22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been drawn to the fact that the port of Hobart has been idle this morning because of an unauthorized stop-work meeting? Is he aware that the meeting was called to discuss action to be taken against two members of a union who, being politically opposed to the Australian Labour party - one I know is a member of the AntiCommunist Labour party - have refused to pay a 10s. compulsory levy towards the Australian Labour party election funds? Is this kind of levy legal and in accordance with normal democratic principles, and can the Minister say whether it is possible for the Government to take action to prevent either the union or the political party concerned from attempting to force trade unionists to subscribe to party political organizations which they wish were dead and finished with?
– My attention has been drawn to the report to which the honorable senator has referred. I say emphatically that, if the report is correct, the action taken is opposed to every democratic principle that we know in Australia. As to the legality of the levy, or the power of the Commonwealth Government or any one else to take action, I am not sure, and therefore I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Attorney-General, and possibly also the Minister for Labour and National Service. I am not in a position to give an answer to that part of the question.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen press reports that shipping freights will rise by at least another 5 per cent., and can he say whether there is any foundation for these reports? Further, will he assure the Senate that the Government will take any necessary action to prevent the overseas shipping monopolies from increasing their already prohibitive and outrageous freight charges?
– My administration covers only coastal freight charges, and i can tell the honorable senator that I know of no move currently being taken to raise freight charges on the Australian coast. As overseas freights do not fall within my administration, I am not informed of any contemplated action along the lines suggested. However, I shall refer that part of the honorable senator’s question to my colleague, the Minister for Trade.
– On 9th April 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following questions:-
Is the Minister yet in a position to reply to these questions?
– I referred the questions to my colleague the Minister for Immigration and he has given me the following answers. I am sorry I have not sent them on to the honorable senator. They are -
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I have noted that Sir George Steel, an eminent manufacturer, is coming here from England. As some Western Australian firms have supplied railway rolling-stock, refinery tanks and other heavy industry products to overseas clients, will the Minister have Western Australia included in the itinerary of Sir George Steel when that gentleman visits Australia in June next?
– I will convey the honorable senator’s request to my colleague the Minister for Trade to see whether he can make the arrangements.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Transport been directed to the fact that the company owning the passenger ship “ Manoora “ is trying the experiment of including the port of Burnie, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, in its voyage from Adelaide to Queensland, and that because of the popularity of this experiment hundreds of applications for berths on the ship have been received? Will the Minister use his undoubted influence to urge private shipping companies to include a Tasmanian port, particularly during their winter cruises, as this would give a fillip to the tourist industry in each of the ports visited in the various States? Has he any indication as to whether private enterprise would try the experiment of running a passenger and freight service between Sydney and Hobart?
– 1 am informed that “ Manoora “ will be calling at Burnie on a voyage in the near future merely for the purpose of enabling the shipping company to frame its schedules so as to provide fortnightly services between Adelaide and Queensland ports. 1 believe that, during this year, “ Manoora “ will make only one call at Burnie. The shipping companies have already been asked whether they can include one or more Tasmanian ports in these services, but they have replied that, in view of the necessity to provide services at regular intervals, they are unable to do so. As to the last part of the question, concerning the establishment of a scheduled freight and passenger service between Hobart and Sydney, doubtless the honorable senator will recall conversations that I had with him and with other members of this chamber last year, during which I informed them that from time to time the shipping companies had examined the proposal but that their experience, combined with a current survey, showed that trips between Hobart and Sydney were unprofitable. In these circumstances, they stated that they could not undertake such a service. The position has not altered since then.
– The question that I address to the Minister for- Shipping and Transport relates to shipping services to the port of Esperance in Western Australia. As the Minister probably knows, both the town of Esperance and the hinterland are now the subject of much interest in Western Australia because of the large works that are being undertaken there by the Chase Syndicate. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any possibility of a regular, frequent shipping service being provided to Esperance in the near future?
– A regular twomonthly shipping service, ex eastern States, to both Esperance and Albany was recently established. The first trips - I understand that there have been two - indicated the likelihood of the service being successful. Undoubtedly, if Esperance expands and the hinterland is able to extend further patronage to the ships, the service will become a permanent feature. It may be possible, at some time in the future, if satisfactory cargoes are forthcoming, to provide a better than two-monthly service.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What difference, if any, is there between this proposal and deductions made by departments on behalf of the following bodies: -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Government is aware of the wish of the union for the deduction of contributions from the salaries of its members, but there are more than 70 organizations with members employed by the Commonwealth and on whose behalf it would be necessary to agree to a similar concession. This would require the employment of additional staff by the Commonwealth, and the Government decided that this was not justified. I may add that the then Treasurer reached a similar conclusion in 1947. Although additional deductions are not being made by the Commonwealth, it has not so far reduced the number of bodies on whose behalf deductions had previously been approved.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Any person of British nationality of predominantly European descent who is in possession of a valid passport can enter Australia. The absence of restrictions on British movements creates statistical difficulties which do not exist in the case of aliens, who cannot enter this country without visas. However, there is no difficulty in obtaining full particulars of those British persons who come to Australia as “ assisted “ migrants.
The figures for total permanent arrivals of British subjects (inclusive of Australian-born) since June, 1948, are as follows -
Prior to June, 1948, migration figures were maintained on a “ racial origin “ basis. The figures for permanent arrivals of persons of “ British racial origin “ (exclusive of troop movements) in this period were -
These figures have been published by the Commonwealth Statistician in Demography Bulletins, and in Quarterly Demographic Reviews.
The figures for “ permanent departures “ of persons of British nationality are contained in the Demography Bulletins and Demographic Reviews, above referred to.
It has been repeatedly explained that published figures for “ permanent departures “ are based on a definition which results in the inclusion of large numbers of tourists, businessmen, officials, and others whose period of absence from Australia will be of limited duration (but in excess of twelve months) and of visitors from overseas leaving Australia.
To distinguish real permanent departures from other departures included in the published figures, the Commonwealth Statistician has prepared special tabulations for the Department of Immigration. These show separately, from 1954 onwards, the number of actual permanent departures, departures of Australian residents proceeding abroad for a period of twelve months or more, and departures of visitors whose stay in Australia has exceeded twelve months. Over thelast three years, British “ permanent departures “ as published, amounted to 89,000. The detailed tabulations referred to show that of this number only 24,906 (or 28 per cent. of the total) were real permanent departures, the balance being made up of-
Comparable figures for earlier years do not distinguish between British and non-British, but the overall figures for these years are sufficient to indicate that this pattern must have existed in the years before 1954.
Thus total real permanent departures of British persons may be estimated with reasonable accuracy by taking 28 per cent. of the published figures for British “ permanent departures “.
The figure so arrived at does not give the number of British post-war migrants returning to their homelands, because in addition to these, it includes -
Estimates of these various sub-groups were made, partly by reference to Census publications, partly by preparation of special tabulations on a sample basis, and partly by analysis of a sample of passport applications. The result of the various corrections was to leave, as an estimate of post-war British migrants who had returned to their homelands, a figure equal to a shade over 6 per cent. of the total British intake.
This estimate is in good agreement with an entirely separate estimate of departures of assisted British migrants. Routine returns furnished from Immigration offices in the capital cities show that of the post-war total of 262,580 British assisted migrants (excluding Maltese), to the end of 1956, known departures amounted to 16,993. However, this figure for departures includes persons returning home temporarily (on holidays or business) and so does not purport to be an estimate of permanent departures; on the other hand, it could not be claimed that all departures of assisted migrants are included in the figures. Assuming that the incompleteness of the figures is balanced out by the inclusion of non-permanent departures, it appears that about 6 per cent. of the assisted British migrants have returned home. The main reason for returning has been “ personal difficulties “ (sickness, deaths, &c); inability to secure housing has been only a minor factor in causing such returns.
It should be mentioned that the Department of Immigration has definite information of considerable numbers of assisted British migrants who returned home “ permanently “ but subsequently came to Australia a second time when they found that life in the United Kingdom compared unfavorably with life in Australia. Any full study of migrants leaving Australia would have to take full account of these.
Comparison of Australian migration figures with those of other countries shows that the post-war immigration programme has been outstandingly successful. The comparison with other countries would still be in Australia’s favour, even if departures were twice as high as they have actually been. In the United States, for example, a country which has had outstanding success in attracting migrants, arrivals of migrants from June, 1911, to June, 1950, totalled 11,406,490, but departures numbered 3,808,207, equal to 33.4 per cent. of the intake.
I have read this long statement to show the extent to which the Minister for Immigration hasgone to supply facts to the honorable senator, and to show why the answer has not been given between 3rd April and now.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Having regard to the obvious desirability, if not necessity, of the installation of telephones at State schools, will the Government give favorable consideration to remitting the rental charges in ‘ respect of such installations arranged either by the States or, as often happens, by parents and ‘ friends’ associations?
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished me with the following reply: -
As a public undertaking administering a communications service on behalf of and for the benefit of the community generally, the Post Office is obliged to provide telephone services on an . impartial basis and is not legally empowered to grant rent-free telephone services. In any case,it would not be practicable to discriminate between one type of school and another or between schools generally and other educational welfare or similar organizations in the application of the prescribed rental. In the circumstances the way is not clear to remit the rental charges in respect of telephone services provided at State schools.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the announcement this week that the central bank has called up a further £20,000,000 from the trading banks for special account - (a) Fs that directive the decision of the Banking Board or the Governor; (b) what was the date on which the decision was made; (c) briefly, what purpose was the directive designed to achieve in relation to the economy?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The view of the Government on the matters raised by the honorable senator was stated by the Prime Minister on 13th April, 1956, when he said that whether or not a person living in Australia was an Australian citizen, the Government would exercise its discretion under the Extradition Acts and would not grant extradition unless it was thoroughly satisfied that such a move was not being sought for political purposes. The Prime Minister added that the Commonwealth had undertaken an immense responsibility for the million or more new Australians who had passed the rigid screening of its immigration officials overseas and would be vigilant in that responsibility. I may add that the Government is examining in consultation with other friendly governments the existing extradition laws and treaty arrangements to see what alterations may be required to give greater effect to the Government’s policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– -The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories the following questions, upon notice: -
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answers: -
At present the number of medical personnel employed are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
The Australian Barley Board is not a Commonwealth authority. It operates under complementary Victorian and South Australian legislation. Information desired by thehonorable senator is being sought and will be passed on when available.
Motions (by Senator McKenna). - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Nicholls be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill health.
That Senator Tangney be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill health.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Trading with the Enemy Bill 1957.
Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Bill 1957.
Cotton Bounty Bill 1957.
Lands Acquisition Bill 1957.
Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1957.
Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Bill
States Grants (Universities) Bill 1957. apple and Pear Export Charges Bill 1957. lighthousesbill1957.
Excise Bill 1957.
Beer Excise Bill 1957.
– I have to inform the Senate that consequent upon the retirement of Mr. W. J. M. Campbell, Mr. L. D. O’Donnell has been appointed Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. W. E. Dale Second Reporter, and Mr. A. K. Healy Third Reporter.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. . A. M. McMullin). - 1 have received from Senator Vincent an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The need for the Government to give prompt consideration to the matter of assistance to the gold-mining industry by way of a substantial increase in the subsidy now payable.
– 1 move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I have submitted this urgency motion for the very important reason that I. think the matter involved is one of real urgency. In the time at my disposal this afternoon I propose, firstly, to give a short background description of the existing subsidy, then to make some reference to the importance of gold in the economy of Australia, and finally to give to the Senate some reasons why I think the present subsidy should be increased as soon as possible.
The Senate will remember that the original legislation introducing the present subsidy was passed in 1954. That was the first year in which this subsidy was payable. It will be recalled also that the subsidy was based upon a formula providing a maximum of not more than £2 per oz. of fine gold won, but the subsidy was not payable to all producers; it was payable only to large producers whose costs of production exceeded a certain figure, namely £13 10s. per oz. It is important to consider that this subsidy is, in fact, based upon a cost-of-production formula and that cost of production is most relevant to what I have to say this afternoon.
It is fairly common knowledge that the subsidy was granted following upon a submission made by the chambers of mines of Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland and was determined having regard to the cost of production level of the year 1953. It is also interesting to note that the submissions made by the chambers of mines at that time requested a subsidy of not less than £3 per fine ounce of gold won, but the Government granted only £2 per oz. I shall refer to the consequences of that reduction at a subsequent period in this talk. I feel that the additional £1 would not have been a very serious increase to the Government commitment, but would have meant so much to the industry, both then and now.
It might be relevant also to recall to the Senate the purposes of the subsidy. Briefly, they are threefold. The subsidy was granted to keep gold production at least at the level in 1954. That was its first purpose. In other words, the subsidy was granted in order to prevent the large goldmines from closing down. The second purpose of the subsidy was to enable those large producers to have sufficient funds to continue their underground developmental work so as to maintain their financial position and perhaps to improve it so that finally, it was hoped, those large mines would have no further need of the subsidy.
It follows from what I have just said that the third purpose of the subsidy was that it was not to be a permanent subsidy. Goldmining companies do not want a permanent subsidy; they cannot plan on that basis because it is not within the nature of the economics of gold-mining so to do. T think that point is important, because sometimes one hears a complaint, in relation to a request for assistance, that the subsidy might carry on indefinitely: That, of course, is not the case in regard to goldmining.
I should now like to make some reference to the importance of gold in our economy. I preface my remarks in that respect by referring to the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) at the time he introduced the Gold-mining
Industry Assistance Bill in November, 1954. 1 quote his words reported at page 1348 of “ Hansard “ for that year -
From the national view-point, the gold-mining industry is highly important. The annual value of gold output is in the region of £17,000,000. The industry thus makes a significant contribution to the national income, and, at the same time, produces a commodity that is of direct benefit to our balance of overseas payments. All the gold produced in Australia and the territories, apart from a minor quantity used for industrial purposes, represents an addition, in one form or another, to our international reserves.
I think those remarks of the Minister are most significant, particularly in view of what I have to say in a moment. The Minister concluded with these words -
The Government believes that, for a number of reasons, it would not be in the national interest for these areas to languish.
I emphasize the words “ in the national interest “. That is a sentiment with which, of course, 1 agree heartily.
I think it might be apt for me also to make some reference to the importance of gold. We do not very often have discussions in this chamber on the subject of gold, so 1 do not think it would do any harm for me to say that, in my opinion, gold is not only of vital importance to us internationally, but also is of great significance to Australia as a nation. It is, of course, of vital importance to the State of Western Australia.
I have said that gold is of international importance. It is, I believe, the most important factor in facilitating world trade, and I think that it will remain so. Gold is still the only commodity that is accepted internationally as a medium of exchange, and I think that it will always remain so. In other words, it is the only medium by which n nation can adjust what is called an adverse trade balance. Of course, other expedients can be adopted. For instance, we can do what we are doing at the moment; we can borrow dollars. But that does not adjust an adverse balance. It adds to it, because the dollars have to be repaid. We can also do again what we are doing at the moment. We can curb imports. We can continue a practice that has been started since the war. 1. refer to the necessity for an importer to obtain a licence to import goods. That, in a negative sense, does help to correct our adverse trade balance. But my point is that gold, and gold alone, will in the ultimate be the only product that will facilitate our trade, so that such horrors to traders as import licences will no longer be required in this country.
The second very important and significant value of gold internationally is that it is what I might call, for want of a better expression, an international yardstick for the purpose of measuring or valuing currencies. It is well known to the Senate that the United States of America, for example, still links its currency to gold, lt is still based on 35 per cent, of gold, which is stored at Fort Knox. It is important to remember that, without that gold backing, the currency of the United States would have fluctuated most violently over the last ten years, and that those fluctuations would have caused the rest of the world considerable trouble and great hardship, perhaps serious unemployment. Certainly there would have be.en a greater degree of inflation than has been already experienced. The very reason why the American currency is called a hard currency is that it is based on gold. It is a stable currency. It is the only stable currency in the world. Even our Australian £1 is measured, internationally, in terms’ of the American dollar, as also is - sterling. Gold is the only yardstick for measuring the value of currencies at the moment.
The Senate may recall that, some years ago, Great Britain made a desperate attempt to free sterling from the dollar. Sterling has been tied to the dollar ever since the Americans decided to persevere with their policy of linking the American dollar to gold. Sterling, of course, is not linked to gold; but it has to be linked to the dollar because the dollar is linked to gold. Britain, it will be recalled, made an attempt to free sterling. The only reason why that attempt failed was that there, were insufficient reserves of gold in Britain at the time, and there have been insufficient reserves ever since. Therefore, the currencies of the sterling countries of the world are still married, as it were, to the American dollar. I do not think that it is necessary for me to pursue any further the proposition that gold is an important international medium’ of exchange.
