us here? ls he sitting in the chamber?
-Order! I remind all honourable members that interjections are out of order.
– I do not mind who disagrees with me, Mr Speaker. I will debate with them at any time and at any place. 1 happen to believe with great sincerity and dedication in the problems with which we are confronted at the present time.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– lt was not my intention to take part in the adjournment debate this evening, but after listening to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) indulging in verbal clowning with a certain amount of political bias I was moved to get to my feet to answer him. After the honourable member for Grayndler, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) attempted to carry on the usual tactics of the present Opposition of trying to confuse the wheat growers of Australia. Unfortunately, over the last 2 years or so it has been very true that wheat growers have been confused, and most of this confusion has been brought about toy what one could call half truths, semi-truths and part truths, as has been stated by the honourable member for Riverina this evening.
Yet much of what the honourable member said was true - wheat growers, wool growers and other primary producers throughout Australia are going through difficult times, but it is not true to say that there is only one Government that can respond to the call of the primary industries. Those were the words that the honourable member used. He went on to make quite a few accusations that I believe are most misleading to growers. The first thing we should look at is the difference between the two so-called spokesmen of the Opposition on the subject of primary industries. When we analyse their comments over a period of time we find that their opinions differ greatly. I objected to a statement by the honourable member for Riverina that wheat growers, despite the fact that we have had good rains and are about to plant our crops, do nol know what is going to happen regarding the coming harvest - how much wheat they will be permitted to deliver, and so forth. I think that was what the honourable member said. Let us have a look at the matter.
The honourable member for Riverina is fully aware that all moves in relation to wheat quotas were originally suggested by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. Every proposition put forward by the Federation to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has been accepted, even the price of the first advance. This year the Federation has recommended to the Minister a total delivery for the Commonwealth of 308 million bushels. It has asked the Minister for this on the assurance that the growers would receive $1.10 as the first advance. This has been granted. I cannot recall, without notice, the exact quotas for each State but I do know that Victoria has a quota of 52 million bushels and I think that New South Wales, which is the State from which the honourable member for Riverina comes, has a quota of 108 million bushels. So it is not true to say that the growers do not know what they will be permitted to deliver.
The next matter is tied up with the statement that there is only one government that will decide the issue. Distribution has absolutely nothing to do with this Government or the Minister for Primary Industry. This is the distribution in relation to individual growers and the honourable member for Riverina well and truly knows that the matter is entirely in the hands of the State governments. For example, it is in the hands of the Victorian Government to work out exactly how it will distribute the 52 million bushels. That Government is in the middle of working this out at the moment by way of special committees in association with the Victorian Farmers Union. So I believe that the statements that have been made by the honourable member for Riverina this evening and the statements that have been made in the past have been made very, very deliberately with a view of trying to mislead growers at the present time.
As far as the honourable member for Grayndler is concerned, I did not think it worth while answering what he said, but seeing that I am on my feet I will do so. He referred to what he called the split in the present coalition. With the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) I was privileged to spend one day at the conference at Warrnambool. I want to tell the honourable member for Grayndler that the Australian Country Party is in a very sound and happy position in the State of Victoria when 800, 900 or even 1,000 delegates attend a conference to discuss problems that are associated with members of that Party. I also had the privilege of listening to a tape recording of yesterday’s proceedings. It is true that many statements have been made by both sides - State and Federal members - but it is not true to say that the result of that conference is a real threat to the coalition. What the honourable member for Grayndler overlooks, of course, is that the section from Victoria within the coalition is only part of the coalition - it is only part of the minority party to which he refers. There is no fear whatsoever of the coalition breaking up because of what was said by the honourable member this evening. I am very proud of the fact that we can be classed as the parties to a shot gun wedding because, after all. this wedding has lasted for a long time. As far as I am concerned and as far as members of these parties are concerned, the coalition is going to last for a long time, unfortunately for the honourable member for Grayndler.
