23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relates to a press report of a statement by the Premier of New South” Wales to the effect that his party’s policy was that a £25,000,000 national housing corporation should be set up. I also wish to refer to a statement by the Minister himself, reported in this morning’s press. The Minister is reported to have cast some doubt upon the efficacy of such a proposal. Does not the Commonwealth already provide about £80,000,000 per annum for all kinds of housing, including State housing? Would not such an arrangement be far more likely to provide homes for the people than the proposition which has appeared in the press in the last 24 hours?
– The point that 1 was concerned to make was that, having regard to the existing framework of CommonwealthState financial arrangements, the proposal advanced by the Premier of New South Wales was quite impracticable. The Australian Loan Council determines the overall limit of loan borrowings. Each State is entitled to its share, and each then decides how much of that share it will apply to housing. The Premier of New South Wales contemplates sweeping all that to one side and getting out of the air, in some way, £25,000,000 with which to set up a new housing authority. I just want to make the point that his experience and knowledge, and our experience and knowledge, support the view that that is quite an impracticable approach to the problem. I repeat, it would be quite impracticable to set up such an organization within the framework of CommonwealthState financial arrangements. From the point of view of everyday working politics, why would any other State in the Commonwealth, for the benefit of housing in New South Wales, be prepared to forgo its share of loan raisings, when housing in New South Wales is worse handled than is housing in any other State in the Commonwealth?
– I desire to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. What ships are at present under construction in each of the Australian shipyards? How many men are at present employed in this industry? What was the comparable position in February three years ago?
– I have not in my mind all the information the honorable senator seeks, but I can give him an indication of the ships which are being built. This is not a complete list, but it will give an indication of the position. At Whyalla two 19,000-ton bulkers and a 32,500-ton tanker are being built. At the State Shipyard in Newcastle the passenger ferry for the Bass Strait service is under construction, in addition to the vehicle cargo deck ferry. 1 understand that the yard is also doing some work for the New South Wales Department of Works, and, in addition to that - which is a conversion job - the yard is also building a lighter. At the Brisbane yards of Evans Deakin and Company a 5,000-ton cargo vessel is under construction for the Adelaide Steamship Company, as well as two large tugs for the Kwinana company in Western Australia. At Walkers yard, two 90-ft. general purpose vessels are being built for the Navy. I have referred only to the bigger ships. There are other ships, about which I shall find out. I shall let the honorable senator have information about them, together with the other information which he seeks.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by saying that I believe the Minister has had some preliminary discussions on the subject of a spur line extension of the Commonwealth railway from Port Augusta to Whyalla to service the greatly expanding heavy industry in that part of South Australia. Can he give the Senate any details of progress made in those discussions?
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers has been the subject of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of South
Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. I do not think 1 am completely up to date, but the last exchange of correspondence indicated that the Commonwealth Government did not think that the time was yet opportune for the building of such a line, and was having further inquiries made to find out when the developments at Whyalla would warrant the construction of this railway line.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister for the Interior noted that the informal votes at federal elections, particularly for the Senate, constitute an alarmingly high percentage of the total number of votes cast? Does he agree that this is an undesirable feature of federal elections? Would he make an examination of the Electoral Act and consider, first, optional preference of voting; secondly, indicating on the ballot-paper the party designations of the candidates; and thirdly, any other suggestions which would help to reduce the high rate of informal votes? If any survey is made, would he give an opportunity to political parties to make known their points of view?
– It is true, unfortunately, that at the last election, in the voting for the Senate, the number of informal votes in relation to the total votes cast was extremely high - far higher than the number of informal votes cast in the election for the House of Representatives. I am not able to give the honorable senator a complete reply to his question at the present time. I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper. If he does so, I shall bring it under the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and obtain a considered reply.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform the Senate what the practice is regarding the revision of guide books on Canberra issued by the Tourist Bureau? My reason for asking is that an excellent publication entitled, “Your Guide to Canberra “, the price of which is 2s., contains, at page 39, erroneous information regarding train services to Melbourne which caused some confusion to at least two visitors to Canberra last week. Will the Minister consider the provision of an errata sticker which could be inserted in the present unsold stocks of this excellent publication?
– I shall be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, to see whether something can be done. I feel sure that a correction can be made. .
– I address a question to the leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of his statement that the efforts of the New South Wales Government to solve its urgent and pressing housing problems were impracticable, implicit in which statement is the fact that “ Australia Unlimited “ is unable to find loan money to finance a progressive housing programme, has the Minister any alternative Commonwealth proposition for assisting the New South Wales Government to overcome the great lag in housing, which is a direct result of the Federal Government’s policy? If he has not, can it be accepted that he would prefer playing party politics to encouraging every move made by the States to do justice to old and new Australians who are in need of homes?
– - Let me say, with great respect to the honorable senator, that his question betrays his lack of knowledge of the housing problem. The real problem that confronts those who are responsible for housing in Australia is not that of getting more government money. At the present time, governments in this country are providing some £80,000,000 a year for housing. Speaking from memory, I think that is more than 25 per cent, of the total amount now being provided for that purpose. The real task is to get private investment into housing. The States that have been successful in the housing field are those that have been able to encourage private investment. It was estimated at the end of June last that we needed an additional 80,000 houses in Australia, no fewer than 48,000 of which were needed in New South Wales. In other words, in
New South Wales there has not been the flow of private money into housing that there has been in the other States. In my opinion, even if the proposal of the New South Wales Premier were practicable, it would not be the right approach to the problem.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has supplied the following answer: -
No statistics relating to these matters have been maintained during the terms of office of either the present Government or its predecessors, lt would entail an inordinate amount of work to examine the hundreds of thousands of files involved, and to prepare the figures requested. The department is simply not in a position to undertake this work without serious interference with many more urgent matters.
The honorable senator may be assured that all such applications are decided impartially upon the basis of relevant legislation, rules of policy and, where applicable, considerations of a humanitarian nature. Members of all parties in both houses of the Parliament have been good enough to pay tribute from time to time to the fairness of the department’s handling of such matters.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has now supplied the following answers: -
Messages received from the House of Representatives intimating that the honorable members named had been appointed to serve with the following committees: -
Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting. - Mr. Speaker. (Hon. John McLeay), Mr. Costa, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Opperman and Mr. Turnbull.
Public Works. - Mr. Brimblecombe, Mr. Dean, Mr. Fairhall, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. Mclvor and Mr. O’Connor.
– Pursuant to section 31 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1958, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Sixth Annual Report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, together with Financial Accounts and the Auditor-General’s report thereon, for year 1957-58.
The sixth annual report of the commission, which I am now tabling for the information of honorable senators, contains the usual financial accounts of the commission and, for the first time, the report of the AuditorGeneral to myself also is given. In order to comply with the new provisions of the Atomic Energy Act as amended last year, I am tabling the financial statement and Auditor-General’s report as a separate document, but for the sake of convenience they have been included in the commission’s report as well.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the making of a ministerial statement and the consideration of any motion moved in connexion therewith.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Honorable A. D. Reid). - There being present an absolute majority of the whole number of senators, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– The statement that I propose to make was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) yesterday in another place. It is as follows: -
Mr. Speaker,the statement that I propose to make is about the problem that was the subject of a statement by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), last weekon Indonesia and the Netherlands NewGuinea, which 1 shall refertocompendiously as WestNew Guinea in the course of my remarks. At the outset, I want to answer this question: What has been our policy? I task that questionbecause it has beensaidthat we have made some change in our policy. .
First, we recognize Dutch sovereignty ofWest New Guinea. Wehave supported, andcontinueto support, this sovereignty.
Secondly, we say that if sovereignty is to be changed it must be by legal methods, i.e., by some means which internationallaw accepts and recognizes.
Thirdly, we have in the United Nations taken up the position that Indonesian submissions on this Netherlands territory are neither in substance nor in form withinthe effective jurisdiction of the politicalorganization of the United Nations; that it is notthefunction of the General Assembly to interpret agreements norto pass judgments on questions of territorial sovereignty. This did not and doesnotexclude a referenceby the partiesto the International Court.
Fourthly, we have advocated, and still advocate, thereference to the International Court of the Indonesian claim to sovereignty. The Dutch have previously expressed their willingness; Indonesia has refused.
Fifthly, we have always maintained that the paramount interest ultimately is that of the indigenous population. This view recognizes sovereignty,but looks to the future in terms of selfdetermination. The same goes for Australian New Guinea and Papua.
I now ask: Has there beenany change?The answer is: No.
On two occasions during Dr. Subandrio’s very welcome visitIhad the (opportunity of stating Australia’s position.I will put to the House that position in substantially the terms in which, as Prime Minister,I stated itto Dr. Subandrio -
We are and alwayshave been of opinion that the Netherlands has sovereignty over West New Guinea. If, as you clearly do, you dispute this, themattershould be deter mined by a lawful process;that is, either by adjudication or by agreement arrived at in free discussion. (b)We are certainly not prepared to urge the Dutch tonegotiate. You have made it clear publicly in Australia that your conception of a negotiation is that it should lead to and work out the conditions of a transfer of sovereignty. Under these circumstances, for us tourge the Dutch to negotiate would be to take up the position that we desire to see the sovereignty changed. This wouldbe a clear reversal of our policy, andwe will not doit. ‘We will therefore not advocatea negotiation.
But should Indonesia and the Netherlands come to some agreement in the future about sovereignty, we will recognizeand respect it,just as we expect our own sovereigntyto berecognized.
This is nottosay that we are not deeply concerned with the future of the indigenous populations of New Guinea. We are most concerned. We are developing our own portions of New Guinea alonglines which will, we hope, in due course, leadto self-determination. We expect similar policies in West New Guinea.
We would desire that Indonesia should publicly affirm that force will not be resorted to inorder to establish territorial claims. This principle is vital to Australia and her own security.
We wouldthink ita tragedyif our differ ences on thematter of West NewGuinea and the Netherlands should impair the developmentof sensible friendship and mutual understanding between our two countries. Indonesiais our nearest neighbour of great population; weboth have much to gain from peace; we are not disposed to fall into war with each other; in your search for democratic government and administration, your dangers, likeours,come from undemocratic andaggressive world movements,
You will findAustralians an instinctively friendly people, clear in their views about New Guinea, for vividly remembered historic reasons, andstill grievously disturbed by your treatment of Dutch assets. But if we can isolate these matters of difference and see them dealt with in a lawful way,there is no reason why we should not liveas friendly neighbours, with mutual assistance and tolerance,, with common hopes and interests.
My distinguished colleague,the Minister for
External Affairs, who was with me, will agree that that is substantially how I stated this matter. The joint communiqué of the two Ministers was designed to give effect to these propositions.
Now, what are the complaints? The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt)mustface up to some specific questions: Does he regard a disputed territorial claim as unfit for adjudication in the International Court, the supremeadjudicating organ of the United Nations? For, though he says there is “ nothing to decide “, the fact is that Indonesia does claim, as against the Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. There is thus a clear justiciable issue. Suppose Indonesia decided to acceptthe jurisdiction of the court, would the right honorable gentleman deny that jurisdiction? If so, why? If the court decided the issue of sovereignty in favour of Indonesia, would the right honorable gentleman, in my place, repudiate the decision or acceptit?
Should he accept, how would the case differ from a transferof sovereignty freely agreedupon between the two parties principal? Can the court do by judgment what the parties cannot do by free agreementor settlement? Should he reject thedecision, what would he do to make his rejection effective? Would he quarrel with both the Dutch and the Indonesians, each of whom had, ex hypothesi, accepted thejurisdiction of the court? Would he really think that the United Nations would vote to overrule the court?
Butpursue the matter further. Dr. Subandrio is reported to have named the Labour government of Australia, chiefly moved on this matter by the Leader of the Opposition himself, as “ the midwife “ of the new Indonesian Republic.
Suppose the Dutch had, at the handover, included West New Guinea with Java and Sumatra and the rest of the Netherlands East Indies in the transfer, would the right honorable gentleman, as midwife, have refused to deliver the additional child? What could or would the Labour Government have done had West New Guinea been included? And if the Dutch at some future time, exercising their own judgment - and we are clear that any decision must be made freely and not under threat or duress - were to decide to add West New Guinea to the transfer, notwithstanding the fact that we recognize and clearly support their claim to sovereignty, what could or would an Australian government do, except recognize the new sovereignty as lawful?
It is said that we have changed our policy. I venture to assert that it is the Labour party which has changed its policy. On Wednesday last, the right honorable member for Hunter said -
The Minister seems to suppose that, if sovereignty over West New Guinea resides in the Netherlands, it can be transferred at the will of the Netherlands to Indonesia, and that will be the end of the matter. But it is not!
But in 1949, the Labour Government, of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, thought the matter one between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Thus, on 7th October, 1949, in answer to a question by the honorable member forFranklin (Mr. Falkinder), the present Leader of the Opposition, as Minister at that time said -
Sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea is in the Netherlands, and itis for the Netherlands to say whether Dutch New Guinea shall come into the agreement. From our point of view, the relationship of Dutch New Guinea with the Indonesian Republic and the future government of the territories concerned are matters primarily for the Dutch and Indonesian Governments. I repeat that our interest is that there should be a peaceful settlement of that question.
The whole of this controversy appears to have sprung from a mis-interpretation of the words “would not oppose such an agreement “. These words have been twisted to mean that Australia will actually encourage the making of such an agreement. This is not our attitude, as we made crystal clear to Dr. Subandrio in the statements I have already recalled. It just could not be our attitude. For years we have not only accepted and supported Dutch sovereignty, but have also supported the Netherlands in the United Nations. So clearly have we contemplated a continuance of Dutch administration that, as recently as 6th
November, 1957, the Australianand Netherlands Governments publicly defined the jointly agreed principles being followed in respect of their New Guineaterritories.
These principles included a declaration of the basic importance of the interests and inalienable rights of the indigenous inhabitants; and the need for co-operation in policy and administration, having regard to the geographical and ethnological association between the two sections of New Guinea. The two Governments agreedthat they would continue and strengthen their co-operation. In conclusion, they said -
In so doing the two Governments are determined to promote an uninterrupted development of this process until such time as the inhabitants of the territories concerned will be in a position to determine their own future.
Nothing that we have said or done modifies or contradicts this joint declaration in any way. If honorable members will look at the relevant paragraph of the recent communiqué they will see that our non-opposition, or, as I would prefer to say, our recognition, is to attach only if and after an agreement is reached - between the Netherlands and Indonesia as parties principal, arrived at by peaceful processes and in accordance with internationally accepted principles.
It seems to have been overlooked by some that this communiqué contains at least three other statements about New Guinea which are of significance for Australia.
The first is that it is now on record in this joint document, which will be studied in Indonesia, that Australia not only recognizes Netherlands sovereignty but also recognizes in respect of New Guinea the principles of self-determination.
The second is that we have stipulated that any agreement should accord with “ internationally accepted principles “. Those principles are in some important ways expressed in the Charter of the United Nations. They certainly include a recognition of the duties to native peoples and their ultimate right of self-determination.
As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) pointed out to the House on Thursday last, one of the international principles which we believe to be binding on Indonesia, the Netherlands and Australia as member nations of the United Nations, is expressed in Article 73 of the Charter. We think that under that article all the inhabitants of New Guinea, West or East, whoeverhas the responsibility of administration, have interests declared to be paramount. These, as I have said, are referred to in the joint communique, and were emphasized by us in the discussions.
The third feature is that Indonesia expressly renounces the use of force to sustain its claim to West New Guinea. In view of some threats, and rumours of threats, we attach great importance to this statement, as no doubt will other powers concerned in the peace of South-East Asia, and the South-West Pacific.
Sir, there is another aspect of this matter to which I would wish to make a brief reference. We have stated that we will not put pressure on either of the parties to come to any new arrangement. It should, however, be understood that we are not forgetting our special relations with the Netherlands, our joint declaration of November, 1957, and the importance we attach to the development of the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea as a whole. We therefore have a lively and continuing interest in the result of any negotiations should the Netherlands, freely of its own free will, without pressure, decide to engage in them. We would therefore naturally expect to have our voice heard on the matters which affect the future of New Guinea. We are not aware of any Netherlands intention to negotiate, but clearly any negotiation would, as my colleague pointed out to the House on Thursday, relate to a variety of aspects of the future of West New Guinea and its inhabitants.
It is, I think, unfortunate that our friendly and frank, but civilized talks, with a near and significant neighbour should have given rise, here and there, to such intemperate forebodings. My own Government has a clear record of friendly association with the Dutch, with whom we have, and will expand as opportunity offers, the administrative contacts to which I have referred in respect of our various sections of New Guinea. We have made it plain that the Dutch will most certainly be under no pressure from us either to negotiate or withdraw. But it would be offensive to them to suggest that they are not their own masters in these as in other things.
We have equally made it clear to Indonesia that, apart from our firmly held views on the Dutch issues, we desire friendship, understanding and peace. We think that the recent talks advanced these desires.
Before I finish, I would like to reiterate Australia’s genuine interest in the welfare of the young and growing nation of Indonesia. We were all impressed by the visit which we have just had from Dr. Subandrio indicating, as it did, his Government’s real desire for co-operation. We were impressed by Dr. Subandrio himself, personally and as the representative of a very significant neighbour, whose scores of millions of people live so close to us, and whose goodwill is so important for our own future. I am bound to say that his friendly, well-informed and intelligent approach to us, and his explanations of Indonesian problems, have done nothing but good in clearing the air of misconceptions which may have existed in some minds. Should ill-considered criticisms of the outcome of his visit damage the relations strengthened by this visit, it would be a step backwards. I hope that there will be an end to doubts and fears now that our position has been made clear, as I hope I have made it clear.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Indonesia and West New Guinea - Statement by the Prime Minister, dated 24th February, 1959.
And move -
That the paper be printed.
– It is quite proper that the statement made yesterday in another place by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should be repeated in this chamber. It is interesting to see the Prime Minister forced into debate by adverse public opinion and, of course, by the proximity of party meetings in these environs to-day. It is quite obvious to all that there is a public revolt - not merely a private revolt amongst members of the Prime Minister’s own party - against the attitude of the Government in relation to the suggested transfer of Dutch New Guinea to Indonesia. That the Government is in difficulties with its own followers is a matter of public knowledge. The only person who thinks that the position has now been made clear - the concluding words in the statement - is the Prime Minister himself. In reality, the statement adds nothing but words to the existing knowledge of the situation.
I immediately incorporate in what I have to say all that I said in this place on Wednesday last. I do not subtract from that in any particular. The various rhetorical questions that the Prime Minister has seen fit to address to Dr. Evatt were effectively answered by Dr. Evatt only yesterday in another place. There is no need for me to advert to them, for his answers are on record.
I want to deal with the five great issues that I regard as underlying this matter. In the time to which I have agreed to limit myself I shall have to deal with them briefly and, may be, inadequately. I want to talk about Dutch sovereignty. I want to talk about the right to self-determination of the people of New Guinea, about Australia’s security, and about whether there has been a change of policy on the part of the Government and, finally, to say a few words about what Australia’s aim should be in relation to the matter in dispute.
Dealing first with sovereignty, I say at once that the Government has adopted the most perverse view in this matter. It treats the sovereignty of the Dutch in Dutch New Guinea as being of an absolute kind - one that entitles the Dutch not only to possession, but to ownership of the land and complete control of the people. That is a distorted view - having regard to what happened - because from the moment Holland undertook membership of the United
Nations it was bound by Chapter XI. of the Charter, to which I adverted at length the other day.
– When did Holland enter upon that obligation?
– I assume that it did so in 1945, when the United Nations organization was set up. It is bound, wherever it assumes responsibility in relation to dependent people, to give their interests paramount preference. The exact obligations undertaken are set out at length in Article 73 of the Charter. A nation in that category is bound to ensure the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the native peoples but, above all, the development of self-government. It must let the people express themselves in free political institutions, promote measures to develop the country and, finally, to make regular reports to the United Nations.
– How does that affect the position?
– I am sorry that I cannot deal with that at the moment. I have a certain amount of ground to cover and a limited time in which to cover it. I would say that from the moment Holland became bound by that particular contract, entered into with every member of the United Nations, it qualified its sovereignty considerably because from that moment it acknowledged that it had no more than territorial possession, and should act as a trustee for the native people within its territorial jurisdiction. To say that Holland may deal with another country - any country - without consideration for the obligation it entered into under the United Nations would be to argue that a trustee not only may dispose of the trust property without adverting to the document that set up the trust, but also may dispose of the beneficiaries themselves. It is at that point on this question of sovereignty that we think the Government is worshipping at the wrong shrine. We should see the Dutch in West New Guinea as we see ourselves in Papua, as merely trustees for the present and ultimate good, leading to selfgovernment, of the native inhabitants. That is confirmed by the fact that in November, 1957, the Dutch entered into an agreement, adverted to in the statement just read, under which they agreed to co-operate with Australia to develop the peoples of New Guinea as one entity, leading them as rapidly as possible to self-government.