Tn addition, as I have said, it is also important to us from a national point of view. Last year, this country- mainly Western Australia - produced. ;some- 35,000,000 dollars worth of gold. That is a lot of gold in anybody’s language. It becomes significant when we realize that we owe a lot of dollars to America and to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We are continuing to borrow American dollars. At some time in the future, we shall have to repay these loans in either dollars or gold, because the International Bunk will not accept our paper money as a medium of exchange. It is often said that we could sell other commodities to America in order to repay these dollar loans. Let us look at that proposition for a moment. At present, the United States of America is buying large quantities of base metals from us. For example, it is buying from us copper and titanium and is desirous of buying our uranium. Those commodities are, at the moment, fairly good dollar earners, but would anybody be so foolish as to say that in five, ten or twenty years’ time America would still be prepared to buy from us all the titanium, all the uranium and all the copper that we could produce? I do not think anybody would be so dogmatic as to assert that proposition. Indeed, at this very moment, the bottom is dropping out as far as the production of copper is concerned. The world production of copper has caught up with world demand, and the price of copper is dropping. That applies to every commodity that Australia produces and which the Americans are importing now, but which they might not buy in five or ten years’ time - except gold. Gold is the only product that this country can produce about which we can say automatically, “ This product will be required by America and the rest of the world indefinitely “. Wilh that certainty in our minds, surely gold is of vital interest to this nation. If possible, its production should be increased.
I want to say a few words about the importance of gold to Western Australia, which produces most of the gold won in Australia. lt is interesting to remember that from the commencement of this century until 1938 the value of gold won in Western Australia exceeded the value of all other Western Australian exports of primary commodities. The position has deteriorated considerably but it does not follow that it cannot be rectified. In point of fact, there are indications that it will be. I should like to remind the Senate that, in Western Australia, there are some 5,000 men employed directly in the gold mines. There are a further 5,000 breadwinners living in or near the Golden Mile of Western Australia whose bread and butter come directly from the gold mines, although they are employed in capacities other than as miners. It has been computed reliably that another 7,000 or 8,000 breadwinners in other parts of the State, many of them in the City of Perth, although they are not directly working in the gold mines, rely upon the gold-mining industry for their livings.
This is the picture: Between 17,000 and 18,000 breadwinners in Western Australia rely completely upon the gold mines for their pay. That is an important aspect of gold-mining. An enormous wages bill has to be found every week by the few gold mines that are still operating in Western Australia. A major stoppage in any one of those large gold mines would be a greater calamity for Western Australia than some persons might realize. It must be remembered that, if one of the large mines closed, it could probably never be re-opened. It would be completely uneconomic to find the enormous amount of capital that would be required to re-open such a mine if once it closed and became flooded with water.
I wish to present to the Senate some other facts which are relevant to what I shall have to say in a few moments. It must be remembered that the price of gold is pegged. It must be sold at the international fixed price. It should also be remembered that, with living standards so high in Australia, our gold-mining industry is at a disadvantage compared with the industry in other countries, such as Africa and Asia, where living standards are not nearly so high, and where the wages bill in the mining and other industries is comparatively low. As I have said, a producer of gold must sell the gold he produces at a fixed price. It must be remembered also that the sale of the gold won by him is compulsory. He must sell it within a specified time. He is not permitted to keep it and wait or hope for a higher price. The gold must be sold immediately.
– It is compulsorily acquired?
– Yes. I wonder what the wool-growers would say if they had to sell their wool at a pegged price within a specified time or go to gaol. What would happen if they were subject to domination of that kind by the Treasury? The gold-miners are forced to accept it. However, 1 do not complain of that particular aspect of gold-mining at the moment.
I now come to the real gist of my speech, and will endeavour to give to the Senate some reasons why I suggest that the subsidy on gold should be increased as soon as possible. First, we have a rather unsatisfactory position in the industry so far as production is concerned in that this year, the production of Western Australian gold mines fell by about 100,000 ounces of gold. That is a large quantity of gold when measured in dollars. It means that Australia has lost forever exactly 1,500,000 American dollars worth of gold. That is rather a significant thought for honorable senators to ponder. That amount would have more than paid our dollar interest bill on all our current American loans, and we lost it in the past year.
Production is decreasing still further. It is falling because costs of production are rising. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the subsidy on gold is based on a cost-of-production formula. Let me give the Senate an illustration of how the costs of production have risen since 1954. In that year, the cost of production of six mines which were expected to qualify for the subsidy was £15 13s. 5d. a fine ounce. Those six mines did, in fact, qualify for the subsidy. In 1956, the cost of production for those six mines had risen to £17 12s. 6d. a fine ounce of gold. Although I have not the accurate figures for this year, it has been established to my satisfaction that the cost of production will be about £18 10s. a fine ounce, so we have the unfortunate spectacle of the cost of production of the important companies that have been receiving the subsidy rising from £15 13s. 5d. to about £18 10s. in three years.
Costs of production are still rising. That is due to many factors and, primarily, to an increase of wages, but I have not time to cite examples. The price of practically everything that is used by gold-mining ventures has risen, including stores, timber, machinery, chemicals, cyanide, fuel, coal and rail freights. These increases have had certain serious consequences. One of the consequences is this - and I make this point because it is fundamental to my argument: Certain mines known as marginal mines, in Western Australia, are faced with closure unless the subsidy is raised. There can be no doubt about that. The subsidy should be raised as soon as possible because next year it might be too late. I am not saying now that those mines will close before next year, but they will have reached a situation by then, technically speaking, when they cannot afford to remain open longer even if the subsidy is raised next year. Therefore, 1 say that now is the time for the subsidy to be increased. It will be too late after the mines have reached a stage when they cannot remain open any longer.
There is a further serious consequence for some of the mines which might not close. They might stay open, but they will be forced to resort to what is termed selective mining. Most of them have tremendous ore reserves in the ground of a known gold content. Due to increased costs, they will be forced to leave a lot of that ore and never raise it to the surface and treat it. They will be forced to go to the richer deposits of ore, leaving the lower grade ore which cannot be recovered subsequently as a matter of practical mining. Therefore, enormous quantities of ore will be lost to posterity.
– Has that happened to any extent in the past?
– No, it has happened only very slightly, but it is about to happen now more extensively. I have referred to the employment situation. I give this added reason why I believe the subsidy should be increased now: We have the spectacle of the Government indicating its confidence in gold and believing in the importance of gold to the nation. As the Government has recognized the importance of the precious metal, and as the subsidy I have mentioned is based on a cost of production formula, and as the cost of production is rising, surely the time is ripe for an increase of the subsidy to correspond with rising costs. That is plain logic.
I believe I have shown that it can be demonstrated - although I have not the time to complete this survey - that costs have risen by about £3 an ounce, so there is a strong case now for the existing subsidy of £2 an ounce to be raised to between £2 10s. and £5 an ounce. That figure should be taken into account by the Government when it considers this matter, as I am quite sure it will.
I have been talking about the large gold producers, but now I wish to refer to the small producers, who have been assisted to the extent of a straight out subsidy of 30s. an ounce irrespective of the cost of production. The costs of the small producer can be demonstrated to have increased just as much as have the costs of the big mines, and an equally strong case can be advanced for the small producer. Therefore, I ask the Government to consider granting a fiat subsidy to the small producer at the same level as I have suggested in respect of the large producer, that is, of from £4 10s. to £5 an ounce.
As my time has almost expired, I wish to say in conclusion that I am fully aware of the fact that the Government has always believed in the importance of gold in Australia’s economy. I wish to pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) who, annually at conferences of the International Monetary Fund, has done a very fine job for Australia in advocating an increase of the price of gold. I wish to place upon record also my thanks to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has always been most sympathetic in his treatment of this industry. I trust that the Government will give immediate consideration to my request.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Opposition supports the proposal that has been placed before the Government in this urgency motion. Although the matter is one of urgency, it does not present a new difficulty. During the last session, and in the session preceding that, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) made a very full submission to the Government in the House of Representatives. He pointed out the difficulties that the industry was experiencing as a result of inflation and high costs. Similar submissions had been made previously in this chamber by Senator Vincent and myself.
Since the passing of the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act in 1954, and its amendment in 1956 to extend the period of operation of the assistance until 1959, the subsidy that has been paid by the Government has not been increased, although costs of production have risen tremendously. An examination of the goldmining industry does not present a very encouraging picture, particularly when, as Senator Vincent has stated, we rely upon it very largely as a dollar-earning source. South Africa produces approximately 52 per cent, of the world’s supply of gold, Canada 18 per cent., the United States of America 8i per cent., West Africa 3 per cent., Australia 4 per cent., and the remainder 14i per cent. It will be noted that Australia is not a large producer of gold, but gold is a very important factor in our economy, because Australia must preserve its overseas trade balance and borrow largely for development.
In 1939, Australia’s production of gold totalled 1,645,000 fine ounces, but it dropped in 1944 to only 656,000 fine ounces. In other words, during that period production dropped by almost 1,000,000 fine ounces. From 1944 to 1950, every person who was interested in the goldmining industry was pressing the Government to do something about the matter, and eventually the subsidy was introduced. In 1950, production amounted to 853,000 fine ounces. In 1954-55, production rose to 1,049,039 fine ounces, and the subsidy paid totalled £236,946. In 1955-56, production amounted to 1,030,982 fine ounces, a decline of 18,057 fine ounces. The amount of subsidy paid in 1955-56 was £596,161. That is not a large sum of money. The payment has been increased although production has fallen. That is clear evidence of the fact that the industry is being forced to rely increasingly on the subsidy. Even companies that were independent of it have been forced, by high costs of production, to claim it. A moral obligation rests upon the Government, as was realized in 1954 after a lot of argument. 1 now refer to a statement by the economics editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, in which he pointed out that the United States was not prepared to pay more than 35 dollars an ounce for gold.
At ihe present time, we make our producers sell to the mint at £15 12s. 6d. an ounce, although premium sales have realized £15 13s. The April quote in London was £15 13s. an ounce. Let us examine the position in South Africa, which is a big producer of gold. The press article to which I have referred reads -
As an offset to the disadvantage in selling gold . . at a fixed price, South Africa has been marketing an increasing percentage of her gold output in the free market.
Up to 40 per cent, of South Africa’s output is being sold in this way mainly in the form of semi-processed gold manufactures.
By doing so she has been able to get up to SO dollars an ounce instead of 35.
The free market price varies widely and from country to country. The present price in Europe and the Near East is between 45 and 50 dollars an ounce. In the Far East the price is considerably higher.
Such a policy of free market sales of Australian mined gold would run counter to our present strict adherence to I.M.F. etiquette.
The official attitude in Australia towards the gold industry is unhelpful.
That proves positively that, as a result of the Government’s policy of strict adherence to the International Monetary Fund’s methods of disposing of gold, Australian gold-mining companies are being paid a set price for gold, which is lower than that at which they can economically produce it.
The gold-mining industry is of vital importance to the employment position in Western Australia. By employing modern and orderly mining methods, the gold-mining companies in that State have been able to effect a marked improvement in safety precautions and in the manner in which they care for their employees. The incidence of silicosis and other diseases has been lowered by aluminium therapy treatment. The mining industry has played quite a fair and proper part, not only in looking after the workers in the mines as far as possible, but also by providing us with a very necessary commodity which helps us to achieve a favorable trade balance. As Senator Vincent has said, a subsidy of £2 an ounce is paid on gold produced in Australia and in Papua and New Guinea. The subsidy, which was paid for the years 1954-55 and 1955-56. has become quite inadequate to meet the present situation. The smaller mines are suffering similarly with a rate of £1 10s. a fine ounce. ,
The production of gold could be stepped up. The gold is there, and so is the potential. Quite a number of small mines are operating without drawing a subsidy. They have not become big enough to undertake development. They are quite prepared to develop if they can obtain some assurance from the Government that an economic proposition can be made of it. The but mines have, to some extent, a marked advantage because of their larger output, their assured existence, the quantity of gold available to them and the plant which they operate. They have available geologists, assayers and other technical advisers, who give them advance knowledge of the gold available, and they operate accordingly. But they are operating on a very fine margin, and they are in a perilous position. The smaller mines are faced with the position that other companies and other persons mining uranium and other minerals which are marketed with unrestricted prices have absorbed geologists from the gold-mining industry. The overall picture is bad. The Government should give urgent consideration to this matter. The subsidy should not be small. The Government should take an intense interest in the development and future welfare of the gold-mining industry.
– Why do not small companies apply for a subsidy? Are they not eligible?
– They are operating on a small scale. They could take out more gold, but, to become eligible for a subsidy, they would have to establish their costs of production and produce figures showing the capital invested. Under the provisions of the first act, the profit could not be more than 10 per cent, on the capital invested, but I think the later measure specifies 20 per cent. Many of the small companies do not apply for a subsidy because, if they did, they would have to spend quite a lot of money on costing, in addition to developmental work. But if they were subsidized, they could expand, and employ more men. If a geologist were to say, “ The life of the mine is so and so “. they could call for capital and go on with development.
However, be that as it may, the subsidy, which was fixed in 1954 and has not been altered since, is not now adequate. Honorable senators know that the cost of the mining and recovery of gold has increased tremendously. As Senator Vincent has said, gold-mining undertakings are forced to sell their gold at a fixed, regulated price, which is particularly low. This is a matter of International Monetary Fund policy, which is subscribed to by the Government. When our representatives go overseas to make submissions to the International Monetary Fund, they talk with their tongues in their cheeks, knowing full well that if America does not buy our gold at a higher rate there is no hope of an increase in price - unless we do as South Africa does. The South Africans sell partlymanufactured goods and manufactured goods, geting a very high premium price for their gold. However, that is against the policy of the Government. The mining industry is suffering seriously as a result of the Government’s policy and the policy of the International Monetary Fund. I think that a clear-cut case has been made out for at least a 100 per cent, increase of the present subsidy.
– This matter, which has been brought to the notice of the Senate by Senator Vincent, is most important to Western Australia, especially to the towns and cities and the large areas of that State which are more or less totally dependent upon gold mining. I was glad to note that Senator Vincent, during the course of his remarks, gave credit to the Government for the steps which it has taken since 1954 to assist this industry in Western Australia, and in Australia generally. I think that the policy pursued by the Government is a credit to it. It has helped to keep the production of gold in Australia up to the reasonable figures of the last three or four years.
In 1954, the Government introduced a measure which provided a subsidy for two years to the marginal gold mines, and that provision was not renewed in March, 1956, without very careful consideration being given by the Government to what should be done. The final decision was that the provision should be renewed for another three years. That decision was made by the Government after a very careful review of the position a little over twelve months ago.
The assistance that has been given to the gold-mining industry other than in subsidy form should be taken into account. This includes taxation concessions. All profits from gold-mining in Australia and New Guinea are entirely exempt from income tax, and in Australia dividends from the profits of gold-mining industries are also free of income tax. That is a matter which does encourage investment in the industry.
Unfortunately, subsidies, including the present subsidy, do not attract prospecting, opening of new mines and development. J do not think that an increase in the subsidy would do much to encourage the good old prospector of days gone by - who, unfortunately, is a rapidly disappearing figure in the mining world - or the developing of new fields and new sources of production. That is the direction from which increased production should come. In deciding in 1954 to assist the gold-mining industry, the Government was influenced, as Senator Vincent has said, by the importance of the industry to the Australian economy. The industry is a significant dollar earner. After all, it is worth to Australia about £16,000,000 a year in overseas exchange. The official Australian price of gold has remained static since 1949 and the free gold market overseas, the premium market, has disappeared substantially in the last few years. The original act provided for the payment of a subsidy on the production of gold in Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea during each of the two years 1954-55 and 1955-56. That payment has been continued for three years. I raise these matters because I could not quite follow Senator Cooke’s argument. A gold-producer is not eligible for subsidy unless the value of the gold produced by him is more than 50 per cent, of the total value of his mining output.
I think Senator Cooke was off the line a little when referring to the subsidies paid to small and large producers. A small producer is defined in the act as one whose output is not more than 500 ounces of fine gold in a subsidy year. Such a producer is eligible for subsidy at a flat rate of £1 10s. an ounce. The large producer, the one with an output of more than 500 ounces a year, is eligible for a subsidy, per ounce, equal to three-quarters of the excess of his average cost of production over £13 10s. an ounce, subject to a maximum subsidy of £2 an ounce and provided that his profits, after subsidy, do not exceed 10 per cent, of the capital used by him in the production and sale of gold. The small producer gets a flat rate of subsidy, as I understand the position.
– That is if he produces less than 500 ounces of fine gold, but if he is putting up a developmental show, if he has a chance of expansion, that man could produce more than 500 ounces. Such a man should be eligible for a subsidy. His developmental activities are retarded because he has no assurance that if he develops his mine so as to produce over 500 fine ounces he will receive a subsidy.
– I understand the point the honorable senator is making. His point is that the fact that no subsidy is offered for developmental work is retarding the production of gold.
– I ask the honorable senator to allow me to continue, as I have only a quarter of an hour in which to speak. I do think he is off the track.
– I am not off the track.
– I think that the honorable senator is. I am pointing out that he should take into consideration the fact that the small producer, the man who produces not more than 500 ounces of fine gold in a subsidy year, docs receive a subsidy at the flat rate of £1 10s. an ounce. The subsidy entitlement for both small and large producers is reduced to the extent, if any, that they receive more than £15 12s. 6d. an ounce from the sale of their gold, this being the Commonwealth Bank’s official buying price.