– -1 have sat here as a new member very concerned at the atmosphere being created in debates, at the constant attacks oozing hate at trade unionists and their representatives and in particular at the vehemence of attacks on the Australian Labor Party and the people it represents. As a new member I wonder whether my term of office is going to be burdened by a situation I find distasteful and a bitter disappointment after what I had thought Parliament represented. As a consequence I turn to what an independent news commentator had to say on the situation. According to surveys, Frank Chamberlain’s nightly commentary, which is broadcast throughout Australia from Cairns to Geraldton and across to Tasmania, is heard by over a million people. It is rebroadcast next morning in many parts of Australia. Mr Chamberlain has a reputation for being fair overall. He often attacks the Labor Party as well as others in the interests of better Parliamentary discussion. He has praised the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for his human sympathy in Aboriginal affairs and as the member who initiated the standard gauge railway. Mr Chamberlain. I believe, has been a correspondent for the Australian Press and the overseas Press in Canberra for over 20 years.
On Wednesday, 1 6th April 1970, Mr Chamberlain said:
How do you do. So now we have a Red rudder running Australia. My comment in a few moments.
Parliament has been wasting time again this week, but at last a halt has been called by private members who support the Government. They have realised that many of the criticisms made by their own side and by Opposition members, especially the new members, are correct.
Parliament must be made to work smoothly, more often and democratically. In future the Liberals and the Country Party coalition revert to the time table pre-1950. So we have to go backwards to the Chifley era to go forwards.
There have been arguments about how to improve the working of Parliament ever since the national Parliament was assembled. This time an intensified situation has been reached, because one side has been in power so long, that as Mr Henry Turnbull (Liberal, N.S.W.) points out, the spirit of Parlaiment is being lost in trying to apply the letter of its rules.
Extra sitting time, however, is not the entire answer. There must be some rationale in oranising business and setting priorities. There must be less personal character-smearing and more debate on the measures. We, the public, must so insist that our representatives so behave. I gather this from the correspondence and comments 1 Have received.
Last week we had the Government accusing the Opposition of wasting time by introducing trifling matters as allegedly urgent. This week we have had the sorry spectacle of the Government wasting hours on a political manoeuvre attempting to smear Opposition members with the red can. There was no discussion of any vital issue at all.
Mr William Wentworth, the Minister for Social Services, calls it the red rudder. But he is well off course, as usual, with his fanaticism on this subject. The tiny minority of professed Communists in this country, when we do not even have one in Parliament and never have looked like having one, must be very clever people if they can produce what Mr Wentworth so stupidly calls a reign of terror. And the Government must be negligent in its trust if it can let them have so much authority.
The reign of terror, Mr Wentworth, as you know is in Vietnam, where not only Communists but United States and Australian forces are locked in a vile and violent struggle over the bodies of innocent people, including nationalists who are not Communists, who merely want to earn and enjoy an honest living. The faults are not all on one side. This Vietnam affair, as I have often said and as I insist without hesitation, adds not one jot to Australia’s security or prestige, and history is showing this to be true every day that passes.
As Dr Everingham (Labor, Queensland) pointed out in an unanswerable speech - unanswerable to anyone who knows the facts - if it is good manners, fair democratic action for farmers to march through the streets of Melbourne and protest, surely it is legitimate for people to abominate the undeclared war in Vietnam: the conscription of our young in one age group only by lottery: to see the lack of any equality of sacrifice by all Australians, surely it is legitimate for them to want a Moratorium or any attempt at peace by peaceful demonstration, without being branded Communist’.
You know - it’s an old trick. Menzies used it with the Petrov lie, and you must remember, Mr Wentworth and all the Government, you cannot fool all the people all the time. Congratulations to the private Liberals who induced the Government to try a better timetable. Now let’s have a better priority timetable in the subjects we discussed. It is now the Leader of the House, Mr Bill Snedden’s opportunity to retrieve his earlier, unimpressive performance, and please kick that red can and the red rudder right out of the Parliament.
That was a ‘Canberra on the Line’ radio commentary by Frank Chamberlain broadcast on the Macquarie network throughout Australia on Wednesday, 15th April 1970. I heartily concur in those remarks, as I am sure members of my Party do.
I want to reply to one or two things that have been said by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). I think that all honourable members will realise that he put on an act tonight by calling out loudly. The Speaker had to call him to order. He said: I feel it so much that I can hardly control myself.’ I can control myself and I am not any less concerned than he is.
– I rise to order. Is the honourable member not inferring that the honourable member for Riverina was called to order when in fact it was members sitting near him who were called to order?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat. Whilst I am on my feet I would suggest to the honourable member for Chifley, who is out of his seat, that he cease interjecting during the debate.
