21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to the report that cuts ranging from 4d. to 8d. per lb. in the retail price of tea have been announced by Britain’s major tea distributors? Further, has he seen the. reported statement of the Finance Minister of Ceylon that the international tea market was collapsing and that he predicted a resultant fall in tea prices? Is the
Minister in a position to make a statement to the Senate indicating whether the reported position in other countries will have any effect on the price of tea in Australia?
– I have seen most of the reports referred to by the honorable Senator. This matter is kept under constant observation by the Chairman of the Tea Importation Board, Mr. McCarthy, who issued a statement on the 22nd April, stating that - it would be some time before the reduction affected Australian prices. The Board is at present selling for 5s. Hid. per pound tea that costs nearly Os. per pound and the Board will need to buy a large quantity at much lower cost to keep the. average cost at u reasonable level. [ assure the honorable senator that this matter is constantly under the notice of the Tea Importation Board.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take up with his colleague the question of relaxing regulations relating to the heating of postal staff rooms in the southern States? Although there has been a very cold snap over the southern States of the Commonwealth, heating is not provided in staff rooms until a date specified in Postal Department regulations. In view of the fact that the southern States are now experiencing a cold snap, just as Canberra is, I hope that something will be done to relax the regulations and so let postal employees enjoy a little warmth.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and obtain a reply as quickly as possible.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has now supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it a fact that an officer named Shaw, with very little public service experience, and that outside of the Mail Branch has been appointed as Assistant Superintendent, Admini- stration and Planning?
– The Postmaster General has supplied the following answers for the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster General, upon notice - 1.. Will the PostmasterGeneral assure the Semite that the functions of the Promotions Appeal Committee are not being interfered with by senior administrative officers of the Postal Department?
– ThePostmaster General has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1.Yes. 2.Uner thePublic Service Act, Promotions Appeals Committees make recommendationsto thePublic Service Board on appeals against promotions to senior positions. The Board finally determines such appeals, after considering the recommendation of the Committee and any other factors of which it may be aware. The Postal Department has no authority in the matter.
Senates: ARMSTRONG asked the Minster representing the Postmaster General upon notice -
General has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions ?
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to a resolution of the Tasman Pre-School Council passed at its annual meeting at Launceston on the 2nd April, 1955,by which the Council seeks to retain controlof the Lady Gowrie Child Centres by the Australian Government, in preference to their being placed under the control of the State governments? Will the Minister give consideration to the Council’s wishes, in view of the tremendous value of the work that those centres per- form in the interests of the Australian community?
– I regret thatI have not seen the resolution to which the honorable senator has referred, but I appreciate the enormous value of the work that the Lady Gowrie Child Centres are doing. I shall take the first opportunity to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health, and request him to furnish a reply as quickly as possible.
SenatorASHLEY. - I direct a question to theMinister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that, at the launching of the. motor coaster Noongah, which was built at Port Glasgow for the Australian Shipping Board, the. Minister referred to his pleasure in visiting the United’. Kingdom, and’ stated that that country was. not only where the best ships were built but was also the place where they were built without subsidy, and operated without subsidy ? Did the Minister also state that we were building ships in Australia, not because we could build them cheaper or better, but solely for defence reasons, and. that for, more than two years the Department of Shipping and Transport had not placed orders with the Australian shipyards?,Is it a fact that, after his return to Australia, the Minister stated that Great Britain had shown no willingness to give preference to Australian.goods ? What is the amount of sterling involved in the building overseas of ships for the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Australian Steamship Owners’ Federation?
– Britishers are very proud of the fact that they can both builds and operate ships without subsidy.NoGovernmenthasdonemore forshipbuildinginAustraliathanthe presentGovernment.Asamatterof fact,wehavegiventhreeyardsthat canbuildlargeshipssufficientordersto keepthemgoingforatleastfiveyears. AtWhyalla,wheretherearefiveberths; thereisonlysufficientlabourtoproceed withtheconstructionofoneship, althoughordershavebeenplacedfor eightvessels.Despiterestrictions,the UnitedKingdomisstillAustralia’sbest market.
SenatorROBERTSON.-Hasthe MinisterforShippingandTransportany informationtogivetotheSenateregardingtheregistrationofM.V.Comora, aboutwhichhereceivedaletterand personalrepresentationsyesterday?The matterisaparticularlyurgentone,for thenorthwestdistrictsofWesternAustralia.
SenatorMcLEAY.-Thematterto whichthehonorablesenatorhasreferred isbeinginvestigated,andIhopetobe abletogiveareplytoherto-day
SenatorWEDGWOOD.-Willthe MinisterrepresentingtheMinisterfor SocialServicesinformmewhetheritis afactthatameanstestisappliedin relation to thepaymentofpensionsto widowswithdependentchildren?Isit alsoafactthatthelimitofpermissible incomeintheircaseislowerthanthe femalebasicwage?WilltheMinister considerraisingthelimitofpermissible incomeforwidowswithdependent childrentotheequivalentofthebasic wage?
– The answer to the first and second questions is “ Yes “. I cannot easily answer the honorable senator’s third question, and I therefore ask her to placeitonthenotice-paper sothatmycolleaguecananswerit.I havefoundfromexperiencethatitis impracticabletomakequickdecisions onquestionsrelatingtotheapplication ofthemeanstesttosocialservices:A shortanswermightbetosaythat,the permissibleincomecouldbeincreased becauseonlyacomparativelysmall numberofpensionersisinvolved. Butthatisnottherealquestion.We mustconsidernotonlytheexisting pensioners,butthenumberofpeople whowouldbecomeeligibleforpensions underthenewconditions.Thatis,we mustconsiderthegreaternumberof beneficiaries,ratherthanthehigher amount payable to the existing beneficiaries. For that reason, I should like my colleague, who has the direct responsibility to make a direct answer.
– In view of the large number of British ex-servicemen in Australia, will the Minister for Repatriation endeavour to provideamoreeffective and expeditious liaison between the British Ministry of Pensions, and the Australian Repatriation Department?
SenatorCOOPER. - About twelve months ago the representative of the British Ministry of Pensions in this country, Mr. Scott, was withdrawn by the
Home authorities. The Repatriation Department here is only the agent of the Ministry of Pensions, and acts on its behalf. Personally, I think that Mr. Scott did valuable work in Australia in his capacity as Liaison Officer, but the Australian authorities were not responsible for his appointment, or for the work that he was called upon to perform. That was entirely the responsibility of the British Ministry of Pensions. The Repatriation Department does all it can, according to the instructions it receives, to look after the interests of British pensioners who are resident in this country, but I cannot give the honorable senator any asurance that the British authorities will appoint another liaison officer in Australia.
– In view of the fact that, with the approach of the budget session, the Minister and Treasury officials will be busily engaged in preparing the Budget, I ask the Minister whether he will bring to the notice of his colleague, and the Treasury officials, the earnest plea made in the Senate last year for a remission of the pay-roll tax n>w paid by municipalities and similar bodies? Such remission would assist them to finance the various important works for which they are responsible.
– No doubt a great number of similar requests will come up for consideration during the preparation of the budget. I give the honorable senator an assurance that his representations will be put on the list for consideration.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether the Government is proceeding with the comprehensive amendments of the Bankruptcy Act 1924 which he foreshadowed during the debate on a short amending bill last year? Has a committee been formed to investigate this subject, and if so, when can its report be expected? Will the Minister circulate such report and draft amendments in sufficient time for consideration by honorable senators prior to the introduction of an amending bill? I point out that the Minister’s action in giving early notice of proposed alterations of the law relating to trade marks was greatly appreciated by the business community.
– A committee to consider the bankruptcy law is in process of formation, and I hope that it will be formed and commence its work very soon. It would be my intention, when a report is received from that committee, to circulate it well in advance of the legislation that will be presented finally in this chamber. That would be in conformity with the practice that was adopted in connexion with the patents law and the law relating to trade marks.
– From time to time, I have addressed questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration in connexion with the screening of immigrants coming to Australia from Europe. I have suggested that the Government should ensure that, persons who were known to be war criminals, and had committed atrocities on Allied prisoners of war in prison camps, should be kept out of Australia. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that Use Koch, the notorious woman who was formerly in charge of the Buchenwald concentration camp and who was known as “the witch of Buchenwald “, has applied for permission to come to Australia as an immigrant? If so, has a decision been reached on the application, and what was the decision, if any?
– I can assure the honorable senator that I know of no such application. I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Immigration, but I do not believe there is any doubt about the reception that would be accorded any application by the. person mentioned by the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether the drug houses of Australia have applied for the reports on the Salk poliomyelitis vaccine brought back to Australia by Dr. Bazeley ? If so, what drug houses will be concerned with the production of the vaccine in Australia ?
– 1 shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Health and obtain a considered reply as quickly as possible.
– On the 20th April, Senator Seward asked me whether a report had been received from the trade and business delegation which visited South-East Asia at the end of last year, and, if so, whether such report was available. I have now obtained, through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, copies of the report made by the leader of the mission, Mr. W. R. Hudspeth, which I have circulated to honorable senators. It should be recognized that, whilst the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was responsible for its organization and leadership, this mission was essentially a mission of Australian businessmen. The principal advantage was the publicity impact of the mission - a total impact which could not have been obtained by individuals acting separately. Since the mission was primarily a selling mission, the results, apart from the goodwill built up by Australia, are contained in the order books of the businessmen members and the contacts which they made in the countries visited. While that information is, of course, private to the people concerned, reports from the participants indicate that most of them were extremely happy with the orders obtained, and with the long-term prospects for their products in the countries visited. Tn view of the importance of increasing our export trade, special efforts are being made to boost the sale, not only of our primary products, but also of our manufactured goods. The Government hopes that, with the development of South-East Asia which is expected to take place, Australia will increase its market in that area considerably.
– I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has an answer to the following question which I asked on the 27th April: -
Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a recent statement in the Australian press, said to have emanated from Burma, to the effect that an overwhelming percentage of the obscene literature and comics in circulation in that country was printed in, and imported from, Australia. If so, has he taken any steps to inquire into the correctness or otherwise of the report? If thai has been done, and there is truth in the report will he say what action the Government proposes to take in this matter?
In the course of this question, I should have referred to Birmingham instead of Burma.
– I am now happy to supply the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
I have examined the newspaper report.referred to by the honorable senator which apparently emanated in Birmingham, and if the facts are as suggested, they do not reflect any credit on the Australian suppliers. However, I would point out that the production and sale of literature in Australia comes solely within the jurisdiction of the respective Stat* governments. To this end, most State governments have introduced legislation which if aimed at preventing the production and sale nf undesirable publications.
Whilst allegations concerning the objection able nature of literature printed in and exported from Australia must be regarded ar a matter of concern to the Commonwealth, 1 would point out that the protection of the citizens nf fi particular country against the importation of literature of an undesirable nature, is primarily the responsibility of the authorities of the importing country. Australia has very effective legislation in this regard and has at no time attempted to place the responsibility on the exporting country. It seems likely that the implementation of recent State legislation concerning undesirable literature should considerably minimise the danger of the production mid export of such literature in the future.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence noticed recent newspaper reports to the effect that our armed services, particularly the Royal Australian Navy, have refused to accept Australian aborigines for enlistment? Will the Minister make a clear statement of policy in respect of this matter so as toclearupanydoubtsthatmayexist in regard to the rights of our aborigines to enlist in the Army, Navy or Air Force?
SenatorSULLIVAN.- I saw a newspaper reporton the matter referred to by the honorable senator and, if my memory serves me rightly, I also saw a denial bythe Minister for Defence of the existenceof that state of affairs.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply aware that there is a large unsatisfied demand for steel rods, particularly of dimensions of 1 inch and under, in Western Australia ? Canthe Minister inform the Senate of the cause of the shortage and of the measures that are being taken to overcome it ?
– I shall be pleased to obtain from my colleague, the Minister for ‘Supply, the information that the honorable senator desires.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture,upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce ‘and Agriculture, in consultation with the Minister for Territories, hassupplied the following answers: - 1.. A proclamation of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea issued on the 6th April, 1955. revokes, as from the1st June,1955, the existing prohibition ontheimportationintothe Territoryofricefromanyplaceotherthan Australia.Underthisproclamationimporters intheTerritorymayfromthe1stJune,obtain ricefromanynon-dollararea,provideditis ofsuitablequality.Australianriceismarketedbytheindustry.FollowingtheTerritory proclamationtheDepartmentsofTerritories andofCommerceandAgriculturehavebeen inconsultationwiththeindustryregarding theprospectsofTerritoryriceimportsfor the195556riceyearbeingsuppliedbyAustralia at a competitive price. We have confidence in the ability of the Australian rice industry to hold the market and maintainsales under competitive conditions.
The grant is made to supplement local revenues in meeting not only the ordinary expenses of Governmentbut also a large developmental programme.
Inaddition, there are other Departments such as Civil Aviation,Army and Air, which maintain their own establishments in the Territory.
If Australian selling prices are competitive there should continue to beoutlets for surplus production in the Territory and other traditional markets.
Motion(bySenatorO’Sulliivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance withthe provisions of section eleven of theAustralianNationalUniversity Act1946-1947 the Senate elects
Senators:McCallum and Tangney, tobemembers of the council of the Australian National University for a period of two years from the 1st July, 1955.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) agreed to: -
Thatleavebegiventobringinabillforan acttoamendtheCrimesAct1914-1950,andto repealcertainprovisionsofthe:WarPrecautions Act Repeal Act 1920-1934.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I move-
Thepurposeofthisbillistoamendthe coinageprovisionsoftheCrimesAct,so astoensurethat-asuntillatelyhad always been supposed - the gold sovereign falls within the definition of “ current.” coin,. to counterfeit which in Australia is an offence.Untilthemembersofthe British Commonwealth went off the gold standard,therewasnodoubtthatthe provisionsoftheCrimesAct.wereapplicable to the counterfeiting of sovereigns. Since then the regular minting of sovereigns; has ceased, and, owing to exchange control, the sovereign is no longer available in those countries as an ordinary or general medium of exchange. These factshave an important bearing on the operation of section 54 of the Crimes Act, which makes it an offence for any person to make or begin to make any “ counterfeit, current coin “. The word “‘current” would normally bear its ordinary dictionary meaning, that is “ permitted: by law to be in general circulation as a medium of exchange “, but this meaning, is extended by section 51 of the Crimes Act to cover, amongst other things, coin of any of the kinds or denominations “which are coined in any of the King’s mints”.
In a recent prosecution in Melbourne under section 54 of the Crimes Act; although it was. admitted that the; defendant: had manufactured 745 counterfeit sovereigns, a judge in general sessions held that the sovereign was no longer “ current coin” within the meanings of the act, and the defendant was acquitted on this technicality. Honorable senators will, I am sure, agree that sucha position, whereby the gold sovereign can be counterfeited in Australia with impunity; cannot be allowed to remain. The counterfeiting of sovereigns’ also raises problems far beyond the limits of Australia. Although at; present the sovereign isnotin circulation in Australiaor in most other parts of the Queen’s dominions, it is extensively used throughout the Moslem world, and there is evidence of its substantial use in Hong Kong, India and’ South America-. The number of sovereigns in circulation abroad is estimated at more than 300,000,000.
The value of a gold sovereign has always stood at a premium over the value of its gold content, but its value, measured in sterling, has recently dropped in the Middle East from £.1.0 to about £3 6s; The United Kingdom. Government believes that the greatestfactor in this fall in value has been the circulation of counterfeit sovereigns, some of which contain nearly the right weight and fineness of gold. In fact, in certain markets in Arabian countries a different rate of exchange has been quoted for genuine and false sovereigns. Accordingly, to protect the value of the gold sovereign, the United Kingdom authorities have been taking energetic steps to stop counterfeiting and the circulation of counterfeit sovereigns. To this end.,, criminal proceedings against the makers of, and dealers in counterfeit sovereigns have been brought successfully in Switzerland, Italy and. Tangier. The Victorian decision has received a good deal of publicity abroad, and the United Kingdom authorities will especially welcome the amendment made by this bill, because it will restore, as far as counterfeiting is concerned, the legal status of the sovereign as a “ current “ coin in this country.
The technical difficulty in Australia which the bill is designed to overcome, does not exist in the United Kingdom because the definition of “ current” coin was amended there in 1936, so as to includeany coin which “has been coined “ in any of the Royal Mints. A gold sovereign clearly answers that description. It is desirable to bring our law into line with the United Kingdom law in this respect. The bill accordingly makes a similar alteration in the Crimes Act.
What I have so far said touches only une of the two alternative descriptions of a “ current “ coin which are included in the definition given by section 51 of the Crimes Act. In its second limb, section 51 covers coins which are “ lawfully current in any part of the Queen’s dominions “. These words have been differently interpreted in different parts of the British Commonwealth. Whether or not a coin answers this description may, therefore, depend on what can be established as to the law and practice of other parts of the British Commonwealth. The bill, however, does not touch this part of. the definition. It is not necessary to do so, because the bill widens the first limb of the definition so as to cover any coin which has at any time been coined in any of the Queen’s mints. A case where it would bc necessary to rely on the second limb of the definition is not very likely to arise, at any rate in Australia.
The present opportunity is being taken to transfer to the Crimes Act two almost buried provisions now contained in sections 18 and 20 of the War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1920-1934. These provisions relate to the defacing or destruction of current gold coin, and to the destruction or damaging of posters or advertisements relating to Commonwealth loans. Both are appropriate to the subject-matter of Part IV. of the Crimes Act, and are dealt with in clauses 4 and 5 of the bill. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 27th April (vide page 34), oil motion by Senator Spooners -
That the bill be now read u second time.
– The Senate now has before it a bill to approve an agreement providing for the variation of the agreement that wasentered into between the Commonwealth and the States in 1945 in relation, particularly, to housing for rental purposes.. The main purpose of the measure is to enable the tenants of houses erected under the scheme to purchase those properties on long terms and under conditions that are specified in the amending agreement, which is set out in the schedule to the bill.
T say, at once, that the Opposition approves the principle of this measure, namely, the facilitating of the purchaseof homes on longer terms by the tenants. However, I do not want that statement to be taken as an approval of the terms that are proposed by the amending agreement. I think we might go back, for a moment, to 1945, and consider what was in the minds of the Labour Government that was then in office when it introduced the original measure. All States were privy to the agreement at that time. Mr. Dedman, who was Minister for Post-war Re-construction in that Government, in speaking to the motion for the second reading of the original measure stated, as reported in Hansard, vol. 184, at page 5385-
The Commonwealth has no constitutional power in peace time to control the production, allocation and distribution of materials. It lin.s no power to decide who shall first have a house. Therefore, it cannot provide directly that those in greatest need shall be the first accommodated. It has no power to enforce the correct placing of houses within towns, nor of towns within the Commonwealth, since it has no control over regional and town planning.
Despite the restrictions which I have mentioned, the Commonwealth can give considerable assistance and perforin effective work. The Commonwealth, by the offer of financial assistance, can encourage the States to undertake certain activities, lt can do research and bring to Australia the results of overseas experience. It can set down principles. These things wo propose to do, and this bill provides a plan for housing and rehousing families of the lower income group, . . .
I direct the attention of the Senate, particularly to the phrase “families of the lower income group “. Mr. Dedman continued -
The Government realizes the need for the encouragement of home ownership. The Commonwealth Bank Act, which was recently enacted, and the War Service Homes Act are ample proof of the Commonwealth’s interest in that matter. In addition, each State has passed legislation for the encouragement of home ownership by means of rental purchase terms with email deposits - in some cases no deposit at all - and easy scales of payment with low interest rates. But the principal deficiency in Australian housing policy to date lias been in respect of good standard houses to be let at rents within their capacity to pay, to families who cannot afford, or are not ready or on account of their occupations do not desire to purchase homes.
T think that, in those words, Mr. Dedman summarized the then Government’s views in the matter. That passage sets out, with brevity and accuracy, the basic thought underlying the making of the 1945 agreement.
I come next to another important document, which refers to an occasion when, in 1949, the members of the present Government were wooing the electors of Australia and had something to say in relation to Commonwealth and State housing. I note, on referring to this document, that there was a specific promise to seek an amendment of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement so as to permit and aid “ little capitalists “ to own their own homes.
– “Who was the author of it?
– I think it was the Liberal Government, because the words “ little capitalists “ are printed in italics. The term is adopted by the Liberal party as its own, and for reasons which are completely political.
– Perhaps the words were quoted in derision.
– It was mainly because of this reference in the policy speech that I first made clear what was Labour’s outlook at that time - an outlook that was so clearly expressed by Mr.
Dedman when he introduced the original measure. It was addressed to only one aspect of the major housing problem at that time. If that were a pledge made to the people in 1949, which is almost six years ago, I invite the Government to explain the reason for the delay. Why has the Government taken so long beforeeven beginning to give effect to it? pledge? I press that question, because in the interim one State after another has urged the Commonwealth Government to facilitate the purchase on terms of home.1 under the agreement. I think that thi’ country is entitled to an explanation from the Government as to why the honouring of that pledge was so long delayed, especially when all the other parties to the agreement were particularly keen thai the pledge should be honoured.
– Could they agic’ about terms?
– I am open te correction on this point, but, apart from pressure from Premiers year after year to have provision made for the sale of houses on terms, I do not recollect a Premiers’ conference, other than the one held in June and July, 1954, at which the Commonwealth Government addressed itself to the task of presenting any plan at all. Surely it will be considered that a government, or a party, that makes a pledge has the responsibility of taking the initiative. Even if that were not conceded there was ample pressure from the other parties to the agreement. Ono can. appreciate the outlook of a State government which is engaged in administrative work, such as collecting rents and repairing and maintaining the houses of which it is the landlord. State government after State government has shown a desire to vacate the field of the landlord. One can sympathize with that attitude. Looking generally at the Government’s record in regard to housing, one can see a great blot upon its escutcheon. If we go back to 1952 or 1953. when furl he severely restrictive credit polices of the Government were announced, and it embarked upon a policy of high interest rates at the time of our greatest need for housing, we will remember that there was utter stagnation in the building industry.
– That was not so.
SenatorMcKENNA. - That wasthe result of thepolicydeliberatelypursued bytheGovernment. Iagree thatthat comment may besomewhat irrelevant to the particular measure thatweare now considering,butthatwasthegeneral effect of the policy.
– The honorable senator’sstatement is morethan a little inaccurate.