I would say that, having regard to the circumstances in which Holland functions in Dutch New Guinea and we function in Papua, we are both in the position of trustees. We are not entitled to dispose of the trust property and, least of all, are we entitled to trade in the human beings who are the beneficiaries of the trust document. It is on that issue that we think the Government was completely blind in this matter.
Senator Vincent, yesterday, in discussing this matter in reply to an inquiry of mine, claimed that sovereignty extended so far that Holland could hand over Dutch New Guinea to Russia if it so wished. He said that when I pressed him. He must take that argument one more logical step. He must argue that if sovereignty goes that far, it would enable the Dutch to hand Dutch New Guinea over to Communist China, a country not bound by the United Nations Charter. Who, on the Government side, apart from Senator Vincent, would be prepared to stand up and justify that proposition? But it is a logical extension of the argument that the Government poses in this matter of sovereignty.
I turn to the matter of self-determination, a matter of paramount importance to the native people. The barest mention was made of that matter in the joint communique issued by Dr. Subandrio and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) a little more than a week ago. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, in its leader to-day, has made a penetrating analysis of this issue. Referring to the Prime Minister’s present statement, it says -
To pretend that an acceptable Dutch-Indonesian agreement would “ certainly include a recognition of the duties to native peoples and their ultimate right of self-determination “ is casuistry of a high order.
Why was not that point emphasized by the Government in stating that it would not oppose an agreement entered into peacefully between Holland and Indonesia? Why was not that point specifically reserved? The Prime Minister now says in his statement that the Australian Government expects to be consulted. Why was not that said in the joint communique? “ We have a real interest “, he says to-day, “ in the self-determination of the people.” Why was not that specifically reserved if those were the thoughts at issue between Indonesia and Australia at the time of the recent conference?
We of the Opposition affirmed in our policy speech before this issue arose that we want to see the people of New Guinea as one people. We do not relish the idea, from the viewpoint of the best interests of these people, of an Asian sphere of influence in one-third of New Guinea and a European sphere of influence in the remaining two-thirds. At the moment the people are under joint European spheres of influence and we would think it a pity, having regard to their ultimate cohesion as a selfgoverning people, if two cultures and two outlooks were to be introduced into the picture of the island. Of course, Indonesia does not want to treat the native people of Dutch New Guinea as a separate entity; it claims that they are a part of Indonesia. lt wants to make them Indonesian citizens and to by-pass their right of selfdetermination. Where is the protection against that? Where is the protection against Indonesia flooding Dutch New Guinea with its own population? Indonesia has a surplus population amounting to millions in its various islands. It has the problem of moving millions of people. It could flood Dutch New Guinea with Indonesians. It could, as it were, obliterate the local people, treating them as ordinary citizens of Indonesia and giving them no rights as a separate people.
I come now to the question of Australian security. Mr. Casey, in the statement which we debated a week ago, did not mention that subject. There is not one word about Australian security in relation to New Guinea in the statement that the Minister has presented to us to-day. After all is said and done, what more primal duty is there on a government of this country than to advert to that? That is the point upon which the Australian people are concerned and alarmed. Up to the present moment, there has not been one word from this Government as to the effect upon Australian security of any transfer of the control of Dutch New Guinea. The Government is completely silent on the matter.
Some Government spokesmen, or somesupporters of the Government, have indicated that New Guinea has no defence value in this atomic age. That statement has not been repudiated by the GovernmentDoes it stand? This is a question that I press. If that statement is true, it negatesthe whole basis of the defence of this country, according to the Government itself. Honorable senators will recall that thepresent defence set-up is based upon the ground that there may be wars with conventional arms, that there really is a lively expectation that that will be so. We are armed for that very purpose. What is the Government’s attitude in the matter? Even if there were an atomic war, the country would not be taken until it had been physically invaded. There must be a launching place for an invasion. What place is there from which to launch an attack in the south? From what other place would an attack be launched than from the north? In the recent war, that is the way in which the Japanese sought to enter Australia. I completely repudiate the suggestion that New Guinea is not of paramount importance to the security of this country and that we are not concerned with every single thing that moves in that area.
Suppose the Indonesians took over. I refer the Senate to what has appeared in the press during the last few days. Immediately after Dr. Subandrio left this country, a statement was made by the Indonesian army chief -of -staff, General Nasution, which indicated that the Indonesian army was the only protection against the Indonesian Communist party, the only thing preventing a Communist upsurge in Indonesia. Now we are faced with the position, apparently, that the Indonesians’ attempt at democracy has failed. They have gone back to the system of government by presidential decree, under which the President rules with a cabinet selected by himself, with a parliament representing cliques, including, very largely, the army. The parliament can recommend only; it cannot legislate. What is the choice to be in Indonesia, a country unstable at the moment, unsettled in democratic processes, and completely inexperienced administratively. One may make one’s choice as to whether the army is to prevail or the
Communists are to prevail. There are evils either way. You may go to fascism on the one hand or to communism on the other hand. If I had to make a choice, I would fear communism. It has a temporal advantage over other people in that it has no conscience and therefore can act without scruple.
But here is a country without political stability. Yet this Government stands supinely by, with that trouble developing, and says, “ If a peaceful arrangement is made, we will not oppose it”. There is no general qualification along the lines that the Prime Minister now seeks to inject into the picture.
Now the Government claims that there has been no change in its policy. Let me show honorable senators how very far from the truth that is. Sir Percy Spender, speaking in the General Assembly of the United Nations on 24th November, 1954, said this on behalf of his Government -
The Australian people without any division are confirmed in the view -
First that the Indonesian Republic has no claim whatever to West New Guinea.
Second that the indigenous peoples of West New Guinea must not be allowed to be handed over to any nation - whether it be Indonesia or any other nation - but that within the terms and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, they shall be permitted to determine their own ultimate destiny.
Nothing will shake us from this view.
So the Government has turned a complete somersault from that position. Dr. Subandrio certainly thinks so. On his return to Djakarta the other day, he indicated very plainly that a compromise had been reached with Australia. He claims that there has been a change in Australia’s attitude. He is the one who needed the change, and he claims he has got it. He says that, being a compromise, it is not 100 per cent, satisfactory, but he feels that he has made a distinct advancement and that he has persuaded the Government of this country to change the outlook that it has adopted up to the present time. He claims that, and I suggest that he has every reason to claim it. The Government’s denial now that it has changed its policy, in the light of what it officially put on record at the United Nations, is just so much eyewash - so much endeavour to cover up the grievous blunder that it has made in relation to this matter.
What should our aim be? We are bound, in the first place, to endeavour to speed the peoples of New Guinea on their way to self-government and to the development of their country as an entity, as one people. That is our first and great obligation. Perhaps, I should not put it that way; but I point out that our second obligation is our own security. The first matter that I referred to - the promotion of selfdetermination, the promotion of their interests and not of governing or administrative power - is a matter of moral and contractual obligation.
The second matter - the question of Australian security in relation to that area - is a matter of simple Australianism. It is the first and foremost duty of any government that is charged with the destiny of this country. But what is the position? The Government is completely silent, and all Australia is waiting to know. Does the Government regard New Guinea as no longer being of consequence to the security of this country? If it does, why? They are the questions to which the Opposition wants an answer.
I would say that the Government, in agreeing not to oppose any agreement that Indonesia and Holland may make in relation to Dutch New Guinea, has fallen down badly on the job for this country. If it wanted consultation, as it now claims, before any such agreement was entered into, where is the provision in the communique about that? It is simply not there. In a matter like this where there is a trust, there unquestionably should be no transfer of Dutch New Guinea by Holland without the concurrence of the United Nations. The United Nations has been imported into the matter by contract with all the nations and by contract with Holland, and it is not for Holland, or for Australia in relation to its territory, to hand over the territory of the people to anybody else. What Sir Percy Spender said on behalf of this Government in the United Nations in 1954 was right, and this Government is recreant in having departed from that stand.
Senator MAHER (Queensland) [4.01.- Mr. President, I have listened with attention to the contribution of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), but I am bound to say that there has been much binding in the marsh, a lot of beating about the bush, and a failure to look at the facts as they were presented by the joint announcement made by the representative of the Indonesian Government and the Australian representatives. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, has jumped all the hurdles and has brought himself to the point that he believes that all the things which could flow from an amicable agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia have already happened. He was tilting at the windmills and was dealing with a state of affairs that is not provided for or referred to in the joint announcement.
Senator McKenna disputes Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. If it had not been for the early Dutch pioneers in the East Indies, I do not think it would be possible for the 80,000,000 Indonesian people to exist in those lovely islands to-day. The Dutch were the leaders who went there with the know-how away back in 1596, so for nearly 400 years they were established in the East Indies as the pioneers and leaders. They put down the rubber and sugar plantations, discovered the oil, and gave the right sort of governmental lead that enabled the Indonesia intelligentsia by degrees to assume positions of responsibility within their country until finally they felt it was time to dispossess the Dutch. That is an historical fact, and I do not think the Indonesians would mind my putting it that way. I really think that, although in these latter days the Dutch have been referred to as colonialists, any fair-minded Indonesian must agree that, if it had not been for the Dutch, there may not have been the great and prosperous Indonesian States as we know them to-day. So, we should not take that from the Dutch.
The joint announcement proclaimed Australian recognition of Dutch sovereignty over West New Guinea. I should think that, for the reasons I have just indicated, we are entitled to uphold Dutch sovereignty. On the other hand, the Indonesians claim that, when the Dutch moved out of Indonesia proper several years ago, the tail went with the hide - in other words, that the whole of the area that had been under Dutch control should have passed into the hands of the Indonesians. The Indonesians say that it was all included in the deal. That is a dispute that I do not propose to buy into; it is a matter for settlement between the two countries concerned. If it can be settled amicably, why should not the Australian Government say to Dr. Subandrio, as it said the other day, that the Australian Ministers would not oppose an agreement entered into freely and amicably between the two countries whereby sovereignty over West New Guinea, which the Dutch had clearly established over a period of nearly 400 years, should be transferred to the Indonesians? That is the point that has to be made. It is of no use worrying about things which could happen. Where is the crime which the Leader of the Opposition attributes to our Australian Ministers? The kernel of the announcement is that we would not oppose an agreement entered into freely and in a friendly spirit by those two countries. When you dispose of that point you really dispose of all the argument that Senator McKenna has raised.
When Dr. Subandrio visited Australia this month, I think that he did a very good job for his country. I think, too, that Australia’s Ministers did a very good job for their country, because it is of outstanding importance that Australia and Indonesia, being in such close proximity to one another, should have the friendliest associations. There should be the utmost goodwill between the peoples of Australia and those of Indonesia. To the extent that Dr. Subandrio came here in an atmosphere of goodwill and advocated friendship between our two countries, I think that we should be very glad that he came as an ambassador of his country on such a mission. The talks that he had with the Australian Ministers were conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality.
I say deliberately that we need Indonesia as a friend, not only at the present time, but also in the important years which lie ahead, having regard to the big changes that are taking place to the north of Indonesia and in other parts of the world. Dr. Subandrio helped us to come to a better understanding in that respect. Unfortunately, there has been an outcry in this country by sections of the press, mainly the metropolitan press, and also criticism by the Opposition, about what was achieved by the talks.
– What about the Returned Soldiers League.
– I do not want to ignore the criticism of the R.S.L., which seems to indicate a fear that if West New Guinea fell into the hands of Indonesia - although there is no certainty that it will - it would be all over bar the shouting. That is where Senator McKenna got out of his depth.
The R.S.L. believes, in common with many people in Australia, that the existence of West New Guinea under Dutch control adds terrifically to the security of this country, but if we examine the position closely I do not think that that viewpoint can be sustained. I remind the Senate that the main Indonesian islands, the hard core of Indonesian power, run parallel to, and I think at one point come within 200 miles of, the northern coastline of Australia. If an enemy came from the Asian mainland, shall we say, and overwhelmed Indonesia in a powerful southern thrust, his army and air force would have the necessary platform in Indonesia itself from which to launch an attack against this country. In such circumstances, Mr. President, it would not matter very much who held West New Guinea because that area would be outflanked and could be by-passed by an enemy moving down from further north. Once Indonesia was overwhelmed, the enemy would lose no time in launching an attack against Australia.
When we look at the matter in that light, the relative importance of West New Guinea to the defence of Australia becomes very much less. The main thing for this country to do is to keep Indonesia in the picture, to be on friendly terms with it, and to co-operate with the Indonesians and help them as much as we can. If any attack should come involving Indonesia, that is the time when we should pull our weight to help the Indonesians. From all my reading on the subject, and from conversations with members of this Parliament who have been there, West New Guinea is not a land flowing with milk and honey by any means. On the contrary, it is a land of snow and ice in the mountains where the waters of the great Fly River have their source; a land of swamps, lakes and high mountains. There is not much scope for agricultural production. Unless oil, or some other wealth-producing commodity, could be located in payable quantities, it would be a liability to any other country, as I suppose it is to Holland to-day. Still, there is a sentimental link between the Dutch and the East Indies, and no doubt the Dutch would like to retain that area. If, by any chance, at some time in the future they wanted to escape the liability of running West New Guinea and entered into a friendly and peaceful agreement with the Indonesians for the transfer of the sovereignty over the territory, I cannot see that it would do very much harm, and I see no reason for opposing it.
The Australian Ministers have had written into the joint announcement that the matter of self-determination for the native peoples of West New Guinea must always be of paramount consideration to any country that might be about to take over either the sovereignty or the trusteeship of that country, and that this problem should be faced in the way that the Australian Government has faced it in regard to the indigenous peoples of Papua and eastern New Guinea. That point was not lost sight of by the Ministers when they entered into the agreement with Dr. Subandrio, despite the statement to the contrary by the Leader of the Opposition recently. He implied that that point had been overlooked.
Senator McKenna seemed to take the view that the Dutch had no rights of sovereignty over West New Guinea and no right to transfer the sovereignty, and that that was a matter entirely for the United Nations. The Australian Government has held that it is not the function of the General Assembly of the United Nations to interpret agreements or to pass judgment on questions of territorial sovereignty, believing that disputations of this kind should go before the International Court. Of course, the Indonesians have that opportunity. They have had it all along, but for their own reasons they have not been prepared to place their case before the International Court. So it seems to me that there is only one course left: if they will not put their case before the world court, they must depend upon an agreement with the Netherlands for the transfer of sovereignty.
Dr. Subandrio said that the Indonesians ace: a> patient people, and that they are. prepared’ to wait,, even though a long wait may be entailed’. He; said that all he. wanted from the Australian Government was an assurance that we would not oppose- the transfer of sovereignty if it were entered into, under these conditions… I think it is eight and. proper that we. should have given that undertaking to him., The. Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) yesterday made it distinctly clear that it is not our job to- urge, the Dutch, to enter into, negotiations,, and that we have not. done so;, nor have we any inten-tion to do so.. That is a matter entirely for the Dutch themselves. If the Dutch do not wish to transfer their sovereignty of western New Guinea,, as Dr: Subandrio has stated, the Indonesians, are: prepared to- wait in the hope that some time or. other there will, be a change of feeling so far as the. Netherlands is concerned in the mattes of helping Indonesia to realize its. aim there.
Dr. Subandrio came here and in my view said many things- which, we’ should all be freely expressing here. He said many things which, I think, it would pay us to express here. First, he said, that Australia needs a friendly Indonesia as a shield against the remainder of Asia. That was rather a courageous statement for one from the Asian zone to make. Reflectively, he added that one day we may need them. We could well reverse the position and address the same words to the Indonesian leaders - that Australia needs a friendly Indonesia, as Dr. Subandrio says, as a. shield against people who might come down from far to the north of Indonesia. We should be good friends and good neighbours. In my experience of life, trust and goodwill begets trust and goodwill. I have always found that it pays dividends to grasp the outstretched hand extended in friendship and goodwill. Dr. Subandrio came here as a friend and said to us things which we could well address to him. Therefore, I feel that we should take advantage of the opportunity which he offers and enter into very good relations with Indonesia. We have not gone further than the terms of the joint announcement. Various points have been clarified by the Prime Minister, but substantially it remains the same. All that we have said to the Indonesians is that we will not oppose the transfer of sovereignty if it is freely entered into between the two countries.
In< conclusion, I feel that these talks- have done a world of good in the. interests1 of friendship, understanding, and peace. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to make a return visit to Indonesia so that the goodwill and understanding, already engendered can be consolidated’, because there are big problems that we can help to solve apart from the question of relation ships between Indonesia and’ Holland. Having made this gesture to Indonesia, we should follow it up by consolidating; the goodwill that has. been gained, by Dr. Subandrio’s visit to- Australia; we should make the: best, of it. I support the Governs meat’s attitude as- expressed in the joint announcement,, and 1 hope that these talks will result in. a. bond of mutual respect, co.operation, and. friendly association between Australia and Indonesia.
[4.2.1J. - I was not aware that this subject would- be debated, to-day. After my request a couple of days ago for an. opportunity’ to be provided for such, a debate in the Senate; I should like to have received longer notice of it. I wish to express my party’s views on this very important matter. I believe that the Government, is- merely sitting on. the fence and hoping; for the best. If that, atittude persists, the result will be disastrous for Australia. The Government adopted! a similar attitude in. relation to Formosa.. It refused to establish an embassy or a legation in Formosa, but sat on the fence, hoping for the best, and ignored a vital con:sideration in our relationships with SouthEast Asia. That is what the Government is now doing, in relation to Dutch New Guinea.
asked, “ Why shout about something that has not happened?” I believe it to be the job of this Government and this Parliament to discuss the matter now instead of waiting until something has, in fact, happened. I stress the view that Australia is more vitally interested in Dutch New Guinea than are the Dutch themselves, and that any conditions that are imposed should be imposed only with our full knowledge. We must state our point of view, and back it very strongly if any proposal’ is made that would be against the interests’- of Australia. I believe that the joint announcement that has been made will’ considerably weaken the Dutch position in West New Guinea. From Australia’s point of view it is better that the Dutch rather than the Indonesians be there, because the Dutch have accepted the authority of the United. Nations in that, area in that they report to the General Assembly on their administration of Dutch New Guinea. Australia should recognize now that the’ Dutch are not’ very strong- in their desire: to retain West New Guinea because it is a drain on their’ resources. As honorable1 senators, know, Holland no longer controls the great empire from which her financial assets were drawn only a few years agc and’ the. Dutch people in their homeland are now being taxed’ fairly heavily to meet the cost of administering New Guinea, the reverse position to that obtaining, a. short time. ago.
A section of the Netherlands Government desires to- get rid of Dutch New Guinea and, at the same time, huge interests’ in Holland want te use the territory as a bargaining point with’ a view to- obtaining reparations for the losses they have already sustained’ in Indonesia. We- should1 remember, too; that the Indonesians’ after having destroyed some, and taken over other; Dutch enterprises have now turned their attention to nationalist Chinese and British enterprises as well. Ft is apparent, therefore, that Dutch New Guinea could be a bargaining factor from the Dutch point of view. While Australia was behind’ the Dutch in their attitude toward’s New Guinea they felt secure in the knowledge that we would back them up, but the- Prime Minister’s- announcement, no doubt,, will cause the Dutch, to. take a second look at the progressively deteriorating position now confronting them. We should, try at all costs, to avoid the state of affairs in which the. Dutch: attitude will be sr> weakened that their government will finally come to an agreement with, the Indonesians, without any urging from Australia. What will Australia do. then? From all appearances, the Government will do nothing..
– What does the honorable senator suggest the Government should do?
– Irrespective of what the Minister may say, we must safeguard’ this part of the world for Austrafia, if necessary by a show of force.
– A show of force?’
– That is1, all we need do at present, but the: time willi come when a show of force willi not be- sufficient. Although Indonesia is. friendly towards1 us now, she could come under Communist domination in. the. not fiar distant future.. If the Communists: do* acquire control of Dutch New Guinea as: part of Indonesia, who will get the credit?- lt will not be Dr. Subandrio;’ it. willi be: the Communist party in. Indonesia,, which is:, the strongest and best organized party in that country, and the one with the most efficient propaganda machine. The Communists jumped on the West Irian band wagon at the last election in Indonesia and, as the former Ambassador to Australia has said, the huge vote that they received was the result of their propaganda. The Communists, alone will gain the kudos if West New Guinea is handed over to Indonesia.