– If I may just go off the subject I am speaking on for a few minutes, I would appreciate it if the officers of the House or you, Mr Speaker, would move the honourable member for Sturt to another seat. If I get into a railway carriage it is generally my fate to come up against a drunk. All members in this House are sober, but goodness knows why I should be in the hot seat right beside the honourable member for Sturt.
– I rise to order. I was not sure whether I correctly understood the honourable member for Mallee when he said that everyone in the House was sober but he was not sure whether he should- .
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– It was a reflection on the honourable member for Sturt.
-Order! The honourable member will state his point of order if he has one.
– I come to it very bluntly and directly. If the honourable member for Mallee was suggesting that the honourable member for Sturt was not sober, of course he was out of order.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– This kind of talk that we have heard again from the honourable member for Riverina just shows what he is trying to do. Every member in this House knows quite well that I did not at any time refer to whether the honourable member was sober or not. I said that all members of this House are sober and as far as I am concerned they are. Nevertheless I was leading up to the point that every member of the Opposition must realise the position I am placed in, sitting here with this foghorn in my ear all the time.
– Why does the honourable member not get an ear plug?
-Order! I would remind honourable members in the far corner that all interjections are out of order.
– I have plenty of time to deal with the honourable member for Riverina. 1 want to say a few things about what he said. But before I get on to that let me say that I challenge members of the Opposition to take the honourable members for Sturt over among them and put up with him. I now want to go on with my subject. First of all, the honourable member for Riverina said that no-one had dealt with the wheat growing industry in this House today. Of course that is the very first remark he made that was not true because I had asked a very important question of the Minister for Primary Industry regarding the quota system and the allocation of quotas. This was a very important question because, as the Minister responsible for Primary Industry, he told us in the House exactly how quotas were determined and how they were allocated. So that was the first statement by the honourable member for Riverina that was not correct.
His second statement was that nothing bad been done to give wheat growers any indication of what they should grow. It has always been that way. When he puts a crop in, a wheat grower does not know whether he is going to have 5 bushels to the acre or 30 bushels to the acre or a drought. This is why the farming position has always been precarious and why the position of the primary producer is different to that of the wage earner. This is why we in the Country Party support through thick and thin the primary producer. The wage earner knows exactly what he gets every week and it is generally rising. But the primary producer has no idea what his return will be when he sows a crop. If the Government were to say that a farmer had to grow, say, 10 bushels or 5 bushels to the acre, when the crop had been planted there would be no indication of what return would come to the wheat grower. These are the practical considerations. I want to be as kind as I can to the honourable member for Riverina because he has been nice to me. But 1 want to say very definitely to this House that I wonder whether the honourable member for Riverina knows the difference between a Suffolk and a Shropshire.
– They are not wheat growers. This is a wheat debate.
– It is not a wheat debate. It is a debate on any subject. It is a rough and tumble debate on sheep, primary industry and the things that the wheat growers and the wool growers depend on. These are the questions. The other thing I want to say is that the great indication that has been given is that there is to be about a 20% cut, I understand, in the quota that was fixed last year. The fixing of the quota came about because the wheat growers, quite rightly, wanted $1.10 a bushel. The Wheatgrowers Federation met over in Western Australia and decided on the quota system, but the motions that gave legislative authority to the quotas did not come into this House. Quota legislation has never been debated here. It went through the State parliaments. They gave the legislative authority. It has never been debated in this House.
– ‘Does the honourable member not think that it should be debated here?
– No, of course it should not.
– Order! If the honourable member for Chifley keeps interjecting as he has been since the beginning of this debate on the motion for the adjournment tonight, I will have to deal with him.
– I further want to say that the Chairman of the Grains Division of the Victorian Farmers Union, Mr Meehan, said he was delighted that the Federal Government had announced that $1.10 a bushel would be paid on the quota wheat delivered next year. Perhaps there are one or two things that members do not know, and these I must tell them. In other years the amount of the first payment has not been announced before 1st November. If the Minister had decided to wait until next November to make an announcement the honourable member for Riverina might have had something further to argue about, but with all the months ahead before sowing starts farmers know what they will get per bushel. -
– But they have not got their quotas.
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina will cease interjecting.