The expenditure by way of subsidy has been fairly considerable. Although the actual amount expended may be small when compared with the number of millions of pounds with which we deal in this place, it has increased. In 1954-55, it was £97,000. By 1955-56, it had increased to £401,055, and the budget provision for expenditure under this heading in 1956-57 was £400,000, although the actual expenditure may fall a little short of that figure in the coming year. Despite what has been said, I submit that production has not receded to the extent sought to be conveyed by the case put forward here this afternoon. It has decreased a little in the last two years, certainly, but not to any great extent, because the figures disclose that 1,117,742 fine ounces of gold were produced in 1954, and that the production was 1,049,011 fine ounces in 1955 and 1,039,983 fine ounces in 1956. The value of production in those years was as follows:- £17,437,000 for 1954; £16,364,500 for 1955; and £16,323,500 for 1956. It will be seen, therefore, that there has been no alarming decrease in the production of gold in Australia. There has been a little, but it is not an alarming figure.
– It has decreased because the producers are not prepared to develop.
– I have dealt with that point, but I do not think any subsidy could cover developmental work. My point is that a subsidy cannot be made to cover developmental work at any time. That is not its purpose. The purpose of a subsidy is to keep marginal mines going. If we are to encourage development, then we must adopt some course other than the payment of a subsidy. What guarantee have we that if a subsidy were paid the money would be spent on developmental work? We have no guarantee whatever, and that point must be considered when we are deciding whether the case put forward is reasonable, especially when we are dealing with the taxpayers’ money. As I have pointed out, results have not been as alarming as honorable senators have sought to convey.
There is another point on which I feel Senator Cooke was not quite fair. He suggested that the Government has only paid lip service to the need of the gold producers, and I do not think that is a fair suggestion. We get nowhere by making unfair statements on such an important matter as this. I point out to Senator Cooke that the gold-producing countries - South Africa, Canada and Australia - have constantly pressed upon the International Monetary Fund the need for a review of the price paid for gold. It is true that the biggest buyer is America and that America has always refused to consider an increase, but it is not fair to say that Australia and the other gold-producing countries are paying only lip service to this question. Year after year, they have pressed for a review, and they are continuing to do so because they believe it is necessary. This Government has persistently pressed for a review of this, as it has done in connexion with other things. For instance, it took us some years to achieve the excellent deal which we have got now under the trade agreement with Great Britain. The Government has placed constant pressure at the appropriate point in all these matters. Certainly it has done a great deal more than pay lip service to the needs of the producers. This Government has tried continuously, and intends to keep on trying 10 obtain a review of the price of gold.
– Why cannot the producers sell some of the gold on the open market?
– As the honorable senator knows. I am not an expert on gold. We do not produce much gold in Tasmania. But I understand that as Australia is a member of this International Monetary Fund, we are committed to selling through it. I would not attempt to answer Senator Hendrickson’s question because I am not fully informed on the point. No doubt an honorable senator from Western Australia who speaks on this matter will be better informed on the point than I am and will answer it.
I conclude by pointing out that the Western Australian Chambers of Mines, supported by the Western Australian, Victorian and Queensland Governments, recently placed a case before the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). He is the one qualified to consider and advise on this matter, but I undertake to place before him also the representations made in connexion with this important matter by Senator Vincent and other honorable senators, and to ask him to give them urgent consideration in conjunction with the case which has been prepared by the Western Australian Chambers of Mines and which is supported by the three State governments I have mentioned. I can commit the Government no further than that at this stage.
– I am not greatly impressed by the reply that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has given in connexion with the bonus payable on the production of gold. I think he just dawdled around and did not discuss the real question. Apparently he does not understand the position. Senator Vincent mentioned the intrinsic value of gold in connexion with our balance of payments, but the Minister did not mention that matter. I suppose the easiest product of this country to convert into the currency of any other country is gold, yet the Minister has not given that point any consideration. He has not said one word about it. Gold can be exchanged for American dollars or Swiss francs with far greater ease than any other Australian product can be exchanged for hard currency. The Minister has not considered that point.
The only way by which we can hope to increase the production of gold is to offer some type of bonus. The present bonus is not paid to all producers of gold, although the Minister said that every person who produces gold does get the bonus. The Minister was wrong. Moreover, the bonus paid is not paid at a flat rate. Throughout Australia, numbers of producers of gold in a small way are operating in addition to the big companies which are producing gold. These small producers win gold from dirts and sands of all kinds, but not all of them receive the bonus. I want the Minister to realize that these small producers of gold have been overlooked. In the early days of gold production in Australia, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, and also to a degree in Western Australia and in northern Queensland, those who won gold for the big companies did not worry about secondary treatment. They were so rich that they treated only the richest ore, and the rest they tipped into dumps. Now. numbers of men are extracting gold from those dumps, but they are not paid any bonus for the gold they obtain because it is said that they are not mining for gold. The extraordinary thing is that if a man goes to an alluvial field, digs a hole and washes the dirt taken from it, and obtains some gold he is paid a bonus of 30s. an oz., whereas another man who obtains gold from a discarded dump gets no bonus, notwithstanding’ that he may have to work much harder than does the man on the alluvial field. In the second case the man may have to wash the sand, or the dross, to get a concentrate which has either to be subjected to the cyanide process, or some form of roasting, in order to separate the gold from the material in which it is placed. Generally, the production of gold under those conditions entails more work than is required on the part of a man working on an ordinary alluvial field. It calls for more labour than that performed by a man working a mine where gold is extracted by hydraulic means; yet the man using a hydraulic process can get the bonus because he is said to be mining for gold. The system in operation is wrong. The payment of a bonus for the production of gold should not exclude the man operating in a small way. He is generally a poor man who, at the best, just makes a living from his operations. He should not be deprived of the bonus. The bonus should be paid to all who produce gold, whether that gold is derived from a mine worked by companies who gouge into the bowels of the earth, or is obtained by washing dirt in an alluvial field, or is obtained by a man working on concentrates, and using either the cyanide process or some other chemical process to obtain the gold. All of them should be entitled to receive the bonus.
There is another phase of this subject which concerns me a good deal. It relates to the policy of borrowing money overseas. Australia has borrowed approximately 250,000,000 dollars from the United States of America in recent years. That means that already this country is paying interest on that borrowed money, and will continue to do so for many years to come. That means, in turn, that as the years pass we shall have to fall back more and more on the production of gold to pay the interest on that borrowed money, because nothing else that we can produce can be so easily converted into dollars as can gold. I submit that if, instead of borrowing money overseas, we had used an amount equivalent to the interest payments on that borrowed money to pay a bonus to all producers of gold, we would have been able to pay for all the materials we have obtained through dollar credits, and at the same time would have saved the money already paid in interest and money which we shall still have to pay in interest for the next ten or fifteen years. In other words, we should have been able to obtain the machinery we needed and for which we have incurred indebtedness on account of dollar loans. It would have been better to expend that money in the payment of a bonus to the producers of gold in this country than to pay it to financial concerns overseas as interest on borrowed money. The second point I wish to make is that eventually we shall have to fall back on our gold production, because gold is the only commodity that we can produce which is readily interchangeable with hard currency. Senator Vincent said that the amount lost by reduced production of gold last year was £1,900,000. He also said that the extra money was sufficient to pay the interest on loans obtained overseas. That interest bill in the near future will amount to about 9,000,000 dollars a year, and it will have to be paid for the next ten or fifteen years. My point is that if that 9,000,000 dollars were paid each year as a bonus to those who produce gold in this country, that gold could be exchanged for anything we require during the next ten or fifteen years and at the end of that period we would not owe any one a penny.
I believe that the payment of a bonus for the production of gold is a sound policy, chiefly because, as I have said, gold can be exchanged for any goods we require. With a few exceptions, gold cannot be exported, so that any gold produced in this country eventually finds its way into the coffers of the Commonwealth Bank. In other words, it becomes the property of the Government. By adopting the policy which I have advocated, the quantity of gold produced in Australia would be increased, more working people would be employed, and the money now paid to overseas financial institutions as interest would circulate in Australia. The result would be that the community as a whole would be more prosperous. The Government, however, has taken no action along these lines. It still believes in the policy of borrowing hard currency overseas, and then using the gold produced in this country to pay the interest bill. Gold is a commodity which can be sold in any part of the world and can be used for the purpose of meeting o:ir commitments overseas. I raised this question back in 1945, and I am raising it now because 1 think the Government is illadvised to exclude certain gold producers from entitlement to the subsidy. At the same time the Government is using the gold that is produced for exchange purposes and the payment of interest on our overseas indebtedness. It has been doing so during the three years that the subsidy has been paid.
One other matter to be considered is that the world price for gold has, generally speaking, been pegged. Of course, in some parts of the world, a free market does exist. The submission has been made quite a number of times, and was made in this chamber just prior to the extension of the period of operation of the bonus, that the producers of gold should have the right to sell at least a portion of their production on the open market, or as we used to term it, on the black market. The request, in effect, was that the sale of a certain percentage of gold above the pegged pool price should be permitted. Of course, the price of gold on the open market, in countries like India, China and other places where people apparently hoard this stuff, gradually dwindled until in the last year or so it reached nearly the pegged price in Australia. I think that at the present moment the difference in favour of the black market is 7s. to 9s. an oz. The question arises whether the Government through its agency, the Commonwealth Bank, or it necessary through the other trading banks - I am not adamant on the particular agency - should use the open market for the purpose of selling some of Australia’s gold so that the producers of this country can obtain a better price.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the motion moved by my Western Australian colleague, Senator Vincent, and I congratulate him on the way in which he has placed the matter before the Senate. A great deal cannot be said on this matter after one or two speakers have canvassed the subject, but 1 should like to mention one or two points in support of the motion.
As has been stated by previous speakers, gold is a very considerable factor in our economy. Western Australia, I think, produces between 30 per cent, and 35 per cent, of the gold mined in Australia. It was, of course, the activity of gold-mining that set Western Australia’s progress in train, a progress that has continued ever since. In one year alone, Western Australia produced 2,000,000 oz. of fine gold. That output gradually declined until it reached 400,000 oz. per annum, but then a rise in price caused production to increase to about 1,000,000 oz. It then declined again to about 400,000 oz., but when the bonus was introduced, production increased and at the present time is about 800,000 oz. a year. The industry needs, if I might use the term, another shot in the arm to enable it to increase its activities.
The foundation of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia is, of course, the prospector. Mines have been established and are operating with varying success, but it is the prospector who goes out and finds the fields before the mines are established. At the present time, prospectors are operating to a certain extent in Western Australia, but their activities are limited because of the high cost of production and high cost of living while they are searching for gold. Those factors are discouraging these men from going out to find fresh fields. Occasionally a new find comes to light which gives a spur to the industry. A few weeks ago, gold was found at Mount Magnet, following on a find there shortly before. Prospectors have to go far from the settled areas and, generally speaking, they work in areas out from Kalgoorlie and Norseman. It is not the kind of life that attracts a great number of people, unless they can see a reasonable prospect of success. It is necessary for us to ensure that the price of gold is such that it will attract these men to go out and find new fields.
Gold is still to be found in Western Aus- tralia. Probably much more gold is still in the ground than has been taken out; it is only a matter of discovering where it exists. That was evidenced a few years ago when a fairly large nugget was found right alongside what used to be one of the biggest mines in Western Australia which had closed^ down because there was apparently no gold about.
– Is there any oil in Western Australia?
– There is oil, but I am dealing with gold at the present time. The Government should increase the subsidy. I acknowledge, as has been mentioned before, that the Government has made efforts to obtain an increase in the price of gold. It joined with South Africa in making representations to the United
States of America to increase the price, but that country would not do so. In view of that, only two alternatives remain. Either we must increase production or we let the industry go out of production. As Senator O’Flaherty has said, it would be a calamity to let the industry go out of production. Of course, we have those socialcredit cranks who say that gold has lost its value and all that kind of thing, but that is not so. Gold still has an established price throughout the world, and the more we can produce and export, the better will be our position in the United States market.
It is a fact that at the present time subsidy and stabilization schemes do exist for most of our primary products such as wheat, butter, eggs and dairy produce. It is necessary for us to stabilize the old goldmining industry as far as we can and the only way is to grant an increased subsidy. That would enable the gold-mining companies to carry on their work and encourage the prospectors to go out. As Senator Vincent pointed out, some of the big mining companies have a reserve of gold on which they can operate in future years, but other companies are gradually working out their fields. It is rather depressing to witness, as we did the other day, the town of Wiluna being practically removed from the map as houses were taken away, because the field had gone out of profitable production. That stage has not been reached in other places and if the Government was to increase the subsidy, the effect would be greatly to revive an industry so vital to Western Australia. An illustration of that occurred only recently when blue asbestos mining was virtually going out of existence. The industry had been founded in Western Australia, but was not able to dispose of its products. The Government came to the rescue and now the industry is in a flourishing condition. This shows that financial assistance from a government can preserve an industry. The Under Secretary for Mines in Western Australia, who has studied this matter very carefully, said a little while ago that in his opinion an increase in price would result in increased production of gold in that State. Of course, it may be difficult for people in the Eastern States to realize the position of the industry in Western Australia. Gold-mining in Victoria cannot be compared very well with gold-mining in Western Australia. In Victoria, the gold-mining centres are fairly close together. Consequently, the prospectors have not to go very far from the established centres of population in order to carry on their activities. It is much more difficult and expensive for the miners in Western Australia to undertake prospecting. We must remember that Kalgoorlie is about 320 miles from Perth and that everything needed by the miners has to bear the cost of transport to Kalgoorlie and out to the prospecting areas.
I support the motion, and I hope that the Minister will do his best to persuade the Government to extend the assistance necessary to enable the Kalgoorlie prospectors to continue their activities.
– in reply - I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for affording to me an opportunity to raise this subject in the Senate. As the purpose of the motion has been achieved, I now ask for leave to withdraw it.
Leave granted; motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 5.7 to 8 p.m.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Trade Agreement signed at Canberra on 26th February, 1957, by the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government, and move -
That this Senate approves the trade agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia signed at Canberra on 26th February, 1957.
This motion seeks the approval of the Senate for the Government’s acceptance of the new trade agreement with the United Kingdom Government to replace the Ottawa Trade Agreement of 1932. These last 25 years have been years of great significance in Australia’s history. The economic structure of the country has undergone great changes. Our population has increased from 6,500,000 in 1932 to over 9,500,000 to-day - nearly a 50 per cent, increase. The number of people in jobs has more than doubled. Great strides have been made towards a more fully developed economy. A striking indication of the progress in our manufacturing industry is the rise in steel production over the past 25 years from a monthly average of about 35,000 tons to almost 250,000 tons to-day.
Electric power consumption has increased more than fivefold since 1932. This impressive increase has taken place alongside a doubling of coal production in the same period. The evidence of industrial development is clear to all in the every-day indications of the production of such goods as motor vehicles, electric appliances and textiles. On the rural side, too, there has been a steady pattern of development. Without going into details of production, such as the 40 per cent, rise in the wool clip, I will only mention here the sevenfold increase in the number of tractors from about 25,000 to about 190,000 and the threefold increase in usage of fertilizer - we now use nearly 2,000,000 tons a year. These great developments have created a demand for plant, equipment and raw materials, much of which cannot be procured locally. Manufacturing industry is the country’s principal customer for imports. Primary industry also has substantial import needs. Then there are the normal demands created by the sole fact of increased population.
From these developments, we have a tremendous appetite for imports. These same developments provide us with our export capacity, but we find ourselves with a balance of payments problem which ls more than a passing phase. In a total picture which includes a forceful programme of development and a vitally significant immigration programme, the Government has geared its policies and actions to meet the trade consequences of these circumstances. So there develops a lively programme on the part of the Government lor the stimulation of exports. But the whole community had been very conscious of the cost situation. The need to increase exports underlined this cost problem, just as it underlined the importance of Government activity in setting the international framework within which our export trade must be conducted and our import needs supplied. Hence, in developing its constructive approach to the problem of increasing exports, the Government has planned a systematic and comprehensive review of Australia’s trade relationships with other countries. In this programme, trade with the United Kingdom, which is our greatest trading partner, naturally comes under early review. It was clear that a review of the 1932 trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom - known in this country as the Ottawa Agreement - was fundamental to any wider review of Australia’s international trade relationships. It is my purpose now to explain what we sought in a replacing agreement with the United Kingdom, and what wc secured.
This new agreement was signed in Canberra on 26th February. As I shall explain, it preserves security in the United Kingdom market for a number of important primary industries. It secures a significant new arrangement for wheat exports. !i offers scope for Australian manufacturers to obtain many of their imported requirements more cheaply. It gives the Commonwealth Government new room to secure new export trade benefits in foreign countries by trade negotiations. Nothing in the agreement encroaches on the established policy of tariff protection for efficient Australian producers. The new agreement represents a positive contribution to our balance of payments position as well as to our cost situation.
The Ottawa Agreement was one of the dramatic incidents of the world depression in which the British Empire closed its ranks to protect its share of a diminishing world trade. It was written to meet the conditions at that time, and it brought about the system of reciprocal preferences between Australia and the United Kingdom which has continued since. However, over the quarter-century that had elapsed since the Ottawa Agreement was drawn up, the changes I have already referred to had caused a major shift in the balance of the agreement and in our trade relationships with the United Kingdom. Let me illustrate this by reference to preferences and the wheat position.
On preferences, under Ottawa, Australia was committed to an automatic preference formula which gave tariff preferences to United Kingdom goods over almost the whole range of the Australian tariff. On the other hand, Australian wheat and wool, the bulk of our exports to the United Kingdom, received no preference. In fact, Australia gave preferences on 80 per cent, of imports from the United Kingdom, but received preference only on about 40 per cent, of Australia’s exports to the United Kingdom.