SenatorMcKENNA.- The Minister may recall the anxiety of ‘the Government, expressed at that time, at the decline thathadtaken place in the building industry, and atthefactthat uncertainty in theindustryhad led many technicians and tradesmen to leave it. One problem at that time was thatof gettingthese men back into thebuilding industry. Ashonorable senators know, thebuilding industry is a fairlyaccurate barometer of the overall activities in the community. When building activity lapsesor lags, activity in almost every otherfield of industry follows suit. The first sign of a recovery from anything in the natureof a depression is alwaysseen inrenewed activity in thebuilding industry. It is a great stimulus to, as well asa great measure of community activity. I affirm immediately the belief oftheOpposition in homeownership. Weregard it,asw as indicatedby Mr. Dedman atthattime,andby the government ofthe day, as afundamental because the purchaseof a home provides a sense of securityand responsibilityon the part ofthe people,and because the home isthe cradleof the family which, in turn, is the centre and the mostvital unit in any society. There is something psychological andof value to the whole communitywhen individual,or afamily, has a positive stake in theownership of landandahome.Iaffirmsupportof theprincipleofhome-owndership.
IComenowtothetermsthattheCommonwealthproposes.WhentheCommonwealthmettheStatePremiersaboutthis timelastyearitputcertainproposalsto them.Amongthemweretheproposals thattenantsofhomesbuiltunderthe agreementshouldpayadepositof10per cent.,thatrepaymentshouldextendover 45years,thatthemaximumloanshould be £2,750,andthattheinteresttobe chargedontheoutstandingbalance shouldbeattherateof4½percent. DespitepressurefromthePremierson thatoccasionformoreelasticityandfor alowerdepositandlowerratesofinterest, theCommonwealthGovernment has varied its original proposal onlyin one direction,namely,inrelationtothesize ofthedeposit.Thebillatpresentproposed, and tentativelyagreed to by the Premiers, provides that thedeposit shall be 5 per cent of the first£2,000 and 10 per cent of the balance. It furtherprovides,notasamatterofobligation,but asanoptiononthepartoftheStates, thatanyelementsofprincipalthathave beenincludedintherentalspaidby tenants may,eitherinwholeorinpart, be appropriated towards the satisf action ofthedeposit.Iwouldhavepreferred, andtheOppositionwouldhavepreferred, thatthismatterwerenotlefttothe optionoftheStates.AsIreadthe clause,itisnotmandatoryuponaState whicheffectsasaleundertheamended agreementtogivecreditfortheelements ofprincipalthathavebeenincludedin therepaymentsmadebytenants.Ishould liketheMinister,whenhereplies,to indicatewhythatwasnotspecifiedasan obligation on the States.AmIcorrect inreadingtherelevantclauseasbeing onethatwouldenableaStatetosay,in anyparticularcase,orinallcases,that itisnotpreparedtogivecreditforthe elementsofprincipaltowhichIhave referred? If thereisareasonwhythe States andtheCommonwealthhavetaken thisstand,Ishouldliketoknowwhatit is.Itwouldhavebeenbetterifthat provisioninfavouroftenantshadbeen madeonafirmandobligatorybase.
It is also provided in the agreement thatatleast5percentofthetotalconsiderationmustbeprovidedincash.We believethatitwouldhavebeenquite adequatetoprovideforadepositof 5percent.Idonotseeanyneedto raiseitto10percent.ontheamount over £2,000. When all is said and done, thewhole purpose of the agreement was to provide for persons ofthe type indicated in the seeond-readingspeech on themeasure inl945.There are classes ofpeople who areitinerant,or onlow incomesand who sufferspecialdisabilities.Theyconstituteamajorandpressing probleminthecommunity.Accordingly, theyneedeveryfacilitytoacquiretheir homes.Idonotknowwhyitwasnecessary,whentheamountrequiredbecame bigger,tomakethesizeofthedeposit onanamount over £2,000relatively heavy. One would have expected a desire tohelpthetenants,andtoreduce theamountofdepositrequiredonthe higherpricedhomesinsteadofincreasing it.
The next point is that the maximum loan istobefixedat £2,750. Isuggest that theamountmightwellhavebeenleft at large. After all issaidanddone,the amountinvolvedinbuildinghomesunder thisschemeinrelationtoeachindividual home isnotlarge,accordingtopresent day values.They are in the lower price range,and it is not a matter of many thousandsbeing involved inany particular case.The agreement would have been more flexiblehad the provision been left completely at largeas to the amount tobe advanced, once the minimum deposit had been fixed. The Opposition would prefer, in any event, if amaximum sum is to be fixed, tohave itfixed at £3,500 rather than£2,750. We have no complaintwith the maximum term forrepaymentof 45 years. We believe that . that givesareasonable spread. Besides, it is a maximum,and it will bepossible for the State andthe purchaser to negotiate for a term of shorterduration.
I nowcome to the point at which the Opposition seriously joinsissue with the Government.That is the proposal to fix interest at4½ per cent. We regard that as areallyserious matter imposing a new burden onpersons in the low income categorywho seek to purchase their homes. In this connexion, the Premier of New South Wales made a most interesting statementat the conference of Commonwealth and StateMinisters. I assume that it isaccurate althoughI ha ve not checkedit and,with the consent oftheSenate, I shall have it incorporated in Hansard for general information.
SenatorSpooner. - What is the purport of the statement?
SenatorMcKENNA. -To showhow much is involved inrepaymentsovera term of 45 years at 4½ per cent, andat3 percent,andtoshowwhatthetotal repaymentswillamounttoifspreadover aperiodof29yearsat3percent.The statement isas f ollows : -
I wish to comment on one or two aspects of that statement which are very informative. I shall deal first with repayments spread over a period of45 years on a loan of £2,500 with interest at 4½ per cent. The purchaser wouldbe involved in atotal payment over 45 years of £5,850. But if the rate of interest were 3 per cent., the tenant would pay only £4,573.
– If he paid no interest at all, he would pay less than that.
– We are not discussing the payment of no interest but the difference betweenthe amount repaid at 4½ per cent and 3 per cent.
– Why3 percent?
– That isthe figure thathas ruled mainly,as between the Commonwealth and the States, since 1945. That hasbeen therate of interest at which most of themoney has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States.
– The advances were madeat the bank interest rates charged at that time.
– May Ifi rstput the case for the statement Ihave read? In the case I have cited, the difference between 4½ percent,and3 percent would involve the purchaser in a further paymentof £1,277. If . the rate of interest had been 3 percent., and thesame instalments were paid as inthecase . Ihave cited, the loan would be repaid in 29 years. Instead ofpaying£5,850,the purchaser would payonly £3,760and would complete the purchase in 29 years instead of 45 years. On the basis of 4£ per cent., the purchaser would be involved in a total further cost of £2,090. When honorable senators consider 4£ per cent, against 3 per cent., the difference of 1* per cent, seems to be insignificant but as I have said, the purchaser would in fact pay £2,090 less at 3 per cent, and would complete the payments in 29 years instead of 45 years.
– But in one case, the purchaser would have the use of the money for sixteen years longer.
– Yes, but the point to which I am directing attention is that the main purpose is to discharge a liability, and I wish, to emphasize how big a factor the interest is in the total financial burden that the purchaser has to undertake. The Opposition regard? this matter very seriously, and proposes to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– Where would the Opposition suggest that the cheap money be raised?
– I am not so concerned about the cost of raising money for persons in the category under discussion. The Government would make a most important contribution of a social nature if it would face up to the liability of providing money at a low rate of interest to persons who want to purchase homes, even if it cost the Government money to provide finance at a lower rate of interest than it has to pay itself.
– That would mean increased taxes.
– Not necessarily, having regard to the big surpluses that this Government has developed from time to time. If Senator Scott studies recent budgets, he will find that enormous elbow room has been left to finance such a proposal without further taxation. At the conference to which I referred earlier, the Premier of Queensland gave an interesting account of the operations of a co-operative building society that had been sponsored by the Queensland Government. He said that the money was made available to the tenants at a rate of interest far lower than the rate at which money was made available to the Queensland Government by the Australian Loan Council. That was done deliberately as a matter of social service. It was an extraordinary feature of the scheme that during the economic depression, not one of the tenants holding houses under the co-operative scheme at a low rate of interest lost the home, although many were lost by persons who were financed by the ordinary financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies. I suggest as a principle, in relation to the categories of homes that we are considering, that the Government should give the least consideration to whether it makes a loss as between the rate at which it borrows and the rate of interest charged to the purchasers. 1 agree with those who express the view that no more important contribution in the field of social services could be made than to help the people to get homes. Therefore, the Opposition is completely opposed to the terriffic burden - and I emphasize those last two words - that interest will impose in the total payments to be made by purchasers of homes.
Let me refer to one more case in the table that was cited by Mr. Cahill. In the case of a. loan of £2,750 for a term of 45 years at 4-£ per cent, interest, the purchaser would pay a total of £6,435. If interest were charged at the rate of 3 per cent., he would pay £5,021. In other words, the difference between repayment at 3 per cent, and repayment at 4J per cent, over a term of 45 years is £1,414. But if the purchaser paid exactly the same quantum of instalments at 3 per cent, as he would pay at 4rJ per cent, over a 45- year period, he would repay the loan in 29 years. He would then make a total repayment of £4,136 and would save £2,299. A very real difference in total repayment may be made by altering the interest rate by only 1 per cent, or £ per cent. It makes a difference to the burden that has to be carried by the purchaser, and it makes a difference in the number of years over which he has to carry that burden.
– The Government would have to provide an additional £2,299 in respect of each house in order to carry out the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– That is not so. The difference between the rate of interest that the Government has to pay in raising the money and the rate of interest that is ultimately charged would not be a colossal sum from a governmental viewpoint.
– It would amount to £2,299 on every house on the honorable senator’s figures.
– It would save the purchaser that amount.
– And the honorable senator suggests that the Government should pay it.
– I suggest that the Government should pay either that amount, or a very substantial portion of it. I suggest that that should be done as a very valuable social service in a field where there is great need. Frankly, I am asking that the Government make a subvention to home-builders. I think that the Government might well have made a gesture to the States, at the very least, by inviting them to bear some of the burden in relation to the special categories of home-seekers who are covered by the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
– At what rate is this money made available now?
– It is available to the Government at the rate of per cent, on long-term, loans. I suggest that the Government, pursuant to the arrangement for the sale of houses on terms, might make money available to the purchasers at 3 per cent. The difference in the amount of interest payable could be made a subvention from the Commonwealth, or from the Commonwealth and the States combined, to persons in this relatively needy category.
– Who said that they were needy ?
– They are needy in the sense that they have difficulty in buying homes. Many of them have large families. Judging by what has happened under the agreement, I think it is safe to say that they are relatively needy. Of approximately 81,000 houses that have been built under this scheme, only about 3,800 have been bought by those who live in them. I should imagine that a person who went into a new home would have an inclination to buy it if he were in a position to buy. Certainly, in the past, purchasers have had to pay cash for these houses. That was a great disability. In order to buy, tenants have to raise the bulk of the purchase consideration on first and second mortgage. The fact that most of them have not done so shows that they have not had enough cash to obtain an equity in the houses.
– In effect, the Leader of the Opposition proposes that each house should be subsidized to the extent; of about £2,000?
– I suggest that they should be subsidized to the extent of the difference between the rate of 4-J per cent., which the Government proposes to charge, and the rate of 3 per cent.
– Does the honorable senator propose to extend that subsidy to all other home purchasers?
– I am not prepared to make a broad, general statement on that subject at present. But I say that the principle that I have enunciated in relation to this category of persons should certainly be extended into further fields. How far it should be extended, I am not prepared to say at the moment, i. do not believe that the Government could find a more useful avenue for the expenditure of money on social services than the one that I propose.
On these three points the Opposition differs from the Government. The amount of the deposit should be reduced to 5 per cent, of the purchase price; no limit should be placed, on the size of the loan or, if there must be a limit, it should be £3,500; the rate of interest charged to home purchasers should be reduced.
– We could give the houses away.
– I have already conceded that the capital cost must be repaid and that some interest must be paid by the purchasers. I think that all the administrative cost might well be assumed by governments in the public interest at the governmental level.
Difficult problems arise in relation to these sales. Those problems were canvassed at the Premiers conference. They included! the;, price at which, houses that were built in the low cost period, up to 1939 should be. sold. Should) they be sold to* the tenant for what, they cost to build or a* their replacement cost at current values’? Another- problem’ is whether a tenant who buys a. house under this scheme should, be free to resell at; a moment’s’ notice. That problem, was. also canvassed at the Premiers conference. The Government expressed no view on these matters and. I suggest that it. has somewhat- abdicated its responsibility by doing, nothing about them. It has enunciated no principle- and expressed no thoughts on the subject. It has washed its hands of the- matter, and’ told the States that the sale of houses is a matter for. them to handle. It has told the States, to fix the sale prices and accept the responsibility. If. the States make, a profit it is theirs ; and if they make a loss, it is theirs also.
– Who owns these houses ?’
-The States own them.. But- because the: Commonwealth made the whole, agreement possible by providing the necessary money and accepting, the. responsibilities! that were outlined by the Minister who. introduced the bill for the initial agreement, the Government, has unquestionably a good deal of responsibility. I suggest that the Government should accept all the real responsibility because it is sponsoring a programme of sales on. terms.. Surely it should, determine whether1 a tenant should be allowed to. purchase at the low cost level, and-, whether purchasers should be free to make a* colossal profit by resale because they have had. the good, luck to acquire, a. house, which was, built, when, the cost of building was lower than it is now.
I recognize at once that if. our proposals were adopted, as I suggest, it would put tenants and purchasers, of these, properties under the agreement in a better position than those who are eligible to apply under the war service homes- scheme. 3 also recognize that there is a special obligation to ex-service personnel.. So that Labour’s approach in this matter will not- be misunderstood, I wish to say that if our proposals were accepted, there would have to be a- general stepping up, or liberalization, of the terms upon which war service homes1 are made available. I db not want anybody om the: Government side to indicate to us- that’, because our- proposals which we1 make now would be more liberal than, those, of the present war service homes’ scheme, we– are; unmindful of that obligation.
– Would’ the honorable senator make the war service homes scheme1 more liberal than it is now?
– Yes, even more liberal
– And would he reduce the rate of interest ?
– I. think that the; rate of interest should, be lower.-.. It might, perhaps, be reduced to- 2^- per cent.,, or even: to 2 per cent. but- 1 merely affirm the principle: that if the proposals that we are putting to the1 Government now were: adopted, they would, in certain respects be more- meritorious! than.’, are the provisions of the- war service- homes scheme, and I say that that; position should not stand. I am not. going into details regarding what should’ be done for ex-servicemen, but, I say that the adoption of our proposals would1 involve a liberalization of the war- service homes scheme.
The- present agreement, which, was executed in 19.45,, is, scheduled to expire this year ten years- after its execution. I should like the Government, to indicate what it proposes for the future, ls it proposed to continue this agreement, or is it not ? I am sure that honorable senators opposite will concede that to be a matter of legitimate curiosity. It is a matter which must be faced with the States in the immediate future. I think that all Australia would like to know what the Government has in mind in this respect. I go further, and say that the people of Australia ere entitled to know what the Government has in mind. I concede that it is proper that the Government might first wish to communicate its thoughts to the States. Here is an agreement which is about to expire in this very year of grace. If we have any more of this slow motion activity, or lack of activity, such as that which held up the implementation of a pledge for nearly six years, we may find this agreement expiring, with nothing to replace it. So, I hope that we shall hear something from the Government on this matter.
I summarize the criticism that the Opposition has levelled at this measure by moving an amendment to the motion for the second-reading. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn to enable the schedule to the bill to be revised with a view to providing that the minimum deposit on sales or terms shall be 5 per cent, of the purchase consideration, and that interest on purchase money outstanding shall be at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum computed on the monthly balance, and that the maximum advance be £3,500.”.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson). - Is the motion seconded ?
– Is it necessary?. L have always understood that a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is deemed to be seconded because he is deemed to have responsibility for, and the support of, his party. I put it to you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that that has been the invariable rustom during the whole period of ten years that I have been here. I should be sorry to see you break through it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I accept the honorable senator’s assurance.
– I rise to support this bill, which proposes to vary the terms under which homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement may be sold to tenants. Before I say anything about the several matters which are exercising my mind, I wish to reply to some of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The honorable senator stated that the basic motive behind the agreement was to provide homes for members of the lower income group, and he referred to those people on several occasions. I should like to know in what respect he considers that the Victorian Housing Commission, which is charging rents of up to £4 a week, is providing homes for people in the lower income group. I should say that £4 a week, which is about £2 10s. a week more than the average rent in Victoria, is a very excessive rental for a commission house and is certainly not designed to help people in the lower income group.
The honorable senator went on to say that the States are eager to vacate the field as landlords. I certainly agree with that statement, because the Victorian Government is losing an enormous amount of money in connexion with these commission houses. At the present time, the proportion of rent set aside for maintenance of housing commission homes is £180,000 a year less than the amount that is required. In addition to that, the State is setting aside almost £50,000 annually for the abatement of rent. In other words, in that State the Victorian Government, in respect of houses which have been erected, many of which are still comparatively new, is losing approximately £250,000 annually. As these houses get older they will require more and more maintenance. I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the Leader of the Opposition that all States, including the Labour States, of which we have five, are now beginning to realize that being a >-tr.te landlord is not all that they at first thought it would be.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the building industry, and I took him to make the point that private enterprise, in the past, had not been able to provide houses for the people. He really destroyed his own argument, because he cited an amount of £200,000,000, which was referred to in the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), as the amount that has been provided by the Commonwealth Government for State housing for the whole of Australia, and he stated that the number of houses built under this scheme was 81,000. I notice that Senator Hendrickson is looking across here at the moment, and I do not think he would deny that, in our State of Victoria alone, the probable value of the homes is in the region of £6,000,000,000. So I say it is unfair to suggest that, in the past, private enterprise has been unable to meet the home-building demands of the nation. Undoubtedly private enterprise has played a very valuable part in this important work and indeed, as the figures I have given show, has provided the great bulk of the housing required by the people of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the interest burden, but I remind him that in the original agreement embodied in Labour’s legislation sponsored by the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, no provision whatever was made for interest charges for the simple reason that Mr. Dedman did not intend people to own their own homes. When honorable senators opposite speak of the needs of the lower income groups, they know very well that people in those groups could not possibly pay cash for their homes. The Opposition’s amendment proposes that interest charges should be reduced to 3 per cent. I point out that the Commonwealth now provides money to the States at 3 per cent, interest and that five States out of the six States have Labour governments. So, if the Labour party is feeling magnanimous, let those Labour governments charge 3 per cent, interest on homes sold to the public. However, I am sure that, particularly in view of the losses that I have mentioned, those governments will not see their way clear to do so.
Proposed new clause 14 (2.) of the principal agreement appears to have been rather loosely drafted. It provides that the purchase price of a dwelling sold under this clause shall be fixed by the
State. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should give some direction to the States on how this price should be determined. In Victoria the sale price of a house is calculated by adding the cost price to the current market value and dividing by two. For instance, if a house cost £1,000 and its current market value is £3,000, making a total of £4,000, its sale price is half that figure or £2,000. Let us see how this calculation operates in respect of houses more recently built. If a house cost say £2,000, and its current market value is £3,000, its selling price is £2,500. Finally, if the cost price of a house was equal to its present market value of £3,000, then its selling price is £3,000. Unless an average system is introduced, I cannot see how we shall be able to give the incentive to home purchase that we think should be given to it. It is hard to imagine a person paying, say, £3,000 or more for a Housing Commission dwelling when tenants somewhere else are able to purchase similar houses built by the commission for half that figure. This also highlights the question asked by Senator McKenna - “ Who is to benefit from the capital accretion that will go to the tenant who was fortunate enough to win an early ballot and has been in possession of a home for a few years % “ In addition, the tenant of a house which cost, say, £1,000, but is now valued at £3,000, will have no incentive to buy that house if he can continue to rent it for 14s. a week. Obviously no government will be in a position to say to a person who is renting a house for between 14s. and say 30s. a week, “ You would be better off to buy your home no matter that the interest charge or the term of repayment may be “. I believe, therefore, that it is very important that consideration should be given to the averaging of rentals and also of the selling price of homes. Unless that is done I do not think this measure will accomplish what the Government hopes it will do.
I appreciate that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and all those who have been trying to arrive at a solution of this problem, are aware of these difficulties. Undoubtedly the whole matter has been thoroughly explored; but I still believe that it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to include somewhere in its legislation provision for the calculation of an average selling price so that some purchasers will not be at a considerable disadvantage compared with others. If such a direction can be given to the States in regard to rentals I see no reason why it cannot be given in connexion with the selling price of homes.
I support wholeheartedly the Government’s attempt to provide people with an opportunity to own their own homes. I was very pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the Labour party now accepts that principle. It is to be hoped that Labour’s excursions in the various States into the field of home ownership has convinced honorable senators opposite that amongst our best citizens are those people who, through some sacrifice, have been able to provide themselves with a permanent home and therefore, have a stake in their country. I support the bill.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). As I expected the Government to keep abreast of changing conditions, I was amused to hear the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) cite the purchase of a cottage for £2,500 on a deposit of £150. The days have long since passed when a house suitable for a man, his wife and a couple of children, could be purchased for £2,500. It is evident that the Minister is completely out of touch with current prices of houses. Such a house now costs about £3,500.
Owing to the high rate of interest on housing loans, rents have increased and are now a heavy burden on the people who can least afford to pay high rents. When the Leader of the Opposition stated that war service homes loans should be made available at 2i per cent., the financial geniuses on the Government side smiled, as though to indicate that it would be absurd to reduce the interest rate to 2J per cent. I refer to the Minister for National Development and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). My mind goes back to the time when .Senator Darcey, who was regarded by the opponents of Labour as a financial crank, made certain suggestions in this chamber in connexion with finance for housing. It was not until after he ceased to be a member of the Senate that some of the schemes that he had advocated were put into practice. I wonder what would be the attitude of the Minister for National Development towards interest rates if a war broke out to-morrow? Would he do the manly thing, by ensuring that interest rates would be pegged, as wa3 done during World War Lt., in order to force money into war loans? Already, the Government has an institution callable of financing home building. In any event, where can one obtain better security than in Commonwealth loans, which have always been regarded as gilt edged?
Sitting suspended from 13.i5 to 2.15 p.m.