The- Government thinks that- by its action Indonesia1 will become a friendly power. In the not-far-distant future. Indonesia could quite easily come under’ Communist domination’, and let no honorable senator tell me that she will’ then have friendly feelings towards us. Ff the Communists control Dutch New Guinea, we will’ have a Communistcontrolled territory at our front door. Every honorable senator knows what has happened- in Europe when such a position has arisen. We are vitally interested in this matter, which affects- our security and. that of territories, under our . control.
Senator Maher said that Dutch Kew Guinea was now of no security value toAustralia. If we are faced with a war in this area,, that war will’ not be fought with atomic weapons but with conventional arms: AH our preparations for war and” our defence votes are directed’ towards’ the provision of conventional weapons. My statement is borne out by the fact that the Indonesians wish to send their army officers’ to Australia to be trained in our jungle warfare schools. Senator Maher also said’ that Indonesia was close enough to be a launching platform for an invasion of Australia. New Guinea is a better launching platform.
– I said, if the Indonesians were overwhelmed.
– It does not matter whether they are overwhelmed or whether they come under Communist domination. Nobody expects Indonesia to be overwhelmed by any outside nation. During the last war the Japanese, having Australia as their objective, approached us through New Guinea although they controlled at that time this launching platform of Indonesia. The same thing could happen again. For that reason, Dutch New Guinea is very useful to Australia, from a security point of view, in the event of an attack upon us.
Everybody, including the Government, seems to have forgotten the indigenous people of New Guinea. However, the Prime Minister in his statement last night tried to tone down the magnitude of his oversight. The Government considered that the natives had no rights at all and could be handed over like so many cattle to any country that obtained control of the territory. Those natives should be treated in the same, way as we are treating the Papuans, helping them to build themselves into a nation. I presume that the ultimate objective of the Government, if it has an objective, is to form the people of that area into a Melanesian federation. However, judging by the Government’s action in the Dutch New Guinea matter, I rather think it does not have any overall policy so far as foreign affairs are concerned, but lives from day to day, trying to meet each situation as it arises.
We cannot allow the Indonesians to take over Dutch New Guinea, although the Government has given the Dutch the green light to go ahead and dispose of the territory. It is most important that New Guinea should be either retained by a friendly country or put under United Nations control, which would be better still, and built up into the Melanesian Federation of which I have spoken, a federation composed of our own part of New Guinea and other islands to our north. If that were done, we would have a friendly neighbour, but once this area goes to Indonesia, the Indonesians will become colonists. It has been said that they propose moving to the area millions of people from other islands held by Indonesia. I should say it is possible that the people of West New Guinea are more backward than the people of some of the islands from which it is suggested the Indonesians will move the population. If that should be so, then it is certain that there will be no indigenous people in the Melanesia that we should like to see; they will be all Indonesians.
This question is far too important to pass over lightly, and I am pleased that the debates which have taken place here and in another place have highlighted the fact that all Australians, irrespective of whether they are keenly interested in politics, have examined this question. I am confident that if a Gallup poll were taken at the moment it would result in an overwhelming denunciation of this Government’s policy in respect of Dutch New Guinea. The Australian people realize that our position is precarious, bearing in mind the vast empty spaces in this continent.
I hope that the Government will resolve to take an active part in any negotiations that may take place and that it will insist that the only change to which it will agree will be that Dutch New Guinea be taken over by the United Nations, and that it will recommend that Dutch New Guinea be added to our trust territory of New Guinea. That is the only sensible, long-range policy, and it certainly would permit of the establishment of the Melanesia to which I have referred. The Australian Government should not allow matters to continue to develop as they are now developing. If it does, 1 predict that in the not far distant future Indonesia will take over Dutch New Guinea, and should that happen it will be a sorry day not only for Australia but also for the indigenous people of that area.
– I feel obliged to join issue with Senator McKenna in this debate, and I propose to deal with the five points he made in connexion with the communique’ which is substantially the subject matter of this debate. Senator McKenna’s first argument related to sovereignty. He criticized thi; communique for laying so much emphasis on the question of sovereignty. He also criticized to some extent the Government’s definition of “ sovereignty “ and endeavoured to define that rather difficult legal term himself to suit his own argument. In other words, he endeavoured to show that no change in the sovereignty of West New Guinea could take place without the consent of the United Nations, and he gave, as his authority for that proposition, Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations Organization. The proposition postulated by Senator McKenna is indeed a most unique exposition of international law. This is the first time in my life that I have ever heard that a change of sovereignty over a territory, colony, or even a self-governing territory, must be the subject of debate in the forum of the United Nations before it can be effected. I invite Senator McKenna to indicate one word or one line in the Charter of the United Nations which supports that proposition. ! suggest that’ the honorable senator is completely and hopelessly confusing sovereignty derived from United Nations trusteeship with sovereignty which has always been vested in the parent nation, as it were. Two typical illustrations of the different types of territory are, of course, Papua on the one hand and Australian New Guinea on the other. In the one case, sovereignty undoubtedly rests with the Australian Commonwealth, and in the other there can be no doubt that sovereignty rests with the United Nations Organization. I quite agree with Senator McKenna that if any agreement relating to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea were to be made by Australia, that agreement would have to be ratified or confirmed1 in the United Nations Assembly because, in that case, sovereignty vests in the United Nations. But that is not so with Papua. Australia possesses sovereignty over Papua in the same way as Holland possesses sovereignty over Dutch West New Guinea. There is no legal authority, apart from Senator McKenna, for the proposition that the United Nations has any right whatsoever to interfere in such a case. The Netherlands has always had sovereignty over Dutch West New Guinea and still retains that sovereignty. I cannot understand the argument propounded by Senator McKenna this afternoon in his endeavour to introduce the question of United Nations trusteeship into areas where the United1 Nations has no authority whatsoever.
True it is that all subscribers to the United Nations Charter have entered into a solemn and binding obligation - although it is not enforceable - relating to the preservation of the rights of indigenous people, and it >s upon that hook that Senator McKenna endeavours to hang his weak theory relating to sovereignty. 1 suggest to him that the rights of indigenous people, as set out in Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations, do not affect in the slightest degree the sovereignty of West New Guinea. The obligation to preserve the rights of the indigenous people in that area will continue to rest on the shoulders of the Dutch if Holland retains sovereignty. It will remain with the Dutch or be transferred to any nation that happens, from time to time, to secure by lawful means sovereignty over what is now Dutch West New Guinea. That obligation is more or less a continuing condition which attaches itself to the land; but it does not affect the matter of sovereignty one scrap.
There are other areas where a similar situation could arise; and I remind Senator McKenna that he did not object to the transfer of the sovereignty of Cocos Island from Great Britain to Australia. I point out that he actually voted for the relevant bill and did not suggest that sovereignty in respect of that island should be debated in the forum of the United Nations. Again, only last year, I think, Australia obtained sovereignty over Christmas Island, by agreement, and Senator McKenna voted with celerity for that change. On that occasion, he did not postulate his new theory on sovereign rights, or suggest that the question should be debated in the forum of the United Nations. Now, for some obscure reason, in a discussion on precisely the same type of territory - Dutch New Guinea - he comes forward with this amazing suggestion that the Dutch have not the right to deal in the sovereignty of the area without reference to the United Nations. It is merely hypothetical and theoretical to do that; nor do I see what it has to do with the communique. After all, whether the Senate accepts Senator McKenna’s theory of sovereignty, or my own theory, is immaterial. The fact is that we accept Dutch sovereignty over this particular territory. Does Senator McKenna deny that proposition? Does he agree with me that the Government was correct in stipulating in this communique with Indonesia - dealing as it did exclusively with sovereignty - that it recognizes sovereignty - whatever that might mean in
Senator McKenna’s mind ; over West New Guinea as being vested in Holland. I think that is the real question at issue - not whether sovereignty means one thing or another.
Senator McKenna treated us to a very interesting talk, but in twenty minutes he did not say yea or nay to that question. He did not say whether he agreed that sovereignty should remain with Holland, or with some other country, although he did feel, I take it, that sovereignty ought not to pass to Indonesia. Perhaps he argues, by inference, that therefore sovereignty should remain with Holland, but of course it is plain from the policy of the Australian Labour party that he would really advocate the handing over of sovereignty to Australia. Yesterday, his learned Leader in another place advocated something quite different - the vesting of sovereignty in three powers. There you have an example of the thinking of the Australian Labour party in this matter of sovereignty. One always seems to find this curious deviation of view on the part of honorable members opposite.
Senator McKenna dealt next with the matter of self-determination, and suggested that the communique should have had more to say about it. No one else has raised the issue. It is not being raised by the Dutch. They have subscribed to the United Nations Charter and have agreed to the principle of self-determination for indigenous peoples. It is not being argued by Australia, because we, too, subscribe to the United Nations Charter. How then, is the matter at issue? Senator McKenna says that there should have been a lot more about it in the communique, but the question simply does not arise. It is a self-evident truth, for the whole world to see. The communique could not properly have been made -the place for an announcement by Australia and -Indonesia regarding the selfdetermination of peoples under the domain of a third nation. Would Senator McKenna approve a communique issued by the United States of America and Indonesia regarding the administration of the Papuan .natives? Would that, in his view, be a fair document? Would it be appropriate for those countries to discuss in a communique the right to self-determination of the natives of Papua.
Surely such a matter could only be dealt with in a document drawn up by the parent nation and some other nation, for instance, Holland and Australia. So far as we are concerned, the issue of self-determination in West New Guinea has nothing to do with Indonesia and for that very good reason it was not given prominence in the communique. I do not deny that it is a suitable subject for discussion between the proper parties to the issue. If Australia were interested those parties would be Australia and the Netherlands. To a very large extent the same is true of security questions.
Senator McKenna was somewhat heated for Senator McKenna ; over this matter of security. He complained rather bitterly that the communique contained no observation whatever in regard to the security of Australia, and went on to propound what is a self-evident and elementary truth - that West New Guinea is of great strategic importance to us. Nobody argues that proposition. No student of a staff college would contest it. We all know the importance of West New Guinea in our defence strategy.
– Senator Maher was arguing about it!
– It would be very foolish to refer to it in this communique. At the moment the particular territory happens to be in the hands of the Dutch. It .does not happen to come within the authority, control or legal sovereignty of Indonesia. That being so, why on earth should we discuss, in a document issued jointly with Indonesia, matters of strategy relating to it. Would we welcome a discussion between the United States of America and Indonesia concerning the setting up of ‘bases in North Queensland? I think that we should regard such a discussion rather poorly. We should adopt the same view of any discussions concerning Papua or the Cocos Islands. I venture to say that we would not accept that sort of thing from any one. In the circumstances, why should we now stand up and advocate in this chamber that Australia and Indonesia should make announcements concerning strategy and defence, as they are affected by a territory which belongs to neither country? I think that .the Opposition recognizes, as does the Government, that this part of the world belongs to Holland. Therefore, any discussions concerning security, defence, global strategy or anything else involving West New Guinea should be between Australia and the Netherlands. lt is no less than sheer impudence for any country to talk about the strategic importance of some one else’s property. Surely that has never been done in the history of defence planning, and I suggest that it would be quite improper to embark upon anything of the sort in this document, which the Opposition has criticized so freely.
In short, the Government could not properly say one word about strategy, defence or security of West New Guinea. If it did, the Dutch could rightly say: “ Look, that is a matter which affects us. It happens to he our part of the world. You had better talk to us about it.” And they would be quite right. It is foolish of members of the Opposition to attempt to mislead the general public on this issue, drawing red herrings across the trail for, I suggest, political purposes, and nothing else. The same may be said of Senator McKenna’s other points in regard to this document.
He made the charge, of course, that there had been a change in our policy. Where has the change been? Since the time Indonesia became Indonesia, the Australian Government has accepted the fact that Holland retained sovereignty over West New Guinea. The Government has never departed from that policy in the slightest degree. From there, of course, flow by elementary international law Australia’s obligations to accept what happens as the result of that possession of sovereignty over West New Guinea, in the very same way as, internationally, there is an obligation on the Dutch to accept the actions of Australia in relation to her territory there. Did the Dutch object to the transfer of sovereignty from Britain to Australia in relation to Cocos Island? They would have been laughed out of court had they done so. They had no business to interfere. All that we did in this communique was to accept Dutch sovereignty. We always have accepted that sovereignty. We also accept the international and legal .consequences that flow from such acceptance - nothing more and nothing less. As a matter of fact, it would be somewhat unnecessary to say in the communique that we do accept those consequences, because as a matter of international law, we must either accept them or dispute them.
Finally, Senator McKenna briefly referred to the future aims of Australia in relation to New Guinea. In fairness to Senator McKenna, I do not remember whether he suggested that these aims should have been inserted in the communique. He referred, of course, to such subjects as the future of the people, the question of self-determination and so on. I do not know whether he actually insisted that those subjects should have been included in the communique. If he does not argue that they should have been introduced into the communique, I may be disposed to agree with a lot of what he said. I personally do not doubt that the future welfare of the people is of paramount importance. Therefore, I suggest that it would be only proper that whoever held sovereignty over West New Guinea, and Papua and Australian New Guinea, should be in very close collaboration in regard to that very important principle.
I suggest, as I have suggested before, that having had discussions with the Indonesian Government in relation to this problem, and having settled very satisfactorily, so far as we are .concerned, a very important issue with the Indonesians, in that they have said that they will not use force in relation to their claims, we can now turn the other cheek, as it were, and discuss the future of New Guinea as a whole, not with the Indonesians, but with the -Dutch. I am certain that the Government has in mind many of the things referred to by honorable senators as a long-term policy in relation, not only to the security of this area and the welfare of the indigenous people, but also to general development and trade. When those discussions take place with the Dutch, it will be most interesting to hear what honorable senators opposite have to say. Will they then argue, perhaps, that we should have had the discussions with some other nation? I shall be most interested to hear .their remarks.
– This debate.-on the subject of Dutch New Guinea is unique. It gives us the third bite at the cherry in four days of sitting.
This piecemeal way of dealing with the matter could easily have been avoided had our request been granted and the matter debated fully last week. That was not done, the debate then being confined to two speeches, one from the Government side and one from the Opposition side. That procedure forced many of us who spoke during the debate on the Address-in-Reply to use the latitude afforded by that debate to deal with the Indonesian question.
I intend now, not to traverse the remarks I made when I dealt with ten years of the history of the Indonesian Republic and its relationship with Australia, but merely to reiterate the basis that I tried to lay in my talk the other night. If you ignore the causes of the events of those ten years, the neglected chances and the lost opportunities and then try to deal with the facts as we have tried to do during the last week, you will completely miss the bus.
On the last occasion I spoke I said that because of the neglect by the Australian Government to consider the attitude of the Indonesians in our relationships with them, because of the open hostility of this Government to the Indonesian government and the Indonesian people up until the last few weeks, and because of a lack of clear understanding of the position and our failure to make the most of our opportunities, we find ourselves moving from those bad premises to the conclusion that we have tried to reach in the last few days.
During the dying days of the last Parliament, I was interested to note that in another place the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) asked the Prime Minister a question on this subject. He asked whether, because of the deterioration which was obviously taking place in the relations between Indonesia and Australia, the Prime Minister would invite Dr. Soekarno to this country. In his answer to the honorable member for Lang, the right honorable gentleman said that he resented the statement that there was a deterioration in those relationships and said that, except for the one problem of Dutch New Guinea, everything in the garden was lovely. He made no reference to inviting Dr. Soekarno here at all. That has been the attitude of the Government over the last ten years, lt was an ostrich-like attitude on the part of the Prime Minister.
The right honorable gentleman says now that he hopes that Dr. Subandrio’s visit to Australia will not worsen the relations between Indonesia and Australia, but for ten years he allowed the position to deteriorate. Now he makes the amazing calculation that a visit by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, could possibly worsen the relations between the two countries. I do not know of any occasion when a visit by the representative of one government to another government’s territory has produced a worsening of relations. It may be that on the eve of war, when we had representatives going to Japan, Germany, Russia and other countries, their visits did not produce the results that were wanted, but even in such extreme circumstances their visits did not worsen the position, which was already so bad that nothing could be done about it.
The Prime Minister has said - and it has been repeated by people all down the line - that there is no reversal of policy and no reversal of attitude on the part of the Government. The very fact that for ten years Mr. Menzies refused to go to Indonesia but now, after an invitation by Dr. Subandrio, a junior partner, has decided to go, is of itself a reversal of the attitude that this Government has adopted towards Indonesia.
The attitude of this Government in the United Nations up until now has always been one, not so much of support for Dutch possession of Dutch West New Guinea, as of complete implacability to Indonesia - a policy of keeping Indonesia out of that area. That position has been reversed. The Prime Minister has tried to tell us that the present communique is not a reversal of the Government’s attitude, not a reversal of policy on the question of Dutch West New Guinea. I do not know why he adopts that implacable attitude. After all, every government is entitled, if it thinks it has made a mistake, to reverse its policy. This Government has done so on this occasion, and I cannot quite understand the vehemence with which the Prime Minister is denying it.
I do not want to go deeply into the question of sovereignty, with which Senator Vincent dealt. I am afraid that during the last twenty minutes of his speech I could not understand what he was saying. He drew examples rather widely and got right across to the Cocos Islands and Christmas Island. He asked whether the Dutch could have objected to the Cocos and Christmas islands being handed over to Australia. I have a very limited knowledge of these things, but the first thing that strikes me is that there were no indigenous peoples dependent on either the British or Australians in the Cocos Islands or Christmas Island, whereas the whole point of this debate is that in Dutch West New Guinea any change that takes place in our generation might worsen the conditions of the helpless people of that territory. I conclude my remarks on that point by saying that the Cocos Islands and Christmas Island are like the flowers that bloom in the spring - they have nothing to do with the case.
All that Dr. Subandrio did when he came to this country was to stress the obvious - what the Indonesians had been saying for nine years and what Mr. Menzies and this Government had been denying for that period. But when the junior partner comes in and lays down the obvious things that Indonesia would want, there is a complete somersault by this Government and the two parties start to agree. If it be not a complete reversal of policy, what is indicated by the fact that although Mr. Menzies saw fit, after a long period of time, to visit Japan, an ex-enemy of ours, and on nine occasions to visit England, on each occasion by-passing Indonesia, he has suddenly decided to go to Indonesia later this year?
As Senator Maher reiterated, we want a friendly Indonesia. But, for goodness’ sake, do not let us fall into the trap of believing that, because we have a visit from a very able Indonesian who has made a great impression in this country, we are going to get friendship after it has been lacking for the last ten years. It is all very well to say, “ Yes, we want a friendly Indonesia. We want a friendly Singapore and a friendly Malaya.” We will not get friendship unless we do something about it. And the accusation that is levelled against this Government is that it has done just the reverse.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have dropped back into their traditional role, be the subject under discussion social services or foreign affairs, of mounting a personal attack against Dr. Evatt. The simile of the midwife has been extended quite beyond its context. It was stated that the Labour party was the midwife, but the simile has been extended and has been applied to Dr. Evatt. As a matter of fact, Senator McKenna was acting as Attorney-General when, through the United Nations, we stopped the action of the Dutch in Indonesia.
– Who was the Minister for External Affairs?
– Senator McKenna was acting as Minister for External Affairs at that time. What Government supporters are trying to do, as they always do because they seem to think some party political capital is to be gained thereby, is to attach blame to Dr. Evatt. That is what they have tried to do on this occasion. Senator McKenna, as I have said, happened to be acting as Minister for External Affairs and Labour happened to be in office when the action to which I have referred was taken. I recall that at that time the Liberals criticized our action and said we had no right to be butting in, that the matter should not have been referred to the United Nations, and so forth.
We acted, as I said the other night, not with any thought of helping the Indonesians or the Dutch, but in a way in which we believed it was our obligation to act, because the incident occurred in our area and came within the ambit of the Charter of the United Nations. Of course, the fact remains that what was done did help the Indonesians and did not please the Dutch. Some one has asked, “What would have been Dr. Evatt’s attitude?” Except that Dr. Evatt was a member of the Australian Labour party and of the government .of the day, the matter had nothing to do with him. Some one has also asked, “What would have been the position if West New Guinea had been included in the hand-over? “ What has happened recently is vastly different from what happened ten years ago. If my memory serves me right, West New Guinea was mentioned in one of the agreements that was submitted for signature at that period.
– It was the Linggadjati agreement.
– I hesitated to mention that, because I was not sure whether it was the first or the second Linggadjati agreement: In any case; both the Indonesians and the Dutch1 broke the agreement and it never came to fruition. So, what happened ten years ago in a rapidly changing world has nothing whatever to do with the matter now under discussion.