– They will know what they will get per bushel for what they can grow under the quota system. I am as concerned as any man in Australia about primary industry. I have been chided often in this House for being parochial because I put the case for the rural districts and for the primary producer. The electorate of the honourable member for Riverina is just across Australia’s great waterway from Mallee. The Murray River should not divide us; it should unite us. We want more water and all the things that make for better production and a better Australia. I am treating this matter calmly tonight because one cannot do any good for wheat growers or anyone else if one loses one’s head, starts calling to high heaven about things, and forgets logic. The announcement about the payment of $1.10 a bushel has been appreciated. It was announced a month ago instead of next November. These are the things that count and as far as I am concerned, and as far as the Government is concerned, in the glut circumstances of wheat overseas and in Australia we will continue to fight for the best possible deal for these men who mean so much to Australia’s economy.
– Before I call the honourable member for Grey I remind all honourable members that this is his maiden speech. I suggest that he be accorded the normal courtesies by the House.
– Like the last two speakers I come from an electorate that contains a large rural community. My electorate produces 38% of South Australia’s wheat. So I can say that it has the same problems as other rural electorates which produce wheat. Whilst I do not intend to say too much about wheat production, I have felt for a long time that farmers have been let down, have been sold down the drain and have not been given the best advice. They have received encouragement which has led to the overproduction of wheat. This over-production is the result not of the activities of the small traditional farmers but of the plantings of people who have been attracted to the industry because of the $1.10 guarantee. In fact, I think theses growers are called Pitt Street or Collins Street farmers. The people who will feel the crunch as a result of this over-production are the small farmers. I hope that the Government will seriously consider ways and means to assist these farmers because unless they are assisted and some definite plan is devised these people will go to the wall. They are in a position similar to that of the small farmers in the 1930s when many had to walk off their blocks. I understand that in my electorate the share farmers have been practically wiped out. This situation applies also to many of the smaller farmers.
It has been suggested that they could diversify their farming. Beef production has been mentioned. May I suggest one way in which the Federal Government could assist these people? A pipeline is in the process of being constructed from the Polda Basin to Kimba. Kimba is a small, thriving town but it has a water problem. Whenever there is a dry season water has to be carted to Kimba. The State Government decided to construct a pipeline to Kimba from the Polda Basin but because of a shortage of finance this work will be spread over a 5- year period. The South Australian Government has made submissions to the Federal Government for further finance to enable this work to be expedited. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), in considering this request, will be sympathetic and will provide financial help so that this pipeline can be completed, because it is essential if these wheat farmers are to diversify their activities.
Many anomalies exist in relation to remote rural areas, such as those on the west coast of South Australia and Eyre Peninsula. One anomaly relates to medical costs. I refer not so much to the actual cost of treatment but to the costs incurred by people in getting to places where they can receive medical attention. Heavy costs are incurred in travelling to Adelaide for specialists’ attention. I know that this matter has been raised in the House on previous occasions, but the fact is that these high transportation costs incurred in securing medical attention are not allowed as a tax deduction. I certainly hope that in the discussions prior to the introduction of the next Budget the Government will seriously consider making costs incurred in obtaining medical attention a tax deduction, because people in outlying areas are certainly at a big disadvantage.
I refer now to roads in my electorate. From Port Augusta a road runs to Western Australia, another one to Port Lincoln - the Lincoln Highway - and another to Alice Springs. Only the road to Port Lincoln is completely sealed. The Eyre Highway to Western Australia is sealed as far as Ceduna but from there to the Western Australian border is a 300-mile section of unsealed and pretty rough road. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) referred to this matter this morning. Honourable members can take our word for it that it is a bad road. We spend considerable sums on defence yet the only road that connects eastern Australia with Western Australia is not completely sealed. For probably half the cost of an Fill aircraft we could seal those 300 miles of the Eyre Highway. The Commonwealth Government should consider providing the finance to enable the sealing of the only road link between the east and the west to be completed expeditiously.
Telephone installations are a matter of concern to people in remote areas. Recently I was approached by a farmer who resides on the western part of the coast of South Australia. He wanted a telephone connection. He was H miles from the nearest connection and in that distance were two other farmers, practically in a straight line, who also wanted telephones installed. They were told that it would cost $5,000 to install the 3 telephones and connect them to an automatic exchange. When I made inquiries on their behalf I was told that if they liked to provide the telephone poles and do a certain part of the work themselves they would get their telephone installations for half that cost. I feel that somewhere along the line these people are being penalised for living in rural areas. It is ridiculous to think that people living in the city can, for 5c, pick up a telephone and talk for hours whereas people in remote areas must face such heavy costs just to get a telephone, quite apart from the high cost of trunk line calls.