– It would not be difficult to obtain the necessary finance, even if those who control the money bags of the world were not willing to lend it at low rates of interest. The Government t. has the power to peg interest rates, and so to force surplus capital into channels where it can be used for the development and the economic welfare of the country. If the Government, having that power did not exercise it, that would show that the Government did not wish to exercise its undoubted power. Senator Mattner wanted to know who would make up the difference of about £2,000 if the rate of interest were reduced from 4^ per cent, to 3 per cent, for a term of 45 years. I reply to the honorable senator by saying that, if interest rates were pegged, therewould not be any loss of £2,000 to be made up by any one. The only person who might be out of pocket would be the man who had accumulated surplus capital from the efforts of his employees, and would like to lend money at high rates of interest. Another course open to the Government would be to utilize the facilities provided by the Commonwealth Bank to finance a home building programme at lower rates of interest. That is a feasible and practical way to meet, the situation. It has been stated that the Labour party is opposed to people owning their own homes. Senator
Wedgwood said that that was the underlying basis of the legislation introduced by Mr. Dedman when he was a Minister in
– Mr. Dedman also cut the tails off men’s shirts.
– I am sorry that the honorable senator was cold in those days. However, other people benefited from the action taken. The Labour Government went further, and did something that this Government has never attempted to do. To-day, landlords may charge tenants exorbitant rentals. A home of moderate size, providing reasonable comfort for a family, calls for a payment of from £4 to £4 10s. a week ;is rental. In 1945, when a Labour government was in office, legislation was introduced to provide that the rental of a home should not be more than one-fifth of the tenant’s income. As the basic wage at that time was about £5 a week, the maximum rental chargeable was about £1 a week. To-day, a man would need to have an income of £22 10s. a week on the same basis. I ask honorable senators to compare this bill with the legislation of 1945. If they do so, they will not dispute that the Labour party has always advocated that those who wish to purchase their homes should be able to do so. If Senator Wedgwood cares to search the records, she will find that in 1945 provision was made for the Commonwealth and State Governments to provide finance through the Commonwealth Bank to enable persons to purchase homes on paying a deposit of as little as 5 per cent. No such provision exists to-day, and therefore, we on this side ask that the deposit again be brought back to the 1945 rate of 5 per cent., so that people who want to purchase their own homes, or to build new homes, may be able to do so and have the comfortable feeling of placing their feet under a table in a home of their own. To-day, a house of twelve squares costs, as T have said, at least £4,000. As the maximum advance proposed under this legislation is £2,750, that means that a would-be purchaser of a home has to provide the difference of £1,250. If he cannot do so, he is not eligible for the benefits provided under the agreement with which this bill deals. The Government is not keeping up with the times. Its policy has led to the inflation which exists, and which has brought about this sorry state of affairs.
We find the same thing in connexion with war service homes. If the Government so desired, it could reduce the rate of interest considerably, and in that way do a great deal to help ex-service men and women. I remind honorable senators opposite that when men enlisted to fight for their country they were promised that much would be done for them on their return. That promise covers men who fought in Korea, and it should apply to those who will be conscripted and sent to Malaya. When they return, they should not be compelled to pay high rates of interest on loans to provide a roof over their heads, merely because moneylenders choose to charge high rates. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the Government could, if it so desired, so use the facilities provided by the Commonwealth Bank that the rate of interest could be reduced to 2£ per cent., or even to 2£ per cent., for homes for ex-service personnel. I go further and say that it should be possible to do so for the whole of the people of Australia.
Another anomaly in connexion with war service homes is that married couples living apart cannot obtain war service homes. There are many reasons why husbands and wives may be living apart. One reason is the inability to get homes ; yet, through no fault of their own, a war service home is not available to them. That is an anomaly. In effect, we say to the men of Australia in time of war that if they will go into the armed forces and keep us safe and secure, we will provide them with homes when they return. But if they are living apart from their wives after they come back, they are told that they cannot have a home. Instead, we tell them that if they like to pay £10 a week for board so that they may live with their wives, all application by them for a home will be considered. That is the situation to-day.
In the case of war service homes, an ex-serviceman has to wait six months before his application is even examined. The “War Service Homes Division has stated, quite frankly, that it cannot consider applications in less than six months because of lack of finance. If the Government is genuine in its desire to alleviate the housing shortage, it should endeavour to house the ex-servicemen. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said, in answer to a question to-day, that the shipyards at Whyalla had orders for eight ships, but they were working on only one because of the shortage of labour. Instead of bringing immigrants from overseas the Government should provide housing for ex-servicemen so that they can be happily married and increase the population with Australian-born children. Many exservicemen cannot settle down because they are unable to get homes. Instead of helping them, the Government is retarding the natural increase of population and is spending large sums assisting foreign immigrants to come to Australia. Instead of simply talking about housing, as it has been doing for the past few years, the Government should take definite action to help the people.
The cost of building homes is abnormally high, and the basis of that problem is the cost of materials. Timber merchants can charge any price they like for timber. It does not matter whether that is considered to be a problem, for the Australian Government or not. The Government could still do something to check high costs. A few timber companies monopolize all the timber belts in the various .States. Once they obtain a monopoly, they eliminate competition. Every year saw-mills are going out of existence because their owners cannot get a. lease of standing timber. All the timber is tied up by a few capitalists who monopolize: the timber industry. They do not care whether they have to. cart, the logs 5. miles or 2.05 miles. They still make, the same, profit. In fact, if: they cart: timber a long distance, they have a bigger capital outlay for plant on which they have to make a larger profit. A start should be made towards reducing the cost of housing by reducing the price of timber; bricks and other essential materials. This problem is related to inflation which the Government is doing nothing to check.. The situation would not be so bad if the Government tried to keep pace with inflation by varying the terms of the housing agreement, but it does not do so.
The report of the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on housing reveals that the Australian Government is not giving a lead to the States, nor is it complying with their wishes. The .States are overruled when-, ever they discuss this matter with the Australian Government. The States first made an earnest plea for a reduction of interest rates to 3 per cent., so that they could let or sell homes on long-term agreements at a reasonable charge within the means of basic wage earners. With interest at 3 per cent., a home could be purchased over a long period at repayments equal to approximately one-fifth of the basic wage. The Australian Government made no attempt to accede to the request of the States that interest should be reduced to 3 per cent. Instead of making repayments of £2 3s. to £2 10s. on a loan at 3 per cent., a tenant who is buying a home has to pay £4 to £4 10s. a week. A man who has four or five children is forced to take a house of at least 12 squares. The repayments on such a house at the higher rate of interest is about £4 10s. a week, inducing rates and maintenance. That is more than onethird of the basic wage. Yet Senator Wedgwood has criticised the scheme of the former Minister for Post-war Beconstruction in the Labour Government, Mr. Dedman, under which home purchasers would have paid a rental equal to only one-fifth of the basic wage.
– in reply - The Leader of the: Opposition in the Senate (Senator1 McKenna),. in speaking to the bill,, read portions of the second-reading speech of the former Minister for Post-war Recon:struction, Mr. Dedman,, that was delivered when he introduced the Housing Agreement Bill 1945. I propose to follow his example and read an extract from the ens iing debate which has been quoted ad nauseum on political platforms since that day. I propose to read portion of that debate, not for the purpose of repeating political argument, but to make the point that it is not sufficient merely to have a comprehensive scheme of housing. Just as important is the spirit in which such a scheme is approached and put into operation. The extract I propose to read from Hansard is the famous one relating to “ little capitalists “. In the debate in 1945, Mr. Dedman said -
The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) suggested that, instead of augmenting the family income by the payment of child endowment, we should provide for the sale of houses at lower prices and that it should be possible to use the money now paid in child endowment to amortise the cost of such an undertaking. He said that in this way we would make the average worker a capitalist. That is too big a problem for me to discuss in detail to-night, but there is one argument which I would put forward; the Commonwealth Government is concerned to provide adequate and good housing for the workers: it is not concerned with making the workers into little capitalists.
Mr. Anthony. In other words, it is not concerned with making them home owners?
Mr DEDMAN. ; If there is any criticism which may be directed against the policy of past governments supported by the present Opposition, it is this: Too much of their legislative programmes was deliberately designed to place the workers in a position in which they would have a vested interest in the continuance of capitalism. That is a policy which will not have my support, at any rate.
That statement has been quoted over and over again in political campaigns. It was against that background that the 1945 housing agreement was inaugurated. At the time, there was a great shortage of houses. Having had the administration of this act for a few years, I shall not deny that it has made some contribution towards the relief of the shortage of houses. But that contribution has been made at a considerable cost to the community as a whole. The scheme itself contained no practical initial arrangement under which houses could be sold on reasonable terms. From the beginning, it has been a scheme to provide cheap rental houses. This has been revealed as an unreal approach to the problem because, combined with rent control, it has driven private investment out of the field of rental houses. I do not say that rent control has been unnecessary or bad. .1 do not say that the housing agreement has been wholly bad. But I do say that if the extreme socialistic urge which was apparent in the remarks of the Minister whom I have quoted had not been at the back of this legislation, and if it had been administered in a. reasonable, sensible way, it would have resulted in much greater and sounder- progress. It was the extremist policy of 1945 that drove rental housing completely; out of the field of private investment in Australia.
I have made these! introductory remark:in order to provide a background to th?> Government’s refusal to accept the amendment that has been moved by the ODD(sition. If the Government were to accept the proposed amendment it would repeat one of the errors of the 1945 legislation. It would drive private investment out of the sphere of house building for privateownership. That is a mistake which the Government does not intend to make. This is still a young country and it ha* not all the resources necessary to undertake the development that it requires. I understand that about ?200,000,000 it spent each year on the construction of homes in Australia. I cannot imagine that the Government would be justified in accepting the responsibility for the expenditure of that vast sum for such a purpose, important as it may be.
However, it is not only the financial issue that is involved in this matter. Housing raises very great social issue?. It would be difficult to imagine a monpotent influence in the creation of national contentment than adequate housing. Also, there is no major sphere of activity in which the individual family likes to express its own personality and suit its own convenience more than in the building of its own home. It is not possible to take great architectural pride in some of the housing settlements that have been constructed and if we have too many of them we shall rue it; and we shall rue the fact that we have appropriated a substantial proportion of our material resources for the task. When I survey the housing problem I always ask, are not the co-operative building societies doing a better job for the Australian people than the housing commissions in the various States in which they operate?
– The building societies are doing a better job.
-.- I believe that they are doing a better job. But if honorable senators do not agree with me, at least, they will concede that the proposition is well within the field of argument. Had this scheme not been conceived in the atmosphere in which it was conceived; had it been more flexible; had not big housing administrations been set up with their demands for funds; and had we diverted more finance’ to the co-operative building societies, we should have been better served in the long run. Despite what Senator Aylett and Mr. Dedman have said, this has not turned out to be a housing scheme for the workers. It lias turned out to be a housing scheme for every one, because it provides the only way in which houses are built for rental in Australia. As a result, the private investor has been driven completely out of the field of housing. It is no longer a scheme for those in need. That is proved by the facts. Approximately 80,000 houses have been built under the scheme, and I think I am correct in saying that only about 5,000 of the tenants have taken advantage of the rental rebate scheme mentioned by Senator Aylett. What we are doing to-day is subsidizing the building of houses for rental purposes, not only for those who do not need a subsidy and who are in a position to pay a reasonable rent, but also for people who do not want to. live in rented houses, but who want to build and purchase their own homes. So great a proportion of our available financial resources is being diverted into this Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement arrangement that there is too little available for the co-operative building societies and other organizations which lend money to home owners.
Over the years we have had a difficult task to maintain a balanced and reasonable building programme, because there has been such a large demand for the subsidized finance that has become available under this scheme. It was because I had some idea of the difficulties involved that I interjected when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stated that building had gone into a decline in 1952-53. I did not have the figures in my mind at the time, but I felt, sure that the statement was wrong.
– High costs had something to do with that, did they not ?
– In respect of houses and flats completed in the various years, I cite the following figures to the Senate : -
So that, over the years, the level of building has been maintained at a reasonably stable height, despite variations in economic circumstances from year to year. That has been done, of course, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. I pay a tribute to them for the way in which they have made money available for the co-operative building societies and others. They have released money which could be absorbed to the full capacity of the building trade, in relation to the available resources of men and materials, in such a way as not to place too great a strain on those resources and increase building costa. At the present time, we are building approximately 80,000 houses a year, and. we think it is possible that that is not only fulfilling the existing demand but also reducing, to an appreciable extent, the shortage of houses. I hesitate to cite a figure in this connexion. Various estimates have been made, but I always think that estimates are fallible, and perhaps the best result cannot be achieved by referring to a figure which subsequent events may prove to be wrong. However, I think there is very little doubt that we are making an appreciable impact on the housing shortage. I am one of those who hope that in some States of the Commonwealth, at least, the day is not far distant when there will be a sufficient supply of houses to meet requirements and that, when that stage is reached, greater progress will be made in the other States by diverting to them
The resources that are spread over a wide field at present.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out ( Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question soresolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Billread a second time.
– Proposed new clause 14 of the principal agreement provides in sub-clause (5.) that as an alternative to freehold, there may be issued a. Crown lease in perpetuity. Surely that is an echo of the original Dedman legislation. My liberal soul was revived by some of the sentiments expressed by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his virulent speech on this measure, and I thought that we were about to usher in real housing legislation that would be completely opposed to the socialization of Mr. Dedman. I remind the Senate that, bracketed with the housingagreement legislation of 1945, there was also war service land settlement legislation. The background to those measures which were introduced in 1945 was the report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission made on the 25th August, 1944, to the then Department of Post-war Reconstruction, of which Mr. Dedman was then the head. Paragraph 308 of that report is particularly germane to the proposed provision of the agreement relating to the issue of Crown leases in perpetuity. It stated -
This Commission is also of the opinion that the only satisfactory method of dealing with the problems of land use and land values is for land to be nationalized and held thereafter as leasehold ; we feel, however, that the lease should be one in perpetuity with periodic reappraisement of the capital value.
The report then continued to express other sentiments equally revolutionary. It said, for instance, that the size of the financial operations necessary to bring about that change should not daunt us, used as we were to the magnitude of war-time financial transactions. On the same lines, paragraph 426 of the report recommended that the tenancy of any government-financed dwelling for rental should be subject to certain conditions. The sixth condition was -
Tenancy agreement to provide no right or option to purchase the dwelling. Should the Authority desire to sell, however, the tenant should be given the right of first refusal to purchase.
I have no doubt that the report from which I have read exercised a very important influence on the formulation of the original agreement. As was pointed out during the second-reading debate on this measure, that agreement provided only for cash purchases, and thus precluded anybody who required credit for this purpose from owning a governmentfinanced home. I ask the Minister for an explanation of the proposal that Crown leases in perpetuity may be offered as an alternative to freehold.
– In fear and trembling, I advance the explanation given to me that, in certain States, a lease in perpetuity is the only title that is available. In other words. a person can either build or bay h house on Crown lands or he can do without a house. As that is the only tenure in some areas, it is necessary to provide for that contingency in the agreement.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Second REA ,)1 No
Debate resumed from the 27th April (vide page 33), on motion by Senator
That the bill bo. huw read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill before the Senate is to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948- 1.953. In effect, it is a relatively small bill, which is designed to bring our immigration laws up to date in the light of the experience that has been gained during, the last seven or eight years. The
Alterations effected by the bill are minor, rather than major and the Opposition does not oppose the bill. The Government has decided that it shall no longer be necessary for an applicant for naturalization to lodge a declaration, of intention two years ahead, but that, if an immigrant wishes to complete a declaration of intention, he may do so. An immigrant will Vie permitted to make application for naturalization six months before he is qualified, residentially. to become naturalized.
This bill gives certain rights to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to grant naturalization to groups of people at his own will and discretion. The purpose of this provision is to enable the Minister to assist the husbands and wives of Australians, or people who were Australians in past years and who, for some reason, forfeited Australian citizenship. The bill also provides that children over sixteen years of age may receive their own certificates of naturalization, instead of their names being included on their parents? certificates. The fee for natu ralization will be reduced from £5 to £1. I suppose that this is the outstanding example in Australia to-day of the price of anything being reduced.
It is interesting to. note that the Government has at last recognized the physical impossibility of the Minister personally signing all certificates of naturalization. My mind goes back to the time when Labour was in office and I acted for the then Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, for about three months during his absence abroad. The signing of certificates was an early morning and late evening job. First thing in the morning, I would sit down with a pile of naturalization certificates in front of me, and proceed to sign them at break-neck speed, in order to try to reserve a part of the day to attend to other matters. The position must have deteriorated very much since those days. In 1953, there were 5,000 naturalizations ; in 1954, the number rose to 16,000; and in this year it is expected that there will be 25,000 applications for naturalization. By 1956, the annual figure will probably rise to 50,000. Honorable senators who are better than I at mathematics, might work out the average daily rate of signing necessary to cope with the job-
The Government has decided that the Minister can delegate power to sign naturalization certificates. I expect that that right will be kept within the Department of Immigration. I do not know that there is any alternative to the proposed arrangement, but it is important to ensure that only a high-ranking officer shall append his signature to the certificates. If a socialist government were in power, perhaps this duty of signing certificates could be shared by all the Ministers, in order to provide them with hand-writing practice. I doubt very much whether the secretary of the department would have time during the day to sign many naturalization certificates. I suppose that a person who sets out to get a naturalization certificate is concerned only to get it, without worrying about the signature on the document. However, this is a very important matter, and the time of top executives, such as the Minister and the head of the department, should not be taken up on such routine work as signing certificates.
This debate gives me the opportunity - if only for a few minutes - to talk about the lag of immigration, and the effect of that lag on the community. In 1949, ©nr net annual increase of population due to immigration was almost 150,000; in 1950, it was 153,000; and from then on it gradually dwindled. By 1951, it had dropped to 110,000; to’ 97,000 in 1952; to 42,000 in 1953; and in 1954 it increased slightly to 68,000. In the first quarter of this year, 23,000 immigrants arrived in this country. I think that it is sad - whatever the reason might be - that the flow of immigrants to this country that was built up by the previous Labour Government, should have been allowed to dwindle, because there is no doubt that Australia needs many more immigrants. Additional labour is required to carry out public works. Indeed, the Government has said, in effect, that it would provide finance for certain projects if man-power were available. Let us consider the problem that is facing New South Wales, due to the recent flooding of the Hunter River valley. That problem could be solved if man-power were available.
– A decent government in New South Wales would help.
– It would help here, too. We should not leave that problem to the State Government. But, if the State governments are financially ham-strung, then the Commonwealth must accept responsibility for giant national schemes which, although situated in a certain State, affect the whole of the country. The substantial decline of immigration over the years is a sad commentary on the forward-thinking of this Government. After all, the initial difficulties in relation to our immigration programme were overcome by the Chifley Government. Prior to the Menzies Government coming to office, all of the big immigration centres had been completed, and an organization had been established to receive 150,000 immigrants in 1949-50. Now, however, hostels throughout the country are empty, and the intake of immigrants has dropped from 150,000 a year to 42,000 a year. As was pointed out during the debate on the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement Bill, about one-third of the building force in New South Wales consists of immigrants. Those men are rendering tremendous assistance to our home-building operations.
In Canberra, there is a waiting-list of 2,000 applicants for homes. In 1947, the Chifley Government set out to do its best to provide sufficient housing in ten years for 10,500 public servants, whom it was intended to transfer from Melbourne. The Labour Government shared with opponents of Labour the mirage of that number of publicservants being transferred here. But the years have gone by without housing targets being achieved. Hardly any public servants have been brought here from Melbourne, but still there are 2,000 applicants waiting for homes. The problem is a big one. We should make sure that immigration is stepped up, and that the immigrants selected will be of the type able to help us to solve our great national problems, including the provision of homes in Australia both for Australians and for immigrants as they arrive. The Opposition supports the measure.
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania t 3. 15]. - Li rising to support the second reading of this bill to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act I would only say that Senator Armstrong, who. like other members of his party, is a little critical of the Government’s administration of the act relating to nationalization and citizenship, did not. criticize the legislation before the Senate but. took advantage of the opportunity to deplore the fall in immigration. 1 remind him that when, the decline started it was supported by many trade unions and Labour leaders who feared that, at a, time when there was not over-full employment in Australia, an expansion of the intake of immigrants would be harmful. However, the Government is again pursuing a vigorous policy of immigration in a time of over-full employment. I congratulate the Minister, a busy man who puts his heart and soul into the task of helping immigration into this country, on the success of that policy. He is a popular visitor at any place where new Australians gather. It is a pity he has not the time to meet more of these newcomers, because I am certain that his work and personality could do much to make f.hem happy and at home in this country.
The bill is the result of the Government having taken notice of recommendations from the Citizenship Conventions which are held from time to time, and also of recommendations from the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee. Any government that seeks the opinions of such bodies is to be congratulated, because, unfortunately, that is not always done. It is good to know that, before legislation is introduced, the sections of the community most likely to be affected by it are consulted. I have been unfortunate in that I have not been able to attend the Citizenship Conventions, but [ have read both the agenda of such gatherings and the reports of their proceedings as well a3 the action taken by the Government and the department on such recommendations, and in that way f have gained a fair knowledge of the subjects dealt with even though I was not present. It is comforting to know that the bringing forward of this legislation gives effect to many of the recommendations of the last convention. Senator Armstrong has mentioned some of them, f am glad that the Government has included in this bill a clause deleting the necessity for those who seek Australian, citizenship to publish in the press an advertisement setting out their intention to do so. It was a complete waste of money, and I do not think that the Australian newspapers will be seriously affected by the provision in the bill. I believe that the necessity to advertise their intention to apply for naturalization was an embarrassment, as well as a source of expense, to some immigrants. I also commend the Government on its proposal to reduce the cost of a naturalization certificate from £5 to a maximum of £2. It may seem a small amount, but there is no doubt that in some instances the necessity to pay a fee of £5 delayed applications for citizenship. f noticed with pleasure in the secondreading speech of the Minister that the department, as a result of tin’s amending legislation, will issue an up-to-date pamphlet showing how Australian citizens can help others to become fellow citizens. It is an excellent pamphlet, which has been prepared by the department in consultation with representatives of New Settlers League and Good Neighbour Councils. In my opinion, the information contained in the pamphlet will be of great value to new Australians. It should encourage them to apply for Australian citizenship. Men in public life should obtain copies of this pamphlet and distribute them as they move from place to place among the people. In this way public men can set an example to their fellow Australians.
It is most important that those who come to live among us should be educated regarding their rights and privileges as Australian citizens. At the same time they should be shown that for every right and privilege they enjoy as Australian citizens a responsibility is imposed on them.. I know that at naturalization ceremonies these things are mentioned, but very few of those who become Australians at such ceremonies can recollect the details presented to them because they are so taken up with the rather solemn and inspiring ceremony that these matters escape their notice. I hope that the department and the organizations interested in assimilating immigrants, such as the Good Neighbour Councils, will continue to develop this means of educating new Australians regarding their rights, privileges and responsibilities as Australian citizens.