Senator Vincent seemed to take umbrage at the fact that, as he claims, Senator McKenna had put forward one proposition and Dr. Evatt had put forward another. Heseemed to think that that was a terrible thing to happen within the Labour party. I recall that only a few months ago Senator Vincent himself, with his. peculiar logic, told us that we were caucus controlled, that we had to speak with one voice, and that we were not allowed the freedom of speech that was allowed to members of the great Liberal party. I have been accused from all sides of approaching, the Indonesian question with far too much sympathy for the Indonesians; but if ever there was a subject upon which we- could expect some divergence of opinion, surely it is the subject now before us.
The Liberal party, if we are to accept what Senator Vincent says, speaks as one man on this subject. But it is interesting to note that Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, who spoke immediately after Dr. Evatt in another place yesterday during, the debate on this matter, indicated that, he was quite opposed to the Government.
– And he was chairman of the Foreign Affairs: Committee.
– Yes, and he is one of the few members of the Liberal party who have paid some, attention to South-East Asia. I do not know just where Sir Wilfrid. Kent Hughes fits into the picture painted by Senator Vincent.
As I have said, my attitude towards not only the general Indonesian question but also the subject of West New Guinea has been far from hostile; Many a time. I have argued the Indonesian cause and have, suffered a great deal of criticism for it, but at the same time - and this is the point that was missed by Senator Vincent - we must face up to Australia’s position in the Asian, area. Australia is different from other countries of Asia, and I do not say that with any feeling of hostility. However, the facts are that we are different in colour, our standards are vastly different, and. our economy is different, whilst we are bound closer to -Britain by traditional ties and to America, as. a result of recent events than is any other country ia South-East Asia.
Without having- any ill will towards the’ Indonesians-, we must face’ up to the- possibility that- because* the Pacific area is in a state of- flux, Indonesia could fall into the hands of a foreign power or of international communism. If that happened, we would have an obligation, because of the juxtaposition of West New Guinea and our own tightly held section of New Guinea, to protect our strategic position. Senator Maher denied that New Guinea, was of great strategic value, but in doing so he contradicted his friend and confrere, Senator Vincent. Senator Vincent, advanced the proposition, with which I agree - it must be right if he and I are agreed upon it - that it is incontrovertible that New Guinea represents’ the- first strategic step in the defence of Australia. Senator Maher made the rather peculiar’ statement that the main body of power in Indonesia lay only 200 miles from the coast of Australia. The fact is, of course, that the main body of power in Indonesia lies more than 1,700 miles from Darwin.
– You have it wrongly-. I said that the nearest point of Indonesian power- was 200 miles away.
– If that is so, “ Hansard “ and I. must be. wrong; but if. the honorable, senator looks at. his “Hansard.” proof, he will see just what he said. However, even if Senator Maher said what he claims to have said, a distance of 200 miles from Australia would take us only to some of the outlying islands which are completely undeveloped and which have few, if any, inhabitants. If the honorable senator said what he claims to have said, surely he forgets the lesson learned a few years ago from the struggle for Britain, which was afforded the greatest possible defence by a narrow strip of water: Surely, he also forgets recent activities on Quemoy, where only two miles of water has proved1 a really effective barrier. Surely, the honorable senator knows that 200 miles of water would be an effective protective- barrier for the Australian, continent. But when we move to West New Guinea, there- is no strip of water at all’ but only one land mass with West New Guinea lying right beside that area in which young Australian soldiers made such wonderful sacrifices during the last war.
So 1 say to Senator Maher that New Guinea is of great importance and of great strategic value. We would worsen our position in any global war if we were to give away Dutch New Guinea and if communism or some hostile foreign power were to assume control of Indonesia.
– I did not advocate giving it away. We merely leave the door open for an agreement between the Dutch and the Indonesians, if they can make one.
– I was unable to understand the honorable senator before, so 1 thank him for his assistance. Let me repeat the crux of what I said in my opening remarks. Because of our lack of understanding and our failure to do something to get closer to the Indonesians during the last ten years, we have in the Australian community to-day this split-thinking, this worry about the two matters I have mentioned. There is a desire not to be hostile to Indonesia on the one hand, and on the other, because of the reports that the Australian people have read about the struggle that the Indonesian Government has been having in governing an archipelago instead! of a land mass - the Celebes riots and one thing and another - there is a fear that Indonesian affairs might impinge on the security of Australia. That fear could have been resolved during the last ten years had the Prime Minister visited Indonesia instead of by-passing it, and if, instead of having Dr. Subandrio come here, we had done what we did in relation to Japan, and sent not only Ministers, but also delegations, consisting of rank and file members of the Parliament, to visit Indonesia. Had we done so, we would be in a better position to-day to understand the Indonesians.
The attitude of the Australian Labour party is far from hostile to the Indonesians, the Dutch or any other people in the Pacific area. All that we of the Labour party seek to do is to go into that controversial area and neutralize it, not only in the cause of peace, but because that would be the quickest way to help the indigenous peoples of West New Guinea, a matter which becomes of paramount importance in this modern age. Therefore, Mr. President, there is no need for this running - away. Of course, I know that it is traditional for the Government to do that. It has done so in every international crisis over the last nine years. The Labour party has always looked towards the umbrella of the United Nations, in respect of the Middle East question, this matter of West New Guinea, and other international questions, but the Liberal party has said that Labour’s suggestions have been airy-fairy stuff, that you have to get down to practical things and that the United Nations cannot keep world peace. We may never know whether that is so, but if you want to try to keep the peace of the world, the honorable, decent and courageous thing is to refer such matters to the United Nations.
If we think about this matter of West New Guinea for a few minutes, I think we must agree that the safe and proper thing to do is to neutralize the area, because that would help the indigenous peoples and be best for the strategic conception of Australia. Probably, too, it would be best for the Indonesians themselves, because if things happened which were outside the control of Australians and Indonesians alike, in the final analysis the possession of Dutch New Guinea could be an embarrassment to the Indonesians. After all, Dutch New Guinea is a poor land, whereas the Indonesians have in their own islands some of the richest land in the world. I repeat the warning that in certain circumstances the possession of Dutch New Guinea could be an embarrassment to the Indonesians.
We of the Labour party say that a United Nations trusteeship should be set up, because we believe that that would be the safest thing to do for the indigenous peoples, as well as being in the best strategic interests of Australia and a contribution to peace, not only in the Pacific area, but on a global scale.
– It is in one way a pity that this debate has resulted in two bites being made at the cherry, as I think Senator Willesee said, because that involves the making of some points over again. Still, if it leads to a clearer understanding in this country of the points that matter on this question, I think that any boredom that people might suffer from hearing the same points made again will be well worth while.
I want to advert at once to the arguments adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in his attack on the communique issued at the end of Dr. Subandrio’s visit. The first point of attack that he made, which has been mentioned before and is important, is that the Dutch have no sovereignty over West New Guinea and, therefore, no right to transfer sovereignty because, owing to their adherence to the United Nations Charter in 1945, they by that action at that time placed themselves in the position of trustees for the native people. I want to point out, Sir, as I have before, that if that argument is sound, the Dutch, by that action at that time, placed themselves in the position of trustees for all the people of Indonesia over whom they then held sway, over islands extending from near the Philippines to the Tanimbar Islands between Dutch New Guinea and Australia, to Sumatra, to Java, to the Halmaheras, to the Celebes, to Amboina - to a multitude of different races in a multitude of different countries. Yet that sovereignty over all those peoples was transferred at the instigation, I am told now, of Senator McKenna himself. No objection was raised then on the lines that the Dutch were trustees and had no right to transfer this sovereignty. If it was right for that to happen then, when Senator McKenna was the acting Minister for External Affairs, why is a completely different argument advanced by him now in relation to a territory which was an integral part of the administrative area known as Indonesia at that time?
We have been taken to task, Sir, for trying to put words into the mouth of Dr. Evatt. Senator Willesee took us to task on that score. I hope that he will forgive me for quoting Dr. Evatt, because after all, “ Hansard “ records the words that I am about to mention as emanating from Dr. Evatt in 1949, when he was dealing with this question that is before us to-day - sovereignty over West New Guinea. The right honorable gentleman said -
The sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea is in the Netherlands and it is for the Netherlands to say whether Dutch New Guinea shall come into the agreement and be transferred to Indonesia. From our point of view, the relationships of Dutch New Guinea with the Indonesian Republic and the future governments of the territories concerned are matters primarily for the Dutch and Indonesian governments.
Now, what difference is there between that attitude and the one which is now attacked, because this Government says that the matter is one to be negotiated between the Dutch and the Indonesian governments? There is in fact only this difference, that at the time when Dr. Evatt was speaking, the Labour party adopted an attitude of complete neutrality in this matter and did not support the Dutch in the United Nations in their claim to West New Guinea. Yet the succeeding government has supported the Dutch in their claim to West New Guinea. We have taken the action urged on us by the Leader of the Opposition, which was not taken when he was a member of the government in power in this country. He thinks, Sir, that it would be a pity if New Guinea turned out to be administered half by a European power and half by an Asian power. So do we, but we were the only people who supported the Dutch in the United Nations to get New Guinea completely administered by European powers. He does not want to hand dependent peoples over to an Indonesian government. Neither do we, and the communique which is the subject of this attack makes that abundantly clear when it says -
There was a full explanaton of the considerations which have led each country-
That is, Australia and Indonesia - to a different view over West New Guinea, with Australia recognizing Netherlands sovereignty and recognizing the principle of self-determination.
There, in black and white, in this communique is a statement of the continuing attitude of this Government in favour of Dutch sovereignty and of self-determination.
I move on to the charge that there has been a change of attitude, a charge hung on a flimsy peg by Senator Willesee. He said that Mr. Menzies had refused to visit Indonesia. As far as I know, Mr. Menzies has never refused to visit Indonesia, but what is clear is that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has visited Indonesia on at least a dozen or fifteen occasions since he has been in charge of his portfolio, and on a lower level, this Government has sent delegations of parliamentarians, of which I was a member, and so. too, I think was Senator Willesee, to visit Indonesia as guests of the Indonesian Government. There cannot be any claim that there has been a change of attitude when the communique says that we still support the Dutch, that we will support them in the United Nations, and that we support self-determination. So what does the attack really come down to? It comes down to an attack on a statement in the communique that if Holland and Indonesia freely, peacefully, and in accordance with international principles come to an agreement over the transfer of sovereignty over West New Guinea, this country will not oppose it. That is what the attack is really on. Now, Sir, I would have thought that any one making that attack would have given some indication of how any opposition under such circumstances was at all possible or ever had been possible. Clearly, there are only two or three ways in which opposition could be offered. You could oppose it by force. You could say, “We will not accept this “, or “ We will move in ourselves to prevent this transfer of sovereignty “. Whether you would put your troops in before the Dutch got out or after the Dutch got out, or just in between, I do not know. I hardly think that it is a feasible suggestion, but it is one possible way of opposing it and one which this Government certainly would not adopt, even if it were in the minds of the Opposition.
What else is possible? We have heard suggestions of a tri-partite pact - of Indonesia, Holland and Australia coming to agreement over the future of West New Guinea - and it has been claimed that that would be a good thing. Of course it would be, but both Indonesia and Holland have publicly made it clear that they have no intention whatever of entering into such a pact. Australia could not itself form a tri-partite pact if they would not come in, and so it is of no use talking about such a matter.
It has been suggested that the United Nations could be asked to refuse to agree to a transfer of sovereignty, freely negotiated and proposed by two members both of whom have signed Article 73 of the Charter. Is it at all in the mind of any one that such an approach could have a chance of success? If it is, he has only to look at the voting in the United Nations on this matter when it was before that body at the instance of Indonesia. The last time a vote was taken in 1957 on the matter of support for Indonesia bringing this to the
United Nations, there were 42 members in favour of Indonesia, 28 in favour of the Dutch, and eleven abstentions. That was when Holland was taking an opposite view to Indonesia. What do you think the voting in the United Nations would be likely to be with Holland and Indonesia putting forward a joint request for the acceptance of a transfer of sovereignty? It is in fact clear, Sir, that if this agreement ever unhappily takes place, there will be no practical method of opposing it, and it is therefore silly to talk as if there were.
I want to move on now to the next point raised by the Leader of the Opposition - that of Australia’s security. We were told by him that Indonesia might pour millions of people from her over-populated islands into West New Guinea and flood it from shore to shore with immigrants. Anybody who has been through the archipelago known as Indonesia knows that there is only one island that is heavily populated, and that is Java; that Sumatra has one of the lowest densities of population, followed closely by the Indonesian area of Borneo, and then followed closely by the Indonesian area of Timor. The Indonesians have no population problem except the problem of getting the Javanese to leave Java and go to the vast uninhabited spaces now under the control of Indonesia. It is quite clear that that particular bogy will not stand up to an examination of the facts.
But the matter of West New Guinea as security against military attack should be carefully examined. And in examining it, let us remember these lessons from the last war. It has been carefully said by members of the Opposition that the enemy sought to approach Australia through New Guinea in the last war; and so he did - but not through Dutch New Guinea. That area, of course, was open to the Japanese. They had their bases on Tanim’bar Island and they had bases still closer to us in Timor; but those areas were not used, for very good military reasons, to stage an attack on this country. The areas which will always be used in such attacks are the areas, under the control of Australia, through which the last attack on this country developed. It may be said that the position of West New Guinea would enable an army to approach overland to that part of New Guinea which is under Australian control, but let anybody look at that country only once and then stop talking in that way. The whole of the centre of western New Guinea is nothing but a tangled mass of limestone mountains, without roads, so that even the Dutch administrators when they wish to get into the interior have to go by aeroplane and have to use one small landing strip. The coastal areas themselves are mangrove marshes and, with the exception of some good bases on Biak and on the Vogelkop Peninsula, they offer no chance of a successful military attack on New Guinea. But it was held by the enemy before, and other bases closer were held, and while we should have to watch with great care any enemy who appeared to be establishing himself in New Guinea, that part is where such an enemy could establish himself with less danger to us than in any other part of New Guinea.
The matter of our giving away Indonesia has often been mentioned in this chamber. There is no question of our giving away Indonesia, because it is not in our gift. There is no question of our altering our position to a transfer of sovereignty, but if those who now possess sovereignty, in accordance with accepted international principles, wish to retire against our desire we will not offer any opposition, which we could not offer even if we wished to do so. That, Sir, I believe, is the case in a nutshell on this communique - an attack not for a change in attitude, though it has been sought to prove that, but simply for a statement that we would not do something that we could not do.
.- This debate is a very important one. I do believe that every Australian appreciates the geographical situation of western New Guinea and of eastern New Guinea and Papua in relation to this continent. We had an illustration of that fact only a few years ago - during the last war - when another country invaded a portion of New Guinea and threatened the security of Australia. Since then Australia has assumed her trusteeship of New Guinea and has discharged her obligations. Why is Australia interested in that Territory? Our annual expenditure on Papua and New Guinea amounts to something in excess of £10,000,000, and we regard it as a contribution to the cost of national security.
The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) referred to a statement made by Dr. Evatt, in 1949, regarding the sovereignty of West New Guinea, but he did not mention one word about the change that has taken place in world affairs, and in political ideologies in Asiatic countries to the north of West New Guinea since that time. So, the circumstances that may not have presented themselves in 1949 as an urgent problem have certainly assumed a different aspect in 1959. We need only turn our minds to certain happenings, not only in that part of the world, but also in other countries to see what is happening. A contest that began between Indonesia and the Netherlands could eventually involve others. The Minister has said that the Indonesians do not desire to settle in West New Guinea in any great numbers. What is his authority for that statement? If the Indonesians do not desire to settle in West New Guinea in large numbers, other countries may wish to make that territory their home.
Why did Australia seek trusteeship of eastern New Guinea and Papua? If we answer a few questions of that nature we shall see the situation affecting West New Guinea in a different light. We have undertaken the responsibility of caring for the indigenous population of that Territory, and have done all that we can towards that end. Let us look at some of the facts relating to eastern New Guinea and Papua. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea there are 1,297,000 natives, and in Papua 488,000 natives. The welfare of those people is Australia’s paramount interest, but too little stress has been placed upon that matter. Judging from the remarks of honorable senators opposite, the Government is more concerned with ensuring the security of Australia than with the wellbeing of the natives. When all is said and done, we are dealing with the homeland of those natives, and they are entitled to every consideration.
How is Australia promoting the welfare of the indigenous people of New Guinea and Papua? As I mentioned earlier, we are spending more than £10,000,000 a year in the Territory. If one travels there, one will see bridges in the course of construction - I have knowledge of one bridge over the Markham River - and roads leading from Port Moresby and other important centres in the Territory. The timber industry is being developed and the natives are encouraged, not only to become employees but also to set up in business on their own behalf. Cocoa plantations have been developed, and the coffee industry will soon be established. Other crops, too, are being grown successfully. Turning to the social aspect, educational facilities are being provided for the natives, and we are so guiding and helping the people that in perhaps 50 or 100 years they will be able to govern themselves.
Does Australia propose to continue the trusteeship of the Territory? Nobody would suggest that we relinquish our trusteeship. That thought would not be entertained for one moment. However, the Government’s action on the issue raised by Indonesia, through Dr. Subandrio, is tantamount to saying, “We do not care very much what transpires between Indonesia and the Netherlands”. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is not self-supporting and is, therefore, a burden on the taxpayers of this country; in fact, it is likely to remain so for some considerable time. But that is the obligation and the responsibility we must shoulder in order to maintain the relationship that now exists between the natives of the Territory and Australia. We are overcoming slowly difficulties that have presented themselves in the past. It is to our advantage to continue our trusteeship of Papua and New Guinea because in so doing we are assuring ourselves of a measure of national security.
The question was raised a moment ago as to whether the Dutch have sovereignty over West New Guinea. I do not think there is any doubt about that although some difference may exist between the actual meaning of the word “ sovereignty “, and about what the Dutch are doing in the territory. Some modified form of trusteeship may, in fact, be in existence. The territory may be subject to inspection by officers of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations Organization. I do not know that, but I do know that the Dutch have sovereignty over a certain portion of New Guinea and, therefore, have the right to use that territory as they see fit without being subjected to interference by any other country.
Indonesia, however, now claims sovereignty over West New Guinea. We recall very clearly that Dr. Soekarno proclaimed to the world in 1948 and 1949 that West New Guinea belonged to Indonesia, and he has repeated that claim at various times since. But he is faced with this hard fact that must first be overcome - the Dutch have possession of the territory and regard the wellbeing of the natives as their paramount concern. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act relating to carriage by air.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has three main purposes: First, Part II. of the measure approves ratification and gives effect to the Hague Protocol amending the Warsaw Convention; secondly Part III. repeals the Carriage by Air Act 1935, which gives effect to the Warsaw Convention and makes appropriate provision for continuing to give effect to that convention during an interim period prior to its denunciation and the coming into force of the convention; and thirdly, Part IV. extends the principles of the amended convention to all domestic carriage by air within federal competence but with certain modifications which are considered more appropriate for domestic purposes.
The Warsaw Convention of 1929 establishes uniform international rules governing liability of international air carriers to passengers in respect of death or injury and loss of baggage, and also to consignors of goods. The convention applies to all international carriage of persons, baggage and cargo performed by aircraft for reward and applies also to gratuitous carriage by air performed by an air transport undertaking. To date, 46 countries have become parties to the Warsaw Convention, including all States which have any claim to significance in international air transport. Australia has been a party since 1935 and gives effect to the provisions of the convention in the Carriage by Air Act 1935 to which the convention is annexed as a schedule.
The Hague Protocol to amend the Warsaw Convention was adopted unanimously by representatives of 44 states, including Australia, at a conference held at The Hague in September, 1955. The protocol will come into force as soon as it is ratified by 30 signatory states, and present indications are that most, if not all, of the parlies to the original convention will, in due course, ratify the protocol. Australia signed the protocol during 1956.
Until the protocol comes into force, Australia will, of course, remain bound by the Warsaw Convention. It is also possible that it might wish to continue to be a party to the unamended Warsaw Convention in its relation with States which delay or fail to ratify the protocol after it has come into force. Australia’s international airline, Qantas, currently operates through 26 countries, all of which are parties to the Warsaw Convention, and, from the practical point of view, it would not be desirable to denounce the Warsaw Convention while any State with which we have major air communications has not ratified the protocol. The bill, therefore, makes provision for this contingency. Clause 4 of the bill repeals the Carriage by Air Act 1935, while Part III. of the bill will continue to apply the old Warsaw Convention until a date to be fixed by proclamation. In effect, Part III. of the bill serves the same purpose as the old Carriage by Air Act 1935. This method has been adopted because it would have been necessary to make quite substantial amendments to the Carriage by Air Act 1935 in order to take into account legal developments since 1935 relating to such matters as contributory negligence and wrongful death actions, and also because it is clearly more convenient to have all aspects of carriers’ liability grouped together in a single act.