At present there is a big problem in the Coober Pedy and Andamooka opal fields, which are the main producers of opal in Australia. Recently the South Australian
Government granted exploration leases to a firm called Gem Explorations. I understand that last year this firm applied for exploration leases close to Lightning Ridge in New South Wales but that the New South Wales Government rejected the application. However the South Australian Government has granted 2 exploration leases to this company, 1 of approximately 700 square miles slap bang against the Andamooka field and one of over 1,000 square miles slap bang against the Coober Pedy opal field. I do not claim to know much about opal mining, but people who know something about opals will tell you that opal gougers like to move around the countryside. If they are not doing very well at one location they like to move to another. The people working on the opal fields are highly incensed because the exploratory leases granted to the big company do not permit them to fossick for opals on the land covered by the leases. This situation has caused a lot of strife on the fields. The opal gougers fear that if the big firms find traces of opal dummies will be used to peg further claims. The diggers feel that if this were to happen it could lead to over production of opal and a consequent decline in prices.
This is an important matter because opal is the only gemstone of any value exported from this country. Last year about $8m worth of opal was exported. Somehow we must protect the people who work on the opal fields. This is an industry based mainly on the individual digger. Machinery, other than windlasses and machinery used to clear overburden, plays no big part in the industry. For the final job of getting at the opal only hand tools can be used. Electronic devices cannot detect the presence of opal. The opal diggers fear that the intrusion of big companies will seriously threaten their livelihood.
I had intended to say something about the wheat industry, although I do not claim to be an expert on the subject. 1 have spoken to many wheat farmers and I know that they are in trouble. They are very confused. I will say no more on the subject because possibly enough has been said about it already tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.23 a.m. (Friday),
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
In view of the statement by the spokesman for the Metal Trades Employers that an appeal will be lodged to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission against the recent decision of Commissioner T. C. Winter to increase rates of pay for female process workers employed in the metal trades industry, will the Government seek leave to intervene against such an appeal and act in support of the I.L.O. Convention decision in favour of equal pay.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth did not intervene in the appeal against the decision by Mr Commissioner T. C. Winter to grant equal pay to process workers employed under the Metal Trades Award. The appeal has been heard and dismissed.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ns asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for De fence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How did the Commonwealth Employment Service figures of the total unemployed at the time of the last census compare with the total count of the unemployed as revealed by that census.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At 1st July 1966 there were 59,020 persons registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service. The number of persons who were shown as unemployed in the 1966 Census - as at 30th June 1966- was 77,690.
Commonwealth Employment Service and Census statistics of unemployment are not directly comparable because of differences in definition, coverage and timing of collection.
asked the Minister repre senting the Acting Minister for External Affairs upon notice:
Mr Swartz: The Acting Minister for
External Affairs has furnished the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How was the Government informed of or involved in the consultations between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks before the increase in charges on 1st January 1970.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
The bank charges referred to in the question are not in the nature of interest rates and, therefore, do not fall within the area in which the Treasurer or the Reserve Bank has responsibilities under the Banking Act.
Some time before the increases in bank charges were announced, the general Managers of the major trading banks, following agreed arrangements, informed the Reserve Bank that bank charges were being reviewed. Subsequently, the Reserve Bank was provided with a detailed schedule of the fees proposed, to be effective from 1st January 1970. This gave the Reserve Bank the opportunity to confirm that the proposals did not conflict with any Banking Act requirements.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Is he able to say whether each State Companies Act and Territory Companies Ordinance fixes a maximum tenure of office for which a director of a public company can be elected without being required to face another election; if so, what are the maximum terms laid down.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no provision in the companies legislation of the States and Territories fixing a maximum term of office for directors of public companies. However, section 121 of the respective State and Territory Acts and Ordinances contains provisions relating to the continuance in office as directors of public companies of persons over the age of 72 years.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What are the Government’s intentions relating to the extension of television services to the (a) Ceduna/Streaky Bay and (b) Woomera areas of South Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Low powered national television stations have been authorised for Woomera and Ceduna as part of a plan to extend the national television service to a further 38 areas of the Commonwealth. I announced this 7th stage of television development in May 1969. It is intended to implement this new stage of development over a 4 year period to 1972-73. There is no present proposal for the establishment of a television service at Streaky Bay. The stations in the 7th stage which comprises remote areas, will of necessity be low powered stations and they could not be expected to provide service to any significant area beyond the centres of population in which they will be established.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales on 16th October 1969 advised its acceptance in principle;
South Australia on 17th October 1969 agreed to participate;
Western Australia on 10th November 1969 advised its acceptance in principle and intention to participate;
Tasmania on 6th November 1969 advised its acceptance in principle.