This Parliament would do well to record its appreciation of the people associated with the Good Neighbour Councils throughout Australia. I can speak only of the influence of these bodies in Tasmania, where I have attended a number of naturalization ceremonies, all of which have been well conducted. These councils look after new Australians coming among us, and do their best to make the newcomers feel at home, and see that the community in which they settle is friendly towards them. They set an example of community work in this important aspect of our national life, and I, for one, believe that we owe much to them and should express our appreciation to them.
One difficulty which confronts newcomers is that of learning our language.
Recently a member of Parliament in Tasmania criticized publicly new Australians for not speaking the Australian tongue. He implied that they should not be permitted to converse in public in a foreign tongue. I am glad to say that the secretary of the State Labour party in Tasmania, after consultation with the quickthinking Premier of that State, Mr. Cosgrove, issued a statement dissociating the Labour party in Tasmania from such a policy. In saying that, I do not mean that new Australians should not be encouraged and helped to learn the Australian language. In this field the press and the radio can do a great deal, although when I recall some of the plays broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission I wonder whether they are really helping. Apparently, some producers think that any one who takes the part of an Australian must be of the Dad and Dave type, known to readers of the Bulletin and Smith’s Weekly. Why cannot those who participate in plays as Australians speak decent Australian instead ‘of the kind of talk that is a shocking example, not only to new Australians, but also to our own Australian children ‘ I repeat that every encouragement and assistance should be given to new Australians to learn our language. J congratulate the Government on its immigration policy, and .give my support to this excellent bill.
– Together with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Armstrong), I support the bill ‘.before the Senate, which is directed primarily to technical matters associated with the .assumption of Australian citizenship and British nationality. There are matters associated with the bill which should be the subject of reasonable and relevant comment. Since our immigration programme, which has culminated in the arrival of 1,000,000 immigrants, was embarked upon by a Labour government, a number of practical and technical problems have arisen. With some of the latter the legislation now before us proposes to deal. It is relevant to discuss to some extent the whole immigration programme of Australia. Prom time to time, honorable senators have had an opportunity to. discuss one facet or another -of .the programme. I commend all the proposals in this bill and, in particular, I wish to direct attention to a very important provision. That is the provision for a new Australian of sixteen years of age or more to assume, on hit own behalf, Australian citizenship and British nationality. Formerly, immigrants of that age would take British nationality only on its assumption by their parents. It is an important step when a young person of that age is given the right and privilege and the opportunity, in fact and law, to make a decision which is extremely momentous. The immigrant has to give up his country of birth and offer loyalty to a new country with rights of citizenship .anc all the obligations and responsibilities that those rights imply.
In dealing with our own young citizens, we have not been prepared -to give them rights which are not equivalent to those provided in this measure and may seem less important at first glance. I have had occasion to discuss before the electoral eligibility of persons under 21 years of age. I am unable to agree that the assumption of nationality by an immigrant is more, or less, important than the determination ‘by a national of the type of government and the form of political party that shall conduct the affairs of the nation. Under the terms of this bill, we are offering to new Australians of youthful age an opportunity to make a decision on citizenship and nationality, but for five years afterward? we will deny them and our own citizens of that age .an opportunity to decide what type of government shall conduct the affairs of the country. I know that this is not particularly relevant to the measure under discussion, but it is a thought that arises in my mind as I stud* this provision which I, and other honorable senators on the Opposition side, heartily commend. If this is a recognition of the increased social precocity of youth, and the fact that maturity comes to our young people earlier to-day than it did in years gone by because of education and other modern developments, other opportunities should be transferred to them in connexion with other realms of life. .1 believe that this is recognition by the Government that, ultimately, some thought will have to be given to the extension of the franchise to young people before they reach the adult age of 21 years.
– Who first fixed the electoral age at 21 years?
– I cannot answer that question off-hand, but it was the policy of the Australian Labour party to extend the franchise to persons under 21 years of age. When supporters of the Labour party have put that proposition forward, by argument or legislative amendment, the Government has not seen fit to accept that view. Under the terms of this measure, an opportunity is to be given to young men and women who mature intellectually early in life to make a judgment that is denied to young Australians in a matter that is equally important. I hope that the Government will see fit, at some time, to see the principles involved in their correct perspective, and that it will make a similar provision in connexion with the related matters.
The provisions of the bill relate to the formal assumption of citizenship and the acquirement of nationality. T.hose provisions anticipate that there must be some period of residence before new Australians acquire a knowledge of Australian life. Necessarily, in a period of two or five years, only a certain limited knowledge can be acquired. We accept that limitation as essential to give the applicant some sense of the responsibilities he is undertaking, but I believe we should be suffering a delusion if we thought that the civic education of the new citizen ceased at that point. This is a form of legal integration of a new citizen into our community. The political integration of a new Australian takes a lifetime of association and many years of experience, just as it does for an old Australian. That imposes on all of us individually, particularly those in public life, an obligation to expand that association of the new Australians with their new country, so that they can be educated in every aspect of Australian community life.
We can expect that the whole life of Australia will be changed immeasurably by the advent of so many people from other countries in a comparatively short period. For generations, through our families, parents and grandparents, Australians have lived under one constitutional and political system, with certain ideas in which we believe. We consider them to be the best ideas for the functioning of democracy and political activity that have yet been framed. People have been coming to Australia for the past five years in large numbers, and I hope that they will continue to come in increasing numbers, but we must remember that they have emigrated from countries that have a different constitutional background and a different political history. Some of those countries have been interrupted in their political development. The immigrants come to Australia, in many cases, without any concept of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the relationship between the component parts of that Commonwealth and 0111 relationship to the Crown. If we are going to retain what I might call the tone of our national life, it is vital that these people should be informed or educated - I do not like the term indoctrinated - in the atmosphere in which this nation moves as a component of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That being so, there is a stern and increasing obligation on every Australian to dr> something about it. 1 join with Senator Marriott in commending organizations such as the Good Neighbour Council and the Immigration Advisory Council which make the integration of immigrants their prime responsibility. I have had opportunities to attend meetings of national groups and naturalization ceremonies. I have gone to the meetings of national groups, by invitation, to explain trade unionism in Australia. That is an important part of national life in which millions of Australians participate actively. I have explained the history of trade unionism in Australia, and the part that it plays in our social and political activities. “1 hare answered numerous questions, and it is obvious from their nature that the immigrants do not understand these matters completely. Certainly they do not understand our attitude to them and the slant that they give to our social thought. If we accept these things as a fundamental part of Australian life, the immigrants must he educated to understand the reason why we consider them fundamental to the way we act and conduct our affairs. Public men associated with other organizations, such as primary producers’ organizations and marketing boards, will have an opportunity to discharge the same service, and I hope sincerely that they will do so.
At this stage I direct attention to some prescience that I showed when I spoke on immigration a few years ago. I had cause to attack the Government because, owing to economic conditions that had been allowed to develop in Australia, it had permitted the rate of immigration to fall. I warned the Government that it might be difficult, not merely to obtain the number of immigrants that we wanted, but also to get the type of immigrants that we wanted. I said that when Europe settled down and the economy of its various countries was stabilized, our task would become increasingly difficult. Yesterday, it was reported in the newspapers that an overseas conference had indicated that that position had developed in Western Germany, because the rate of employment is rising in that country and it is becoming socially stabilized. Consequently, we are finding it very difficult to obtain immigrants from Western Germany. Although the Dutch have attained a similar economic position to Western Germany, there is still a great future for immigration from Holland. But, if our opportunities have been’ partly lost, they have not been wholly lost. I desire to impress on the Government the necessity to increase the rate of immigration to this country.
The technical matters that the Senate has been asked to consider in connexion with this bill are very important. Not only is the legal form of naturalization important, but so also is the problem of the integration of immigrants in the Australian way of life. I commend this legislation to the Senate. The Australian Labour party supports it and trusts that new Australians will take full advantage of the provision of immigra- tion statutes and citizenship and nationality statutes at the earliest opportunity. Citizenship is a most prized possession. The stateless people in the world have lost something which is dear to the human heart. They desire to be tied to some particular national institution. The lack of nationality is a grievous wound. It creates a great vacuum in people’s minds. We have helped to fill that vacuum and I hope that those whom we have assisted in their distress will assist us in our difficulties. We have a common aim. For the period that they have lived in Australia, we have a common history and we have a common national destiny. I commend the Government for the solicitude that it has shown for our new citizens in introducing this bill.
– I rise to support the bill which the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has introduced for the purpose of amending the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1953. The major alterations proposed in the bill are all to the good. All honorable senators are aware that bringing population to this country is one of our most important objectives. The ease with which new citizens may be naturalized under the bill is all to the good. Over the years, a considerable number of immigrants, especially those from European countries, have gathered in groups throughout Australia. I think that we have not done enough to assist them to become full citizens of the Commonwealth. The proposed amendments which will make citizenship of Australia more attractive are all to the good, too. The members of these groups who have retained the nationality of their home country are good citizens of Australia. Over the years we have missed an opportunity in not making it more easy for them to become Australian citizens. The bill will give the Minister power to issue certificates of citizenship, not only to minors, but also to the wives and husbands of Australian citizens. Many people have been debarred from citizenship because of reasons connected with their marriage, and I think it is very good that the Minister has been given that power.
The elimination of the requirement that people shall advertise their inten- tion to seek naturalization is very good. That requirement prevented many people who have come to this country from applying for naturalization because they were not able to pay for the advertisements that were required. The reduction of the naturalization fee from £5 to £1 is very commendable. Wonderful work has been done by Good Neighbour Councils and other committees which work in conjunction with the councils in order to help in the assimilation of these people. [ understand that many provisions of the bill were thoroughly discussed at the last Australian Citizenship Convention and also by the Commonwealth Immigration Council. I understand that the proposed amendments to the act have had the full consideration of those bodies. In Western Australia I have attended a number of naturalization ceremonies at which I have been asked to speak on behalf of the Australian Government. [ have greatly valued that privilege. At those ceremonies, I have been greatly impressed with the sincerity of the people concerned and their eagerness to hold a certificate of naturalization. For that reason I was a little alarmed when I found that, under clause 13 of the bill, the Minister would be given the power to delegate to certain officers the authority to sign naturalization certificates. I think that it will be necessary for the Minister to keep a very close watch on such delegation of his authority. I have no doubt that he will do that. I commend the Government for having introduced this bill which will make it attractive and easy for the people concerned to take a very big step in their lives - the renunciation of their own countries and their adoption of this country as Australian citizens. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– I wish to commend the bill to the Senate and to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) on his administration of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. I also congratulate the Minister for Immigration in the former government, Mr. Calwell, who introduced the present immigration policy. I do not think that it can truth fully be 3aid that the immigration programme of the present Government has been in anyway unworthy of its beginning. The vintage years in which many displaced persons of high quality wished to immigrate to Australia have gone. Western Europe is settling down. Many European countries are rapidly becoming prosperous again. As honorable senators know, to-<lay every advanced country has social services schemes and other things which make it undesirable for a person to leave. Therefore, it is not now so easy for us to get people of high quality such as those who were readily obtainable some years ago. I think we should be very foolish if we insisted on quantity at all costs. We want quality. It is also undesirable that we should have from any one country of Europe, leaving aside the British Isles, from which our own forefathers came, a preponderance of immigrants. We want them from every European country, but with some balance between them.
I commend the Minister, also, for the introduction of a formal civic ceremony for naturalization. I suppose every honorable senator has attended at least one of those ceremonies. It is an inspiring sight to see people, instead of just mumbling through a ceremony in a police court or some other such place, appearing at a. civic ceremony where the mayor, aldermen, and other public functionaries are present, and to which school children have been brought to watch, the ceremony and get some idea of what national obligations and duties are. I hope those ceremonies will continue. I was greatly impressed with one such ceremony at Rockdale, a suburb of Sydney, where there is a very fine municipal council, with a magnificent council hall. The ceremony there was carried through with great dignity and. at the same time, with great friendliness. J watched with interest the way in which the new citizens approached the ceremony. I remember one young woman who caine along almost as eagerly as a bride going to the altar. She had obviously learnt the whole ceremony off by heart, because she beat the mayor to the gun every time.
I disagree with Senator Byrne. I do not think it is wrong that there should be an interval of probation after a citizen assumes citizenship and before he or she is entitled to vote. I certainly should oppose the lowering of the age limit at which a person is eligible to vote. After all, youth is a period for learning. We cannot put old heads on young shoulders, and I hope that we shall never try to do so. Let people have a period during which they have not the right to vote, but in which their interest in politics can be fostered, in which they can argue and debate their opinions, and in which they can get over their wild enthusiasms. Youth is a period for enthusiasm and not a time for sober judgment. What we want in the national councils to-day is more sober judgment and far less unguided enthusiasm. I see nothing wrong with allowing people to become citizens and giving them five years in which to contemplate how they are going to use their vote when they get it.
I agree most heartily with the remark* of Senator Marriott concerning the attitude of Australians who say of immigrants, “ Why do they not speak English or Australian ? “, and who want immigrants to conform, in every way to the pattern of life they find here. I think that that is completely wrong. These people are bringing something to us. By all means encourage them to learn our language. Personally, I think we need not have the slightest worry about their learning the language. I have a small neighbour, three years old, who speaks three languages - his mother’s, his father’s and his own - fluently. We should accept these people as people who are going to enrich our own national life. Every new skill they bring with them, including the skill to speak their own language, will make our national life fuller. When we ask them to be Australians, we refer not to the Australia that is, but to the Australia that will be. We all hope that we are going forward to a national life much richer and fuller than any of us has known in the past. These people will be our partners on that journey.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise a matter under clause 12 of the bill which, the committee will notice, prescribes new conditions for the acquisition of citizenship, and to inquire into the attitude of the authorities towards a case which has provoked my interest. We have in Tasmania a gentleman who is a British subject, but who is denied Australian citizenship. He has resided with us for 29 years. He is a person of Asiatic origin - Chinese actually - and I should think that he would fulfil every requirement of this clause in relation to citizenship. Yet. repeatedly, and with determination, every time an application is made to remedy this anomaly, his application is greeted with “No”, without explanation. It seems to me that in the administration of this legislation, in cases such as that, we should either refuse the citizenship of Great Britain as well as the citizenship of Australia, or terminate the period of exemption during which these aliens may reside amongst us, so as to remove anomalies which, I think, must make for continuous irritation in the minds of the family of the person concerned.
The man to whom I refer has a wife who lives in China. In 1928, I think it was, he went home for a period, and in due course he had a son, born in China, from whom he was separated until the son, reaching the years of adolescence, wished to come to an Australian university. He came to Hobart and is now being educated at the Hobart University. That is a situation in which a man is permitted to come here, and although a British subject, he is denied Australian citizenship and compelled, by the refusal to admit his wife, to live in unnatural, and, I think, entirely unacceptable circumstances. I know that our position in relation to granting citizenship to certain people is fraught with very great problems. Nevertheless, I am referring to the matter because it may foreshadowvery serious reconsideration of our policy in regard to such nationals. If it does, not lead to reconsideration of the genera! policy, at least it may focus the attention of the administration on the desirability of eliminating, in circumstances such as those to which *I have referred, anomalies of that kind. Circumstances in which aliens are resident amongst us, and forced to be separated from their spouses, should not, as a mere matter of administration, be permitted to originate or continue for long periods of time.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
SenatorARNOLD (New South Wales) [3.56].-I move-
That a select committee be appointed to consider and report upon -
the need for national action to pre vent or alleviate damage from flood, drought, fire and other hazards of nature;
b) action required to prevent or alleviate such damage;
the adequacy or otherwise of insurance protection available against such damage.
That the committee consist of eight senators, four to be appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and four by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
That such committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to more from place to place.
That such committee be authorized to function notwithstanding the adjournment or prorogation of the Parliament.
That such committee report to the Senate not later than the 27th October, 1955.
The recent floods in the eastern half of the Commonwealth have drawn attention once more to the enormous loss of property and human life that is caused by recurring natural disasters. Honorable senators will recall that, in 1939, on what has since been, known as “ Black Friday “, Victoria, experienced a disastrous hush fire which took 71 lives and caused damage estimated at between £14,000,000 and £15,000,000. From time to time, other hazards such as, hail storms, cyclones, and earthquakes bring hardship and loss to people in all States of the Commonwealth. In the: wake of such visitations comes a scarcity of the necessaries of life, and. many people have to depend on charity for their very existence. These disasters occur in different localities and with varying intensity. There is little defence against them. It is true that, from time to time the States have made attempts to minimize the distress that they cause, but the truth is that the problem has now become so great that the provision of adequate finances to meet the needs of citizens who have suffered serious loss and to repair of public property which has been destroyed, is beyond the financial resources of the States. Probably the best illustration of that is the devastation caused by the recent floods in New South Wales. Clearly, it is essential that every effort must be made by the Parliaments of this country to prevent such disasters, so far as they can be prevented, and, certainly, to relieve the distress which follows in their wake.
In addition to the hardship and misery suffered by the individual as a result of damage to and loss of his property, the destruction of farms, heavy stock losses, and the inundation and consequent destruction of fertile lands is a blow that the Australian economy can ill afford. There is a false impression that, floods enrich farming lands by depositing fertile soil on them. The truth is that thousands of acres of our richest agricultural lands are being destroyed by floods. In some localities the fertile top soil is washed away, and in others, gravel, clay, and infertile sand is spread across farming land, diminishing its productivity or perhaps, ruining it forever. We can ill afford such losses at a time when we are hoping to bring many thousands more people to this country. To feed those people, the output of all farm products will have to be increased, yet we are allowing some of our best agricultural lands to be destroyed.
Bush fires,too, take a toll of our natural resources. Thousands of acres of valuable timber are burned, causing losses which cannot be recouped for many years. Homes, farms, and fences are destroyed. Stock is killed, and farming equipment ruined. The result can only he a reduction, of food production. We are short of building materials, particularly timber.Farming implements are scarce. We are trying by all methods to make more and more of these essential commodities available to the Australian people; yet we are permitting millions of pounds worth of damage to be done almost overnight by disasters such as floods. As I have said, these visitations are a tremendous tragedy to the individual who has put years of hard work into his property, but they are also a great tragedy to the nation itself. I do not consider that the Australian Government plays the part that it ought to assume in connexion with great national tragedies. It is wrong that men, after many years of hard work to build up a stake in the country, should be placed in a position, due to something over which they have on control, of having to accept public charity in order to exist. That state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. It is for that reason that I ask the Senate to consider what can be done about this problem.
In recent years, we have endeavoured to ameliorate the hazards that confront people in the normal course of events, by instituting a system of invalid pensions and widows’ pensions, &c. We have made plans for full employment and provided for the payment of unemployment benefits in the event of unemployment. It is usually possible for members of the community to insure themselves against damage of various kinds, but there is no way open to the individual to insure against damage caused to his property by acts of God. Therefore, a disaster of the kind to which I have referred could deprive a man of the benefit of years of hard work. I consider that this is one of the problems that should be tackled urgently.
During the war years, the Commonwealth introduced a system of war damage insurance, whereby individual members of the community were able to insure against damage to their property by enemy action. Yet there is no existing system whereby groups of individuals can insure against damage resulting from a national disaster, which might be even more devastating than that caused by enemy action during war-time. One has only to visit an area that has been ravaged by bushfires or floods in order to realize the terrific damage that such disasters cause. Therefore, I think that we should try to devise a method of protecting members of the community from ruin by national disasters. Of course, it is not easy to pluck a method out of the air and propose it in this Parliament. However, if honorable senators were to take it upon themselves to study the problem, and discuss it with informed people throughout Australia, I am sure that they would be able to suggest to the Government a scheme to provide appropriate protection to the people of this country.
I come now to the necessity for the establishment of an authority to take charge of affairs when emergencies arise. At present, the States depend upon the voluntary assistance of the Commonwealth. Although it is true that the Commonwealth authorities have acted as quickly as possible on all occasions to provide assistance in connexion with national disasters, initial delay has at times been inevitable. During the recent flooding of Maitland, T co-operated with the police. In the early stages of the flooding, the whole problem was tossed into the lap of the superintendent of police for the Newcastle area. 1 take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the magnificent work that was done by the police during that crisis. Superintendent Raynor, of Newcastle, worked for two or three days without sleep, but was compelled, ultimately, by physical exhaustion, to retire from, his post and sleep. The work of the police was so magnificent that it inspired everybody around them to do their best to meet the emergency. It is evident, therefore, that a police officer whose normal task is not to deal with great disasters may find himself suddenly in the position of having to establish and control an organization to assist to save life and relieve distress.
On the occasion of the recent flooding of Maitland, the defence authorities quickly established liaison with the police. I deemed it expedient to telephone the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who was then acting as Prime Minister, as the Prime Minister was overseas on official business, to seek urgent assistance. As there was no existing Commonwealth agency to deal with the problem, the light honorable gentleman asked me to get in touch with the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), whom I rang in South Australia. The Minister assured me that the supplies that we needed would be forthcoming as quickly as possible. But the fact remains that I had first to ring a leading member of the Government in Queensland, and then subsequently to ring another Minister in South Australia, before the necessary steps to provide relief could be undertaken. I am not complaining in that connexion; I have merely related what happened in order to show the necessity for the establishment of a Commonwealth agency with authority to provide relief in connexion with national disasters in any part of this country. I consider that the Senate is eminently well equipped to undertake this task, because senators represent the whole of their States. For that reason, if for no other, I consider that senators have, perhaps, a broader outlook in relation to the States than have members of another place who represent certain constituencies.
When these disasters strike us they are usually State-wide, and sometimes they extend beyond the borders of one State into two or more States. Accordingly, I am of the opinion that the Sim ate is peculiarly fitted to set up a body ro examine this problem and bring back to the Parliament a report that would be vfl 1 liable.
Another reason why I regard this as h Commonwealth responsibility is that the effects of these disasters are not confined to one State. It is true that the efforts of one State, in which action is taken to prevent soil erosion and a policy of re-afforestation is in operation, may, in some measure, mitigate the damage caused in another State. Provision to deal with a bush fire hazard in one State might prevent a serious bush fire from crossing the border into another State. And so I say that State boundaries must be ignored in dealing with this problem, l t is indeed a national problem which ought to be tackled on a national basis, lt is similar in some respects to the great Snowy Mountains scheme, although that scheme is constructive whereas floods and bush fires are destructive. In the Snowy Mountains scheme the resources of one State are being utilized for the benefit of three States. What I advocate to-day is that in dealing with the hazards which affect one State we would help to prevent disasters in two or three other States, i repeat that this is a problem calling for action on a national level.