I turn now to outline the changes made by the Hague Protocol. In the first place, it makes a substantial number of desirable amendments to the Warsaw Convention, including several proposed by the Commonwealth, which clarify most of the legal difficulties which have been encountered during 25 years’ experience under the old convention, and simplify outmoded provisions which no longer accord with current practices relating to the issue of passenger tickets, baggage checks and air waybills. From the practical aspect, the most important effect of the protocol will be to double the limit of liability of the carrier for death or personal injury by increasing the figure from £3,700 to approximately £7,400 per passenger.
The texts of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol are attached as schedules to the bill, and it will be readily apparent that they are essentially technical legal documents. It may, nevertheless, be appropriate at this point to invite attention to some of the main provisions.
Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention, which is not amended by the protocol, provides that the carrier is liable for damage sustained in the event of death or bodily injury suffered by a passenger if the accident which caused the damage took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking. It will be noted that this is a very strict rule of liability, and, apart from a narrow defence available to the operator under Article 20, it is akin to a system of absolute liability.
Article 20 provides that the carrier is not liable if he proves that he and his agents have taken all necessary measures to avoid the damage, or that it was impossible for him or them to take such measures. The onus of proof is on the carrier, and it is certainly a very narrow defence since, in most foreseeable cases, if the carrier “ takes all necessary measures to avoid the damage “, the accident would not have occurred.
Article 21 provides that, if the carrier proves that the damage was caused by or contributed to by the negligence of the injured person, the court may exonerate the carrier wholly or partly from his liability. Clause 16 of the bill gives effect to this article. It provides that the court shall first determine the damages that would have been recoverable if there were no limit and there had been no negligence on the part of the passenger or consignor. The damages so determined are then reduced to such extent as the court thinks just and equitable, having regard to the share of the passenger or consignor in the responsibility for the damage. The most likely case of contributory negligence would be where a passenger fails to fasten his safety belt during turbulent conditions.
Article 25 of the Warsaw Convention, as amended by the Hague Protocol, provides that the limits of liability shall not apply if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier, his servants or agents, done with intent to cause damage or recklessly, and with knowledge that damage would probably result, provided that in the case of such act or omission of a servant or agent, it is also proved that he was acting within the scope of his employment.
Article 25a, inserted by the Hague Protocol, provides that if an action is brought against a servant or agent of the carrier, such servant or agent, if he proves that he was acting in the course of his employment, shall be entitled to avail himself of the limit of liability, and the aggregate of the amounts recoverable from the carrier and his servants or agents shall not exceed that limit, namely £7,400. The limits for baggage and cargo remain unchanged at 250 Poincaré francs, approximately £7, per kilogram, which is the equivalent of 2.2 lb. These provisions apply to all carriage performed by aircraft for reward and also apply to gratuitous carriage on a public transport service.
Part IV. of the bill will apply these principles with certain modifications to all domestic carriage by air for reward, other than purely intrastate carriage, which is, of course, a matter for the States. Before outlining the proposed modifications, I will briefly describe the present law and practices governing the liability of domestic carriers to passengers and consignors.
At the present time, domestic airlines, other than Trans-Australia Airlines, are free to contract out of liability in respect of damage suffered by passengers and consignors of goods even if such damage is the result of serious acts of negligence of the carrier or his servants or agents. All domestic airlines, except Trans-Australia Airlines, do in fact insert a provision in their tickets contracting out of liability, although most regular public transport airlines now voluntarily take out insurance policies on behalf of their passengers, usually, however, for a sum of only £2,000 in respect of death and varying amounts for injury. Ansett- A.N.A., for example, voluntarily insure passengers for £1,000 for the loss of each eye or limb, with a maximum of £2,000, and in all other cases of permanent or temporary injury for £10 a week for a maximum of 52 weeks, a total of £520. T.A.A. insures for similar amounts for the loss of an eye or a limb, but in the case of permanent or temporary disablement insures for £20 a week for a maximum of 100 weeks, a total of £2,000.
As recently as 1955, the full Supreme Court of Queensland held, in an action against one regular public transport operator in respect of the death of a passenger, that a standard provision endorsed on the ticket similar to that used by most domestic carriers was effective to bar any recovery by the dependants even if the serious acts of negligence which were alleged in the case were fully established. This is a most unsatisfactory situation which can only be remedied by legislation. It is interesting to note that action was taken in 1952 by the United Kingdom, where a similar situation existed, to apply the principles of the Warsaw Convention to domestic aviation, with necessary modifications, by the Carriage by Air (Non-International Carriage) Order 1952.
In the domestic field, therefore, the main problem is to ensure that the carrier is not permitted to contract out of liability in circumstances involving negligence. It is thought that the best solution is to establish a system based as closely as practicable on the international rules under which, it has been noted, the carrier is strictly liable up to a prescribed limit of £7,400 in respect of death or injury of a passenger unless he successfully sets up the narrow defence provided in Article 20 of the convention, to which I have already referred, of proving that he and his servants and agents took all necessary measures to avoid the damage, or that it was impossible to take such measures. Experience under the international rules indicates that the carrier has rarely sought to establish this defence and that it would be most difficult to do so successfully. However, it does introduce an element of uncertainty as to passengers’ rights and for domestic purposes it is, therefore, proposed to deprive the carrier of this defence.
Passengers on domestic aircraft will thus have an absolute right to recover all proven damages up to the limit of £7,500. It is important to note that sub-clause 8 of clause 35 expressly provides that in awarding damages the court is not limited to the financial loss resulting from the death of the passenger.
Having regard to the international figure of £7,400 and the changes in monetary values since 1945, when the Australian National Airlines Commission was given a limit of £2,000, it is considered that, in round figures, the proposed limit of £7,500 is quite adequate. Any passenger who, because of his personal circumstances, would regard this amount as inadequate can, of course, take out additional insurance for whatever amount he considers necessary.
I have just indicated that the liability of .the Airlines Commission is limited at present to £2,000 in respect of claims arising out of death or injury. In a separate bill amending the Airlines Act, it is proposed to increase the Airlines Commission’s liability to £7,500 and to make the commission subject in all respects to the proposed Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act.
The bill also contains detailed provisions regulating the domestic carriers’ liability with respect to loss or destruction of passengers’ baggage. Clause 29 imposes liability on the carrier for loss or damage to the passenger’s baggage during carriage by air and draws a distinction between baggage remaining in the passenger’s possession and registered baggage. The carrier is liable, in the first case, only for damage which occurs between embarkation and disembarkation. In the case of registered baggage the liability continues while it remains in the custody of the carrier but not longer than twelve hours after the baggage is made available for collection by the passenger in accordance with the ticket. This is because it would be unjust to impose on the carriers a stricter liability than that of bailee for reward where baggage remains in the carriers’ custody, merely because the passenger failed to take delivery within a reasonable time.
Tn respect of all types of baggage the carrier has the same defence as international operators, namely, that all necessary measures were taken to avoid the loss or damage, or that it was impossible to take such measures. In the case of baggage remaining in the passenger’s possession subclause (4.) of clause 29 raises a presumption of negligence on the part of the passenger.
Sub-clause (5.) provides that where registered baggage is lost, damaged or destroyed during carriage by successive carriers all carriers, other than a carrier who proves that the baggage was not in his possession at the relevant time, are jointly and severally liable. This is designed to protect a passenger who cannot establish which of two or more successive carriers was responsible for the loss, damage or destruction.
Clause 30 provides that receipt of registered baggage by the person entitled, without complaint, is evidence that the baggage was undamaged and various periods are prescribed within which a complaint must be made, depending on whether the baggage is registered or not and whether the complaint refers to damage or to total loss.
Under clause 31 the carriers’ liability in respect of a passenger’s baggage is limited to £100, and there is a further sub-limit of £10 in respect of baggage remaining in the passenger’s possession.
Clause 40 authorizes regulations relating to passenger tickets and baggage checks, including regulations depriving the carrier of the benefit of limited liability if the ticket or baggage check does not include prescribed matters. The object of the regulation will be to ensure that the passenger ticket is endorsed with sufficient particulars for the passenger to be aware that the carriers’ liability is limited. There are similar provisions in the international rules. The bill does not contain detailed rules regulating the carriers’ liability to consignors of goods, but the power to make regulations expressly authorizes regulations adapting the international rules relating to this matter for domestic purposes.
There is a number of important legal provisions in the bill relating to such matters as contributory negligence, jurisdiction of the High Court and the classes of persons - dependants - who may claim in respect of the death of a passenger. These provisions relate to highly technical legal -matters. However, there is one such provision of considerable practical importance to passengers which warrants mention at this time. Under the existing .Carriage by Air Act 1935, which is to be repealed, the proceeds of insurance, superannuation and similar funds can apparently be .taken into account in assessing damages so that the dependants of a .prudent passenger who has taken out insurance may find that their entitlement to damage is reduced by the amount of the insurance coverage. This would -seem to be a most inequitable result and the bill, therefore, includes an express provision to the effect that the ‘proceeds of -insurance, superannuation and similar funds are not to be -taken into account in assessing damages.
It is considered that the proposed legislation will ensure a fair balance between the interests of the carrier and the interests of the users of air transport. It will take away the common law right of the carrier to contract out of liability and make him liable in accordance with rules which are substantially more severe than rules applying to any other form of ‘transport.
In place of a voluntary system, which can be varied at the will of the operator, providing for £2,000 automatic recovery, it substitutes a system of absolute liability under which passengers or their dependants have a right to recover all damage they suffer up to the limit of £7,500 without having to prove that the operator has been negligent. Assuming aviation insurance rates, which are currently very sensitive, remain constant, the domestic air transport industry will as a result of this bill be required to pay about £110,000 annually in insurance premiums compared with only £42,000 under the present voluntary system.
On the international side we will be one of the first nations to introduce legislation involving quite complex and technical legal matters necessary to give effect to the Hague Protocol and I would not be surprised if this bill serves as a model for other common law countries. I commend the bill in all its aspects to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave -be given to introduce a ‘bill for an act to amend the ‘Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1958, and -for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary purpose of the bill is to amend numerous outmoded provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1958 and .to make certain changes in the constitution and responsibilities of the commission which recognize its role as a commercial undertaking in direct competition with private enterprise. This is the first time the act has been reviewed for this purpose since the establishment of the commission in 1945. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the existing provisions of the principal act no longer accord with current .practice in relation to Commonwealth authoritries.
Wherever appropriate the provisions of the parent act will be brought into line with more recent legislation relating to government instrumentalities, for example, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956, the Atomic Energy Act 1958 and the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1958. In addition there are important amendments consequential on proposed legislation just introduced relating to air carriers’ liability to passengers, and amendments repealing those original sections of the act which were designed to give the commission a monopoly with respect to certain ‘classes of air services. A number of minor consequential amendments, for example, to the definitions section, require no comment.
Turning now to the detailed provisions of the bill I will deal firstly with amendments affecting the constitution and functioning of the commission. The present- act provides that the commission shall consist of five commissioners, three constituting a quorum. The bill increases the number of commissioners to six, hut three commissioners will still form a quarum. An increase in the size of the commission is justified since experience has shown that in the event of serious illness or absence of two commissioners at the one time the commission is reduced to a bare quorum with the result that the responsibility of the remaining commissioners is very onerous.
The act provides that the initial appointment of commisisoners will be for different periods ranging from five years to two years and that subsequent appointments will be for a period of three years. The object of this provision was to ensure continuity of administration by providing a system under which not more than two vacancies were likely to occur in any one year. However, in practice, it has been found on several occasions that the requirements for new appointments to be for a specific period of three years is administratively inconvenient and defeats this object. This rigidity will be avoided by providing that appointments or re-appointments to the commission will be for a period not exceeding five years instead of a fixed period of three years. The original object of ensuring continuity will be achieved by considering the appropriate period of each new appointment as a vacancy occurs, subject, of course, to the limit of five years.
The bill also contemplates changes in the provisions of the act relating to remuneration of commissioners. The present act provides that the remuneration of the chairman shall be fixed by the Governor-General, while that of the vice-chairman and other commissioners is the rate prescribed in the act. In line with other recent legislation dealing with Commonwealth authorities, the bill provides that all commissioners shall be paid such remuneration and allowances as the Governor-General determines.
The existing provisions of the principal act relating to acting appointments to the commission appear to lack clarity and do not accord with corresponding provisions of more recent legislation. The new provisions draw a clear distinction between the case where a commissioner is absent with permission of the Minister for a definite period and the case where he is unable to attend a particular meeting of the commission. In both cases the vice-chairman automatically acts when the chairman is absent, and furthermore if the vicechairman is absent the commission is authorized to appoint an acting vice-chairman.
The principal act specifies the circumstances in which a commissioner is deemed to have vacated office, for example, because of bankruptcy, unsoundness of mind, resignation, absence for three consecutive meetings, and interest in any contract or agreement entered into by or on behalf of the commission. Under section 14 of the original act, however, the vacation of office is dependent upon the establishment as a question of fact that one of these situations exists. In the recent shipping act much the same considerations justifying vacation of office are stated, but actual vacation is effected by a declaration of the GovernorGeneral published in the “ Gazette “. This appears to be a more precise provision and it is, therefore, proposed to amend section 14 of the principal act along the lines of the corresponding section 13 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act.
It is also proposed to give the commission greater discretion in recruiting staff. The act at present provides that a person shall not be appointed to a clerical position in the service of the commission unless he has “ in open competition successfully passed the prescribed entrance examination “, and that persons shall be appointed in order of their merit in passing that examination. Experience shows that applicants for junior positions, who have obtained intermediate or leaving certificates, are disinclined to submit to further examinations. In addition, the provision requiring appointment in order of merit is inappropriate in a Commonwealth-wide business. The commission feels that as a business undertaking it should be able to appoint without entrance examination persons who have attained a prescribed standard, such as the intermediate or school leaving certificate. It is proposed that the standards will be prescribed in regulations.
The act requires ministerial approval of the salary payable to any officer if it exceeds £1.500 per annum. This was enacted in 1945 and subsequent increases in salary rates now result in ministerial approval being necessary for relatively junior positions. Recent comparable legislation relating to salaries of employees of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission require ministerial approval for salaries in excess of £2,500. The bill adopts this figure in relation to salaries of the Australian National Airlines Commission’s employees.
In view of changes in currency values and the growth in operations of the commission since 1945, it is also reasonable to enlarge the commission’s powers in respect of the purchase and disposal of assets and entering into leases. Under the principal act the commission may not, without the approval of the Minister, purchase land, the cost of which exceeds £5,000, enter into a lease exceeding five years, or dispose of property having an original or book value exceeding £5,000. The bill increases these figures to £20,000, ten years and £50,000 respectively.
The act also provides that the commission may not without consent of the Minister enter into any contract for the supply, from places outside Australia, of aircraft, equipment or materials of greater value than £10,000. The bill increases this figure to £50,000 and extends the provision to contracts for supplies within Australia. The increased limit is more commensurate with present day values and reduces the need to refer small transactions to the Minister.
It will be noted that the bill also amends the provisions of the principal act relating to investment of surplus funds. These amendments are of a drafting nature and bring this portion of the Airlines Act into line with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act.
The audit of accounts of the commission is at present dealt with in section 36 of the act in the short form commonly adopted in Commonwealth legislation at the date of the original enactment of the act. The current practice is to prescribe audit requirements in some detail and the opportunity is, therefore, taken to do this. The commission has for some years treated its annual provision for overhaul of aircraft, engines and operating equipment as an item of expenditure for the purpose of determining its annual profit. The bill will give express authority for this practice.
The act provides for annual reports to the Minister on the operations of the commission. The bill contains more detailed provision relating to these reports, which are designed to ensure their adequacy.
All the amendments which I have outlined so far are directed to increasing the efficiency of the commission and assisting it to compete on equal terms with its major privately owned competitor. Indeed, most of the amendments have been expressly requested by the commission in the light of more than, a decade of experience in operating a major commercial venture.
I now turn to a number of amendments which are necessary to give effect to the Government’s air transport policy. The first of these amendments is a technical legal amendment designed to remove any possible legal doubt as to the capacity of the commission to operate intra-state services in Queensland. It may be recalled that section 19a of the act was inserted in 1947 in pursuance of a war-time reference of the matter of air transport by the Queensland Government to enable the commission to operate intra-state services in Queensland. The Queensland reference would have expired in 1950, but it was continued in force in accordance with the wishes of the Queensland Government by the Queensland Commonwealth Powers (Air Transport) Act 1950. The opportunity is now taken to remove any possible legal doubts as to whether section 19a of the act remained effective, in the absence of any further Commonwealth legislation, after the date of the expiry in 1950 of the original Queensland Commonwealth Powers Act. The doubt will be removed by simply amending section 19a of the principal act in terms which indicate that it is supported by any reference prior to the date of commencement of the amendment.
I turn now to the monopoly provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1958. Part III. of the act provides that the commission may, for the purposes of the act, by notice served on the owner or published in the Gazette acquire any aircraft or other property, not being land, required for the purposes of the commission. Any person, who fails to deliver up the aircraft or property in accordance with the terms set out in the notice is liable to £100 fine or six months’ imprisonment or both. Part V. of the act attempts to set up machinery for ensuring just compensation. These provisions were, of course, an integral part of the scheme to establish a government monopoly. Needless to say, the commission has never exercised these powers, which purport to authorize it to expropriate th& assets of private citizens including the aircraft of a competitor, nor is it likely to do so! It is obvious that the provisions, even if valid, serve no useful purpose and the bill, therefore, provides for their repeal.
Part IV. of the act was likewise an integral part of the scheme to establish a monopoly. The most important sections in this part for achieving a socialist monopoly were sections 46 and 47. These sections, read in conjunction with section 19, imposed on the commission the duty to provide services as fully and adequately as may be necessary to meet the needs of territorial- and interstate traffic and, where such adequate services were provided’, granted the commission a monopoly.
Section 46 ( 1 .) of the principal act provided, in effect, that where a licence has been issued to the commsision to operate an interstate service and the commission has provided an adequate service, licences issued to other persons to operate competing airlines will be inoperative for so long as the commission provides an adequate service. Section 46(2.) makes similar provision in the case of territorial airline services. Section 47 completed the scheme by prohibiting the licensing authority from issuing a licence to any operator wishing to compete with a service operated by the commission unless and except to the extent to which the licensing authority is satisfied that the services provided by the commission are inadequate to meet the needs of the public.
The High Court held unanimously that sections 46 and 47 were invalid because they purported to establish a monopoly of interstate services and, therefore, contravened section 92 of the Constitution. The court held, however, that the sections were severable and that they could validly operate in respect of territoral services. The invalid parts were repealed in 1947, but the provisions designed to establish a monopoly of territorial services still remain on the statute book. Indeed, the latter provisions applying to territorial services were, in fact, fortified in 1947 by inserting a new definition which defined an “ adequate airline service “ as a “ service in respect of which there is in force a declaration made by the Minister and published in the “ Gazette “ that the service is adequate to meet the needs of the public for transport by air . . .”. Previously, the adequacy of the service had tO’ be established by evidence, but as a result of amendment, the simple publication of a “ Gazette “ notice appears to conclude the matter.
It must be quite obvious that these provisions are totally inconsistent with the philosophy underlying the two civil aviation agreements for establishing equality between the commission and the major private operator. The bill, therefore, provides for the repeal of Parts III., IV. and V. of the act.
Finally, this bill includes a number of provisions which are related to a bill on the liability of air carriers to passengers which was introduced earlier this evening. This bill will provide for a comprehensive set of rules governing the liability of international air carriers and, with certain modifications which will be detailed at the appropriate time, extends these rules to all domestic carriage by air other than purely intra-State carriage which, generally speaking, is a matter within the exclusive competence of State Parliaments. It is proposed that the commission will, in common with all public transport operators, be subject to these rules and it is, therefore, necessary to amend those sections of the principal act which are inconsistent with the proposed code of carriers’ liability. Al this stage. I will merely indicate the main amendments involved.
The act now provides that the commission shall be a common carrier. The Carriers’ Liability Bill will establish a system of liability in relation to passengers and goods which is stricter than that of a common carrier and, in particular, abolishes the right of an air carrier to contract out of liability for negligence. It will, therefore, no longer be appropriate to describe the commission as a common carrier.
This bill also proposes to amend the original act so that the time within which actions against the commission must be brought will be two years instead of six months. Two years is trie period which will apply to other domestic air carriers by virtue of the Carriers’ Liability Act, and there seems to be no reason why the commission, as a competitive commercial undertaking, should have an advantage over other operators at the expense of the travelling public. The present section of the parent act which provides that no action may be brought against the commission until at least one month after a claimant has given notice in writing to the commission, is also to be repealed because it is unduly onerous to claimants.
