27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers -
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Office, policy of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the Public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices which is detrimentalto the Public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr Hallett, Mr Hansen, Mr MacKellar and Mr Pettitt.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everybody has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in co-operation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care program to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals.
Ten per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioners.
Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Kirwan, Dr Klugman and Mr Morrison.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to make emergency Federal finance available to the States for State school education, and divert the large sums of public money being spent on private schools, to the government school system for which the government is truly responsible.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Division of the A.C.T. respectfully showeth:
That the A.C.T. Pharmacy Ordinance 1931-1959 Section 46, Sub-section (1) states that ‘A person shall not publish any statement, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, to promote the sale of any article as a medicine, instrument or appliance … for preventing conception’.
And that this infringes upon each individual’s right as a human being to all available information about contraceptive devices in order to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the words ‘or for preventing conception’ be deleted from Sub-section (1) of Section 46 of the A.C.T. Pharmacy Ordinance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition from certain residents of the western suburbs in the Sydney Metropolitan area and surrounding districts respectfully showeth: That due to an expanding passenger air travel business together with larger and more powerful jet aicraft, aircraft noise has already become a serious problem for people living in the vicinity of airports.
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and airports should be situated so as to preserve the environment of populated areas.
That protest should ‘be made against the proposal to establish an international airport at Richmond owing to the detrimental effect it would have tor the environment there and in surrounding districts.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second, twenty-four hour international airport for Sydney at Richmond or anywhere else in the far western suburbs of the metropolitan area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage and Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of (he Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That there is a likelihood that education in the Australian Capital Territory will in the foreseeable future be made independent of the New South Wales education system:
That the decentralisation of education systems throughout Australia is educationally and administratively desirable, and is now being studied by several State Government Departments:
That the Australian Capital Territory is a homogeneous and coherent unit especially favourable for such studies.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a Committee of Inquiry, on which are represented the Department of Education and Science, institutions of tertiary education, practising educators, and the Canberra community, be instituted to inquire into the form that an Australian Capital Territory Education Authority should take, the educational principles and philosophy that should underlie it, and its mode of operation and administration.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army and refers to a letter I received from his predecessor dated 23rd November 1971 in answer to my correspondance over a period of time regarding the possible establishment of an army marine base in Moreton Bay. I ask: What were the changed complex circumstances referred to which made investigation by a ‘high level interdepartmental committee’ necessary? Has the report of that committee been received? If not, when does he expect to receive it? If it has been received can he tell the House when he expects to announce details of the site chosen and the establishment plans?
-I was personally associated with this matter before 1 took over this portfolio. I will frankly admit that it has been a very prolonged negotiation. It has been the subject of quite considerable representation from honourable members from various areas that are involved. As indicated by my predecessor, quite a few policy matters are involved. A marine base in Queensland just cannot be sited without quite a lot of interdepartmental discussion. This is proceeding. I regret very much that I am not able to announce a decision in the matter and I further regret thai it may be quite a little time longer before a decision can be announced.
– J address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. As the Australian Labor Party has called for an increase in the price of Australian crude oil I ask the Minister: What is the Government’s attitude to this proposition? Has the Opposition made representations to the Government regarding this subject and is its attitude a unanimous one?
– Yesterday the Australian Labor Party introduced a matter of public importance on the question of oil exploration. I would say from the point of sheer objectivity and impartiality that, if ever a piece of exquisite political masochism was perpetrated by a Party against itself, this was it. Dining the course of the debate the honourable member for Dawson, supported by other Labor speakers, said that one of the features-
-Order! The Minister will not be in order in referring to a debate in this session. Tn fact when the question was first asked I should have ruled it out of order because it referred to such a debate. I have sought advice on this since the Minister began his reply. If he refers to a debate in the current session he will be out of order.
– May I answer it without reference to the debate?
-It was my fault. I should have ruled the question out of order at the beginning. T have sought some advice since the Minister started his answer. T think that in view of the circumstances and with the indulgence of the House the answer should be allowed.
– If there is no reference to the debate by me will I be in order?
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not entitled to take advan tage of the fact that you, perfectly humanly, made an error in this case. If we had sought to revive a debate on some question there is no doubt that the point would have been taken.
-I uphold the point of order. The Minister will not be in order in answering the question because the question was out of order.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. In view of reports that aero clubs are still pressing for a site for a general aviation airport, having failed in respect of the Duffy’s Forest site, and are suggesting the use of the Schofields naval airstrip for this purpose, is it true that the Minister or his Department is giving consideration to allowing the utilisation of that aerodrome for this purpose or for the second international airport? What is the Minister’s definition of a ‘general aviation airport’? What type and size of aircraft would be allowed to use it?
– Tn my view a great deal of the subject matter of this question should properly be addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As far as the Navy is concerned, I have had no intimation from my officers or serving members of the Navy of the purport of the question which the honourable member mentioned. I will be in HMAS ‘Nirimba’ later today and I will endeavour to find out whether any such plans are in hand, but at the present moment I know nothing of the existence of such a suggestion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the fact that the Government’s current 3-year programme of unmatched capital grants to the States for the building of teachers training colleges ends in June next year, and bearing in mind the recommendations in the recent report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on teacher training, can the Minister say whether that programme will be extended or modified?
-The Senate committtee’s report on teacher training was, I think, a most useful document. It has been referred to the States. It will be discussed at the next meeting of the Australian Education Council. The report has also been referred to other bodies which are interested in some of its recommendations, notably the Australian Universities Commission, the Australian Commission on Advanced Education and the Partridge Committee on Research and Development in Education. I think that the report does open up a number of options for the Commonwealth in the continuous development of support for teacher training and reduces the options to the minimum. The options probably would come down to continued support of unmatched capital grants for teacher training colleges, which I think at (his stage is the sort of support that some States would prefer, or, alternatively, giving independent teachers colleges the sort of capital and recurrent support that is given to universities and colleges of advanced education, which I think is the sort of support that some other States would prefer. I am not sure that there would be complete unanimity of State view in this area. However, this is one of the matters which I will be examining with the States to see what should be the direction of Commonwealth policy and what recommendations should be put to the Commonwealth Government in this most important area of support for education. When that is done, the policies will be announced clearly and firmly at the apropriate time. lt is not a complete irrelevance to say this: I think that the Government’s policies have been well known in this area. There has been an orderly development and evolution of our policies over a period of time. This contrasts to a very marked degree with the policies of our opponents, whose policies have been left vague and blurred. This was emphasised in most recent times-
Mir Keogh - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. It appears to me that the honourable member for Mitchell asked a question of the Minister for Education and Science <his morning to give the Minister an opportunity to make policy pronounce ments. If that question were asked by a member of the Opposition, he would be very curtly told-
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The question was in order and, as I have said before, an answer is in order provided it is relevant to the question. As I see it, the answer is relevant to the question.
– I give only one example of what I had in mind. During the recent ‘Great Debate on Education’ the Opposition spokesman on education referred to its policies and promises in relation to education in this way - I think these were his precise words: ‘I do not know what my promises are at the moment that I am supposed to live up to’. This was in answer to a question, I think from memory, on the costs of the Opposition’s education programme. In the same area he also said that he would not be able to say what criteria would be used for an Australian schools commission; that they would have to be determined at some time in the future. That was the plain implication of his remarks. I think this blurring of policies stands in marked contrast to what the Government has done over a long period.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service recall asserting last week that the number of man hours lost last year in industrial disputes was staggering? Will he agree that fewer man hours were lost through industrial disputes than through unemployment or industrial accidents? Will he condemn, with the same vehemence as he condemns industrial disputes, Budget strategies geared to the creation of pools of unemployment and employers so indifferent to industrial safety that at a recent National Safety Council seminar only 40 of 2,000 employers invited is fact attended?
– I understand very well what the honourable gentleman is referring to. In the first place, he points to the high level and high cost of industrial accidents. That is a matter to which I made specific reference in reply to a question which was raised by the Opposition last week. There is no condoning or sense of complacency in relation to the level of industrial accidents in this country. We have made that position perfectly clear. We believe that industry can do far more than it is at the present time and we look forward to far greater support by industrial leaders in an effective campaign to reduce the appalling loss of life, injury to limbs and the economic costs caused by industrial accidents.
So far as unemployment is concerned, the honourable gentleman ought to be well aware that that factor is very much concerned with the question of inflation and if inflation and the very severe pressures to which the economy has been subjected in recent months are not solved they will pose a lasting and far greater threat to employment. This the honourable gentleman appears to have overlooked. Notwithstanding the position in relation to employment and regardless of the position in relation to industrial accidents, the facts arc that the loss due to industrial unrest is staggering. The honourable gentleman used that word. The figures prove it and I believe it is a matter of very great concern at the present time.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. I refer to the census held in June 1971 and the availability of the results of that census as they relate to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Is it a fact that final figures have not as yet been made available? Is it also a fact that the Chief Electoral Officer has made numerous requests for the final figures but without result? Is it also a fact that the Chief Electoral Officer has not as yet issued a certificate? If this is so, will the Minister ensure that the figures are made available without further delay so that a certificate can be issued and thereby establish whether a redistribution is required in accordance with the Constitution?
– To the best of my information and knowledge the statements contained in the first 3 parts of the honourable gentleman’s question are correct. I believe it is true that as yet a certificate has not been issued by the Commonwealth
Statistician to the Chief Electoral Officer. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, he should know that the Statistician is governed by an Act of Parliament and he is independent of the Treasury but nevertheless I will ask Treasury officers to speak to him to see whether he can do something about issuing a final certificate as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the Minister aware that last October Japan dumped into the United States 6,300 tons of polyester fibre? Because of savage quotas imposed by the United States Government this was reduced to 96 tons last December. Is it a fact that Japanese producers during that period and since have redirected part of their surplus to this country? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to recent reports in the United Kingdom claiming that Australia is well known as a soft market for overseas fibre producers, which is a polite way of saying that this Government is not taking the necessary action to protect the Australian textile industry? Will the Minister take positive action to protect the Australian textile industry against the dumping tactics of overseas countries?
– It is refreshing to have criticism levelled at my Department for not taking appropriate action on dumping. Normally the criticism comes the other way - that my Department is too active on this matter. The question of dumping of textiles in Australia is one which constantly exercises the attention of officers of my Department and the honourable member would know the procedures that are followed. There is a prima facie examination of the complaint by my Department if a complaint is lodged. If goods are being imported into Australia at a price lower than the current domestic price in the exporting country one of two things happens - cash securities are levied forthwith or the matter is immediately referred to the Tariff Board. As to the particular matter raised by the honourable gentleman, I do not have the current situation at my fingertips. I do know that some investigations have been carried out into this matter but I will look into the matter and let the honourable gentleman know the position.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Batman. Is the Minister aware of a statement made by Mr George Meaney, the President of America’s major union organisation, the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations, that he is disenchanted with Strikes and that his organisation has appointed a committee to search for an alternative weapon to strikes? Can the Minister inform the House of the loss in wages to the Australian workers last year caused by strikes? In view of the tremendous cost of strikes to this country, will the Minister consider inviting Mr Meaney to Australia so that he can place his views before those responsible for the frequent disruption of our economy?
- Mr George Meaney, of course, would be well known to honourable members in this House as the President of AFL CIO, which is a union organisation in the United States of America. lt is the largest and most powerful trade union organisation in that country. Therefore, he is a person who speaks not without some little experience in the particular matter to which the honourable gentleman refers. I read briefly this morning in, I think, the ‘Australian’ a reference to what Mr Meaney has been saying in the United States of America. The fact is that he has been pointing to the enormous loss in that country to trade unionists because of strikes, and he appears to be completely disenchanted with the situation which the United States is approaching at the present time. Of course, that reference could be applied to Australia.
The honourable gentleman asked for some figures about losses caused by strikes in Australia. Last year Australia’s wage earners lost $45m because of strikes - not a marginal increase but an absolute increase of some 46 per cent. This really exposes the tremendous problem created by strikes in Australia. Of course, what Mr Meaney was suggesting was that he is disenchanted with the system of collective bargaining in the United States, a system which, if the Opposition in fact were in power, would be given far greater impetus than exists at the present time. That, I believe, would be anathema to the workers concerned and to the trade union movement because of its impact upon the economy, as we have seen in a recently negotiated agreement on the waterfront.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. He is having a busy day. Is it a fact that negotiations between the Australian Federation of Air . Pilots and Qantas Airways Ltd for increases of up to 72.2 per cent, which would, mean a salary increase from $30,595 to $51,035 a year for a Boeing 747 captain, have broken down?
– That is more than we get.
– Do not tempt me. It might be more than some people deserve. What is the Government’s attitude to such a large annual salary and such a vast increase in take home money annually? Has the Government intervened in this case, as it did before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case recently, to urge moderation in wage demands so as to restrain inflation and all the evils that flow from inflation which hit people who live on fixed incomes and social services so badly?
– I have great respect for the right honourable member for Melbourne.
– Hear, hear!
– I appreciate the support of the honourable gentleman behind me. I might observe at the outset that the right honourable member for Melbourne approaches his responsibilities in this and other places with frankness and complete candour.
– And dedication.
– And dedication. If he approaches the writing of the book, a task upon which I understand he is currently engaged, with the same sense of frankness, candour and dedication, I am sure that members of both sides of this House will look forward to its publication with a little more than quiet expectation. The right honourable member for Melbourne quite properly queries a matter of substance at the present time, namely the negotiations between Qantas Airways Ltd and the Air Pilots Federation. Those negotiations, I understand, are still continuing. I am not aware that they have been broken off but I certainly will check this matter immediately after question time. Of course, this matter is essentially the responsibility of my colleague in another place, the Minister for Civil Aviation.
While the negotiations are proceeding it would not be proper for the Commonwealth per se to seek to intervene. Of course, if the negotiations break down the parties concerned will have the opportunity to bring the matter before the recognised arbitral tribunal, the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal, through the conciliation and arbitration system. The right honourable member for Melbourne recognises a truth self-evident to members on this side of the House, and that is the need to exercise restraint across the whole area of salary and wage increases at the present time. The Government has made its position perfectly clear but I say. in final response, that while the policies of this Government in relation to the need for salary restraint in the areas to which-
– You nearly made a mistake.
– There has been no slip of the tongue. We recognise a need for restraint throughout industry at present and 1 have made that perfectly clear elsewhere. If honourable gentlemen opposite have a particular interest in the question of wage policy why is it that this matter was very conveniently put under the rug at the Adelaide meeting of the Australian Labor Party Executive?
– You were not there.
– It is no secret that this matter was widely reported by the Press as one of the items on the agenda of that meeting or one that would be submitted to it. lt is an issue that apparently was too difficult for the Federal Executive of the Party and perhaps it is now a matter which, if ever the Labor Party is in government, will come before a 27-man Cabinet, that apparently having been decided upon by the Labor Party.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker, but the Minister has finished answering the question now. He said practically nothing. He has acted almost irresponsibly in an attempt to answer the question - in fact quite irresponsibly.
-Order! There is no point of order and I suggest that the honourable member should not cast any aspersions upon any other member of the House.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that President Nixon recently ordered a tightening of security in relation to public accessibility to parked aircraft and the handling of cargo and baggage. In view of recent events at home and abroad have preventitive measures been planned or introduced to protect Australian air travellers and crews against attempts at air piracy and other dangers? Will the Minister do everything possible to ensure that our own airlines security policy is so designed as to minimise public exposure to the activities of the mentally ill and the criminal?
– 1 know that the recent statement by the President of the United States in relation to the security of the aviation industry has been considered by my colleague in another place as well as by the Department of Civil Aviation. At the same time, I hesitate to give this matter too much publicity because members of this House, as well as many hundreds of thousands of Australians, travel constantly in aircraft. Perhaps, in such circumstances, it is not desirable to draw too much attention to these problems for obvious reasons. At the same time I can assure the House that the Department of Civil Aviation and the Australian aviation industry is well aware of the problem and that very tight security measures are in operation in Australia. In no circumstances would I convey publicly what those measures are because they would then no longer be security measures. But I give the assurance that the Department is well aware of the problem and has taken active steps, in conjunction with the industry, to see that the security measures are enforced.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. The right honourable gentleman will have noted a statement yesterday by the Premier of Victoria calling for Federal assistance towards the cost of the Melbourne underground railway. He may remember that his predecessor told me at question time 18 months ago that the Victorian Government for some considerable time had been raising the question of assistance for the underground railway - those were the words - although he brushed aside the remainder of my question to him that the Federal Government in Australia should help with city railways as the United States and West German governments were doing. He will also remember, I hope, that in a written answer to me he himself said that he had replied to a letter which his predecessor had received from Sir Henry Bolte but he declined to say what his answer was.
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is very long.
– The question will be short.
-I think the honourable gentleman’s preface is fairly long. I suggest that he shorten it and ask his question.
– The right honourable gentleman told me that his letter to Sir Henry Bolte was dated 30th April 1971 and his predecessor received Sir Henry’s letter 8 months before. I now ask him: Did he tell Sir Henry Bolte that the Commonwealth would assist with the Melbourne underground railway or that it would not assist with it?
– I think it best if I localise my reply to whether or not I have received any representations recently from Sir Henry Bolte relating to the underground railway. I have not seen the statement attributed to Sir Henry in this morning’s newspaper but I can say that officially he has not yet conveyed those views to me. I have also made inquiries this morning following the information that was conveyed to me about the article, and the officials do not think we have any current matter that is outstanding, although as a result of what Sir Henry has said it is expected we will receive it in double quick time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. I refer to my previous questions on the subject of the possibility and practicability of refining Mereenie crude oil at a refinery at Alice Springs. Will the Minister advise the House whether studies by the Government and the company concerned are now any closer to fruition?
– As the honourable member for the Northern Territory knows, some reserves of liquid petroleum and natural gas have been discovered at Mereenie, which is about 160 miles west of Alice Springs. So far the reserves are indicated reserves only. I have not made a practice of stating indicated reserves; I will state only proven reserves, so at this time we cannot indicate publicly the extent of the field. A consortium of 6 companies is involved in this area and it was only, I think, within the past fortnight that a consultant, who was engaged from overseas, had further discussions with the consortium and also with my Department. At the present time consideration is still being given to the various points that had been raised by the consortium in relation to the provision of a small refinery at Alice Springs to cater for the refining of products produced locally, but this involves also the complications of the Government’s policy on the utilisation of Australian crude, our petroleum products subsidy scheme and the allocation of markets in various areas of Australia, as well as the actual cost and the final proven reserves in the area. I know that the consortium considered a decision some time ago to proceed with the very expensive programme of drilling to prove the area and also has decided to go ahead with a feasibility study. That study is continuing at the present time. I cannot give any indication when it will be completed but there is very close cooperation between the consortium of companies and my Department in this regard.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and refers to his Government’s scheme of financial aid to local authorities to stimulate employment and to modify the current employment problems. Is he aware that the award rate for unskilled labouring work with a local authority in Queensland is $48.55 a week and. consequently, that a man on this income supporting a wife and 6 children has a total income, including child endowment, of $16.35 a week below the updated poverty line when one applies the basic formula used in the 1966 poverty survey of Melbourne University? Is it a fact that the unemployment benefit plus child endowment for this man would provide him with nearly $4 a week more than he would earn under the Government sponsored relief programme as an unskilled worker -
-Order! The honourable member is making comments. This is question time and he should ask his question.
– Is it a fact that the unemployment benefit plus child endowment falls $12.60 a week below the poverty line? Will he move promptly to institute a guaranteed income scheme so that no family, and certainly no young children, will be repressed socially, culturally and economically by relative poverty?
– Referring first to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, he should know that this is a policy matter and as such is not a suitable subject for a question in the House. As to the first part of the question, there were so many figures in it that I doubt whether any person on this or the other side of the House could answer it.
– Here are the figures.
– 1 do not need them, I can get them from Hansard. I will refer the question to the Treasury, Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Social Services and let the honourable member have a reply.
– Has the Minister for Housing seen a statement that the home savings grants scheme has not been of use to young couples desiring to acquire or own their own home? Is this scheme receiving lessened support in the community and does the Minister know of any substitute proposed for this scheme?
– There was a report that the home savings grants scheme had not been an acceptable scheme to young home seekers. This statement was contained in a speech reportedly made by the Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission. The Chairman happens to be incorrect for utilisation of that scheme has increased. Tn a few weeks time the 250,000th grant will be paid under that scheme. The rate of usage of the scheme has increased.
A substitute for the home savings grants scheme has been suggested. The substitute is the famous 2 per cent interest subsidy scheme proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Reid. We know now that the substitute scheme has attached to it 4 severe and very great penalties. It is a penalty against those people who save, those people who try to pay off their homes early, those people who will not be forced into institutions which the Australian Labor Party would desire to force them into and those people on middle and low incomes. It has been suggested that the substitute scheme would be buried but I suggest that in the meantime it will not be allowed to be buried without a fanfare from this side of the House.
– My question which, is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts follows on his announcement that a proposal for a national film and television training school would be resurrected, although in a much truncated form. My question concerns quotas for Australian-made films. By way of brief preface I point out that for many years there has been in New South Wales legislation requiring cinemas to show at least a minimum percentage of Australian films but this legislation has not been implemented because no other State has corresponding legislation. I therefore ask the Minister whether he has discussed or arranged to discuss joint legislative and administrative arrangements for Australian film quotas with the Chief Secretaries of all the States, bearing in mind that there are Federal requirements for Australian quotas on television.
– Mr Speaker, I desire to bring to your notice that this question relates to a matter under debate and a matter which is on the notice paper.
-Order! The honourable member did not tell me why he was rising, but if he rises on a point of order the point of order is dismissed.
– This matter has been the subject of discussion between the Film Development Corporation, which is a statutory body, and the Chief Secretary in New South Wales. I understand also that it is to be the subject of representations to the current Tariff Board inquiry. So for the time being, as this matter is being discussed in other quarters, I feel that il would be wiser for the whole matter to be aired before I take it up with the Ministers in the States.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration representing the Minister for Health in this chamber. Is concern being expressed by primary producers and those engaged in the livestock industry about suggested inadequate precautions being taken to prevent foot and mouth disease entering Australia? Could the entry of this disease and other diseases have a serious effect on our valuable stock enterprises? Is the Commonwealth Department of Health taking sufficient precautions with persons entering Australia to prevent any outbreak of this disease? Will the Minister inform the House as to the present position in relation to this important matter?
– I think it would be fair to say that primary producers, rather than expressing undue concern about the precautions, take a healthy and continuous interest in them because they realise how vitally important they are. In relation to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, there is no doubt that the introduction of foot and mouth disease into this country could have a serious effect because of the susceptibility of the Australian animal population to it. The economic consequences, of course, would be enormous not only in terms of the direct result in the loss of animals who catch the disease but also in terms of the cost involved in the slaughter out operation which would take place in an endeavour to eradicate the disease. An indirect cost also is involved because there is no doubt that countries such as the United States of America and Canada, which desire to keep themselves free from foot and mouth disease, would immediately ban all imports of Australian meat. So there is no doubt that this is a vital and important matter.
In relation to whether the precautions are adequate, I should make the point - this is not always understood - that one has to appreciate the degree of risks in this matter. The first and by far the most important risk of the transmission of foot and mouth disease is from live animals themselves. Of course we avoid that happening in Australia by imposing a complete ban on the import into Australia of all animals that can transmit foot and mouth disease from all countries except New Zealand. The second most important risk of transmission comes from raw animal products, and we avoid that risk by banning the import into Australia of raw meat and allied products from all countries in which foot and mouth disease exists. Much lower down on the scale of risk is the risk of the disease being transmitted via the clothing and footwear of people coming into the country. All travellers coming to Australia are asked whether they have been on a farm or at an abattoir. If they have - and I think this point is important - and if on the observation of customs officers their footwear or clothing is contaminated then their articles are decontaminated. But they have to give the impression of being contaminated before this action is taken. 1 might add that Canada and the United States of America, which are just as concerned as we are about this matter, do not take these precautions. Finally, if ever any evidence is required of the adequacy of our precautions in this country I can only point to the fact that we have avoided the importation of this dreadful disease into Australia for such a long while.
– My question is to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask him if, as he suggests, his Government is genuinely concerned about the loss of wages to workers as a result of industrial disputes, will he tell the House exactly why his Government deliberately brought about the tremendous increase in unemployment which has meant a loss in wages over the last 6 months of something like SI 60m?
– Really, Mr Speaker, if the honourable gentleman were to look closely at the facts he would feel himself sufficiently tranquillised not to be raising questions of this type in the House. The facts of the matter in relation to unemployment have been made perfectly clear. We have said that action was taken at the time in order that there should not exist in this country such severe demand pressures and such severe pressures generally in the economy as to create here any long term and permanent situation of unemployment which would be anathema to all the honourable gentleman would wish to see achieved.
One of the tremendous ironies when the Opposition glibly talks about the question of unemployment is its total, complete and utter failure ever to refer to the question of firstly industrial unrest and secondly the high cost of labour. The fact of the matter is that there are far too many Opposition members in this chamber who constitute
– There will be more next time.
-Order! I suggest to the Minister that he cease answering the question until the House comes to order. If honourable members continue to make interjections such as the one just made they will only disrupt question time and, of course, fewer questions will be asked. I suggest that the House come to order.
– I rise on a point of order. Is it right that the resident union basher should be so provocative at question time?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I do not want to apear to the Opposition to be in any sense irritable in relation to the matter raised.
– I said ‘irritable’. But it is very fair to make the point, in answering the honourable gentleman’s question, that this is a government that calls the shots in the industrial jurisdiction as it sees them. It is a government which is both critical of the trade unions and equally critical at times of the employers when it believes that criticism is justified. I draw attention to a recent statement I issued in relation to matters on the waterfront. I would like the House to recall when was the last time there was any Opposition member who was critical of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the unions generally or any particular union involved in strike action. The facts of the matter are - and I close on this point - that the Opposition in this chamber is subject to the industrial demands of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We have seen that policy demonstrated amply in relation to the fines policy which was put up by the honourable member for Hindmarsh some months ago. This policy which was supported by the Leader of the Opposition, was completely repudiated and in fact has been swept under the carpet as has the so-called new wages policy at the Adelaide meeting of the Federal Executive. If the Opposition has any ethic of responsibility let it speak out clearly because it does not do so at present.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I refer to the Hansard report of yesterday’s proceedings at page 1828, at the bottom of the second column on that page. No fault is attributable to Hansard or anyone else, but the inference puts me in a very awkward position. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was speaking and he said:
Then there appears an interjection by me, saying: ‘The honourable member for Sturt?’ I had intended to say something about the honourable member for Sturt. I do not connect him with the slumbering in the House.
-Order! Will the honourable member tell me where he has been personally misrepresented?
– Yes, I will. I have been misrepresented as this implies that I was saying, in support of what was said by the honourable member for Griffith, that the honourable member for Sturt is one of those people who slumber in the House.
– Order! The honourable member is speaking about an inference only. Can he tell me where he has been misrepresented?
– I was misrepresented, because I did not mean that at all. To illustrate the point let me say a few more words and then I will stop. I have accused the honourable member for Sturt of destroying any peaceful period I may have contemplated, so wakeful is he.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. On the front page of this morning’s edition of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ it appears that when the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) asked a question yesterday in relation to sex shops I said that it was too late for him. I said nothing of the sort. It was said by some other honourable member. Conversely, 1 would say that the honourable member for Bennelong has many years in front of him.
– Arising out of the personal explanation made by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), I would like to claim credit for the interjection.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House and I believe that honourable members will wish to know that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable J. R. Marshall, has accepted the Australian Government’s invitation to make an official visit to Australia. Mr Marshall is expected to arrive for discus sions in Canberra on 19th-20th June and to return to New Zealand over the weekend of the 24th and 25th June. I am delighted that Mr Marshall has found it convenient to make his first official visit to Australia so soon after becoming the Prime Minister of his country. My colleagues and I are much looking forward to his coming. Consultations will now take place to prepare a programme of engagements and an announcement of these details will be made later.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the same matter.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), in accordance with custom, told the Opposition that he was proposing to make a statement. I would like to take the opportunity of welcoming the visit of Mr Marshal] to Australia. From whatever Party the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand may come, it is desirable that they should confer more often than they do. I recall to honourable members that in January 1944 an Australian-New Zealand Agreement was concluded between the 2 countries. One of the provisions was: conferences of Ministers of State to be held alternately in Canberra and Wellington, it being the aim of the 2 Governments that these conferences be held at least twice a year.
I asked Foreign Minister Barwick how often there had been such meetings, and in November 1962 he said that the last formal conference was held in November 1944. I take the opportunity, therefore, to say that this Agreement, which is wide-ranging in its implications and still quite valid for the mutual interests of Australia and New Zealand which in this region are increasing, should be reactivated. I believe that meetings between the Prime Ministers of the 2 countries, whoever they may be, should be held regularly and frequently.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday next at 2.30 p.m.
– As Deputy Chairman, on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present the Committee’s report on proposals for variations of the plan of the layout of the city of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory as gazetted in 1925 - the 49th series of variations. I ask for leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, which I have just tabled, conveys the Committee’s findings in regard to a series of proposals to vary the plan of the layout of the city of Canberra. Honourable members will be aware of the procedure which gives rise to such a report because I have tabled reports on similar matters on a number of occasions during this Parliament. I remind the House that this represents the discharge of one part of the dual function of this very important Committee. The Committee considers proposals to vary the 1925 gazetted plan of Canberra and, also, considers and reports on a variety of matters in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, such as Sunday observance, the fruit and vegetable market and the milk industry.
In saying that the Committee is important, I do so with some pride and in the belief that the responsibilities carried on behalf of the Parliament by the Committee are unique in Australia and have been carried out in a way which has earned the Committee high regard by the people of Canberra. This reputation has been earned as a result of the thorough and impartial way these inquiries have been conducted over the years since the Committee was first appointed. The Committee acts in some ways like a guardian of the Commonwealth and the principles employed in developing Canberra - the national capital. Honourable members should note that, of this series of 14 proposals for variations to the Canberra plan, the Committee has withheld approval of 2 items relating to development proposals, firstly, in the vicinity of the old Canberra High School, which is item No. 11, and, secondly, adjacent to the Russell Defence Offices, which is item No. 13.
The Committee has made site inspections of these 2 proposals and is not satisfied of their merit. Until the Committee is so satisfied, no recommendation for their implementation will be given by this Committee. Without such surveillance and questioning, investment of public funds could occur in ways which may not be good enough for our national capital. It is for this reason that I commend this report, and the work of the Committee, to honourable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Thirteen days ago the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) asserted that there was no room for racism in his Party’s policies. I welcome his agreement that in such matters as immigration, of which he was speaking, Australia should, to quote the words of my Party’s platform, avoid discrimination on grounds of race*. On 23rd March - 4 weeks ago - this House unanimously carried a resolution against racial prejudice. It is valuable for Australia that these things should be said. Australia’s international reputation requires it. Our standing in our region requires it. The quality of our national civilisation requires it. If we are to play a fruitful role in our region, if we are to have a secure place as a friendly nation among Asian neighbours, it is absolutely essentia] that neither by our policies nor our attitudes are we identified with racist reactionary regimes.
All the more distasteful was the cavalier attitude of Ministers to questions on Tuesday week about the so-called ‘Rhodesian Information Centre’. All the more surprising, in the light of his own attitudes, was the petulance of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), one of the few Ministers who would be described in any other country as a liberal. All the more disturbing, in the light of the known concern of his Department, was the sabotaging of any action by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen). This is not, despite my honourable, learned and gallant friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), ‘a quaint storm in a rather chipped tea-cup’. It involves the laws of Australia; it involves the reputation of Australia; it involves international obligations which Australia freely accepted and as far as this Parliament is concerned I believe unanimously accepted. At least, nobody has spoken in this Parliament against Australia accepting and honouring these international obligations.
But it involves something higher. Racism is the ultimate violence because it begins and ends with the denial of a man’s basic humanity. It was not accidental but essential to its evil logic, that anti-semitism in Europe should end with the extermination of Jews - 7 million of them. It is not accidental that the only source of planned, systematic violence against persons in Australia is the racist Right. Surely the swift and unanimous response of this House 4 weeks ago was not just because a valued part of the Australian community felt insulted. Surely it came on because as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) put it: The substance of the problem is anti-semitism; it is racism; it is prejudice. The substance of the problem is the need to strike back at these wherever they occur, and especially when expressed by prominent and leading members of the community, particularly within the Parliament itself.’
The facts on the Australian Government’s attitude to Rhodesia can be briefly stated. The Smith regime is an illegal regime. Australia has recognised that illegality. The Government’s official attitude is plain enough. My collegue the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) asked the Foreign Minister on notice whether the Government had taken any diplomatic initiative to convey to the Smith Government its displeasure at the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Garfield Todd and his daughter. The Minister replied on Tuesday week, the very day when in answer to a question without notice he was sabotaging any action. He gave this considered reply prepared by his Department:’
No. Australia does not recognise or have any dealings with the Smith regime. Any message would need to be addressed to Mr Smith through the British Government which has already sent messages to Mr Smith expressing its concern at the continued detention of Mr Garfield Todd and Miss Todd.
On 29th May 1968 the United Nations Security Council adopted mandatory sanctions against the illegal regime. On 2nd September 1968 the then Minister for External Affairs, now the Governor-General - our Head of State - released the text of a message to the United Nations SecretaryGeneral setting out Australia’s intention to comply. Australia has repeatedly bent or ignored her undertaking. Australia is still doing so, to our shame and discredit. Clause 3d of the United Nations Resolution prohibits trade except in ‘special humanitarian circumstances’. On 7th April 1970 I drew attention to the fact that despite the sanctions Australia’s exports to Rhodesia had risen in each of the preceding 3 years and that Australia had risen from ninth to second place amongst exporters to Southern Rhodesia. The Australian Government has consistently distorted the conditions laid down in the sanctions.
Clause 5a of the United Nations Resolution declares that all members take all measures to prevent the entry into their territories of persons ordinarily resident in Southern Rhodesia. The Australian Government has facilitated the official movement of such persons by the issue of Australian passports. On 23rd June 1967 the Government issued an Australian passport to Mr Stan O’Donnell, described as Secretary for External Affairs in the Smith Government. On 13th August 1968 an Australian pass; port was issued to Air Vice-Marshal Hawkins, then commander of the Rhodesian Air Force and subsequently appointed as the representative of the Smith regime to South Africa. On 6th December 1967 an Australian passport was issued to LieutenantColonel William Knox, then Chairman of the Rhodesia Front - Mr Smith’s party - and subsequently representative of the regime in Portugal.
Thus the foreign relations of Rhodesia are conducted by the grace of the Australian Government. If the 3 gentlemen I mentioned had purported to travel anywhere on Rhodesian passports they would have been rejected from any country in the world. They were denied British passports because they were in breach of Britain’s laws; they were rebels against Britain. But Australia gave them passports and in each case the decision was made in Canberra after reference here by our overseas posts. The whole history appears in answers which successive Ministers have given to me.
– Where were these men born?