There is another point about the preferences. Many of the preferences guaranteed to us in the United Kingdom market were expressed in pre-war money values. However, the preferences Australia gave were, for the greater part, expressed in percentage terms. The steep increases in world price levels since 1932 have deprived preferences expressed in pre-war money values of much of their effectiveness.
For example, in 1932 the margin of 15s. a cwt. on butter was equivalent to about 15 per cent, ad valorem, but at 1956 prices the same margin was equivalent to about 41 per cent. In 1932 the preference on eggs was equivalent to 12 per cent, ad valorem, but at prices for 1956 season eggs the margin had also fallen to 4i per cent. Thus many of the preferences we received lost much of their value, whilst the greater part of the preferences we gave retained their usefulness.
It has been calculated that the average level of preference Australia has granted to United Kingdom goods in recent years was 14 per cent, by value. Australian goods have received preference in the United Kingdom equivalent to about 9 per cent, by value. Again the preferences we held in the United Kingdom market were shared with several other competing countries, whereas in Australia the preferences we gave the United Kingdom were practically reserved to the United Kingdom alone. So, on preferences, we were giving much more than we were getting.
My second illustration of the major shift in our trade position is wheat. In pre-war years, Australia- shipped an average of 52,000,000 bushels of wheat and flour to the United Kingdom. Over the last five years, the average shipments have been only 23,000,000 bushels, and in 1954 were as low as 13,000,000 bushels. This post-war position has been attributed to a 50 per cent, increase in the United Kingdom’s domestic production of wheat, as well as heavy importations in recent years of subsidized wheat from other countries.
The trade figures also show the changes since pre-war. In the five years ended June, 1939, Australia enjoyed an average annual trade surplus with the United Kingdom of £24,000,000. In the five years ended June, 1956, we incurred an annual deficit of £67,000,000. The actual volume of imports from the United Kingdom has almost doubled, whilst the volume of our exports has actually declined. The significance of this, after a period of great Australian population increase, is serious and of important consequence.
Thus the balance of the Ottawa Agreement had changed and our whole trade situation with the United Kingdom had changed. But, of course, in opening up the revision of the Ottawa Agreement, the objective was not to seek to redress an unbalanced position for the mere sake of balance. The Government wanted a new agreement which met our economic circumstances and our policy requirement under to-day’s conditions.
Our first objective was to preserve the great principle of mutual preference established and confirmed at Ottawa. This principle has been expressly re-affirmed in the new agreement in Article 1. In particular, the Government wanted to retain the protection for our exports which the existing preferences and rights of duty-free entry gave us in the United Kingdom market. We had tried, in 1952, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference, to get support for a restoration of the value of these preferences which were expressed in pre-war money terms. We gained little support.
At the review conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1954, we tried to get the rules relaxed to a degree that would have enabled the United Kingdom to restore the value of preferences to us. We failed. In this, we were clearly inviting our foreign competitors in the United Kingdom markets to vote for a situation that would have given us the advantage against them. We approached these new negotiations in 1956, therefore, with a knowledge that it was futile to ask the United Kingdom to increase our preferences. Our object was to hold what we had in preferences and to improve our trade position by other means, particularly in respect of wheat.
Our second objective was to narrow the obligatory preferences on British imported items significant to our Australian cost structure.
Our third objective was to gain some tariff flexibility in trade bargaining with other countries. Gatt prevented any thought by us of proposing widening of British preferences as a bargaining factor to be used in trade negotiations. On the other hand, the Ottawa Agreement prevented us from narrowing these preferences. We badly wanted room to manoeuvre in the tariff field in trade negotiations, so we sought to get some freedom in the new agreement to lower the Australian tariff rates on foreign goods where these tariffs were higher than needed for the protection of our home industries.
The 1932 agreement failed to give Australia clear rights of decision on allowing foreign goods to enter free under by-law in cases where satisfactory equivalent goods were not available from Britain. We set out to correct this position. The old Ottawa Agreement was confined to tariff matters. The Government wanted the new agreement to cover our total trade connexion with the United Kingdom and to provide remedies for such matters as imports of subsidized products from other countries, restrictive business practices, the disposal of surpluses, shipping and so on. All these other problems, as well as the question of preferences arid the question of our diminished trade in wheat, we sought to bring within a new agreement replacing the Ottawa Agreement.
The Government having cleared its mind on its objectives, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade opened negotiations in London with the United Kingdom Prime Minister and other British Ministers early in July, last year, lt soon became clear that the United Kingdom authorities had not been prepared for such a comprehensive review of the Ottawa Agreement as our representatives were pressing for. The issues involved were important and complex and there was no easy meeting of views between the two governments. However, when the talks were adjourned in the latter part of July, the principles of a new agreement could be discerned.
The next step was a resumption of the talks in October to carry forward the development of the main points. After many meetings, marked at times by frank exchanges, the heads of a new trade agreement were finally negotiated and these were signed in London on 9th November. The final step was the drawing up in Canberra of the detailed text of the formal agreement. This was completed in February last and is now before the Senate. The negotiations were not simple. Before progress could be made, it had to be strongly emphasized toUnited Kingdom Ministers that the Government was determined to secure a thoroughly new basis for our trade relations with the United Kingdom, and a new coverage in the replacing agreement that we sought.
I have stated what the objectives were in these negotiations. In the agreement, our export trade to the United Kingdom has been protected in four positive ways. In the first place, we retain for Australian exports to the United Kingdom the same rights to duty-free entry as were provided under the Ottawa Agreement. This applies to nearly all our exports to the United Kingdom. Secondly, all of the tariff preferences that were bound to us under the old agreement have been re-bound in the new one. To the extent that these preferences are expressed in terms of specific money values such as with butter, eggs, milk products and some fruits, we have had to accept that they could not be restored to their former degree of value. As explained, United Kingdom membership of Gatt obstructed this. A number of other important exports, including cheese, canned fruit, and canned meat, enjoy preferences expressed in percentage terms and are not affected in this way. The retention of all the preferences, however, is of definite value in a world of sharpening competition.
In addition to the renewal of commitments on these preferences, we were also able to secure from the United Kingdom guaranteed preferences that were previously non-contractual on currants, egg powder and egg pulp, jam, rice, tomato juice, pineapple juice, and in the interests of PapuaNew Guinea producers, coconut oil. Thirdly, the new trade agreement in no way touches Australia’s rights under the fifteenyear meat agreement. All rights negotiated at Ottawa in respect of meat are retained.
The fourth step in protecting our export trade is the wheat arrangement. In the pre-war. years the United Kingdom bought more than 1,000,000 tons of wheat a year from us. In the last three years, that has fallen to an average of 550,000 tons. The explanation of this diminished buying is, first, a great expansion of local production in Britain resulting from price support policies, and, secondly, the acute competition in reecnt years which Australian fa.q. wheat has suffered from foreign governments’ subsidized wheat exports. We sought to meet this situation on a principle. We proposed that protection of each other’s trade against the competition of government-subsidized exports of other countries should be a mutual obligation under the agreement. This was not acceptable to the United Kingdom, but on this point it is provided that each country shall have legislation capable of being invoked to protect the other’s trade against dumping or export subsidies by third countries.
In this way, we have secured recognition in the trade agreement of a principle of great importance to Australian export trade. On the immediate trade problem, the important agreement on wheat that was secured assures a market in the United Kingdom over the next five years of at least 750,000 tons f.a.q. wheat or flour equivalent annually. Any high protein wheat which we might sell to the United Kingdom, and for which there is a ready market, would not be counted against the 750,000 tons obligation. The Australian Wheat Board was consulted throughout. A grower member of the board and an officer of the board were present in London during the negotiations. Assurance of an annual market of 28,000,000 bushels of f.a.q. wheat represents a very important advantage for the Australian wheat industry. It avoids the disadvantages which Australia has suffered through fixed price long-term wheat sales. I am assured that the Australian Wheat Board regards this provision as a very valuable achievement.
On the import side the new minimum margins of preference which it was agreed to give United Kingdom goods are set forth in Article 7 of the agreement. Briefly, producer goods are subject to a minimum preference of 7i per cent. Producer goods here means plant and machinery, raw materials and goods for further processing. The tariff items for these goods are listed in Schedule B. We have also undertaken to accord minimum preferences of 7i per cent, where the British preferential duty is free or does not exceed 10 per cent., and to give a preference of 10 per cent, where the British preferential duty is more than 10 per cent. In general, the Ottawa Agreement provided for minimum preferences of 12i per cent., 15 per cent., or 17i per cent, according to the level of the British preferential duty. There were, however, goods on which the Ottawa Agreement required us to maintain preferences in favour of the United Kingdom of 20 per cent, and 25 per cent., or in a few cases, even more.
In the new minimum margins of preference of 7i per cent, and 10 per cent, the Government has therefore secured under the new agreement a very considerable degree of freedom to move in the customs tariff that it sought. It will now be possible to effect an important easing of the cost load of Australian industry in respect of imported goods. Australian costs will not, of course, be reduced solely as the direct result of reductions in import duties against foreign goods. We can also expect significant savings from the sharpening of competition between United Kingdom and foreign manufacturers as preferences are narrowed towards the new minimum levels of preference. The Government will also have a very valuable field of possible tariff reductions for the purpose of bargaining concessions with other countries to secure new openings for our exports in their markets. Tariff changes towards the level of the new preference obligations are expected to take place over a period of time. The freedom to reduce duties on goods from foreign countries was sought for the two motives already stated - for cost reductions and for trade negotiations. These motives will govern the reductions in existing tariffs against foreign goods, which will not be made in any wholesale or ill-considered way. It is expected that during this session tariff proposals related to the cost production objective will be introduced to reduce the duties against foreign goods of a kind not produced in Australia. Among these items will be included some by-law items of the tariff and a number of other items where the British preferential tariff is free.
In the field of trade treaty negotiations we will be turning to possible reductions in the rate of duty against foreign goods.
Many of these rates are at levels that have no regard to protective requirements. The British preferential rate is in fact the protective column for the overwhelming majority of Australian industries. Where protection of Australian industry is an issue the Government regards the Tariff Board as the established instrument. The provisions of the Ottawa Agreement concerning the fixing of protective duties following inquiry and report by the Tariff Board have been retained in the new agreement. 1 have already referred to the by-law question involving the suspension of a preference on the ground that the goods concerned are not commercially available from United Kingdom production. The United Kingdom Government will continue to be consulted before any particular margin of preference is suspended under the relevant by-law item, but there is clear recognition under the new agreement that it is the Australian Minister concerned who decides the issue. Undue delay is eliminated.
There is another group of subjects which, because of their nature, do not readily lend themselves to explicit or contractual arrangements. These questions, however, have an importance in our total trading relationship with the United Kingdom. The use of anti-dumping or countervailing duties to protect each other’s trade is one of these questions which I have already spoken about. The United Kingdom’s own agricultural policies, which have such an effect on the United Kingdom market for wheat, meat and other products, are another. There are also questions of shipping. Questions relating to United Kingdom imports of American primary products under aid or concessional programmes and aspects of restrictive business practices are also in the list of these items. The new agreement provides for consultation between the two governments on these matters at the request of either.
The negotiations were long, difficult, and complex. Indeed, without a high degree of technical skill and administrative experience, successful negotiation of such a treaty would be impossible, or perhaps dangerous, to attempt. I mention this to pay a proper tribute to the officials of the Government who worked on the negotiations. The officials in the delegation and those involved in the preparatory work in
Australia, and in advising the Cabinet during the absence of the delegation, were officers of the Departments of Trade, Customs and Excise, Primary Industry and of other departments. The bulk of the work and responsibility, of course, fell upon the leader of the officials, Mr. J. G. Crawford, Secretary, Department of Trade. In this work Mr. Crawford added to the reputation that he has already established for himself in international negotiations and the Government, and all the parties who will benefit from this new trade treaty, are indebted to him for his invaluable contribution.
The agreement is for a five-year term subject after that period to termination at six months’ notice. The operation of the agreement may be reviewed from time to time and there is definite provision for the whole agreement to be the subject of negotiation during the fifth year.
To sum up the provisions of this agreement, the principle of reciprocal tariff preference is maintained. All contractual preferences for our exports are renewed and some preferences are now for the first time made contractual. Duty free entry rights are preserved for our exports. On wheat a new situation of definite value is created. There is new scope through tariff action to lower the Australian cost structure. There is new bargaining room in trade negotiations with foreign countries. Delays and other irritations in the operation of by-law procedures have been removed. The position of the Tariff Board is maintained. In a number of problems that have arisen in recent years in our trade relations with the United Kingdom we now have provision for consultation.
This agreement restores balance in reciprocal preference. To maintain the tempo of our national development there must be a stable economic base. This new treaty with our greatest trading partner is a solid contribution to stability in our international trading.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Customs Act 1901-1954, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators are requested to consider a bill now presented to amend the Customs Act1901-1954 in respect of certain matters concerning customs securities, the boarding of aircraft, the control of persons on wharfs and airports and the enforcement of penalties under the act. A further amendment relates to the period of operation of a customs warrant.
In regard to securities, it is proposed first to modernize section 21 relating to the carriage of goods by railway vehicles. At present the section provides that the principal official of any railway may give security for the custody of customable goods carried on the railway, and on the giving of such security all carriages are deemed to be licensed to carry the goods. The position has developed whereby railway authorities in some parts of the Commonwealth now use road vehicles for the carriage of goods in conjunction with rail vehicles. To meet this position, it is proposed to amend section 21 so that both classes of vehicles operated by the railway may be deemed to be licensed for the carriage of customable goods. At the same time the specific provisions relating to the giving of security by the railway authority will be omitted from the section. The revenue will be protected by the new provisions proposed in clause 5 of this bill, that is, in proposed new section 35a of the Customs Act.
The second amendment relating to securities, that is, proposed new section 35a, will attach to a person who has been entrusted with the possession, custody or control of dutiable goods the responsibility for paying the duty on any goods which are not kept safely or are not accounted for to the satisfaction of the Collector of Customs. Honorable senators may recall that in 1952 the Distillation Act and the Excise Act were amended in this manner. Following those enactments, it became unnecessary except in special circumstances for many persons having custody, control or possession of excisable goods to furnish securities to the Department of Customs and Excise in respect of duty payable on the goods.
Experience has shown that the new practice has proved to be a great benefit to both the department and the public, and at the same time adequate protection to the revenue has been maintained. For these reasons it is considered desirable that a similar amendment be made to the Customs Act to enable many existing securities to be dispensed with.
In those cases where a security is mandatory, the types which may be accepted by the Department of Customs and Excise are specified in section 43. In some instances it is desirable that some other legal instrument, for example, a bond without surety, be accepted in lieu of the types of security authorized by the existing section. The inability of Collectors of Customs to depart from the requirements of section 43 can cause hardship to the individual giving the security. It is therefore proposed to widen the provisions of section 43 to give collectors discretion to take such type of security as they consider appropriate having regard to the circumstances of each case.
The final amendment proposed in regard to securities is to authorize the acceptance of a single security where duties payable under both the Customs Act and the Excise Act are involved.
As previously pointed out to honorable senators, it is intended to add a new section to the act so that customs securities may be dispensed with in certain instances. However, where security must be taken, experience has shown that it is often in respect of both customs and excise duties. The provisions of each of these acts require a separate security to be given covering goods subject to each respective act. The new provisions will enable the taking of a combined security.
The master of a ship from overseas is required in terms of section 60 (1) of the Customs Act to bring his ship to for boarding at the boarding station appointed under the act for the port at which he enters. Under section 60 (2) the pilot of an aircraft arriving in Australia is required to bring his aircraft for boarding to the airport nearest to the place at which he enters Australia, but there is no provision to require the pilot to bring his aircraft to the boarding station appointed at the airport. It is proposed to insert such a provision and thus bring the position as regards aircraft into line with the requirements relating to ships.
A further aspect is that aircraft operating regular international services to Australia are permitted to by-pass the airport nearest to the point of entry and to land at the Australian airport specified in the itinerary approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. If the provisions of section 60 (2) regarding place of landing were strictly enforced the airlines concerned would be caused undue hardship and expense without any useful purpose being served. The proposed amendment will bring requirements into line with permitted present-day practice whereby aircraft operating regular services may land at the airport shown on their approved itinerary.
Section 199 of the act provides that a customs warrant in Schedule IV. to the act relative to the entry and search of premises shall remain in operation for a period of six months. Certain officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are required to be in possession of customs warrants for long periods, whereas other officers require warrants for short periods to meet particular circumstances. The proposed amendment will authorize the person issuing the warrant to specify the period of its duration in accordance with appropriate circumstances.
By Act 108 of 1952, a new section, 234a, was inserted in the Customs Act to provide that unauthorized persons may be refused access to any ship, aircraft, wharf or examination place until the baggage of passengers arriving or departing on the ship or aircraft has been examined by the Customs. This action, which enables the number of visitors to be controlled, was taken as a means of protecting the revenue, of minimizing smuggling by passengers and visitors and of expediting the clearance of passengers’ baggage.