At present, the commission’s liability in respect of death or injury is, by virtue of section 66 of the principal act, limited to £2,000. This limit will be increased front £2,000 to £7,500 to accord with the limits of liability provided for in the proposed Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act. All provisions of the bill are consistent with the Government’s declared policy of maintaining competition on the trunk routes between the commission and the private enterprise operators. I believe that enactment of the bill will strengthen the commission in operating a commercial undertaking in the transport field of great importance to our national development. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24th February (vide page 159), on motion by Senator Branson -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Prior to the adjournment of the debate last night, I had been discussing the shortage of homes in Australia. I had told the Senate that whereas we had built 84.000 homes in 1951, we had built only 69,000 in 1957-58, representing a drop of 25 per cent. I had said that the numbers of homes commenced in the last quarter of 1958 had been the smallest for the last seven years. I pointed out that a very sad drift in home construction was apparent, and I was endeavouring to tie up two problems which I think are among the most important of the problems facing Australia. I emphasize that any suggestion ing shortage and the growing unemployment rate.
I suppose that the Government approaches these matters from a different viewpoint from that of so many other people. In my hands I have the 1956 report of the Department of National Development, dealing with the housing situation. In the report it is stated that a total of 54,000 homes would be sufficient in 1956, that the need for homes in 1957 would fall to about 52,000 and that the need would thereafter rise by 960 houses to between 55,000 and 56,000 a year. If the Government is basing its plans on those figures, that explains the tragic housing shortage, because those figures do not nearly represent the housing need. In fact, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, in a most comprehensive report, has recommended that the number of houses constructed be raised to 80,000 a year as soon as possible. Mr. Turner, of the building industry, who concurs in that view, and Mr. Barton of the Master Builders Association, have stated that the building industry could handle a 25 per cent, increase of house construction.
When I say that the figures of the Department of National Development are wrong, I am supported by a few simple statistics. In 1965, the number of persons in the age group between 20 and 29 years will be 50 per cent, higher than the number in that group in 1955. Coming to the 20 to 24 years age group, from which I think most marriages emerge, we find that in 1955 there were just under 600,000 people in that category. By 1965, the number will increase by 40 per cent, to 880,000, and by 1970, it will increase by 80 per cent, to 1,077,000. In view of the fact that approximately 1,400 couples marry each week and that about 2,000 migrants enter the country each week, it is obvious that the approach of the Government to the housing problem is completely unrealistic. I have no doubt that individual supporters of the Government, particularly those in the more populous States of New South Wales and Victoria, constantly receive at their offices requests for assistance to obtain accommodation - not permanent housing, but emergency housing.
I suggest, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Government must approach this tremendous social and national problem in such a way that it eventually will be able to overcome it. The first thing that is needed is an increase in Commonwealth spending of £20,000,000 a year. After all, that sum is only about li per cent, of the total Government expenditure each year. Bearing in mind that £200,000,000 worth of new hire-purchase business was written last year, surely it would not be difficult for the national economy to stand expenditure of an additional £20,000,000 on housing. It is of no use the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and others attacking the Premier of New South Wales because the housing lag in his State is greater than that of any other State. It is greater because New South Wales has by far the largest population of the States, and because the rate of development is faster there than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. We have to let politics slide in this matter and really set out to solve the housing problem, so that we shall not continue to have this scar on the social and political life of the country.
First, the Government should endeavour by all possible means to reduce interest rates on money borrowed for homebuilding and home-ownership. As we all know, if a person buys a home for, say, £2,500, for which he obtains a loan repayable over 25 or 30 years, by the time the loan is paid off he has paid almost double the original purchase price. This is a very serious burden for people who are trying to become home-owners to bear.
At the present time, the co-operative building societies have 20,000 applicants on their books waiting for loans. By some means or other, the War Service Homes Division must reduce the lag of from twelve to fifteen months that now occurs after a loan is approved until the money is made available. When applicants for war service homes loans are advised by the division that their applications have been approved, in many instances they obtain loans from solicitors and financiers, such as Customs Credit Corporation, at very high rates of interest over the relatively short period for which they have to wait for the money to be actually made available by the division. I do not know why the War Service Homes Division cannot provide the money at the time the applicants are advised that approval for their loans has ‘been granted, and so eliminate the present lag which involves exservicemen in a very serious burden because of the high cost to them of obtaining temporary finance for twelve or fifteen months.
The matter of control over the trading banks was referred to by Mr. McKerihan in his report last year. He stated that in 1951 the trading banks provided 16 per cent, of their advances for the acquisition of homes, but by 1957 the percentage of advances for housing had fallen to 9.9 per cent. That shows that money is being diverted from1 the normal banking channels, resulting in a reduction of the amount of money being made available for home-building. We can see the drift that has occurred in that type of lending by the banks. From the point of view of security, I do not suppose there is more desirable security for a loan than home property. Recently, Mr. Burke, the secretary of the New South Wales Housing Commission, stated that one person in five was being ignored in that State in the matter of housing; he suggested that they comprised the poorer sections of the community.
I believe that the Government has a moral obligation to provide homes for the people, and that is the reason why I have gone to some length to show the dreadful lag that exists in housing at the present time. How can we, who are so keen on immigration, justify bringing 115,000 immigrants a year into Australia in view of the fact that a serious housing shortage exists and unemployment, unfortunately, appears to be getting out of the control of the Government?
I wish now to direct my attention to the unemployment position, because I want to tie it to the housing problem. A fundamental of good government was illustrated in the early days of the last war by Mr. John Curtin, who said that money does not matter, but that if resources and manpower are available the job of the Government is to bring the manpower to the resources in order to produce wealth for the community. At the present time, as I have pointed out, there is a serious shortage of homes, and yet our tile, brick and timber industries are in a very serious position. There is serious unemployment in the building industry, despite the sad lag in housing. There are 81,000 unemployed persons registered in Australia to-day; that was the figure in January of this year, lt is the highest total unemployment registration in Australia since the coal strike of 1949. I should say that, with the exception of the extraordinary period of the coal strike, there is more unemployment in Australia to-day than there has been during the last eighteen or nineteen years.
– ls the honorable senator sure of that?
– Yes, I am.
– I shall prove that he is wrong.
Senator ARMSTRONG__ So that Senator
Scott will understand clearly what I said, I shall repeat it. I said that there are 81,000 persons unemployed and that, excluding the year of (he coal strike - which was an extraordinary period - there are now more persons unemployed in this country than at any time during the last eighteen years.
– Those are your figures?
– Yes. If Senator Scott can disprove them, I shall bs very happy to listen to him because the more we discuss this problem in this Senate the more chance there will be of bringing it into the light and of solving it. I shall appreciate any approach by Senator Scott on this matter, even if he proves that I am wrong, because after all any one can be wrong at times. But will he get up in his place and admit that in this country there is a social cancer that the Government is letting get worse as the years go by? Although this country is crying out for development in all directions, including the provision of roads and railways, 81,000 people are walking the streets unable to get work. Thar is a condemnation of the administration of this Government.
– Does that number include new Australians in the hostels?
– No. In 1952- 53 there was a very serious recession, but the total number of registered unemployed then was less than it is to-day in this socalled year of prosperity, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has referred to his good estate which, he said, was in good repair and was improving every year. To my mind, an estate on which 81,000 people are out of work is not in good repair, nor can it be said to be improving year by year. When we consider that more persons are unemployed in Australia to-day than in 1952-53, we realize how serious this problem really is. 1 have some interesting figures in relation to employment. Between March and August, 1958, private employment fell by 17,000, but government employment increased by 5,000. These figures do not include the rural industries in which, as we know, there has been a very serious position in the employment field. Last August, employment in the building and construction spheres, which include home building, fell by 1,200 people and in the manufacturing industries, it fell by 1,700 people. These figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. Therefore, without any possible shadow of doubt, the case does not need to be proven. The case is there for everybody to see. The moral right of the people to have homes is unarguable, and it is the responsibility of the Government to supply homes. The moral responsibility of the Government in this connexion is unanswerable. Any government that fails to solve these two transcendant problems must be a failure in the eyes of the people. That is the standard on which the Government will be judged. It is of no use for the Minister to explain away the high January figures by saying that they have been caused by seasonal unemployment, because they are 10 per cent, higher than the figures of twelve months ago. Therefore, I appeal to Senator Scott to approach this thing in a manner that will help the Government and encourage the Government to face up to its responsibilities in this crisis. The statistician says that 80,000 homes are needed for the people, and we all know that that is a conservative figure. We must also take into consideration the number of persons who are self employed, which would take the figure to over 100,000.
In a joint statement two Catholic churchmen, Cardinal Lienart, Bishop of Lille, and Emile Guerry, Archbishop of Cambrai, regarding the moral evil of unemployment, said -
The first duty of every one is to become acutely conscious of the seriousness of the moral evil that unemployment constitutes for workers’ homes. Moral evil, we say, and not a simple economic fact as alleged by certain economists’ theories. . . A moral evil because it strikes, through its burden of suffering, human beings in their flesh and heart . . . bringing insecurity, anguish for the next day, and often misery. . . A moral evil because it violates the pattern of God, who wants man to work and be able to rind, in the fruits of his labour, for himself and those dear to him, the means of living a human life. In a human economy, in a juster and better organized society, there must no longer be room for unemployment. . . . In a period of economic difficulties, firing is too easy a solution. … If sacrifices are necessary, it is not the workers’ wages which must be sacrificed first: it is the profits.
There is the moral problem that I have always seen and recognized. What happens to the man who daily looks for work but, through no fault of his own, is unable to find it? What happens to the status of his home, his wife and his children when he returns at the end of a day’s fruitless search for that which should be his moral right, the right to work and to live at the standard to which he is entitled? Every man wants to give his children an education a little better than he himself obtained. Every man wants to give his children the ability and the background to take their place in the world. That is all the average man in this community seeks to do, but he is denied the right to do so because of he maladministration of this Government which will not face up to the fact that we have 81,000 registered unemployed and which will not recognize the grave moral effects of unemployment, that cancer in the heart of the community. We are reminded of the old proverb, “ Ask not for whom the bell tolls “. Unemployment affects not only the worker but every one in the community.
I appeal to the Government, newly reelected and feeling the strength of the confidence shown by the public at the recent election, to set out to solve this problem because, until it is solved, it will he talked about constantly in this chamber and on every street corner at election time. If the Government cannot solve the unemployment problem and provide homes for the people, it stands condemned as a failure.
– In speaking to this motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I should like first to congratulate our opening batsmen, because they have set us off to a very good start. I refer to the maiden speeches of Senator Branson and Senator McKellar. We on this side of the chamber realize that our new recruits will be useful to the team in any position in the batting order, and will be able to bowl from either end when called upon to do so.
– On a sticky wicket.
– That will not worry them in the slightest. In supporting the motion before us, I should like to discuss a matter which has caused some interest recently throughout Australia, and which has been referred to in the press. I allude to literature censorship, a subject which is dealt with by the department I administer, and one in which I have a great personal interest. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have also referred to this subject in another place. I wish to comment on their remarks.
– Leave them alone!
– I shall be easy on them. Literature censorship which, I hope, will remain for a long time, is, as I have said, handled by the Department of Customs and Excise under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. Many people fail to realize that as a Commonwealth Government we have no constitutional power whatever to ban books. We have no jurisdiction over anything that is printed in Australia, and we use our power under the regulations to deal only with literature imported into this country. The question of whether we should have literature censorship will always provoke a very lively debate in any company, but it is not without significance to remind honorable senators that in 1644, over 300 years ago, that great champion of the freedom of the press and that great opponent of censorship, John Milton, poet and pamphleteer, made this statement in one of his pamphlets -
I deny not but that it is of greatest concernment in the Commonwealth to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men and thereafter to confine, imprison and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors.
Even that great opponent of censorship recognized the need to prohibit the publication of pornographic literature similar to so much of what is published throughout the world to-day.
One of the Sydney newspapers recently criticized the banning of the book “ Borstal
Boy “. That criticism prompted some person to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper in these terms -
You would surely agree that any respectable community needs a censorship of some kind, or would you prefer to have the country wide open to whatever muck is capable of being printed? If you agree that we should have censors, either for books, pictures or films, surely you would agree that the people selected should be of a high standard and wilh some knowledge of their subjects. If you agree that we should have censors and that they should be reputable people, -the next thing is to let them do their job according to their judgment. Obviously, they must draw a line somewhere, and I venture to say that, no matter how low the line was drawn, you would find some one to say, “ We are not schoolgirls “. The point is that some of the population are schoolgirls, and anything let pass by the censors is available to them.
That is a very sound and sensible letter which states the position simply. For the benefit of honorable senators I should like to refer again to a portion of it which reads -
You would surely agree that a respectable community needs a censorship of some kind, or would you prefer to have the country wide open to whatever muck is capable of being printed?
For centuries sewerage and drainage boards have been appointed to protect the health of the community against contamination. I “believe that the Literature Censorship Board is in the same category. It has been appointed to protect the mind of the community against contamination by the pornographic literature that is published throughout the world. The letter further states -
If you agree that we should have censors, surely you would agree that the people selected should be of a high standard and with some knowledge -of their subjects.
I ‘have the greatest confidence in the Literature Censorship Board and the Department >of Customs and Excise. The chairman of the Literature Censorship Board was formerly the Commonwealth Librarian. He is assisted by a professor of the Canberra University, a professor of the Royal Military college at Duntroon, and by Mrs. Ellis, who was appointed to the board recently. All members of the board have the highest qualifications. I suggest that they have much higher qualifications than most of their critics. They are people of sound common sense, they are practical people who have their feet on the ground, and I am convinced that they give much of their own time to what is, after all, a community service because they receive a mere pittance for the work they are doing. I believe that the members of the Literature Censorship Board have high qualifications, great knowledge and an abundance of common sense, and that they make a decent approach to their work. I have the greatest confidence in them. I pay tribute also to the appeal censor, a retired professor in English and a man of liberal spirit. He is more liberal in spirit than any person whom I have met during the many years of my lifetime. He is highly qualified, and he, too, approaches matters in a common-sense, practical manner. I think that answers the second! question posed in the letter which I have quoted.
These people have one great advantage over their critics in that they read and study the books in question, lt is essential that one read and study a book if one is to be a competent critic of it; but very often the critics rely on a press report or the opinion of some overseas critic who is in no way competent to judge according to Australian standards. I repeat that the people to whom I have referred have the great advantage of having read and studied’ the books in question, and, at all times, they are careful to safeguard public interest.
I do not think I would be wasting the time of the Senate if I traversed again the steps that have been taken in recent times to safeguard public interest in the discharge of the very grave responsibility by the department of administering literature censorship. I repeat that the books dealt with are imported books, that we can deal only with imported1 books. The first step is that the books are submitted to customs officers at the port of entry. If any book is questioned by the port officer, all he can do is submit it to the central office of the department at Canberra, together with his comments. He has no authority to prohibit the entry of the book. At central office in Canberra, the book is read; but here again there is no authority to prohibit the importation of the book. If central office agrees with the port officer’s opinion that the booK should be prohibited, it is sent to the Literature Censorship Board for reading and review. If the Literature Censorship Board agrees with central office and the port officer, it recommends that the book be prohibited.
The importer himself then has the right to appeal to the Minister, through the appeal censor. The appeal censor studies the book, reads the reports of the officers concerned, and makes a recommendation to the Minister. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that he upholds the decision of the Literature Censorship Board that the book should be prohibited. In that case, the title of the book is published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “ for all to see. But that is noi the end of the matter - and it is here that I find many people are completely ignorant of the facts. Any citizen, any newspaper, any body of men who wish to do so, can import a book that has been placed on the prohibited list. Certainly that book will be seized at the port of entry, but the person or persons importing it can challenge, in court, the right of the Literature Censorship Board and the Department of Customs and Excise to declare the book a prohibited import. It will be seen, therefore, that the court is the final arbiter in these cases.
I think honorable senators will agree that the steps which I have outlined surely safeguard the community against the type of censorship which would be abhorent - censorship of a political nature and narrowminded censorship. I submit they are ample and adequate safeguards against all of those undesirable things which we have tried to avoid. I believe that public interest is fully safeguarded under this new system, and I think it is significant that as yet no person has challenged any decision of the department in the court. That, I submit, is a fair standard by which to judge the work of the Literature Censorship Board.
I shall refer now to certain matters which were raised in another place. Quite recently, I approached the Commonwealth Librarian and told him I feit that, as another safeguard to public interest, the elected representatives of the people in the Parliament should have the opportunity either to criticize constructively or support the work of the Literature Censorship Board. I told him that, with that end in view, I would appreciate it if he would place in the Library copies of those books which have been declared prohibited imports so that they might be available for study by members of the Parliament and thus enable them to decide whether they should support or criti- cize the work of the Literature Censorship Board. The Commonwealth Librarian fully supported the idea. He placed the matter before the Library Committee; and this is where I cross swords with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen).
During the course of his criticism, that honorable member said that he was chained to the Library when reading these books, that the Minister for Customs and Excise had said that he was not to be allowed to take any censored book out of the Library. That, of course, is arrant nonsense. The honorable member for Parkes just does not know what he is talking about. He did not take the trouble to inform himself of the fact that an all-party Library Committee has laid down the conditions under which the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library shall make these books available. I agree entirely with the decision of that committee. It was the only decision any body of responsible people could make; and the committee is a body of responsible people, representative of all sections in the Parliament. I repeat that the only decision that body could make was that if the books were to be made available they should be made available for study within the precincts of the Library itself. That committee refused to be a party to giving a member of Parliament the privilege of being able to take a book out and lend it to his friends all round his electorate. I agree entirely with that decision, and I certainly would not be a party to such a thing. If a member were to be allowed to take such books outside, it would defeat the very purpose of censorship. No honorable member is “ chained “ to any library seat for the purpose of reading a prohibited book. If he does not care to take advantage of the privilege of reading the book in the library he can remain as ignorant as he is now.
– You sound cross!
– I think I have reason to be I think that it is up to honorable members to make themselves conversant with the facts.
I want now to deal briefly with the books the banning of which has aroused criticism. In view of the hundreds of books that have passed through the department in the last twelve months it is not too bad to be subjected to criticism regarding only two of them. I hasten to add that I do not for a moment agree with that criticism. 1 thought that honorable senators might be interested to hear the advice given me upon the books by authorities competent to judge their worth. The Literature Censorship Board had this to say about the novel “ Lolita “ -
The novel “ Lolita “ deals with the sex perversion known as nympholepsy. Though written in the United States it was first published in Paris in 1955, where it was banned by the French Government for a short period. In 1956, an American review published a short portion of it only and it was not until 1958 that the complete novel appeared in that country.
The board advises me that so far no English publisher has risked publishing it. This is the book that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says should be allowed to come into the Commonwealth. The Literature Censorship Board, having studied it, believes that it should not, and I completely agree with its decision. However, in so concurring, I did not rely on my own judgment. I referred the book to the Appeal Censor, Dr. L. H. Allen, and he fully confirmed the board’s recommendation.
The board also advised me that, so far as “ Borstal Boy “ was concerned, the chief consideration was whether the coarseness was artistically essential. The board said -
The consensus of opinion is that in many instances it is not. Some passages were silly and quite unnecessary, others in very bad taste and there was a strong sense of the effect of cumulation which became raw, vulgar and passed to repulsiveness culminating in passages of sheer sexual blatancy.
Those responsible for advising me directed attention to the quality of coarseness that pervades the book. I should prefer to put it more bluntly and call it plain, repulsive filth. The board said further -
It is quite unnecessary and destroys the book, which contains much valuable matter.
I am sure that honorable senators are interested to learn that there were such strong grounds for declaring these books prohibited imports. The board, the Appeal Censor and the department do not regard their responsibility lightly. They regard it as very grave, and act accordingly. I am sure that the opinions of the Literature Censorship Board and the Appeals Censor have been of interest to honorable senators. 1 want to deal briefly with an article that I read recently in a well-known Australian magazine, for it reveals the extent to which misunderstanding can exist. It shows that the people who write about these things are not always aware of the real nature of censorship in this country. The article in question had been written by a London correspondent of the magazine and’ was headed “Why We Ban Books”. The following appeared thereunder: -
The procedures still remain quite arbitrary. The reasons for censorship remain secret; yet they are the very thing that should be the subject of public controversies.