– They were born in Australia, but they had lived outside Australia for many years and they are in breach of international law, Australia’s laws and British laws. In those circumstances it was monstrous that the Australian Government should facilitate their movement around the world. One of them visited Australia in the course of this movement as an agent for the Smith regime at its expense. These facts are known in Britain. They are known throughout our region. They are very clear examples of the reasons why the Australian Government is regarded with contempt by all our neighbours and our Commonwealth associates. There is not one nation in the region, not one member of the Commonwealth, which would support what Australia has done officially in this case.
Clause 3 of Resolution 277 adopted by the Security Council on 18th March 1970 calls upon member States to take appropriate measures at the national level to ensure that any act performed by officials and institutions of the illegal regime in Southern Rhodesia shall not accord any recognition, official or otherwise, by the component organisations of their State’. The Rhodesian Information Centre is registered with the New South Wales Government as an agent of the Rhodesian Government. Unless the registration is cancelled Australia, not just New South Wales, is in breach of the Security Council resolution. Visitors to Rhodesia under sponsorship of the illegal government include the present Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), who was appointed shortly after his return from that country where he had been a guest of the Smith Government and its instrumentalities. The Minister for Customs and Excise concedes that his Department’s laws have been broken but he says that no further action is required. This is typical of the Government’s selective application of the laws of the Parliament. It is this, not protests against some of these laws, which brings the law into contempt.
A motion was moved against me alleging that I had condoned breaches of the law. I did not. I do not. The truth is that the whole point of the draft resistance movement is a challenge to the Government to apply its own laws - to arrest and prosecute everybody who is in breach of the laws or is thought to be in breach of the laws. It is those who dare not apply the law, not those who challenge it, who are undermining the rule of law in Australia. There is one organised group - and one only - in Australia dedicated to systematic violence. There is one organised group - and one only - planning for subversion; not for the subversion of the Australian Government, but for the overthrow by violence of the Government of Yugoslavia. This is the movement known as the Ustasha. Since 1963 there have been repeated bashings, bombings and murders associated with this group. Arrests have been remarkably few, investigations remarkably fruitless. Some time ago, in August 1964, it was possible for Prime Minister Menzies to say:
The Commonwealth’s own investigations so far have not produced any evidence which would warrant legal proceedings.
Whatever might have been the position then, it certainly cannot be so claimed today. On 30th November 1968 the Yugoslav ConsulateGeneral in Sydney was subject to one of its periodic blastings. On the same day the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said of the Ustasha: ‘Their cause is a good one. We must encourage the spirit of independence’. What is this good cause? It is the cause of fascism, anti-semitism and genocide. How does this spirit of independence manifest itself? In beatings, burnings, bombings, terrorism, intimidation and assassination.
Last year the United States Department of State circulated a memorandum to its officers warning of the true significance of participation in celebrations on 10th April, the anniversary of the creation of the independent state of Croatia. No such warnings have emanated from the Australian Government. I quote from the ‘Review’ of the 8th of this month: . . Phillip Lynch, then Minister for Immigration, attended a meeting of the Central Committee of the United Croatian Associations of Australia on April 3, 1970 … At the April 10 celebrations of last year, Mr Ian Fuller deputised in Sydney for Dr Malcolm Mackay, then Minister for the Navy; while in Hobart Dr Bob Solomon . . appeared with the Mayor of Glenorchy and various Croatian officials, standing in front of a slogan which read in Serbo-Croat, ‘Glory to the fuhrer of the Independent State of Croatia, Ante Pavelic*.
Ministers ought to know the significance of 10th April or of any invitations under Croatian auspices which are extended to them around that date. I should have thought that this would have been known since a former Minister for Immigration attended a meeting, and on the wall behind the platform on which he stood were 2 portraits: One of Queen Elizabeth II and the other, he thought, of the president of the association whose meeting he was attending. In fact, it was a portrait of Ante Pavelic. Yet we find that subsequent Ministers for Immigration and some of their colleagues have attended similar celebrations.
April 10th is intended to glorify and commemorate the achievements of the regime of Ante Pavelic, a quisling, the creature of Hitler, but by no means his inferior in race genocide, with Serbs, Croats, Jews and gypsies to the number of 800,000 dying under the orders of his regime. Even if 10th April was merely a day on which Yugoslavs of Croatian origin expressed their desire for an independent state, it would be grossly improper, a gratuitous affront, for the Australian Government or any of its members to be represented at such celebrations; for 10th April is the only celebration in the world still held to honour the triumph of a nazi regime.
Ministers and members cannot make the excuse of ignorance on these matters. Whenever the Government has to go on record, it makes clear the truth of these matters. For instance, on 28th April last year the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs told me in writing:
Various organisations in Australia celebrate 10th April 1941 as the date of Croatian independence. On 6th April 1941, Hitler attacked Yugoslavia as a prelude to its subsequent occupation and dismemberment. As part of this operation, on 10th April 1941 the Germans created a puppet Croatian state, dominated by the Ustasha terrorist movement under Ante Pavelic, who had until then been in exile in Italy. The victory of the Yugoslav Resistance in the war against Germany put an end to the so-called Independence State of Croatia.
The annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs for 1968-69 stated:
There have been some demonstrations against Yugoslav offices in Australia, mostly inspired or carried out by extremists or terrorist elements formerly in Croatia or from other parts of Yugoslavia.
In fact, the record has mounted since then, because on 7th April last year the then Minister for Foreign Affairs told me that there had been bombings of the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Sydney in January 1967, in November 1968 and in June 1969; that there had been a bomb explosion at the Yugoslav New Settlers League Party in the Richmond Town Hall in November 1967; that there had been an attack on the Chancery of the Yugoslav Embassy in Canberra in November 1969; and that there had been a bombing of the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Melbourne in October 1970. The cost of repairing and protecting the premises of diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia has risen. In 1970-71 the Commonwealth had to pay $4,100 to replace damaged furniture and fittings in the Yugoslav ConsulateGeneral in Melbourne, and in 1971- 72 - I am reading from an answer given on 19th August last year - the Commonwealth had to pay $25,000 to repair the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Melbourne.
Then there is the cost of Commonwealth Police. In 1970-71 in Melbourne the Commonwealth Police expended $9,860 on protecting the Yugoslav Consul-General. In Victoria the cost of guarding consular premises has risen from $2,610 in 1967 to $16,359 in the financial year up to 2nd May 1971. In a subsequent letter the Minister for Foreign Affairs told me that the cost of protecting diplomatic and consular premises by the New South Wales police had risen from $22.47 in 1966-67 to $3,288.87 last financial year. These amounts are not inconsiderable ones. It is remarkable that nothing is ever done to locate or to prosecute the persons who are guilty of these continuous outrages.
I must conclude with one other field of prejudice in the community and failure by the Government, namely our Aboriginal people. I was appalled to read in the transcript of the Housing Ministers Conference in Hobart on 7th April of this year the following statement by the Queensland Ministers for Housing: . . the ability to buy homes in any part of the State has a very retarding effect on these ‘dogooders’ who desire to promote in their own minds the aboriginal attitude at the present time. When we find there is somebody who is very vociferous in promoting the aboriginal cause, we immediately buy a home alongside him and he changes his attitude at once. We never hear much more from him. Although I am aware the position is very serious, at the same time it has been promoted out of all proportion. As soon as one takes the action I have mentioned, these people go back into their shell and don’t promote it any further.
The Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) was there, but he did not protest at that analysis of Commonwealth expenditure on housing for Aboriginal people. He sat idly by while a specific instance was quoted where the Queensland Government was doing this in respect to a member of this Parliament.
-Order! Would the honourable member move his motion before his time expires?
– Yes. I move:
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I must conclude very briefly. In 1968 the Human Rights Year, and 1971 the International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination the United Nations quoted the conventions which Australia had not implemented. We have not improved our record since then.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the course of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam) said that I had been represented at a Croatian meeting and he put a particular connotation on an aspect of Croatian activity that took place in Sydney. I state that I do not have any recollection of asking an acting or assistant private secretary of mine to represent me at such a gathering. I did have a former employee who was married to a Croatian girl. It could be that in those circumstances he was present at this meeting. However,
I state that I believe there are good and loyal Croatians in this community. I have no intention-
-Order! The honourable Minister will not debate the question. I have said this before to the honourable gentleman. There are too many personal explanations during which members on both sides of the House wish to debate the question. A member can state the way in which he has been personally misrepresented.
– I have been misrep-resented if it is suggested that I condone in any way or am prepared to do anything less than utterly denounce extermism of any kind that is based on racist or political attitudes, especially those imported into this country. This is proved by my warm and close association with the Serbian community as well as with loyal members of the Croatian community.
– The Minister claims io have been misrepresented by me. I am relying not only on the quotation which I made from the publication I quoted but also on other documents which I can read here and which mention-
-Order! The honourable gentleman has just spoken in the debate. He is not claiming to have been misrepresented and therefore he is speaking with the indulgence of the Chair. He cannot go on to recapitulate and debate the matter.
– I do not want honourable gentlemen to believe that I made the reference lightly. I can give chapter and verse from other papers more lengthily stating what Mr Ian Fuller said about his Minister or purported to say for him.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Denison claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, Mr Speaker. As I heard the debate and remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in an impromptu fashion and without any notice, it seemed to me that he made a direct imputation that I had been associating with people who were in turn associating with extremists views, if not actions, in this community. As far as I am able to recall the facts - I have checked them with one telephone call - I think that the particular meeting, reported in the ‘Review’ of 8th- 14th April and I presume quoted from by the Leader of the Opposition, was a meeting at the St. Carlo Hall in North Hobart at which the Archbishop of Split, Dr Franic, was welcomed by the Croatian community. There was no banner, as the newspaper reported, saying ‘Glory to the Fuhrer of the independent State of Croatia’ at that meeting or at any other meeting of the Croatian community of Hobart which I attended or which I did not atend That statement is made unequivocally by the secretary of that group, Mr Micheal Furjanic. I resent greatly any such suggestion or implication by the Leader of the Opposition, as I heard his remarks over the intercom this morning.
– This motion states: That the Government should take effective legislative and administrative action to counter racial prejudice and violence. Serious issues are involved in this motion. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has chosen rather to pick on a few isolated incidents which are mainly of a small character and has filled out his speech with a series of personal attacks on the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), on myself, and the Minister for the Navy (Dr Mackay). I do not propose to try to follow this line of personal attack though, heaven knows, there are sufficient matters before me to enable me to press it. I want to try to bring this debate back to the big issues. But perhaps at the outset I should take up 2 matters that were mentioned. The Leader of the Opposition said that I had sabotaged action against the Rhodesian Information Centre. It is true that I did not take any action to close the centre. I explained the reasons at the time. The facts are that I was presented with a bundle of documents, supposed to have been stolen. These documents were placed under study by my Department My Department advised me and both I and the Department advised the Prime Minister. I have stated what that advice was, namely, that these documents did not warrant action to close the Centre. This has been stated in the House and the Leader of the Opposition knows it. When he says I have sabotaged action either he does not know the meaning of the word sabotage’ or he is deliberately putting forward a false proposition knowing it to be false.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister is reported to have made some statement about a Croatian march. As I understand it this took place 4 years ago on a streetcorner when the Prime Minister was returning from a game of squash. He is supposed to have been overheard talking to a companion about a group of men who were walking by waving banners. This was 4 years ago so how could one recollect the actual happening? The Prime Minister apparently looked at these men and said to his companion: ‘They seem to be a gay bunch’ or words to that effect. I cannot produce evidence of other words. The Prime Minister is supposed to have been overheard and seen by some journalist. The Leader of the Opposition again is basing his attack on stolen documents and on keyhole observations. This is typical of the pettifogging trivia that are brought before this Parliament when we should be discussing serious issues.
Let us get down to some serious issues. This motion recognises that racial prejudice and violence cannot be eliminated simply by passing a law or by some administrative act. At least it calls on the Government to take action to counter racial prejudice and violence. This, of course, the Government already has done very effectively. Under the present Government this country is one of the freest and safest in the world for citizens to walk in their streets. Those who have been around the world know this to be true. Indeed, it is also one of the countries which is freest from racial prejudice. I do not say there is none. Racial prejudice is something that is deep in the heart of private individuals and is not readily controllable by legislative or administrative act. I do not say there is no prejudice but I do say that Australia is one of the countries freest from racial prejudice. This again is partly by reason of the policies of this Government. I believe that we will continue to remain this way and will improve our record provided we do not actually set about importing into Australia those tensions and strains which have so sadly bedevilled many other countries and which it looks as though the Labor Part)’ following the latest amendment to its platform, would encourage.
Dealing firstly with the question of violence, in our form of society the thing which enables us to feel safe when we step outside our front gate - to feel that we will not be attacked - is that the vast bulk of our people have a respect for the law and a habit of obedience to it. We know that by and large people will observe the law. The police are there to apprehend people who break the rules and to bring them to justice. The existence of the police and their role of apprehension does, indeed, have some deterrent effect. But essentially the police force is not capable of preventing crime or violence occurring. If respect for the law and the habit of obedience are destroyed the strength of the police force could be multiplied many times and it still would be unable to protect us.
What is happening in Australia is that there is a consistent attack on respect for the law and on all forms of authority. Honourable members know that this is so. Leading members of the Opposition have joined in this attack - indeed some of them have led the attack. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) has urged people to take to the streets. He has urged them to disobey particular laws as a way to change those laws. He has been involved constantly in the technique of demonstration which, in order to obtain coverage in the media, has to produce some kind of sensation. So that we find demonstrators urging peaceful means with their mouths but in fact walking along the edge of violence.
The Leader of the Opposition has joined in this attack on the very foundations of respect for law in our community. He has gone so far as to advocate publicly that soldiers receiving orders to go to Vietnam should disobey them. He has approved that offence which is euphemistically called draft dodging, and he espouses a Labor candidate for election to this Parliament who is commonly described as a draft dodger. Other members of the Labor Party follow a similar Une. Whether they are encouraging the rise of black, power or any of the other modern ways of combating the law and attacking respect for law and authority, it is a power outside the law which they are advocating. Let me warn al] honourable members of the Opposition that ultimate harvest of this attack by them on law and on authority will be loss of respect for the law - a growing belief in people that because the Leader of the Opposition and leading figures such as the honourable member for Lalor (Dr Cairns), the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), or the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) are telling them so, they need not obey the law. If that view once becomes common, then I say God help this country. That is when we will see violence in Australia such as some other countries have experienced already, and no law and no administration could cope with it.
The Government deplores and condemns ali criminal acts of violence carried out by minority groups regardless of the political objectives sought. We do not wish to import into this country old hatreds from another country. We disapprove acts of terrorism and intimidation in this community directed against another Government. But it is not always possible to prevent the offences or to catch the offenders. We have redoubled our efforts in this regard but it is primarily the responsibility of the State police, and particularly on the anniversary we have urged them to take preventive measures. This has been done. We have urged them to endeavour to apprehend those who are responsible for outrages but it is not always possible to have complete success in preventing these things occurring.
One serious point of detail in this whole Croation affair is the role of the Opposition itself, in particular the honourable member for Lalor. I am informed that on about the 9th April he was on Channel 7 news where he publicly expressed the opinion that Croatians were responsible for the attacks and threats on members of the Yugoslav community, that the leader was a Catholic priest, Father Kasic, and that he was responsible because he had the backing of the Catholic hierarchy, who must accept moral responsibility for all that he does. This extraordinary attempt to lay violence at the door of the Catholic Church is made by the shadow Minister of the Australian Labor Party in this national Parliament. The Opposition, so far as I am aware, has never dissociated itself from his remarks.
I pass now to the question of racial discrimination. Race and racism are prominent moral and international issues on which governments are increasingly called upon to take a position. The issues involve moral principles of equal justice for all regardless of race, and the rights of peoples to self-determination which are embodied in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For our part, the Government is well aware of the resentment and frustration felt by the great majority of independent African countries, which constitute almost onethird of the United Nations membership, about the continued application of policies of racial discrimination and minority rule in southern Africa. The Prime Minister declared on 27th June last year that apartheid is a repugnant social and political philosophy. Among the members of the United Nations, regarding the position in Rhodesia, we are one of the most scrupulous in our observance of the Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on that country. If members of the Opposition can find anybody who has been to Rhodesia and seen the goods on display for sale there, they will know that there are about 3 countries whose goods are not represented. We are one of the few members of the United Nations which has been scrupulous in its observance of the Security Council resolutions. There are exemptions possible on humanitarian grounds for the supply of food, for example, and it is true that we have sent wheat under that exemption which appears in the Security Council resolution itself.
– Tell us about the passports you issue.
– The Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) will be speaking in this debate. It is important, therefore, that we should emphasise that the policies of apartheid, racial discrimination and limited franchise being followed by certain governments in southern Africa find no support in Australia. On the contrary, the Government’s policy is one of promoting an integrated Australian society looking towards political and racial equality for all, of supporting selfdetermination on the basis of majority rule, say for the people of Papua New Guinea, and of co-operating with the United Nations towards that end. As to the racism that is suggested, let me say that in February last year, as Minister for Education and Science, I was host and chairman of the Commonwealth Education Conference in Canberra. This was attended by delegations from the African member states of the Commonwealth, from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and so on, together with Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain. They were here for a couple of weeks. I was their host md chairman, and some of them talked pretty freely to me. My experience is that these delegates almost universally had formed the view that not only are we not racists in Australia, but that we are one of the least racist countries that they have visited. This seemed to be something of a surprise to some of them because every time this kind of motion is launched by the Opposition, around the headlines of the world goes the suggestion from responsible people in Australia that we are racists, and then those who have not visited this country or studied our immigration laws get an impression. They come here with an impression that we are racist and it is only when they visit this country that they find we are not.
That is going on again, and the damage that will be done by what has been asserted by the Opposition should not be underrated. Even a recent Ceylonese visitor, who has since returned to Ceylon, noted this fact to his surprise. He said that he found we were not a racist country. He said - he had not consulted the Government - that it was only the immigration laws that were racist. This is something that our own people tend to say, because in Ceylon - I have studied the immigration laws of Ceylon and other countries of the South East Asia area - I know that the immigration laws are a good deal harsher than are ours. A Tamil in India will find it much more difficult to get into Ceylon than it is to get into Australia. Here was a Ceylonese who had been sold by our own responsible leaders on this type of rubbish that is talked about our racist attitude.
– Not leaders.
– Responsible leaders of the Opposition. There is one danger that we have to face - we could become a racist country if we are not careful. We are not at the moment. If we have this constant harping, and the attempts to make the Aborigines feel racially and become a black power operation, if we have this rather pathetic ‘embassy’ cluttering up the area in front of Parliament House, and if we are to adopt the policy of the Labor Party Opposition which was adopted in Launceston, and people are simply to be admitted without regard to race, colour and so on, and if there is to be a change in our present policy, for heaven’s sake let us look down the line. Do we want to import the tensions and the difficulties and the problems that have bedevilled other countries? We are free of them at present and I hope that we shall remain free of them.
– Recently in Australia several persons have been killed, many have been threatened and attacked, and a number of bombs have been exploded. It is not, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) said, that we are concerned with violence that might happen. We are concerned in this motion with violence that has happened and violence that is happening. I submit to the House - I will produce evidence for it - that this was done by a few members of a Croatian extremist group and that some members of the Australian Government have tolerated and encouraged these groups in such a way that this violence was made more likely. Some members of the Australian Government have gone to functions where this group has held up photographs of its inspiration - Ante Pavelic, the leader of the fascist racist government in Croatia from 1941 to 1944. That is what has happened in the cases that were mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Government has been willing to be associated with this, and the Minister has not said » single word opposing or condemning these extremist Croatian groups. Not one word. He has avoided that completely as his predecessors avoided it constantly for 10 years. He is avoiding it now. The Croatian extremists - perhaps there are no more than 100 of them in Australia - are racists and are motivated by hatred. Let us be sure what this Croatian movement is. First of all it is a movement dedicated to the independent government of Croatia. This is an aim with which I can sympathise and which I understand. But under the influence of 100 or so extremists it has become not only a movement for an independent government but for a government modelled on the Pavelic regime of 1941 to 1944, and inspired by racist aims. It was violently against Serbs, Jews and gypsies.
It celebrates 10th April 1941 not only in its clubs but also in some churches and here I want to refer to the remark made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What I said on television the other day was that in Victoria a Croation Catholic church had been set up in Clifton Hill. This has rarely happened anywhere. In this church on 10th April every year a religious service is held to celebrate 10th April 1941, the setting up of the Pavelic fascist racist regime which destroyed perhaps 800,000 people in Croatia. I said on television that that was a bad thing for a Catholic church in Australia to be doing and that it was encouraging the extremists in this Croatian movement who I believe are responsible for these acts of violence. I made no general attack but a very precise attack. However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs comes in here and gives his own interpretation of that as though it was something I had said and then he attacks that interpretation. I said then precisely what I have just said. It is true and I stand by it.
– Did you mention the word hierarchy’?
– I never mentioned the word ‘hierarchy’. What is 10th April 1941? It is the day on which German Nazi troops entered Croatia and on which the Pavelic regime was set up. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, it was a brutal, callous administration which killed many tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and others. But the Minister has said nothing about that. He still leaves it unmentioned as it has been left unmentioned for 10 years. To show the nature of the Pavelic government I produce now a publication called “This is Artukovic’. Artukovic was the leader of the Ustashi, Croatia’s equivalent of the Nazi SS. This publication shows the way and a little of the extent of the vicious killings of the Pavelic regime. It shows in action identifiable photographs of men who are accepted by the Croatian organisations as leaders in Australia now. It shows people whose pictures appear on walls of the premises of this extremist Croatian organisation in Australia. This publication was declared a prohibited import by the Australian customs officials in 1965 and the decision was confirmed by the Minister for Customs and Excise. He would say no doubt that this publication emphasises sex, violence and crime. That is the usual expression. It does not show sex but it does show the extent of the violence and crime. These extremist Croatian organisations celebrate 10th April and many other days and their celebrations have been attended by supporters of this Government who have thereby identified themselves with these organisations.
– How did you get hold of that document?
– This . document is prohibited but I will table it together with a letter written in 1965 stating that it was seized. I hope the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) will have enough interest to read it and see what is involved. The Australian people in fact should see those documents.
– Order! I point out that the honourable member for Lalor cannot table the documents.
– Very well. I am not worried about formalities. I want these documents inspected so that honourable members opposite can see what they are supporting because some of them do not know. One of these documents has been prohibited from entry into Australia and I suggest that that decision is part of this Government’s attitude of trying to tolerate this movement and of trying to hide from the Australian people what this movement really is. If the same attitude had been taken to Hitler’s atrocities we would have heard nothing of the concentration camps. It is essential that these things be known, particularly by Australian officials and Ministers who tolerate this movement. They have tolerated it for reasons of political expediency. I doubt whether anyone here is consciously and deliberately racist, but Government supporters are willing to tolerate them for political expediency because they want to win the votes of extreme right wing migrant organisations and others in Australia which are prepared to support them. After the defeat of the Croatian government many of its supporters and those who had taken part in it went to other parts of the world. Quite a number came to Australia and the Croatian independent movement in Australia has become identified with the Pavelic regime as a result of the work of these extremists. It is time that this identification was recognised; it is time that this identification was broken. I say to the Government that it is time that it decided what attitude it will take in regard to this matter. Will it continue as it has in the past? The Minister for Foreign Affairs who spoke before me has been Attorney-General twice but he has never mentioned the bombings during any term of office he has had. He has never mentioned a word of criticism of these Croatian organisations. He and other leading figures in the Government have gone to functions of these organisations or they have tolerated other members of the Government Parties going and have identified themselves with these organisations. There has been not one word against them.
What have these organisations done? In Australia since 1966 there have been 8 very serious bomb attacks. Let us look at each of them. On 17th November 1966 a parcel bomb addressed to Mr Marian Jurevic exploded in the Melbourne General Post Office. Who could have sent that bomb? Mr Jurevic was a critic of the Croation extremist movements and their association with Pavelic in particular. He had been threatened and attacked by Croats before. I would not ask anyone to conclude on the evidence of one bomb where it come from. On 1st January 1967 a bomb exploded at the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney. The Yugoslav Consulate was a target of the Croatian extremist movement. The second bomb was on target and it was a target of the Croatian extremist movement. The third bomb exploded at the Richmond Town Hall on 2nd December 1967 and severely damanged a boy’s hand. It exploded at a function celebrating Yugoslavia’s national day. Yugoslavia’s national day was the target of the extremist movement. The third bomb was on target. The fourth bomb exploded on 9th June 1969 at the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney, which is a target of the Croatian extremist movement. The fourth bomb was on target. The fifth bomb exploded on 2nd January 1970 at the Serbian Church in Canberra and shortly after 2 Croats were arrested near the church in possession of explosives. The Serbian Church is a target of the Croation extremist movement and most of those killed by the Pavelic regime, which is its model, were Serbs. The fifth bomb was on target. On 12th October 1970 the sixth bomb exploded at the Yugoslav Consulate in Melbourne. The Yugoslav Consulate is a target of the Croation extremist movement. The sixth bomb was on target. The seventh bomb exploded at a migrant information centre of the ANZ bank in Melbourne on 6th April 1972 at a time when there was an exhibition of costumes associated with Yugoslavia. This was a target of the Croatian extremist movement and the seventh bomb was on target. The eighth bomb exploded on 6th April 1972 at a housing commission flat occuped by Mr Marian Jurevic and his family, to whom the first bomb had been sent through the post but which exploded in the General Post Office in Melbourne. Mr Jurevic is a critic and opponent of the Croatian extremist movement. The eighth bomb was on target.
How many more bombs have to be on target before the Attorney-General is prepared even to mention one of them? How many more bombs have to be on target before Government supporters will be prevented from attending functions of those organisations in respect of which there is a high degree of probability that they are responsible for these bombs.
I have said that on 1st January 1967 a bomb exploded at the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney and that on 9th June 1969 a second one did so. On 30th November 1968 a large group of Croats were at the Consulate attempting to enter it by force. A little later Mr William McMahon, the Prime Minister, was seen there and was asked what he thought of the incident. What he said was not a keyhole job. It was a humble statement, it was reported in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’. In the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ Mr McMahon was reported as saying: ‘They are a good bunch’. He did not say that they were a gay bunch; I do not want to mis represent him. He said: They are a good bunch. Their cause is good. We. must encourage their independence’.
– Where was that?
– That was said outside the Yugoslav Consulate in Sydney on 30th November 1968 and reported in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’. The Prime Minister of this country said: They are a good bunch. Their cause is good. We must encourage their independence.’ When he says that he is encouraging everything they do. He is encouraging their extremist action in every way, and they claim in their publications that he is encouraging them. It is not just mild Croatian independence to which the Prime Minister refers when he says their cause is good, because their cause includes overthrowing by force the Government of Yugoslavia and their cause includes standing over Yugoslavs in this country by force and by threat. Their cause includes using the 8 bombs which have been used and which I have detailed in this speech this morning. That is what the Prime Minister is supporting when he says that their cause is good, and that is what in fact they take him to say when he says those things.
– You support left wing violence.
– I support violence by nobody. I oppose violence wherever I see it. I am asking members of this Parliament to see this matter as it is. Violence in Australia today is coming from very few people. They are in the main members of this extreme Croatian movement, and the number in this country is possibly no more than 100. But instead of clearly opposing this violence and clearly stating that it must not go on, the Prime Minister has been prepared to say that these people have a cause which is good. Other members on the Government side have been prepared to attend their functions. Even at this late hour the Minister who represents the Attorney-General, who is responsible for the law that deals with violence, has not been prepared to say one word against this Croation extremist movement. He has been prepared to make in his speech even now only general statements opposing violence. I know that this matter has not been taken seriously by the police because they have looked at it up to now as a political matter. I know that it is being taken more seriously now, in particular by the State, police in Victoria. I know that action has been taken and that 2 arrests have been made in the last 7 days - arrests of Croats and Croats in possession of explosives. I want this Government to give up the manner of supporting right wing racism and extremism in this country in order to curry votes from those extremist groups in Australia - I want action taken against them for violence will become worse than it is. Now is the time to act.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) might abhor violence himself, but as my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mir N. H. Bowen), said earlier there would not be a single person in this country who has done more than the honourable member for Lalor has by the causes he has advocated and by the actions he has taken to encourage those latent tendencies that exist in a large number of individuals in this community towards violence. He might abhor it - they are his words - but what he does encourages it and brings it to the surface. I want to say only one thing about his remarks. He threw round, as he nor.maly does-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am forced to intervene because of the final statement that the Minister very carefully arrived at, that I encourage violence by what I do. To him and every one opposite who supports him I say: You are a cowardly lot. You never say anything else.
-Order! Does the honourable member for Lalor claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I have been very badly misrepresented by that statement and I want it withdrawn.
-Order! The Minister for Immigration has the call.
– He threw charges around-
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim that the statement by the Minister for Immigation was most offensive and misrepresents me completely. I ask that it be withdrawn.
-I suggest that the Minister for Immigration might withdraw the last remark that he made about the honourable member for Lalor.
– I withdraw. I hope in the light of what I am about to say the honourable member’s reckless charges in relation to statements by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) condemning bombings and activities by extremists, the honourable member will withdraw the charges that he made. I quote from the Senate Hansard of 12th April, only a few days ago, in which Senator Greenwood, the Minister who the honourable member alleged had said not one word condemning these activities, is reported as having said:
I certainly deprecate and deplore the activities which are occurring among members of that community in Australia. The tactics which have been adopted and the bombings which have occurred are totally alien to Australian traditions and I think they have to be condemned on all occasions by all Australians.
So I hope the honourable member for Lalor will withdraw his accusations against the Attorney-General. In the motion before the House the Australian Labor Party has chosen to level the charge of racial prejudice and racism against this Government and this side of the House. They are the words in the motion. This is what has been said by both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Lalor. This charge of racial prejudice in the present climate of world opinion, and very properly so, is a most grievous one to lay on any government or on any nation. The very seriousness of the charge imposes considerable obligations on those who make it. Whether true or false, every charge of racial prejudice or racism damages the country against which it is made. Australia has been damaged in the past by some who, for their own particular purposes, have laid against us recklessly, carelessly and without caring whether it be true or false the charge of racism and racial prejudice, and a lot of them are on the Opposition side of the House.
We have in this Parliament today the opportunity effectively to rebut such charges and to present a true account of Australian attitudes and policies. I suggest that the splendid speech by my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, effectively did that. Racial prejudice, racism, is an ugly phrase which describes an ugly aspect of human relationships. It connotes hatred, bigotry and violence. Reaction against it, the emotional response which it induces, is so strong as to carry in some instances a reciprocal hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violence. Contemporary events in the less fortunate lands underline the sad truth of this.
Charges of racial prejudice must be examined carefully, responsibly and dispassionately. We gain nothing if passions are inflamed or emotions stirred. We gain nothing if the nation is divided. We have already had a taste of this in the past. We find it bitter to our palate and we want no more of it.
Charges of racial prejudice cannot be sustained against Australia. During the past 25 years Australia has welcomed great numbers of people from all over the world. Nevertheless, successive Australian governments have seen the necessity to ensure that the nation will remain an integrated nation in the long term.
– It now being 12.30 p.m., in accordance with standing order 109 the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) agreed to:
That the time for the discussion of Notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– Our objective has been and still is an essentially homogeneous society devoid of persisting divisions and disunity which could cause the social tensions and problems which torment so many other countries. This policy does not mean a policy of rigid exclusion of people solely because of their ethnic origin. It does mean, however, an attitude of prudent caution, taking account of the experience of other countries in the matter of accepting large numbers of people with extremely different backgrounds, characteristics, customs and so on, which may resist general integration even in the long term.
Such an attitude is not racist, since it is based not on racial bigotry or superiority,
Gut on the valid social objective of pre serving an essentially untied and cohesive community. In fact, the Government’s policies have been deliberately aimed at preventing the emergence of those conditions under which racial prejudice flourishes. It is significant that critics can point only to isolated instances of alleged racial prejudice in Australia. Despite the seriousness of the charge which the Leader of the Opposition has made today in the terms of the motion which will no doubt reverberate around the world, he has been able to produce only some trifling and piffling examples to support that charge. The isolated nature of the instances cited is clear evidence that they are exceptional cases. They are not typical of Australia as a whole.
To seek to condemn the whole nation, as so many honourable members opposite do, on the basis of a few cases - whether true or falser - is to go against the critics’ own evidence. One criminal does not make a nation of criminals. One coward does not make a nation of cowards. And one bigot does not make a nation of bigots. But this is what members of the Opposition are trying to suggest. Before the doctrine of collective guilt is to be applied to all Australians for the alleged offences of some, those who advocate this would be well advised to think most carefully. By some strange alchemy of words, Australia’s responsible and effective policy of avoiding the creation of circumstances which could lead to racial prejudice is represented as racial prejudice. We are left by the critics - and many of them are opposite - with the paradox that only by taking action which could lead to racial prejudice could we avoid charges of racial prejudice. How ridiculous this is.
A recognition of these fundamental truths has until recently bound the major parties in this Parliament together in a bipartisan approach to immigration. Now that appears to have disappeared. Who has moved, by appearing to abandon traditional policies, to create doubts in the minds of the Australian public that the conditions in which racial prejudice could flourish might be created? Not the Government which is being accused in this motion. Who repudiated the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) who has stood firm for policies which would not create these conditions? Not the Government but the Leader of the Opposition, who moved this motion. Who jeers at the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) every time he stands firm for policies which will not create conditions in which racial prejudice will flourish? Not the Government, but people like the honourable members for Kingston (Dr Gun) and Prospect (Dr Klugman) and others of the so-called intellectual left wing of the Australian Labor Party. Who is taking the risks? Who is venturing into the unknown? Who is talking about non-discrimination and widening the eligibility for assisted passages? Who is erecting sponsorship into an article of faith with the attendant possibility of pyramid migration from those countries where sponsorship is common? Not the Government. It is not we - ‘the people who are being accused by this motion - who are taking the risk that by a conscious act of policy or a series of administrative acts the conditions will be created in which racial prejudice will grow and flourish. If is not we but our accusers in this motion - the Australian Labor Party
Let me repeat: Our policies are more genuinely liberal in concept and in administration than those of many countries. But they are also in harmony with, and do not prejudice, our national interests. To go further would be to put those interests at risk. To retreat from our present policies, as the Labor Party proposes that we do, would be to lend credence to charges of racial prejudice. I said earlier that, whether true or false, every charge of racial prejudice damages the country against which it is made. The trouble with the Australian Labor Party, or most members of it - and I do not include in this people like the right honourable gentleman for Melbourne or the honourable member for Grayndler - is that it has within Us ranks too many of those whom Disraeli called cosmopolitan critics’ - ‘men who are the friends of every country save their own’.
– I seek leave to make a very brief statement to correct a statement I made at question time.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– My memory has been at fault, for which I apologise. At question time I made a statement which was not entirely accurate. I inform the House that there has been approach earlier this year from the Minister for Civil Aviation to the Ministers for Air, Defence and Navy for a re-examination of the Schofields area to see whether greater use could be made of it for civil aviation purposes. The current position is that a study has been initiated at the officials level. I have conveyed this information to the honourable member for Chifley.
– Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Does the honourable member seek leave to make a statement?
– I. will speak on it at a later date. I only wanted a few moments to answer the Minister.
– Give it to him tonight for 10 minutes.
– The Minister will not be here tonight.
– Before dealing with the subject matter of the debate I would like to reply to the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) who made another one of his wild statements during which he looks vaguely across the chamber and cannot remember the names of any of the honourable members sitting opposite him. He mentioned my name and suggested that I have jeered at the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) or the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). This is not so. I have had very little contact with the right honourable member for Melbourne. I have served with the honourable member for Grayndler on the immigration committee of the Australian Labor Party and I can assure the House that there has never been any division between us on that committee on any issue.
Firstly, I want to deal with what was said by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) who made a ridiculous and racist speech in the House today. He put up the proposition that violence inside any country is due to coloured people. I would like to remind him of the position in Ireland, in Belgium and on occasions in Canada. There is no question of violence in these countries being due to people of different colours. I am pleased indeed that the Minister will not become a member of the High Court of Australia. The Government will not appoint him to that office just before an election because it is not game to have a by-election before this takes place. If the Minister were in the United States of America his sort of racist attitude would prevent his appointment to the Supreme Court of that country. I hope that in the long run this will be the case in this country also and that people with these sorts of attitudes will not be entitled to be appointed to the High Court. But it is not surprising, because Mr Robert S. Clark - who runs one of the most racist organisations in this country, the Immigration Control Association, and who mainly specialises in helping the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) to beat Mr St John for representation in this Parliament - is a prominent member of the Liberal Party in the electorate of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and one of his most prominent helpers. The Labor Party does not want to import violence into this country. The Labor Party has stated quite clearly in its policy on immigration that one of the points to be taken into consideration is whether any frictions will arise.
Let me deal with the other points that have been raised in this debate. One of them related to the Croatian movement, the Ustashi. I preface my remarks by saying that Labor as a whole has more sympathy than the Government has for independence movements, whether they be independence movements in Ireland, in Scotland, in Yugoslavia or in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
– What about the independence of the South Vietnamese?
– Yes, and for the independence of the South Vietnamese. We certainly believe that the people there are entitled to decide their form of government, just the same as anyone else is. Honourable members on the Government side have a very selective way of deciding who has the right to choose their form of Government. They want independence movements for countries and for peoples, as we do, who feel that they are being oppressed by the USSR or by the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia but they do not support independence movements in other countries. They do not realise that there are people all over the world in all kind of countries who want independence and who want to have a say in their way of life. As far as the Croatians are concerned, obviously 1 oppose and we all oppose the sort of violence that has been associated with the extremist group to which the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) referred. He suggested there were 100 of them - there may be more of them - who support that sort of proposition. But surely we all are opposed to this. But at the same time we all understand that the Croatians as a whole feel that they have some son of grievance.
I am not one who is extremely nationalistic. I do not consider that being described as being cosmopolitan, as the Minister for Immigration described certain members of the Opposition - if that means not being extremely nationalistic - is an insult as the Minister and the Russians do. I do not suggest that the Croatians over there who oppose the government in Yugoslavia are necessarily all fascists, any more than I accept the proposition which is often put by honourable members opposite that anybody who opposes this Government is automatically a communist. In one case some will be fascist and in the other case some will be communist, but the vast majority will not be. What we have to be concerned about is to eliminate violence and to make sure that the people who live in this country rely on legitimate political activity to bring about their point of view. My worry about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is that it is politically naive. Its members may be good policemen in the sense of obtaining facts, following people and finding out what type of movements and meetings certain people have attended. But I strongly doubt their ability to assess the political significance of particular movements and particular meetings.
The important point, surely, is to separate those who will carry out only legitimate political activtiy - whether it be antigovernment activity or activity of another sort - from those who propose to use or might at some time use violence. It is important to eliminate those who would use violence. To my mind it is an extreme waste of money, time and resources to photograph pensioners when they are demonstrating outside this Parliament House. That is what our security service is doing. The Government may well be embarrassed by pensioners demonstrating out there, but surely nobody would suggest that they are potentially violent. I urge the Government to have another look at the way the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is administered and to realise what a security service is for so that it protects the people of the country but does not prevent people who have legitimate grievances from expressing those grievances.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time allotted for precedence of general business has expired. The honourable member for Prospect will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumed debate will be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence for 5 seconds? The honourable member for Lalor wanted to table the document ‘This is Artukovic’. I inform him, through you, that if he seeks leave to table it leave will be granted.
– I seek leave to table this document entitled This is Artukovic’. I thank the Minister for having raised that matter.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I table the document.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Defence making a Ministerial Statement relating to the invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam and its security implications for Australia.
– On Tuesday afternoon this week, a matter of public importance was discussed in this House which stressed the need for the Government to make a statement on the ‘Plight of the People of South Vietnam in their courageous defence against the blatant invasion by North Vietnam and its serious implications for the security of Australia’. At the outset, I think I should stress that the Government and, I am sure, the vast majority of Australian people express their horror at the naked aggression of North Vietnam against the people of South Vietnam and extend their sympathy to the people of that war ravaged country who are the victims of brutal attack aimed at escalating a war that was in the process of being de-escalated.
Like South Vietnam, we are not a major power. The physical aid that we can give is limited. We had combat troops there and, like the United States, we withdrew our combat troops not only because we believe the need for them has passed but also because we believed that by so doing we were contributing to a de-escalation of the war and preparing the way for a political and not a military solution of the problems of Indo-China. During the 4 years since Tet 1968, social and economic conditions for most of the people of South Vietnam have steadily improved. This is a matter of fact. The guerrilla network, although not destroyed, has been debilitated. The Government has been able gradually to increase the degree of security it could afford the villagers against the threats of coercion of the Vietcong. Sir Robert Thompson, a man who has had considerable experience of Vietnam, tells of villages where the membership of the local home guard were ex-Vietcong to a man and are now loyal to the Government. On the economic front, although enormous problems remain, great progress has been made. Inflation has been brought within manageable limits. Progressive economic measures have been put in train. Progress has been made in land redistribution. Politically, despite the imperfections of the South Vietnamese electoral process in Western eyes, free elections have been held, for local governments as well as for the national government. This is a matter of fact. All the efforts of hostile critics have been unable to substantiate accusations of serious irregularities. A degree of political stability has been achieved.
The situation now is that the North Vietnamese invasion has brought full scale war to thousands of South Vietnamese villagers. The North Vietnamese are trying to destroy what has been achieved. Refugees are in flight and it surely is significant that they are fleeing to the protection of the Government. Although battles, initiated by the North Vietnamese, at present affect only a very small proportion of the population, the threat is there for many more. At best, doubts will arise about the Government’s ability to protect them. The economy must be affected to some extent, in the short run at least, and with it the livelihood of the people. On the communist side, the Vietcong cadres are likely to increase their efforts towards terrorism and assassination. In short, after a period of comparative quiet, the war, with all its effects, is being carried by the North Vietnamese back to the South Vietnamese people.
Pitiable efforts have been made recently to try to fool the people into believing that what is full scale aggression by North Vietnam on South Vietnam is not really aggression at all. In Tuesday’s debate apologists for the North Vietnamese attempted to show either that there was no aggression by the North or that there was aggression by both sides. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) stated in his speech that the Government claims North Vietnam invaded the South. The Government does not claim this; it knows that North Vietnam invaded the South. Other speakers asked what constitutes aggression. They asked whether the dropping of bombs in North Vietnam by B52s was not just as much aggression as attacks on South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army. Aggression means unprovoked attack. The attack by the North Vietnamese on the South is unprovoked attack. The bombing of North Vietnam by the Americans is retaliation following unprovoked attack from the North. It is playing with words to say that both sides are committing aggression.
Let me put the Vietnamese situation in simple and incontrovertible terms. Throughout the sad and long drawn out struggle there has never been any threat by ground forces against North Vietnam. I repeat: North Vietnam has never been threatened by ground forces. Invasion of North Vietnamese air space has been directed solely and specifically at bases and supply lines from which North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam were maintained. The United States started on its withdrawal of ground forces. We withdrew ours. The bombing ceased. What was the reaction? The North Vietnamese launched a full scale invasion of South Vietnam. An attack was launched, not under the disguise of a people’s liberation movement, but formally, with regular army divisions. And what has been the reaction in Australia? The peace lovers of the Australian Labor Party turned from being advocates of peace and a political settlement into being supporters of the North Vietnamese aggression.
What the peace lovers in the ALP, who show that they have a majority in the Victorian State Council of that Party, are advocating is a bloodbath greater than any produced by the South Vietnam conflict so far. I do not wish to be over-dramatic, but I have in my possession a film. It is a terrible and terrifying film. It shows the opening of a mass grave in Hue, a town occupied by the Vietcong for a fortnight during the Tet offensive. There were 6,000 bodies in that mass grave - 6,000 in a fortnight. How many would this be in our lifetime if those whom the ALP in Victoria support established, by force of arms, a communist regime? If there are any members of the ALP who will not be convinced that the kind of settlement by military conquest now being advocated by some members of the ALP would produce horrors greater than those of the Vietnam war, I invite them to see this film.
So, I say quite categorically that there is aggression. This aggression is being exercised by the North Vietnamese against the South Vietnamese, against Laos and against Cambodia. It is quite ludricrous. as claimed by one ALP spokesman on Tuesday, to suggest that Vietnam is one country and that ‘therefore troops can be moved from the North to the South without constituting aggression. My colleague, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), pointed out very logically that this same theory could be applied to East and West
Germany or to North and South Korea. If in either of these cases, troops were to cross the frontier there would be war immediately. The same applies to Vietnam. For 18 years there have been 2 separate Vietnams - one controlled by a communist government and one controlled by an elected government. The theory that the war in South Vietnam is a civil war is obviously quite untenable because of the manifest presence of 15 North Vietnamese regular division either in South Vietnam or in the neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia.
The fact is that during the past 300 years there has been only one substantial period when Vietnam was united under one ruler and that was the period of 82 years between 1802 and 1884. Whatever the historical case, however, the present situation is that since 1954, North and South Vietnam have developed along entirely different lines with the result that today there are 2 separate and distinct states, with entirely different social systems, economic systems and ideologies. If we are to condone aggression by North Vietnam on the grounds of past relations, then surely we should have to condone the 1950 aggression of North Korea against South Korea, any new attack by North Korea and even any attack by East Germany on West Germany. What nonsense! What utter humbug! Members of the ALP have stated that there was aggression in South Vietnam. But of course they were shortly afterwards pulled into line by the Party machine. For example, a report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 26th May 1967 reported that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) when returning from a visit to South Vietnam, said he was satisfied that there was a large scale invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnamese troops. He said he was satisfied that this was more than just a guerrilla war and he said he supposed it could be compared with the earlier conflict in Korea. Similarly, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is reported in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 24th July 1970 as having said that the situation in Cambodia involved blatant clear cut aggression. He went on to say that the North Vietnamese were committing aggression in Cambodia and it was aggression as blatant as that of the Germans in Belgium in 1914 and 1940.
But tht ALP has 2 policies in this field - a political one and a personal one. I know that the ALP’s official policy is for a political, not a military, settlement. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) set out that policy in this House. But quite deliberately I accuse the Opposition of being two-faced on its policy. Take the position of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). He poses as the great peace lover. For years he has been telling us that all he wants in ravaged Vietnam is peace. He has indicated that all that stood between Vietnam and peace was the presence of foreign troops. He disregarded that those troops were there at the invitation, indeed the request, of the Vietnam Government-
– That is not true.
– … and were fighting alongside South Vietnamese seeking only a right to self determination.
– That is not true.
-Order! The honourable member for St George will cease interjecting.
– The Minister’s remarks are provocative.
-I suggest that the honourable member for St George restrain himself. I have already warned the honourable member.
– I raise a point of order. I am somewhat, disturbed by the allegations of the Minister. What protection is afforded to an individual member or collective members of this House against an allegation that we are two-faced? If I may ask your advice on this matter, Mr Speaker, are there any procedures by which at this point of time when the Minister is delivering his address we may intercede in this matter?
– No. All interjections are out of order and the honourable member knows this.
– The honourable member for Lalor took this view: ‘Withdraw these troops and peace will descend upon Vietnam from a political settlement’. That was his theme. But what has happened? The United States withdrawal is under way. Australian combat troops have been brought home. Bombing had ceased.
So what happened? The North Vietnamese attacked. The honourable member for Lalor now says that the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam with regular combat troops is justified. What supreme hypocrisy! It is not without significance that when the honourable member for Lalor was defending his stand that this was really a civil war and the North Vietnamese were innocent of any aggression, and was asked about Laos and Cambodia which the North Vietnamese are also invading and whether that was aggression, he ignored the question. If I disagree with the honourable member for Lalor and find politically immoral his shift from advocacy of peace to justification of naked aggression, because those resisting aggression have been weakened by the withdrawals which were advocated in the name of peace, I have only contempt for the attitude of his leader. Let me put the situation in its stark simplicity.
The honourable member for Lalor made a speech in this House in which he said North Vietnamese aggression against South Vietnam was justified. The Leader of the Opposition congratulated the honourable member for Lalor on that speech. This was brought out in the House on Tuesday by the transcript from the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio interview with the honourable member for Lalor, an interview given shortly after the honourable member had made his speech. The honourable member for Lalor told the interviewer that he had no evidence that anyone disagreed with what he said. The questioner asked: ‘What about Mr Whitlam. How does he feel about it’. Dr Cairns replied: ‘Mr Whitiam told me after I sat down that I had made a very compelling speech indeed’. Mr Whitlam later repudiated publicly the Victorian ALP resolution which gave support for North Vietnamese aggression against South Vietnam and which said that the invasion was justified. Clearly the Leader of the Opposition did not think that the honourable member for Lalor would make public his approval of the honourable member’s speech. Now the ALP is preparing for the ritual of disowning at as high a level as it can achieve the views of the Victorian ALP and less directly those of the honourable member for Lalor. It has been said that power corrupts. But the yearning for power also corrupts. There are questions of deep morality involved in this. We have been misled by the ALP into believing that its members desire only peace and a political settlement. Now we find they or many of them advocate a military solution and a victory for the North Vietnamese.
Let me turn to the present military situation in South Vietnam. The situation remains serious and more heavy fighting is likely. Under these circumstances some setbacks for the South Vietnamese may emerge. Nevertheless, despite pessimistic Press reports the South Vietnamese armed forces are acquitting themselves well. It is still too early to judge the outcome of this conflict. But no major objective has been taken by the North Vietnamese, although Quang Tri in the North has been seriously threatened and the expected major assault on Kontum in the Central Highlands has yet to develop. In the South, An Loc, the provincial capital of Binh Long province, although still far from out of danger, has been held by stubborn resistance against massive infantry attacks supported by Russian tanks and artillery. The North Vietnamese are accepting heavy casualties, but past experience has demonstrated that casualties alone are unlikely to deter Hanoi. North Vietnam may be prepared to continue with its present offensive for a considerable time. It may hold the territory that its divisions have gained even at the cost of further heavy casualties.
As I said earlier, it has been argued that the United States has committed aggression by bombing North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh trail. Such an argument completely ignores the context in which the air attacks have taken place. The North Vietnamese divisions now in battle and those yet to be committed to battle, still rely on a flow of supplies from the North, and on the reinforcements and replacements that accompany them. These include the supplies of new weapons, ammunition and petrol, the flow of which begins at the Port of Haiphong. From there the weapons and equipment are transported to depots in the southern part of North Vietnam then through the mountain passes to bases in Laos, and then down the supply line to bases in Cambodia. These are the logistic necessities without which much of the offensive could not have been launched in the first place. Unless they continue to arrive the offensive would quickly peter out. The strikes at this logistic life line for the North Vietnamese troops fighting in South Vietnam is as much a part of the defensive battle as is the resistance being put up by the South Vietnamese soldiers on the ground. To speak of operations to limit the flow of soldiers and their supplies which can be intended only for a major assault on the South Vietnamese people and territory as an act of aggression is surely an evident example of confusion of cause and effect A confusion seems to exist between aggressive offensive actions and defensive measures needed to counter them. It is noteworthy that many members of the ALP attempt to prevent the use of air power where the South is strongest but make no attempt to condemn attacks by tanks and artillery against the South. Apparently in their eyes it is acceptable to violate the South but unacceptable for the South to resist.
Finally, let me say something of the implication for Australian security of the current war. The inescapable fact in IndoChina is that the North Vietnamese have used terror, violence and full scale military operations as a deliberate instrument of policy to achieve their objective of taking South Vietnam and controlling the rest of Indo-China. They justify war as a means of imposing their ideological beliefs and systems on others. By no stretch of imagination can the terror and the ground fighting in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia be regarded as defensive.
These are not actions which can be viewed with complacency by anyone who values peace and freedom in this part of the world. In particular, such aggression by Communist forces against a neighbouring country which wants to get on with the job of building a new society for itself must be of great concern to countries like Australia. That is why, distant as South Vietnam may be from Australia, the Government continues to be concerned for the fate of a small country which is the victim of aggression from its neighbour. Australia has contributed towards the maintenance of security in South Vietnam and continues to give help in the way of economic assistance, defence aid and training. We do this in order to demonstrate our continued concern that the principle should be maintained that aggression should be in no way condoned.
The future protection of Australian interests is not simply directed to the static defence of Australian Territories and dependencies. The best defence of our interests is seen to go beyond the defence of our territory alone. Australian security is best promoted if, drawing on increasingly self-reliant military strength, we continue to recognise and support the security interests which we share with those who are part of our special strategic environment.
Let me have one final word about the decision of the Victorian State Council of the Australian Labor Party. One of the members of this Council, the Administrative Secretary of Victoria’s 26 rebel unions, is reported to have said:
I support the NLF. Most socialists in the Australian Labor Party support it so why don’t we come out in the open and say so.
This Australian Labor Party policy is support for a bloodbath; a bloodbath of those who resist North Vietnamese aggression; a blood bath on the evidence of Hue and other things more terrible than any brought about by the conflict. This bloodbath could happen. We, as a country, can influence events only marginally, but for God’s sake let us not as a nation be a party, as the honourable member for Lalor and the Victorian Australian Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition by his policy of appeasement would have us be, to advocacy to such an outcome.
The people of South Vietnam face a threat of a frightening and horrible future. We as a Government believe that they are the victims of a merciless and ruthless aggression. We applaud their courageous stand against this ruthless invasion from the North, and we pledge them assistance to restore their ravaged country when they succeed, as we believe and hope that they will, in repelling the aggressors whose actions have escalated what but for their actions would have been a de-escalating conflict.
I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 20 minutes.
– The Government seems bent on hitting the Veitnam gong hard and often. It has only itself to blame if the sound emitted has a hollow and discordant tone. There was a full-scale debate in this House on a Vietnam statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) on 23rd March. This allowed members to look at the Australian contribution to the war and to the policy of Vietnamisation used to cloak American and Australian withdrawal.
Last week Government back-benchers moved an urgency motion directed at statements made by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). This was debated fully by the House and included a most comprehensive outline by the honourable member for Lalor of his attitudes to the Vietnam war. On Tuesday another urgency motion was moved by the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Street). This was designed to exploit a resolution moved at the weekend by the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party. The issue was dealt with very thoroughly during the debate that followed.
By popular consensus around the lobbies and in the Press, the Government got decidedly the worst of the debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in a very fine speech put the Victorian resolution in its context as a violation of Labor’s platform. In so doing he assailed the Government’s Indo-China policy in terms which ripped it to tatters. If any doubt remained in the minds of Government supporters about what is official Labor policy on this issue, they should note that yesterday’s meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party passed a resolution in unanimous terms supporting the Leader’s speech. There was not a single dissenting voice.
This should leave no doubt in the minds of even the most impartial people opposite about the attitude of every member of the Labor caucus to the erroneous motion passed at the week-end by the Victorian State Council of the Labor Party. In the light of the exhaustive examination of issues deriving from the IndoChina war in this House in recent weeks it is impossible to justify this statement today by the Minister for De fence. Certainly it is directed to the urgency motion moved on Tuesday by the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labor and National Service.
This motion was phrased in the following terms:
The need for the Government as a matter of urgency to make a statement on the plight of the people of South Vietnam in their courageous defence against the blatant invasion by North Vietnam and its serious implications for the security of Australia.’
This has been the most remarkably successful urgency motion to have been debated in this House in recent years, because it had the effect of getting the Government to decide to allow the Minister .to make a statement on Vietnam to the House today. So, it has elicited an almost immediate response from the Government. Two days after a statement was sought as a matter of urgency, the Minister has bobbed up with this statement.
The Opposition has put up scores of similar urgency motions in recent years. I recall sessions of this House where the Government could not have sustained even a barely respectable programme of parliamentary business without the assistance of these urgency motions. Invariably these motions are talked out before interment in Hansard. Never in my experience has the Government acted promptly to implement any of the matters of urgency raised on this side of the House. When Government supporters raise Vietnam as an issue of urgency, the Minister of Defence has no trouble in getting the cooks in his Department to whip up the confection he has put before the Parliament today.
This statement would have been justified if it contained some fresh information about the present campaigns in Vietnam. It would have been justified if some new insights into the course of the war could have been provided by the Minister. In particular it would have been justified if some comprehensive analysis could have been supplied to the House on the strategy of the North Vietnamese and the short-term objectives of their latest military moves. The Minister’s statement is not justified on any of these counts.
This is disappointing because the amount of hard news coming from the combat areas in South Vietnam in recent days has been very meagre. No blame can be attached to the news agencies for these deficiencies; in particular the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s correspondent has done an excellent job in getting news reports out in very difficult circumstances. But obviously problems of access to combat areas and problems of communications are hampering the flow of accurate news from Vietnam through regular news channels to Australia. In the past week we have been left largely in the dark about what is happening in the field in Vietnam. We do not have a clue on what is happening in the vital northern provinces below the demilitarised zone.
There have been quite irreconcilable reports of what is happening in the fighting west of Saigon. Some reports have put communist tanks within 30 miles of Saigon. In this confused context the Minister for Defence should have been able to give us a clearer assessment of what is happening in Vietnam. A lot of effort in recent years has been directed to building up Australia’s intelligence services. A Joint Intelligence Organisation has been operating in the Department of Defence for some years now. In addition the Department of Foreign Affairs has intelligence facilities in Vietnam. The Army retains liaison with the headquarters of the ARVN in Saigon. Yet the best the Minister for Defence has been able to give us about the course of the fighting is a few pitiful scraps which could have been culled from the pages of the Press a week ago.
The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has been able to do a little better. Outside the Parliament earlier this week he assured the people of Australia that little could be said at this stage about the war, but he expected fighting to continue for some years. This recalled the immortal assessment of the former Prime Minister that the situation in Vietnam plainly was that fighting was continuing. One feature that does emerge clearly is that our intelligence services as measured by the amount of hard information in the Minister’s speech just are not up to scratch. We are entitled to much more detailed information and a much more profound level of analysis about what is happening in Vietnam than was revealed by the Minister. It seems pointless to build up our intelligence services within the Department of Defence when at a time of crisis demanding top class intelligence, all the Minister can do is recapitulate superseded Press reports. Perhaps the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) will do a little better, but I suspect be is as much in the dark as his colleague.
When the last full scale debate on Vietnam was held on 23rd March I made some forecasts that proved remarkably prophetic. It is true that these forecasts were fulfilled much more quickly than I expected. In particular I said that the crucial test for Vieinamisation would come only when the Army of the Republic of Vietnam had to meet the full onslaught of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces on the ground without American support. In the absence of information it is difficult to make any hard and fast assessment but I do not think this vital phase of the war has arrived. An offensive of the sort conducted by the communists had been predicted for March. When this offensive failed to eventuate, the inevitable reassessment was that the communists had stayed their hand until after more United States withdrawals or even until after the United States presidential elections. These theories were quickly dispelled by the rapidity and ferocity of the communist offensives.
Various assessments of communist objectives have been given. One theory is that they are seeking to detach the northern provinces of South Vietnam so a provisional government can be set up, possibly in the old imperial capital of Hue. There is even some suggestion that they might be trying to hold An Loc as a centre for provisional government. It is difficult to see how An Loc, which is vulnerable on 4 sides, could be retained as a communist stronghold. More probably, the communists are testing the ARVN, probing for weaknesses and waiting to exploit any weaknesses that are thrown up. Despie reports that the major part of the North Vietnamese Army is outside North V’etnam, it is obvious that only a fraction of this powerful army is engaged in South Vietnam in these operations.
The other important aspect of these operations is the propaganda aspect. There seems a determined attitude on the part of North Vietnam to prove to the United States and China that it can go it alone for an extended period if need be. Another factor is the impact of renewed fighting on public opinion in the United States as politicking hots up in the run through to the presidential elections. For these reasons it seems that the latest communist drives have limited objectives; they are not intended as a once-and-for-all effort to crush the South Vietnamese army in one hit. There is the added ingredient that the communists want to try out new weapons supplied by Russia and new tactics to exploit these weapons. They have shown in the past that they are prepared to take heavy casualties to achieve similar objectives. The present outbreak of fighting seems to have been provoked by a combination of the objectives I have listed.
The next question that needs to be asked is: Has the ARVN performed well enough to account Vienamisation a success, and has it proved its ability to hold the communists off without substantial American assistance? The best answer that can be given is that the case on behalf of the South Vietnamese army has not been proven on either count. The ARVN’S performance has been as patchy and unpredictable as it has always been in the past. Undoubtedly there are some very high calibre units in the ARVN and these have fought bravely and effectively, as they did in earlier campaigns. It is doubtful whether the calibre of the whole Army has been lifted to an extent sufficient for th:m to defeat the communists in decisive terms.
At the risk of being proved monumentally wrong by the course of events, I should like to sum up the points I have sought to make in looking at the recent campaigns in Vietnam. It is unlikely that these latest offensives constitute the final supreme effort of the communists in South Vietnam. If the communists gain more local successes in the days ahead, it is probable they will continue the offensive and perhaps stiffen it with more men and equipment. The other alternative is that they will accept the limited results they have gained and withdraw and regroup. It is unlikely at this stage that they have any real hopes of securing and holding down large areas of South Vietnam. Such a scaling down of the fighting would be interpreted in some quarters as a success for Vietnamisation and the South Vietnamese. It would be wiser to look at Vietnam in the longer term; there are still many more battles to be fought before even a tentative conclusion can be risked on this issue.
At this stage it is difficult to see how either side can win a decisive military victory on the ground in Vietnam. The fallacy of Viemamisation was that the communists would wait passively until the South Vietnamese forces were strong enough to defeat them. By some sort of application of the principle of the inverse ratio, the communist forces would shrive] away as the ARVN was built up step by step. Of course, there was talk of the acceptance of an honourable settlement by the communists. When this was reduced to the bare bones it usually turned out to mean total surrender by the communists. Quite plainly the scenarios for Vietnam written by President Nixon and Dr Kissinger will not be acted out in this way. After years of sustained military effort there is a chance that the communists could be defeated in the. field. But the latest offensives prove they will not desist; they will not let the United States and the regime in Saigon succeed by default. There is not the slightest sign that they intend to moderate or abate in any way the effort they have sustained for almost 30 years.
Another aspect of the statement raised by the Minister is its implications for Australian security. The Government takes the threat so seriously that the Minister for Defence has announced in quite unequivocal terms that Australia will not re-commit troops there, however grave the risk to South Vietnam. The one paragraph statement in which he announced this decision contained an infinitely saner appreciation of the course of the war than the 11 pages of text he has put before us this afternoon. The official wisdom is that the success of Vietnamisation justified the withdrawal of troops by the Australian Government. Now that this interpretation has been very seriously challenged and perhaps even destroyed, there is no suggestion thai the Government will revert to its previous role.
In the terms of the logic it has put repeatedly and as reiterated yet again in the Minister’s statement this afternoon, it should immediately restore the Task Force and all the units withdrawn in the past 2 years. The Government is aware of this. It knows the fatal flaw in its Vietnam argument. Put simply, it just cannot sustain the argument of a threat to Australia when it has withdrawn all combat troops and has no intention of returning them to Vietnam. Its duty in terms of its traditional approach to Vietnam has been clearly pointed out to it by the Democratic Labor Party and the Friends of Vietnam Association.
These groups are not squeamish about expending more Australian blood in the slaughter pen of Vietnam; nor should the Government, if it believes its Vietnam policy justified and that the latest eruption of fighting represents a threat to Australia. The Government is completely hooked on this line. It knows the logic of its arguments demands the return of Australian troops to Vietnam. But it knows also that this would not be acceptable to an electorate which has wearied of the war and is disillusioned with the leaders who committed Australia to it. There is no other step the Government could take if it is concerned about the threat to Australia in the latest fighting in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister is to make a South East Asian visit in June. Why not extend the compass of his trip to include a firsthand assessment of the alleged threat to Australian security from renewed fighting in Vietnam? If my memory is correct, the right honourable gentleman’s last visit to Vietnam was in 1970, nearly 2 years ago. During that visit he went to Quang Tri province which is the centre of the present heavy fighting. Here is an excellent opportunity for the Prime Minister to revisit this part of Vietnam and assess the changes since he last put it under his microscope. If there is a threat to Australian security as suggested by the Minister this afternoon and by Government backbenchers on Tuesday, then there is a clear duty on the Prime Minister to assess the threat at first hand and take appropriate action.
In summary, it is tragic that the debate On defence should again be reduced to the primitive and stupefying level put by the Minister for Defence this afternoon. I had hoped that recent constructive speeches by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Navy indicated an elevation of defence debate to a plane of sense and sanity. These hopes have been rudely dashed by the vainglorious ranting of the Minister this afternoon. Undoubtedly the Government intends to reduce the defence debate to the level described in American politics as waving the bloody shirt. Quite plainly on the evidence of contributions from 3 Ministers in this Parliament today, the Government plans a dirty and vicious election campaign. This sort of debasement of the political process is a tragedy for Australian politics which can only be resolved by decisive rejection of this nauseous Government at the polls.
(2.58) - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) expresses the opinion - on what information it is based, I do not know - that this invasion is not an effort for an all-out victory. Many reasons have been given for this. The first is that it is an attempt by the North Vietnamese to try to stop Vietnamisation of the South, because Vietnamisation is proceeding with too great a speed towards complete success, before it is too late for them to intervene. The second reason is to impress the allies of North Vietnam - ‘the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China - of its capacity to strike at this time and to involve them, particularly at a time when the United States President is visiting the capitals of those 2 countries.
The third reason - this is rather a cynical reason which pretty well everyone assigns to them - is to influence the people of the United States in their thinking in a presidential election year that the United States policy in Vietnam will fail. The fourth reason is that South Vietnam has been strengthening its security and improving the living standards of its people to such a remarkable degree that it is necessary for North Vietnam to strike now, or it will never be able to satisfy the people of South Vietnam. It would never even be able to govern them if it succeeded, for so far ahead of the North have the living standards in the South become that tfes
South will not accept government according to the standards of the North. It is, therefore, the time factor that is concerning them, but I do not think that at this stage it is fruitful to enter into this discussion. It is too early. We remember what happened at the time of the last Tet offensive. A lot of assumptions were made and a lot of propaganda was issued. It is better to wait and see, because in this situation the possibilities are so many, so great and so fearful.
How often have we heard it said that in foreign affairs and defence the policies and philosophies of the Labor Party and the Government are poles apart? Here is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition again, as he has so often attempted to do in recent days, saying: ‘You are saying the same thing as I am saying9. The Leader of the Opposition while in America said: ‘Really, Labor policy is very similar to that of the Government’. This is simply ridiculous. There is, in fact, very little we do agree upon in defence and foreign affairs issues.
There has never been an issue that has set us further apart so starkly as has this Vietnam issue. The basic reason is that in all this time while we have been involved in Vietnam, while our troops have been fighting there, risking their lives - some of them, regrettably, giving their lives - in all this time that we have given our help to try to save these people who were struggling, even long before we or the Americans went there, to protect themselves against aggression from the north; in all this time the Labor Party has been barracking for the enemy. I cannot recall a single occasion when the Opposition has stood up for South Vietnam or has said one word in support of its cause. Yet the Opposition poses as the protector of the weak and underprivileged. Why is it that the Leader of the Opposition always puts Hanoi’s point of view? Why has he constantly knocked the allied efforts in Vietnam? Even now it is said that we have put this on. Who started it? Who made a statement calling for a demonstration in support of the Vietcong? It was not we who did that. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) started it. Who moved the motion in the Victorian Labor Council which expressed support for North side of the House. The Opposition says that we started it, but we have had to respond and say what we think about these initiatives which have been commenced on the Opposition side on the left, because we believe the nation needs to know what should be thought of honourable members opposite and how far they represent the views of the Labor Party when put by that part of it which is dominant in its defence and foreign affairs matters. We now have the spectacle of resolutions being passed calling for support for the North at a time when our instructors are still there, when our aid personnel are still there, when Australians are in danger supporting their friends and allies. Here the Opposition is calling for support for the enemies responsible for this aggression against those friends and allies.
One might say: ‘Well, what the Opposition says or does is not very effective. It does not have the force of government. Is there any harm in it?’ Perhaps we should remain silent to satisfy the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But this sort of activity on the part of the Labor Party does, in fact, do very great harm. The harm is that its propaganda and persistent agitation in support of North Vietnam’s aggression has the effect of giving encouragement to the communist forces. This goes around the world in headlines as Australia’s view. This does immense harm, and we would be recreant to our trust if we did not rise up and deplore it and condemn it in this Parliament. All of this propaganda is directed towards weakening support for those who are defending themselves, towards weakening the civil will of the people of America and towards weakening the civil will of the people of Australia.
It has in fact had a telling effect but I hope not a decisive effect upon the course of this war. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not support a military solution to this problem and that he wants a political solution. He condemns a military solution. That sounds good until one sees what he means by it. The Leader of the Opposition means by a political solution that we should accept the 7-point proposals of the North Vietnamese.
He came to Parramatta in my electorate recently. He is spending a great deal of time there and has even gone up the Parramatta River when he would have been much better off on the Georges River in his own electorate where the pollution would be very great. He attended a meeting at the Parramatta Town Hall and will be visiting there one evening this week. In addition he will be attending an Anzac Day ceremony for the first time in history as far as I know in my electorate. The Leader of the Opposition has made great play of the fact that he sent a telegram to the Prime Minister from Peking. He said this would have prevented all the fighting. The North Vietnamese 7-point plan was the king hit to prevent all the fighting in Vietnam. He said:
One of the last things that I tried to do about Vietnam was when I was in Peking. I sent a cable to Mr McMahon saying that North Vietnam’s 7-point proposals were genuine - they afforded the Americans an honourable outlet for their participation in Vietnam. I sent that to him. 1 sent it from China. It would almost certainly have been read by the authorities there before it left the country.