Under the terms of the present sect on. persons who have the control or mana ement of a wharf or airport, and their employees, in the course of their official duties, could be required to seek permission to be on any wharf or in any examination place at a time when passengers’ baggage was being examined. However, the Department of Customs and Excise has always recognized the right of those persons to enter a wharf or examination place in the course of their duties and has administratively exempted them from the provisions of section 234a. The proposed amendment will provide these persons with statutory rights, to enter those places at all times in the course of their duties.
Sections 258, 258a and 260 lay down certain procedures which apply in the event of non-payment of penalties imposed for offences against the Customs Act.
Section 258 provides that a court may gaol a convicted person until the penal ;y is paid, may release him upon his giving security for the payment of the penalty, or may exercise, for the enforcement and recovery of the penalty, any power of distress or execution possessed by the court. Section 258a provides that an offender who gives security in accordance with section 258 may be committed to gaol if the penalty is not paid and it is not practicable or desirable to enforce the security. Section 260 specifies the conditions under which a person committed to gaol for nonpayment of a penalty shall be released.
The Crown Law authorities have indicated that these sections have caused difficulties in their application. Ons of thedifficulties is that the courts are prevented from allowing persons convicted of offences against the act, time to pay penalties or to pay penalties by instalments. Thoseauthorities consider it preferable for the matters covered by the three sections to be left to ordinary powers of enforcement of penalties of the courts under their State legislation. Sections 68 and 79 of the Judiciary Act would provide for the application of State laws if sections 258, 258a :ind 260 were repealed and this action is. proposed.
The bill is commended to honorable senators for their favorable attention.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Explosives Act 19S2.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Since the Parliament passed the Explosives Act, in 1952, some doubts have been raised about the correct legal interpretation of certain terms relating to the berthing of ships, and also whether the act makes sufficiently certain the power to require by regulation that a berth provided by a port authority for a vessel berthing by order is suitable for the purpose specified in the order. Sub-section (1)(B) of section 6 of the Explosives Act 1952 provides that the regulations may empower a person to direct by order that a vessel in which Commonwealth explosives are, or are to be, loaded may be “ moored “ or “ berthed “ in a port specified in the order. Some differences of opinion have arisen as to the correct legal interpretation of the words “ moored “ and “ berthed “ appearing in that section.
There is no clear differentiation between these terms, and it has been suggested that, as matters now stand, the requirements of an order would be met if a vessel were moored at an anchorage. The purpose of the provision in the act, however, is to ensure that, to meet defence requirements, a vessel shall be berthed at a wharf where the facilities are available for handling that particular consignment, or for handling other cargo when Commonwealth explosives are on board a vessel. The bill before the Senate will resolve these differences of opinion by leaving out the word “ moored “. It will also place beyond doubt the power to ensure by regulation that a vessel is provided with a berth which is suitable for handling the cargo it carries.
Since the passing by the Parliament of the Explosives Act 1952 it has been found necessary on 50 occasions for orders to he made directing that a ship in which Commonwealth explosives were loaded, or were to be loaded or discharged, should be berthed in a specified port. This action was necessary for three principal reasons. Action was taken, first, because the normal facilities provided by the State could not be made available to handle the quantity of Commonwealth explosives in a particular consignment because itwould result in serious delay to shipments of commercial explosives. In such cases, State authorities have requested that the vessel be berthed at a commercial wharf under authority of an order. Secondly, action was taken because a ship carrying Commonwealth explosives had to berth at an intermediate port to work ordinary commercial cargo, and thirdly, because an urgent defence requirement could not be delayed for the time required to load by lighters. Orders made on those occasions have been tabled in the Senate, as is required by section 6 of the act.
In every other case of Commonwealth explosives being shipped through Australian ports where the particular circumstances previously mentioned did not apply, the explosives have been handled through the explosives anchorages or wharfs established by the State authorities. In all cases, the port authorities are consulted before an order is made, and, recognizing the paramount needs of defence, the port authorities generally have co-operated fully with the Commonwealth departments concerned to provide berths suitable for the loading or discharge, as the case required. Whilst it is proposed to continue to consult the port authorities before an order is made, it is felt that the importance of ensuring the expeditious and safe handling of explosives needed for the defence of the country demands that any doubts existing as to the efficacy of the Commonwealth’s authority to require by order that a vessel be provided with a suitable berth should be placed beyond doubt. In respect of some made-up explosives required at Woomera, the explosive content is small, but the mechanism is so delicate that off-loading into lighters at an open anchorage could cause extensive damage. Only the defence authorities are competent to judge the need for berthing at a commercial wharf, and the bill proposes, therefore, to provide for the making of a regulation which will ensure that a suitable berth is provided where necessary.
Before regulations under this sub-section are promulgated, the Port Authorities Association will be given the opportunity, as is provided for in section 5 (3) of the act, to make recommendations to the Minister.
It is not proposed to vest any officer with unrestricted authority to exercise the power contained in sub-section (Ia). The regulations will provide that these powers will be invoked only in the case of failure on the part of a port authority to provide a suitable berth for a vessel loaded with, or to load explosives urgently required for, the defence of the Commonwealth. 1 commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 445), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, dated 2nd April, 1957.
– I last addressed myself to this subject on 10th April, on which occasion I occupied approximately one-half of the time allotted to me under the Standing Orders. Honorable senators will, therefore, be relieved to-night to know that my time is limited indeed.
On the former occasion I expressed some regret that there had been further references to the highly contentious matter of the intervention by Britain and France in the Middle East situation. I still feel that such references, either then or now, can do a great disservice to the relations between the United States of America and Britain, and, therefore, I regret that some rather uncharitable statements were made regarding the relinquishing of office by Sir Anthony Eden as Prime Minister of Britain. Whatever may be the rights or wrongs of his action in the Middle East, I think that every member of this chamber will agree that his whole record, up to that time at least, proved him to be a man of peace. In his mind there must have been a good reason for the action taken at that time. I believe that all honorable senators will agree with me when I express the hope that the sickness from which he is suffering, and which is very real indeed, will come to a speedy end, and that he will be restored to health.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I hope that we have heard the last of such uncharitable remarks. But what of the present, and what of the future? Events are running so fast in the Middle East that one is confused from day to day as to the present position, and what might be the position to-morrow or thenext day. Events inJordan have been occurring with great rapidity and it is almost completely beyond this Senate to keep abreast of these happenings. However, I think perhaps we in this Parliament should be very proud, or glad, of the stand which the young King Hussein has seen fit to take against what is undeniably Communist infiltration in his country. Expressing my own opinion, I feel glad that the United States has at the moment seen fit to interest itself in that problem, and agrees that the present state of emergency is one in which it can take any action required under what has becomeknown as the Eisenhower doctrine. 1 want now to refer to the present position in regard to the Suez Canal, and the attitude of the United States and the UnitedNations. There is no doubt that Israel was invited and encouraged to relinquish the hardly won positions it held - the last twostrongholds in the Gaza strip and on the Gulf of Aqaba. There is no doubt that Israel was offered certain inducements, or at least was piously given hopes by those people who were urging it to leave. We know Israel did leave. One has a right toask, and one wonders, what is to happen in regard to these inducements and encouragements which were given to Israel. We should remind ourselves that on 20th February President Eisenhower himself said that no one should assume that Egypt in the future would prevent Israeli shipping from going through the Gulf of Aqaba or the Suez Canal. We believe that President Eisenhower himself addressed a letter to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion of Israel assuring him that his counry would have no cause to regret the withdrawal that the United States was then urging. Israel has a right at this moment to expect some indication that those promises were not empty words.
I think the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly of 2nd November, 1956, called on all parties at that time to guarantee that this freedom of shipping would be restored to all parties. That was nothing less than a call or a demand toPresident Nasser to abide by that decision of the General Assembly, but we find at this moment that Nasser is the last one to accept that resolution as being mandatory- on him. During the last few days, he has shown no evidence that he will obey the resolution; the indications are rather to the contrary. He is certainly showing no willingness or inclination to encourage freedom of shipping to anybody, let alone Israel. In saying what I am about the State of Israel, I am not suggesting that all the virtues repose in that nation. Israel has probably sinned in the past, but, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said, it has been far more sinned against in recent days than sinning. It certainly has the right to expect freedom for its shipping through the vital passages to which I have made reference.
In addition to Nasser’s refusal to agree to these matters we are faced with the fact that Mr. Hammarskjoeld, the General Secretary of the United Nations, has failed in his mission and in his talks with President Nasser - talks which lasted over a considerable period. What will happen in the United Nations is a very open question. Since the failure of these negotiations and direct talks with Nasser, what is the next step we can expect in this very important matter? 1 see in this a great principle, which not only affects Israel, as it does at the moment, but which concerns the United Nations itself. I am merely using Israel as an illustration to show the position of the United Nations in the world at the present dme. 1 am appalled, and I use the word advisedly, when I reflect that the United Nations seems to be completely powerless and impotent to face up to any Power, either great or small, which sees fit to defy it and to continue in such defiance. That is being proved in the case of Nasser as it has been proved in more recent days in other places.
– ls the honorable senator in favour of the abolition of the United Nations?
– That is the last thing I want to see. Honorable senators opposite would like to think that I am in favour of its abolition, but that is the last thing in my mind. I am glad of the interjection because it gives me the opportunity to be very definite on that point. I am simply trying to discover ways and means by which the United Nations can obtain the strength it so obviously lacks.
– Does the honorable senator suggest it should be vested with military power?
– I am going to deal with that particular point. I do not believe that the child-like faith in the United Nations of honorable senators opposite is justified in view of what has happened and is happening. They suggest that we should leave this matter to the United Nations, but they offer no further suggestion. I hope, in the few moments I have left to me, to offer some suggestions. Before I do so, let me briefly consider what Israel can expect from the United Nations. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said that the matter has now gone back to the United Nations, and that it should never have been taken from it by Britain, France and Israel. Let us leave Britain and France out of this. I ask, however: What has Israel to expect from the United Nations? For six years it has stood by and seen Egypt defy a decision of the United Nations ordering Egypt to restore freedom of shipping to Israel. There is no gainsaying that fact. Israel is aware that the Arab countries are intent on its destruction. They have said so in direct terms. Israel is also aware that the Arab countries have a population approximately ten times that of its own, and that in Egypt in 1956 a military agreement was signed by three of the nations surrounding it - Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan - providing for a military pact and an army to be formed under the leadership of an Egyptian general. Israel is aware of these things; yet we are content to stand back and say to Israel, “ Place your faith in the United Nations! There is nothing else you can do”. In view of the grave injustice which Israel has suffered in this matter I ask: Is that all we can say to Israel?
As I have already said, Israel is faced with the fact that there seems to be a determination on the part of Nasser to continue, in defiance of the United Nations, to restrict its shipping. The United Nations will accept this position at its peril. It cannot escape another major defeat, which will occur if Nasser is allowed to continue to defy the United Nations and everybody else in this matter.
I have been asked what I recommend in order to strengthen the position of the United Nations. It must be strengthened. It has to become an instrument for protection against war, and the whole world earnestly hopes that it will become such an instrument. But it has to be strengthened before it is too late. I suggest four things. Honorable senators may not agree with me, but .1 offer these suggestions merely as my own opinion. First, I think that any nation which defies a Security Council determination should be suspended from membership of the Security Council, if it happens to be a member of that body, and from membership of the General Assembly also, and that the suspension should continue to apply while that nation remains in continuous defiance of a resolution passed against it. There may be members of this chamber who do not agree with my contention. Nevertheless, I believe that this is one step that should be taken in order to strengthen the United Nations in any attempt to bring pressure to bear on the nation concerned.
asked me by interjection whether 1 would favour a police force - I shall put it that way - which would be available to the United Nations. That is the very thing that I do want to advocate to-night. The difficulties associated with the establishment of such a police force are apparent. I have not sufficient time in which to enumerate them, and I shall content myself with saying that I believe that an international police force should be established. It is of no use for the United Nations merely to pass pious resolutions, however well-intentioned they may be, because it is quite obvious that a nation that chooses to defy such resolutions gets away -with it. In my humble opinion, the only way to meet such a position is to show some force - to show that the United Nations is in a position to enforce decisions properly made by it. All signatories to the United “Nations Charter, including Australia, must be prepared to subscribe to, and make contributions towards, such an international force. I have no idea of the desirable size, or of the probable cost of establishing and maintaining an international police force. I am simply advocating a principle in which I firmly believe. 1 think that this is the only way to make the United Nations the effective body that we all firmly hope and trust it will become before it is too late.
I believe that there should be a modification of the right of veto in the Security Council. When we remember that Russia has exercised the veto 67 times, France four times, the United Kingdom twice, and free China probably once, we realize the extent to which the veto has been used by Russia and her satellites for self-interest. That position must be modified. I know that there are extreme difficulties associated with this matter. If an implementing measure ever came before the Security Council, Russia would probably exercise its power of veto. That is a very grave difficulty in the way of altering the constitution of the Security Council. Nevertheless, it has to be attempted. We cannot stand by and see a unanimous decision of the General Assembly or of the Security Council - unanimous except for one vote - vetoed, as has been done in the past, without trying to do something about the matter.
I agree with the contention that my colleague, Senator McCallum, voiced the other night, that some of these matters cannot be properly decided in the General Assembly, because of the atmosphere of prejudice and hate that exists there. Prejudice undoubtedly exists in the General Assembly. Such matters must be referred for decision to the International Court of Justice. As my time is almost exhausted, 1 shall conclude by emphasizing that I am one who realizes the tremendous value of the United Nations in connexion with the matters that have been referred to by my colleague, Senator Marriott, and Senator Benn on the other side. We all appreciate the tremendous work in the name of humanity that is carried on by certain United Nations’ organizations, but in the supreme matter of assuring world peace, for which every normal person longs, I think that the United Nations itself has to be strengthened. Towards that end, I have submitted my humble contribution for what it is worth.
.- The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in the statement that he delivered in another place, confined himself mainly to a consideration of the Middle East and of South-East Asia. We realize that the canvass of foreign affairs is too big for the Minister to deal with effectively in one statement, but we cannot help feeling some regret that such vital matters as those concerning Hungary have not been adequately dealt with, and that such problems as the present position in the Antarctic, which could seriously affect Australia’s future, have not been explained to us as they should have been. Doubtless, the Minister thought that he should concentrate his thoughts on the two areas of the globe that most affect our security - the Middle East and South-East Asia. 1 shall, therefore, consider what he said in relation to the situation in those two areas.
It is not wise for us to attempt to dogmatize in regard to international affairs to-day, because we all know that governments are acquainted with quite a number of confidential matters which, if we knew about them, would affect vitally our consideration of these questions. Therefore, in what I have to say I hope not to be dogmatic, but merely to state the point of view of one who has attempted to inform himself of the situation from all available sources. Any one who, like myself, regards what has happened in the Middle East as merely an example of the present conflict between communism and the democracies, cannot help coming to the conclusion that it is idle to deny that the cause of democracy has suffered a grave defeat as a result of events in the Middle East during the last six months. Strategically, and from the viewpoint of prestige, the democracies were gravely defeated. Any defeat of democracy is tantamount to a defeat of ourselves.
Let us, therefore, consider the results of events in the Middle East. First of all, the Suez Canal has been lost. It can now be closed unilaterally, because possession of it has been almost conceded to Nasser’s Egypt. Obviously, Nasser will be supplied by the Soviet Union with arms to effectively fortify the whole of the area. I am one who thinks that the present attitude of the British Government towards Cyprus, which appears to indicate that we may pull out of that area, derives from a feeling that if Suez has gone, Cyprus is no longer necessary. We may, and I think we probably will, be involved in a serious economic threat to our export industries. One of the reasons why Colonel Nasser took action in regard to the Suez Canal was a lack of money. He now insists that any dues payable by ships going through the Canal shall be paid direct to Egyptian representatives. One way in which he can make money, once he is conceded full control of the canal, is by raising dues on freight carried by ships passing through the canal. I predict that Australia will be vitally affected within the next few years by higher charges imposed on ships passing through the Suez Canal.
Colonel Nasser has been set up as a leader in the Moslem world. I am one of those who say that if there are two influences which are advancing their prestige and power in the world to-day, they are international communism and the Moslem religion. Nasser has been set up as an Arab leader - as a Moslem leader if you will. He will become a person of considerable influence in international affairs. His record as a dictator in his own country indicates, that he is not the kind of person to be entrusted with such power and influence. Once again, the Soviet Union has extendedits influence over the Middle East and the Arabic nations. The fact that it stood side by side with Egypt and Syria is being contrasted in that area, where prestige matters so much, with the fact that the democracies did not stand side by side with Israel. The conclusion is being drawn that the Soviet can be trusted to fight for itsallies and the others cannot be trusted todo so.
The Soviet has achieved a bridge toAfrica which has been regarded by the democracies as a possible base for action, in the event of a world conflict. It is noteworthy that almost as soon as the new British Commonwealth nation of Ghana, was set up it was approached by the Soviet Union for the purpose of establishing international relations and for the exchange of cultural visits.
Israel remains a potential danger spot’ and an almost inevitable cause of war because, irrespective of what anybody mi’:h say, when the Arabic countries surrounding Israel believe that they are sufficiently armed, and when they believe they can trust to the backing of Russia, they will inevitably take action to blot out what they regard as a sore spot in the Moslem world.