The reasons for prohibiting the importation of books are there for all to see. Item 7 of the First Schedule provides that if a book is blasphemous, indecent or obscene it shall be placed in that category, and Item 22 of the Second Schedule provides that it may be banned if it unduly emphasizes sex, horror or violence. What is secretive about that? The regulations are published for al! to read. They set out the grounds upon which the board may declare a book a prohibited import. The correspondent says further that an amendment of federal procedure, permitting appeal to the courts, is necessary. Could any one find an example of greater ignorance on this subject? There is, and always has been, a right of appeal to the courts of the land. No alteration of federal procedures to bring about that state of affairs is needed. It is open to any one to challenge the Literature Censorship Board in our courts. I have quoted from the article because so many people seem unaware of the position as it exists at present under federal administration.
I believe that the new administrative measures have safeguarded the people from undue narrowness. They have at least brought censorship out of the darkness of secrecy into the light of day. Anyone who differs from us in our decisions should challenge those decisions in the court, as is their right. I assure honorable senators thai my officers will just as stoutly defend their actions against any such challenge. There, I suggest, rests the case for the Crown.
– I enter the debate at this very late stage primarily out of respect for the terms of the motion to which, in common with all honorable senators, I cordially subscribe. I join with most of the speakers who have already congratulated the proposer and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I was very impressed with the fluent, objective and thoughtful way in which the proposer and seconder addressed themselves to the question of Australia’s development. I thought that the brevity with which they discharged their task, and the easy confidence which they displayed, augured well for their participation in debates henceforth.I felt that they got away to an excellent start in this chamber.
I also take the opportunity to congratulate the new Leader of the Government, Senator Spooner, upon his preferment. I congratulate too, the new Deputy Leader, Senator Paltridge. No one on the Opposition side was surprised when these gentlemen, who are well known for their hard work and ability, received such preferment. However, I do wish to sound a note of regret at the passing from leadership of the Government in the Senate of Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan. My mind goes back to the years just prior to 1949 when he was one of three Opposition members in the Senate, which then contained 36 senators. Thinking of those instances when they were devastatingly overwhelmed time and time again, I call to mind a couple of lines from Henry Newbolt’s “ Island Race “-
To honour while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes.
Senator O’Sullivan refused to stay down in those days.
– You never even got him down.
– He went down often enough with the odds of 33 to 3 against him, but he refused to stay down, I say to his credit, and fearlessly renewed the attack. Eventually he came through the sound barrier and was the Leader of the Government in the Senate for nine years. I have very pleasant recollections of him in that office. There were occasions when no quarter was sought and no quarter was given. That had to be so, because of the nature of the conflict in this chamber and in the country. There were occasions when the Government was much mortified by that.
I also recall with very great pleasure the many courtesies that were extended to the
Opposition and the great consideration that was shown from time to time by Senator O’Sullivan. I place on record my appreciation of him as a senator with a great parliamentary sense, one who had a very nice and proper appreciation of the position of the Senate in the scheme of things. I say now, through you, Mr. Deputy President, that we wish him well in his retirement. He goes to it with our personal good wishes, and our very real respect.
I take the opportunity, too, to congratulate Senator Gorton upon his appointment: to the Ministry. If I may, like Senator Henty, use a cricket term, I would say that he has batted very well for his side since he came to the front benches.
– And beforehand, too.
– I shall not deny that. That probably was the reason why he came to the fore. I propose to address myself with some little brevity to what is probably the one paragraph to which I subscribe in the particularly dreary speech that the Government put in the hands of the Governor-General.
– You started off so nicely!
– The sting is always in the tail, I tell the honorable senator. I refer to the paragraph in which the Government indicated that there was a pressing need to review the present financial relations between the Commonwealth and State Governments. The Premiers conference to address itself to that task is to take place next week. It is with that thought in mind that I offer a few remarks on the vital subject of Commonwealth-State financial relations. It is not generally understood that the effect of those relations is felt by every individual in the community. Probably the most far-seeing man at the time of federation was Deakin, who, reviewing the Constitution then, indicated that henceforth the States would be financially bound to the chariot wheels of the Commonwealth. That was never proved more true than during the past nine years, under this Government, because the States have certainly been ground into the dust.
Since federation we have seen two extraordinary changes. We have seen the emergence of a national economy in Australia. Prior to federation there were six separate economies - some protectionist, some free trade and all differing in important particulars. Since federation we have seen a complete change in the pattern of the Australian economy, moving from an almost wholly agricultural base to a manufacturing base, even though our agricultural exports still constitute the major portion of our exports. There has been a complete change in one phase after another. Commonwealth and State relations have gone through many vicissitudes. I have been through them with the Senate on other occasions, so I do not propose to review them now.
I come to my theme that in the past nine years this Government has been unfair to the States, unfair to the Australian taxpayers, and, in its handling of Commonwealth and State financial relations, has done a great deal to speed inflation on its way in this country. Until very recently there were three States known as applicant States. They were the smaller States, as we call them in this chamber - Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australian. Those three States, year by year, submitted to the Commonwealth pursuant to section 96 of the Constitution, applications for financial relief. Their claims were investigated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which made recommendations to the Government. Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were regarded as the standard States, and the principle adopted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission was to bring the applicant States, in their budgetary positions, up to the level of the average standard of those three standard States.
That was a good principle, and it has operated very satisfactorily for the past 25 or 26 years. But what is the position as between standard States and applicant States to-day? In the past year two more States have become applicant States - Queensland and Victoria. Having heard Labour Premiers of those States, the late Mr. Ned Hanlon and the late Mr. John Cain, reject any thought, at Premiers’ conferences, that they should ever become applicant States, I can well imagine both of them turning in their graves now at the thought of those sovereign States becoming applicant States and having every phase of their administration and finances subject to the very competent and very close scrutiny of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
I express my sympathy with the Commonwealth Grants Commission to-day. What standard will it now adopt, after following the principle of bringing the smaller States up to the standard of the three larger ones? The only standard at the moment, according to the definition of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, would be the one non-applicant State - New South Wales. I say to this Senate - the States’ House - that it is a grievous matter of indignity to those who operate State governments that they have had to abdicate their separate positions and join with five States in co-operating to make special application to the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
The Constitution Review Committee of this Parliament addressed its mind to this great problem. I think I can say with truth that it investigated every possible approach to the problem of easing, or solving, CommonwealthState financial relations, and very reluctantly came to the conclusion that no constitutional amendment would present a solution that had any hope of being acceptable to all, or even most, of the States and the Commonwealth. Its view was that the solution had to be found at the political and administrative level, and it strongly recommended that there should be a meeting of the premiers with the Commonwealth to try to hammer out a solution to this exceedingly vexed problem. I am happy to note that the conference is to take place next week. I await the results with very great interest, but I take this opportunity to make a few suggestions of my own as to what might be done at that conference to ease the difficult position. The Senate may remember that in the Budget session I presented various statements which I circulated later to honorable senators, as well as incorporating the figures in “ Hansard “, dealing with Commonwealth and State financial relations. I think I adverted to the subject three times during the Budget debate. The figures were not controverted by one honorable senator in this chamber. I have some reason to know that they were subjected to very close scrutiny by the Treasury, but I have every confidence in believing that they could not be attacked.
Let me review the past nine years. In that period, the Australian loan market has collapsed. This Government is responsible for that. But I shall not pursue that theme now. As a result of that collapse, the deficiency has had to be made up by taxation from the people of Australia. Over that nine-year period, £1,606,000,000 has been required to make up for the gap in the bond market to carry out the capital and developmental works of this country.
The first point I make is this: Those who paid that capital levy got no bonds and they received no interest. The next point is that throughout those nine years the Commonwealth used revenue and taxes to carry out the whole of its own public works programme. A total of £938,000,000 out of the sum of £1,606,000,000 collected as taxes, or more than £100,000,000 per annum, was spent on Commonwealth capital works - all interest-free money. What was left, some £668,000,000, was handed over to the States, but not interest-free. That money was dribbled through trust funds and put through special loans. Money that had been paid by the people of Australia in taxes was lent by the Commonwealth to the States, the States being placed under the obligation not only to repay the principal but also to pay interest on it. In other words, the same taxpayers have been called upon to pay the taxes twice, and on the second occasion to pay interest on them. So we reach the frenzied financial position that, in order to help the States to meet the burden which the Commonwealth has cast upon them, the Commonwealth imposes additional taxation on the people of Australia! It is the most extraordinary type of finance that I have ever seen.
The Government has been unfair not only to the people of Australia but also to the States. During the nine years this Government has been in office, the Commonwealth’s public debt has fallen by £83,000,000, whilst that of the States has risen from £1,008,000,000 to £2,247,000,000.
– But they have assets for it.
– They have, but let me put this to the honorable senator: One of the great evils perpetrated by this Government has been that it not only let inflation run but also contributed to it by this financial method. What is the truth about the States? They run all the intimate services for industry and for the homes of the people - transport, water supply, power, and one hundred and one other services. All these additional interest charges to which I have referred have gone into State Budgets, into industrial and domestic charges, and have had a terrific inflationary effect. The Commonwealth is completely unfair in financing the whole of its public works out of interest-free money - out of taxes revenue - and lending the balance to the States and obliging them to repay that money and to pay interest on it.
Now let us look at the interest position of the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the States. Over the same nine years, the Commonwealth’s interest bill has risen by £2,000,000 a year whilst that of the States has risen by £56,000,000 a year, that is, from £32,000,000 back in 1949 to- £88,000,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1958. That is a terrific burden to place upon State Budgets. At least half of that £56,000,000 represents interest paid on moneys that were never raised on the bond market but were provided by the Commonwealth Government. Is it any wonder that all the State governments, irrespective of their party political complexion, have been forced into the position of increasing charges of all kinds? The responsibility for that rests fairly and squarely upon the Menzies Government, which has had control of this financial situation throughout that period.
One looks at the rate of intererst as between the Commonwealth and the States. The information is set out in the Budget papers. Whilst the average rate of interest payable by the Commonwealth is slightly more than 3 per cent., the average rate payable by the States is only slightly under 4 per cent. So the States lose out vis-a-vis the Commonwealth in the accumulation of public debt, in the interest charges that have to be paid, and in the rates of interest they have to pay. I put it that that is a complete denial of the co-operation that is supposed to take place between the Commonwealth and the States. I hope that this forth-coming Premiers conference will enable these facts to be presented and to be thrashed out.
Let me take the States one by one. Victoria’s public debt rose from £202,000,000 to £518,000,000 in the nine-year period to which I have referred, whilst that of New South Wales rose from £396,000,000 to £787,000,000. Tasmania’s public debt rose from £37,000,000 to £137,000,000, a 300 per cent, increase. In the same period, the Commonwealth debt fell by £83,000,000. I hope all these matters will be adverted to and thrashed out.
Let me now refer to some of the things that could be done at the Premiers conference. Last year, the Commonwealth had surplus revenue amounting to £156,000,000, whilst the loan market yielded only £1 15,000,000 of the £429,000,000 required. Part of the gap was filled up by surplus Commonwealth revenue. But what did the Commonwealth do with that surplus? lt took the whole of what it required for itself, namely £132,000,000, interest free, and the balance went to the States together with all the dear money - the £115,000,000 that was raised on the bond market. That kind of thing has gone on every year during this Government’s term of office. This year, the Commonwealth’s capital works programme will cost about £132,000,000 and those of the States approximately £217,000,000. Why was not last year’s surplus revenue divided in the proportion of two to one in favour of the States?
Why should the Commonwealth greedily take all the free money that it required Ibr its capital works? Would it not have been fair for the Commonwealth to say to the States, “ You have a capital works programme amounting to £200,000,000, and ours will cost £100,000,000. You are developing sections of Australia, so we will divide the surplus in the proportion of two to one.” Does any ohe deny that that would be not only reasonable but also fair? Would not anything to the ‘ contrary be completely unfair? I hope I shall hear more voices raised in this chamber on that particular point.
Now let us deal with the loan market moneys, the whole of which are passed over to the States. In other words, when cheap money is available the Commonwealth takes the lot; but when dear money is available, carrying with it the obligation to repay principal and to pay interest year by year, the lot is given to the States. They carry the whole burden of the dear money.
The second point that I think the Premiers might press on this Government - and I hope that honorable senators opposite also will press it upon the Government - is that the dear money should be shared, in the same proportions, with the States. Would that be unfair? Would it not be reasonable? Is not anything to the contrary quite unfair? The third point that I put concerns the £668,000,000 of revenue, or taxes, which this Government has collected during the last nine years and lent to the States. In other words, it has lent the money to the taxpayers who paid the taxes in the first place, and has compelled them to pay back both principal and interest. Why cannot the Commonwealth cancel that debt? To do so would relieve the States of something approaching £28,000,000 a year in interest, money that could be applied to reduce taxation and to provide extra facilities. This is a States’ house, and I invite the Sena’.e to consider the practicability of that suggestion. For the benefit of anybody who is interested, I point to the Budget papers. At page 79, there are details of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Shown there are particulars of how that fund is invested. Of the £299,000,000 standing to the credit of the account, all except £18,000,000, which is in Treasury bills bearing interest at only 1 per cent., is in Commonwealth inscribed stock bearing interest at rates varying from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent. That is to say, there is £281,00,000 worth of Commonwealth bonds in the hands of the Commonwealth. It is therefore true to say that the Commonwealth has in its possession Commonwealth bonds in respect of which it is both the lender and the borrower. This is not money owed by the Commonwealth to anybody in the community. Why, if there is a genuine desire on the part of the Commonwealth to do the fair thin? as between the Commonwealth and the States, should this Premiers’ Conference that is to be held next week not address its mind to the question of cancelling that debt? Nobody in the community would be deprived of one penny if it were cancelled.
I make no suggestion regarding the difference between that £281,000,000 and the £668,000,000 of revenue that has been lent to the States down the years. I have not had the time to consider the matter properly, and perhaps I would not be abls to find my way through to where those bonds are now. I know that many of them have been sold on the market. Of course, if the Commonwealth goes on the market to realize on these bonds, it will only depress the bond market for future requirements.
– Did not the Commonwealth go on to the market to obtain them?
– No, it did not.
That money was passed into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve from a number of sources, such as from the proceeds of loans obtained overseas. I take no account, in this respect, of the £668,000,000 of taxation revenue that has been lent to the States. The balance of the amount represents surplus revenue that has been paid into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
It is quite right that if money is borrowed overseas and is passed on to the States, the States should meet the interest commitment that is involved. In the view that I present to the Senate, however, it is altogether wrong that money raised by taxation should be lent to the States. That practice has done infinite harm in an inflationary sense. We see one wrecking effect of it now, in that there are five applicant States out of six in Australia. That is nothing of which any senator should be proud, particularly any Government senator.
I hope that those three suggestions that I have made will be canvassed at the forthcoming conference. I make another suggestion in relation to the income tax reimbursement grant. I and the Australian Labour party fully approve of the uniform tax system. It is the only fair and just system that could operate. There is a scheme for determining the amount of income tax reimbursement grants that the States should receive. “To show honorable senators how out of date the figures are, I point out that the grant fixed way back in 1947-48 at £45,000,000 has, under the formula for expansion provided at the time, grown to £175,000,000 this year. The basic figure is the tail-end figure; the vast amount ‘is the formula grant, again so vast because of the inflationary tendencies that this Government has let loose in the community.
It is unreal to have a basic figure of £45,000,000 and an expanded grant, topping it, of £130,000,000. I suggest that a new base might be fixed, that the Premiers and the representatives of the Common wealth Government might address themselves to the evolution of a new formula that would have more relation to presentday realities and, perhaps, to the little extra marginal amount that the States always require. That amount has averaged approximately £21,900,000 during the last nine years. Instead of wrangling about the matter at the Premiers conference, now that all the States except one are applicant States, why cannot that matter be referred for recommendation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission or some other independent body? The Government has destroyed the dignity and the independence of the States. If five of the six are applicants, why should not this question of the grant on top of the basic grant, plus the formula grant, be thrown out of the field of politics and’ be referred to an independent body?
I have developed very briefly a vast theme, Mr. President. I made a resolution to myself that I should not take up all the time available to me and that I should confine myself to the one topic. As I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, I speak more out of respect for the terms of the motion than for anything else. As this matter will be canvassed around Australia during the year, because there are to be elections in four States, three of those elections being in the immediate future, I think that it behoves the Government to correct the injustice it has done to the States.
The other thing that I suggest the Government should do is to try to restore the loan market by doing something imaginative and effective. The Government has taken one step recently in the matter of the interestbearing certificates that it is now selling, in that the principal invested is in some measure safeguarded, but in respect of housing and unemployment, two matters eloquently and efficiently discussed by Senator Armstrong to-night, the Government has been very lazy. I hope that the Premiers will come to Canberra determined to shock the life out of the Government and to ensure that they leave the conference with something that will be fair and that will amount to relief for their budgets and for the people under their control.
– I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, which was so ably moved and seconded by Senators Branson and McKellar, and I wish, to associate myself with their expressions of loyalty to the Crown. Honorable senators who were privileged to hear Senators Branson and McKellar deliver their maiden speeches will no doubt agree that the debating strength of this chamber has been enhanced by their presence. We look forward to the contributions that they will make in the future, when the proposals referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech are embodied in bills that come before the Parliament. His Excellency’s Speech was constructive and comprehensive. It stated that the Parliament will consider the banking legislation, the promotion of trade and commerce both within and outside Australia, and the necessity to build up our overseas reserves. Those are three of the tasks that will face this chamber, and those three alone are comprehensive and extensive.
It is noticeable that Labour is following its traditional role of opposing every measure brought down by the Government. Not one constructive thought does the Opposition advance. It opposes every proposal concerning foreign affairs. During the last two days we have had discussions on this vital subject. There has been a complete change in Labour’s policy on foreign affairs. That is good for the nation, but how I wish this change of front which we have seen lately were sincere. If it is sincere, the Australian nation will benefit thereby.
As you know, Mr. President, talks were recently held in Australia between Ministers of this Government and Dr. Subandrio, which have produced a situation that causes the people of Australia to ponder on our national security. When listening to Senator McKenna who, as Leader of the Opposition, spoke for the Labour party, my mind went back to 1945 and 1946, and I detected a change in his approach to matters concerning Indonesia. In 1945, Labour had the warmest feelings of brotherhood for the Indonesians. Indeed, the Labour party claimed that it was instrumental in having the dispute between Holland and Indonesia brought before the United Nations. Today, Labour claims that it brought about a cease-fire between the Dutch and the Indonesians and gave the Indonesians their independence. Senator Willesee has reminded us that Senator- McKenna was acting as
Minister for External Affairs in the Labour Government at that time. Labour said that the Indonesians should take over control of all the Dutch possessions, with the exception of what we call Dutch New Guinea, with the proviso that, after twelve months, Dutch New Guinea would be the subject of negotiation between the Dutch and the Indonesians.
We know that during World War II. the Dutch were our allies. When the Japanese attacked the Netherlands East Indies, the Dutch empire fell. Her fleet, her army and her air force all assisted us to hold our land of Australia. Her fleet went to the bottom of the ocean in the defence of her own possessions and ours. But now Labour has forgotten the events of 1945 and 1946. In fact, the Labour Government of those days treated our war-time allies in a particularly grievous manner after the actual fighting against Japan had ceased. Let me remind Senator McKenna and those who sit behind him of some of the terms that were meted out to our allies by the Government in which he acted as Minister for External Affairs. Labour gave its warm-hearted support and friendship to Indonesians. In fact, it could be said that Labour was almost responsible for Holland’s decision to relinquish her empire. In 1945, ships containing urgently needed medical supplies, food and clothing for the relief of civilians who had been held as hostages by the Japanese, were held up in Australia by the undisputed will of the Waterside Workers Federation, and the Labour government of which Senator McKenna was a very powerful member stood supinely aside. Senator McKenna knows only too well that Labour’s foreign policy at that time was dictated by the Waterside Workers Federation, and that the government of the day refused to do anything that would run counter to what the federation had to say, particularly any of Mr. Healy’s dictates to the government. I am not speaking of munitions, but of supplies that were urgently needed to succour the starving Dutch.
What was the reason given by that government for its refusal to send supplies to the Dutch? It was, that the food, clothing and medical supplies could be used against the Indonesian national movement. That was the answer that was given, yet the Dutch had fought as our allies against the common enemy, Japan. They stood between us and Japan screening and protecting Australia. We know the part that the Dutch Navy played, yet when the “ Peter Hind “ limped into Australian waters for urgently needed repairs, these were refused at every port in Australia. Nowhere in Australia could this ship be repaired because of Labour’s ban. At that particular time, the Dutch, the British and ourselves were rounding up the Japanese and releasing thousands of civilians who had been interned during the Japanese occupation. The Labour government of the day did not enforce the law because its foreign policy was in the hands of irresponsible people. This charge was never denied by the Chifley Government, because it could not be denied. The truth was written clearly - He that runs may read. What did the Chifley Government say on this matter? It said that the Indonesians had a right to decide their own future. There was a strong movement for freedom to enable the Indonesians to take control of the Dutch possessions, including Dutch New Guinea.