That is an oblique acknowledgement of the kind of society that exists there. He continued:
All the thanks I get from Mr McMahon were, to use his own words, ‘that I was putting the case for the enemy’.
He then went off at a tangent but came back and said:
For the very first time in the protracted hostilities in Vietnam the Chinese Government had endorsed the proposal made by Hanoi. The first time they had ever done it-
The Chinese, that is - the clearest indication that the proposal was a substantial and genuine one, one which would be seen through, that the people sponsoring it would in fact see it through, they would back it.
That is his solution. But when one looks at the plan he is putting - he seems to be proud of it - it involves the dismantling of the entire Administration in Saigon, the disbanding of the army and then the provisional revolutionary government - that is, the Vietcong - is to make arrangements for a government of national concord which would then hold elections. I would like to see the government of national concord after that. If that is not surrender and if that is not giving more than they could achieve by a military victory I do not know what is. After all they would get the cities undamaged in this proposal. The Leader of the Opposition agrees with this. He thinks it is very good stuff. He knows that this proposal would give the North Vietnamese more than a military victory would give them. It would mean simply that we would be joining our enemies to destroy our friends. Maybe it would stop the fighting and we could have avoided the killing. But so would killing have been avoided if the United Kingdom Government had invited Hitler over to take control of the United Kingdom Government during the last war. That would have stopped the fighting too. This is the type of proposal the Leader of the Opposition has in mind when he calls for a political solution. This is what he sent down with his own imprimatur on it. This is ridiculous.
When President Nixon called for a cease fire and the withdrawal of American troops on terms that free elections would be held under international supervision, that President Thieu would resign in order that this might be done and that the United States would support no candidate and would remain strictly neutral, that would have been a political settlement. It would have been an honourable one. But do we hear anything on thai from the Leader of the Opposition? No. There is dead silence, lt would have been an honourable plan calling for international supervision of elections and the resignation of President Thieu but would not have involved the handing over of the government to the enemy. The Leader of the Opposition would not have a bar of it. He would not support it.
There is one rather extraordinary feature about this. In the House on 18th April 1972 in an earlier debate recorded on page 1694 of Hansard the Leader of the Opposition berated the Government for its silence and acquiescence on the role of the Soviet Union. He said:
Russia, much more than China, has been responsible for supplying the means of war to Hanoi. Why this silence?
The attitude of the Opposition throughout this war has been that it is a civil war and that it is not really a war at all. The Government has been saying consistently that it is a war of aggression supported by Russia and China and we have been condemning this. Yet here, is the Leader of the Opposition berating the Government for not condemning Russia. This is a change of face. He is now saying that it is aggression from the north and that the Government is tardy in condemning Russia for supporting this aggression. What a turnabout, what an about-face!
– You do not like it.
– You heard my answer to that in the House yesterday. A couple of days ago the Leader of the Opposition said that Vietnamisation was to prepare South Vietnam for the day that it would confront the armies of Hanoi en masse’. He implies that this is a bad thing to do and that we should not help them. He knows that the challenge to them will come just the same. North Vietnam has brought the war and the division of the, people not only to South Vietnam but also to Laos and Cambodia and perhaps its aim is to obtain hegemony in Indo-China. The North Vietnamese are prepared to get their way at the cost of the. well being of their own people as well as that of their neighbours. The only alternative to giving in which is open to the peoples in those countries is to resist. The most telling thing in favour of this is the length of time that the people of South Vietnam have, been prepared to shed their blood in defence of their country even before any allies went to their assistance, the way in which they are still prepared to do so and the way in which there is no support in the country rising up to oust the administration in Saigon. The South Vietnamese may well be defeated and I think it would be a tragedy if the South were, defeated. But anything can happen in war, particularly when there is this colossal support of over $ 1,000m worth of equipment from Russia aiding the North Vietnamese in their attack. Anything could happen. South Vietnam could go under but it would be tragedy if it did. The desire for national independence, the staunch expression of that desire, has enabled other non-communist countries in the region to become stronger, more stable and resilient and it has been Australia’s interest to help South Vietnam to survive. This has also been in the interests of its neighbours further to the south. But the burdens of collective security unfortunately are falling harder on some than on others and the people of the Republic of Vietnam have had more than their fair share to bear.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I realise that your rulings have been in the past, that they are rulings which I also administer when I am in the chair, that when there is no reflection made on an individual certain things are permitted to be said. But on this occasion the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) went a little too far when he stated that there were members of the Opposition - he did not name them and I do not know whether he has the courage to name them - who were more or less happy to see North Vietnam win the war against South Vietnam. If he is referring to me personally I would say that he is an unmitigated liar and I will not withdraw that expression unless he withdraws his implication.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order as the honourable member well knows and I think he was taking advantage of the House on this occasion by seeking to make a personal explanation. The. honourable member did not ask whether he could make a statement.
– If he is referring to me I would say again that he is an unmitigated liar.
– Expel Cairns from the Party.
– You keep out of it.
– Order! It is not for the
Chair to decide to whom the Minister was referring.
– He has not got the courage.
– -Order! The honourable member for Sydney will restrain himself. The language he has used is not desirable and it should not be used in this House.
– I would say that to you if you said it, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member will restrain himself.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– If what the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) said has been correctly reported to me, I have been misrepresented. I have been informed by some people who were listening to the radio broadcast of his speech that he said I would be attending my first Anzac Day ceremony this year.
– In Parramatta.
– If he said that it would be my first Anzac Day ceremony in Parramatta he is inaccurate, because I have attended Anzac Day services in Parramatta on many occasions in the past. It is true that next Tuesday I shall be attending an Anzac Day service in Parramatta. It will be the fourth such service I shall be attending that day. I have attended Anzac Day services in Parramatta in the past, some of them at the place I shall be attending on this Anzac Day and some at the Returned Services League Club at Parramatta. I have also attended Anzac services for school children in Parramatta Park, hut not on Anzac Day. I have done this on several occasions during the IS years or so I have represented-
– I rise on a point of order. It has been explained by the Leader of the Opposition that he has attended Anzac services In Parramatta. Is it then allowable for him to go on with a 5 minute speech? This privilege is certainly not allowed to the back bench members in this Parliament.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I have said in this House before, and I had occasion to say it during the honourable member’s recent absence, that the House has always extended to the Leader of the Opposition additional leniency in respect of several matters, as it does to the Prime Minister.
– From 1955 to 1969 my electorate came within one mile of the town hall and the post office in the centre of Parramatta. I frequently received invitations to attend functions in Parramatta. When able, I accepted them. I still receive wIne of those invitations, which I appreciate and try to accept.
– I think in fairness to the Leader of the Opposition I should say that I accept the assurance he has given, but in explanation of what I put to the House myself I think, also in fairness, I should say that since I became the member for Parramatta in 1964 I have attended all Anzac Day services in Parramatta. I think that at the club the Leader of the Opposition will be attending on Sunday afternoon
– On Sunday afternoon there is a service to which the Leader of the Opposition has been invited. As I say, I accept his assurance. I can only say that I made my remark in good faith, because since 1964 in which time I have been attending all Anzac Day ceremonies, including I think all of the ones at the place which the Leader of the Opposition has been invited to attend on Sunday, I have never seen the Leader of the Opposition present.
- Mr Speaker-
-Order! I shall enforce the Standing Orders on this occasion.
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I believe-
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition seek leave to make a statement or does he wish to make a personal explanation?
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The Leader of the Opposition will say where he has been personally misrepresented.
– I believe that the Foreign Minister, I would think inadvertently, has misrepresented me in what he said. On a previous occasion he and I were both present at a ceremony at the club to which he has referred, and our wives were there too. I think that on further reflection he will concede that we have both been present.
– If that is so, I would apologise to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Perhaps I should say, with relevance to the previous discussion, that I have been attending Anzac Day ceremonies in my electorate for 32 years and there does not seem to be any dispute about it. Perhaps I should also say that I believe next week is the 150th anniversary of the establishment by Sir Thomas Brisbane of the first astronomical observatory in Australia at Parramatta and that in those days people associated with that area looked at things much more scientifically and analytically than they do today.
The Vietnam problem has been with us one way or another since the end of the Second World War. One does not want to go into a long dissertation on history, but it is a fact that the Government of France, having been defeated by the Germans in the Second World War, attempted to reassert its sovereignty over Indo-China in a way that other countries such as Britain had learnt was no longer relevant. So we had the position that between 1946 and 1954, up to Dien Bien Phu, the French Government attempted to assert its sovereignty over Vietnam. Then we had a hiatus in the situation. In the aftermath of the war in Korea the United States of America supported the Government of Emperor Bao Dai, later the Government of Ngo Dinh Diem and more recently a range of governments, including the Government which governs South Vietnam to the present point in time.
At the end of the Second World War we had an exercise in great power arrogance because then, as they have done in other times in the world, the great powers sat down and carved up the world like the turkeys that we carve up on Christmas Day. We have Germany parted, Korea parted and Vietnam parted. It is not a new thing. We all know of the pain we experience when we pick up the daily newspapers and read of the division in Ireland which has existed for over 50 years. So it is not anything new in the world. But just as the people of Ireland desire some form of unity and the people of Germany are trying to explore their way ahead to some eventual form of unity and, in more recent times in the aftermath of the visit of President Nixon to Peking, the people of Korea are once again trying to explore avenues for better relations between North and South Korea - a long road ahead, one would think - people will eventually seek a closer form of association between both parts of this country of Vietnam which is artificially divided. So it is that both parts of Vietnam acknowledge that they are portions of one country.
The debate that we are taking part in this afternoon and the endless series of debates on Vietnam that we have had over a long period of time reflect on the manner in which such unification will take place if in point of fact it is to take place. We know, of course, that Vietnam has not always been a united country. Sometimes this was the fault of the Vietnamese people and sometimes it was not. Sometimes it was because of the divisive force of the French colonial power which had a policy of divide and rule. The French were not alone in practising this policy. The British and all other colonial powers have taken this point of view from time to time.
We have not had the position in Vietnam presented by the Government in honest terms because the Government has sought to extract and grind out of the Vietnam situation, notwithstanding the suffering of the people of Vietnam, the last ounce of political advantage. So we have had a whole series of kaleidoscopes shown to us. We have heard the argument of aggression from the north. One can remember those Liberal pamphlets, ‘ Government pamphlets, usually printed in blue but for this purpose printed in red or perhaps yellow, showing arrows extending down towards Australia with the explanation that this was the thrust of Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
As a result of this philosphy there was a gradually increasing Australian involvement in Vietnam. Initially it was by way of advisers. In 1965 the first Australian battalion was sent to Vietnam and was stationed at Bien Hoa. In 1966 the involvement became larger when Australia took over responsibility for the Phuoc Tuy Province with 2 battalions stationed at Nui Dat. Subsequent to the 1966 election there were 3 battalions as well as Caribou and Canberra aircraft in Vietnam. The Australian involvement as it has emerged has given us not only a commitment to Vietnam but also a responsibility in what is happening in that country in the short term and in the long term as well. The Government made this commitment in the belief that it was supporting the establishment of a government in South Vietnam and that this action would give it a breathing space and an opportunity to consolidate its control and build up its support among the people by the wisdom of its rule and presumably by the justice of its rule. These propositions are now being put to the test. I am one of those people who trust that the Government of South Vietnam will survive because I do not want to see, as the Australian Labor Party does not want to see, a military settlement to the problems of Vietnam. We wish to see a political settlement.
We are told about the way in which Labor Party policy is determined by conference. We do not deny this. Perhaps I should place on record the policy that the Labor Party determined at its Launceston Conference in 1971. Under the heading Indo-China’ the following resolution was adopted:
Conference is gratified by the support now given at home and abroad to the ALP’s policies enunciated at ite 1965, 1967 and 1969 Conferences of opposition to the continuance of the war in Vietnam and Australian participation in it.
Conference recalls the resolutions of those conferences in favour of international arrangements for the economic and social recovery of IndoChina and the territorial integrity of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
An Australian Labor Government will stand ready to work with the Geneva participants or the United Nations or any other agency established for the purpose of rehabilitating and neutralising Indo-China.
While we on this side of the House quite vehemently disagree with the Australian involvement in Vietnam in the way in which it took place, we all admire the record of Australian forces committed to that area which carried on in the tradition of the Anzacs and those who fought in the Second World War.
One could well ask what they have achieved. Let Government supporters tell us what the position is today in Phuoc Tuy Province and those areas where Australian blood was shed, where Australian money was spent and where we devoted a great proportion of our resources to help establish the sort of administration that we believed should be established in South Vietnam - an honest, forthright administration working for the welfare of the people of South Vietnam. I make the point that these principles are now being put to the test.
A number of positions have been taken in Australia on this matter. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has taken a position. I think it would be fair comment to say that I have had some differences in my time with the DLP. I think that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, agree with that. It is a fact that the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party is quite consistent with the attitude that was held by the Government.
The statements made by representatives of the Democratic Labor Party are consistent with the view that what is happening is aggression from the north. Senator McManus and Senator Gair have said that Australian forces should go back to Vietnam. They say that irrespective of American involvement we ought to have troops in Vietnam committed to a cause which is so important to Australia. The Government is not prepared to support this point of view. It is not prepared to put Australian troops back into Vietnam, except in an advisory role. Forward defence for the Government means contributing 7,500 or 8,500 Australian troops when the Americans or other allies are committing half a million or three quarters of a million troops. That is what forward defence means to this Government.
The Government like Pontius Pilate is washing its hands of the whole affair. What a tragic situation. The Government says: ‘What treachery there has been on the part of the Labor Party! What a cowardly resolution was passed by the Victorian Council of the Labor Party!’ Notwithstanding this, no view has been expressed by Government supporters that Australian troops will again be committed to the war as they were in 1965 or 1966.
The Labor Party is not happy about the position in Vietnam. It does not want to see South Vietnam swallowed up by the north any more than it would want to see the reverse. Members of the Labor Party hope that some of the things that Government supporters have said are right, that the Government of South Vietnam has so justified itself to the people of that country that they will support it and resist in the war that is at present being fought so that there may be some political solution to the problem.
We recognise that the Vietcong - the socalled National Liberation Front - represents a very substantial point of view in South Vietnam. We cannot impose a solution on a people who are greater in number than the population of our country. Indeed, some 30 million people live in both parts of Vietnam. A solution cannot be imposed on them from outside. In this connection there is an element of arrogance in the Government’s point of view. One would hope that we could draw a line across the page and start again. But it would not be facing the facts of life to do so. A Labor government which will take office after the election on the last Saturday in November or the first Saturday in December of this year will inherit a situation. The Labor Party is very conscious of the fact that it will have to play a responsible role in government in settling the affairs in South Vietnam. I would like to make the point again that the Labor Party does not stand for military solution to the problems of Vietnam. The Labor Party trusts very earnestly that the South Vietnam Government will be able to take part in a negotiated settlement of the problems of Vietnam in accordance with the decisions made by the Geneva Conference, because the alternative is unthinkable.
The alternative is that this war, which has gone on for more than a quarter of a century, will be extended for a similar period. The expenditure of blood and the ravishing of the countryside will continue. It is very easy to take a partisan point of view. It is very easy to say: ‘Well, you know, the North Vietnamese have inherited the tradition of the Vietminh, the independence movement of Vietnam’. Perhaps that was true in the mid-1940s. Perhaps if that country had been given independence at that time the outcome would have been different. But this is an academic question and no-one knows the answer because that did not happen.
On the other hand, one can well understand the point of view taken by President Nixon. He does not want to be the first American President to lose a war. I am not altogether sure that this did not happen in America in the war of 1812 when the White House was burnt down. Still, I suppose the idea of a just war commends itself very much to the American way of life. The Americans do not have the background that the British have because the British fought an infinite number of colonial wars which they sometimes won and sometimes lost. When the British lost a war they postponed or adjourned that conflict for 20 or 30 years and then tried again. This was the way in which the British Empire was built up.
We live in a different world today. Let us look at the situation as it stands. The
Labor Party does not want to see the problems of Vietnam solved by military means alone. We recognise that there are 2 opposing forces in Vietnam. One hopes - I certainly hope - that the North Vietnamese will not be able to take over the country by force of arms. I was interested in the speech made by the. Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) in which he said in effect that this matter is open to doubt, that it remains to be seen whether the South Vietnamese will be successful or not. We do not want to see South Vietnam taken over by force of arms. We want to see both parts of Vietnam arrive at a political solution for the unification of the country.
With that in mind we have criticised various things that our American friends have done. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlan) recently criticised the massive commitment of the Soviet Union and, of course, the People’s Republic of China. Honourable members might say that I am a theorist. They may think that what I have put forward is a bit unreal and ask how does one turn this war off once it has started. But the alternative is pretty terrible. The alternative is escalation.
Who are suffering because of this conflict? It is the ordinary people of Vietnam. The people of the Soviet Union who supply to the’ forces of North Vietnam arms such as the rockets that rain on to Saigon, and the pilots of the B52 bombers which are raining bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong, are killing ordinary people. The Labor Party wants the bloodshed to stop. It wants a political solution to the problems of Vietnam. We realise that this is not an easy problem to solve. We realise that the road ahead is long. But the Labor Party, in government as in opposition, would strive to work through every diplomatic avenue possible, through the United Nations and through our influence with the United States and the Soviet Union to bring about a peaceful solution to the war in Vietnam. The alternative is unthinkable.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The extraordinary postures adopted by the Australian Labor Party on Vietnam are typical of its general attitude towards defence and they deserve exposure. Labor’s policy is a case history of attitudes towards communist aggression which underlines an approach bordering on the dangerous and which at times is almost un-Australian. It could well be asked by a visitor to this country why it is that the Labor Party always seems to be following the communist line in its defence postures. The ALP is not concerned about the presence of Soviet navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. It does not seem to be concerned about the defence vacuum that ALP policies towards Malaysia and Singapore would cause. The Labor Party seeks to denigrate Australia’s alliances in ANZUS and SEATO. It refuses to accept that for IS years communist aggression has been going on in South Vietnam. To my knowledge, the Labor Party has made no protest whatsoever against the invasion of Laos and Cambodia by North Vietnamese forces over the past decade or longer.
A contender for the Labor Party Leadership, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who would be a senior Minister in a Labor government, continually mouths justification of North Vietnamese aggression in South Vietnam in a puppet-like fashion. I quote the Hansard report of 12th April, when the honourable member for Lalor said:
I believe and am fully convinced that the North Vietnamese are justified in the action they have taken in South Vietnam.
That is an appalling statement, pregnant with threat for the Australian way of life. Is it any wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) came back from Peking with a message from the Chinese Prime Minister, Chou En-lai, that China looks forward to the time when Labor takes office?
It is in the field of Australia’s national defence that one of the widest differences of opinion exists between the Government and the Labor Party. The Government has been scrupulous, through treaties and active mutual co-operation with our neighbours in the region, to ensure that any potential aggressor would be deterred by the strength of our alliances. Thus, for example, we have worked to ensure the continued validity of the ANZUS Treaty. Last year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) won a ringing reaffirmation of the ANZUS Treaty and a wide-ranging expression of faith from President Nixon. The President said:
I believe this Treaty is one of the fundamental pillars of our policy for peace in the Pacific . . . This Treaty goes far beyond simply that piece of paper.
What a great guarantee of alliance in defence are the President’s words. But it is a guarantee which the Australian Labor Party at that time and since has sought to denigrate and to wave airily aside. That is Labor’s attitude and has been its attitude to ANZUS for 20 years. Indeed, last year the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party threw out of its platform a clause saying that the alliance is essential and must continue.
The Labor Party is also the Party which has consistently sought to denigrate the SEATO alliance. Last year the Party’s Federal Conference also dropped all specific reference to that Treaty. Not content with these attempts to scuttle Australia’s alliances, the Labor Party has thrown alarm into our colleague governments in Malaysia and Singapore by its attitude to what is known as the 5-power defence arrangements for that area, to which this Government subscribes. Labor sees these arrangements as only transitional. In the words of the Leader cf the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the Government’s forward defence policy will be ‘discarded’ by a Labor government. But the fact is that Singapore and Malaysia regard the arrangements as being of the first importance and would be deeply upset at the Australian withdrawal promised by the Opposition. Labor’s policy would cause the collapse of the 5-power arrangements and the destruction of confidence in Australia.
In addition to this, one thing is sure - Asian countries and indeed other nations must be horrified at the extraordinary rudeness and naivete of the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) who has been prattling in public about the contents of a closed meeting he had with Singapore’s Foreign Minister. There is no doubt that the honourable member for St George has caused great embarrassment and concern, not only by discussing his conversation - which is something never done in diplomacy - but also by giving a partial and misleading account. The Opposition has a penchant for continuing stupidity over Malaysia and Singapore. Late last year, for instance, we saw a public difference of opinion on forward defence between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister of Singapore. And then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was prepared to fly in the face of expert international opinion - such as the SEATO military advisers and Britain’s just retired Commander-in-Chief in the Far East - and to gloss over the activities of Soviet navy forces in the Indian Ocean, which pose a new disturbing power factor in an unstable area following Britain’s withdrawal.
We have also had the extraordinary spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition trying to lay an odorous smoke screen over the Government’s assistance to Cambodia. He seems to be prepared to ignore the needs of the Cambodians who for many years have been suffering from a Hanoi-inspired invasion of communism, including a blitzkrieg of North Vietnamese troops. This attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is in line with his insulting attitude to Cambodia when he was having his kow-tow with Chou in Peking. One facet of the ALP’s lack of a credible defence posture is that the Party does not have many men like the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). 1 do not hold any particular brief for the honourable member, as he knows, but at least he had the courage to stand up and be counted over Cambodia. He said that there were 30,000 North Vietnamese in Cambodia who were committing blatant aggression. Those were his words. He said that there was no reason at all why Cambodians should not receive arms from Allied nations. I think that the honourable member for Wills should take the honourable member for Lalor to one side and tell him some of the truths about communist aggression in Asia today. Then perhaps the honourable member for Lalor, who has been mouthing justification of North Vietnamese aggression, might come to acknowledge the truth.
I want now to describe a case history of communist aggression to pinpoint the perfidy of the Labor Party’s defence poli cies. I take as an example Vietnam, where the Opposition has in effect been urging Allied capitulation. The. Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Lalor make a fine pair - the one capitulating to the communists and the other saying that North Vietnam’s invasion of the. South, and presumably the North’s invasion of Laos and Cambodia, is justified.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.
– Order! The honourable member for Sturt should raise it.
– I will get on with it when they keep quiet. There is a notice on the notice paper at page 13288 which reads as follows: 4 Mr McMAHON: To move- That this House supports the principle of the guaranteed neutrality of Cambodia and the two fundamental principles of the Bandung Conference to be internationally observed. That is-
That stands on the notice paper of this House. Why does the Government not continue the debate on that particular matter standing in the name of the Prime Minister instead of going on with the claptrap that is allowed here today?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, we have become used to the antics of the honourable member for Sturt in pulling points of order which have no substance. When the Geneva Agreements on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were, drawn up in 1954 one article of the Agreements called for the complete cessation of all hostilities in Vietnam by all armed forces. Honourable members should bear in mind that at this time the colonial French were withdrawing and there were no Allied combat troops of any kind in South Vietnam. But from the beginning North Vietnam violated the Agreements. For example, in 1962 South Vietnam presented evidence to the International Control Commission which comprised Canada, India and Poland. This evidence was of infiltration from the, North and of aggression in violation of article 10. The findings of the International Control Commission were as follows:
There is sufficient evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt, aggression was committed by North Vietnam.
Previously the legal committee of me Commission had stated that the North Vietnamese army ‘has allowed the zone in the North to be used for inciting, encouraging and supporting hostile activities in the zone of the South aimed at the overthrow of the administration in the South’. These activities are what the honourable member for Lalor is keen to describe as a civil war. There are many sorts of examples of North Vietnamese aggression against the South. For further evidence, I refer honourable members to a Radio Hanoi broadcast in February 1959 which claimed: ‘Our attack has inflicted serious losses on the enemy . . .’. Again, in May 1960 the Politburo of the Communist Party of North Vietnam announced: ‘The time has come to push the armed struggle against the enemy’.
This year we have had the spectacle of North Vietnamese tanks rumbling into South Vietnam in overt aggression. This most recent high point of communist aggression has been acclaimed by the associates of the honourable member for Lalor in the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, who voted by a clear majority to express support for and satisfaction with what they described as ‘this progress’. Need I add that the honourable member for Lalor, who one day may lead the Labor Party, has described this communist thrust as ‘justified’? The logical follow-on from that point is that the honourable member for Lalor and large sections of the Labor Party, as evidenced by the Victorian Branch, obviously believe that the North Vietnamese and other communists have been justified in killing Australian soldiers. I am sickened by the approach of such members of the Labor Party and I am sure that every loyal Australian also is sickened and horrified. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition will try to paper over the cracks in this latest expose over North Vietnam but what the Australian people are realising more and more is that the ALP simply cannot be trusted in the vital and delicate fields of foreign affairs and defence.
– Appropriately enough, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) petered out. He had 2 or 3 minutes remaining to him. This is a red letter day in a debate of this sort in this House. We have had 3 Cabinet Ministers participate. One would have thought that from all that power and heavyweight material we would have received some really effective announcements on what Australia’s foreign and defence policy in this context ought to be.
It is significant that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) opened the debate. The significance is that the Government is trying to turn the debate into an argument about the defence of Australia. We on this side of the House disagree with the view that the war in Vietnam has anything to do with the defence of Australia. We do not say that it has nothing to do with the morality of international affairs or with the concern for humanity or such matters as that; but we do say - we have said this for years and now it is obvious that the Government also says it - that the war in Vietnam is not significant to the defence of Australia because if it were significant to the defence of Australia the Government would be sending the troops hack there to hold the line.
I suppose the present outbreak of open warfare indicates the absolute and ruthless cynicism of Government supporters because in this instance, although the war in fact is an open war, they are silent about Australian’s involvement or commitment there. From the very day the Government launched Australia’s involvement, the Labor Party denied that that involvement was necessary. We opposed it bitterly both in the public arena and in the parliamentary arena. We opposed it in 1966 at great political cost. We oppose it now, and it is quite obvious from public opinion that the Australian public have finally moved to the same position as the Labor Party. I believe that it is quite inept to talk about the influence of communist aggression in this context.
What is the record on Vietnam? The sorry and unhappy record on Vietnam is a series of actions which have been consistent breaches of faith. At the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945 there was a possible solution to the problem. The
Vietminh could have taken over Vietnam. In fact, they did for a month or two. But finally the allies breached all that and, with the return of the French, the present continuing, sorry, sad and tragic war was implemented. Then, in 1954 there were the Agreements which we are always so fond of quoting. One must admit that in 18 years it is likely that 2 different forms of society have been created in the North and the South. They have 2 different forms of government. They are not 2 different countries, but they are 2 completely different government areas.
We on this side of the House believe that there is no solution in war. We also believe that we should be expending all our efforts to try to produce a diplomatic solution to the problem. We believe that Australia’s commitment to Vietnam prejudiced our rights in this area as honest brokers in the international arena and that, having committed ourselves to one side or the other, we could no longer step into the discussions about Vietnam as a neutral and impartial country on the side of humanity and not supporting either side. Is there anybody in this House who would really want to live under either government? Neither government gets any cheers from me. The Government which I sit opposite, which I can study and the members of which I know closely, has my extreme distrust. I use the term in a political sense and not in a personal one. Generally speaking, the further away governments are, the less I am likely to like them.
There is further evidence of breaches of faith. The Gulf of Tonkin incident is one. Is it not true that it has now been admitted that the Americans embarked upon some of the assaults on North Vietnam in 1964 and 1965 upon the basis of a false analysis of a military operation and that the Gulf of Tonkin incident is one of the sorry episodes of history? Then there is our own involvement. I can recall the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, coming into this House and announcing that Australia was to commit troops to Vietnam. We on this side of the House opposed it from that moment. Then we began to ask the Prime Minister what was the basis upon which this commitment had been undertaken. We were told - honourable members can look this up in the records - that we had been asked. It took ages to find anybody who could find any document in which we had been asked to commit troops. Of course, at thai time, there was the unhappy coincidence between, on one hand, the visit of the then Treasurer, the late Harold Holt, to Washington, the Australian request to the United States for further financial assistance in the forms of loans and so on and Australia’s need for American financial investment in this country and, on the other, the American need to have some token involvement in Vietnam by another country.
I believe that the Government, supported by honourable members most of whom are still sitting opposite, embarked upon that exercise with no understanding of what it really meant. They had no understanding that this would involve us in the death of 500 young Australians and the mutilation of a couple of thousand more and that it would divide the country. The Government thought, by some mysterious means, that it would be able to plant a battalion of Australians on foreign soil and just leave it there quietly as a token and an insurance premium but at no cost in lives, blood and division. The Government has constantly given us this misleading view. At that time, the Chinese were in the fray. One was given to understand that the Chinese were pouring down from the north, but nobody found the Chinese anywhere. We have been continually misled.
Now, we have come to 1972. What does the Government expect? What does it expect the North Vietnamese to do when they are attacked by aircraft and heavy artillery? What does it expect the South Vietnamese to do? What do the North Vietnamese expect the Americans to do? For heaven’s sake, can we not see that when war comes in reason flies out; that there is no possibility of getting common sense out of either side of the commitment; and that when we have reached this stage in human affairs, whether it is in individual affairs between 2 people who have come to acts of violence or whether it is affairs between nations, somebody must come between them and entice people to stop killing one another? That is where we stand. I believe that we must try to extend into international affairs the ordinary morality of civil life, and this is what is going on now. Australia somehow must take an entirely new position.
What is my position? It is one of the great excitements of this House that, whenever we debate this subject, honourable members opposite quote some of my statements with approval. They would have only to take all my positions and approve them and adopt them for the country to be in much better shape. Where do I stand? I start on the assumption that no-one has the right to dispose of another’s life. I stand for a party that opposes capital punishment, even for the most heinous crimes. Therefore, we have no right to kill for politic purposes; nor have the Americans the right to kill people in North Vietnam for a political solution; nor have the people of the North the right to kill the Khmer, the Lao or the Vietnamese of the North or the South in order to solve a political problem But as I said earlier, the facts are that when war enters reason flies and therefore others have to enter the fray.
I am one of .those who believe that national unity is not a case for killing people. I would not believe that it is worth one drop of blood to unite any nation. There has to be a political solution. What concerns me in this context is ‘the total disregard for the victims of the war - the victims in the North and the victims in the South. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ the other day contained an article headed ‘City of fear - Young and old ready to flee!’. It referred to Hanoi. I have in my hand a newspaper photograph which is described as:
Tran Huu, a 54-year-old North Vietnamese, holds a small child as he sits with other wounded.
– What about a picture of a South Vietnamese victim?
– I was coming to that. The honourable member is, of course, one of those people who supports selective humanity. This morning on a broadcast of World Round-up by the British Broadcasting Corporation’ I heard these words:
Villagers stood around their shattered houses weeping. The bodies of a man, Ms wife and family lay where they had been burned to death. North Vietnamese infantry had attacked the town.
I am not on either side. I believe they are both wrong and I believe tht the criminal operation of this Government has been to ignore the fact of humanity and ignore Australia’s duty to get into the international arena and force international forums to accept the responsibility to stop people killing one another. I am one of the first to admit that this is difficult. I am the first to admit that it will not be easy to stop them. The Minister for Defence who is sitting at the table has just laughed. He is a man with a distinguished war service. He knows what war is about. Some of the people who sit behind him and who are of military age do not know what it is about so I am not surprised at their” lack of understanding. That is where the Opposition stands and somehow Australia has to achieve that objective. The Government has made serious miscalculations and is continuing to make them.
I have been quoted in regard to what I have said about Cambodia. Of course it is true in regard to what I said in 1966 when I was in Cambodia but nobody took any notice when I came home and said that the North Vietnamese were committing aggression against Laos and that they will commit aggression against Cambodia if the exigencies of the war demand it because when a war gets going we accept the military emergencies and forget the niceties. That is the way it has always gone. I said then - this is recorded in Hansard - that we should be taking steps to guarantee the neutrality, integrity and soverighty of Cambodia but nobody did anything about it. Fighting a rearguard action from the back benches of the Opposition - that is what we were doing - you do not have much international initiative, but the people opposite have. Honourable members opposite are governing one of the world’s wealthiest countries, one of the most powerful countries in this region, one that in the past has been able to influence international events and one which 25 years ago when it was much less significant internationally was able to get the independence of Indonesia guaranteed through United Nations action and also was able to launch Israel as an independent nation.
– They do not believe in diplomacy.
– That is correct, and this is my accusation against them. That is why I ask with all the force at my disposal that we drop the political gimmickry and get down to the business of trying to shake the chanceries of the world to see whether we can get international response because it is one of the most sorry episodes in recent history to see people standing back and cheering one side or the other. It is true - I will put this briefly - that last Sunday in Victoria at a Labor Party conference a majority of 111 to 96 did give their imprimatur to the North Vietnamese. I opposed it. I can continue to oppose it. It is fortunate that we on this side have the kind of political structure in which one can do that and can continue to do it. On the other side of the House there is no political structure which can have any influence upon anybody. The resolution of the Victorian conference was adopted by a small portion of a part of the Australian Labor Party and it has nothing to do with our policy.
I believe that it is important and a matter of urgency for Australia to accept that at this stage diplomatic initiative is the only real contribution we can make and that we have to stop cheering either side. I for one do not want to see anybody win by military power. I believe that it is a bad thing at this stage of the world’s history for people to achieve power by military means. We have to take diplomatic initiative. The Government’s miserable gimmickry in this matter is, I believe, a disgrace to the nation. I have seen no tears shed by members on the other side in respect of anybody in the North or in the South. What Government supporters mean by Vietnamisation is the Vietnamisation of Australian politics for their political benefit. This Government is going to try to bring this into the political arena and continually identify us with people whom this Government thinks the citizens of Australia will reject. That is a very miserable performance and I think it is nearly time that we accepted the fact that in the world at large it will only be by persuasion that we will get a final result.
We will not be measured by our weight in battleships. We will be measured by where we stand on matters on international morality and we must realise that the world is still to be won by people who take that stand. Therefore I hope that the House will use whatever persuasive powers it has upon the Ministry to ensure that this occasion is not the last occasion on which we can have an open-ended debate about a subject such as this. Is it not possible for honourable members opposite somehow to exercise some influence upon that Micawber-like Ministery which is waiting for something to turn up politically instead of accepting its bounden duty to humanity in North Vietnam or in South Vietnam, it does not matter which?
– This has been a most interesting debate and one of the most interesting things about it is the game of tactics that has been played throughout the whole day. Firstly, this morning the Opposition moved a motion in respect of what it called racial prejudice within Australia. I question whether in fact honourable members opposite truly believe that this exists. Most of their speeches were prepared speeches. Most of their speeches were given to the newspapers and they know that the newspapers being what they are will give them maximum coverage in this country tonight. The second point which I think is of interest is to note what was said by the speakers who have taken part in this debate on the defence statement this afternoon. I cannot disagree with the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross). I believe he is an honourable and truthful man. He was one of those who spoke on this matter when he came back from Vietnam and he told us the situation which existed there but whether his views were able to be explained is another matter. The same refers to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who, when he came back from Cambodia, said that nobody listened to what he had to say. Do not let him imply that nobody on this side listened. Nobody on the other side - the Labor Party side - listened to him. We remember the actions that were alleged to have been taken in an endeavour to silence the honourable member.