Looking at the oil situation, we have toconcede the fact that, because the Suez: Canal is in Egyptian territory, it could beseized regardless of contracts previouslymade by the Government of Egypt. Having conceded that to one Arabic country, the- other Arabic countries, which contain oil that is essential for the defence services and the industrial undertakings of the Western Powers, can claim that they must be conceded also the right to seize and nationalize the oil wells regardless of international contracts.
I would be the last to deny the power of the international oil industry in the world to-day. We have just seen in our own country an example of its power because it has been a principal factor in bringin about the expulsion from his party of a Labour Premier, and the future destruction of a Labour government. But even the international oil industry will be unable to prevent the Arab nations from taking the same action with oil as Nasser took with the Suez Canal when they make up their minds to do so. When they seize that oil, or if’ they deprive the Western democracies of access to it, the industries of the Western democracies will not be able to function, and their defence services will be put out of action.
No problems have been solved by what has happened in the Middle East. The problems are worse now than they would have been if Great Britain and France had been hacked when they went into the Suez Can:’.l area. The problems would have been easier of solution now if those countries had gone forward and completed the job they had started. I believe they could have justified their action on the ground that the fairest of offers was made to Egypt for a form of internationalization of the Suez Canal. In spite of the fact that Egypt had broken its contracts and had taken military action in entering the Suez Canal zone against them, the countries concerned mad fair offers which were refused by Egypt
However, not the influence of Russia, despite the threats it had made, and not the United Nations, but the influence of the United States caused Great Britain and France to halt the action they had undertaken. We are now faced with a situation where we have to attempt to work through a body, whose power to enforce its decisions is very doubtful, in order to obtain those objectives which are necessary if we are going to get free use of the canal or any international control of it in future years. I know there are many persons who have confidence in the United Nations. It has been suggested that those who have confidence in the United Nations are all on the Opposition side of this Parliament. That, of course, is not so. I remember that when the United Nations organization was set up, the Minister for Labour and Industry in the Labour government of the day, the present honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), made this statement -
I have never had any great faith in international bodies composed of representatives of nations representing different ideologies. I am not optimistic about them whether they are termed the United Nations or the League of Nations.
That opinion was concurred in to a large extent by Senator Cameron when he participated in this debate. For what it is worth, we are entitled to back the United Nations, because it offers some prospect of world peace, and I do back it. But I say that the nations which comprise the United Nations organization have an obligation to call upon it to make a firm stand to ensure that the canal is free, and that means free to the ships of Israel as well as to the ships of other nations. They have an obligation also to insist that the security of Israel shall be maintained.
At present it is a matter of bargaining. Nasser is in a better position to bargain than are his opponents because, while he is bargaining, he has no opposition in the Egyptian Government attacking him and telling him that it will oppose anything he believes necessary in his own national interests. He is able to conduct his diplomacy without any opposition from within his own ranks, but I say that Nasser must be stood up to. The United Nations and the other nations must insist that the canal is free, and that the security of Israel is maintained. They must not allow appeals to nationalism to suggest that Nasser has the right to do what he likes with the Suez Canal. I believe that the United Nations acted badly when it yielded to pleas by Nasser that it was contrary to the national rights of Egypt that ships carrying slaves from the Sudan to Arabia for the harems of the potentates there should be searched by ships of the British Navy. I believe that, as the British Navy has done great work in putting down that sort of trade for many years, the United Nations was wrong in supporting Nasser in that matter on the grounds of nationalism.
Nationalism is a good thing, and so is patriotism, provided they are based on good principles. In the case of the Suez Canal it is a good principle that the canal should be free as an international waterway. It is a good principle that Israel, established as an independent nation, should have its security maintained. The United Nations must stand up to those two principles irrespective of the cost.
References have been made to Sir Anthony Eden. I regret that he has been attacked. I have not agreed with many of the actions he has taken, and I have strongly opposed many of them, but I must say that his action in connexion with the Suez Canal was in accordance with the rest of his political career. At least he can say that, throughout his political career, he has always taken a stand against all forms of dictatorship whether they were in the names of Mussolini, Hitler or Nasser.
I regret that it has been said that if Britain had not acted in the Middle East, the Russians might have stayed out of Hungary. I have spoken to many Hungarians who have come to this country, and honorable senators will not find one of them who will accept that point of view. When the rebellion first broke out in Hungary, I was interviewed by two young Hungarians who sought assistance to obtain passports and other facilities because they wanted to get back to their own country to fight. They were prepared to pay their own air fares to get there. I said to them, “ Are you wise? You have set yourselves up in Australia. It will cost all your savings tq return to Hungary. There is a report in the press that the Russians are moving out.” They assured me with the utmost sincerity that, having known the Russians before they escaped from Hungary, they knew definitely that the Russians were not leaving their country. f have spoken to Hungarians and they have informed me that the reason for the apparent Russian retreat was this: When the rebellion broke out, the Russian troops were scattered in a number of areas and it was necessary for them to be drawn back in order to be regrouped. But one of the main reasons pointed out was this: A considerable number of the Russian troops in Hungary consisted of Ukrainians, and for years there has been, and still is, a strong Ukrainian freedom movement - a movement among the Ukrainian people who believe that their country should be free and independent of Russia. Those Hungarians to whom I have referred have told me that, when the rebellion broke out, in quite a number of instances the Ukrainian troops fired on the secret police who were attempting to put down the rebellion, and that a number of those troops joined the Hungarian rebellion. Then the Russian high command withdrew a large number of Ukrainian regiments as being politically unreliable and replaced them with Mongolian troops, who eventually drowned the rebellion in blood.
Turning now to Southern Asia and SouthEast Asia, I mention that the Minister for External Affairs, in his statement, made a brave attempt to suggest that there had been an improvement in the position of the democracies in that area. I regret that I am entirely unable to accept his statement. I believe that the position of the democracies in that area is still one of grave weakness and that in certain areas, notably Indonesia, it has deteriorated considerably. A number of small nations such as Thailand and South Viet Nam are looking to the future, and in many instances their peoples will determine their future conduct according to what they believe will be the attitude of the democracies. If they believe that we will be strong, they will try to put up a fight; but if they believe that we will be weak - and they think that we were weak in the Middle East - the tendency will be for them to accept a Communist thrust southwards as being inevitable, and to give way to it. Therefore, if we want to hold any sort of line at all in South-East Asia, it is necessary for us to stand firm, to resist appeasement, and to hold the line.
I believe that one of the first things that are necessary in order to hold the line is to refuse recognition to red China. There have been suggestions that we should aline ourselves, for example, with the action that was taken by the British Government some years ago when it recognized red China. But I think we should have some regard for the reasons why Britain took that action. I have always been in entire agreement with the statement that was made by the late Mr. Chifley, on 23rd March, 1950, when he said, in another place, that the United
Kingdom had recognized the Communist Government of China for the real reason that British capital, amounting to £300,000,000, was invested in China and that the investors wanted some authority to which they could make representations or to which representations could be made on their behalf. Britain’s attitude was understandable. She had sacrificed her overseas investments in two great wars for our defence and for the defence of the British Commonwealth. I should be the last to criticize her for feeling that some attempt should be made to rescue something of what was left, although I feel that that view was unrealistic and that no deal at all could be made in regard to British investments in red China with the type of people who took over the government of that country.
If we recognize red China, we will concede the leadership of Asia to that country and will give a hint that will be interpreted by the nations which we hope will line up with us against the march of communism that the day of Chinese or Communist domination is coming and that the best thing they can do is to make terms with their future rulers. I say, therefore, that we should not recognize red China.
The question of trade has been raised. There is now a great drive which suggests that we should, indeed that we must, undertake big trading negotiations with the Chinese Government. Surely everybody realizes that we are already trading with red China. We are already trading with that country in a wide variety of goods, most of which are supposed not to be capable of being used against us in war. The interesting thing is that the biggest drive for trade with red China, not only in goods which cannot be used for war but also in goods which can be so used, comes from people who opposed the sending of pig iron to Japan prior to the last war because it might be fired back at us. Not only are articles which are supposed to be harmless being traded in. Let us be honest about it. Surely no one is going to suggest that the immense volume of goods which is now going to Hong Kong is being used entirely by the people of Hong Kong! Everybody knows that vast quantities of trading goods are being sent through Hong Kong into China, and that -by that means we are trading with that country to a very considerable extent.
As for the suggestion that we should establish all sorts of cultural relations with and have visits to red China, I can only say that my attitude is the same as it is in relation to the question of establishing relations with the present Soviet Government and of exchanging cultural relations with and paying trade union visits to that country. For obvious reasons, I would not be prepared to pay such a visit; but even if those obvious reasons did not exist, I would be ashamed to be entertained in such countries knowing as I do that their concentration camps are filled with thousands of people whose only crime was that they stood up for liberty, that they wished to practise their religion, or even that they wanted to establish free trade unions. To accept the hospitality of governments that act in such a way is to betray the cause of the people who fight for freedom in the countries which are behind the iron curtain. Until those countries are prepared to concede ordinary and elementary human rights, we should refuse to accept their invitations or to be present at their entertainments.
Regarding the future and what we are to do, I say this: We should support the Colombo plan strongly and, as far as we can, extend it, because it is desirable that we should do everything that we can to establish friendly relations with and to help along those nations which are on the democratic side of the curtain. I believe that we should support Seato, and that to attempt to undermine it is national sabotage. I believe, too, that we should encourage good relations with all the democratic nations, particularly those of South-East Asia and the Pacific area, and that we should stand alongside the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America, because our future security, freedom and defence depend upon them. We should strengthen our defences and do all’ we can to put strength and power into the United Nations.
I have no confidence at all in the suggestion that the way to peace in the future is to adopt what I describe as the pernicious doctrine of co-existence. What does coexistence mean? It means that we concede to international communism the control of millions of people who want to be free, the right to retain the slave camps, and tfr repress freedom wherever it has its hold.
There can be no co-existence with people who have the aims that are set out by the leaders of international communism in the books which they use as text-books in their schools and their military, naval and air academies. There will continue to be invitations to dine with Bulganin, Khrushchev, and the other red leaders. They will continue to make soothing offers, but at the same time they will keep insisting to their own people that there can never be coexistence or peace with what they call the capitalistic nations, that war is inevitable, that Communist domination will win and that it is inevitable. There is no possibility, I say, of co-existence succeeding under those conditions. 1 would propose, instead of co-existence, that we should place our faith in liberation. We should encourage the freedom-loving people, who are at present dominated by international communism, to look forward to the day when eventually they may be able to break into pieces this system that controls them. We should announce at once that we support the right to independence of the Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, White Rusia, and all those sections of Russia which contain people who are -opposed to the Russian imperialistic system which has held them for many years. We should say that we support their claims to independence. We should get behind us the millions of their kinsfolk who are existing at the present time in countries outside the iron curtain. If we were to do that, those people who are at the present time under the domination of the Soviet Union would be encouraged to free themselves of the shackles that bind them.
In this country, in the United States, and in every other country where people are free, organizations of people from countries now under Soviet control, tell us that those in the iron curtain countries outside Russia itself, on the fringe or in the satellite nations like the Ukraine, are not willing slaves of their Communist masters, and that if they thought the democracies were sincerely anxious to help them they would take their own measures. They have their own undergrounds. They have communication with their undergrounds. They would take their own measures to prepare for the day when they could make a move for independence :as the Hungarian people did. My own frank opinion is that we are only fooling with the question when we talk about co-existence, because to have a bargain for peace there must be people on both sides who wish for peace. I say, therefore, that the only alternatives are an atomic war, which we do not want, or the backing of the legitimate demands for independence of the’ people under Soviet rule at the present time, who are not the willing slaves that the Soviet would like us to believe them to be. The Communists get delegations from the democracies to visit their countries and parade them in front of people in the Ukraine, where there is a strong movement for independence, so that the Ukrainians will be made to think that it is hopeless to expect help from outside.
Therefore, I say that we should take a strong stand on this matter. We should say that we will establish a firm line, beyond which we will not allow Soviet aggression to proceed, and we should proclaim that we support the right for independence of all subject peoples of the Soviet. That would be a more logical approach than the one we are now adopting. It would be in accordance with the principles of true freedom, and it would not involve lying down with people whose record in the world to-day is one of repression, murder and tyranny.
In conclusion, I simply say that I believe that foreign affairs is the most important issue that we have to debate in our Parliaments at the present time. Unfortunately, that fact is too little recognized. In foreign relations - I do not refer to Australia particularly but to the democracies generally - in recent years there has been a slight tendency towards too much appeasement. I hope that that policy will be dropped, because I do not believe that appeasement will be any more successful to-day than it was frs earlier years. I hope that our foreign policy will be a strong one, that we will line up with all our natural allies, and that we will also adopt the practice of giving support to those people who are to-day under Soviet domination and who, I believe, if we give them hope and encouragement, will be prepared to put up the same sort of fight against it as the Hungarian people did.
.- If I have any criticism to offer of the speech to which we have just listened, it is that the speech covered most of the points with which 1 had intended to deal. It is a little difficult to follow with an almost identical speech.
– Great minds think alike!
– As an Opposition senator says, on almost every point I think exactly like the speaker to whom we have just listened. On this matter of foreign affairs, with which defence is inextricably entwined, if we look at the world to-day we will see focal point after focal point of danger and of quarrelling, and in almost all these points - indeed, in all but one of them - we will see that trouble, the danger of war and collision are arising because dissension has been deliberately stirred up by one or other of the great Communist countries.
Senator McManus dealt with the Middle East, but with your permission, sir, I want to emphasize again that in spite of what we have occasionally heard in this Senate of gratification with the outcome of recent events in the Middle East, in spite of a certain tendency to feel that the United Nations has had a victory there and that things are settled, we should realize that, in fact, nothing was settled in the Middle East. In fact, every explosive facet which existed before the adventure of Britain and France still exists, and at any moment there is likely to be another clash of arms. Egypt and Syria, every night over their radios, still, announce publicly their intention to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This hate campaign goes on constantly and continuously every day of the week. Israeli ships are still unable to pass through the Suez Canal. They are still threatened that they will be refused passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. Soviet troops are in Syria under the guise of volunteers. Egypt has been, and is being, re-armed. The arms given her previously by the Communist countries and captured by Israel in a lightning campaign are being replaced. The Gaza strip, from which the murder raids by the fellaheen into Israel took place, is still in the hands and under the control of the Egyptians, and it is admitted that the United Nations forces, such as they are, will remain in the area only until such time as Colonel Nasser says they must go. Mr. Hammarskjoeld, of the United Nations, agreed to the placing of the United Nations forces in that position under those conditions. The Russians are still stirring up trouble in the Middle East, in Jordan and in other places. In those circumstances, and with Egypt refusing constant requests by Israel for discussion, negotiation and abandonment of Egypt’s announced intention of annihilating Israel, it is quite clear that trouble may break out at any time in the Middle East. Israel is not going to allow herself to be attacked and assassinated, and I think that the United Nations has little upon which to pride itself in the effect of its intervention in that area. There is one point where war can break out and in respect of which defence and foreign affairs are of the essence of our debates in this Parliament.
Kashmir, in which I think the Communists are not concerned, is another place which at any moment could lead to a flare-up in the world. We have not heard a great deal about it lately, but we know that it is in great contention between India and Pakistan and we know that some of the Kashmiris are living under the domination of Pakistan troops and some under the domination of Indian troops. We know also that it has borders contiguous with China, and with Russia; and there again is a point where, at any time when the master, who is prepared to risk war, pulls the strings, a situation dangerous to the world could break out.
Coming closer to home, we have in Burma the incursions of Chinese Communist troops over the border, much to the distress of the Burmese, who have protested about them repeatedly. I think it fair to say that the border under consideration probably is not properly surveyed, but I think it fair to say also that if these great Communist countries have the desire to live in peace with their neighbours, if they have the desire to co-exist with them and to allow them to have their own identity, they will not send their troops over even disputed borders but will bring any dispute to the International Court of Justice or some other body of that kind rather than send their forces in against the wishes of the government.
We have an announced intention by the Communist Chinese to use force to regain Formosa - an intention which they have refused to repudiate, in spite of the constant pleas of Formosa and the United Nations.
There, and in other places closer, which I want to deal with later, there are poisonous focal points. I believe they are all due to Communist Russia, not because she is Russia, but because she is Communist, or to Communist China, not because she is China, but because she is Communist. In this area with which I have lately been dealing - the Far East - I think the future history of Australia will be decided.
Let me now talk about that area for a moment. I think that I should say, first of all, that I believe there has been more nonsense spoken about South-East Asia and Asia generally than about any other matter which is of interest to the people of Australia. It has almost been taken as an axiomatic statement of truth that Asia is an entity with one thought about any problem which may come up before it, that all Asians think the same on all matters and that their reactions to anything are the same throughout the whole of Asia and all the countries in it. That is completely and utterly untrue. The countries of Asia are just as different as the countries of Europe, and their people think just as differently as the peoples of the countries of Europe. Inside each separate country of Asia there are just as many forms of thought and just as many different approaches to problems as one would expect to find inside Australia, or inside any other European country.