In addition the Acting Premier of Queensland advised on 6th March 1969 his State’s intention to launch, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, a comprehensive and coordinated programme of home care.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What are the statistics concerning the productivity per head of the work force in the various categories of industry since 1950.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no official statistics of productivity per head of the work force in the various categories of industry since 1950. There are some relevant data. One approach to the measurement of the rate of change in productivity per employee in manufacturing industry since 1949-50 would be to use the annual index of factory production and the work force particulars from the annual factory censuses on which the index is based. With regard to non-manufacturing industries, annual estimates of gross product at constant prices for all industry by twelve categories were published last year. These estimates relate to the period 1959-60 to 1965-66. Particulars of the work force by various categories of industry are not available, however, except at census dates.
As well as the data limitations, there are statistical and conceptual problems precluding the issue at this stage of officially approved estimates of productivity per head of the work force in the various categories of industry for the period in question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Telephone Services (Question No. 619)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Reserve Bank Interest Rates
– On11th March, the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) asked the Treasurer a question without notice as to whether he would recommend to the Reserve Bank that the recent increase in trading bank overdraft interest rates should not apply to rural producers. The Treasurer indicated at the time that he was discussing the matter with the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
I am now able to provide the honourable member with the following information:
The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer subsequently consulted the Governor of the Reserve Bank about the impact of the higher interest rates on rural producers. The Ministers stated the Government’s view that, having regard to the special difficulties suffered by a number of rural industries at present, and the financial problems facing many rural producers, it would not be appropriate that there should be a general increase in trading bank lending rates on loans to rural producers.
The matter was subsequently reviewed by the Reserve Bank, and the Governor of the Bank thereafter discussed it with the trading banks.
On 2nd April 1970, the Governor of the Reserve Bank announced a modification of the recent increase in maximum trading bank lending rates of interest. In announcing this, the Governor slated:
It has been decided that in present circumstances the banks will apply a selective exemption of rural borrowers from the increase. The objective will be to avoid adding to the cost of servicing bank borrowings by rural producers who are now in a depressed situation. It is not intended that the exemption will be extended, for example, to individuals or companies whose main business is not farming or to borrowings by rural producers to finance new property purchases or new expenditure not related to rural production.’
Social Services: Pensions (Question No. 6)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member’s attention is invited to the provisions of the Social Service Bill 1970, which was introduced into this House on 4th March, and my second reading speech.
The provisions of this legislation will extend to pensioners living permanently in C class hospitals.
Poverty and Social Distress (Question No. 129)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. 1 understand that the report referred to was prepared for the consideration of the Victorian Parliamentary Liberal Party and has not been made public.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Claims for pension from persons qualifying solely as a result of the tapered means test are still being received so that it is too early yet to say whether the estimate of $32 million will be realised.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimated cost of implementing those proposals which were not adopted in the Budget or which were only partially adopted is as follows:
Allowances for the wives of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries and for their children under 16 years of age are at the same level as those paid for the dependants of age and invalid pensioners.
If the rales of unemployment and sickness benefit were to be raised to the standard rate of age and invalid pension, $15 weekly, then, based on the average number of beneficiaries during 1968-69, the additional cost would approximate $8.5m per annum.
Based on the average number of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries in 1968-69, the estimated cost of paying unmarried minors the adult rate of benefit, $10 weekly, would cost in the vicinity of $1,650,000 per annum. This figure is additional to the cost of paying the adult rate is unmarried minors with no parent in Australia.
Unemployment benefit commences to be paid from the seventh day after the date of lodgment of a claim for benefit or after the date unemployment commences, whichever is later. This waiting period is not required to be served more than once in any period of 13 weeks. To estimate the cost of the proposal, based on the situation during the past 12 months, it would be necessary to know (a) the average period that persons granted benefit were unemployed prior to the date of commencement of their payments, (b) the number of persons unemployed for less than 7 days, their income and the number of their dependants, (c) the number of unmarried minors in age groups 16-17 years and 18-20 years included in the unemployment beneficiaries and details of any income they may have.