The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) is to follow me in this debate. Again he is an honourable man and I draw his attention and the attention of the House to a lecture that he gave on Labor ideology and the significance of the so-called similarity between Communist Party policy in Vietnam and the policy of the Labor Party at that time. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say today. One of the interesting things to which the honourable member for Wills referred was that he does not believe in killing. He said that you must not take one side or the other. But the honourable member has never been able to supply an answer to what can be done when the other side insists on killing. What do you do when the other side will not be stopped by political discussion? Has he forgotten the attempts of Hugh Gaitskell the former British Labour Party leader; the attempts by Walker of the British Labour Party and by Wilson, the Leader of the British Labour Party to endeavour to bring about peace negotiations? Does the honourable member for Wills not know that many members on his side have recently been in the Soviet Union and are continuing to go to the Soviet Union? Are they to speak in this debate about the great influence that they had in the Soviet Union? The Opposition’s attack is one of hypocrisy and the tactics used today have been to create a smoke screen to confuse the Australian people as to the true situation.
I have just returned to Australia from abroad. I attend an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in the Cameroons, which was formerly French Equatorial Africa. I was there when the North Vietnamese started their attack on the South Vietnamese and I saw the reaction of the small nations of Africa and the Asian nations in regard to what was taking place in Vietnam and whether these nations were committed or uncommitted or whether they were trying to play both sides or not. The concern that was in the minds of these nations was obvious when the bulletin appeared on the notice boards. They were concerned that the North Vietnamese, with the support of the Soviet Union and with sophisticated weaponry, were moving throughout South Vietnam in an endeavour to take the provincial cities.
One could see that each and every one of these nations had realised that here was another small nation which was likely to be knocked off, to lose its freedom, by the might of aggression about which the honourable member for Wills talks on the one hand but on the other can give no solution as to how it is to be prevented. Is there not in Australia some conscience about what is happening in South Vietnam and what could happen? The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) rightly said that we support South Vietnam. We did send troops to Vietnam. We did withdraw them, and I am not sure that I agree fully that the timing of the withdrawal was correct. Frankly, I believe that the decision to withdraw our troops from Vietnam was a political one; it certainly was not a military one.
There is no doubt that talks have continued and are supposedly continuing in Paris in an endeavour to obtain a political settlement to the war in Vietnam. But up to the present time not one worthwhile advance has been made because of the stubbornness not of the South Vietnamese or of the United States, but of the North Vietnamese and those who support them. Does anybody in Australia care about what was the reaction in Singapore last week when the conference of the Association of South East Asian Nations was taking place; when those nations which are still on the list - each one of them has in some way been subverted from within - got together to review the situation in South East Asia and in Asia? It may be of interest if I read from an article in the Press about what was said at that conference, because nothing has been said about it in this House. Let me read it and ask whether we in Australia should be concerned or not. The article in the ‘Herald’ of 14th April 1972, under the heading Vietnam Moves Over Asia Talks’, states:
No country in Asia, perhaps not even China, could accept the arrival of a unified Vietnam with much inward calm.
Historically, the Vietnamese and their forebears have been troublemakers in the region.
A united Vietnam would have one of the most powerful armies on earth, certainly the one most hardened in combat.
The Chinese Army has not fought a real war for decades.
Nor have the Indonesians, the Malaysians, the Filipinos.
Singapore has never been tested.
Put that way, can we in Australia observe what is happening in South Vietnam without having some concern about our own defence? I hope the Australian people who are presently listening to the broadcast of these proceedings realise that this is one of the most important issues confronting Australia. There may be important issues such as education, hospitals and social services, but the most basic important issue which every man, woman and child who has any concern for Australia has to consider is where do we go in the future?
What is the purpose of the Communists? Today I heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) probably for the first time in his life admit that the Communists are involved in South Vietnam. What is their purpose? It is the same tactic and technique - divide and conquer; break South Vietnam away from the alliance; move away one edge of the alliance and isolate it. This is what is taking place with the small nations in the international forums of the world today, and this is realised by Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. It is a good thing to get out of Australia for a while, observe this country from afar and suddenly, perhaps with a clearer mind, to question what is taking place in Australia. I arrived in Singapore on the Friday. What were the headlines in the Press in Singapore? They were that a leading member of the Labor Party shadow Ministry had come out clearly in support of the aggression in South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Communist forces. When I returned to Australia I found that a powerful section of the Labor Party had voted in support of the Communist forces of North Vietnam.
I am not saying that this policy has the approval of the honourable member for Wills or the honourable member for Brisbane, but where in this debate are the honourable member for Lalor, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James)? This is one matter upon which the Australian people have got to make up their minds. We know that a Federal election is to be held this year. There may be problems in Australia and there may be criticisms of the Australian Government at the present time. But the important decision which the Australian people have to make is: Is the Labor Party genuine in its policy in respect of Vietnam and its opposition to Communism? If a guess is made, and it is wrong, after the election it will be too late for the people to say that they did not know. If the statements of the Leader of the Opposition are only to cover over the facade until after the election, if the statements of Mr Ken Carr, who, on behalf of the 26 revel unions in Victoria spoke to the motion on Vietnam moved by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, are correct, that every true Socialist in the Labor Party supports the National Liberation Front and wants the Communists to win in Vietnam - if these are the true outlooks of the Australian Labor Party - after the election it will be too late for the Australian people to say that they did not know.
What credibility can Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, or Malaysia, or New Zealand or any of those countries with which we have alliances - the United States of America, if you like - place on Australia’s future defence policy when all the time the alternative government of Australia - perhaps only a powerful section of it, or the whole of it - is prepared to repudiate our alliance with the United States, to attack the United States and to give succour to the Communist forces in Vietnam? There is no doubt that the threats facing the world have now moved to Asia and to South East Asia. The game is being played in this arena. This is something in which the Australian people have every right to be interested and they have every right to be disgusted with the Labor Party and its politics. But the end decision which the Australian people have to make in respect of themselves, their children and the future of Australia is: Can they place reliance on and trust in the Labor Party when it talks about defence alliances and Communism?
I will be most interested to hear what the honourable member for Fremantle will say on this question because I believe that he is an honest, true and good Australian. He has frequently been vilified by his own Party, but I would put my future and the future of my children in his hands. I, and I am sure others whom the honourable member for Fremantle has influenced in the past, will listen with great interest to what he says today. We will be interested to hear how he explains what is happening in South Vietnam and how he sees the future of Australia should it ever come about that the Labor Party becomes the Government.
– I should like to thank the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) for his entirely unsolicited tribute. For the 27 years that I have been in this Parliament there has been a war in Vietnam. When I first came into this Parliament in 1945 the United States policy was to prevent France from reasserting its authority over its former colony of Indo-China. The French Government wished to return to Indo-China. The United States, in an anti-colonial phase of policy, prevented this return. The result was that the Japanese surrendered to Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh received Japan’s arms and started his campaign for sovereignty over Indo-China. United States policy then went through a reversal. The Americans decided that Ho Chi Minh was not an agrarian reformer but a Red, that he was dangerous. Their policy became one of trying to assist the re-establishment of French authority, with certain adjuncts to this policy relating to the restoration of the former Emperor of Indo-China, Bao Die. France then began a 10-year struggle to reassert its authority in a military quagmire. All through that period of struggle it was the policy of the Australian Government in general, and Sir Robert Menzies in particular, to classify all those opposing the restoration of French authority as Reds. This included, of course, most of the members of Diem’s Cabinet. Diem would have been, in the terminology of the first 10 years that I was a member of this Parliament, one of the Reds.
Of course, American policy was facing the tremendous complication of intervening in Asia from outside. They were faced with this dilemma: If they did not help France to reassert its authority, they probably would be conniving at the conquest of the whole area by the communists, and if they did assist the French to reassert their authority they would alienate all the nationalist forces in Vietnam. They never have solved that dilemma. It led ultimately, of course, to the partition of Vietnam. I agree that partitions can become real in the sense of forming a quasi nationhood. I cannot see how one confidently can dismiss this as not being a civil war however. Equally I cannot see how one can say confidently that it has no characteristics of an international war. Obviously there are the characteristics of both a civil war and an international conflict in Ulster. If there were war between the 2 parts of Germany obviously there would be international overtones. Let us drop the propaganda and recognise that in trying to discuss this as an international war or a civil war both sides are in difficulties with respect to classifica- tion. This began the problems of the United States, when the United States policy was to assist France.
For 10 years the French tried to reassert their authority, but they never succeeded in doing so. French authority ended with Dien Bien Phu and the partition. Diem was then installed in power as a result of the United States policy. As far as I can see, Diem was a faithful ally. I have always taken the view that in Europe the United States was more enlightened than Britain. The United States draws its population from all European countries. If honourable members cast their minds back to 1919 it is clear that when President Wilson was trying to restore nations like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, Lloyd George had no idea of what he was talking about. The whole weight of Lloyd George’s policy was towards a European settlement that made inevitable the rise of Hitler. When the United States had the whip hand in Europe after the Second World War the Marshall Plan of 1945 was far more enlightened than was British policy between 1919 and 1921.
When it comes to Asia, the United Kingdom has forgotten more than the United States ever learnt. The British would never have overthrown a faithful ally like Diem. They would never, for instance, have ruled India for 200 years if every maharajah who loyally supported them had been overthrown by them. The United States, in a quite massive convulsion of policy, turned on Diem. They turned the Vietnamese situation from one in which they needed about 300 advisers to one in which they needed 600,000 troops.
I must admit that I was one of those people who believed Sir Robert Menzies when he stood in this House and announced that the United States fleet had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin- that the destroyers ‘Maddox’ and “Turner Joy’ had been attacked by North Vietnamese forces. We now know that prior to this the United States fleet was bombarding North Vietnam. They were not at war with North Vietnam at that stage and it would have been lunatic madness for the pathetic motor boats owned by North Vietnam to have attacked United States naval units. On that mad night of the alleged attack the sonar operators on tha ‘Maddox* and the Turner Joy5 were national servicemen with no experience. These operators were listening to echoes underneath their own ships and every time their ships turned their rudders to change course the rudders came near their own propellors and these men identified the charged echo they heard as torpedoes coming at their ships. The ships radioed to the Pentagon that they were being attacked.
From the subsequent Senate proceedings we now know that one ship picked up the other on its radar screen and identified it as an enemy. All rockets and guns were trained, the order was given to fire but the officer of the watch, having an inhibiting button, stopped the fire and required the target to be illuminated with star shell. When it was illuminated it was seen that it was their consort. Had they fired, of course, both would have been radioing the Pentagon that they were under attack, no doubt from North Vietnamese forces. On the basis of the accusation that they had been attacked the United States started the bombing of North Vietnam. One does not have to agree or disagree with the communists. What we now know to have been a quite false charge was made and suddenly Hanoi and other cities and places in the north were bombed heavily by the United States on what, from the northern communist government point of view, would have been a completely unfounded charge that it had attacked the United States fleet. If a fleet of a couple of motor boats were prepared to take on the greatest fleet in the world, they must have had a particularly unbalanced tactical outlook.
Everything that has been said by every Minister this afternoon is actually an argument for the return ot Australian forces to Vietnam, and the return of such forces in great numbers. If it is true that because of events in Vietnam our country is in danger - that is what the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn) said - our withdrawal from that area and the Government’s failure to have anything more than a token force there becomes something that the Government is obliged to explain. If the normal explanation which sometimes is given by the Government’s ally, the Democratic Labor Party, which is that it was necessary for Australia to have token forces in Vietnam in order to encourage the United States to be there with significant forces, then such a motive is contemptible. That would be an exploitatoin of the blood of the United States. If, in fact, the Government believes that the safety and future of Australia is being determined in Vietnam, there is no ground for the withdrawal of troops that has taken place and there is every ground for their return to Vietnam in increased numbers. But this is not said.
The honourable member for La Trobe, who has just spoken, asked me to explain certain things. I think it is up to the Government to explain why, if it really believes that the situation in Vietnam is not one which justifies the withdrawl of troops, the troops have been withdrawn. Early this year we were informed that the situation was such that the troops could now be withdrawn because Vietnamisation had taken place. Vietnamisation meant that the people of South Vietnam would be able to defend themselves. I do not know whether they can. Certainly the offensives that are now taking place seem to be somewhat of the same scale as the Tet offensive with the difference that attempting to counter the offensives now there are no longer large numbers of United States troops which confronted the Tet blow, no longer Korean troops and no longer Australian troops. A campaign which appears to be about the magnitude of the Tet offensive is taking place without the forces to resist it that were there to resist (lie Tet offensive. This was not said when the forces were being withdrawn. You can explain the Government’s policy if you use a different key altogether from the military situation. You can explain the Government’s policy of a token involvement in Vietnam when it was a political asset with the electorate of this country to be involved there, and the withdraw! of our troops at a time when it ceased to be a political asset to be involved there. I believe that the whole of the Vietnam policy and every item of the speeches this afternoon have been designed to extract political advantage from participation in the war and from reference to the war. That, I believe, is the primary concern of the Government.
I want to go back over some of the points. The only great power whose troops have actually been involved in Vietnam is the United States of America. For a long time we were told that China was involved. Everybody on this side of the House will remember publications of the Department of External Affairs, as it then was, which suggested that Chinese troops were actually involved. One afternoon in this House the late Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt, suddenly admitted that the Chinese were not involved. China, of course, has provided comparatively insignificant weapons. As one distinguished Australian soldier put it, China has provided the ginger beer and Russia has provided the champagne. The sophisticated weapons have all come from the Soviet Union. The United States of America made a wrong diagnosis about Vietnam. I will not go into the minor diagnoses - its anti-colonialism against the French, its mistake in supporting the French and its action in overthrowing Diem. I leave those aside - but the basic United States diagnosis about Vietnam was that it was an area of confrontation with the major Communist powers. The United States of America now knows that the Soviet Union has not the slightest reason for regret at United States involvement in Vietnam. The Soviet Union fights the US by giving the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong weapons. It fights the US by proxy while maintaining a diplomatically correct attitude somewhere else.
Equally, China has not the slightest reason to regret United States involvement in Vietnam, and the whole of American policy now is directed to getting out of Vietnam with honour and then deploying her strength in the areas of confrontation that do matter, and the areas of confrontation that do matter are the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The whole of the rather strange policy which the US has pursued towards India - a rather clumsy policy, I believe, because it did not have to treat India almost as an enemy - has been to conciliate Pakistan because of the significance of the Pakistan alliance to the US in the Middle East. What has been taking place in the Indian sub-continent is another of the signs of the reorientation of US policy.
The USA has forfeited t’-e goodwill of most of the Islamic cowers with her Israeli policy. Her one Islamic card is Pakistan. That is why v/e are getting this change of policy. As for her attitude towards China, President Nixon has followed the rather amazing policy of discussing with China India’s possession of Kashmir - an extremely dangerous policy because if it led to anything, it could bring China over the Himalayas into Kashmir. The reason for this is that the US is trying to exploit the divisions between the Soviet Union and China. America has come very belatedly to a policy which it derided when General de Gaulle first stated it. General de Gaulle believed that a ‘union des patries’, a united Europe, would be possible because the Soviet Union was distracted on her eastern border by China. To support China in that distraction has become America’s policy. So all the commentaries over recent years about Chinese involvement in Vietnam and about America really opposing China in Vietnam, not a minor communist power, like so many other things in American policy, will be disposed of in a 180 degrees turn in foreign policy. So, we had better not be too dogmatic about the future.
The Government has withdrawn from Vietnam. Partisan statements about which side you favour in the war mean very little. There is no longer an Australian military commitment in Vietnam. The truth is that militarily we are doing nothing to support South Vietnam, and the withdrawal of the forces is facilitating the North’s attack The Government did not believe that the North could attack. It believed that the North had been finished, but that was another mistake. Why not face it?
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Extension of the 17/35 runway, taxiways and aprons at Canberra (Fairbairn) Airport.
The proposed work involves the extension of the 17/35 runway by 2,000 feet to the south with associated parallel taxiway, extension to the terminal apron and development of a new general aviation apron. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $2.25m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Ministerial Statement Mr HUNT (Gwydir- Minister for the Interior) - by leave - Honourable members will recall that last year there was some debate and questions concerning the house being built by the Government under the prevailing policy at that time, in Gellibrand Street, in Canberra suburb of Campbell. At that time it was envisaged that the house would be occupied by me. I subsequently advised the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that I had made my own private arrangements and that I did not require the Campbell house. There is no other requirement for the house and the Government has decided that it will therefore be disposed of by public sale.
Debate resumed from 22 March (vide page 1001), on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This measure, as the Minister assisting the Treasurer indicated, seeks the approval of the Parliament to the provision of a guarantee by the Commonwealth of a $US4.5m, or the Australian equivalent of S3. 8m, borrowing by the Administration of Papua New Guinea from the Asian Development Bank. The proceeds of the loan are for relending by the Administration to the Papua New Guinea Development Bank, and will meet the foreign currency component of a number of development projects financed by that Bank in Papua New Guinea over the next 3 years. The Opposition supports the measure, particularly because the loan is in what are described as soft loan terms rather than hard; that is, the money is to be available to the Administration of Papua New Guinea at a rate of only 3 per cent, which is very low by today’s standards.
I think that some time ago when we were contemplating a loan from the International Bank to the Development Bank, in somewhat similar circumstances, the rate that was quoted for the loan was somewhere between 7 per cent and 8 per cent. I pointed out then the difficulty of a relatively undeveloped country such as Papua New Guinea being able to finance development when there was an interest component of somewhere in excess of 7 per cent.
The Minister, in introducing the measure, said that the loan is the first that the Asian Development Bank has made to the Administration since the admission of Papua New Guinea to membership of the Asian Development Bank in April 1971. My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, as far back as 1966 put on notice a question to the then Minister for External Affairs and when he received a reply it was from the then Acting Minister, now Sir John McEwen. Mr Whitlam had asked:
The reply to his question was:
That merely serves to indicate that as recently as September 1966 there seemed to be no indication that what might be called self-government for Papua New Guinea was likely in the foreseeable future. When a further question was put on notice as recently as 1970 there still had not been much action taken. Mr Whitlam asked Mr McMahon, then Minister for External
Affairs, question No. 155 reported on page 1019 of Hansard on 9th April 1970. He asked:
What steps have been taken since his predecessor’s answer to me on 28 May 1969 (Hansard, page 2440) to effectuate the wish expressed by the Minister for External Territories that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea become an associate member of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. . . .
The answer given was:
Following further consideration of this question by the Government and consultations with the Administrator’s Executive Council, in which it expressed agreement, steps have been initiated to bring before the 26th Session of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, meeting in Bangkok 14th-27th April, a request for the inclusion of the Territory as an Associate Member of the Commission. When this is achieved, application will be made on behalf of the Territory for membership of the Asian Development Bank.
It was a comparatively long process before Papua New Guinea became a separate member and, therefore, it is not surprising that this should be the first loan when Papua New Guinea has been so recently a member of the Bank. However, I would like to say one or two things about the potential for development and what appears to be the relatively slow rate of economic development in Papua New Guinea and the fact that to some extent the economy of Papua New Guinea seems to be becoming afflicted with some of the problems flowing from Australia. I would like to refer to the quarterly statistical bulletin of the Reserve Bank of Australia issued in Port Moresby for the December 1971 quarter. Among other things it points to a comparatively rapid rate of inflation occurring in Papua New Guinea which in that year was running at something like 12 per cent. Of course, inflation at that rate can have very serious implications for the development of that economy. It is still an economy that is basically a subsistence economy although it runs the great danger of becoming what is sometimes described as a dual or triple economy, where there is a kind of European expatriate superstructure through which Papua New Guinea would tend to get somewhere in the middle a semi-industrial development. However, basically the totality of the economy is still mainly of a subsistence nature.
The bulletin does contain estimates of the national income for the whole economy of Papua New Guinea and to some extent they typify what I have been trying to describe. What we describe as the gross national product at factor cost in the case of Papua New Guinea is $545m. When one takes into account that this is the gross national product for a population of something like 3 million people it gives some indication of the relative or comparative poverty of this economy. When it is broken down it appears that something like onethird of the gross national product comes from the single item ‘Wages, Salaries and Supplements’, which presumably includes the European as well as the insipient or developing industrial economy. However, what is described as the subsistence sector, although it is the income for something over 95 per cent of the total population of Papua New Guinea, is only about onethird of the sum I have quoted. This raises some very difficult problems for the future development of Papua New Guinea. At least the problem in the future of raising the standards there will be concerned more with the development of the subsistence part than perhaps with the development of the industrial or other aspects of the economy.
What one finds disturbing in some of these figures is the slow rate at which growth is taking place in some aspects of the economy. Even in this area of the Development Bank the loans and advances in 1969- 70 were $12.2m. In 1971-72, 2i years later because the figures go right up until November 1972, the level of advances is only $15.7m. This indicates the slow rate of growth in the provision of infrastructure and other things so necessary for the development of that economy. From other statements in this document it can be seen that personal consumption expenditure in 1970-71 is estimated to have been about $21 6m compared with the previous year’s level of about $180m, an increase of 20 per cent. However, one should take into account the fact that a large part of that is going to the non-subsistence part of the economy and that it has been affected by inflation of something like 12 per cent while as in some other statistics, what appears to be growth in essence is not really growth at all.
The other problem that faces Papua New Guinea is the large imbalance in trade. At the moment on an annual basis there is a deficiency of the order of $100m annually in the balance of trade, this difference being between exports and imports. The exports are comparatively static. I will say something in a moment to show why that is. But overall there was an adverse balance of trade on current account for 1969-70 of $159m. As with the Australian adverse balance of trade, to some extent that is offset by the inflow of foreign capital, but a large part of the foreign capital which flows into Papua New Guinea comes from Australia. This is a place in which Australia is an investor rather than a place that is only invested in, as overall Australia is, with the majority of capital investment coming from overseas.
But of course some serious implications are involved for the future. I still do not think that we in Australia realise sufficiently what our great obligations to this area are. We know that Papua New Guinea is striving for something that is described as self government. But when, as the statistics show, well over half of what is described as government revenue in Papua New Guinea does not come from taxes raised in the Territory but comes from the Treasury in Australia, in some respects self government has a peculiar meaning. I believe that in the foreseeable future Australia’s contribution to this area will have to be more rather than less. One of the difficulties that Papua New Guinea faces with its exports is that for a considerable period of time it will have to rely for export income on such commodities as cocoa, coffee and tea. These are products which the rest of the world seems to have plenty of already. Unfortunately they are products in relation to which there are serious fluctuations in what are called the terms of trade. A Reserve Bank bulletin which I have provides some interesting information about both the world cocoa scene and the situation in Papua New Guinea in particular. Page 4 of the document states:
The price in London of Ghana cocoa has been falling steadily since mid August and it is now down to around £Stg190 per thousand kilos, £Stg90 less than a year ago. The outlook for prices during 1972 is pessimistic.
Of course we appreciate the difficulties that are experienced in Australia when the price of wool falls. At least we are no longer as dependent on that one commodity for export income as we were, although I do not by any means want to underestimate the significance that wool still has. But if we had faced a drop of about 50 per cent in the price of wool, which is what occurred with cocoa, we would be disturbed about our balance of trade if we were as dependent on wool exports as we were, say, 10 years ago. The same position as applies to cocoa applies to coffee. There have been falls in the price which the crop brings. Other commodities such as rubber and tea suffer from the same difficulty.
These circumstances highlight the need to evolve some better trade arrangements for the Territory’s primary products. For a manufactured product it is easy enough to determine on an accounting basis what are the costs of production and thereby determine what is a reasonable price to charge for the product. The same sort of criteria do not apply to primary products, although there is no doubt that primary products have costs of production just as other products do, but their prices, particularly when they enter into the export field, are not subject to very much determination on the part of the country that produces them; the manipulation tends to be done by those who buy. It seems that the buyers are much more strongly organised than are those who sell. I would think that Australia, through its membership of deliberative bodies concerned with matters of trade, should try to assist in getting better terms for the sale of primary products, particularly the sale of what are called tropical products. Most of what Papua New Guinea is likely to produce in the future falls within the category of tropical products.
Fortunately no longer is there quite the exuberance that was once evident in people propounding the view that all developing countries should develop industrially rather than furthering agricultural and primary production. That countries need not necessarily develop in this way is one of the lessons that was learnt with difficulty some years ago. Nevertheless it seems sometimes that in Australia, at least in our attitude to New Guinea, we tend to fall into the error of thinking that the greatest assistance we can give to Papua New Guinea is in building up its industries. Of course, the most recent example of this thinking has been manifested in the Bougainville copper project. Again the Reserve Bank statistics indicate some quite serious dislocations that have taken place in the Papua New Guinea economy by reason of the rather rapid acceleration of the Bougainville development and subsequently the rapid decline in that development. These dislocations are reflected in some figures shown an page 3 of the Reserve Bank bulletin to which I have already referred. The value of new building approvals during the September 1971 quarter are shown as being $4.4m. Again I indicate how small that figure is for a country with a population of about 3 million. That figure of $4. 4m represented a decline of 8 per cent on the June 1971 quarter levels and was 37 per cent below the levels of the same period for the preceding year. Of course the preceding year was the year during which the acceleration of the Bougainville project . and the construction work associated with the development had taken place. When the decline in the rate of development came it dealt a rather serious backlash to the stability of the total economy.
I draw attention also to some remarks contained in a publication entitled ‘Quarterly Economic Review’ published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The issue to which I refer is entitled ‘Australia, Papua, New Guinea No. 4 - 1971’. It was published in December 1971 so its statistics are quite recent. On page 17 under the heading The Political Scene’ some reflections are made upon what might happen at the House of Assembly election. Of course, since the document was written the election has taken place. The document goes on to state:
As the country prepares to go to the polls in February-March it is clear that the result of the election is an extremely hazardous forecasting exercise. The great unknown is the electorate’s reoction to the new phenomenon of party politics, since it is new to the polls.
The only party which could conceivably gain a working majority unaided is the United party, which holds 45 seats in the old 94-member house and is seeking 60 in the new 107-seat version. A United party victory would see the retention in parliament of the creeping gradualism approach to political change and solid support for the Australian administering power. Economically, the United party encourages maximum growth through unrestrained capital inflow tempered by a small degree of selective economic nationalism in the transport field.
It goes on to note:
The opposition radical Pangu Pati, although unable to gain a majority, may gather enough supporters to be the senior partner in a governing coalition. Pangu’s policy, highly nationalistic, directs itself more at the distribution of income than at growth, and could be a strong deterrent to continuing foreign investment.
I do not quite know what is meant by that. But I hope that the Australian Government wil not withdraw any of the succour that it gives to Papua New Guinea because, like the authors of the publication which I have just read, it may not like the Pangu Pati as the government. From what was said on today’s news I understand that a Pangu dominated combination has finally emerged as the government of Papua New Guinea and that it is to be sworn in today. The article goes on to state:
The outcome of the election is of vital importance to the economy, since the confidence of both existing and potential businessmen is dependent upon it. The capital-hungry economy can ill afford severe jolts to the confidence of any sources of capital in its present embryonic, yet highly expansionary, stage.
One of the risks that one runs in encouraging self-government is that one might not always get the kind of result that one would like. Business or foreign investment should not go into Papua New Guinea on the basis of liking certain kinds of political groups because considerable fluctuations can take place.
I know that there was a lot of controversy around the Bougainville development in Papua New Guinea. This development certainly brings a substantially new industry to that area. But it seems to me that in many cases it is hard to know how much benefit really goes to what are called the indigenes and how much really is return on investment and paid to those who have invested. I do not know what kind of regulatory processes exist to ensure that there is a fair balance in that development. I have merely pointed out that there is no doubt that largescale development causes some kinds of problems in regard to growth and an unevenness of economic development.
It has been said also that this type of development causes problems while it is taking place and dislocations when the growth begins to run down. For all these reasons I think that Australia and Aus.talians ought to be much more aware than they are of the very serious problems that face us in assisting an area which in many respects is almost still the most primitive country in the world. 1 think that the area geographically is about twice the size of Victoria and has a population which is greater than that of any State of Australia, with the exception of New South Wales and Victoria. That is the magnitude of the problem.
The figures indicate that the per capita standard is less than $Ausl00. We have a problem of this magnitude very close to us and I think that this behoves us perhaps to take more seriously the question of economic development in Papua New Guinea. Recently I obtained from that very useful service in the Library a list of articles which one can obtain if one is interested. One of the articles is an extract taken recently from the State Department’s Bulletin on ‘Institutional Problems in the Developing Countries’. The article contains an address delivered by Mr John A. Hannah, the Administrator of the Agency for International Development. In view of the debate that concluded a few minutes ago in this House I think that the words contained in the article at least are salutary for Australia as well as for the Americans to whom the speech was primarily addressed. Mr Hannah said:
There can be no assured peace for Americans unless we join the other developed nations of the world in a continuing effort to develop a stable world order. We cannot ask ourselves where the United States will be in the next few decades without asking where the world will be.
I submit that the same kind of thing applies as far as Australia is concerned, that we cannot be concerned only with our own internal growth in the next 10 or 15 years without paying some consideration also to what the growth of Papua New Guinea is going to be in the years ahead. I think it is a pity that more attention is not devoted in this House to debates on Papua New Guinea. Debates on this matter generally come on at all sorts of odd hours, to fill in when nothing else is about and when no-one is particularly enthusiastic about participating in them. This is quite a serious omission. I hope that at least we will get a greater sense of responsibility in the future to this area which, after all, is our nearest neighbour and which we are assisting to what is sometimes rather loosely described as self-determination.
– I welcome the first loan provided by the Asian Development Bank to the Papua New Guinea Development Bank for the purpose of development in that Territory. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has just ranged over quite a wide financial and economic area and I do not intend to match him in that respect. However, I do want to draw attention to one or two particular areas of interest. Perhaps I could take up one or two of the honourable member’s comments because he raised a number of areas of concern. I say not in any way to his discredit that he raised matters which quite substantially cannot be answered at this point of time.
The function of this loan is to be, we would imagine, substantially along the same channels as those already used for the allocation of loan moneys from other sources, particularly from this country, for the Papua New Guinea Development Bank to use as it would. The main function of the Bank is to provide credit for the purposes of primary production and for the establishment or development of industrial or commercial undertakings, particularly small scale undertakings. Of course, whether or not that intent is carried out exactly in practice is something which would be hard to say. Indeed it would be little short of miraculous if in fact it came out exactly as intended. Nevertheless, this has some point when one considers the number of remarks that were made, I think properly, by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in relation to where this money is going, and in particular as to the relative merits of rural, commercial or industrial sectors of the economy. Since the establishment of the Papua New Guinea Development Bank in 1967 to the end of June 1971, the Bank had received capita] allocations of over $13m from the Administration’s budget. The 1971-72 Budget contained an allocation of a further $3.6m.
The most significant matter is one which was touched on in passing, or perhaps a little more thoroughly, by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. It is one which concerns me considerably and it should concern all those people who are interested in the development in some way or other of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I refer to the allocation of these moneys. Whether or not one likes to talk about infrastructure and other things, the fact is that there is a limited number of areas into which loan moneys of this kind can go. The most fundamental division is between the indigenous population and the expatriates, whether they be private individuals or organisations. There can be further divisions in the various sectors of the economy, such as industrial, rural and commerc ial. I would like to incorporate in Hansard Table 1 from the Papua New Guinea Development Bank Annual Report and Financial Statements for 1970-71, which indicates the total approvals of loans by the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank and shows the break-up of those loans for the last 2 years to that time.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
– In 1969-70, 1,184 loans were made to indigenes. That figure rose appreciably to 1,938 in 1970-71. At the same time the number of non-indigenous loans fell. The non-indigenous loans and joint enterprise loans taken together - it is a small number- fell from 238 in 1969-70 to 110 in 1970-71. That is not the whole of the story; numbers can be made to tell all sorts of stories. I mentioned the numbers of loans. But the total amounts of money have been, almost up to this stage, heavily in favour of the non-indigenous borrowers. It is of interest and I think it is important to see that the balance, not only of the numbers of loans but alio of the amounts, is moving in favour of the indigenous borrowers rather than staying fairly heavily in the direction of the non-indigenous population. The report of the Papua New Guinea Development Bank to which I referred contains tables and graphs which indicate this situation.
Basically speaking, in 1970-71 the total number of loans approved was 2,048, of which 1,938 - or 95 per cent of the total number - were for indigenes and 110, or 5 per cent of the total, were for expatriates and mixed enterprises. In 1970-71 the amount of the loans was $4. 24m, of which $2.38m - or 56 per cent - was for indigenes and SI. 86m - or 44 per cent - was for expatriates and mixed enterprise. The significant point is that, not only are the majority of the loans going to indigenes but also a majority - even if it is a small majority - of the total amount covered by those loans is moving to the indigenes rather than the expatriate population. In the changing political circumstances referred to by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports towards the end of his speech and in the general developmental ethos of the Territory, that is of considerable significance.
It is true that a problem remains, and certainly will remain for some time, in Papua New Guinea. We find the same problem in any country developed or otherwise. That problem relates to the most appropriate allocation of resources - whether they be loans, grants or anything else - between the various major sectors of the economy, such as mining, commerce, industry or the rural sector. So if we look further at the statistical material available we find, for example, in the commercial area that the number of loans has risen appreciably, in the last couple of years, from 387 in 1969-70 to 554 in 1970-71. During 1970-71 there were 498 commercial loans for about $750,000 made to Papua New Guineans compared with less than half that number in the previous year. That reinforces what I said earlier - that it is a highly commendable operation and would be seen to fit the terms of the operation of the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank.
The number of loans to the industrial sector has increased. I have not worked out a percentage. That sector has probably taken a larger share of the increase than other sectors have taken. The total number of industrial loan approvals rose from 91 in 1969-70 to 230 in 1970-71, and the amount of the loans rose by a much lesser degree, from $654,000 to $724,500. That is a significant increase in the moneys applied to the industrial sector and it is also a significant increase in the number of people in that area seeking loans from the Bank.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports had more than a small amount to say about the rural sector, and rightly so. Here we have a fundamentally basic economy - with industry largely around the urban areas - which is largely dependent upon its rural production. The per capita income in that sector is low. This should be regarded with some caution, because the fact that the average Papua New Guinean may have an income of $100 or $200 a year does not prove very much unless we look to see what he has, or wants, to spend it on. If he is at a subsistence level or thereabouts and is supplying himself with his own food and is living a fairly rudimentary life by our standards, he does not have quite the same necessity for the sort of income which we regard as more appropriate to our economic conditions here.