The Vietnamese do not like or trust the Chinese, nor do the Malayans, nor, indeed, do the people of any of those countries of South-East Asia, all of which have Chinese minorities, who, by virtue of their ability, their willingness to work, and their acumen, have occupied positions of great strength in the economy of those countries and accordingly become disliked. The Thais are as different from the Malayans as the Hungarians are different from the Bulgarians. The Indonesians are quite different again, and so are the Burmese. Do not let us think of this area as being one populated entirely by the same sort of people all thinking the same way, and all with the same kind of reactions, because they are not; the countries are separate, and their peoples have completely different approaches.
Another thing which is constantly put before us and taken as axiomatic is the assertion that ali Asians are starving, that they go to bed every night with empty stomachs. Again, in the area which we are discussing, that is just simply not true. All those areas - Burma, Thailand, Viet Nam and Malaya - are rice-producing countries with export surpluses, and those who go there see that the people are well nourished, that they have plenty to eat, and that the food is cheap compared to the wages payable to artisans, or compared to the hours of work put in by the farmers in those areas.
Another thing which, apparently, is taken for granted is the fact that all Asians live under over-crowded conditions and have no room to move. Again, that is not true. Japan certainly may be over-crowded; India, particularly parts of India, may be over-crowded, and Ceylon may be overcrowded, but Burma has thousands of acres of land available for anybody to take up at any time. In the country itself, the people are not crowded or pushed close together. Thailand has thousands of square miles that could be thrown open to settlement by the people. In Viet Nam, the area which could produce has hardly been scratched. A personal friend of mine has been given by the President the responsibility of developing a large province near the border of Laos. Practically nobody lives there, and he proposes to open it up and put in roads, settlements and all the other things necessary to make it available for the increase in population which they expect.
In these countries of South-East Asia, there is a frontier still, perhaps the only frontier left in the world, where there is land which will grow food and on which people could live. So, I say that all these things which people tend to take for granted, these suggestions that people are starving, that they have not got room, that they all think the same way, are not true.
One of the other things which are not true, in my belief, is the suggestion that Mr. Nehru speaks for any of those countries in South-East Asia, with the possible exception of Indonesia. I would not know who speaks for Indonesia. Some speakers on foreign affairs suggest that we should follow Nehru and the Indian ‘Government completely in deciding what our policy should be. 1 cannot agree that they should be so flowed. What Nehru does in his own country “ is entirely within his right, and within his Government’s right, but I have, to support my belief that it is not for this country to accept the dictates and pleas of Mr. Nehru on foreign policy, a record of the Indian voting in the General Assembly of the United Nations on all the resolutions which were presented to that body on the subject of the Russian invasion of Hungary. There are nine resolutions altogether. 1 do not propose to read them all, but some of them will indicate the tenor of the whole of them.
There was one presented on 4th November calling on the Soviet Union to withdraw its forces from Hungary, and asking the Secretary-General to investigate the situation caused by foreign intervention in Hungary. That was adopted by the United Nations, 50 voting in favour, but India abstaining from voting. There was another resolution on 9th November - resolution 1005, calling again on the Soviet Union to withdraw from Hungary, and stating that free elections should be held in Hungary under United Nations auspices. There were 48 in favour of that resolution, eleven against it, with sixteen abstentions. India voted against it. There were six resolutions passed by the United Nations, all of them calling on Russia to withdraw, or to allow observers requested by the United Nations to enter and see what was going on. India either voted against all of those resolutions or abstained from voting on them. I do not question the right of India to take any stand it wishes to take, but in this great test case the position was different. It was a test case because it showed whether Russia did believe in the right of small nations to co-exist or to be neutral or whether Russia was prepared to use force to subjugate a people and wipe out a city to prevent any expression of the popular will. It was a test case, and I do not believe that we should follow a country which voted in that way on these matters and in other matters of international importance.
All these countries in the Far East of which I have been speaking lie under threat. South Viet Nam has been divided on the seventeenth parallel, and north of that are Communist armies which were used, when I was there fairly recently, to put down an insurrection by the people. At the time I was on the seventeenth parallel I spoke to people who had just escaped across the river to the freedom of the south. They told me, through an interpreter, of having seen villagers armed with pointed sticks deposing the two or three armed men whom the Communists had put in charge of every village in their area, and then going out in bands and marching along towards the provincial cities to demand from the administration there that elections be held throughout that area - elections that had been promised by Ho-Chi Minh, but had never been held. Others came later and told of seeing villagers with their sticks mowed down by automatic arms because they wanted to be able to express their will. Therefore, I say that the people of South Viet Nam are under threat by a completely ruthless power with large divisions and arms and well-known intentions. But they will not give in. South Viet Nam had a population of 10,000,000 before the Communists gained the north, and now has a population of over 11,000,000. The increased population is due largely to over 1,000,000 refugees having come .into the area from the north, some when communism first came to the north, and some after they had welcomed communism as an expression of nationalism, as they thought, and then experienced it, and had seen what tortures were inflicted on any one who opposed the regime, and what hardships were inflicted on those who accepted it and lived under it.
I agree entirely with my colleague on the other side of the House that, in the interests of the people of South Viet Nam, Thailand, Malaya and all that area generally, we must be prepared to give every economic help we can, and also every military help we can for which we are asked. I do not think, however, that a large armed formation, in this area will determine what happens there. A large armed formation, and agreements such as Seato, are necessary purely as counters against formations on the other side, but I doubt whether they will be used if the forces are in any sort of balance, or whether they will decide what will happen. That will be determined by the people of those countries themselves. I think that the brightest prospect yet of the matter being settled against communism is that the .people in some areas have had a taste of what communism mean*-.. If we give them the economic help that they need, and see that it gets to the people on the land, and in the factories and in the cities; if we provide evidence that we are prepared to repel any massive attack on a small country by massive resistance to that attack, and if we give to these people under those conditions arms to protect themselves, because terrorism in isolated villages is one method used by the Communists for winning ballots, I believe that they will settle this matter for themselves, and settle it against communism. But it will be essential that we shall not make wanton attacks on any of these countries and thereby spread the belief throughout the area that we are not standing behind any of those countries.
I regret exceedingly the attack that has been made on Thailand in this chamber and in another place. From my observations, I believe that those attacks are untrue in fact, as far as the conditions of the people are concerned.
– 1 do not think that the honorable senator’s criticism of India will do much good either.
– I believe, as far as my information goes, “that the attack on Thailand for allegedly having handed over Australians to the Japanese during the war is unfounded. I believe also that the standard of living in Thailand is as high as, and probably higher than, in any other Asian country, either in South-East Asia or South Asia. Thailand is not a country which is a democracy in the sense that Australia is a democracy, but it is a country in which opposition newspapers are freely published, and in which opposition parties criticize, and seek to gain power, and are elected to the Parliament. To call such a country a police state of the worst sort, when near it is a Communist state in which none of those things is allowed, can do nothing but harm. Another thing which can cause harm is to refuse to assist those countries when requested to do so. I was told by Tengku Abdul Rahman of Malaya that he hoped Australia would help him with its troops to fight against communism, but he made it clear that such troops were to have no other responsibilities for keeping internal order. He is the head of the elected government which recently, because of its policy, won all the municipal seats, except in one area, in the recent Malayan elections. To refuse help of this kind when requested for the specific purpose of fighting Communists can, 1 think, do nothing but harm.
The third major tragedy which could befall us would be to recognize Communist China. I can see no gain whatever by that course. It is clear that we -would not gain gratitude, and on the contrary we would lose a very great deal. We would have in the Security Council of the United Nations another Communist veto; we would have shaken the faith of all the countries of which I have been speaking. They would no longer believe that we were a country prepared to help them fight against communism. In particular, we would give a reason for the overseas Chinese - in millions in the various countries - to look towards Peking, as the capital of a recognized country which had taken its place in the United Nations, which was a probable winner, which therefore they would support, and for which they might well act in the countries in which they are living. We would lose all these things. What would we gain? I can see no gain whatever to balance the losses in this area which is one which will decide Australia’s future.
I know it has been the custom to sneer at Formosa, but that country is, I think, of the greatest strategic importance to Australia. During one of my trips I was speaking to a leading member of the Philippines Government and I asked him what he thought of the role of Formosa, as that was the place from which his country had been invaded by the Japanese, and was a place practically within the circuit of an aircraft. He said that he did not see how his country could be defended against another attack from Formosa if that country fell under Communist domination. He said, “ If that country falls under Communist domination, then we will go “, and he added, “ And if we go, you go “. I do not know whether the results would be as far-reaching as that, but at least that is an indication of the importance of this area and the importance of preserving it from Communist domination.
There is much more I should like to say, but my time has nearly expired. If I might summarize, I would say that we must, in those countries of which I have been speaking and which are of the first importance to Australia, help to ensure that the small man be given improved economic conditions. 1 do not think his conditions are bad now - not as bad as they have been painted - but we should help to convince him that wc w:” assist his nation against any eruption of force against it and assist to give the people the means to protect themselves should they be attacked by infiltration and guerilla tactics - the means which the fighters of Hungary needed so badly and did not have. If given that support, these countries will not fall under Communist domination because they have seen what it means.
Let me give one instance from the radio from North Viet Nam to show the benefits that have been conferred by those who allege they serve the Asian people. This broadcast was made just before Easter and I heard it. It congratulated the women of North Viet Nam because they had done such a good job in pulling the ploughs through the fields during a shortage of draught oxen. That does not happen in other countries of Asia.
– Any discussion on international affairs must inevitably produce a wide divergence of opinion. However, one thing on which we all agree is the tremendous importance of international matters in the world in which we are living to-day. Having said that we have these diverging views, I am going to disagree very heartily and definitely with some of the views that have been expressed by honorable senators opposite in this debate. I am pleased to see that Senator Pearson is occupying the chair. I do applaud your defence, sir, of the United Nations during your contribution to this debate to-night. I regret to say that in listening very closely to most of the speeches from the Government side, I heard only Senator Pearson and Senator Mattner embark upon any defence whatsoever of the United Nations as a force for world peace.
You yourself, sir, must have felt extremely disappointed at the lack of support you received from your colleagues for the views that you hold so strongly and put forward so ably this evening. I was very interested in some of the remarks that were made by speakers on the Government side. One speaker in particular, Senator McCallum, in criticizing and defining his hostility to the United Nations made a most extraordinary statement to which I intend to refer. He said -
I intend *o show that the United Nations has only limited power akin to the power that was possessed by a certain mediaevel king whose laws were pious aspirations. He made a law, and hardly any one obeyed it. He strengthened the law, and fewer people obeyed it. Finally, he made another law, and nobody obeyed it, so he gave up.
Senator McCallum made that extraordinary statement in drawing an analogy between that peculiar position to which he refers and the activities of the United Nations. What Senator McCallum was advocating was, of course, that there should be no laws at all, that we should dispense with our courts of justice, that we should cease making laws of any kind and that we should allow the law of the jungle to prevail. 1 can think of no other interpretation to place on the analogy that he made than the one I am making now. It is interesting to realize that that is the type of advocacy that the Communists inevitably applaud. I mentioned before that I suspected the existence of some Communist’ sympathies on the Government side of the Senate, and Senator McCallum confirms the fact when he states that he believes in disorganizing the structure of organized society as we know it. The Communists believe in exactly the same thing.
– That might be his next move.
– I do not know. The honorable senator will have to indicate his intentions. I was interested, sir, to listen to the statement you made to-night in respect of the position of Israel. The Labour party has made its position perfectly clear in respect of what it believed happened in the Middle East in connexion with the dispute over the Suez Canal. We said at the beginning that we believed there was collusion between Britain, France and Israel which culminated in Israel, with certain guarantees, making the decision to invade Egypt. That contention has been supported by the statement in the world press that a group of French journalists has established - at least in their opinion - that such a pact did take place. But all of that is water under the bridge. The event has happened, and I do not intend to-night to rehash the details of the dispute that have been so exhaustively dealt with both in this chamber and in another place. I can agree with very few matters in the speech of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), but I am in accord with this statement -
Israel’s right to exist must be recognized and her right to free passage through the Tiran Straits and the Suez Canal must be placed beyond doubt and respected.
I agree that Israel is entitled to free passage through those parts. The Australian Labour party has never attempted to justify the activities of any country that place upon another country some type of duress and prevent that country from enjoying the elementary rules of justice as we know them. So, at the same time as we criticize the actions of Britain, France and Israel with respect to the initial eruption in the Middle East - or perhaps, in view of the events that are happening there now, we might call it the “ muddle “ East - we are quite prepared at all times to concede that when Egypt errs in her attitude to her neighbour nations, the strongest condemnation should be heaped upon her. In consequence, I join with those speakers tonight on the Government side who have. made observations of a similar character on that matter.
Returning to the question of the United Nations, I recall that you yourself, Mr. (Acting Deputy President, said during your ,speech from the floor of the chamber that that body must be strengthened. That con- : tendon was supported by your colleague from South Australia, Senator Mattner. The activities of the Government that you, sir, support, have been directed, ever since the United Nations came into existence, towards undermining and weakening its activities. Statements have been made repeatedly by speaker after speaker on the Government side that this body is serving no useful purpose whatever, that it cannot and will not justify itself with respect to preserving peace in the world. 1 suggest that that is the type of negative reasoning which will do more to undermine the prestige and the efficiency of the United Nations than any other action that can be taken. It is a type of defeatism, one of the things that will have a grave effect on the successful functioning of the United Nations.
I make a suggestion to the members of the Government. Some of them have said that they believe in the United Nations as a force for preserving world peace. Instead of doing their best to undermine its activities, and, worst of all, undermining public confidence in it, they should applaud the United Nations, insist on its being strengthened, and regard it as an extension of the courts of justice as we know them in this country into the international field; because in these days of peril - and make no mistake about it, we are living in days of peril - some form of international law will have to be recognized if the world is to be preserved from the horror of atomic warfare.
I was very interested in the remarks of Senator McManus in relation to red China. This is one of those occasions when we have views that conflict - and conflict very strongly. Both Senator McManus and Senator Gorton said that we must at all costs refuse the recognition of red China, and its acceptance as a member of the United Nations. He went on to say that we should not trade with red China. Taking the first point, the recognition of red China, Senator Gorton said that we had everything to lose and nothing to gain by the advocacy of such a course. I submit that we are being totally unreal in refusing to accept red China as a member of the United Nations. Those people who believe in the United Nations, and who regard it as the one hope for the continuance of our civilization, must recognize the fact that any nation - whether or not we agree with its policy, or with the type of government that it provides - which joins the United Nations, does do something to strengthen that body. It has been suggested by Senator Gorton that the inclusion of red China in the United Nations would only increase the force of communism in it. That, of course, is sheer speculation, and nothing can be advanced at this stage to say that it constitutes anything other than exactly that. I am of the opinion that we are being completely unreal when we do not advocate the exclusion of Russia which, in our attitude to communism, we must regard as the arch-criminal. We are adamant in our view that China, because of its recent conversion to communism, is to be regarded as the juvenile delinquent. Yet Government supporters say that it should be excluded from the United Nations. That attitude is completely unreal.
Senator McManus said tonight.and possibly to some extent this is true ; that already, unofficially, this country is engaging in trade with red China. He mentioned that vast quantities of goods were, leaving this country and were being diverted through Hong Kong into red China. That may, or may not be true. I would believe that the honorable senator had some information which might suggest that’ such a thing was happening. What I do say is that that type of trade is no good to this country, lt is a trade that will bring no benefit to this country. Again, I contend that we are adopting an unreal attitude when we say that we will not trade with a country because we dislike intensely the type of rule that its government exercises over the people. Other countries have taken a realistic view of the proposition, I think to their own profit, by actively engaging in trade with China.
Our attitude on this matter, of course, has been dictated by the United States of America. In many respects we have followed blindly the American line on matters affecting the Asian countries. Because America does not trade with China, we make a decision, which is not based on reason. It is due to the fact that this Government is unable to frame a foreign policy, is unable to make up its own mind about what should be done, and is following slavishly in the path of America in respect of matters of this kind.
What is going to happen? The people of America, not only those who guide its destinies at the governmental level, but also those who hold tremendous influence in the industrial field, have a facility for changing their minds very rapidly. When they see markets in Asia which would be of inestimable benefit, not only to the people who look on the matter from the viewpoint of profit, but also to the United States generally, we will see a change in policy overnight. I predict that this event will happen before very long. There are already very evident signs that powerful influences in the United States are looking enviously at red China as a source of trade. I suggest that when trade between the two countries is resumed, Australia because of the complete lack of leadership on the part of the Menzies-Fadden Administration in respect of matters related to foreign affairs, will be left lamenting. It will be left holding the bag. We will find the choicest markets and the greatest influence on trade will have gone to the country whose policy we were so slavishly following. That may sound like a contradiction, but I am suggesting strongly that that is exactly what will happen. Again we are pursuing a totally unreal policy in our attitude to this matter.
Senator McManus had something to say about visits to countries that are dominated by Communist governments. I do not believe anybody here needs to protest his or her dislike of communism, but we have the strongest possible differences of opinion in working out just what ought to be done in that connexion. I hold a totally different view-point from that of Senator McManus regarding visits to foreign countries. I believe we should visit every country in the world, whether the government of that country is of the right or the left. I believe we should arm ourselves with all the knowledge of living conditions, of governments, of electoral systems or the lack of them in every country regardless of the type of government in power there, so that we may be better informed and speak with more authority on events that are happening there. It is unreal to be hostile towards a particular country and to decide, as a consequence, that we must not learn anything about that country at first-hand.