All honorable senators are conscious of the fact that, since the war period, there has been a fundamental change in tinfinancial relationship of the Common wealth and the States. It is true to-day to say that the Commonwealth is the only body with sufficient financial resources to cope with these great disasters. I know that it can be said that, over the years, the States should have done something towards tackling these problems, and that it is still the responsibility of the State authorities to deal with problems which arise within their own boundaries. That view has some merit, but I feel that if consideration is given to the new financial relationship existing between the Commonwealth and the States, and if we agree that the problems are not confined to any one Sta te, there i3 merit in the suggestion that the Commonwealth should accept some responsibility in this field. At this stage, I do not ask the Commonwealth to expend large sums of money to deal with the problem : I ask only that it set up a body, composed of senators, to investigate the problem on a national basis. If a disaster has its origin in one State which doe? nothing to prevent it, and damage is caused to people and property in another State, surely we cannot sit idly by and say that it is a matter which does not concern the Commonwealth. Just as we had the foresight some years ago to embark on the great Snowy Mountains undertaking - a scheme which had been a. political football for a number of year? - so we should do something in this field. The intervention of the Commonwealth to harness the waters of the Snowy Mountains is already benefiting the people of Australia, and as the scheme progresses so its benefits will become greater. In taking action to prevent national disasters we are acting in the interests of Australia just as much as when we embarked on the great constructive work associated with the Snowy Mountains scheme.
Every flood and every bushfire has its aftermath; but, here again there is no authority other than on a State level to deal with the problems that arise. The disastrous floods that have occurred in the Hunter Valley during recent years are fresh in the memory of all honorable senators. Here I pay a tribute to the miners in the northern areas of New South Wales who acted so magnificently, and in such a public-spirited way, to put things right. Thousands of them left their employment, and day after day worked in the stricken areas, in slime, amid rubbish and refuse, without recompense, in order to clean those areas. They did so because of their desire to do something for their fellow citizens. It was one of the most magnificent public responses that has been witnessed in Australia. I am unstinting in my praise of those men and of the work that they did. I saw them working in the streets and houses. At times, however, they were held up “by a big tree which blocked the street. On one occasion they applied to the Army authorities for permission to use one of their bull-dozers. The obtaining of permission took some time. That was bad enough, hut after the bulldozer arrived another Army officer came along, who said that the bull-dozer was not to be used because the authorization for its use was not in proper form. It was distressing to .find that there was no authority that could control the whole of the work of reconstruction. The miners worked under the leadership of their own union secretary.
– Evidently the honorable senator has no conception of the work entailed in cutting through with an axe trees 5 feet or 6 feet in diameter. It is not work for men with axes. The thing needed was to move the tree from the place where it lay and where it blocked all traffic .along the street. Trees were lying in mud 4 or 5 feet deep. The only thing to do was to get them out of the way .as quickly as possible. However, let me .return to the point that I was making before the honorable senator interjected. I was pointing out that there was no authority to which any one could readily turn and say that certain work: ought to be done, or that certain equipment was needed. There was no one to authorize the employment of that needed equipment or to say for what period it would be made available. Those who were cleaning up the mess had to rely. entirely on the defence authorities in the area? affected. Those authorities had to be careful that their equipment was used properly, and so they had to get instructions from authorities higher up. Unfortunately, in some instances, those higher authorities did not have a real appreciation of the situation, and so there were delays and irritations. If there were a Commonwealth authority empowered to deal with these situations a more effective job could be done much more quickly. Whether it is in the east of Australia or the west, there should be somebody in authority in this Parliament who can quickly assess the needs of the area concerned and try to meet the immediate emergency.
I am not asking, at this stage, thai sums of money should be spent on schemes. I merely ask that a select committee of the Senate be set up to investigate the problem. .1 suggest that honorable senators should form a committee to go into the areas concerned, see the damage that has been done, study what has happened in past years in Australia, talk with the State authorities, listen to their plans and, finally, render to this Parliament and to the Government their considered views on the action that should be taken in the case of national emergencies. If the Government itself then desired to proceed with .schemes, that would be a matter for it to decide. 1 plead with the Government to allow us at least to try to do something constructive to prevent the .great emergencies that occur from time to time in Australia. Large areas -are devastated. People are left homeless. Men who work hard are left dependent upon publiccharity. I ask the Government to give honorable senators an opportunity of investigating the problem to determine whether something can he done to relieve the distress of so many thousands of Australians.
I have asked the Government to set up a select committee of four honorable senators from each side of the chamber.. I did that because I believe that this problem should be tackled impartially. Moreover, it must be clear to everybody that the committee is impartial. The experience of this Parliament has been that when committees of equal numbers from each side of the Parliament have investigated a problem, the task has been done in a far better spirit than it would have been done otherwise. In such cases, there has been no attempt to give one party or another a political advantage. Those committees on which both sides were equally represented have submitted the best reports to the Parliament. I recall that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) was a member of the Social Security Committee on which I had the honour of serving many years ago. Three from each side of the Parliament were members of the committee. They considered a very contentious subject - the social welfare of the Australian people - and all their recommendations were unanimous. In the task I propose of trying to find the best way of helping our people, there is a wide field to be covered, because floods, bush fires and similar disasters have no respect for party politics, creed or colour. The task is one that must be undertaken on a nonparty basis. If the Government would agree to the proposal, I give an undertaking now that the Australian Labour party would most willingly agree to the appointment of the .chairman of the committee by the Government and its supporters. I leave the problem with the Government.
I sum Hp my proposals by stating that [ ask for a select committee to try to obtain a full and comprehensive report on the natural disasters that visit various parts of Australia from time to time, and in an endeavour to find some way of protecting the people who suffer in those disasters. One cannot pick a solution out of the air, and I do not know whether that protection should take the form of insurance, a pool or some other form of assistance. If we had an opportunity of meeting people and hearing their views, it should be possible to suggest to the Parliament a suitable scheme. If honorable senators could see the devastation, the wrecked homes, the misery, the loss of property, livestock and resources as a result of these tragedies, I am sure that all would want to do the best they could to prevent the recurrence of such disasters. I ask the Government to consider seriously the appointment of the committee I have suggested.
– .Senator Arnold has raised a matter of the greatest importance to the welfare of the people and the future of Australia. I do not presume to say to the Government what steps should be taken to investigate the tremendous damage and the losses caused by the great floods thai affect some areas from time to time. As Senator Arnold has said, the States figure largely in consideration of problems of this nature, but in his eloquent plea he has made it abundantly clear that there is room for a study of thi* problem on the higher national level. I am inclined to support bun in thai regard. Whether it is best to do it by a select committee of the Senate or by co-opting .experienced men from the States, I do not know. I have not given the matter sufficient thought yet, but 1 believe that something .should be done as soon as possible. Looking back over my own lifetime, I remember beautiful streams that were deep enough to <carry away the great body of water that came down in flood-time. I remember the big water-holes running for miles with .an abundance of fish, and I - have oast a line many a time and obtained a good haul. I remember in western Queensland and the west of New South Wales that people visited the rivers to swim. To-day those swimming-holes and fishing-holes are silted up. That is what has happened during the last 100 years of Australian development, due to soil erosion and the ring-barking of trees close to waterways. It is also due to the fact that cattle and sheep have been brought down to rivers and creek-beds for water. This has caused a loosening of the soil. Torrential rains have then scoured out the soil and washed it down into the bed. In this way, our lovely streams have silted up heavily during the past century. The reason for the tremendous floods which now cause widespread devastation is that the riverbeds are not sufficiently deep to carry the flood-waters away. Consequently, they spread over 25 miles of country on either side of the river, causing enormous loss * >f* stock and loss of life. That has occurred in the last few months, particularly along the Hunter River Valley.
When I was living in the Hunter River district as a young fellow, oceangoing steamers used to come up the river to the jetty at Morpeth. That is not possible now, because the Hunter River has silted up. That can happen to rivers all over Australia. Are we going to allow that state of affairs to continue for another 50 or 100 years? [f we do, we shall find that money must be raised in order to erect levees so as to keep the water within artificial boundaries, running above the level of the surrounding country as it does in some parts of the United States of America. [ am completely in favour of an inquiry being held by experienced men who should be given an opportunity of taking evidence and examining this problem in order to find ways and means of mitigating the flood disasters which visit our country far too frequently. On the eastern coast of Australia, from the northern border of New South Wales to the southern border of that State, as well as on the Queensland coast, tremendous loss and devastation have resulted from floods every few years. Until we implement a practical and economical method of countering these floods, using the means that nature used to counter them, this devastation will continue. Under natural conditions, trees help to hold the soil secure along river banks. But some people, given an axe, will ring-bark all the trees in places where it is highly important that trees should remain. Destruction of timber resulting from farming operations on the banks of streams has contributed to the present position. In some places, re-forestation should be undertaken, and farmers should be given instructions on bow to conserve the soil and minimize the silting of streams on which they have frontages.
I think that the Government could well apply itself to this problem. One of the best ways of dealing with it would be to appoint a committee of inquiry. Such a committee could be a select committee of the Senate. It would be very useful for honorable senators to examine this subject. Alternatively, the Government could adopt some other method. I am indifferent as to the manner of approach, but the problem should be tackled. I recommend that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) should give careful thought to this matter which is peculiarly suited to treatment by the Department of National Development. I hope that he will not dismiss Senator Arnold’s proposal lightly. It affects the welfare of this country too much for the Government to fail to tackle the problem. I commend Senator Arnold for his excellent speech, including his plea to the Minister for the appointment of a select committee of the Senate. Let us do the job, either in that way or ir. some other way.
– I wholeheartedly support the motion that has been moved by Senator Arnold. He has dealt with the matter so comprehensively that very little need bt said by other honorable senators in order to make the position perfectly clear. 1 feel certain that there is not one senator who will not support this proposal. 1 admit that, whilst Senator Maher agrees in general with the necessity for the Commonwealth to take action on a national scale, he does not care whether an inquiry is held by a select committee or by any other means. During the last few years, along the eastern part of Australia, devastating, disastrous floods have become almost an annual affair. The recent disastrous floods which occurred in the Hunter River Valley served to emphasize the necessity for something to be done. Those floods resulted in a loss of life and millions of pounds worth of irreparable damage was done along many miles of rich Australian country. Thousands of acres of very fertile land were ruined, in many cases, for ever. Even industries were destroyed. The National Parliament cannot evade its responsibility by claiming that this is a State matter. We cannot prevent floods, but we can do something to minimize their effect if we tackle them on a national basis. Although floods may originate in one State, they can do tremendous damage in another. Even if the disaster is confined to one State, is not. the welfare of that State a national matter? We must remember that it is the aggregation of the States that forms the nation. At the present time, the Government is advocating the full development of Australia, from the point of view of both primary and secondary industry. The Opposition supports the Government in that matter. Unless we develop Australia on a national basis, we cannot hope to build the defences of the country into such a state of preparedness that they will be able to cope with any eventuality that may arise. We si peak, these days, of the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on defence. Is not the prevention of ruin due to floods fundamentally a matter of national defence? We also speak of sending troops to Malaya. Would it not be infinitely better, in the interests of the country, to do something to prevent the damage caused by floods throughout Australia ?
Flood damage is not confined to one State, but spreads, in the main, along the whole eastern part of Australia. In 1953, there were disastrous floods in the western district of Victoria, in the Colac area, right down to the Bellarine peninsular, when the Barwon River flooded. I witnessed the devastation which resulted. Of course, it was nothing like that caused by the Hunter River floods recently. Nevertheless, what have been called the “ creeping lakes “ were caused by those floods. The Victorian Government appealed to the Australian Government for assistance, and although this Government may have changed its attitude since then, at that time the request of the Premier, Mr. Cain, was refused. As the Melbourne Sun of Friday, the 21st August, 1953, stated, the Prime Minister aid that the Colac creeping lakes were h proper charge on Victoria’s public works revenue. He said that they were a local, not a national, disaster, and he could not interfere .with State functions. The newspaper stated that the Prime Minister went on to say that the matter of the lakes had been before the federal Cabinet for discussion, and he had no doubt that there was an abundant case for work on them. Those statements of the Prime Minister indicate that the Government tried to shirk its responsibility in respect of that matter, because it gave no assistance at all. Honorable senators may be aware that salt water from the lakes crept on to hundreds of acres of highly productive land. If that is not a national disaster, I should like to know what is.
There i3 nothing in the motion moved by Senator Arnold which could commit the Government to any drastic actionThe only thing which the Opposition asks the Government to do is to appreciate that a State catastrophe is also a national one. If we wish to develop this country to its highest degree of efficiency, not only for defence purposes, but also for the advancement of the people, we mus> get down to a plan to co-ordinate the activities of the Commonwealth and the States in preventing a recurrence of these national disasters. If we cannot prevent them, we should at least try to minimize the adverse effects of them. The recent Hunter River valley floods were the worst in living memory. I heard the Mayor of Maitland say that he estimated that it would cost between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 to repair the damage.
– That was to move the whole town, was it not?
– That may be desirable, too, because if that is a way of preventing future colossal damage, let us move the town by all means. It is perfectly obvious that a State should not be called upon to meet such huge expenditure. After all, the States can only expend money which is made available to them by the National Government. What is wrong with the Government agreeing to set up a select committee to investigate this mater, as proposed in Senator Arnold’s motion, so that evidence may be taken from experts and others, and correlated. As a result of that evidence, a scheme could be presented to the Government. Of course, the Government need not accept the recommendation of the committee, but even if it did not do so, no harm would have been done in appointing the committee. The Government has everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the motion.
In the early stages of the recent Hunter River floods, the Australian Government made the munificent gift of £10O,000 to the New So.uth Wales- Go.vem.rment. AdmittedLy, that sum was* later increased,, but that; was. done only because o£ public criticism. On: that, occasion, too, the Government indicated) that, al though, it. felt great, sympathy with the sufferers in that, area, the matter waa essentially one. for the State. I think that, all- honorable; senators will agree that the; preservation of highly fertile land’,, and’ the prevention of. bush, fires, and. disasters of that kind,, have an. important bearing on. the defence potential of the. country. We are spending approximately £2.00,000,000 a year on defence. I ami not suggesting for one moment that that sum should be reduced,, if’ its expenditure is necessary to ensure, adequate defence of the country,, but I do suggest that if we can afford, to expend such, a large sum on the defence forces alone) surely we could spend £20Q,000-,00Q or £300,000,000 to prevent or mitigate these devastating floods and other disasters’ which occur regularly. Surely the first essential in defence is. to stabilize the economy of the country. The primary and secondary industries are essentially defence matters.
I was very pleased, to hear that Senator Maher was generally in agreement with the motion moved by Senator Arnold. I add my plea to that of Senator Arnold and Senator Maher and ask the Government to give careful consideration to this matter. I also ask every honorable senator to try to appreciate the importance of this proposal and to regard it as a non-party matter. We all are equally concerned with the development and the proper defence of Australia. If we can do something to prevent floods) bush fires and other disasters, or at least to lessen their effects, I think it is our bounden duty to forget party politics for once, and to vote unanimously for the motion.
– I have listened with a good deal of interest to the discussion by the Senate of Senator’ Arnold’s proposal. When a proposal, such’ as this comes along, we should ask, first, whether, in this field there is & useful job to be done, and, secondly, whether a Senate select com mittee, would bet capable? of. doing, that, job successfully.. Dealing; first: with: the* ques-tion whether; there; is- a; useful jo.bi to- be: done;, I think: it cam ha fairly said: that. the1 work necessary iii; connexion, with catastrophes’ such as: those- mentioned by Senator Arnold, is- in two categories; First, there is the work that, can be doneafter the event to alleviate- the hardship and’ distress that has been caused’, and’, secondly, and perhaps more- importantly, there is. the work that can be done towards preventing a recurrence’ of thedisaster. What could: be done by a select committee of this Senate in mitigation of the distress caused by a disaster such, as the recent floods- in- New South Wales? It will be generally admitted, that, the Commonwealth is already doing all that, it can possibly do in this: connexion. A. notable feature of” the Maitland disaster was the excellent work of members of the defence forces, and employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Labour and National Service, and other Commonwealth departments.
I have ascertained that, in New South Wales alone, Commonwealth, grants in alleviation of flood distress have totalled no less than £922,000- in the past five years. Clearly, the- Commonwealth is playing: its part in that wark.- Dealing still with the subject of floods, because after all it waa the. recent, floods in New South Wales that gave, rise to. the proposal we are now considering,, one fact is clear, and that is that the State authorities on the professional level and on the political level are well aware of what should be done to avoid future disasters. They are aware of the possible alternatives that are open to them. They are aware of the kind of work that is necessary. Indeed, they are steeped in the history of these matters. State officers of high technical ability have lived with these problems and they know almost every blade of grass in the areas concerned. They have made, their reports over the years recommending what should be done. A committee of this Senate could not find out anything that has not already been well considered and reported upon. i.I have before one what I : think Senator Arnold .will ‘agree ‘to be the ‘classic report «on :the .Hunter River valley. It was ‘made in 194S. It is not fa ^superficial report. ‘It is a -detailed report, and vis accompanied by maps and diagrams. It concludes with a series of recommendations. The .significant thing about those recommendations is that each MiA (relates to a .”State activity. The report was made by the principal engineer o’i the New South Wales Water Conservation and irrigation “Commission, the principal engineer .df the Harbours and Elvers Department of the .Public Works ‘Department, and the senior research -officer of the ‘Soil Survey ‘Service. The report makes clear ‘what ‘should be done in ‘the Hunter .River valley. Its recommendations are under the headings “ Forestry “, “ Soil Conservation “, Flood Control “, “ River Improvement “, and the like, [t gives the scope and the cost of the proposed work. All these are matters which ‘only the State Government can carry out.
It would be complete duplication o’f governmental “functions for a ‘Senate select committe to embark upon an inquiry involving the taking ‘of evidence, not only from Commonwealth professional officers, but also from professional officers in the service of the State. All the necessary work has been done, and the results of it are in the archives of the State Government. The report made in 1948 was the eleventh report on the Hunter River valley. It refers to previous reports by men whose names, to New South Welshmen such as myself, are almost household words. Those reports date back to 1868. Clearly, therefore, the work that should be done in the Hunter River valley is known “very well to the people of New South Wales and has been known to them for many years. A similar position probably exists in other flood areas of the Commonwealth. I also have before me a publication entitled The .Hunter Valley - A Challenge Accepted. This publication was issued by the Minister for Conservation in New South Wales in February, 1950. It sets out, step by .step, what the New South Wales Government intended to do in order to implement the eleventh report to which I have referred.
Et is complete with plans, ‘diagrams and pictures, :and ;states ‘that the ‘Glenbawn dam would be .built saa ‘quickly. as possible. That ‘booklet, issued toy the New South Wales Government, contains promises in respect -‘of -each class of ‘.work ‘to .be carried out. It might, perhaps, be a little unkind of me to say that ‘this booklet was “issued on the eve of the -New ;South Wales ^election, and the promises it contains in relation to .the Hunter River valley have not been implemented.
Senator Sandford stated that politics should not be allowed to intrude into this matter. “To that I say, “Amen”. ‘But T shall go a .step further. I do not accuse Senator Arnold of having introduced politics into the matter, but others have done so readily. New South Wales senators know that the New South Wales Labour ‘Government has ‘attempted to wash its hands -of responsibility in connexion with the recent Hunter River disaster and place responsibility on ‘the Commonwealth. However, that attitude is not peculiar ‘to the New South Wales Government. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. -Evatt) stated ‘at a meeting of the citizens of Singleton which he attended, that the Commonwealth must take the lead in the matter. He said that the -Commonwealth would not only have to make losses good to the people of the Hunter River valley, but that steps would have to be taken to prevent future -floods, and that the water could he ‘controlled “by money and effort. The right honorable gentleman then asked for unity in approaching the subject. Those were very laudab’le sentiments, and symbolical of the way that we should like to seegovernment conducted in Australia. However, I remind the Senate that the right honorable gentleman was AttorneyGeneral in the previous Chifley Govern - mn t, and doubtless heard Mr.. Chifley say, in relation to the 1949 flooding of the Hunter River valley -
This is a matter for the .State Government to handle, lt can include its plan for “floor! prevention in the Maitland district in the list n’f its works that it submits to the Commonwealth for ‘.inclusion in the loan programme. Other Prime ministers .and Treasurers /have pointed out, as I have done on many occasions, that –amy -catastrophe that happens in only one
State can be dealt with in the first place by the Government of that State. If it considers that some relief should be given, by a grant from the Commonwealth, they can make an approach to the Commonwealth through the proper channels.
History has a habit of repeating itself. After making the generous provision for immediate needs following the recent Hoods, to which I have referred, the Treasurer said that if it was shown that the relief needed was beyond the resources of the New South Wales Government and certain local governing authorities, the Commonwealth would be prepared to consider the situation when the facts of the matter were presented to the Australian Loan Council in the ordinary way.
AsI represent New South Wales in this chamber, it is only natural that I should like to see developmental work undertaken in that State. As the Hunter River valley is one of our richest areas, anything that could be done to improve the position there would automatically have my warm-hearted support. But this is the picture: New South Wales is the largest, the richest, and if I may say so, the best State in Australia. Yet, when it is confronted with this problem, as Senator Arnold has mentioned, it contends that it has not the financial resources to deal with the matter. The New South Wales Auditor-General’s report for the year ended June, 1954, stated that various Treasury funds, coupled with the growth of special accounts, had led to an accumulation of surplus cash, calling for short-term investment. At that date, there were funds of £43,000,000 in the Consolidated Revenue Loan Fund Trust Account. Obviously, therefore, the money that has been made available to the New South Wales Government by the Commonwealth has resulted in that Government having a surplus of revenue moneys. That surplus has amounted to more than £6,000,000 during the past two years.
I know that it is somewhat disappointing to certain honorable senators that I have approached the matter as I have done, but we must face the facts of life. New South Wales is littered with foundation stones and half-completed works. If one thing is needed more than another in that State - and I believe that this applies also to the other States - it is the establishment of an order of priority for the carrying out of public works. In such a list, I believe that the Hunter River valley problem would rank high in order of national importance.
I am sorry that I have apparently driven Senator Arnold from the chamber. We have reached a situation in New South Wales when, at times of crisis, the Government of that State attempts to place on the Commonwealth responsibility for public works that should have been carried out, and for which funds were available. I do not think that Senator Arnold had that in mind when he moved his motion, but I have not the slightest doubt that if the motion were agreed to, that would be the atmosphere in which the Senate would have to carry out its work. The result would be that the Senate would be unable to do the job successfully, and the result would react against this chamber. In those circumstances, I ask the Senate to reject the proposal.