In the rural sector there are about 15 or 16 categories which the Bank designates as having received loans. It is encouraging to see that the total number of rural loans has increased from 944 only 3 years ago to 1,264 in 1970-71, although the amount involved diminished slightly, from $2.2m to just over $2m, in that period. So perhaps some of the fears of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports are- justified by those figures. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see, whether or not the rate is fast enough, that the indigenous sector appears to be well served by the processes or the functions of the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank. Unless I am mistaken, the loan from the Asian Development Bank to the Papua and New Guinea Development Bank, and hence to the enterprises and the people of Papua New Guinea, will be a further movement in the right direction, in that it provides more moneys for further and, we hope, controlled and sensible directional development in the case of this Territory for which we have, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports rightly pointed out, so much responsibility which is not going to diminish totally for a little time yet.
– I want to say a few words in this debate about the economy of Papua New Guinea, particularly with respect to the rural sector. It would seem from the various surveys and investigations that have been carried out in Papua New Guinea that there is considerable potential for intensive and extensive agricultural and livestock development. As was pointed out by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), the nucleus of New Guinea’s economy is agriculture and its ability to import goods and services is, to some degree, dependent - upon its ability to export agricultural products. New Guinea produces those types of products which have big question marks on them - tropical products which are produced in reasonably large volume by other tropical countries in which there is also a recognised potential for substantial development, particularly Brazil and the other South American countries. Nevertheless,1 it is quite pleasing to see that already much of the original work carried out in the field of agricultural development, from the grass roots of soil surveys and land classification to experimentation by the Department of Agriculture in New Guinea, has shown fairly conclusively that there does exist substantial potential for intensive agricultural and livestock development.
However, I feel that the future with respect to agriculture should be treated quite carefully and that the people in New Guinea who are charged with the responsibility of agricultural development should take the gradual development of agriculture very seriously and not try to jump in and produce something quickly and then become immersed in the international marketing problems. I will elaborate on that point in a minute. It is quite clear that there is very considerable scope for development in the livestock industry, particularly in the area of beef cattle. Already, valuable work has been done with exotic breeds, as we know them, and the turn-off of meat per acre, the animal husbandry techniques and the overall agricultural-economic possibilities of this industry are most encouraging. This is one industry where there is a recognisable and sound market in the foreseeable future, particularly with the relationship between New Guinea and other countries close to the environment of New Guinea. The people of Papua New Guinea will be able to expand progressively in the beef industry by breeding up their numbers, culling and building up their herds over time and importing new blood into the country. It does seem that this industry will prosper and that there is great scope for its expansion.
– That is in the highlands.
– Yes, and in the contiguous valleys as well. With respect to tropical products - I will deal with them a little more extensively later - there has been a lot of agitation in recent years for New Guinea to go into sugar production. I sound a very clear note of warning with respect to the growing of sugar as a commercial enterprise in New Guinea. No-one doubts the ability agronomically to grow sugar in New Guinea. There is no question about it. There are many parts of New Guinea which could grow sugar better, in terms of agronomy, than Australia can. This is accepted.
However, it is not just a question of growing cane. The tremendous infrastructure which is essential for a successful sugar industry involves not only very large amounts of money but also a high degree of technical know-how. Australia leads the world in its technical and marketing knowhow with respect to sugar and the efficiency of its industry as compared with those of other countries. So, I sound a clear note of warning to those people in Australia and New Guinea who advocate the establishment of a major sugar industry in New Guinea. As one who is closely associated with this industry, I know very well the problems which exist in respect of technology and research, which are concerned not only with the growing of cane but also and more particularly with the chemistry and the milling of sugar, the coefficients of output and the skill involved in the actual milling and selling of sugar which is developed not quickly but over a long period of years. I believe that the sugar industry is not the type of industry into which New Guinea should immediately jump. Certainly, let New Guinea experiment in the field to develop cane varieties, but I for one believe that it would be a grave mistake for New Guinea to enter a field like this which involves tremendous amounts of money and an infrastructure of roads, mills and bulk handling facilities and rigid marketing arrangements.
I might say that this proposition is somewhat analogous to the possibility years ago of growing sugar in the Ord River atea. The Western Australian Government wanted to do that. It was quite clear from the experimental work that was carried out in that area and from the field trials based on years of experiments at the Kimberley Research Station that that area could grow excellent sugar cane. However, once the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd did a feasibility study on the area, it was proved quite conclusively that it really would be a waste of the taxpayers’ money to spend probably §50m to SI 00m in establishing a complete sugar industry in the northern part of Western Australia when a viable industry, in terms of world market saturation, already existed in Queensland. So, there was no point in establishing further sugar industries.
The same basic argument applies to New Guinea. Let New Guinea concentrate on the livestock industry, particularly the tropical breeds - the brahman breeds which have proved themselves in the tropics- and also on the tropical industries such as tea, coffee and cocoa. However, I believe that there needs to be a greater degree of liaison between the people of New Guinea on the agricultural production and marketing side and the research and marketing organisations in Australia because I feel that this is one area in which some deficiencies exist in’ regard to New Guinea agriculture. New Guinea should have an appreciation of the future need to adopt a business-like approach to agricultural production and the need to have high level marketing people who are skilled in these fields, particularly when it is exporting commodities. 1 would also like to state that if we are to achieve closer liaison between Australia and New Guinea in the fields of agriculture and livestock production, which 1 believe is needed over time, serious consideration must be given - apparently this Government will not give it, but a Labor government certainly will - to the establishment of what is called a high security quarantine station in Australia. Australia is one of the few developed countries which do not have a high security quarantine station for the introduction of plant and animal material. It is a paradox that Australia, as one of the leading livestock and agricultural exporting countries of the world, does not have such a quarantine station. It is badly needed. Under present conditions, animals originating from countries other than New Zealand and Britain either are unable to enter Australia or must spend varying periods of time in Britain before being permitted to enter Australia. I am not arguing in any way for the relaxation of quarantine laws. 1 have never argued along those lines and I never will argue that way. In fact, I believe that the strictest quarantine laws regarding the importation of plant and livestock into Australia should apply here.
– As related to New Guinea?
– Yes. If the Minister had been listening he would know that I am arguing for closer co-operation in the agricultural and livestock industries between New Guinea and Australia. The nucleus of agricultural and livestock industries in New Guinea has been supported by Australians, and the Minister should know that. Therefore in our responsibility of developing New Guinea further we should have to have a 2-way arrangement with that country in terms of scientific knowledge and technical skills. If we are to develop more closely with New Guinea we need to have high security quarantine stations in Australia. I know that the Department of Health is giving some consideration to such a station being established on .one of the islands off the Australian coast. If we want to introduce into Australia plants or livestock from New Guinea - this could even apply to dogs being brought back by people who have lived there - we have the ridiculous situation where they must spend 12 months in Britain before being permitted to enter Australia and they also must spend at least 2 months in quarantine once they enter Australia.
– Order! I think the honourable gentleman is getting slightly wide of the subject matter of the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bill is concerned largely with the development of New Guinea and I was attempting to explain that one of the issues in the further development of New Guinea is a closer relationship between Australia and New Guinea as regards the importation of livestock. Let me return to some other aspects related to the development of New Guinea which are important to Australia. I am very pleased to say that the World Bank has made recommendations that clarification should be sought of the territorial water boundary between Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. The resources of the off-shore waters of New Guinea are important to Australia and we are particularly concerned as to the delineation of the boundary. As you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, great oil exploratory activity is being carried on in the grey areas of the boundaries between New Guinea, Indonesia and Australia. It is for this reason that I believe, and other members of this Parliament believe, that the quicker this territorial seas legislation is brought before the Parliament the better it will be. This legislation is most important because it would seem that in recent years New Guinea’s fishing industry has become more sophisticated and it has been able to develop its fishing fleets so that they can come into proximity to Australian waters. We have before the Parliament 2 Bills which are concerned with the continental shelf and fishing. These Bills are of vital importance to New Guinea, and this whole question should be cleared up.
In the development of its agricultural industries, I made the point that New Guinea would be wise to concentrate on the production of those commodities with which it could advance gradually. This applies to the livestock industry as well as to the production of tropical commodities which are indigenous to that area. But we must realise that New Guinea is producing commodities which it could find difficult to market in the future. During 1971 - these are the latest figures available to me - the value of its agricultural and pastoral production declined slightly. Industry sources expect a slight improvement in the position but there does seem to be a question mark in relation to why there has been what one almost could call a mild stagnation in productivity in agricultural and livestock production. I think that we may find the answers to this question if we look at the international marketing situation.. If a country is exporting the major part of its crop it should look at the international scene which, of course, is really a vital factor in its considerations.
We find that last year world production of cocoa was at a record level of l.S million long tons, an increase of 6 per cent over the previous year. Nigeria emerged as a major producer. In the same year the production of cocoa in Papua New Guinea was estimated to be 29,000 tons, which represented a significant increase in its production over the previous year - an increase of some 7,000 tons. I think the significant factor is that the price of cocoa fell quite markedly which meant that Papua New Guinea had to market more cocoa to receive virtually the same amount of money as export income. From information available to me it is not certain just what is the short term future of cocoa, but one thing is certain, and that is that it would be quite wrong for New Guinea to let up on its efforts. It should continue to develop more sophisticated techniques to achieve greater productivity per acre, because this is a commodity which New Guinea can produce effectively.
Let us deal now with coffee. In the last 12 months world production was estimated to be approximately 70 million bags. This is considerably more than was produced in the previous year. There is a world expansion in the production of coffee. In Papua New Guinea coffee production in the last year has increased by about 10 per cent. It seems clear that it will have problems in the marketing of coffee also. The coffee marketing board recently has announced its willingness to provide financial support to growers to tide them over the present period of difficult marketing conditions. Let us now consider copra in terms of Papua New Guinea’s agricultural development. Copra is an important item in the economy of Papua New Guinea, but there are growing problems in relation to the marketing of copra on world markets. A similar situation applies in relation to rubber. It is well known in the technological field that the supply of natural rubber, together with increasing amounts of synthetic rubber, will be sufficient to meet the total demand during the next couple of years.
The remarks that I have made in relation to coffee and cocoa could apply also to tea. There has been a slight increase in exports of tea in the last few months, but it would seem that some vigorous marketing policies must be continued with regard to tea in the future. However, the overseas scene seems to be brighter in relation to tea than in the case of some of the other commodities. Overall the economy of New Guinea is in something like the same position in which Australia found itself many years ago - that is, its development depends on agriculture.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - There have been only a few speakers in the debate on this Bill. I would like to refer to the remarks of the 3 honourable members who have contributed to this debate and to commend them on the seriousness of their contributions. I commend particularly the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the way that he treated this subject. He commented at some length on the economy of New Guinea and the indicators as published. Of course, we in this House know that he is a man who is interested in economic progress and in bringing a measure of objectivity to the matters on which he speaks. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), apart from raising one or two matters which I thought had a hint of party political purpose in them, was interested in discussing the New Guinea economy - and he certainly is qualified in this respect - with some objectivity.
This Bill covers a loan which is the first that the Asian Development Bank has made to the Administration of Papua New Guinea since the admission of that country to membership of that Bank. The proceeds of the loan are for re-lending by the Administration to the Papua New Guinea Development Bank and will meet the foreign currency component of a number of development projects financed by that Bank in Papua New Guinea over the next 3 years. The loan carries the concessional interest rate of 3 per cent per annum and will be made from the special fund resources of the Asian Development Bank. Repayments will commence in 1975 and will be completed in 1987. The Papua New Guinea Development Bank is a statutory authority which commenced operations in 1967. Its principal purpose is to provide finance for primary production - .the aspect referred to by the 2 honourable members opposite I have already mentioned - and for the establishment and development of industrial or commercial undertakings, particularly small undertakings. The loan from the Asian Development Bank will make a valuable contribution towards meeting these purposes.
I want to take up a point made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. He suggested, I think, that it is largely the fault of the Government that matters of this kind are raised at odd hours and not a lot of interest is taken in debating matters affecting New Guinea. I think the oppor tunity is here now to have a wide ranging debate. There are not very many members in the House at present. Only a few members have spoken in this debate. I suggest that it is not really the fault of the Government. This is a matter that ought to be of concern to members who make up this House. If there is blame, then the blame is to be shared by members on both sides. I assure the House that the Government, for its part, has a great interest in these matters, as is shown by its activity in Papua New Guinea and by the very substantial sums which have been given to help to develop that country - a matter which I believe in general has the support of the whole of this Parliament and of the Australian people.
This loan in many ways is an innovation, but I suspect that it is one which will continue in the future. The economy of New Guinea certainly, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned, to a degree is tied up with the economy of Australia. I suggest that the economy of New Guinea must feel the effects of the levels of activity - the highlights and the flat spots - in our economy. That is inevitable. But undoubtedly the contribution by Australia to the economy of Papua New Guinea has enabled that country to grow at a reasonable pace and far more quickly than would have been possible without the Australian contribution. These are matters which the government of the day will in the future have to consider, I think, with increasing intensity. It will be necessary for us more and more to become involved in the detail of the proposals - of the many conflicting proposals - for the development of that area.
One certainly can see in this loan a continuation of loans, but it is an innovation in which the Australian people will increasingly have to become involved in the interests of the region in which we live. Those honourable members who have visited Papua New Guinea - and I know that most honourable members have done so and I also know that most honourable members take a close interest in it - will, I suggest, increasingly become aware not only of the problems of its economy as a whole but also of the individual and regional difficulties which have to- be met to the maximum of Australia’s ability.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 12 April (vide page 1502), on the following paper presented by Mr Sinclair:
Rural Reconstruction - Ministerial Statement, 12 April 1972- and on the motion by Mr Garland:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Last week the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) introduced in this House a statement concerning a review made by the Government with respect to rural reconstruction. Honourable members will recall that the Government introduced in the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill a rural reconstruction scheme involving an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States with the appropriation of $100m for financial assistance to the States over a 4-year period. Whilst the majority of the States had to introduce new administrative machinery before they could put in motion the reconstruction scheme, New South Wales was able to proceed with the scheme fairly quickly, in terms of inviting applications for assistance and making recommendations. The interesting aspect of the Minister’s speech is the decision of the Government, one might say, to somersault or to change its mind with respect to this scheme and to speed it up. As the Minister well knows, this was the subject of the major criticism put forward by the Opposition when this scheme was introduced into the House last year. In fact, the belated decision of the Government to speed up the supply of reconstruction funds to the States reveals the apparent inability of the Government at that time to appreciate the seriousness of the financial position of large numbers of primary producers throughout Australia. I believe that the Government’s rejection of its original legislation which was made only 12 months ago to provide $100m to the States over a 4-year period represents an admission that it was wrong about the urgent need for reconstruction which has existed for some years. During these last 12 months and certainly when the Bill was introduced the Government was told from all quarters that $100m was not enough and, spread over 4 years, it was totally inadequate. The Government dogmatically refused to alter its decision. We know the history of the scheme. We know the problems of the States and of the heartburning in some of the States because of this problem. Now the Government has reviewed the scheme and to a large degree it has met the demands of the States to speed up the supply of reconstruction funds to those producers whose need is greatest.
– Under pressure.
– Yes, under great pressure. Instead of a 4-year financial period the Government has agreed that $100m plus an extra $18m of federal funds and a $3m matching fund from Queensland will be used over 2 years and not 4 years. So in actual fact a total of $121m will now be made available over 2 years in contrast to the amount of $100m which was to be made available over 4 years. This has all taken place in the review. I again repeat that the Opposition believes that the Government has at last realised that there is a rural crisis in certain sections of primary industry. Over at least the last 12 months the Commonwealth bungling in the field of rural policies has resulted in frustration and hardship to thousands of producers whose financial affairs have crashed as a result of droughts, ruinous wool and fruit prices in the main, inequitable wheat quotas - particularly for the smaller producers - and of course the galloping forces of inflation.
As the House knows, for the last 3 years I have argued constantly that the progressive increa.se in rural debts, which become known from time to time from official figures, demanded that immediate federal action be taken to stop the widespread collapse of many rural communities throughout Australia. When one looks at the Government’s record in this field it seems that its reconstruction policies are based on what I would call a ‘negative approach’. It has waited until a crisis has occurred and until large numbers of primary producers were either bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy or until they found themselves in an intolerable debt position from which it was impossible to recover. This is not the way to manage primary industry. The Government’s refusal to face up to major economic problems when they first emerged has involved the Australian taxpayer and the farmer - particularly those farmers who had to incur more debts at ruinous rates of interest while the Government was making up its mind - in a lot of money which could have been avoided. I believe that positive agricultural policies must be concentrated on coordinating the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the sick sectors of primary industry. The overall objective must be to adjust farm production to the level of demand, both domestically and internationally, which will bring to the producer a reasonable price and a reasonable income which will support him and his family. 1 am quite dogmatic that reconstruction and rehabilitation must be progressive. It must be continuous. I am glad to see that the word ‘continuous’ was used by the Minister. I believe that the Government’s policies should have been implemented at least 3 years ago when it was known that a rural depression would be inevitable. Treasury indicators in Australia, world economic indicators in relation to prices - particularly wool and fruit - and, of course, the need to reduce producton of wheat showed this. But the ad hoc wait-and-see attitude of the Government is to be deplored. One can say that this reconstruction is 3 years loo late. Thousands of farmers and their families together with the associated work force have been forced to leave rural areas. They have drifted to the cities, although I will be the first gladly to admit that the despair and misery in western Queensland is not quite as bad now as it was 6 months ago. This applies to Longreach,
Charleville, Blackall and all areas of western Queensland particularly where sheep producing is the major enterprise.
Nevertheless the fact remains that those towns can be regarded as stagnant. In many cases they are dying. I believe that after 22 years in power it is clearly an indictment of the Government that it is only implementing a reconstruction scheme now. It is well recognised throughout the developing nations that a fundamental objective of a viable economy in terms of agriculture should be an underwriting by a progressive reconstruction scheme or an adjustment scheme, as it is called in most countries. I believe that this scheme will become the forerunner of that adjustment scheme. It is needed. My principal criticism is that the scheme should have been implemented at least 3 years ago. The Government has at its disposal highly competent authorities such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to keep it continuously posted of changes taking place in the various areas of primary industry. I do not say that because I worked in the Bureau for years. I think that perhaps the BAE is the most highly competent agricultural economic adviser any country could have - not just Australia. A lot of people think that this is a statistical type of division. But this is far from the situation. It is not. It has played a major role in the development of agriculture in the post war years and up to the present time. The BAE has at its fingertips more agricultural data and records than all of the universities put together. Certainly in Australia it has more information about the economics of agricultural industries than any other Australian authority. I think that it should be used more to advise the Government when cracks suddenly occur in the foundations of an industry because it is carrying out continuous surveys into all the major industries all the time. I believe that no better authority exists in Australia to advise the Government immediately a problem occurs.
I believe that as soon as a problem arises in a particular area continuous and progressive reconstruction is essential. The reconstruction boards in the States should swing into action to try to mend the crack. The Government should put forward policies immediately and not wait until a major crisis develops. But it seems that unless BAE recommendations are in line with the philosophies of the Government then often those recommendations are shelved. For example, my mind goes back to the McCarthy Inquiry into the dairy industry many years ago. I believe that if the Government had taken notice of the BAE and some of the recommendations of the inquiry in those days we would have a more viable dairy industry today. We would have constructive policies based on years of experience. Inquiries were made by competent agricultural economists who were assisted by the valuable work undertaken by universities and State departments. This work was undertaken in order to formulate plans for the dairy industry. But the recommendations were not accepted because of political considerations. I suppose that one has to be quite fair and say that, after all, political considerations are the overriding factor in making government decisions with respect to either secondary or primary industry. On the other hand, in the long term more thought has to be given to the reconstruction of sick agricultural industries.
The present legislation provides for Commonwealth reconstruction action to be finalised by June 1973. There is no indication that this assistance will be continuous. Carry on finance is to be provided, but I would urge strongly that as soon as possible the Government should make a positive decision that finance for reconstruction purposes will be permanent; that there will be a flow of finance from the Commonwealth to the States year in and year out for the principal objective of adjusting agriculture in order progressively to solve the problems as they occur, not wait until major crises develop, as we have seen happen in this instance.
A dead-end approach to reconstruction ls wrong. The scheme has to be progressive; it has to be continuous. Policies embracing debt alleviation, progressive reconstruction and rehabilitation schemes, stabilisation schemes, and schemes to control production - whether it be the 2-tier system, such as that which is proposed for the dairy industry, or the controls used in the wheat or sugar industries - are interrelated. It does not matter whether we are talking about policies for a monoculture, such as sugar, or policies for the wheatsheep zones, they are interrelated in terms of agriculture.
The point I want to stress is that we must make certain that the economic nucleus in rural areas is viable, because if it fails the complete infrastructure fails. We of the Opposition are just as much concerned about the farmer as we are about the ancillary work force and the business work force which depends directly and indirectly on the farming community. But if the economic nucleus fails then, of course, the work force fails, and we have seen this happen so starkly in recent months or recent years with respect to the fruit industry, but particularly with respect to the wool industry in the pastoral areas of Australia.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.S8 to 8 p.m.
– We are discussing a statement made in this House by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in which he announced new proposals agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the States relating to rural reconstruction. Last year honourable members will recall that the Parliament approved legislation appropriating $100m to the States in a genuine attempt to try to help primary producers who were found to be in financial difficulties. Under a formula laid down it was proposed that $10Om be made available over a 5-year period including the latter portion of the 1970-71 financial year. It is very easy for the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) to say that this figure was insufficient.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard you call the Assistant Minister for Primary Industry. I wonder whether he is given this designation under the Standing Orders or should it be the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister. As this system of Assistant Ministers is rather unique in the Parliament I thought I might seek clarification for the benefit of honourable members.
Mi SPEAKER - This is not a point of order relating to the debate at the present time. I will deal with the matter after the honourable member finishes speaking.
– I think that people who heard the point of order raised by the honourable member for Grayndler would fully appreciate his attitude to honourable members on the Government side of the House. Before I was rather rudely interrupted I was saying that it is very easy for the honourable member for Dawson to say that the amount of money allocated has been insufficient. But what we must remember is that this legislation was never meant to cover all debts loaded against the primary producers. If it were, $10Om certainly would be insufficient. If we wanted to cover all debts we would have to provide many thousands of millions of dollars. That was not the purpose of the legislation.
It is also rather easy for the honourable member for Dawson to suggest that the scheme should have been introduced earlier and that lt should be permanent. I wonder what the Opposition would have done 3, 4 or 5 years ago under the conditions then existing? I remind honourable members that the biggest problem facing primary producers at that time was the drought, and the Government of the day made available to the States for the purposes of drought assistance a figure in the vicinity of, or in excess of, $100m. That money was allocated to the various States according to the conditions prevailing in those States. Matching grants were involved and conditions varied tremendously. Assistance has been provided not only for drought but for all the other catastrophes that primary producers run into from time to time. It is not possible to lay down a permanent scheme. That is equitable for all States, for all conditions and for all time. Therefore I dismiss the comments made by the honourable member for Dawson earlier today.
Under this plan it was expected, broadly speaking, that some SO per cent of the funds would be used for debt reconstruction and SO per cent for farm build-up. It was taken for granted that in the early stages of the programme the demand for immediate finance would exceed the demand for farm build-up. This was only natural. However, in the long term it was expected that an equal amount of money would be available for the all-important question of farm build-up.
The figures that I have been able to secure show that to the end of March this year some 4,466 of the applications received were for debt reconstruction and 1,385 were for farm build-up. A study of the applications received indicate that the percentage for farm build-up purposes is increasing as time goes on, as I will show from other figures that have been made available. In October last year some 70 applications were received for farm buildup and in February this year the figure had increased to 183. In October last year the number for debt reconstruction was 248 and this increased to only 396 in February. Last September the figure was 503. Therefore it can be said that applications for debt reconstruction are falling off. However I do not accept that conclusion simply because the figures indicate this at this stage. We believe that in time there will be many more applications.
Out of the 7,000-odd applications received, 2,000 were approved, 3,537 were rejected, the remainder being still under consideration. For farm build-up, 358 were accepted and 548 were rejected. The reasons for the high rejection rate were many and varied. They ranged from nonviability to being unnecessary. In the case of those deemed unnecessary it was considered that the applicants could carry on successfully without further assistance. I think we should be mindful of the fact that some people would be done a disservice if they were lent too much. Terms cf repayment are very acceptable because they have been increased now from 20 years to 30 years.
The States came in for a great deal of criticism on the grounds of the interpretation of one word, that being ‘viable’, What is viability? What does it mean? If an application is refused on viable grounds does it mean that the primary producer is considered to have no future? If this is so I do not necessarily agree with such decisions. The States virtually have had one eye on viability and the other on the funds to cover the project. I will be kind and say that it is the latter consideration which has had a very big bearing on some of the final decisions on many applications. But I believe that a number of applications should not have been affected by that consideration. Viability is a very broad word and one that can be used either in favour of an applicant or against him. However, what is the basis of the authority’s interpretation? This is what the applicants are asking. Let us consider wool, for instance. What is the true value of wool? What does the authority expect a grower’s return to be? Is it expected to be the 30c prevailing last year, the average price, the 36c guaranteed in the last 12 months, or the present price which is about 40c plus? Wheat growers face a similar uncertain position. How much wheat is a grower permitted to grow? It is not a case of how much he can grow. It is in this respect that we must examine the word ‘viability’.
In my opinion any doubt about viability should be resolved in favour of the applicant. That is my contention, providing that that principle is not carried too far. Honourable members must remember that when the various State bodies are dealing with such applications it is not a case of a few dollars but many thousands of dollars to each individual. The average allocation to those approved for debt reconstruction is between $24,000 and $25,000, and for farm build-up it is about $27,000. If honourable members care to study these figures it will be easy for them to see that up to 30th March this year the States had committed themselves to a figure which in fact exceeded the quota for the first year. This is not to say that all States have exceeded it because I understand that some are well within their limits. Having said that, I must say that although that amount of money has been committed it has not necessarily all been spent or handed out to the various applicants.
It is evident that if the original total allocation of Si 00m had not been increased or spread over a shorter period the original plan would have failed to do what the Government wanted it to do. As a result of a number of discussions between the Commonwealth and State Ministers the $100m originally allocated has now been spread over the first 2 years of the original plan and is now due for expenditure by the end of the financial year 1972-73. In addition an extra $15m has been granted by the Commonwealth Government, plus an extra ‘ $3m for Queensland because of the extreme drought conditions in that State. In his statement the Minister said ‘ that there would be an additional $3m matching grant from Queensland. The extra SI 5m is being allocated in accordance with the same formula and under the same conditions and is being made available for the commencement of the following financial year. However, any additional allocations will be made only after further discussions with the States. In his statement- the Minister for Primary Industry also mentioned the allocations to the States.- I think I should repeat them for the’ purposes of record and for the benefit of those people who are not aware of the actual allocations. Under the new agreement New South Wales will receive $36.8m instead of the original $32m; Victoria $25.4m instead of the original $22.07m; Queensland $24.4m instead of the original $16m, and this includes the extra $3m matching grant from the Queensland Government; South Australia $13. 8m instead of the original $12m; Western Australia $16. 8m instead of the original $14.63m; and Tasmania $3.8m instead of the original $3.3m. If these allocations are added together and coupled with the $9.5m which is available to the various States under the old agreement, it makes a total of $1 30.5m.
On the rehabilitation side I am sure the announcement to the effect that the maximum amount of the special loan for those leaving the industry will be increased from $1,000 to $3,000 will be welcomed. All honourable members appreciate that $1,000 today for someone leaving a properly is not very much and that $3,000 certainly is ever so much better. Even if it does not meet an individual’s requirements, it is a big improvement and no doubt will assist him to no end. As a result of the new conditions of rural reconstruction, as agreed to by both the Commonwealth and the States, I am equally sure that the scope of the various State authorities will be broadened. This, in turn, I hope will bring into the scheme “many primary producers who previously would not have qualified. I think that a word of commendation must go to the Government for its decision to reduce the period in which the States can distribute the funds available to them. The Government and the Minister in particular have taken full advantage of clause 24 of the schedule to the Act. That clause is entitled “Review” and sub-clause (1.) of it reads:
The operation of the scheme in relation to all of the States will be reviewed from time to time as appropriate by the Commonwealth and the States in the light of experience in its administration.
Should we go along with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who is suggesting that we virtually should disregard this provision? Sub-clause (2.) reads:
A review under sub-clause (1.) of this clause shall be carried out not later than the time necessary to enable to be brought into operation by the first day of July, 1972 any adjustments or amendments which it may be agreed should be made to the scheme in respect of -
the funds to be provided for the scheme;
the allocation of funds between the States;
the provisions for losses (other than unforeseen losses) and write-offs available to the States under the scheme;
the interest rates to be charged to borrowers; and
the proportion of the financial assistance applied to farm build-up.
These are the original conditions laid down in the Act. Those conditions give the Government and the Minister ample scope to conduct further negotiations with the States. This has been done. I commend the Government. I commend the Minister and I suggest that the proposals will be of great advantage to those primary producers who are in financial difficulties today.
– Before I call the honourable member for Riverina I should like to reply to the point which the honourable member for Grayndler raised while the last speaker was on his feet. The correct title for all Assistant Ministers who are assisting Ministers is ‘the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for’ whatever portfolio is involved. If honourable members want that full title to be used, the Chair will use it but it may be easier if we refer simply to the Assistant Minister.
– Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. I think this is the first time that we have had the usage of the title ‘Assistant Minister assisting the Minister’ since the Standing Orders were amended. As the Opposition member leading for the Opposition on the matter under discussion I seek your guidance concerning what the
Assistant Minister has said. When a Minister speaks honourable members take that to be the official view of the Government. When an Assistant Minister speaks can honourable members take what he says to be the official view of the Government?
– That decision is not within the province of the Chair. The Chair is here to interpret the Standing Orders. I interpret the Standing Orders, not Government policy, which does not come within my ambit no matter how other honourable members may interpret it.
– It is timely, after a year of operation of the Commonwealth Government’s rural reconstruction programme, to examine how it has worked in that time. The scheme was announced as one of 3 major measures which the Government had decided would solve the problems of the rural sector. The first of those measures was the emergency wool grants scheme. The Government allocated $30m under this scheme but by the time the scheme ended there was a list of unsatisfied applicants and the Government took back an unexpended amount of $8.5m. The second measure that was supposed to be of major assistance was the wool subsidy scheme. In answer to a question, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) told me that up to 17th March $5 1.2m had been paid out so far, but the Government has confessed that it does not really know or care who got the money. The Minister has been told bluntly that in some areas up to 90 per cent of the wool subsidy has been going to pastoral finance companies and banks. What is happening in so many cases is that the debt structure of the wool grower is being lifted from the banks and pastoral finance companies to the local government bodies and local businessmen. Only today I received a copy of a letter from a wool grower, well known in his area, who wrote to his shire in the following terms:
Thank you for your letter about my rates. At the present i am unable to pay anything off my rates. All my wool proceeds are going to the wool firm which is providing carry-on only. The bank will not provide any carry-on at all. i propose to make a further application to the Rural Assistance Board.
That letter was addressed to the shire clerk. What is happening now is that the debt structure of primary producers has been transferred over the years from traditional banking institutions to pastoral finance companies and hire purchase firms and now, from those sources, to local government which has, to quote another shire clerk, ‘neither the resources nor the ability to counteract such an erosion of its financial position. *So against this background of 2 loudly trumpeted Government measures we can examine the Government’s major scheme - the rural reconstruction scheme. The scheme was badly based right from the beginning. The sum of $100m was to be spread over 6 States and 4 years. The Commonwealth insisted on doubling the rural reconstruction interest rates which had prevailed in New South Wales for a whole generation. It insisted on reducing the 30-year limit which had prevailed for that time to a 20- year maximum for repayments. It insisted on receiving the whole of its money back from the States at high interest.
The Commonwealth was bent on making (money out of rural hardship. The Commonwealth also dictated how the money should be spent. It ignored a generation of experience in New South Wales and told that State, and all other States, that half only would be available for debt adjustment and half would have to go to farm build-up. The Commonwealth ignored protests about this. It ignored State protests that the money Was being released in an inadequate way. The Commonwealth Government and the Minister ignored the Victorian Minister who said that the scheme was a disaster, and the New South Wales Minister who repeatedly said he was out of money and the scheme was stalled.
When I raised this in the Parliament the Minister for Primary Industry denied it all and indicated that he had solved the problem and told me to be quiet. In the end he had to admit that he was wrong, the Federal Government was wrong and the scheme had broken down. It took 3 meetings of Federal and State Ministers and officials to reach some kind of agreement to get it going again. The Commonwealth was dictating and insensitive to such a degree that the conferences were bitter and one Minister threatened to walk out and go home. I do not blame him, because he had assessed his State’s urgent additional needs at $10m and he was offered only one-fifth of that sum.
The end results of the conferences have been announced by the Minister and we are debating his statement on them tonight. Let us see what the Government agreed to. Firstly, it refused to approve the needs as put forward by the States, which are doing the work and know the problems. Secondly, it refused a request by the States that repayment obligations to the Commonwealth be liberalised. It agreed to allow the States to spend the balance of their allocation over 2 years instead of 4 years. In fact one-half of the money had been spent in one year and the scheme had stalled so there was nothing else he could do. The Government agreed to go back to the original limit of 30 years for repayment instead of 20 years, but only for build-up. So it is still tougher in New South Wales than it has been for 30 years. Then the Government agreed to find an additional $15m for allocation between 6 States over 3 years and tried to insist on earmarking one-half of that sum for farm build-up. If it is, the additional finance for an entire State in a single year could be $700,000. How generous this is. The Commonwealth spends more than that each year on the ink that is spilled on its mountains of paper.
The Minister made another claim about this reconstruction scheme. He said:
The new funds now provided by the Commonwealth will ensure continuity in the job readjustment in agriculture.
This must be a reference to the resettlement loans. What a tragic fraud. There were only 2 dozen applications from all over Australia. In one State only 2 applicants received approval, and one of them got’ a resettlement loan of $500 after losing his farm. The rural retraining scheme is even worse. In the whole of the Riverina there has been only one applicant, who was offered $57 for himself and his family of 4 over 3 years towards a retraining course. This case is the subject of a question on notice that remains unanswered after some, weeks. This is the record. This is the performance. Yet the Minister told Parliament:
The reconstruction scheme has already established itself as a worthwhile catalyst towards renewed viability in primary industry.
ThU miserably inadequate performance satisfied the Government and its Ministers, but it has not satisfied the countryside. Mr Noel Hogan, the national president of the Fanners Union of Australia, told tha
Government bluntly and firmly the other day that S300m is needed on the basis of low interest and long term finance. The local government bodies have told the Minister in deputation that the amount made available for rural assistance is totally inadequate. The Western Division Group of the Shires Association of New South Wales told the Minister that the cost of servicing loans is now prohibitive and that over the whole State only one applicant in 3 or 4 has been able to get help from rural reconstruction and that only one in 5 applicants from the western division of New South Wales has received any help. The Group told the Minister also that interest rates of 4 per cent for debt adjustment and 6i per cent for build-up are far too high, and produced evidence that 90 per cent of the wool subsidy in some areas has gone to banks and pastoral finance companies and not to growers.