None of this information is available and consequently it is not possible to estimate the cost of the proposal.
No details concerning the number of age and invalid pensioners whose condition is such as to preclude their wife from seeking employment are available. Consequently the proposal cannot be costed.
The additional cost of paying the married rate pension to all couples where the husband is an age or invalid pensioner and the wife is currently not eligible for benefit or is in receipt of a wife’s allowance would approximate $7m per annum.
The estimated cost of this proposal is S3m per annum.
Supplementary assistance is currently payable to standard rate pensioners who pay rent or for board or lodgings and whose means as assessed do not exceed $156 per annum. No information on the number of unemployment and sickness beneficiaries who comply with these conditions is available so that no estimate of the cost can be made.
Insufficient data is available to enable the cost of these proposals to be estimated.
Poverty in Australia (Question No. 219)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At the second, more detailed, stage of the survey, additional income not previously disclosed was revealed and certain assets were taken into account. This reduced the proportion of the aged classified as in need to a figure of about 10%. If help from (heir families is taken into account this percentage is further reduced.
It is pointed out that the initial findings of the survey were based on data collected in a period prior to 30th June 1966. Since that date, age, invalid and widows’ pensions have been increased as follows:
It is pointed out that the Government has not permitted rising prices to erode the living standards of pensioners since it has ensured that pensions have risen considerably faster than have prices. In the period between the September quarter of 1949 and the December quarter of 1969 prices rose by some 136%. During the same period the married rate of age and invalid pensions rose by 212% and the standard rate by 253%, or 300% if supplementary assistance is included. In addition, a number of fringe benefits such as the pensioner medical service have been introduced in that period, thus further enhancing the real value of the pension.
Commonwealth Government from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, is as follows:
Through its Research Grants Committee, provision exists to enable the Commonwealth to grant assistance to independent bodies to meet the cost of appropriate research. Such assistance was made available to the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research for the conduct of the Survey of Living Conditions in Melbourne referred to above.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1962 the Government gave consideration to the position of donations received by an organisation subject to the right of repayment in the event of certain contingencies.
It was decided that where a donation made by a prospective resident was subject to an enforceable agreement that the money be wholly or partially repaid in the event of the donor vacating the home within a certain period, such money was, for the duration of that period, akin to borrowed money, and accordingly ineligible for subsidy. Organisations seeking subsidy are informed to this effect.
Social Services: Reciprocal Agreement with Malta (Question No. 305)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The question of entering into a reciprocal agreement on social security with the Maltese Government is being considered, lt is not possible to forecast the outcome of these considerations.
Social Services: Reciprocal Agreement with Malta (Question No. 390)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Homes for the Aged (Question No. 410)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Do grants for homes for the aged available to shire councils attract the $2 for one grant from the Commonwealth if the shire moneys have been raised from loans.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under Section 9 of the Aged Persons Homes Act, money which has become available as the result of borrowing by an organisation, which term includes a local governing body, is not eligible for subsidy. lt is worth mentioning, however, that if a local governing body makes a grant or donation to another eligible organisation, such money may be eligible for subsidy even though borrowed by the council funds and does not have to be repaid by the organisation.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Applications by local governing bodies for this assistance should be sent to the appropriate State Department. However, as the honourable member may be aware, the State of Victoria has not yet indicated its intention to participate in the scheme.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services upon notice:
Which States have given notice that they intend to seek financial assistance under the States Grants (Deserted Wives) Act 1968 and the States Grants (Home Care) Act 1969, and when did they do so.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 17th October 1969, South Australia agreed to participate in the programme.
New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania advised, on 16th October 1969, 10th November 1969 and 6th November 1969, respectively, that they accepted the Commonwealth programme in principle but sought reassurances on certain aspects. These have been given.
Victoria has not yet decided to participate.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On reaching the age of 65 years (60 years for women) an invalid pensioner who does not possess the necessary residence qualification for age pension continues to receive invalid pension until such time as he becomes qualified by residence to receive age pension.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
What jet trainers are at present used by the Navy.
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The jet training aircraft used by the RAN at present are:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700416_reps_27_hor66/>.