Question (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 217) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 28th April (vide page 139), on motion by Senator
That the following paper be printed: -
Foreign Affairs and Defence - Statement made by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister, in the House of Representatives on the 20th April, 1955.
– It seems a long time since I spoke last week on the statement that has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with particular applica tion to the problem of Malaya. I referred at some length then to the inadvisability of sending Australian troops into Malaya, particularly at this time. I covered the matter fairly fully, but there are many more thoughts on this problem that should be developed. In essence, I emphasized the psychological and propaganda disadvantage of having Australian troops in Malaya now. Those disadvantages are almost incalculable. We are facing a new world in Asia. If the Bandung conference proved one thing, it proved that there is a tremendous awakening of the Asian and African nations. The conference also proved beyond doubt that Western colonialism is rapidly dying. At the same time, the colonialism of red imperialism, whether Russian or Chinese is taking its place. As Senator O’Byrne has stated in this chamber, there are many uncommitted peoples in the Asian part of the world. The struggle of Asia isa struggle for men’s minds. It is a tremendous struggle, and all will agree that up to this point, the people of the West, including ourselves, are not winning it.
I view with alarm the despatch of Australian troops to Malaya at this time. Malaya is close to us, and if we cannot win the battle for the uncommitted people of Malaya, we have little chance of winning it anywhere else. I recall the words of Lin Yutang, who was principal of the Nanyang University in Singapore. When he left his position there, he made a statement which received wide publicity throughout the world. He stated that we were losing the fight against communism in Singapore and in the university where he was principal. I believe that if some of the energy and money that we are directing towards military action in Malaya could be transferred to the battle for the minds of the Malayans, to educate them to control and run their own country, that would be the proper thing to do.
In. Korea, it was proved beyond doubt that the final and permanent answer to Communist aggression is to arm and develop the countries concerned to defend themselves. General Van Fleet has stated that if he had been allowed to go into Indo-China two or three years before the final breakdown there, and place Western weapons m the hands of the Vietnamese, they could have been turned into an efficient force with, proper training,, and they- would have been able to handle, the crisis that arose. The truth of that statement is shown by the experience in South Korea., The South Koreans have been developed into an efficient fighting Coree. United Nations troops cannot stay there for ever, and sooner or later the. South Koreans must stand on their, own feet- If they do, the risk of infiltration by the Communist philosophy will be reduced to vanishing point.. What has happened in Malaya? It is reported, that there are 350,000 police and soldiers engaged in the battle against the guerrillas. Admittedly they are not fighting the same 5,000 or 6,000 guerrillas. The guerrilla forces are being reinforced and replaced from time to time. The story was the same in the battle for Greece. In the highlands, the Communist forces were difficult to defeat, because they could retire over the border of Yugoslavia, for hospitalization^ rest and reinforcement, and could then return refreshed to carry on the fight in Greece. The situation is similar in Malaya. The despatch of one battalion of Australians will not affect the situation. It is, said that Australian troops are popular. There is no doubt about that. If we could send a battalion there out of uniform, they would do more good than any other white people, because Australians have a way with Asiatics. They can make the Asian people comfortable, because they relax among them. Australians are not over-bearing towards, them as are other white races who have been accustomed to ordering coloured people about as though they were the lowest of the low. The psychological harm of putting Australian, troops into. Malaya will be great. Nobody knows what will happen in the immediate future in the cold war. As many Malayans and Chinese as possible should be put into the field forces- in Malaya as quickly as they can be screened for security purposes, so- that ultimately they will run their own country entirely. The- firstgreat steps was; taken recently when an. elective, body was put into office; in Singapore. under Mr; Marshall who leads a;
Labour organization. It is restricted, but it is a step forward. As Lin Yutang stated -
I was- an obstacle in. the path of a. monstrous conspiracy directed from abroad to capture the minds of 12,500,000 of the overseas Chinese scattered throughout south-east Asia.
He had been threatened. He left the university there over some discussion on the budget, according to the public announcement, but when he got away from (Singapore, he stated that he had left because he could not carry on efficiently the war against Communist infiltration into Malaya and Singapore amongst the young and most impressionable members of the community. The Government will send a battalion, a part of the air force and a few ships; and a. carrier will go there once a year. But who knows that the trouble spot in Asia that will affect Australia the most will be Malaya?’
The latest news that I have from Indonesia is seriously disturbing. In the last two years representation has been given to the Communist party in the Indonesian Government. During the week end, I spoke to. one of the most senior representatives at the Bandung conference, Dr. Charles Malik of Lebanon, who is ambassador at Washington, and the chief representative of his country at the United Nations organization. He saidthat the Communists were keeping. Dr. Soekarno in power in Indonesia. The picture in that country could alter very rapidly. Tremendous efforts should be made to build up a mobile defence force in Australia-. It might, be necessary to base men on New Guinea or on Timor. I do not know where they will be needed. T do not advocate that our forces should remain in this country. But the United States of America has refused to- commit its forces in Thailand and other parts of Asia on the ground that the effectiveness, of its forces lay in their mobility. In the event df the- cold war in Asia becoming a hot war;, the United States wishes to be- free to send its- forces- where they can do the most good. Indonesia is much closer to Australia and the problem in that country is much more, serious than is the: problem in Singapore- Dr. Soekarno’ promised at B’andung. to: hold an electionhut he> ha» been postponing the- holding: of- an election since 1950 and I do not. know whether he will hold, it now or not.
When I was in Indonesia it was evident that the Indonesian counterpart of the Australian. Labour party which’ is. completely anti-Communist, could have won an election. But Soekarno’s reputation in Indonesia is great. He has postponed an election in order to sustain his position. In addition to having two admitted Communists in his cabinet, he has allowed portfolios to be held by others who are known as Marxists. There is little doubt that any movement by Communists in Indonesia would be supported by the Marxists. The Premier of Indonesia, Sastroamidjojo is an acknowledged Marxist. If conditions deteriorate in Indonesia, the situation will be difficult. With our troops in Malaya, out position might be similar to that which we were in when our forces were in the Middle East and we needed them in New Guinea. A substantial armed force should be built up in Malaya from the local peoples. It should be properly armed and, for the time being, it could be officered and trained by white officers. But such a force would make the Malayan people feel that they were- fighting for themselves. The Vietnamese never felt that they were fighting- for themselves in Indo-China. Their hatred of the French,, resulting from many years of French misgovernment, left them indifferent on whether they were ruled by the Communists or the French. Many who were antiCom.munist because of their religious beliefs, would not join in the fight with the French against their brothers in the Viet Minh.
The methods that have proved successful in South Korea could have been successful in Indo-China. No delay should be permitted in introducing those methods into Malaya. Australia has great goodwill in that country. A number of Australians make their livelihood in Singapore, where one meets Australian doctors, dentists, businessmen and others who are extremely popular. They get on well with moat people and particularly with Asian people. Our present problem must be solved entirely in Australia. I should like; to see a balance-sheet showing the results of the tremendous expenditure that: has taken place- on defence in
Australia. I do. not think that Government supporters would be. proud of such a balance-sheet. We have not heard, the full story concerning the sending of a battalion. to Malaya. It has been suggested that the move is connected with Seato. It has been suggested that it has the approval of the United States of America. In my opinion, those factors have no bearing on this- move. I believe that this is- an arrangement between the United Kingdom and Australia alone. The United Kingdom, whether it can justify its case or not, is trying to get Australia to accept more of its military commitments throughout the world. That is why Australia sent aircraft to Malta. That move resulted in a reduction in British defence, expenditure. Australian aircraft have been in Malaya for some years, in my opinion, for the same reason. The same idea lies behind the sending of land forces to Malaya. In this way, we may reduce the expenditure of the United Kingdom in the areas concerned, but we shall become painted with a brush with which we have not previously been painted. That is the brush of colonialism.
Our defence policy can have a propaganda value to the enemy. It is of tremendous propaganda value to young Communist students at Malayan universities when they are able to point to the overseas troops in their country. I know that the United Kingdom can present a tremendous case, for not leaving Singapore. It cannot present such a case for refusing to leave Malaya. When the British went into Singapore it was a mud flat. Now, it is one of the most interesting ports of the world. It is well developed and has great wealth, all of which is due to British interest in that area. About 80 per cent, of the population of Singapore is Chinese and nearly 50 per cent, of the population of Malaya, ia Chinese. The fact that one more nation will have its ground troops in Malaya will provide additional propaganda for the Communists of that area to use against us., When a Chinese or a Malay sees troops of another nation walking through his. country, somebody may tell him that they are there to defend him against thee Communists. But he knows, that, if he wants to move against the established government, these men of another colour will turn, not on the Communists, but on him in order that he may be kept in the place that the government considers is right for him. A tremendous battle for the minds of the people of Asia is in progress.
Sitting suspended from 5.1+5 to 8 p.m.
– I move into the third stage of my short discourse on foreign affairs, and to conclude my remarks I give notice that I shall later move an amendment. In the hope of encouraging other honorable senators to develop the debate, and because I think it is very important, I wish to say a few words about the recent Bandung conference. I think it was one of the most important conferences ever held. It came so close to us in this country that we have to find out as much about it as we can and try to understand the implications of what happened there. Without being party political in any way, [ think that this Government should have been very strongly represented there, possibly not on an official level, but it should have had there as observers its best and most highly trained men in that part of the world. I am certain that harm was done by the presence there of Dr. Burton.
– We had a much better man there than Dr. Burton.
-Possibly, but the Government had only one man there.
– No, we had more than one.
– Anyhow, there were two men there of whom we are aware - Dr. Burton and Professor Fitzgerald. They seemed to be able not only to get publicity here, but also to make some impact up there.
– From our reports, they flirted with the Communists.
– They would flirt with any one, but there are no restrictions on flirtation, surely. Perhaps they may not have made as much trouble up there as we imagine, but it would not have been for want of trying. I checked on them with the Lebanese representative at the conference, and I was comforted when he told me that he had not heard of those gentlemen there. Apparently, they received a great deal of publicity back here in Australia, and it may be true that they concentrated, as the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said, on a certain section of the delegates to the conference.
There were representatives of 29 nations at that conference, and those nations represent a substantial proportion of the members of the United Nations. The interesting thing is that of those 29 nations, only seven of them recognize red China. When the debate opened, it was obvious that Nehru was going to attempt to control the conference as the chief figure in Asia and to move it along in his own way. But it did not turn out that way at all. I think that the conference must have had a great deal of value, because of the fact that very independent views were expressed on all sides. It was obvious that the representatives of these Asian and African countries were just as conscious of the threat of Communist domination and imperialism as they were of the imperialism that is now dying in their countries, the imperialism of the West. They realize that it would be foolish, indeed, to change the chains of one imperialism for those of another.
The Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala, made a statement very early in the proceedings, and from thar point on it was impossible to talk of western colonization while ignoring Communist colonization. That seemed to be the basis of the discussion. Dr. Jamali, of Iraq, according to the few words that were reported of his statement., very definitely summed up what a lot of people think about the new imperialism, colonization by Communist China and Russia. He said -
Communism confronts the world with a newform of colonization much deadlier than the old one. Under the old form, there was at least some chance of hearing the cries of pain.
He made the point that once a people go behind the iron curtain they may cry but nobody will hear them. whereas under the old type of colonization, at least the world could hear their cries.
Thailand made very vigorous protests against Chinese infiltration. The Thai representatives wanted undertakings from Chou En-lai that there would be no more infiltration by the anti-government forces on the border of Thailand, which had been encouraged and succoured from Peking, where there is a government of free Thais, waiting to move in whenever revolution develops in Thailand. He wanted some safeguard against that happening.
Pakistan adopted a very strong attitude, as did other countries, but honorable senators should not be misled by that side of the picture. Despite that strong barrage of attacks, by the representatives of many countries, on China and Chou En-lai, the latter, from all accounts, came out of the conference with greatly enhanced stature. I was told that he made a strong impression. He paraded as the man of peace, as the man who had his ideas and ideals but who did not mind other people having theirs. He just wanted people to get together and talk about things. Finally, of course, he hit the bull’s-eye at the conference by offering to talk with America about the future of Formosa, although he said that that would not interfere with red China’s objective of liberating Formosa. I have a feeling that a proposition to the United Nations to admit red China would be very strongly supported by those nations at the Bandung conference.
Chou En-lai, therefore, did a great job. Reports from Indonesia at the time seemed to indicate that he was the outstanding figure there. Of course, he is a highly cultured and well-educated man. When we look back at the history of red China, I think it must be admitted that no man did more than he to make victory possible for the Communists. He was the “ front “ man all the time. In the early struggles, “ Vinegar Joe “ Stillwell was there in charge of certain forces and later wrote a book entitled The Stillwell Payers, which was incredibly vicious in relation to Chiang Kai-shek. Stillwell called him the “ pea nut”. In his private papers there were subsequently found almost obscene poems built around Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. It is now apparent that Chou En-lai had offered Stillwell the position of commanding officer of the combined Communist and nationalist forces in China when they united. With that background, of course, Stillwell was anxious ueliminate Chiang Kai-shek, so that he could ultimately lead the combined forces There is no doubt that it was Chou En-lai who convinced General George Marshall and other leading Americans that the Communist drive in China was purely an agrarian movement, and that a? soon as the revolution was successful and the peasants were given the land. China would settle back where it wa.* before. Looking back over the years, ii can be seen that Chou En-lai was a tremendous factor in the red revolution in China. He is held in very high repute, and he enhanced his reputation at Geneva. He has further enhanced it at Bandung in the last few weeks. This man, who i# second in command in red China, is a man of great capacity, and in the council.of the world he is unlikely to be ignored. Undoubtedly he is a man of tremendous intelligence. He had a French education and speaks French and English fluently, and possibly Russian. He is a very potent force in Asia to-day, and the impression he made on delegates to the Bandung conference is something that we should note particularly. If we under-estimate the strength and intelligence of the men who oppose us, we shall be taking our first step to destruction. I have no more to say on this subject. I regard the debate as most important, and I am pleased, indeed, that it has been conducted in this chamber without the uncouthness that sometimes characterizes discussions in the House of Representatives. I think we all appreciate that every honorable senator says what he thinks in the hope that what he says will make some contribution to the peace and well-being of Australia. 1 move -
That, all the words after the word “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words : - “ this House rejects the Government’s proposals to ‘despatch Australian armed forces to Malaya as set out in th«paper read by the Prime Minister.”.
– I think it is safe to say that every Australian who is conscious of his duty to safeguard his homeland is anxiously waiting for this Parliament to adopt and put into operation defensive measures to protect his native land. We in this Parliament have a duty to bend our best efforts towards solving the complicated problem of how best we can utilize our man-power and resources to that end. We are living in a troubled world in which anxiety and perhaps fear are the dominating emotions. Few people can see the way that lies ahead. I believe that the Prime Minister’s statement on foreign affairs has been warmly received by every section of the community. I think it can be safely said that amongst honorable senators of all political parties, there are many points of agreement on the subject of defence. It is safe to say, too, that the need for Australia to cooperate with the other free nations to resist aggression is accepted by all of us. We, as Australians, have no aggressive spirit, nor have we any desire to wage war against our neighbours. We have no territorial ambitions. Certainly we have a real desire to see the world at peace so that mankind may enjoy the fruits of the knowledge that science has given to us. We are prepared also, I believe, to help the people of less fortunate nations. We can help them by improving our trade relations with them and also by giving them the benefit of our educational system. Those are some of the points upon which we are all agreed. On other matters, of course, we may not be so united.
I have no doubt that some honorable senators opposite will deny my assertion that British colonization has been the finest in the world. Can any honorable senator honestly deny that Britain has brought wealth, stability, and the benefits of self-government to its colonies? Britain’s aim has always been to grant self-government to a colony as soon as that could possibly be done. Britain is always ready to protect the British Commonwealth of Nations. In the last war, although the Mother Country did its utmost in its time of greatest peril, we in Australia had to look to another great English-speaking nation for aid. In this chamber, we are constantly reminded by honorable senators opposite that it was the late John Curtin who brought American men and arms to our aid. No one denies that. Labour’s hero was General MacArthur. The Labour Government took great credit for its action in bringing Australian divisions back to Australia from the Middle East. Those days are far enough off now for us to view events in their proper perspective. Any fair-minded person who studies the events of the last war in retrospect will agree that the bringing of our troops back from the Middle East was a mistake. Australia was saved not by the return of its division, but by the allied victory in the battle of the Coral Sea. Had that battle been lost to the enemy, our troops would have been trapped like rats inside Australia. Had they not fought so well in the Middle East, we would have lost Suez, North Africa, and, eventually, India. Surely to goodness honorable senators know that but for the presence of Australian troops in the Middle East, the Axis powers would have been able to join hands, and we in Australia would have been invaded by a hostile foe. Yet, they have the audacity and the nerve to say that by recalling the Australian divisions, they saved this country. Where were our troops expected to fight if Australia were invaded? Where was the defence line to be? What was Labour’s plan? Why did some Labour stalwarts and heroes seek dug-outs in the Blue Mountains when the Japanese troops were nearly to Moresby and an invasion of the mainland seemed imminent? Was that going to be the defence line?
I repeat that, but for the allied victory in the Coral Sea battle nothing could have saved Australia. Possibly had some of our troops being deployed elsewhere, we would never have lost Malaya or Singapore. I ask honorable senators opposite, who take so much credit for Labour’s action in bringing our divisions back from the Middle East, to tell the Senate where those troops would have been deployed in the event of an invasion of Australia. As I said earlier, General MacArthur was Labour’s hero. I suppose honorable senators opposite will agree with me that any policy that he laid down was a correct policy. General MacArthur laid down, and proved by hard-fought battles, that the best strategic defence lay in fighting away from our shores. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. I certainly agree with the policy that he enunciated. The argument has been advanced, year after year, that Australia must be the bastion of defence in the Pacific for freedom-loving nations. How could this country fulfil its role if it were invaded? I do not know, and I do not think that honorable senators opposite could tell me.
The policy that has been announced by the Prime Minister follows the same broad principles that were laid down by General MacArthur. Why does official Labour oppose that policy? Do we intend to help the people of Malaya? Is not that country a British protectorate? Are we prepared, as Australians, to assist the people of Malaya to resist bandits and the paid hirelings of the Communists, or do honorable senators opposite contend that we should sit here idly and leave them to their fate? Malaya has sought our help in its march towards selfgovernment. The people of Malaya have no desire to be enslaved by the ruthless, modern, Communistic imperialism, which is what the Opposition is willing to allow. I have been told in this chamber that the great democratic Labour party bases its political philosophy on majority rule.
– That is democracy.
– Both your executive controls and the conference controls of the Labour party abrogate the very principles of democracy.
– Who wrote the honorable senator’s speech for him?
– I have before me a book entitled Australian Federal Labour Party, 1901-1951, written by Professor Crisp of the Australian National University. I think that he is the president of the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party, or at least he was - the office-bearers change so often that I am not quite sure-
– He still is the president.
– Therefore, it cannot be claimed that Professor Crisp is not a good Labour man. Professor Crisp shows most effectively in his book, that for the last 50 years, the Australian Labour party has created a ruthless oligarchy. The federal executive of the Australian Labour party consists of two members elected by each State branch, elected as the branch thinks best, and the federal conference comprises six members from each Stat*branch, irrespective of the membership in each State. The federal conference is conducted on the principle of “ one man one vote”. However, when it comes to running their show, they abrogate that principle.
– That is how the honorable senator himself was elected to the Senate.
– Order ! Senator Mattner should confine his remarks to the subject of the debate.
– It was necessary for me to refer to that background in order to deal with the question at issue. The recent federal conference of the Australian Labour party at Hobart opposed the sending of Australian troops to Malaya.
– Hear, hear !
– Honorable senators opposite now have to toe the party line; they have no option in the matter. I contend that the Hobart conference was a retreat from MacArthur, but a great advance to Chou En-lai and also for Moscow, the spiritual home. If we followed the policy that was laid down at Hobart, Australia would be left unprotected and we would openly invite the enemy to our shores. The only possible enemy we could have to-day would be the Communists, whether Russians, Chinese or Indonesians. Honorable senators opposite know that the defence policy that has been enunciated by Dr. Evatt is wrong. Those members of the Opposition who fought overseas during World War I. to protect this country know that the policy that they are being forced to follow to-day ‘ is fundamentally wrong. They thought that this country was worth defending in the first war.
– Have we come to the next chapter yet?
– Yes. It is just this: the Opposition knows that Dr. Evatt is ever ready to follow the Communist line and to brand America as an aggressor nation. Every one knows - even the child at school - that for generations past America has been a traditionally isolationist nation. The Americans are still a peace-loving isolationist people. All they want is to be left alone, to live their lives, and to be at peace with the rest of the world, so that they may enjoy the fruits of their factories and farms.
– Does not the honorable senator also want those things?
– I want to be alive, but not under Communist rule. I want to live under British conditions, and so “does the honorable senator, as he himself well knows. If that is not so, why does he not pack up his traps and taste the fruits of Communist rule ? The honorable senator does not like me saying these things, but that is the answer.
– In other words, if we do not agree with the honorable senator, we are Communists?
– America has done much good throughout the world in the last few years. We know the attitude of its people when war broke out in 1914. It was the same in 1939. Yet the leader of the party to which honorable senators opposite belong brands America as an aggressor nation. What is it that has stirred American public opinion to-day? Americans are not stirred over phantoms or bogeys. There are more American troops in the Pacific to-day than at any time during the last war. Yet we are told that America is doing nothing to protect Australia. But it is not only America that is preparing to resist further Communist encroachment. Every free nation is doing the same. It is well for us to remember that the pattern of world domination was laid down years ago by the Communist planners. Their goal has never been changed. Its sponsors and their successors still pursue it. In the face of these facts, how can we as Australians be unaware of the great national danger that faces us to-day?
Mention has been made of the recent Bandung conference. At that conference a majority vote was recorded that the
Indonesians should be granted Dutch New Guinea. If honorable senators will study what that means, they will see the whole pattern laid out before them. It means no Singapore, no Malaya, no Dutch New Guinea to protect us. I refer again to the war of 1939-45 and its official history which tells us that Singapore and Malaya could be held. They must be held if we are to hold Australia.
– Those places could have been held if our men had not been left there defenceless.