Senator McManus has suggested that we would be failing in our duty if we permitted ourselves to be entertained by those who occupy positions at government level in those countries. I say that if we adopt the honorable senator’s attitude, we shall be missing an opportunity to see at firsthand for ourselves some of the things we ought to be seeing if we hope to speak with the voice of authority on the conditions in other countries.
I remind Senator McManus that the leader of the party that he supports in this chamber decided, within the last twelve months, to go to Formosa so that he could see for himself just what was happening there. I did not hear Senator McManus object to the actions of his leader. As a matter of fact, I believe he applauded Senator Cole’s visit to Formosa, and I want to say that I have no objection to it either. I think it was a good idea, but I suggest to Senator McManus that if, in his appraisement of world affairs, he intends to look only in one direction for the truth, he will never find it. Before I leave this subject, I remind Senator McManus that, although he would not in any circumstances lower himself by going into those countries, missionaries of every faith would be prepared to go. I suggest that he consider looking at this matter from another angle.
– There are some missionaries still there - in concentration camps.
– That is true, and I remind the honorable senator that there are others who would still be quite prepared to go and would not show the same degree of hesitancy as he does to equip themselves with information about those countries that might be helpful to them.
I turn now to the question of Jordan which has been mentioned during the debate in this chamber to-night. I do not believe that any one of us is in a position to speak with any complete degree of clarity upon exactly what is happening in Jordan. 1 admit that I have no specialized knowledge of the situation there. I believe that before we formulate any definite conclusions about Jordan, we should examine very closely any accurate appraisal of events there that is available.
We know, however, that certain disturbing events are taking place. One is the action of the American Sixth Fleet in going to waters adjacent to Jordan. At the same time, Russia is making threats to the United States of America and the Western world about the possible consequences of Western intervention in Jordan. The only point that seems clear now is that the two great powers apparently are playing the game of power politics. What we must do is to acquaint ourselves with the situation affecting Jordan and then define Australia’s attitude to it. At this stage we are not in a position to do so.
In the brief time I have at my disposal, I want to touch upon what I consider to be one of the most important aspects of world affairs to-day. That is the use of hydrogen and atomic weapons. I recall that some years ago Professor Marcus Oliphant, a distinguished Australian scientist, uttered a warning to the world of the possible impact of nuclear explosions. I recall that shortly after he alerted Australia and the world to the possible frightful impact of nuclear explosions, he was refused entry into the United States of America to an atomic conference. Obviously the only reason for that prohibition was the fact that he had expressed those views. It might be said that time has mellowed Professor Marcus Oliphant, but there are many in the world to-day, occupying high positions in every country, who are becoming frightfully aware of the evil dangers to which civilization is exposed by the explosion of nuclear weapons.
Japan is described as “ death valley “ because the United States is conducting experimental explosions adjacent to that country. It is not an exaggeration to say that the people of Japan are very worried indeed about their future because of those explosions. It has been revealed that radiation in Japan in the last twelve months has been four times as great as it was previously. Radio-active rain is falling constantly over Japan, and the leaders of 40 of the larger Japanese cities have voiced their protests and their fear in relation to the effects of atomic radiation. lt is interesting to note also that in Western Germany, fourteen of the leading scientists of that country, including nuclear scientists, have made a statement to the effect that they are certain that a continuance of atomic and hydrogen explosions will result in disaster to the world. They have called for an immediate cessation of such explosions. It is pertinent to note also that even in the United States, there is sharply divided opinion on this frightening subject because in a statement published in the “ New York Times “, dated 25th October, 1956, nineteen scientists of the University of Rochester disputed President Eisenhower’s assertion that hydrogen bomb tests could be continued without peril to the human race. Among the eminent scientists who authorized the statement was Professor F. Neuman, Chief of the Atomic Energy Commission Research Establishment.
Finally, the late Professor A. Einstein and seven other scientists declared in September, 1955-
It is feared that if many hydrogen bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration.
They are not idle words. They are the words of some of the most distinguished men in the world. They are words of warning that can be repeated for only a limited time. If the world refuses much longer to listen, it might be too late to act. It is not only the world’s scientists who are concerned about the effect of nuclear explosions. I have noted that a group of the most eminent medical men of Great Britain have expressed their horror at a continuance of such explosions. Some of the greatest church leaders in the world, too, have continually called upon the countries which possess the secrets of hydrogen warfare to cease from their folly, which could result in the destruction of mankind.
Three or four years ago, people who had the foresight to see what was likely to happen and who advocated a cessation of this kind of experimental horror were branded as being Communists. There is no doubt in my mind that when Professor Marcus Oliphant alerted this country to the possible dangers of a continuance of nuclear explosions, he was regarded at the top level in America as being, if not a Communist, then pro-Communist. That is the kind of thought control which has prevented many other prominent people in the world from expressing their views on this frightening question. But so desperate has the position become that people who previously were silent are now prepared to stake their integrity and to put up with the possibility of being described as Communists, because they can see that, unless we prevent, not only the continuance of nuclear explosions, but also the use of atomic weapons in war, there is no possible hope for civilization.
When one considers the frightful possibilities of an atomic war, one is impelled to say that, if the United Nations is the force and the structure that can stand between the peoples of this world and the end of civilization, it deserves all the support that every right-thinking person can give to it.
.- I was very interested when I heard Senator Toohey speak about fall-out from nuclear bombs. To my knowledge, no nation has exploded more nuclear bombs than has Soviet Russia.
– I have condemned all of them.
– I know. But Soviet Russia, when exploding its nuclear bombs, has taken less care than has any other country to ensure that they are exploded far away from other countries. I believe that to a very great degree Russia, because of the proximity of its explosions to certain countries, is responsible for the fall-out which those countries have experienced. A great number of people continually protest loudly about the United States of America exploding nuclear bombs, but one never hears some of those people register any kind of protest against Russia. We must look at the facts squarely and agree that, while Russia is developing this kind of weapon, we, as nations of free people, should also have the liberty to do so.
During this debate, the most important point, or the matter that has been spoken about mostly, has been the Suez situation. It can be rightly stated that in that area there exists a situation which might trigger off a world war at any time. Not only in the immediate Suez area, but also in surrounding areas, troubles are breaking out every now and again. For that reason, the Suez situation occupies a very important place in the thoughts of the people of Australia. When considering the Suez situation, I believe we should ascertain how it developed. Let us recall that some little time ago the United States and Britain intended to finance the building of the Aswan high dam in Egypt. That project was to cost, if I remember rightly, several hundreds of millions of pounds. The United States decided to withdraw its offer of financial aid to Egypt, and that led to Britain doing likewise. That was the beginning of the Suez situation as we see it to-day. What was the result? The result was that Nasser, because of his dictatorial habits and his desire to impress his people with his power, and out of spleen or spite, or whatever it was, grabbed the Suez Canal. The canal was built by. a company which had an agreement affecting the use of the waterway for a certain period of time.
– Until 1968.
– Yes, until 1968. Nasser had agreed to the company’s retention of that right, because the agreement had been properly drawn up. The company had invested its money in the canal when nobody else was prepared to do so. Not only was it an investment for the company, but also it was of great advantage to the world’s commerce. But then Nasser, in his dictatorial manner, broke the agreement, and none of us should have condoned his action in any way. That action set off a train of trouble. It is very easy for the United States to say that no one should take strong action to keep the canal open, but the strength of the action that a country or an individual feels obliged to take is determined by the degree to which it or he is dependent upon the thing concerned.
Then the little country of Israel struck at Egypt. Britain and France did likewise at almost the same time. There was a great hue and cry, particularly against Britain and France. From the United States, which we considered to be our ally, there went up a howl, and we noted the action that seemed likely to be taken by that great nation against the countries that she had regarded as being her allies. America’s action clearly showed that she was not fully aware of the consequences of what was happening in that area. £ regret that, when Britain and France struck, they did not do the job properly. If they had not dilly-dallied in knocking out Nasser’s tiny air force, but had gone straight to the heart of Egypt and had knocked Nasser himself, I believe that the situation would now be much clearer than it is. lt is all very well to say that Britain and France should not have struck, but repeatedly we have seen the results of appeasement of dictators. Nation after nation has given way and has been swallowed. Nasser is not different from Hitler or any other dictator of the past. When Israel struck, and also Britain and France, they knew, and now the whole thinking world knows positively, that Egypt was being militarized by the Soviet Union. Arms were found which indicated from where they came. It is known that Egypt was getting military assistance from the Soviet Union. For what purpose? It is quite clear. As Senator Gorton said, Egypt is broadcasting, night after night and day after day, her intention to wipe Israel off the map. That was Egypt’s intention then. If we are fair-minded enough to look at the situation properly, we must give -credit to individuals and the nations who, when they are aware that another is about to strike them, get in first in defence of themselves. We heard many protests from people in this Parliament and in other countries, some of which we call our allies, about the actions of Britain and France in Egypt, but we did not hear any criticism of Russia for supplying arms and building up a military state in Egypt.
Such an event as the grabbing of the Suez Canal can have much wider repercussions than many people realize, and I believe that it is already beginning to have a wider repercussion than the United States of America foresaw when backing up Communist nations in their opposition to Britain and France. Already, we see movements and agitations in the Panama Canal area, with one country claiming that the Panama Canal belongs to it, and America protesting very strongly that that country has no right even to suggest such a thing, because certain rights were ceded to America and certain agreements existed. But there is no difference in principle between the Suez Canal and Panama Canal. If it is right for Nasser to seize the Suez Canal, it is just as right for the Panama Canal to be seized. If the Panama Canal were seized, the United States of America would not hesitate to take action to preserve its rights in the area. I know what America would say if we, of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the people of France, were to castigate America for taking action to preserve its interests in that area.
One of the points that strikes me in this foreign affairs debate is that the Suez situation has been a culminating point in showing the weakness of the United Nations. To my way of thinking, it .emphasizes the futility of the United Nations. It brings to mind how the United Nations, not for a day, a week, or a month, but for years, allowed Egypt to stop the little country of Israel from using the Gulf of Aqaba or the Suez Canal for its shipping. Although Israel protested and appealed to the United Nations, what did the United Nations do? It did just nothing, and if that is all we can expect of the United Nations when a small nation requires assistance, it is not worth keeping in existence. I am- reminded of the failure of the United Nations to settle the Kashmir dispute. There is no question that the United Nations is scared to fix that situation firmly once and for all. Why? Is the United Nations afraid of offending a certain nation or nations? The organization was formed for the purpose of providing strength in order to settle international questions and ensure that the rights of nations were not trampled under by stronger powers.
The Kashmir dispute, the prevention of the use of the Suez Canal by Israel, and the Suez situation itself, clearly evidence in my mind that the United Nations is a failure. Even the stationing of United
Nations troops in the Gaza strip is on conditions which are almost ridiculously unbelievable. They must be removed when Nasser says so. What strength can such an organization have? The amazing feature about it is that some of the troops who were sent in to occupy the area entered with a pro-Nasser outlook, and their activities were such as to make one wonder of what use is the United Nations. The organization was a grand ideal when it was conceived. It was thought of and created for the purpose of stopping war, of keeping peace, of seeing that the rights of nations were preserved. But it fails whenever a test comes. It is an expensive and futile organization.
I believe, therefore, that the time has come for us to think that there is no longer a place for the United Nations as we know it. To-day it is fast becoming an avenue of power for blocs of nations. We see the building up of the Afro-Asian group. Such groups are using the organization for their own purposes. It is unfortunate, too, that because of the way the United Nations was established, so many small, ineffective nations have exactly the same power as those great nations upon which rests the great responsibility for keeping the peace and defending the rights of the free people of the world. It is of no use to kid ourselves about it. Many of those nations which are so vociferous about keeping the peace, saying that Britain, France, and some other nations must not do certain things, take no part in a war which the United Nations really believes is justified for preserving the freedom of the world. We have no difficulty in recalling, not so very long ago, the example of Korea. How many members of the United Nations rallied to its support?
– How many did?
– Very few.
– More than the honorable senator would imagine.
– Numbers of nations which have a lot to say in this organization were not represented in the effective fighting force formed to preserve the freedom of Korea. One of the acts of the United Nations which amazed me was its attempt to clear up the Suez Canal dispute, apparently without any fixed agreement with
Nasser that freedom of passage through thecanal would be accorded those countrieswhich used it most. The United Nations set about expending considerable sums of money on celaring up a mess which Nasser himself had created by blocking the canal., and, having spent the money, it has been, forced for the past month to plead with him on several points. The United Nations hasgot nowhere in this dispute, and I feel that it can be fairly stated that Nasser is, in effect, thumbing his nose at it.
I believe also that the United States of America adopted a wrong attitude in this situation. It is my opinion that in relying upon the United Nations, the United States was acting on wrong premises, because this organization has failed miserably. I am convinced that instead of continuing to support an organization in which there are so many countries with different attitudes of mind from ours and in which fixed blocs such as the Communist bloc and the Afro-Asian bloc have developed, the free nations should form their own organization of nations which hold the one belief in the freedom of the peoples of the world. An organization of friends is much stronger than a piebald organization like the United Nations. The two most important of the freedom - loving countries are the United States and Great Britain. Whatever their jealousies and rivalries, whatever their misunderstandings might be, I do urge those two countries to get together and realize that it is important that they remain closely knit because it is upon them mainly, together with countries like France, that the continuance of true freedom and democracy in the world really depends. It is unfortunate that the United States believes that the responsibility for the continuance of true freedom and democracy rests solely upon her. It is essential that this great nation realize that Britain is just as important to her as she is to the British Commonwealth of Nations in the fight for the survival of the free peoples of the world.
I have no desire to discredit Sir Anthony Eden in any way. I believe that he will go down in history as a great man who was not afraid to take whatever action he believed to be right. But I do feel that we are indeed fortunate in the fact that
Mr. Macmillan is at present the Prime Minister of Great Britain. He has shown the world that he is strong. He has given the rest of the world confidence that Britain is not a spent force, that she is still a great country, and in the long run his actions, his strength of purpose and the views he expresses must impress upon the United States the knowledge that she is not the only great nation in the world and the realization that she is just as dependent on Great Britain as Great Britain is dependent upon her.
I have not time to deal with the many matters that could be discussed in this debate, but I should like to emphasize that it is essential that Australia take a strong stand at all times against Indonesia’s claim to Dutch New Guinea. This area is of great importance to us, because it is so close to our shores. In view of the present unsettled state in Indonesia, I believe that it would be entirely wrong for any one to suggest that Dutch New Guinea be handed over to Indonesia. Have the people of Dutch New Guinea no rights in the matter? In my view, there is no relationship between the two countries, and as Dutch New Guinea is so close to Australia, it is necessary that we strongly oppose all claims put forward by Indonesia to that area.
The subject of foreign affairs is much closer to the hearts of the people of Australia than it was in pre-war days. As was said here to-night, foreign affairs is probably the most important matter we have to consider to-day. Our very lives depend on what goes on in other parts. At one time we were far removed from the trouble spots of the world, but to-day, with speedy means of transport and new implements of war the whole global aspect has changed. We are now within a few hours of those trouble spots and, naturally, we have become much more concerned with this important subject of foreign affairs.
– Having listened to Senator Wood’s castigation of the United Nations organization, I do not find it hard to know the source of his beliefs. Upon reading “ Hansard “, I find that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made the following comment on the United Nations: -
Without wishing to be unduly critical, it may be said that it has reached no satisfactory solution to any of them.
The Minister was referring to the solution of disputes. He is the man who has been appointed by this Government to put forward its policy on foreign affairs, and it would seem that the policy of this Government is to condemn the United Nations organization.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Some months ago, in the form of questions on notice to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I suggested that, as chairman of the Australian Road Safety Council, he might suggest to the six States that action be taken in connexion with the heavy trucks which are now using our roads and which have such a high clearance of the road surface that the bonnet of a small car can go right under the truck platform. At the time I had just lost a niece who was on her honeymoon and was killed in this way. Since then there has been another similar accident in Queensland, and to-day another honeymoon couple travelling in a small car ran under a truck, and were killed. These accidents occur because the owners of these trucks will not fit a steel rail, or bumper bar, to prevent small cars from going under them. There is no law to enforce them to do so. I ask the Minister to approach the six States with a view to the introduction of uniform legislation to provide that a bumper bar, or some other form of protection, shall be fitted at the back of trucks in order to stop small vehicles from running underneath them. In these accidents the rear platform of the truck practically decapitates the people in the car. In Brisbane almost any night trailers can be seen parked at North Quay without any lights on them. That, I know, is a matter for the State, but I urge the Minister to try to evolve some uniform method of preventing this kind of accident in the future.
– As Senator Kendall has indicated, the enactment and enforcement of traffic laws, and all related matters such as traffic safety relations, are the responsibility of the States. I am, however, aware of the increasing number of accidents of this kind that have occurred, and I shall again take up this matter with the Australian Road Safety Council, to which body I referred it some time ago, and ask what progress has been made in bringing this matter before the States in an attempt to reduce accidents of this kind. I share Senator Kendall’s concern that road accidents, particularly this kind of accident, are so frequent, and I shall take whatever action I can to see that there is a satisfactory solution of the problem.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570501_senate_22_s10/>.