The Minister was told of an efficient producer who was a victim of the anomalies and inadequacies of a series of government schemes. He was advised that he was too wealthy to apply for drought relief money and ineligible for wool relief grants because his income had not fallen by 8 per cent in the required period as he had used credit to re-stock after the drought. The administrators of the scheme disregarded his bigger debts and bigger commitments, simply taking into account paper income from wool from sheep he had bought on tick. Then along came the Government’s assistance to the wool industry by guaranteeing 36c per lb. This grower missed out again. He found that his money was held by the wool firm, so he applied for rural reconstruction assistance. This was his last hope. In spite of 40 years of work in the industry and his proven record, he has again missed out.
This is the story of the Government’s measures in the countryside. They are narrow and inadequate, and designed to promote the Government’s programme of get big or get out’. The Prime Munster has made the Government’s policy clear. He said that 18,000 wool growers have to get out of the industry. This means an exodus of 100,000 people from the countryside. The Prime Minister announced it. It is policy. lit is being implemented. It is not long since I stood in this House and asked the Minister for Primary Industry to investigate the plight of 600 closer settlement lessees in New South Wales. They have revolted and simply told the New South Wales Government that they cannot pay 5 per cent on their leases, the charge insisted upon by the New South Wales Minister for Lands who, when in opposition, said that if the charge was more than 2i per cent the scheme would fail. I asked the Minister for Primary Industry to investigate the situation and the revolt by 3,000 irrigators against increased government charges for water. I wanted the Minister to understand the problems of the countryside. He should have task forces going into trouble areas to get information on the measure of help needed. He will not believe the States or heed the farmers. Perhaps he accepts what is said by the Prime Minister and agrees with the reduction proposed of the rural sector.
I reject the Minister’s reference to the horticultural industry as completely inadequate. I remind him that the canned fruits industry in Australia was initiated and encouraged by government, and that growers in my area have been following to the letter government advice on what to plant and how much of it. They are now being penalised for following government advice and government directives. The Federal Government has a direct and clear responsibility to the canned fruits industry. It brought it into being under the umbrella of the Ottowa Imperial Trade Agreements of 1932 and it cannot now abandon the infant that it brought into the world. If the industry is in trouble it is because the Federal Government has vacillated over 10 years following Britain’s announced intention to enter the European Common Market. It still has not spelled out a policy for the future. It still has not made alternative treaty and preference arrangements. AH that the Government has done is to talk about over-production - that term was used in the Minister’s statement - as if the industry was responsible for all the ills. But the responsibility is the Government’s. If it acts and gives leadership, the growers will respond.
Finally, I want to pin the Minister down on a subject that he has so far avoided. There was discussion at the CommonwealthState meetings about the future of the studs. The New South Wales Sheep Breeders Association and State agencies have asked for special assistance for the nation’s studs. Many of the studs are sunk in crisis and face extinction. If they go and the valuable genetic material is dispersed, it could take 20 years to reassemble these powerhouses in the development of the Wool industry. It has been estimated that $10m will be needed to stabilise the stud (industry and to help sheep producers to maintain a high standard. The Government should help producers to get good sound nock rams. This would assist the industry generally. It is doubtful if more than 100,000 flock rams were bought in this ram-selling season over the whole of Australia. The average price was under $30 a ram. If we are to throw flock improvement to the winds, then we will return to the kind of unimproved merinos which still graze in Camden as historic relics of the past. That sort of animal will return to haunt us in the future.
Incomes have been reduced by one-third in 2 years of rural recession and prospects are labelled ‘very doubtful’ for the future. We cannot afford this. The answer in rural reconstruction is clear. The countryside needs confidence and credit. The Government should reject the McMahon doctrine of wholesale removals. The Minister should find his courage and rebel against this inept concept by his inept leader. The producers do not want handouts; they do not want to wait for bankruptcy. They want to know that the nation needs them and will stand by them. They want an injection of confidence which they do not get from statements by the Prime Minister that 18,000 of them will have to leave the industry. Every member on the Government side sat silent and did not even challenge that statement.
-Order! The Minister has been interjecting constantly. He will cease. I have already asked for his cooperation in this regard on several occasions. I suggest that he give me that co-operation.
– I understand, Mr Speaker, that the Minister’s conscience is troubling him, and he has my sympathy. AH I hope is that conscience will prevail and that his policies will change. The opposition has spelled out precisely and clearly in its supreme policy - making body - the Federal Conference - which met in Launceston that it recognised the need for long-term low-interest finance. It was resolved as a Party decision that this finance should be made available. The Government parties might find it incredible in their circumstances, but we placed no limit on the amount to be made available. Such money was to be made available as would lead to a new deal in the countryside. We are not tied to banks and pastoral finance companies. A Government guarantee of $500m at 3 per cent would cost the Treasury $15m, the amount that the Government is now frittering away in little extras. If those loans were made available on terms up to 30 years it would break the recession and bring a new deal to the countryside which the Government has refused and which we are pledged to bring about.
– The House has been treated to another set piece from the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The only thing I can say about his speech is that the figures he quoted bear no relation to the official figures. I can only adjure him to check his figures before he makes such a speech. He might not like to do this because accuracy might spoil his case. I was interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who said there has been an urgent need for rural reconstruction for some years. If there has been such a need for some years, obviously the honourable member for Dawson, as the Opposition spokesman on primary industry, would have been calling for some rural reconstruction scheme. To my knowledge the first major party to call for rural reconstruction was the Liberal Party when it published its rural guidelines early in 1970.
I congratulate the Government, and particularly the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), upon taking on board the aims of these rural guidelines and bringing into the House last year solutions for the long term problems of the rural industries. This - and again I congratulate the Government - was a realisation of the necessity for a broad approach to the problems of the rural industries. The aim was, as we have heard expressed many times from the
Government side, to establish viable rural industries and also viable individuals within rural industry. For this reason I think that the advent of this rural reconstruction scheme last year was an occasion for offering some congratulation to the Government. The second reading and third reading stages were concluded on 5th May last year.
We have heard that the provisions include the supply of $100m over 4 years. Of this sum, 50 per cent was for debt reconstruction and 50 per cent was for farm buildup. The third section of the scheme embraces the field of rehabilitation. Under the original provisions of the scheme the rehabilitation segment provided for a maximum of $1,000, but it provided also that the property of a person seeking the rehabilitation payment must be purchased under the conditions of farm buildup. There were a couple of aspects of the scheme which I found at that time particularly attractive. One of them was the builtin flexibility. This has been attacked by the honourable member for Riverina, but I do not think that the attack can be given much credence for obviously it is a most responsible action on the part of the Government to review a scheme of this nature, to see how it is working and, if there are certain problems or actions that should be taken, not to wait too long to correct them, or reorganise or re-aim - if I may use that word - the objects of the scheme. It is a good thing that the review has taken place.
Although the honourable member for Riverina would have it that the meetings between the State Ministers and the Federal Minister were acrimonious affairs, I am afraid that my information is completely at variance with his. The result of the scheme so far has been that the States approved, up to the beginning of April, the expenditure of $59.6m, $49. 8m of which has been approved for debt reconstruction, $9.8m for farm buildup and $29,500 for rehabilitation. There were 3 meetings of some of the Ministers involved in March, and again I must say that I believe it is a good thing that this example of cooperative federalism is before the House. The Federal Government is not taking a dictatorial attitude, imposing its will on the State governments. This is, as I say, co operative federalism, with the States and the Commonwealth working together to achieve a mutually satisfactory result.
The alterations have already been canvassed in this debate. The amount of SI 00m, instead of being paid over 4 years, will now be paid over 2 years. There is an added flexibility built in with the debt reconstruction and farm buildup provisions. There are extended terms of repayment: they are from 20 years to 30 years at the discretion of the State authorities. This is a significant advance in the provisions of the rural reconstruction scheme, lt has quite a significant effect on the interest payments which the recipients of money have to face, and I think that this is one point that will be welcomed by those people who have access to the scheme and come within its provisions. The rehabilitation aspects of the scheme have been changed also, and the maximum amount payable for rehabilitation has gone from $1,000 to $3,000. I will have a little bit more to say about that later. Additionally, an extra $15m has been committed for carryover into the financial year 1973-74. This again is a realistic approach to the problems which the States would have in the administration of the scheme.
Although I have been fairly congratulatory in my remarks so far, I do have some criticisms of the way the scheme has been drawn up and the way it is being implemented. First, it must be remembered that the original concept of the scheme put equal emphasis on farm buildup and debt reconstruction. I agree that this is an excellent thing. I would hope that the States in administering the scheme over the next year or so will not take too much advantage of the added flexibility which they have been allowed. I think it would be a bad thing if too much emphasis were placed on debt reconstruction to the detriment of farm buildup.
The other thing about farm buildup and debt reconstruction is that a lot of very good farmers are ruled out by the provisions of the scheme because they have access to other credit facilities. They are some of the best farmers within the agricultural industry and it does seem a little bit unfair to me that the good farmers, those people who presumably would have most hope of coping with severe troubles and severe financial stresses within their industries, should be ruled out of access to the scheme. These people, because of their viability, because they are good farmers, because they have built up sound credit ratings, are forced to pay higher interest charges for overdrafts or short term loans. It seems to me to be a little bit unfair that the best farmers, those people who have developed this enviable reputation and who have access, because of the soundness of their farming methods, to other credit are not eligible to take part in this scheme. There are others in a much worse financial situation without equal hope of survival who do get these concessions.
I have referred already to the Liberal Party’s rural policy booklet, but in addition we have a policy within the Liberal Party for the provision of long term finance to fanners to enable those farmers restricted by an excessive short term debt, but whose record of operations indicated viability in the longer term, to restructure that debt and service it without suffering the crippling effects of the combination of high interest and capital repayments. We believe that the loans should be for long term duration, such as the ones under the rural reconstruction scheme, and we believe also that the amount of the loans should be substantial, preferably without limit. So while congratulating the Government upon implementing this rural reconstruction scheme, we think that the Government should look at the provision of long term finance for, if I may use this phrase, the more viable farmers, and should look quite seriously at the establishment of a rural loans insurance corporation.
One of the aspects of the rural situation at the moment, which I believe should be looked at also by the Government, relates to the payment of death duties. I think this has relevance to the situation farmers find themselves in at this time. I do not know that people really understand that the farming sector consistently paid between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of all estate duty collected by the Commonwealth during the 1960s. Yet this farming group made up only 6 per cent of the income taxed population and paid only 6 per cent of the income tax.
– Will the Government take notice of it?
– I hope the Government does take notice because it is quite a burden for those people who are involved in farming activities. To further strengthen this argument I point out that only 1.7 per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue is raised from death duties. So this is another point to take into account when considering the abolition of estate duties. It has relevance in terms of farm reconstruction because the threat or certainty of the imposition of these death duties causes those people who are faced with this problem to fragment their property either to avoid estate duty or to sell off or diminish their properties to pay the death duties. la either case the result is the same, the properties are diminished in size and in many instances become or go perilously close to becoming non-viable units which come under the reconstruction scheme.
I would like to say a few more words about the rehabilitation aspects of the reconstruction scheme. Whilst I welcome the increase to $3,000 of the maximum amount payable this should be reviewed with the object of increasing it still further, because in many cases there is often not very much or nothing left at all after a farmer pays his debts following the selling up of his property. Once he has reached this stage of economic decline he often finds following the selling up of his property that he does not have very much equity left at all and this applies particularly to farmers with families. It strikes particularly hard at those people who may be a little older than one would like to be when starting off to search for a new career and also at those with families. So we should look at 2 aspects of this, firstly, with a view to increasing the maximum amount and, secondly, with a view to widening the provisions for eligibility for rehabilitation by taking into account that section of the farm build up provisions which says:
None of the foregoing would prevent the Authority from purchasing an uneconomic property in advance of arrangements having been made for the property to be added to an adjoining property or properties, where the programme of farm adjustment could not otherwise be achieved.
I would like the Minister to look closely at this aspect of rehabilitation payments to see whether eligibility perhaps could be widened to include those people who at present are excluded from receiving these benefits. While I welcome the provisions, and I have congratulated the Minister on making this statement, I hope that nobody in this House, or within the country, will become too euphoric about the future of agricultural industries. We are all tremendously pleased with the rise which has taken place in the price of wool and the very real injection of confidence which this has put into the rural industries. But this is by no means to say that this rise will be permanent and we should not base too much euphoria on the present state of affairs. Certainly we should be pleased but we should not lose sight of the need for an ongoing reconstruction programme.
The other aspects of primary industry which concern me arise from the problems which will be engendered by Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. This will have a marked effect on several Australian agricultural industries involving a large number of people. So again let us not be too euphoric about the present state of affairs but keep in mind the need for reconstruction. The Government has started to tackle the problems and this constant review and flexibility is a very good thing which should provide an example for many other aspects of government activity. The tackling of long term problems is very encouraging but in tackling them let us not forget the necessity to keep up the fight to restructure our rural industries and to make them viable and worth while in the context of an increasingly sophisticated economy such as Australia has.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.45)- I can recall some of the words of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) when he made the statement to the House on this matter last week. I will agree with the Minister that wool prices have improved and that seasonal conditions in general are good, but there can be no doubt that the long term problems of the rural industries remain, particularly in my electorate. It could be said also that some farms are too small to be economically viable under the present conditions and circumstances. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) said that what the country needs is confidence and credit. It seems to me that it is a tragedy that so many more farms would be economically viable if the burden of debts which cannot be serviced over a short period of time could be serviced over a longer period at low interest rates. The rural reconstruction scheme is not giving enough consideration to people in this position.
The most shocking thing that came out of the Minister’s statement was that only 829,500 was to be paid towards rehabilitation of displaced rural workers. If any useful effect is to be achieved in the many and far-reaching problems of our rural industries, certainly the balance of the original SI 00m must be allocated in the year 1972-73. The $10Om allocation spread over a period of 4 years was, of course, ridiculous. When compared with the national farm income of $l,051m in 1969- 70, a year when prices were depressed and seasons generally were not too favourable, as an endeavour to provide a viable base for a continuing contribution to our export earning capacity the investment of 2.5 per cent of the farm income over a 4- year period could be classed as really hopeless. It must be considered unjust when it is remembered that a large proportion of the loans will be repayable. Now we are told that we are to get over 2 years what we were to receive over 4 years. The Australian Labor Party has been saying for a long time that not enough money was put into the scheme. But it is marvellous what the States and the gallup polls can do. They can really move this Government. It must be considered unjust also when it is remembered that many of the farm adjustments and farm amalgamations that have occurred so far have taken place in the private sector without any Government intervention at all. It is quite obvious by the Minister’s statements mat he expects this state of affairs to continue in the future.
It is for this reason that the Minister has placed so much emphasis on the need for traditional lenders to continue to play their role in facilitating adjustment. What the Government members neglect to say is that only those farmers who can prove that they do not really need a loan will get finance from this channel. The greatest problem of farmers in my electorate is that they are already in trouble because they have received previous financing from the sources which are now putting pressure on them. Where the effect of declining prices and income is widespread the institutions and towns which serve rural communities are also affected. Inability to service debts leads to trouble with the banks and other lenders. Many business people in my electorate have asked for some assistance in this regard because lenders have an incentive to foreclose mortgages, although I must admit that to my knowledge not too many have done this. Nevertheless, they have applied severe pressure and restrictions on business houses. In many cases farmers are allowed only a living allowance. The lenders do not foreclose because the so-called owner is the cheapest manager that the lender can get. If the farmer were put off the farm it would cost the lender twice as much to run the property. Local government authorities suffer a reduction in income and this brings about a decline in existing services and facilities. Schools and other establishments which are financed by local communities to some degree are severely affected. Retailers and service agencies in the country towns are subjected to a sharp decline in trade.
I am prepared to admit that some of these things are only side effects. I mention them only because the Minister said that before dealing with the outcome of his meeting with the States on this matter it was appropriate to see the rural reconstruction scheme in the context of the Government’s overall policy towards assistance for rural industries. If this were so, would it not also be appropriate to see the rural reconstruction scheme in the context of the Government’s overall neglect to carry out a policy that would have done much more to relieve the hardship and suffering of these people? With all due respect to the capable Minister, the people in my electorate must regard with some misgivings, to say the least, his remarks to the effect that the review has shown that much has been achieved in the relatively short period since the scheme was introduced. An examination of the correspondence that I have with me will show how they regard his remarks. I will read part of a letter which I received only a couple of days ago. It states:
The problem of finding this money has been brought about through the years of drought this country has experienced and then the severe recession in the wool industry. Due to the drought it was necessary that our stock numbers bs reduced to very few. Due to a rain in April 1970 shortly after our stock were sold off we have had feed which would have carried more than we had on the property but have been unable to obtain sufficient finance to restock other than 600 old ewes which the seller allowed me to have on the basis of payment after shearing several months after the date of delivery of the sheep. When the sheep were sold in February 1970, a mob of about 1,000 maiden ewes were sold against my instructions and the selling of these will have cost me an estimated conservative loss of income of $23,000 from those ewes and their offspring, however, as my instructions were issued verbally prior to the sale it appears that one must grin and bear this loss even though one realises why the sale was pushed. During 1971 I applied to the Commonwealth Development Bank for assistance but the application was refused without explanation. I then applied for the Drought Relief Restocking Loan for the purchase of 1,000 ewes but again was refused. I then applied to the Rural Assistance Board for a debt reconstruction loan and also to restock - their reply was to the effect that they could not assist unless I could obtain more country. Since June of last year we have been trying to live and nin the property on a drought relief loan’.
Another letter I received states:
We certainly agree with what was written. It seems that despite all the noise the Government is making that this scheme will ‘save rural industries’ - in actual fact it is extremely difficult to find anyone who has been assisted. There is a current local saying ‘. . . that you almost have to be in credit to be considered eligible for the Scheme to take you on . . .’
In our own case we put in an application, together with a detailed statement of assets and liabilities, at the end of January this year, and a detailed inspection was carried out by Mr Valuer Pike- who is the valuer attached to the Rural Bank at Dareton - in May. On 27th May we received our first ‘knock back’ to which we replied on 21st June only to receive a letter which only confirmed the Board’s original decision.
We realise that everyone can’t be assisted, but after having worked damned hard for 8 years to make a reasonably improved property out of what was a very poor set up and then be virtually written off by the Board, as what they no doubt consider to be an eventual bankrupt, is a bit bard to take.
It is quite obvious that the scheme was not designed to assist the small farmer, no matter how efficient he is. The 2 letters that I have quoted will indicate this. It will benefit mainly the large commercial farmer. At a time when the low income farmer can do little other than leave the industry with a significant capital loss and illequipped to earn other income to house and provide for his family, this is an injustice. This raises doubts about the Minister’s statement that the loan for rehabilitation of those obliged to leave the industry amounted to only 529,500. If only $29,500 has been allocated to all those who have already been forced to move from the rural areas up to this time, they must have got $1 or less each.
The Minister has stated that they may now get a loan of $3,000. On the last occasion that the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Bill was debated I pointed out that an issue of the maritime workers journal had indicated that 120 reduntant wharf labourers were to receive $400,000 redundancy payment - not a loan; a straight out payment. The Silverton Tramway employees received 12 months full pay when the east-west rail service took over the line. Many of them did not lose a days work, nor did they have to shift out of the houses in which they lived. The Broken Hill mine workers have a redundancy scheme which provides $100 a year up to a maximum of $2,500, plus compensation for loss of equity in the home and also an early retirement on a pension if they are 57 years of age.
– That is a bit of a contrast, is it not?
– I will say it is. The older segment of the rural population is not well provided for either. This is an area in which Government action is urgently needed. Not only is the older farmer who is forced to leave his farm a real social problem, but in many cases his financial situation is hopeless. To provide for his old age the typical farmer has previously been able to rely on a capita] appreciation of his farm, either as a result of investment in farm development or as a result of rising land values generally. To some extent, this was a rural substitute for the superannuation schemes in other industries. But the erosion of values as a result of falling commodity prices has meant that farmers have lost nearly all that they hoped for. Many have tried to get the age pension. Some have been successful, but unfortunately many have failed in this area. In my opinion, they should be given some kind of annuity in exchange for their farm properties or they should be encouraged and assisted to live in their present dwellings and rent the farm to neighbouring farmers. It does not appear that the Government has taken all these things into consideration. In spite of the denial, it is a case of get big or get out. I think the article in the ‘Lachlander* of 5th April 1972 gives some indication of how the New South Wales Minister for Lands considers these things. The article is headed ‘300 Western Leases May Have To Go’. The article states:
A forecast that 300 of the.], 900 lessees in the western division may have to be purchased out and move from the area was made at Hil:tor recently by the Minister for Lands, Mr Lewis, at a luncheon attended by himself and a group of Liberal parliamentarians who toured the west in a flying week end.
It seems to me pretty tragic if this is the outlook of the Government’s rural reconstruction scheme. All that is needed in the outback areas, as the honourable member for Riverina has already pointed out to the House, is confident credit. I think it is about time this Government started to build a bit of confident credit back into the rural industries.
– In 1971 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) introduced into this House the States Grant (Rural Reconstruction) Bill, which made available $100m to finance the rural reconstruction scheme. The statement which the Minister made in the House this month on rural reconstruction has upgraded the provisions of that Bill by announcing the Government’s intention to make available $ 130.5m for approval by the States by 30th June 1973. As I understand the situation, this scheme has been undertaken in conjunction with the States, which for constitutional reasons are responsible for its implementation. Much has been said tonight about the scheme. We have heard accusations that it falls short of what is required and we have heard other criticisms. We have heard about who first thought of it and so forth.
The original measure which introduced this scheme is only one of many that have been introduced into this House by the Government over past years to assist rural industries in this nation. But let us see what happened to make this measure and several other measures necessary. We had across Australia, not at the one time but in various years, a number of areas experiencing dry conditions and in some cases even drought. Certainly Queensland but also the other States know about that. These conditions depleted the resources of primary industry throughout this country, and primary producers were receiving no income with which to pay for their daily needs and their requirements for production. Interest charges, shire rates and all other rates were not able to be paid because drought conditions prevailed and no production could be achieved. That situation developed right across Australia at one time or another and depleted the resources of the primary industries. On top of the drought came other adversities, the main one being a serious drop in wool prices. This was the culmination of a series of events which had been occurring for over 20 years. Some honourable members in this House would know little or nothing about that episode. It was because of the combined effect of these events that farmers across Australia got into the problems in which they are now. This measure, together with many other measures, was introduced to try to correct the situation.
The fact that this matter has been discussed with the States by the Minister and $1 30.5m has been made available does not mean that this is the end of the Commonwealth’s participation in the scheme. It was indicated at the time when it was introduced that it would be reviewed. The first review takes place this year and no doubt the scheme will be reviewed again in the future. Not only is it important to talk about rural reconstruction and other schemes designed to assist rural industry, but it is important also to realise that the rural reconstruction scheme or any other scheme of a similar nature cannot operate and be successful unless the primary producers in this country get a reasonable return for that which they produce. This is why I mentioned the episode to which I referred. Mention has been made in this House tonight of the price of wool.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I could well be out of order in raising this point, but it seems to me to be sheer discourtesy to the House for the Minister not to be in the chamber during the debate on his statement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! No point of order arises.
– I am drawing the attention of those who are in the chamber to the fact that the Minister is being most discourteous by his absence.
-Order! No point of order whatsoever is involved.
– We on this side of the House consider this matter a very important matter and not one on which to take frivolous points of order such as we have just heard. It is important that primary producers in this country get a fair return for what they produce. I mention in particular the wool industry. It would be reasonable to suggest that the measures introduced by the Government in setting up the Australian Wool Commission have been responsible for better returns to wool growers. The Goverment has stuck with the Commission and defied all those, not only in Australia but also overseas, who seem determined that the Wool Commission should not operate and that they should succeed, as in fact they had succeeded in other directions in the last 20 years, in smashing the Wool Commission. It would be reasonable to assume at this point that in view of what has happened in the last year or so the Act which established the Austraiian Wool Commission has been responsible for $100m to $150m going, in the forms of returns, to the Australian wool growers. These are the types of measures which must be introduced if we are to see that the primary producer gets his fair return for that which is produced.
It has been said in this House that we should not have too much confidence in the price of wool. Lack of confidence is what is wrong with Australia and what has been wrong with Australia in the past. It was the New South Wales growers, amongst many others, who on many occasions defeated attempts to restore confidence in the wool industry. It is no good having a rural reconstruction scheme or any other scheme unless a fair return is available for the wool industry, the wheat industry, the meat industry and all other industries. Ensuring adequate returns to farmers is just as important as, if not more important than, the provisions of the scheme we are debating tonight. Many things remain to be done, and if people think that the fight is not yet over they are thinking correctly.
Many things need to be done so that the primary producers in this country can be assured of a fair return. Things are being done by the Government through the many measures which have been introduced to assist primary industries in more recent times. There is an even more important measure than the rural reconstruction scheme we are debating this evening. That scheme is designed to assist a certain section of primary industry which is in very great financial trouble in servicing its borrowings. It is helping many people. This concept is new in many parts of this country. New South Wales had had some experience of such an operation, but the other States had not. So there will be a period of time in which the other States will gain some experience and no doubt improve their techniques in alleviating the financial problems of farmers.
What is required, as I have stated many times over the past 2 or 3 years or more, is a refinancing corporation within the banking structure as we know it today. Such an organisation has been called many things, but I call it a refinancing corporation. If my memory serves me correctly, more than 80 per cent of primary producers’ borrowings are on overdrafts at the moment. This is not a sound and satisfactory way to finance farming. No other section of industry throughout Australia is asked to do what primary industries are asked to do. Secondary industry does not in fact repay its loans over a short period. As a rule, its loans go on ad infinitum. One has only to pick up the daily newspapers and look at the stock exchange reports or turn to some other media to find what has happened. Primary industries have been expected over the years to repay their loans over a short period. This is just not real life. I think that a refinancing corporation would be of tremendous assistance to those people who cannot be taken care of by the scheme we are discussing this evening.
The overall figures for the Commonwealth in relation to rural reconstruction have been mentioned this evening. I would like to make some reference to them to indicate to the House the situation in my own State of Western Australia. The last figures which I have were dated about 7th April 1972. Up to that point of time, 1,105 applications had been received by the
Authority in that State. Of this number, 343 had been approved for reconstruction and 59 had been approved for farm build-up, making a total of 402 approvals. Of the balance, some 559 reconstruction applicants were rejected and 98 farm build-up applications were also rejected. This makes a total of some 657 rejections. Of course, of the balance a few were still being considered.
What is happening, of course, is what I mentioned a little time ago. It is that Western Australia, with the other States, has had little or no experience with this operation. Those who in many cases in Western Australia have been refused assistance on the first occasion have reapplied and perhaps even come back a third time. I am sure that many of these will be successful, especially in the light of the fact that the Government, following discussions with the State Ministers by the Minister for Primary Industry, has agreed to increase the amount to be made available over the 2-year period. I wish to make a particular point in relation to some of those who are being rejected. I am not sure whether this is happening in the other States or not, but possibly it is. Before the drop in the wool prices it was quite common across Australia for properties to change hands at fairly high prices. In those circumstances, these prices were beyond what might be considered reasonable for farm purchases. Many of those who have purchased at these high prices are finding themselves in trouble. Many of these people are the ones who are moving towards the rural reconstruction authority for the purposes of obtaining assistance.
I have noticed that in a lot of cases where properties had been purchased about 3 or 4 years ago, the mortgagee has recognised the situation and recognised that the price paid at that point of time by the purchaser of the property was too high. In numerous cases which I know of mortgagees have agreed to reduce the capital. by some $20,000 to $30,000 providing that the reconstruction authority would pick up the balance and put the owner of the property on his feet. In many of these cases - not all of them, no doubt - this was being refused by the authority. I feel that in these cases the authority should be doing the reconstruction. That is fair enough. When the mortgagee in any particular case is willing to reduce by $20,000 or $30,000 the price of a property after substantial amounts have been paid, I believe it is a good proposition, in the cases I have seen, for the authority to pick up the balance of the debt and let an applicant continue on a sound basis.
I have mentioned the importance of marketing. I should like to have spent a little more time on this, but time will not allow me. The area between the farm producer and the consumer is one of the main areas which we in Australia, not only the primary producers but also governments, must be looking at to see that the farmers receive a fair return in the dollar for what they produce. Times have changed. We must see that this is done because no rural reconstruction scheme or any other financial scheme can succeed unless this is done. The Government has made available hundreds of millions of dollars in the wheat, wool and other industries in order to assist them. I have no doubt that these policies will continue in the future.
– I am prompted to say a few words on this subject following the speech of the farmer from Warringah- the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). I feel that if a member of the Liberal Party representing a waterside electorate in Sydney can speak for Liberal Party rural policy at a time when we thought that the Liberal Party and the Country Party had one policy, I, as a former resident of Currabubula, can say a few words tonight on this important matter. Is not it an amazing and unfortunate situation that 23 years after the Liberal Party and the Country Party came to government we are tonight debating rural reconstruction with all the horrors associated with it as exemplified by speeches from honourable members on this side of the Parliament. Is not it tragic to think that after 23 years of a policy for the countryman foisted upon the Liberal Party by the Country Party tonight we have to vote and speak on the grant of $121m to save the rural industries from destruction despite the policies of this administration? I do not know who is to speak for the Government. I do not know whether it will be the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) or the Assistant
Minister assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr King). One thing is quite definite to the Australian people. It is that we need a Minister to assist the Minister for Primary Industry because if this is his record that we are discussing tonight it is time that the honourable member for Wimmera who is at the table took his place because he could not be much worse. Throughout the country districts of Australia today there is unemployment and want. Men are walking off their farms. As the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) have said tonight, people throughout the country districts in this prosperous age are in want and require assistance to the extent of $121m. This is happening after 23 years of government during which we were told that the primary producers would be protected and looked after. Is not this an indication that this year the people in the country districts should vote for the only real country party representatives, the members of the Australian Labor Party who really understand the problems of the country people? Honourable members opposite laugh. In 1944, the Labor Party introduced a referendum to give organised marketing to primary producers. It was defeated, thanks to the confusion created by the very people who were supposed to represent them at that time. In 1946 another referendum for organised marketing was put to the Australian people. At that time, we showed the people what Labor could do for the producer in a few short years. I will repeat what it did for the benefit of those newcomers to this Parliament who know nothing of the record of Labor for the primary producers in this country. When it came to office, Labor stabilised the wheat industry and gave wheatgrowers guaranteed prices. It provided the majority of the grower representatives on the Australian Wheat Board. It provided cheap wheat for feed purposes. It provided over £2m - they were pounds at that time - for drought relief. It enabled farmers to purchase superphosphate at less than market prices. It guaranteed prices in respect of barley, oats, maize, other grain; and pig meats.
– Who did this?
– A Labor Government. It secured increased prices for wool which gave additional millions of pounds a year to wool growers. I lived in the country districts when wool sold for lOd a lb and wheat sold for 7d a bushel. A Tory government forced people to walk off their farms 40 years ago just as it is forcing them to do this today. Yet it is still asking for support in country districts. In addition to this, the Labor Party granted subsidies worth $7,500,000 a year to the dairy industry. This was in 1943 and 1944 when, under a Labor Government, money was money, and when there was value in the £1. It was when the £1 was worth £1 and not the few cents which the dollar is worth today. The Labor Party secured increased prices for various classes of meat and meat products and entered into a long range contract with the British Government for the sale of all surplus meat and dairy products. It stabilised the price of potatoes and doubled the price which was previously received. It increased the price of tobacco leaf. It increased the price of flax. In 5 years it gr:anted assistance to primary producers to the value of over £40m. In 3 years of achievement while in Government it did more for primary producers than this Government has done in 23 years.
At that time primary producer organisations everywhere condemned the Country Party for being what it was and as it is today, masquerading under a policy of having country interests when it really represents the vested interests of the cities which it says it despises so much. I have here an article from the Western Australian Wheatgrower’ of 29th July 1943. I read this article because what it said is as true today as it was in 1943. I do not think that the ‘Wheatgrower’ is a militant paper. I do not think it is pro-communist. I understand that it was a supporter of the Country Party at that time. The article in this paper said:
The Country Party, who have so long complained to the farmer that the city interests are truly those which have bled the farmer white, now ally themselves with the Party representing those interests and pretending as they do that such a course is the only one open for the true benefit of the man on the land.
I hardly think that there is an actual countryman in the Country Party. Everyone knows that the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) is an auctioneer, and not a good one. The Country Party is clouded up with solicitors and ministers of religion. Its membership is made up of everything but country men. Yet members of the Party masquerade in this Parliament today as people representing primary industry. It is no wonder the country people want $121m worth of relief. The members of the Country Party have ceased to represent the country interests. They are dragging along at the coat tails of the Liberal Party which tonight announced its own independent country policy. I thought that this was a united Government. I thought that honourable members opposite had one policy for one people. But there is a Liberal-Country Party policy and a Country Party policy. The result has been that the Government has to vote $12 lm to allow farmers and others to get unemployment relief and assistance. This has been necessary because the Government’s policy has failed as a result of disunity.
I wish I had time to read all of the booklet I have here. It reveals a remarkable record. Further on it has a chapter headed Praise for Labor’. Another article which appeared in the ‘Wheatgrower’ stated:
With the passage of time it has become more and more obvious to those who think, that the Country Party is but a glorious offshoot of the city interests. ,
The ‘Wheatgrower’ of 15th July 1943 added:
Most farmers will readily admit that greatest benefits and most sympathy have come their way through the efforts of Federal Labor against whom the former political leaders would lead them in a crusade of hate and vituperation.
These comments are as true today as they were 20 years ago. If we want any proof we should have a look at the record shown in the proposal which we are discussing tonight. The honourable member for Mallee has sat silently here since his Party has been in Government and has supported a policy which brought the rural industries down in ruins and chaos. Why should he not do this? The Queen knighted him for his efforts. What would she have done if he had done something for the rural producers? I do not wonder that the Government has appointed an Assistant Minister to assist the Minister. He needs half a dozen such men. We know what the real situation is today. The booklet to which I have referred is an interesting one and I would like, if I could, to incorporate it all in Hansard. But I have great respect for the Hansard people.
– Why would not Labor say anything-
– I hear the Minister. The Minister is a really bright Minister. The other day someone asked him should the Leader of the Country Party replace the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and he said: ‘No, the present Prime Minister would be equally as good as Mr Gorton was’. Mr Gorton lost 22 seats, so here’s to the next Labor government. I just mention these matters in passing. I do not mind the Minister interjecting because it gives me good practice for more serious audiences.