- Senator Armstrong told us that, before long, the Communists would be in full control of Indonesia. In spite of that prophecy, honorable senators opposite refuse to send any troops whatsoever to Malaya. Whether it be Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia or Borneo, we come up against the problem of the Chinese national. Until recently, all the Chinese living in those countries had a dual nationality. They retained their Chinese nationality. Many of them are successful traders, and most of them have large families. If a Chinese merchant has eight or ten sons, as is often the case, only about two of them can enter their father’s business. The others will be given a typical Chinese education, which means that only theoretical English will be taught to them. Unfortunately, those who cannot enter their father’s businesses are not prepared to engage in manual tasks, and because they have received only a theoretical training in English they cannot enter the civil service. There is perhaps one bright spot in this picture. It is that by admitting people from Eastern countries to our colleges and universities we may be able to give them a basic training in citizenship and civics that will enable them to return to their own countries and teach others, so that in due course they will fit themselves for selfgovernment. Another way in which we might help these people, the great mass of whom cannot be employed profitably, is to give them a certain amount of mechanical knowledge. In the world of to-day mechanical power is important, and we may do something worth while if we give to these people an elementary knowledge of mechanics.
Senator Armstrong also said that Australians were welcome in Singapore and cither places in Asia. What difference Would it make if those Australians went there in uniform instead of in civilian dress? Our soldiers have been our best ambassadors in the past. I have had some experience with Australian troops, and I know, and honorable senators opposite also know, that they have been our finest ambassadors. Among them were some honorable senators opposite who served in France and elsewhere. The fruit has not fallen far from the tree, and Australian troops to-day could be the best advertisement that we could have in those countries. I do not mind whether they go there as soldiers, sailors or airmen, because by their conduct they will show that Australians are friendly towards their Asian neighbours. Just as the British troops who were stationed in Germany, Egypt and elsewhere were regarded highly by the civilian population of those countries, so our troops will uphold the best traditions of this country. During my recent trip abroad one of my most pleasing experiences was to see the esteem and admiration in which the British “ Tommy “ was held.
– That is not what we read in the press.
– I think I met a fair cross-section of the people. Recently, I renewed acquaintance with some parts of France, Belgium and Germany where I had served during World War I. I was greatly pleased to hear the women speak in the highest terms of the British soldier, and to realize that the business people of those countries held the British “ Tommy “ in the highest esteem.
Whatever defence plans we may discuss in this chamber, the task of translating our ideas into action would rest with the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. Unfortunately, Senator O’Flaherty is not in the chamber, as I wish to refute a statement he made to the effect that professional soldiers wanted war in order to gain promotion. Personally, I am glad that we have men of courage and character who are prepared to enter the armed forces so that Senator O’Flaherty and I, among others, may be protected from the ravages of war. Senator Wordsworth said truly that any man who had been shot at hated war. Because we hate it, we want it kept outside Australia. I hope war never comes to this country. The Prime Minister was speaking for the whole of Australia when he said that this nation was united in its desire to use its resources and man-power and material for the protection of Australia. I wholeheartedly support the statement.
No honorable senator with a sense of responsibility would want to send troops outside Australia except for protection. We already have our airmen in Malaya. Oan we deny them the protection of ground troops? After all, we are only asked for one battalion. If we send that force, it will help to ease the burden on Great Britain. Senator Armstrong made great play with the part that Great Britain is playing in the East. I have in my hand some statistics which indicate that it is about time we sent troops to Malaya to relieve the British troops there. Great Britain has a population of approximately 50,000,000. Australia’s population is approaching 9,000,000. Last year, Great Britain supplied 25,000 officers and 308,000 men for army garrisons in Europe. It supplied 11,000 officers and 184,500 men for duty outside Europe. In the army, there are 78,000 colonials and Gurkha troops. Altogether, there are 549,000 men in the British Army. In addition, Great Britain has thirteen aircraft carriers, five battleships, 26 cruisers and 60 submarines, manned by 139,000 men. The effective strength of the Royal Air Force is 275,000. Great Britain has 960,000 men under arms from a population of 50,000,000, yet because we are asked to send one battalion to relieve our homeland of some slight strain when it has almost 1,000,000 men under arms for our protection, we are told in Australia that we cannot and must not do it. Could anything be more base or more ungrateful?
– It is a question o’f whether it is wise to do it.
– Certainly, and in my opinion it is wise. Surely Senator Courtice does not believe that we can defend this country inside Australia? Not one honorable senator on the Opposition side believes that, but they are all tagged on to the tail of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who follows the Communist line. They are prepared to sacrifice Australia for that man.
– Because we do not agree with Senator Mattner?
– Not at all. Honorable senators on. the Opposition side are virtually saying that they are prepared to let the enemy come to Australia. They indicate that they have no concern for their wives and children. I am not worried about the men, who should be able to look after themselves, but I am worried about my wife and family.
– Does not the honorable senator give us the credit for being sincere though our approach to the problem may be different from his?
– I told Senator Critchley earlier that he was prepared to go overseas once, but now, for some reason, he has shed those ideas.
– Who has shed those ideas?
– Order ! If Senator Mattner will address his remarks to the Chair, he will not be in trouble.
– Any man who is prepared to sit in Australia and allow the enemy to come to our shores has little respect for his wife and children. The people of Australia are asking us to protect them from an outside foe.
– They asked in vain in 1939.
– Under the careful guidance of the President, I must not answer interjections, or I could give an answer to that interjection that even Senator Sandford would understand. I repeat that we have our airmen in Malaya and we cannot deny them the protection of our ground troops. The one battalion we have been asked to send to Malaya will ease the burden on Great Britain, and will show our American friends that we are willing to accept our responsibility to defend Australia. Our troops would be ambassadors of peace and goodwill among our Asian friends in Malaya, and I support the Prime Minister’s statement.
– In rising to participate in this debate, I do not desire to bring’ it down to the level chosen by Senator Mattner in his attempted character assassination of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I consider that Dr. Evatt is one of the greatest men that this country has produced. The only thing wrong with Dr. Evatt, so far as honorable senators opposite are concerned, is that when he stepped down from the High Court of Australia he came onto Labour’s side instead of onto the side of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. I strongly resent Senator Mattner’s remarks and his attempt to bring personalities into this debate.
The people of Australia have learned for many months, from sources other than responsible Ministers, that Australian troops would be sent to Malaya. As far back as last September, one of the most responsible British newspapers in Singapore announced in headlines that the “ diggers “ were expected. In the United Kingdom and the United States responsible officials have confidently taken it for granted for many months that Australian troops would be sent to Malaya. Months ago, a British army spokesman in Kuala Lumpur said that Australian troops would be billetted at Selarang barracks immediately upon arrival in Singapore. Last October, streams of toplevel army and air force officers left Australia for Malaya by air in order to make the necessary preparations for Australian troops in Malaya. Canungra jungle training-school in Queensland has been re-opened for the purpose of training the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment in jungle warfare. In the face of this overwhelming evidence of the Government’s intention to send Australian troops to Malaya, certain Ministers, when questioned concerning this matter, confessed complete ignorance of it or flatly denied that the Government had made any decision. Surely the people of this country are not children. Surely they are entitled to be told about these affairs. Surely they should not have to wait for the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) to return from a trip around the world in order to be told something that has been known for months.
One cannot help wondering exactly what our commitments are in regard to this proposal by the Prime Minister. Does it mean that Australia is prepared to go to war over the nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu which occupy important positions in the Formosan Straits? Communist China has already demanded that these islands should be handed over to it. The United States has stated that it will defend the islands if an attack is launched on them for the purpose of attacking Formosa. Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, when Foreign Secretary two months ago, and the Canadian Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Pearson, have both indicated that in their opinion these islands are a part of the mainland and should be under mainland control. They have also been reported in the newspapers as having stated that if the United States became involved in a war concerning these islands it could not expect British or Canadian backing. Three months ago, Sir Winston Churchill, when Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, told the House of Commons that the government was prepared to examine any proposal that would relieve the position in South-East Asia. He also said that in his opinion no one in the world had done more than the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, to steer this matter out of the danger zone.
A further note of warning has been struck by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru. He told the Indian Parliament that he was sorry to say that world affairs were hardening and becoming more difficult of solution. He went on to say that the position in Indo-China had appeared hopeful after the Geneva conference, but that after the Manila treaty was signed and the Bangkok conference was held the position in this area had deteriorated considerably. Referring to the position in the China Sea, Mr. Nehru said that, although it had been more or less generally agreed that these islands were a part of the mainland and should be under mainland control, the United States of America had stated that if they were attacked it would defend them if the attack appeared to be in preparation for an attack on Formosa. Mr. Nehru made it very clear that India would not be forced into a war even if the rest of the world were at war. Three important nations, all part and parcel of the British Commonwealth of Nations and members of the United Nations organization, are of the opinion that these islands are part of the mainland and should be under mainland control.
I was greatly impressed by the declaration that was made in this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) last week. That declaration was adopted by the federal conference of the Australian Labour party in Hobart and, quite recently, it was adopted by every State branch of the Labour party throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable senators opposite have never had any policy to adopt. Even Ministers did not know where they stood in this matter until the Prime Minister returned from the other side of the world. Back-benchers were not in the race. For the benefit of honorable senators opposite, I shall endeavour to repeat the major portions of that declaration. Perhaps if Senator Vincent listens he may be able to obtain a better understanding of it. The declaration stated that, having regard to the present state of international tension and the resulting threat to world peace, the conference declared that Australia is and must always remain an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a? well as of the United Nations organization. Co-operation with the United States in the Pacific is of crucial importance and must be maintained in accordance with the spirit of the declaration. Australia must give greater support to the United Nations for the purpose of supporting the principles of the United Nations Charter, and particularly for their whole-hearted application in the Pacific and the South-East Asian areas. These principles cover both collective action to repel military aggression and continuous action by way of conciliation and peaceful intervention for the purpose of preventing war and bringing armed conflict to an end, a factor that is usually overlooked.
The declaration stated that the Australian Government had not sufficiently availed itself of the machinery of the United Nations, a convincing illustration of that being the case of Indo-China, where the Federal Parliamentary Labour party consistently advocated intervention by the United Nations to stop the fighting and to negotiate a just settlement. The Australian Government took no action in that regard with the result that, five years later, the Indo-China conflict had to be settled by negotiation, ending in a settlement which was infinitely worse than if the United Nations intervention had taken place in a prompt and timely manner. In the meantime, thousands of precious lives had been lost. Indo-China was typical of those cases where inexcusable delay in recognizing a genuine nationalist anti-colonial movement in Asia has resulted in communism gradually capturing the national movement. The result was that democratic nationalism suffered a severe setback. Is there anything wrong with that part of the declaration ? Surely, there is not !
Clause 6 of the declaration stated that the Australian Labour party advocated generous assistance by Australia te Asian peoples suffering from poverty, disease and lack of educational facilities. But that is only a part of our task. The Asian peoples also demand, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, an end to colonialism whenever and wherever people are fit for self-government. Asia also rightly demands recognition of the dignity and self-respect of Asian nations and people. Unless these principles are fully acknowledged, the western nations will find it impossible to achieve that real co-operation with Asia which is basic for the maintenance of peace.
Clause 7 of the declaration dealt with Labour’s attitude towards the use of armed forces in Malaya. The Australian Labour party is satisfied that the use of Australian armed forces in Malaya will gravely injure Australia’s relations with its Asian neighbours, while in no way contributing to the prevention of aggression. Guerrilla operations have continued in Malaya for five years and eventually will be ended by some form of agreement or amnesty. Action towards that end should start now. Labour’s policy is to oppose the use. of armed forces in Malaya. That is very definite, sharp, short and shiny. Every one can understand it. The declaration went on to say that the conference was firmly of the opinion that there was a grossly inadequate understanding of Asian problems in Australia, and of Australian problems in Asia. It, therefore, advocated exchange of official and unofficial visits between Australia and Asian countries, and it advocated particularly that the Australian Labour movement itself should seek direct contacts with Asian countries. In this respect, no Asian country should be excluded. The conference was of the opinion that the Australian Labour party should seek the appointment of observers at the forthcoming Afro-Asian conference in Indonesia, and that delegations representing Australia should be arranged between the federal executive of the Australian Labour party and the Federal Parliamentary Labour party.
Clause 11 of the declaration dealt with atomic weapons. It stated that the development of atomic weapons had reached such a stage that the peoples of the world were faced with the stark and terrifying possibility of atomic world war, which might endanger the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere and its inhabitants, a danger so real that distinguished scientists had referred to the prospect with a sense of desperation. The conference believed that that desperation was due partly to vaccilation and delay in arranging high level political talks aimed at preventing the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for war or experimental purposes. The conference directed the Federal Parliamentary Labour party to press for effective action towards that, end. It was of the opinion that, in years to come, a nation’s true greatness would be recognized by its courageous approach to these tremendous problems here and now.
Clause 13 of the declaration dealt with South-East Asia. It stated that the Seato organization should devote special attention to the peaceful settlement of international disputes in South-East Asia. Seato, as an organization within the United Nations, has a positive duty to try to lessen international tension in SouthEast Asia and the Pacific area, and should discharge that duty. A mutual regional pact for security and welfare should be negotiated between Australia, Holland and Indonesia. That pact should aim at promoting the security of the entire area of Indonesia and. New Guinea, and also at improving the standards of living of all peoples throughout that area which is so vital to Aus.tralia
Clause 15 dealt with the set-up of the United Nations and declared that there should be a renewed and vigorous attempt to bring about universal membership of the United Nations, in accordance with the spirit of the Charter. No fewer than twelve nations have been excluded from membership by the Russian veto. On the other hand, six nations associated with Russia have been kept out by failure to secure the necessary majority of seven votes in the Security Council. Nations now awaiting admission to the United Nations include Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Ceylon, China, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Rumania. On the one hand, the admission of all applicants would not even disturb the balance of opinion in the General Assembly, and on the other, the admission of all the applicant nations to membership would be in accordance with the general character of the United Nations as a genuine world organization. Moreover, from the practical viewpoint, opening the door to membership would add greatly to the stature and strength of the organization as a truly representative world society.
Clause 17 of the declaration deals with defence. Our defence depends upon the rapid development and populating of Australia and its territories. The Australian Labour party pledges itself to an adequate plan of national defence, with special reference to the northern portions of the continent and the territories to our north. That is the declaration in which Senator
Vincent said he could not see anything. I think it contains everything, particularly in relation to the solution of the problems of South-East Asia and, incidently, Sir Winston Churchill’s words two years ago in regard to the future use of atomic bombs. However, it is not my desire to say any more on this subject. I support the amendment that Senator Armstrong has moved, and I am definitely opposed to the proposal made by the Prime Minister.
– It is not my intention at this late stage of the debate on the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on foreign affairs to repeat what has already been said by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. However, I should like to emphasize one or two vital points of outstanding importance to the matter under discussion. The Prime Minister’s speech was a calm, dignified aud analytical statement on world affairs. It was also a clear, forthright statement of Australia’s position and responsibilities in relation thereto. I think I am not making an understatement when I say that with, perhaps, a few exceptions, members of all parties regard the Prime Minister’s speech as a statesmanlike utterance. It has been widely acclaimed in this country, and I venture to say it has been received with considerable satisfaction by the parliaments and the peoples of the free nations. The only other point I wish to make on this subject is that the Prime Minister’s statement left no room for doubt or ambiguity. He did not wrap up- Australia’s intentions in fine phrases capable of various interpretations. He made it perfectly clear who our friends are, and who our enemies are. In times such as the present, it is vital that we should recognize who our friends are and who our enemies are, and it is also important that both our friends and our enemies should have no doubt about that recognition.
Those who listened to the reply made by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) to the Prime Minister’s statement could not help but be struck by his long and wearisome attempt to detract from the value of that statement.
Even Opposition senators will agree, I am sure, that the right honorable gentleman’s reply was both long and wearisome. But no one, I think, was surprised by the nature of his attack. The right honorable gentleman ran true to form, and said precisely the things that we expected him to say. His utterances followed the pattern of his statements during the past five years or more when dealing with Australia’s position in world politics, and particularly when those politics have involved the interests of the countries whose “ cold wars “ and “ peace offensives “ are deliberately designed to break down the morale of the free peoples of the world. First and last, the reply of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives was the utterance of a “little Australian “.
Even at the risk of repetition I cannot refrain from emphasizing the poverty of the argument against sending Australian forces to strengthen our defensive position in Malaya. One surely does not have to be a military expert to understand the vital importance of Malaya to the safety of this country. Nor should one have to be reminded of the lesson learned in that area during World War II. Or has that lesson been learned? One fears, judging by the contributions of some honorable senators to this debate, that the lesson and the warning of events in Malaya in the last war have passed over their heads unheeded. It was said of the Bourbon kings that they forgot nothing and learned nothing. The fate of the Bourbon kings does not seem to recommend their outlook.
The right honorable member for Barton has advocated training the necessary troops in Australia and then, should hostilities break out and a “ shooting “ war start, transferring them at short notice by air to the battlefield. Where they could be landed without the prior setting up of approved bases, he did not say. I have always advocated - and in this I concur with Senator Wordsworth - that we should endeavour to fight our battles as far from our shores as can be done efficiently and effectively. The reason is obvious. Honorable senators have already been reminded that the tempo of modern warfare rules out old- fashioned, outmoded, methods. To-day, there is no such thing as a declaration of war. The bolt comes from the blue, and no amount of recrimination and last minute rushing can compensate for initial disasters and losses. In these days, we no longer think of distances in terms of thousands of miles. We think of distances in terms of flying hours, which, at the present rate of progress of aeronautical science, may be reduced by half or even more in the next couple of years.
When dealing with the nation’s safety, there is only one safe policy, and that is to heed the old-fashioned motto, “ Be Prepared”. The Prime Minister has said over and over again that every means short of insanity and cowardice should be explored, and that every attempt should be made by way of negotiation and reasonable compromise to secure mutual understanding and peace. But even peace can be gained at too high a price. It may be secured at the cost of humiliation, subservience, and eventual domination by a damnable, souldestroying doctrine, which denies every principle for which we as a free people stand. Let there be peace, by all means, but let it be peace with honour. Would any honorable senator deny that the free nations, led by the United States of America and Great Britain, have gone the limit in conferences and negotiations? I venture to say that the statesmen of the free world have shown patience and forebearance and have even risked being charged with folly and stupidity, but nevertheless a patience and forebearance which history will record to the everlasting credit of those who have contributed those qualities. I wai n honorable senators, and the country, if such warning be necessary, that it would be criminal folly to shut our eyes to the deliberate policy of those who are directing the Communist policy from Moscow.’
Is it possible to negotiate, in terms of earnestness and honesty, with men whose declared policy is ultimate world domination; who make no effort to conceal their intention; who use fraud, deceit and lies, if necessary, to achieve their ends; and with whom the end always justifies the means? Communist policy is clear-cut. It has not changed during the last three decades. As long ago as 1918, Lenin said -
Our Communist world revolution may occupy years, or even decades. There will occur ebbs and flows in the revolutionary tide, but the fina.) goal, world revolution, remains constant.
In 1920, Lenin said -
The day will come when we will force the United States to spend itself into destruction.
I emphasize that key quotation. We must remember that the weapon that Russia has always hoped for is a bankrupt America. Where would Australia be then? Lenin wrote much about democracy, but gave a vicious twist to the word. In his Collected Works, he said -
Democracy is a state which recognizes the subordination of the minority to the majority ; is an organization for the systematic use of violence by one class against another, by one section of the population against another.
That is the Communists’ own definition of “ red “ democracy. As a result of this conception of democracy, millions of hitherto free people who are now behind the iron curtain are torn by conflict, haggard with want, and broken by despair. We should not let words, or apparent concessions here and there, deceive us. Communist policy has remained the same from the days of Karl Marx to the present day of despots at the Kremlin. We want peace, now and always. The Communists do not want peace in Korea, Formosa, Indonesia, North Africa, the Balkans, or anywhere else. They want exactly what they have said - world domination. Yet, even in this chamber, honorable senators, speaking probably without a full knowledge of the facts and without .having studied the position fully or objectively, in the light of recent happenings in the Far East and the Near East, profess to see honesty of purpose at the Kremlin. If they really believe that, more credit must be given their hearts than their heads. Others are at all times apologists for the Communists. There can be only one opinion about that. I know that certain honorable senators opposite are not very keen about going the whole hog in regard to communism, but they have no hesitation in taking up their stand in relation to socialism. Some one has said that socialism is communism on the slow train, and that the difference between socialism and com munism is the same as the difference between drowning in 12 feet of water and drowning in 20 feet of water; there is no difference. I believe that every man should be prepared to say, without equivocation or dissimulation, where he stands on this issue. If he stands for this ghastly doctrine of communism, frequently labelled with inocuous and misleading titles, let him say so. Let the man who opposes this doctrine not only say so, but also prove by his actions that he wants Australia to be kept free for free men and women. By all means let there be negotiation, if there is honest intent. Let there also be peace - but not at the price of dishonour.
In conclusion, I stand by the Prime Minister’s able and lucid summing up of the position in these words -
Our creed is to keep the peace, to negotiate for peace, to seize upon every opportunity to extend the peace, but never to allow ourselves to get into the position when we are negotiating from weakness, passing from one retreat to another, subsiding before a truculent enemy. For if the history of the twentieth century means anything, it means that that process can end only in death and disaster.
I trust that this policy will be endorsed by the Parliament, and that ways and means will be found for its speedy implementation. I support it wholeheartedly.
– Some honorable senators opposite have approached this subject as though they were living in the horseandbuggy days, instead of in 1955. I shall comment on several of Senator Wardlaw’s remarks which I thought detracted from the quality of his speech. He implied that the Opposition favoured communism because we have said that we do not favour sending Australian troops to Malaya. However, if the honorable senator is honest with himself, he knows that that is not true. The Australian Labour party is still as irrevocably opposed to communism as it has ever been, and it will always remain opposed to communism.
As Senator Mattner is a military man, I expected something more tangible from him. After starting to address himself to the subject-matter of this debate, he went off at a tangent. He said that we must resist aggression. “Where is the aggression so far? He dwelt for a long time on the necessity to send a battalion of Australian troops to Malaya to relieve the division of British troops that has been stationed in that country. Surely Senator Mattner knows that, if we sent a battalion of troops to Malaya, we would subsequently have to send reinforcements there. He says that the ground troops must be there as a protection for the air force already stationed in Malaya. How effective will one Australian battalion be? Let us be realistic in this matter.
The honorable senator also said that Australia had no territorial ambitions. Of course we have none. Australia is a large continent, with a long coastline and a small population, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that its people have territorial ambitions. Another statement made by the honorable senator was that we are always prepared to help less fortunate nations. Had we shown a greater desire to help those nations in the past, we would not find so many countries overrun by communism, as is the position to-day. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that every country that has been overrun by communism, whether that country be in Asia or in Europe, is one with low living standards, whose people have been ground down and exploited. Only a few years ago, continental China fought against the Japanese, but what did we do to help China in those days? At that time millions of Chinese died from starvation. Can we blame the Chinese if they embrace communism or any other : ism “ that offers them some relief ?
Senator Mattner proceeding to move from his seat in the chamber.
– Don’t go out Ted, I want to say some more to you.
– Order ! Recently there has been a tendency to refer carelessly to members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Senator Sandford has just referred to another senator by his Christian name, and last week the Prime Minister’s surname was frequently used. That practice will cease. In future, due respect will be paid to senators and to members of another place.
– I am sorry, Mr. President. The name “Ted” slipped out unconsciously. I meant to say “ Senator Mattner “. We have only to go back a few years to the time when, in continental China, around Shanghai, there were several settlements under the control of European nations. Those nations had not settled their representatives there merely for the good of their health, or to provide them with a holiday. They sent them there to represent big business interests in the Western world - Great Britain, America, France, Holland and other countries. About that time China proved one of our greatest allies in preventing the Japanese from marching south.
Senator Mattner also referred to someone who, in 1942, when the invasion of Australia appeared to be imminent, went into the Blue Mountains and prepared dug-outs. Surely the honorable senator knows that dug-outs were prepared in other places than the Blue Mountains; they were to be found in every city and town in Australia. Air-raid shelters, as they were called, appeared everywhere. The honorable senator went on to say that British colonialism was the finest colonialism in the world. Senator Armstrong dealt with that matter when he referred to the Afro-Asian conference recently held at Bandung, where the representatives of 29 African and Asian countries strongly condemned colonialism. The only experience that many Eastern countries have had of Western countries has been an experience of exploitation under a system of colonialism.
Another statement of the honorable senator was that we had to look to America for aid. That is true, and we were most grateful for the aid which a Labour Prime Minister obtained from America. It is history that Australia was in a desperate position when the Curtin Government came into office in 1940-41, after a nationalist government had been in office since the outbreak of war; or perhaps it was a United Australia party government. The name does not matter, because at different times the same people were known under different names.
When the Curtin Government took office Australia had practically no defence whatever. Later Australia reached a state of great efficiency.
The honorable senator went on to say that we on this side claimed credit for bringing Australian divisions back from the Middle East. “We certainly do claim credit for that, and we are proud of the Labour Prime Minister who insisted on their return. Had he not done so, those divisions would have finished up in Singapore, and would have been lost to us. Senator Mattner also said that had we not saved Egypt, our troops would have been caught in a trap. He knows that some of our troops in Malaya and Singapore were caught in a trap.
Let us approach this subject in the light, of modern scientific advances. In this supersonic age, in which science has made mass destruction possible, the mere sending of a small force to Malaya or elsewhere will not save this country, or prevent the spread of communism, or of any other “ ism “. If communism is to spread, and constitute a danger to Australia from outside, the mere sending of a few troops to Malaya will not save us. As for the growth of communism within Australia, I firmly believe that if we maintain good economic conditions we need have no fear of that happening. We have no need to be great strategists to realize that, in the event of another war, there will be between us and our troops in Malaya millions of potentially hostile people in Indonesia. If we are sincere in our support of the Atlantic Charter, and of the United Nations Charter, we must realize that the countries of Asia are entitled to self-determination because that is something that is embodied in those charters. Self-determination is the aim of these people. That being so, do honorable senators opposite really believe that Australian troops will be welcomed with open arms by the people of Malaya? They will be no more welcome than foreign troops coming to Australia would be welcomed.
– We were pleased to sec American troops in Australia.
– Yes, but they came for a different purpose. Any one who disagrees with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is branded by him as a “Com.” I imagine that the honorable senator looks around every corner before he turns it, in case there is a “ Com.” awaiting him.
– There are so many “ Corns.” in the Opposition that one must be careful.
– We are no more communistic than are the supporters of the Government. In fact, we are less communistic because we do something tangible to stop communism when we are in office as a government, and that is more than this Government has done. We have to give the people of Malaya an opportunity to determine their own way of life. Government supporters should not fool themselves that they are sending forces to Malaya to protect the Malays against the bandits. The idea is not to protect the Malays but the vested interests in oil, rubber and tin.
– Are not those industries important to the people of Malaya ?
– The Malayan people do not own them. The United Nations Charter sets out ‘that all people, even minorities, have a right to govern themselves. Why do we want to interfere in affairs in Malaya or anywhere else? We have found to our sorrow that we have interfered unnecessarily in other countries. I cite Indonesia, Egypt and. India as examples. All those countries have gained their independence, and the countries of Asia are merely striving to that end also. Supporters of the Government claim that China has been overrun by communism. That is not true. Communism has been embraced by quite a number of Chinese because we have driven them into the arms of communism. We have exploited them for as long as anybody in this chamber can remember. We are only concerned with getting profits out of those countries. We should not have the audacity to claim that a country like Australia should send forces to those countries when we have an obligation to build up the defences of Australia to the highest state of efficiency..
The greatest contribution this country could make to the “Western democracies would be to develop it as a bastion in this part of the world. Our geographical situation demands that we should do that. Distance has been annihilated. If a third world war were precipitated, we would have no hope of defending ourselves with our own population, particularly while some of our troops are in Asia. We have to depend on other countries. Therefore, the greatest contribution we can make to overall strategy is to build up this country’s primary and secondary industries.
We have plently of room in northern Australia and adjacent islands where we can utilize our own forces. If we send troops to Malaya, we will have to maintain lines of communication. We have plenty to do in Australia. There is hardly anything to defend the coastline from Brisbane to Perth or to protect Darwin, Papua and New Guinea. If we have not sufficient forces to ensure our own defence, I do not know how we are going to render assistance to the people of Malaya. It is so fantastically silly that I believe this move was not dictated by military experts, but by overseas interests, and the Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies) is doing what he was told. In any case, we can send only a token force to Malaya. If we send Australian troops there, we must be prepared to accept the potentially dangerous position in which those troops will be placed. Unfortunately, once again we find that when anything of that nature is suggested honorable senators opposite are willing to say, “ Lay clown your life for my country”.
– That will not wash.
– To whom, in particular, is the honorable senator referring,
– Whoever the cap fits may wear it. There are some. I do not want to go into personalities. - Senator Marriott. - The honorable senator cannot.
– Let us be realistic. We have a duty to perform in the over-all strategy of our democracies by maintaining the freedoms we enjoy. At the same time, we must realize our limitations and the enormous size of our country. We have an area of almost 3,000,000’ square miles, 10,000 miles of coastline and a population of less than 9,000,000 people. Yet we have the stupidity to talk about sending troops to Malaya. The need, to prepare and maintain the defences of northern Australia is urgent. Some honorable senators have said that we should not wait until the country is attacked. We cannot possibly defend Australia against the millions of potentially hostile Asiatics whom we are driving towards hostility. We cannot defend ourselves against them.
The obvious action to take is to strengthen the defences of Australia. That would require scientific development as well as the strengthening of our military forces. If there is another war, it will be fought with scientific instruments and weapons. Therefore, we should do more towards developing highly technical defence forces, and providing defences for northern Australia and adjacent islands. We must continually strive to minimize the danger of any disruptive elements from within. Communism breeds in conditions such as those that exist in low-standard countries. So long as we maintain economic conditions at a high level, avoid unemployment and want, and ensure that the people are decently fed, clothed and housed, neither communism nor any similar ideology will develop in Australia*.
Honorable senators on the Opposition side fully support the United Nations, but let us also support the principles of the United Nations in relation to other nations as well as our own. With nuclear energy and all the weapons we can expect to be used in a modern war, we have to recast our conception of defensive strategy for Australia and the Western nations. We cannot replace one intolerance by imposing another, as we propose to do in the Asian countries. It is freely admitted by all military men and authorities that the greatest danger of any world upheaval in the immediate future will be in South-East Asia or in Asia itself. We have to give the people of Asia an opportunity to seek their own salvation in their own way. It is contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter for Australia to send troops to Malaya or any other country in order to impose our way of life on the people there. The Government is not sending troops in order to safeguard the Malayan people. The only reason for sending them there is to protect the oil, rubber and tin-mining industries in which millions of pounds have been invested by the capitalists of the Western democracies.
Have we been asked by the Malayan people to send troops to Malaya? Wilt they be welcome there? Honorable senators opposite are in the habit of calling any one a Communist who does not agree with them. How would they like the Communists to send troops to Australia in order to protect us against Western oppression ? The Malayan people will be distinctly hostile to our troops and treat their arrival as an act of aggression, because, as far as I know, the Malayan people have never asked for troops to be sent there. All that we can do to help the defence of the democracies is to build up Australia as a base for operations. Because of our isolated geographical position and our potentialities, we should make Australia an effective base, as it was during World War II. The present situation in relation to foreign affairs is much different from that to which we have been accustomed. Even since the cessation of hostilities in World War II., there have been tremendous scientific developments which will fundamentally alter the nature of any future war. The terms “ pro “ and “ anti “ have been used frequently by honorable senators opposite and the newspapers.
– -Such as “ proEvatt “ and “ anti-Evatt “.
– Yes. But honorable senators on this side of the chamber are pro-Australian. The defence and safety of this country is our first and last consideration. We are not going to be a party to sending the manhood of this country on a futile, stupid expedition to Malaya or any other Asian country. In order to be honest with ourselves, we must view the position realistically. I support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Armstrong because the Opposition is irrevocably opposed to sending the manhood of this country on futile errands around the world in order to protect oil barons and rubber barons whether in Asia, Malaya, Singapore, or anywhere else. Let us learn the lesson of World War II. The Government proposes to send a battalion of troops to Malaya; yet a whole division of our troops was trapped there in World War II. and kept in prison for years. I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment that has been moved by Senator Armstrong.
– As this debate has been in progress since last week, it may be difficult to approach the subject of foreign affairs and defence from a new angle. I do not propose to go over much of the ground that has been covered in the debate already. But it is every senator’s right and responsibility to voice his or her opinion of the foreign affairs policy and the defence policy of the nation. The readers of Hansard, and, if we are ever reported in the press, the public of Australia, should be able to read where every member of the National Parliament stands in respect to foreign affairs and the defence policy of the Government. I still wonder where the Opposition stands in respect to foreign policy and defence policy. I have listened intently to Senator Sandford and I suggest that the only opinion that one can hold of his speech on foreign policy and defence is that he used this debate as an opportunity to continue the Australian Labour party’s war of class hatred. The whole theme of his talk was directed against vested interests. It consisted of that sort of silly nonsense that we have heard from many members of the Labour party for a long time. It is the tune that the Communists like to hear them sing. It is the tune that those who will not disavow themselves from communism will sing. It is a tune to which the Government will have to listen until the Labour party decides to combat communism properly and sincerely.
I regret that the Australian public does not give sufficient attention to the foreign policy of Australia. In England and America, foreign policy is an issue at election time, because the ordinary people are more interested in that type of policy than they are in mundane things, such as the building of roads and bridges, with which we in Australia seem to be so concerned. I think that the Senate can play its part in bringing to the people a full realization that they, as individuals, should know what the foreign policy of the nation is. I do not blame the people altogether for their lack of interest. In my opinion, the real reason for their lack of sincere interest in our foreign policy is that the two main political parties - forgetting all the splinters, and so on - do not co-operate in respect of foreign policy as it is their bounden duty to do. We never hear the Australian Labour party, the Opposition in this chamber, putting forward really constructive criticism or giving helpful advice. The fact is that the supporters of the Australian Labour party obtain an idea of the proposals which the Government intends to make, and they get together, as they did when nineteen out of 36 members of the ruling body met in Hobart, and say, “ The Government is putting this up. What can we put up in direct opposition ? “
I think the people are sick and tired of the fact that the National Parliament argues, on a party political basis, what should be the foreign policy and the defence policy of the nation. I feel that Her Majesty’s Opposition should do more. I was hoping that some honorable senator opposite would ask how that should be done, but as no one has asked that question, I shall give the answer myself. Why do they not come in to the Foreign Affairs Committee? I believe that the splinter group in the House of Representatives, the anti-Communist group comprised of those who have seen the light, has applied to join the Foreign Affairs Committee of this Parliament. As a matter of importance in the foreign affairs policy of the nation, the Australian Labour party should stop its petty opposi- tion in that respect and appoint representatives to the committee.
There is no real continuity in the foreign policy of Australia when we have a change of Government, but we are grateful to know that since 1949 there has been a continuing policy because the people have returned the same parties to office at election after election. It is obvious that the Australian Labour party will not co-operate. All that we have heard from the Opposition in this debate have been pin-pricking insinuations concerning the weakness or wrong thinking of those who guide our policy. We get from the Opposition, in return, mere platitudes. Last week, in this chamber, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) put forward the views of Her Majesty’s Opposition in relation to foreign policy, and he spoke for quite a long time. We on this side of the chamber felt, with great respect to the honorable senator, that he was a little ill at ease and somewhat at sea. He just did not know what points to press. Then we heard him ask leave to have incorporated in Hansard a statement of the Australian Labour party - that is, of nineteen of the 36 representatives at the Hobart conference, although actually only thirteen were accredited representatives. That statement was the opinion of the conference concerning the foreign policy of the Australian Labour party, and it was conceived at a time when the party wanted to do something to distract public opinion from its own internal disruption. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition felt too ashamed to read that statement out and, for that reason, asked for it to be incorporated in Hansard. But his guile was matched by that of the Minister in charge of the Senate at the time, and he was obliged to read it. Those of us who were in the Senate when he read the statement know that he felt very embarrassed that a man of his ability had to read that statement as the foreign policy of the Opposition party in the National Parliament.
I suggest that that policy, so-called, was hurriedly agreed to at a time of internal strife. The situation emerged of some members of the party dissociating themselves from the main foreign policy of the Australian Labour party. I have heard them criticized for doing so. They were criticized .because, it was said, they pledged themselves, when applying for endorsement at the last general election, to support the overthrow of the Menzies Government and that, therefore, they had pledged themselves to oppose anything that that Government put forward. That criticism means that when people are endorsed to stand for election as representatives in the National Parliament, they pledge themselves to oppose another political party, instead of pledging themselves to support a definite policy. That is the position in the Australian Labour party to-day.
The two main points in the foreign policy of the Opposition appear to be that it does not want to send armed forces to Malaya, and, secondly, that it wants Australia to recognize the Government of red China. The members of the Opposition are saying, in effect, to the Australian Government and the Australian people, “We know that, in respect of Korea and Formosa, red China has been our enemy. The Communists are working their way towards Australia and are overthrowing everything that we, in our hearts, wish to defend. Nevertheless, we must recognize red China “. I ask individual members of the Australian Labour party in this chamber whether they would, at any time, recognize as a friend their own enemy.
– What about the Japanese and the Germans? The honorable senator should have a little sense.
– I suggest that Senator O’Byrne should ask the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about the Japanese. When we consider the foreign policy of the Australian Labour party, we must remember the state of the defences of this country in 1949. Labour was in government during the war and the years following, when the times were just as dangerous as they are to-day. I ask any level-minded, unbiased citizen of Australia to compare the state of the defence forces of Australia to-day with that of 1949. If he does so, I am sure he will agree that this Government has so built up our defences during the last few years that they are of a much higher standard now than they have been at any time in our history.
I remind the Opposition that Labour is still completely divided. When a party is divided on foreign policy, it should stay out in the political wilderness in which it is wandering. If honorable senators opposite disbelieve me, I invite them to ask any Tasmanian senator who happens to be in the chamber whether the Premier of that State, Mr. Cosgrove, either in broadcasts or in press statements, has urged the sending of armed forces to Malaya. Mr. Cosgrove is, of course, in the pro-Evatt faction of the Labour party. I think I am right when I say also that the Premier of Tasmania is also very proud of the national service training scheme, which is an integral part of our defence preparations and which the Labour party has tried to damn ever since it started. If I may still refer to the Australian Labour party, I remind honorable senators and the people of Australia that, back in 1937, another Labour Premier of Tasmania came back from abroad and said outspokenly that Australian troops must be prepared to serve abroad. He said, too, that, in the next war, we would have to make the skies black with fighter and bomber aircraft. That man was the late A. G. Ogilvie and the Labour party condemned him for his statements. It tried to down him, but he went on and, in the years that followed, he proved to be right.
However, I hope I shall never, whilst T arn fi member of this Parliament, devote an entire speech to condemnation of the policy, so-called, of the Labour party. The Liberal party’s foreign policy is based on a number of principles. To my mind the most important of these is that it shall seek peace. Secondly, it believes that a show of strength is one of the greatest deterrents to a potential aggressor. Therefore, our aim is to build up our defences. We realize, having regard to our relationship with Asia, that, if we are to have peace in our time, we must improve our diplomatic relations with our northern neighbours, so strained by a certain Labour Minister between 1946 and 1949. Therefore, this Government has increased Australia’s diplomatic activity. Indeed, one of the planks of its platform on foreign policy is to improve diplomatic relations, first of all with the peoples near us who might become enemies, and, secondly, with our stronger and more powerful allies. I do not think I can be accused of exaggerating when I say that we have gained greater friendship from the United States of America and, if it were possible, more trust from our homeland, by the outstanding statesmanship and diplomacy of our Prime Minister, the Eight Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies. I refer the Senate to the Prime Minister’s statement to indicate how the Liberal party proposes to pursue its foreign policy and its defence policy. The right honorable gentleman said first that we support the Charter of the United Nations; secondly, that we support and closely co-operate with the. British Commonwealth; thirdly, that we work incessantly for the closer collaboration between the British Commonwealth and the United States ; and fourthly, that we pursue “ good neighbour “ policies towards the Asian countries in this section of the world.
And so I come to the sending of forces - wrongly called troops - to Malaya. Our forces are to consist of units of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. I remind the Senate that, in our efforts to extend our friendship to our neighbours, and to build up our reputation in Asia, we are participating in the Colombo plan. This has enhanced our reputation considerably. At present, Malaya has the protection of British armed forces., I was astounded to hear in this chamber the childlike and dangerous statement from the Opposition that one reason why we are sending forces to Malaya is to save the British Government expense. When the force that we are to send arrives in Malaya we shall have in that country one-thirtieth of the armed forces of the United Kingdom. Surely, no one imagines that, when our forces reach Malaya, an equivalent number of British servicemen will set sail for home and leave in London. We are showing that we are prepared to play our part in the defence of our land, and it is cheap for an honorable senator to imply that our contribution is designed to save the United Kingdom Government money.
The people of Malaya, for their own security, need us, and what is more, they need the thirty times stronger forces of the United Kingdom. So I advise honorable senators opposite not to travel around the States they represent saying that we are taking over the defence of Malaya. We are sending a worthy token force to show the people of the United Kingdom, who for so long have borne the burden of our defence, that the Australian nation is prepared to play its part. What is Australia’s contribution to be? To refresh the memories and dispel the jaded ideas of honorable senators opposite I shall quote again from the Prime Minister’s statement. The right honorable gentleman said -
We either commit ourselves with our great friends and allies to mutual action and reciprocal obligations, or we do not. If we do not, then unless we are to put ourselves into a position of miserable dependency we must attend to our own. defence without calling on the aid of anybody else. If our defence is by this process to be our sole responsibility and if lighting occurs on our shores, it can only be because our natural outposts have been reduced and our allies defeated on the sea and in the air.
Anzac Day has been celebrated since this debate was adjourned last week. As supporters of the Government were not engaged in conspiring against one another they were able to move about their electorates and hear comment by various persons on the proposal to send Australian troops to Malaya. During the Anzac Day week-end, any one who expressed opposition to Australia playing its part in the defence of the free world-
– Would have been sunk politically!
– Yes. Since the Boer War, Australia has earned the reputation of always providing armed forces in proportion to its population. A government which would not undertake the training of volunteers would be unworthy to continue in office ; it would lack responsibility. This Government introduced the national service training scheme, which has been praised by a Labour Premier. The defence policy of this Government also includes the maintenance of regular battalions. The Royal Australian Air Force has been equipped with Sabre jet fightersand Canberra jet bombers, whilst the Navy has been equipped with aircraft carriers, modern frigates, destroyers and antisubmarine craft. I was privileged, with other members of the Parliament, to be invited last November to attend the Navy’s Operation Shop Window. We were all greatly impressed by Australia’s contribution to British Commonwealth Naval defence.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was addressing the chamber, he said that he would test the feeling of the Senate on the Government’s proposal to send armed forces to Malaya, and he foreshadowed that he would move an amendment. Although I rarely interject when honorable senators opposite have the floor, I interjected, “ That will only test the Australian Labour party” because at that stage the dogs were barking at the street corners that there was great controversy, even in the Senate, on whether the Opposition would or would not support the Government’s proposal to send troops to Malaya. However, the dissension within the Labour party seems to have been overcome, because it appears that the proposed amendment will be supported steadfastly by all members of the Opposition, despite the fact that one honorable senator opposite, who was selected as a delegate to the federal conference of the Australian Labour party at Hobart, stayed away from that conference. I admired him for exercising his own judgment.
– Of course, all Liberals did.
– We admire all men of free thought, initiative, and moral courage. I have expressed my opinion on the Government’s foreign policy as enunciated by the Prime Minister, straightforwardly, clearly and sincerely. I have also expressed my keen disapproval of certain aspects of the policy of the Opposition. I consider that the most important aspect of our foreign policy at present is the decision to send Australian troops to Malaya. The Opposition, if it votes for the amendment, will show clearly that it favours the establishment of a line from Alice Springs to Darwin, similar to the Brisbane line of the last war. In other words, honorable senators opposite apparently consider that Australia should take no part in any future war until it comes to this country. I wonder how many members of the Opposition have seen active service? Although no one in public life wishes to commit young men in the community to fight, we need not be ashamed of supporting a policy which, in effect, would be the equivalent of saying to our young men, “ The need is great ; many Australians before you have volunteered to serve their country. If we were to put the same question to you, would you volunteer ? “ No one could be ashamed of extending that opportunity to our young men to play their part in the defence of this great country.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee : -
Nineteenth Report - Treasury Minute and Comments of Postmaster-General’s Department on 12th Report of the 1952-54 Joint Committee of PublicAccounts - Postmaster-General’s Department.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Defence Act-Royal Military College - Report for 1953.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Depart ment -
National Development - B. G. Cook, A. M. Copeland, W. C. Gerula.
Repatriation - W.S. Adeney, R.H.D. Bean, W. R. C. Bennett, W. A. McKay, W. C. F. R. O’Hair, N. B. Pinkus, S. J. Wright.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Australian Capital Territory Soil Conservation Council - Seventh Annual Report, for year 1953-54.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550505_senate_21_s5/>.