When we sought to organise marketing for primary producers this is what we told the Australian people, and farmers everywhere should be remembering it tonight. Until Labor came to office in those years the farmer was as destitute as he is today under a Liberal-Tory Government, But Labor let the man on the land march proudly through Australia. Instead of owing the banks money, the banks owed him money and throughout this country at that time the farmer or primary producer stood proudly, knowing full well that he could stand with his head high and that he was not in debt. Between 1939 and 1944 mortgages and bank overdrafts owed by primary producers had been reduced by over £60m under a Labor government. More primary producers went into higher and more assured income groups. Australia’s wartime marketing experience clearly showed the great advantage to primary producers pf enabling a single national authority to lay down a plan on marketing for primary products. The Labor Party gave the primary producer the opportunity to live as he should - as a human being with a good return for his products, a fair return to the worker, and in every way take his place in society not as a debtor but as a proud man adding his contribution to the welfare of this country.
I tell electors in country districts that men like the honourable members for Dawson (Dr Patterson), Riverina (Mr Grassby), Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) are the type of men who will come into this Parliament in floods after the next election and who will really speak for the rural and primary producers of this country. Is it not shocking that members of the Country Party chide me when I speak on wheat, wool and chaff? I was reared in the country districts. But is it not dreadful that this great Liberal Party which is running the country can only produce the farmer from Warringah to represent it in this place? What a remarkable situation this is. Tonight, therefore, I thought I would expose what has been done in relation to primary producers. The Country Party and the Liberal Party have been politically married and divorced so often that it would take a combination of Hollywood stars to break the record. I think that tonight they are on the wave again. We have seen 2 policies presented. We have seen 2 Ministers presented. To show the unity between the 2 Parties, they could not afford to appoint an assistant to the Minister from the Liberal Party because the 2 Parties do not talk politically; they talk only publicly. They seem to present the facade of unity to the people. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) has become very vociferous in more recent weeks on rural matters. If I was as close to the political wind as he is I would do the same. I congratulate him on his intelligence, even though he has not done much for the country people between election years; he did nothing until this year.
The point at issue is that the members of the Country Party in this Parliament get 10 per cent of the votes of the Australian people. But by rigged and gerrymandered boundaries, where one vote in the country is worth about 2 in the cities, they dominate the Government of this country. The reason that primary producers are in trouble today is that Country Party members have dominated the rural policies of this country. This means that a dole of $121m has to be given out to primary producers. I do not begrudge the primary producers their $121m of dole. The primary producers are entitled to this amount. But let us have a look at what it means to this Government. The Minister in his second reading speech said:
At the review meeting the Commonwealth and States agreed that rehabilitation loans for farmers obliged to leave the industry and suffering personal hardship were not sufficient to meet the farmer’s needs at a time of personal readjustment. Accordingly the maximum amount of the loan has been increased from $1,000 to $3,000.
Do the farmers and the Australian public know what that means? It means that the Government has given a sum equivalent to 30 days travelling allowance that the Ministers get in this Parliament towards the rehabilitation of the rural industries. Every farmer until this proposal came in was worth 30 days travelling allowance of Ministers in the Liberal Government. The Government is getting really generous in an election year. The farmers are now geting as much as a Minister of this Government gets for 90 days travelling allowance. So while the cockies and the graziers in the country districts are looking forward to $3,000 they should remember that Ministers and Assistant Ministers when they run around the country for 90 days get just as much for doing something that has brought farmers to the state of ruin that they are in today. What a tragic commentary of 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government. Why, a Labor government in 3 months would do as much as the present Government can do in 30 years. We realise the contribution that primary producers have made to the Australian economy. We realise that we should have their welfare in mind. Of course I support the grant that has been made. The only thing I say is: What a paltry amount it is.
Every farmer who gets the $50 that the honourable member for Riverina mentioned should resolve that while ever he lives he will never again he represented by a Country Party member if .the amount he receives means only a couple of days travelling allowance, as I mentioned a few moments ago.
I do not like to speak in this strain. There are some members of the Country Party whom I like. There are some members of the Liberal Party whom I like. But on these great issues one must tell country people how they are misrepresented in this Parliament. Time does not permit me to run through the long and infamous record of Country Party representation of primary producers. But tonight, in saying that the amount being granted is not enough, let me place on record the disgraceful attempt by this Government in 23 years of office to care for the needs of the primary producer and let me say that the Labor Party will remedy this situation as soon as it forms a government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah)- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, grievously. We all know that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) is very proud of his origins in Currabubula. But the honourable member should do his homework a little better. If he checked he would find that I come from a place called Baan Baa which is over further north-west than Currabubula. Anyone knowing his geography would realise that I have travelled further than the honourable member for Grayndler.
– Some speakers tonight seem to be most proud to mention where they come from. I think that the important point is where they live now and whom they represent now. Not one member of the Australian Labor Party sitting in this House was a farmer before entering the House. So, what gall they have to talk about rural representation. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) referred to electoral matters and how the policy of the Australian Labor Party on this matter would help the farmer. The country people of Australia should realise very clearly what the electoral policy of the Australian Labor Party, as espoused by that gentleman, is. That policy would mean a gerrymander of a gigantic order which would result in a reduction by one third of the seats in rural areas and a similar increase in seats in inner city areas. This would be achieved by basing electorates on the principle of numbers in electorates rather than voters in electorates. It is better for rural people to have some kind of representation - even if that representation is by members of the Australian Labor Party - than to have no representation at all. The policy of the ALP is very clear; one-third of all rural seats in Australia would be lost under a Labor Party redistribution.
The honourable member for Grayndler spoke also with some pride of Labor’s record when it was in Government. But he forgot to mention that when the Labor
Party was in power wheat was being sold to New Zealand for 5s 3d a bushel when the export price for wheat on the free market was approximately double that figure. The honourable member for Grayndler seemed to be most keen to quote, from the booklet that he used, matters in relation to wheat growers in Victoria. At that time wheat growers in Victoria were so proud of their Labor government that they held monster protest meetings all over Victoria. A ‘tremendous swing against the Labor Party occurred at the next Federal election and the present Government came into office. One of the first and best things that my predecessor, Sir John McEwen, ever did for people in the country was to sack the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board who, under the Labor Government, had tried to sell the birthright of the wheat growers of this country.
The honourable member for Grayndler mentioned also a number of other things that the Labor Government had done. But he forgot to mention the matter of petrol rationing. Fuel is a most important commodity for people in country areas. Because of the insistence of the previous Labor Government on its policy of petrol rationing, country people were in dire difficulties in trying to obtain sufficient petrol for their needs. It is interesting to note that only 2 days ago in this House the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) recommended that the price of crude oil in Australia should be increased. I am sure that country people will love to hear that. They will be glad to know that, under a Labor government, the price that they will be required to pay for petrol will rise greatly because of the desire of the Labor Party to increase the price of crude oil in this country.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) commented that nothing had been done by the present Government to assist horticulture. The honourable member is supposed to represent a horticultural electorate, to a certain extent, but obviously he is completely ignorant of the long and detailed discussions which have been going on with the horticultural industries about their requirement to form a part of, or an addendum to. this reconstruction plan. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is present in the House. I hope that an announcement will be made by him in the very near future on the position of horticulture in this reconstruction scheme. The Minister, in his statement which we are debating, mentioned horticulture. Obviously the honourable member for Riverina has not even bothered to read the Minister’s statement. In his statement, the Minister said:
In the course of the discussions of rural reconstruction Ministers referred to the allied problem of rural credit generally and also the particular difficulties being faced by our horticultural industries outside the context of restructuring of individual farms.
The honourable member for Riverina also mentioned the plight of merino studs. Yet this is the same gentleman who had the gall earlier to say that the embargo on the export of merino rams should not be lifted. If one single act could help the merino studs of Australia it would be the granting to them of permission to export rams to other countries so that they might obtain wider sales for their stock.
The honourable member for Riverina referred to the McMahon doctrine, but I think people in country areas would be far more interested to learn about the Whitlam doctrine. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is a man who hardly ever ventures into country areas but who, in 1965, said that far too much money was being spent in the country. That was a statement made 7 years ago. My friend, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) represents, among other places in his electorate, the town of Dirranbandi. The Leader of the Opposition ventured forth to that town some weeks ago. As a result of a statement made there by the Leader of the Opposition, to the effect that as so many people live in the cities we could not really spend any money in the country, the honourable member for Maranoa is now more assured than ever of a record majority at the next Federal election. I think that it is the responsibility of those who represent country people to assist in spreading these interesting facts about the views of the Leader of the Opposition about the people who live in our countryside.
The honourable member for Dawson made a rather interesting but most contradictory statement. He said that it was the policy of the Labor Party to adjust farm production to meet international demand.
He also said in condemnation of the Government that thousands of farmers had been forced to leave their farms. Now, if it is the policy of the Labor Party to introduce regulations to adjust farm production as it sees fit to meet what it considers to be international demand, surely this more than any other single act would force thousands of farmers to leave their land without any form of justice at all.
In support of his argument, the honourable member for Dawson said that we should take more notice of expert reports. He mentioned the report of the McCarthy Committee which investigated the dairying industry. One of the major recommendations of the McCarthy report was that the dairying industry subsidy should be phased out over a period of 5 years. I put squarely to the Labor Party this question: Does this mean that the Labor Party does not believe in any form of assistance for the dairying industry? Where does the Labor Party stand on support for the dairying industry if, in its view, the report of the McCarthy Committee which suggests that the dairying subsidy should be cut out is such a wonderful document whose recommendations should be followed?
– It did not say 5 years; it said 10 years.
– But the honourable member agrees that it said that the subsidy should be cut out. That is the point. Also, when it was proposed that a wool subsidy should be introduced, it was the present Opposition which said that a means test should be applied. If honourable members opposite, including the 2 honourable gentlemen sitting on the front bench who represent sugar electorates are to be consistent, will they stand here and say that that principle should be applied to sugar producers as well? They were being most virtuous, they thought, in saying that a means test should be applied to wool growers.
Members of the Labor Party mentioned also that this rural reconstruction plan was introduced too late. Some said that it was introduced 20 years too late. It is rather coincidental that, 20 years ago, Australia was experiencing the Korean wool boom. Surely honourable members opposite would not suggest seriously - although some of them seem to be serious about this matter - that rural reconstruction should have been introduced during the Korean wool boom. I think that the Labor Party is doing less than justice to the farmers of Australia because, to their credit, the ability of our farmers to be flexible, adaptable and to diversify has meant that they have been able to carry on far longer than farmers in any other advanced agricultural country without the need for the support provided by the measure which is being introduced now. The statement made by the Minister as a result of the review of the rural reconstruction scheme is a most encouraging document. It points to the fact that some of the anomalies that were present in the scheme have been corrected. It points to the flexibility of the scheme. In his statement the Minister said:
It appears probable that different circumstances from State to State will make it inappropriate to achieve an exact SO per cent of farm build-up to total assistance in each State. However, it is an understanding that, provided the States encourage farm build-up applications to the maximum extent possible and approve all cases which are assessed as viable, this will be accepted by the Commonwealth as the closest compliance with the general objective that is practicable.
It has been said in this debate that somehow or other we should adhere to the mathematical 50-50 split between debt adjustment and farm build-up, but some people forget that at the same time as the rural reconstruction legislation was introduced the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank was enlarged and money provided so that that Bank could lend for farm build-up purposes. So in addition to the rural reconstruction scheme we have another agency helping with the farm build-up problem. That is another reason why I believe that there is no need to adhere to a 50-50 differential between debt adjustment and farm build-up. If it turns out to be 60 per cent for debt adjustment and 40 per cent for farm buildup, I do not see anything wrong with that. But more than anything else, the statement by the Minister has provided a sound basis for planning for all the States. The States know that they have approximately $60m to spread over all the applications that they now have. This has given them confidence so that they can plan securely and surely for the future without fear of immediately running out of funds, and they can make the best possible decisions for the people concerned.
To conclude let me return to 2 points made in the statement. I refer to the problem of the horticultural industries and the urgent need for something to be done for these industries. They are part of the agricultural scene as well and if we accept in principle - so everybody here tonight seems to accept the principle - that we should have a scheme such as this, they, as much as anybody else, because of the problems they are facing, deserve to be included in the scheme. Then there is the question of rural credit to which quite a few honourable members on both sides of the House have referred. I commend those honourable members who have mentioned this matter. If we are to plan for a viable future for farmers we must provide rescue operations such as this. Farmers must have credit available over a long term. Because of the nature of farming, a farmer does not receive a quick return on his investment. He has to be able to plan ahead and he has to be able to service his commitments. It is not very creditable that this is possibly the last country of the advanced agricultural countries of the western world which has not provided some form of long term rural credit institution. I congratulate the Minister for what he has achieved for rural reconstruction, as is so evident in bis statement which is before the House.
– The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) found it necessary to go back into the period of the Second World War to dredge the events of that time, when this country was fighting a battle for survival, in an endeavour to excuse himself, his Party and the Government from the charges which have been made in this chamber this evening. It is true that long term finance is required. The honourable member for Murray eventually expressed tha* sentiment. However, he would have rendered a greater service to primary producers and to the people of this country if he had spoken about that at the outset and developed a case for the financial needs of his country, particularly in respect of our primary industries. Over the years people on the land have had a most difficult task. Their way has not been easy, with the spiralling of costs, the burdens of debt and the problems of low prices for certain primary products. These have caused great hardship throughout the country, and those on the land know that only too well.
This Government, in co-operation with State governments, has sought over recent times to do something about rural reconstruction, but it cannot be denied that the tempo of the Government’s activity is increased when an election becomes closer. In the normal time following an election there is barely a sentiment expressed cr a word spoken about the needs of the people in the country. This overwhelming problem of disaster which has affected so many people should have received attention long ago. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) was quite proper and correct in drawing attention to the fact that the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government has been in office for approximately 23 years, during which time it allowed the decay of our countryside to go on unchecked and unhindered until it reached a situation where, with low wool prices and with so many people in desperate circumstances affecting others in the economic life of our country, action was required to be taken.
I ask honourable members to have regard to the overall picture. When the man on the land is finding it difficult to pay his way, other people are finding it difficult to pay their way. Debts grow in our country towns. Farm and equipment businessmen are unable to receive the payments due to them. Business houses of other descriptions find that the farmers are unable to pay their way. Local councils find it increasingly difficult to obtain payment of the rates that are due. It is little wonder that such movements as the Rural Action Movement and the Ratepayers Association have been formed. All these organisations only give emphasis to the problems of the man on the land and the need to find finance to establish our rural industry on a proper and permanent basis. I want to dissociate myself immediately from the concept that one has to get big or get out, because different districts have different types of economy. In some places where the soil is rich and where the rainfall is regularly about 20, 30 or 40 inches a year it is a quite different proposition from being in the marginal country where the soil is not so good and the rainfall is considerably lower. I would like ‘he Government and those responsible for considering rural reconstruction to have regard to these matters.
J have referred to the problem of the business people who are affected by the difficulties of the man on the land. I would ask honourable members to spare a thought, too, for those people in country districts who become unemployed because of the difficulties in the country. Let us look at some of the most recent figures provided by the Department of Labour and National Service. In the Dubbo district the number of registered unemployed males was 838 and the number of females was 563. These are staggering figures. They are figures that surely would disturb the conscience of any Minister, any member of Parliament or any responsible citizen anywhere. In Albury the number of registered unemployed was 311 males and 275 females. In Kempsey there were 403 males and 283 females unemployed. In Maitland, 415 males and 255 females were registered as unemployed. In Lismore, which is represented by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the number of registered unemployed was 356 males and 175 females, and at Wagga Wagga the number was 338 males and 324 females. This is the result of this patchwork approach to the problems of the countryside.
It is first necessary to build the whole economy to deal effectively with the problem of the cost price squeeze - not merely to have regard to the problem of increasing wages - and to take positive action to deal with all elements which find their way into the cost structure. This Government would have been accepted as a more credible and responsible government of this nation if it had introduced some form of price control, price squeeze or price maintenance to ensure that firms like Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the metal and mineral producers and other bodies such as chemical and oil firms were selling their products at a reasonable and just price.
The claims for reconstruction assistance should be considered much more realistically than is the case at present. I reject the idea that the small farmer is not needed because I believe that idea to be incorrect. I think the most economic farm unit in the area that 1 have the privilege to represent is the small farmer on a living area with his son helping him.
– The family farmer.
– The family farm and the family farmer. These are the people who can apply themselves with enthusiasm and with great hope and expectation to building a property and making it something nearer their heart’s desire. I should like to say a few words in respect of that matter, but first let me say that it is an extremely evil thing to apply vicious death duties on the estate of a farmer whose son, daughter, wife and the other members of the family have worked and slaved to make the farm an economic proposition. These people are today, in many cases, in desperate circumstances. Those whose circumstances have become heavily out of balance are told that their proposition is not a viable one and that they are not worthy of consideration because they have gone too far. They are too deeply in debt to the finance houses, to the land and agricultural companies, to the banks and to the other lending institutions and, because of that, their case is rejected. Others have gone forward wanting to buy land and they, too, have been told that their case is such that they do not require to be reconstructed. They are told instead that they should go along to the normal finance institutions and from those institutions they would be able to obtain the finance they required. This is driving these people back to the people who have already rejected them, or putting them into the hands of people whose rate of interest is a burden and beyond the capacity of the farmer to pay. These matters should be considered. Long term finance is required at a reasonable interest rate.
One producer who came to me recently had been forced by a land and agricultural company to dispose of his livestock to pay his debts to the company and, having done that, he then found his beautiful property rich in clover and grass but with no stock to eat it, with no hope of earning enough money to pay his way, and with no hope of making payments to the council and to the other people with whom he had been obliged to have his dealings. These are the problem that on many occasions seem to have escaped those in charge of rural reconstruction. The farmers in particular deserve consideration. The small farmer should not be condemned to extinction. Get big or get out is not good enough. People ought to be considered on their capacity, their capability as individuals, an appreciation of their type of property and the manner in which they are managing their property. I believe that if these facts were taken into consideration our people would be able to go forward in the future in a more realistic way.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) had a good deal to say in his statement about the short term financial arrangements and the matter of build-up. These things are all right when expressed on paper but when it comes to the man on the land who pleads for financial assistance and who needs money to help him conduct his property, these remarks seem to have a very hollow ring indeed. I would like to think that there would be a closer liaison between this Government, the States and the man on the land to see that justice is done. On paper, the amount of finance that has been made available to the various States appears to be reasonable. As was indicated in the Minister’s statement, $121m is to be made available to the States. New South Wales is to receive $36.8m; Victoria is to receive $25.4m; Queensland will receive $24.4m of which $6m relates to separate arrangements; South Australia will receive $ 13.8m; Western Australia will receive $ 16.8m and Tasmania will receive $13. 8m.
I think the Government should look at the diversification of our farming in this country. Out of sheer necessity, we have had to consider the wool industry. Eventually the Government was driven along the path to taking action in providing some sort of wool selling programme, but this temporary arrangement in itself is not enough. There must be a full march ahead to acquisition for the control of this industry to protect it against overseas buyers and those who have manipulated the market in the past. The primary producers of this country have been victims of all times of the overseas monopolies, the shipping interests, the finance houses and those who have been able so easily to exploit them. If the Commonwealth Government now, after providing rural reconstruction assistance, fails to grip the nettle as it should and go along with the scheme of full and complete acquisition of the clip, and the control and’ protection of those who produce the golden fleece, I believe that the Government will be falling down in its duty to the man on the land who produces our wool clip. But our rural reconstruction must go far beyond the production of wool. We must examine the whole field of primary production. The situation of the dairymen and everybody else on the land should be examined and finance should be made available to meet the urgent needs of those who have made their contribution to the development of this country. I was impelled to express these sentiments because I feel that what was stated by the honourable member for Murray certainly did not in any sense answer the needs of the farmer today. We should look at the situation which exists today and judge this Government on its 23 years of arid rule.
Debate (on motion by Mr Corbett) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 March (vide page 1331), on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Navigation Bill 1972 is to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1970 with respect to the tonnage measurement of ships and, to use the term used in the Bill, for other purposes. On behalf of the Opposition, I move the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House condemns the Government for having failed to amend the Navigation Act to comply with International Labour Organisation and Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation Conventions, modern shipping practice, and effective safety operations, as promised by the Minister for Shipping and Transport in August 1967, and for failing to introduce a Bill to provide for an Australian Register of Shipping’.
That amendment will provide us with quite a reasonable basis for discussion. The Bill will not be opposed by the Opposition because we believe that it is an improvement on the existing Navigation Act. The first part of the Bill deals with the minimum age for employment at sea. As that implies, there is a proposal to increase the minimum age for apprentices and young men going to sea from 15 years to 16 years. It also deals with tonnage and provides for the deletion of a most objectionable section of the Act, namely, section 423a.
I want to deal first of all with that part of the Bill which is concerned with tonnage. Over the years we have seen a great deal of manoeuvring and a great deal of twisting around of regulations and the like by shipping owners who have tried to gain the best possible advantage for their ships in relation to port and harbour dues. When one talks about tonnage, I think the ordinary person would scratch his head and wonder what the heck it is all about. There are many different references to the size of ships. For example, the displacement tonnage is the weight in tons of a ship and her contents at any particular time. Therefore it is variable. The light displacement of a ship is the weight of the ship when it is empty, and it is constant. The loaded displacement is the displacement of the ship loaded to her maximum draught. Dead weight is the difference between light and loaded displacement, that is, it is the weight of the contents of the ship.
None of these tonnages has any connection with the tonnage mentioned in this Act. In thu context it means 100 cubic feet. Over the years we have seen these various terms and descriptions used for the measurement of the size of ships. Gross tonnage is the internal volume of the ship below decks, plus all closed in space above it, with certain minor exceptions. Net tonnage is the gross tonnage less certain allowances for machinery, machinery space, crew’s quarters, storerooms, navigation space and so on. A variation of the rules grew up concerning the determination of tonnage which has little relation to the size of the ship.
About the middle of the last century a Mr Moorsen was instructed by the British Government to prepare rules. He decided that the under deck tonnage should be measured in a manner which is mathematically correct. Some fairly complex mathematics are involved in this. All closed in space above the tonnage decks was to be added to this figure and the total called gross tonnage. From this figure was to be deducted allowances for crew’s quarters, engine rooms and so on. Subsequently it was decided that certain closed spaces were to be entirely exempted. Shelter deck spaces were exempted. As time went on these spaces became more and more closed. They were left sufficiently open to be exempted from measurement but this did not contribute to the safety of the ship. It can be seen from this that the terms used for the measurement of tonnages are really complicated and that the terminology which is created for the maritime industry is such that one has great difficulty in following it.
Over the years several attempts were made to introduce an international tonnage scheme, and this was finally achieved by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. The new tonnage rules provided for 2 tonnages, the lesser of which was to apply when the vessel was not loaded beyond a certain mark. Under the scheme a ship can have 2 sets of tonnage figures and a tonnage mark on its side. This is where the provisions of the Bill come in. One set of figures applies when the tonnage mark is submerged, and dry cargo spaces between the second and upper decks are included in the ship’s tonnage figures. The other set applies when the tonnage mark is not submerged. The dry cargo space is between the second and upper decks, not being included in the ship’s tonnage.
In view of the fact that Australian ships are involved in Japanese trading operations let me say that this legislation is long overdue. The Government should have brought it in at the same time that Australian ships started trading operations with Japan and Japanese ships of similar design - the vehicle deck ships - commenced trading with Australia. As far as other countries are concerned, the United Kingdom signed this agreement in March 1967 and since then over 30 countries have signed it. It was not until Australia entered the eastern searoad service that there was a need for Australia to sign and it was at that time, some 2 years ago, that the agreement should have been signed to enable Australian ships to trade on similar conditions and be subject to the same harbour dues and fees as Japanese sister ships. At the present time we have 2 ships on the eastern searoad service, the ‘Australian Enterprise’ and the ‘Matthew Flinders’. The Japanese sister ships have been in a favourable position because they have been able to get the concessions which are available to ships of this type, provided that the countries which owned the ships had signed the agreement. For example, in respect of Australian ships trading with Yokohama, Kobe, Nagoya and Yokkaicki from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, my information is that the saving in harbour dues at Nagoya is about $200 a voyage. In Melbourne it is a saving of about $700 a voyage. In fact the Australian ships have paid in harbour dues something like $120,000 a year more than their Japanese counterparts.
As I said a moment ago, there was a need for this Government to bring in this legislation much earlier. The measurement of tonnage of ships such as the ‘Australian Enterprise’ and the ‘Matthew Flinders’ is at present in accordance with the provisions of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act. Under this Act the Australian ships are classified as 16,600 gross registered tons. Under the new scheme which I have outlined tonight and which is provided for in this legislation by way of an amendment to the Navigation Act these ships will be classified at about 9,300 gross registered tons. Therefore when harbour committees are working on the basis of levying harbour dues and fees based on a ship’s tonnage this new classification will represent quite a substantial saving for the ships involved. The ‘Alungra’ fortunately is trading through the United States. If the Alungra’ were on the Japan-Australia run it would similarly be affected, but because the Americans have a system of their own whereby they calculate harbour dues on the basis of the length and draught of the ship and by other complicated methods, it does not matter so much as far as the Alungra’ is concerned. At this stage there are in reality 2 ships involved, the ‘Australian Enterprise’ and the ‘Matthew Flin- ders’. From our point of view we support the proposition contained in this legislation insofar as these ships are put in a similar position to their Japanese counterparts.
Another part of this Bill which the Opposition supports is the clause which repeals section 423a of the principal Act. This section of the Act is objectionable. It deals with Aborigines in Australian Territories. In reality the section provides that Aborigines can be excluded from the provisions of the Act and they can work under conditions different from those which apply to other people such as Europeans, Australians or anyone else to whom the provisions of the Act apply. The repeal of this section of the principal Act is long overdue. In 1928 an order was brought down by the then Governor-General and certain sections of the Act were excluded. Native people or Aboriginal people, which is the term used in the Act, were employed under much inferior conditions than applied to other people. I know that that order was repealed in 1966. The Government is to be congratulated for removing that section from the Act so that at least there is no ambiguity as to whether the provision can or cannot be applied.
Section 35 of the Act provides a minimum age for apprentices. This Bill provides for an increase in the minimum age from 15 to 16 years. Section 40a is to be amended to increase the minimum age of young men going to sea. I am disappointed that the Government has not taken the opportunity to bring down some substantial amendments to the Navigation Act. I will deal with this matter in detail shortly. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) has seen fit to refer to the minimum ages of apprentices and young men going to sea I am disappointed that the opportunity was not taken to introduce what I consider would have been a very simple amendment. It would have considerably improved the standard of people going to sea and put apprentices and young men going to sea on conditions similar to those enjoyed by people in other countries.
Almost every European country, the United States of America and Canada have pre-school introduction courses. They have a school for training young seamen. This was an ideal opportunity for the Government to bring down a substantial amendment along these lines. Such an amendment would have had the unanimous support of all maritime unions. We have a course at the Newcastle technical college of which the Minister is aware. It is called the pre-school instruction course for deck and engine-room boys. It is an excellent course as far as it goes. It is a 6 weeks course of 30 hours a week and it gives basic training to young men going to sea. This should be the start of their training. Dedicated, interested men run the course and lecture. This was an opportunity to expand the course and obtain the ideas of the men involved. We could find out what they think should apply. We could obtain the opinions of the maritime industry and the ship owners.
I shall throw in a few thoughts as to what I feel should be done in this field. As I said, this pre-sea introduction course lasts for 6 weeks, 30 hours a week. The boys from the course could then go to sea for 12 months as deck boys and engine room boys. Having completed that 12 months introduction to the sea they could then come ashore again and attend a further course for 4 weeks before they are given their ordinary seaman’s certificate. At this further course they would be required to do training and undergo an examination. Then the ordinary seaman’s certificate would be issued to them by the technical college in Newcastle or wherever it might be. After serving 2 years to obtain their able seaman’s certificate they could report to a technical college again for 4 weeks, 5 weeks or 6 weeks. I am not adamant as to the length of the course. This is a matter which the industry should determine and which has to be given serious consideration by the Government. After attending that 4 weeks’ course they could then be issued with an able seaman’s certificate. This training could also apply to marine cooks and stewards. It would fit men for the profession which they have decided to follow. It would fit them better to understand their employment. Today the maritime industry is paying good wages and employees are enjoying good conditions. It is up to the industry to obtain the type of men necessary to do these jobs. The industry is becoming more technical than it used to be. Brute strength and stupidity is no longer good enough. The industry now requires men with some knowledge of what they are doing - men who can cope with the changes which are taking place in shipping today.
Let me make one final suggestion on this question. At the present time there does not appear to be any formula for the selection of young men to undertake this 6-weeks course. No academic qualifications are required. The young men do not have to sit for any oral or written tests. I suggest that the Department of Shipping and Transport and the employers and employees engaged in the shipping industry could get together and draw up a formula for selecting young men to undertake this course and a career at sea. I am suggesting not that it should be a highly technical examination of the higher school certificate standard, but that it should be an examination which at least will indicate the capacity which a boy might be able to apply in the occupation which he will follow. I leave those thoughts with the Minister. I hope that they are accepted in the manner in which I have put them forward, namely, as constructive suggestions as to what might be done in the shipping industry.
I turn to the amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition. I wish to condemn the Government as strongly as I can - and I know that I have the support of all sections of the maritime industry when I say this - on its failure to bring down substantial amendments to the Navigation Act. An amendment to the Navigation Act was introduced in April 1967. At the time it was debated I was overseas and in my absence the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) handled the Bill on behalf of the Opposition. He and other members of the Parliamentary Labor Party’s Transport Committee had a conference with the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, at which they asked that substantial amendments be made to the Navigation Act and suggested what the amendments should be. This is part of what the Minister said in reply to the debate, as reported at page 203 of Hansard of 17th August 1967: . . i do not propose to reply in detail at this stage. There will be opportunities later when, as i indicated to the honourable member-
And he was referring to the honourable member for Stirling -
Since then 2 amendments have been made to the Navigation Act. This is the third amendment. The first amendment was concerned with the ratification of an international agreement dealing with load lines. The second amendment was introduced as a result of the grounding of the tanker, the Oceanic Grandeur’, in Torres Strait to the north of Australia. We were very lucky that great damage was not done to the Australian coastline or to the Great Barrier Reef in that incident. An urgent Bill was introduced into this chamber and we put it through. Parts of the Bill were in handwritten form. The Oppositon co-operated with the Government. We agreed that that legislation should operate for 6 months. The Government brought down an amending Bill 6 months later, and that was put through this House. Other than those 2 Bills, this is the first Bill that has been introduced to amend the Navigation Act since 1967, and let us face the fact that this Bill provides for only a very minor amendment to the Act. The Navigation Act is one of the largest Acts for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible. The Government has bad 5 years in which to do something about the Navigation Act, but it has not done anything of a substantial nature.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Australian Transportation Conference which was held on 24th and 25th March 1971. Mr John H. Paterson, who was one of the principal speakers at that Conference, was most critical of what the Government had to say about the Navigation Act. Mr Paterson is the Managingdirector of Associated Steamships Pty Ltd, and at that time he was Chairman of the Australasian Steamship Owners Federation. What he had to say about the Navigation Act must have been enlightening to the Minister, but he took no notice of it. I would like to have incorporated in Hansard all that Mr Paterson had to say, but I will have to restrict myself to reading out a couple of the paragraphs of his speech. He said:
Because of the dangers and risks associated with the maritime industry in years gone by, governments have throughout the world gradually come to exercise a regulatory function to a degree unknown in any other industry. Within the terms of appropriate legislation governmental control seeks to set broad parameters within which a country’s shipping business is to be conducted having regard to the safely and welfare of its participants.
This is the part I want to emphasise:
Consequently in order to have an efficient shipping industry there is a need for legislation to be constantly revised and updated to keep in step with the modern developments in the industry which it seeks to govern.
This unfortunately has not been the case with the Commonwealth Navigation Act. Although various sections have been revised and added to the Act in an attempt to bring it up to date since it was first introduced in 1912, the approach has been piecemeal.
That is the real situation - it has been piecemeal. In a period of 5 years there has been one major amendment and 2 minor amendments but in reality the real principle of the Act has not been tackled. I hope that the Government will do something positive about it in the very near future.
The other point I referred to in my amendment relates to a register of Australian shipping. This is important. At this very moment the Department of Shipping and Transport has a problem, I believe, because we do not have a register of Australian shipping. I do not have time to go through the whole ramifications of what is meant by a register of Australian shipping but I wish I had. I want to refer to a couple of questions which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has placed on the notice paper repeatedly, directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. As far back as 2nd September 1970 the then Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) was asked this question by the Leader of the Opposition:
What stage has been reached in the plans to establish an Australian shipping register?
The Minister’s reply was:
In my answer to a similar question asked by the honourable member last year,-
That would be 1969-
I indicated that legal advice had been obtained on this matter and consideration was being given to the means through which a complete and legally effective system of registration of Australian ships could be achieved under Australian law. The legal advice then referred to had indicated some difficulties in the way of implementing the complete scheme that I had in mind. The further consideration that was given to the matter has caused me to seek additional legal advice, which I am now awaiting.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has been putting similar questions on the notice paper. On 21st March this year he received this reply from the Minister for Shipping and Transport who is now sitting at the table:
Substantial further progress has been made towards the preparation of the complex new legislation that will be necessary for the establishment of an Australian shipping register. At the present time I am not in a position to make an announcement about the introduction of the necessary bill.
The Government has been playing around with this Bill for some considerable time. Every Commonwealth country but Australia has its own shipping Act. Why cannot the Government take a lead from the other Commonwealth countries which have their own shipping Act and bring down legislation to suit the requirements of the Australian shipping industry?
As I mentioned earlier, I believe the Government has a problem at present with a ship called the ‘Esso Macquarie’ which, as the names implies, is an Esso tanker. It is a British registered ship. The owner company is resident in the Bahamas and the Government is unable to prosecute the owners. It is unable to issue a summons on the owner because the owner is overseas. This ship entered the Port of Newcastle last year seriously overloaded yet the Government cannot prosecute the owner. A summons will be served on the captain and he will be prosecuted. The court, depending on which judge deals with the matter, probably will fine the captain $500 or $1,000, which no doubt the company will pay. I hope it will pay it because the matter is its responsibility. If the owning company were resident in Australia, judging by the fines imposed in other countries it would bs fined about $25,000. As the law stands at the moment the owner cannot be prosecuted. This is because this Government will not take the necessary action to introduce legislation to set up an Australian register of shipping. Instead it chooses to leave the matter as it is at the present time under the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act. The Government should act quickly to introduce the necessary legislation.
Another matter which concerns me is the way in which the Government is interpreting section 286 of the Act, which deals with coastal trading, and the way that Australian ships are going overseas for docking and repair. At this point 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which appears at page 76 of the Australian Shipping and Shipbuilding report 1971. It relates to Australian dry docks.
– It is usually courteous to show me such material before seeking leave.
– I normally do, but the Minister was not in the House earlier.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the House, I also ask leave to incorporate in Hansard a question on notice and the answer which was supplied to me on 6th April. It relates to the number of Australian ships that were docked and repaired overseas in the last 5 years.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Ship Repairs (Question No. 5176)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720420_reps_27_hor77/>.