I am sorry that Senator McKenna, who acted as Minister for External Affairs in that Labour government, is not in the chamber at the moment, because I should like to remind him, and Dr. Evatt as well, that the name of Tasman is renowned throughout Australia. I suggest that the name Tasmania is rather dear to an emigre senator like Senator McKenna.’ The services of a tug for the “ Tasman “ were refused, and Dutch children had to load and unload the vessel. Memory recalls the “ Bontekoe “, another Dutch ship. It carried thousands of Australian and other troops between this country and the islands. In December, 1945, that ship, although it had only 30 tons of coal remaining in. its bunkers, was refused supplies at the port of Brisbane. Her freezers were useless; she had no running water for her sanitary system - and there were 100 men on board - she had no steam for baking or cooking, and she had no steam for her pumps which had to be manhandled. Was that fair treatment to be meted out to our allies? What a situation in which to place them! To-day the Australian Labour party claims to be the friend of the Dutch. I hope it is! Yet, at the time of the revolt in Indonesia, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) urged this Government to support the Indonesians. I remind honorable senators that he supported the waterside workers in Brisbane when they refused to load relief ships. He said that Holland lived by the economic exploitation of the Netherlands East Indies.
-known member of this chamber, had much to say on this matter. 1 remember well the occasion on which he posed this query: “ Who are our neighbours in Indonesia? Are they the few Dutch imperialists, the Dutch imperialist exploiters who control the Shell Oil Co. and the rubber interests in Java; who have bled 75,000,000 natives for the last 350 years, 75 per cent, of whom are illiterate, paying them 2d. per day?” He added that the Dutch were unable to defend their own possessions but they wished to continue to exploit the natives as they had done for the previous 350 years. He was only 200 years out in his estimate - nothing to Senator Grant! It is only 150 years since Holland exercised government rule in Indonesia. For the previous 200 years the Dutch East Indies Co. traded in the islands and more or less controlled them.
In 1945, the same Senator Grant wanted to hand over the whole of the then Dutch territory to the Indonesians. Indonesia has been developed by the investment of Dutch capital, the use of Dutch brains and the ability of the Dutch to colonize. One could continue ad infinitum enumerating the contradictory actions and statements of members of the Australian Labour party. Their whole attitude at that time can be summed up in three words, “ Out the Dutch”. Now, in 1959, the Labour party has changed its front. I repeat, I hope the Opposition is sincere.
I shall now deal with some of the problems posed by Senator McKenna. He said that if the Dutch walk out of West New Guinea we shall walk in. Let us ponder for a moment on that remark. He says, in effect, that if the Dutch leave West New Guinea and the Indonesians walk in. we shall also walk in and expel the Indonesians. I ask Senator McKenna, and the Labour party, this question: Will the Labour party oppose by force the entry of the Indonesians into Dutch New Guinea? If not, how else is it proposed to keep the Indonesians out of Dutch New Guinea? If so, what forces will be used to expel the Indonesians? Will the Labour party call tor volunteers, or will it use the Australian forces? Honorable senators no doubt remember that during the last war the Australian forces could not proceed beyond a certain parallel. If one looks at an atlas, one will see that Dutch New Guinea lies north of that particular parallel beyond which the Labour party said that no Australian troops could proceed. I repeat my question to Senator McKenna. What force does he intend to use to expel the Indonesians? Will he use volunteers? The reference to volunteers has a sting in its tail, but honorable senators opposite have no comment to make.
Senator McKenna’s statement prompts me to ask another question. If force is used, has he received an assurance from the Waterside Workers’ Federation that it will permit ships to be loaded with the necessary supplies to support the army? In effect, Senator McKenna says, “ We will go into Dutch New Guinea and impose Australian colonialism on the people of that territory “. That would be most interesting.
People who have visited Dutch New Guinea know the country. Senator Gorton told us something of the difficult terrain on the border between Dutch New Guinea and the territory that we administer. The important conferences that the Commonwealth Government has had with Dr. Subandrio and representatives of the Dutch are the best safeguard against the outbreak of a third world war. Stripped of all veneer, the Opposition is saying, “ We are prepared to fight a third world war if Indonesia takes over Dutch New Guinea “. Is the Labour party prepared to do that, or is it merely talking poppycock? If the Opposition is prepared to go to war, will it defend this country with pop guns?
– The Government was not prepared when the Second World War broke out.
– No, but I went just the same.
– The honorable senator did not have a job.
– I was more gainfully employed than was the honorable senator a short time ago, and not so close to unemployment.
– I realize that. The honorable senator need not remind me of it.
– I was employed and did not owe my job to the Communists. This Government took the correct line of action in holding conferences with the Indonesians and the Dutch in a effort to resolve the problem by peaceful means rather than risk a third world war, thereby demonstrating its concern and direct interest in promoting real friendship with the Indonesians and the Dutch. If West New Guinea is to change hands, no nation is better able to look after it than Australia is, but to do so would be costly. Are we prepared to bear the cost? Honorable senators know how much we spend now in administering the territory of Papua and New Guinea. If honorable senators will glance at the map of that area they will get some idea of what it would cost Australia to take it over. Recently, Senator McKenna complained about the Commonwealth Government’s expenditure of £900,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. In view of that criticism, does he suggest that Australia can afford to take over that area?
We have always asserted that Holland has the right to retain Dutch New Guinea, and we will do all we possibly can to help the Dutch to stay there. Why should we contemplate asking the Dutch to negotiate with Indonesia? In all its talks with Dr. Subandrio, the Government has emphasized that we are prepared at all times to accept the decision of a properly constituted international authority, and that the Australian nation will do everything in its power to assist our near neighbours. We will do everything possible to help them to grow into a strong democratic nation capable of withstanding aggression and preserving its territorial possessions. Dr. Subandrio knows where Australia stands on the question of Holland’s right to Dutch New Guinea.
I hope that the new attitude adopted by the Australian Labour party towards international affairs is sincere, for one of the greatest causes of the disunity which now exists in that party has been its purely parochial approach to foreign affairs. If the debates in this place and elsewhere have led to a change of policy on the part of the Australian Labour party and caused that party to feel more real friendship for the Dutch and to take a greater interest in international affairs, then I feel that Dr. Subandrio’s visit has been of great benefit to Australia. I emphasize that any suggestion of a sell-out by this Government is sheer nonsense.
Although I should like to speak about many matters, I shall content myself with a reference to present trends in Europe and how they can affect the future of primary production in Australia. There have been two vital changes in Europe within the last few months. First, there has been a growing demand in six European countries for a free European market. Such a market, as visualied by Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, France and West Germany could have a marked effect on world trade. The lowering of tariff barriers and revision of quota systems with consequent freer trade, together with freer convertibility of foreign exchange, could have a vital effect on the future of Australia. The wool market is improving and I am confident that our overseas reserves will be built up in the near future and that as a result we shall be able to ease import restrictions. Each and every one of us has an obligation to do our utmost to encourage increased production in both primary and secondary industries and to encourage the expansion of trade both within and without the Commonwealth. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and in complimenting both the mover and seconder of the motion. I repeat that the Governor-General’s Speech was constructive and comprehensive.
– I have a great deal of personal respect for Senator Mattner, but I am sure he will forgive me for not attempting to follow him in all his ramblings to-night, -especially his references to the Australian Labour party’s policy and attitude during the war. Suffice it to say that I am confident that the people of Australia as well as, perhaps, the peoples of other parts of the world, have a deep appreciation of the manner in which the Australian Labour party carried out the responsibilities of government during the war and post-war years. I remind the honorable senator that when the Australian Labour party took over the reins of office in 1941 this country was in dire straits. It was in no condition whatever to defend itself, and the people of
Australia have a great appreciation of what we did during the war and post-war years. Our work then will stand for all time as a monument to the Australian Labour party. Senator Mattner knows that what I say will be endorsed by the great majority of Australians. I remind him that his remarks have been broadcast. What he has said will be of great help to the Australian Labour party in that listeners throughout Australia will be shocked at the realization that there are members on the Government side who do hold views such as those he expressed, and I am sure this realization will hasten the Government’s committal to the Opposition benches.
I congratulate Senators Branson and McKellar upon their maiden speeches. They made most thoughtful contributions to the debate. Their speeches were most refreshing to honorable senators on this side for it is very rarely that we hear speeches of such merit from the Government side. I am afraid, however, that both honorable senators are doomed to be disappointed with this Government.
The Governor-General’s Speech gave no indication that the Government intends to deal with the great and urgent problems confronting Australia to-day. If the Government has no appreciation of the magnitude of those problems, then the future for Australia is by no means bright. If His Excellency’s Speech had embodied the speeches delivered by ‘Senators Branson and McKellar, it would have been much more interesting than the one which he was obliged to read on behalf of the Government. I am sure that if the GovernorGeneral had written the Speech himself we should have heard some really statesmanlike utterances. It is customary for the Government to give the Parliament, as well as State, municipal and public authorities, some indication of its intentions concerning problems confronting the nation. However, not one word along those lines was uttered. There was nothing to inspire the Australian people, or to enable them to arrange their affairs in preparation for what was to come.
During the last decade the Government has drifted along on a wave of great prosperity, excellent seasons and record prices. Its developmental policy does not bear examination. I invite Government supporters to tell the Senate of anything constructive that the Government has done to help the development of this country. In the city of Brisbane, the city from which I come, the City Council is conservative in character. It is seised of the importance of certain work that is needed in that growing city, and is forever appealing over the air for financial support. Brisbane is only partly sewered, and conditions there are dreadful. Since this Government came to office we have been unable to get any money to carry out that kind of work. The Government has ruined the loan market. It is almost impossible to raise loans.
I am reminded of what Senator McKellar said - that if we were going to make this country worth while we would have to do something for it, and not be so concerned about taking from it. The money required for these urgent works is simply not available, but there are almost unlimited funds even in Brisbane for hire purchase - at high interest rates. Municipal bodies can find no money for sewerage, roads or even housing, but what is this Government doing about it? I must say seriously, and regretfully, that while it has been in office it has done virtually nothing to develop this country.
The Government is continually referring to its dependence upon private enterprise. We all know of the need for great works such as the Snowy scheme. Similar schemes should be undertaken in the channel country of Queensland, and in other places, but the people whose money is tied up in hire-purchase finance would prefer to exploit the country rather than help build it up. Australian development can take place only with the assistance of public investment. The people’s money must be used, because it can be obtained at a lower rate of interest. Such great works cannot carry a high rate of interest. Unfortunately, the very people who have made so much money out of good seasons and the recent prosperity of this country are to-day trying to get even more money by way of hire purchase, and are doing nothing to assist public works. In that regard, the Government’s policy has been an absolute failure.
I did not rise with the idea of indulging in lengthy criticism of the Government. Probably that would not be proper just after an election at which the Government was returned to office, but I remind the Government that it is here not because of its popularity, but for another reason. Queensland would have had three Labour senators here if the Labour vote had not been split. We had a majority of over 30,000 but, owing to defections and betrayals in the party - people going over to the other side - the Government was able to stay in office. I repeat, the Government’s victory was not attributable to a good record, or to popularity but to the presence in this country of an influence that I hope will not be long lived. A certain interest is contaminating the political atmosphere in Australia, and up till now that fact has favoured the Liberal and Australian Country parties. It is like a bush fire and one does not know where it will end. It is a great pity that such a force has arisen in Australian politics. It has resulted in the smearing - as Communists - of Labour men who have given many years of service to Australian public life. It is a diabolical influence, and it is a very sorry thing for politics that it has continued to operate for so long. I hope that it will soon disappear from the political horizon, because history has shown that its presence has never been conducive to promoting the welfare of any country in which it has appeared. I do not wish to say too much about that aspect, but I feel very deeply about it and believe that Australian politics have been greatly disrupted by its existence. It reared its ugly head even in Mr. Chifley’s time, and in those days also I did my best to suppress it.
We are in full accord with the expressions of loyalty contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech but, unlike Senator Mattner - who has, of course, a great record of service in war and peace - most citizens of British countries do not feel that it is necessary for every one to get up and continually say that he is loyal to the Queen. I should like to see a more practical manifestation of loyalty to Great Britain - indeed, to Australia.
Because of this Government’s policy, hundreds of factories have been closed in the United Kingdom. For the same reason, many factories have been built in Japan and other countries. If we are so concerned about the United Kingdom, let us show it in a more practical way. When
Labour was in office, our relations with the United! Kingdom were very good indeed. Australian: had long-term: agreements with the United Kingdom, and these stabilized’ prices. We had a great market in that, country. The- last speaker referred to the European. Free Market. I think that we; might have done a little more to hold the: British market foc this country. It has. been a great market for us in the past. The Australian sugar- industry could never have developed’ except for the preferential’ treatment it received, from the United Kingdom, but to-day we hear nothing from the other side about, tuning in. with it. Our trade relations with the1 United Kingdom have deteriorated greatly because: of the attitude of this Government. Instead of merely speaking of our loyalty, it would be far. better if we gave some practical recognition: to it in our trade policies.
The Labour Government’s record of association with Great Britain is very good indeed’. We carried many burdens ourselves’ when Great Britain was belted practically to her knees, when she stood alone and fought for the liberty which we enjoy. The Labour party in Australia did all it possibly could to assist Britain in its problems, but it did not get very much credit or kudos for what it did’. I remember well the question of the rationing of petrol. The true story has- never been told. The Labour government continued to ration petrol in the interests of Great Britain. Great Britain was short’ of dollars, just as we were. At that time we were’ getting more than a fair share of the’ available dollars, although we were not earning any, as honorable senators opposite know. We continued to ration petrol here because Great Britain was’ negotiating with America on the question of oil’, offering tankers in payment for oil’. We were’ severely criticized, but our whole idea1 was that Australia’ should make’ some sacrifices: for Great Britain in return’ for all’ we had received at its- hands during thewar: Senator Mattner sneers at the Labour’ party’s record in regard to the defence of Australia and assistance to- Great Britain-, but the people who know something about the position’ will know what value to place on> what he has said.
I feel that the present Government is a. government of lost opportunities. This is a young country with great possibilities.
Our potential is great, but we must develop it. What’ is- this. Government doing about, that? It says only that private enterprise must be encouraged. The Labour party believes in private enterprise too, and has done more for private enterprise than this Government has ever done. After the war we: endeavoured; to get private enterprise established in the many buildings previously used for war purposes that were available.
– What did you do about loading the Dutch ships?
– We will see what you are going to do about Dutch ships. I repeat that this is a. government of lost opportunities.. A lot of work has to be done if we are to continue with the present rate- of intake of migrants. We must have migrants’, and! probably more than we are getting at the present time. Incidentally, let’ us bring more British migrants here. I congratulate the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) on his intention tomake greater endeavours to bring more British) migrants; to this country. However, if we are going: to maintain and even increase the rate of intake: of migrants, and see that they have employment, we must have some developmental policy. Something must be done but, unfortunately, the Government- is doing nothing, and proposes to do nothing.
Senator Branson commended the Government in a speech which must have greatly surprised other honorable senators opposite, because they have never said anything about’ a developmental policy based on public investment. That is- something quiteforeign to them. Perhaps the reason why Senator Branson commended’ the Government was that he- was very pleased that’ Western Australia has obtained from- it a very generous grant of £11,000,000. I do not mind that. I congratulate Western Australia on itsdevelopment policy, but1 I should like the Government to tell us what it has’ done for Queensland. I would- be very generous in my commendation of. the Government if it meted, out to- Queensland treatment similar to’ that’ which it has- meted out to. Western Australia. However, all we get from the Government is the statement that Queensland’ has wonderful potential, that it is a great State, and is destined to be the greatest State in the’ Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Opposition gave the Senate an explanation of the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States. It was a very good explanation, and very true. This Government is constantly bickering with the States. Instead of the States, the municipal authorities and the Commonwealth Government acting in unison to carry out a developmental policy, what do we find? We find constant bickering, and innuendoes and insinuations coming from the opposite side of the chamber about the States and the way they spend their money. When Senator Spooner was answering a question to-day, he referred to the housing scheme of New South Wales. Surely the New South Wales Government is justified in trying to obtain money from the Commonwealth. It has no other way of securing money, because the Commonwealth is the one taxing authority. In order to cope with its housing problem it has a right to come to this Government and make known its needs.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, this Government has been a government of failure, but at the same time it has been the luckiest government we have ever had. It has sailed on a wave of prosperity. Australia has experienced excellent seasons and enjoyed excellent prices for its products. The Government inherited an economy with no unemployment.
– There was no unemployment when this Government came into office. We have Mr. Menzies’ statement for that.
– He said so in his policy speech.
– He said that he inherited an economy in which there was no unemployment. To-day nearly 100,000 people are unemployed and that during a time of great prosperity. Does not the Government think that is a serious thing in a young country like Australia, at a time when we are spending a lot of money to bring people here in order to help us to develop the nation? Surely the Government is not content to sit idly by and say that 100,000 is only a very small percentage of the workforce. There should be no unemployment in this country. We should have full employment, seeing there is so much to be done. I could mention many projects that could be carried out in this country - things that we badly need. For the benefit of the new senators, let me say that when the Labour Government started the Snowy Mountains project we were sneered at. Honorable senators opposite boycotted the scheme and laughed at us. The Snowy Mountains scheme is a great scheme, because if we are to have a larger population, we must have irrigation, power and all those things. I say to this Government, which is always talking about private enterprise, that we must have public investment in this country to provide irrigation, power and all the other things we need. The Government’s record in regard to public investment has been a very bad one. Honorable senators who come from Western Australia know that Labour went to great pains to establish a whaling station in that State. The undertaking was efficient and prosperous and was a credit to Western Australia, but this Government practically gave it away, some say, to its political friends. It is only by accident or because of some unfortunate circumstance that a government which does things like that is able to continue to occupy the treasury bench. When the people really arrive at a proper understanding of Labour’s policy for the development of Australia, they will again flock to the party.
It has been stated that we on this side of the chamber are sympathetic to the Communists. We have heard such statements year after year, but the theme is becoming played out. I think this nation should send a message of congratulation to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, for the great work he has done in the cause of peace. But if it had been a Labour Prime Minister who had gone to Russia, he would have been charged with having been a Communist. We on this side of the chamber, as a party, have fought the Communists hard, because we know that their policy, if adopted, would be a menace to this country.
I note that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) has returned to the table. I congratulate him upon his elevation to the leadership of the Government in this place. I hope he will bat well.
– He will bat ruthlessly.
– I know he will indulge in bodyline tactics if he gets the chance. But I have great respect for his ability and drive, and I should like to enlist his support for a policy of public investment and of moving away from support of those who, in the hire-purchase field, are exploiting this nation. The money that those people are making is not being channelled into developmental work but is going into private pockets. We have been saying for years that that kind of thing must cease, but the Government, true to form, only now is beginning to see what a menace it is. Such people who possess quite an amount of money will not lent it to the Brisbane City Council and similar bodies for the provision of sewerage and water, or for the provision of houses. Rather will they place it where it will earn a higher rate of interest. I am not concerned so much about the higher rate of interest as I am about the fact that those people, having made money in this country, should be duty bound to assist in the development of it and not seek their own ends. The man who has only a small sum of money would gladly lend it if he thought more employment and greater development would follow. What encouragement is he given? He is offered an interest rate of about2¼ per cent., while those who exploit this country receive a very much higher rate of interest.
Let me refer to the position of the Australian farmers. I was one of them before I came to a better plot in here. The primary producers are facing a very difficult period. The basic wage and costs of production continue to rise, but the price of commodities is declining. How long does the Government propose to tolerate that state of affairs? It was the Labour party that brought the farmers out of bondage and placed them on a proper business footing. I see Country party senators laughing, but probably they, unlike me, do not cast their minds back to the time when the farming community worked very long hours for a starvation return. The farmers emerged from that state of affairs through the efforts, in the first instance, of a Queensland government which introduced favorable marketing legislation. Labour still stands for the improvement of the lot of the farmer.
I repeat that the farming community is facing a difficult period; but we cannot overcome these difficulties merely by passing resolutions. Arbitration courts and resolutions will not maintain the standard of living that we enjoy if our production fails to do it. If we are to maintain our present standards, we must pursue a policy of development. We often hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate say that various matters fall within the jurisdiction of the States. But the welfare and development of this country is a national matter and is one for the Federal Parliament. We must be prepared to make it possible for the Commonwealth to work in harmony with. State and municipal authorities.
To-day, a question about housing was addressed to the Minister for National Development, but, because an election is pending in New South Wales, he went to great pains to imply that the Government of that State was at fault in its efforts to overcome the housing problem. I remind him that that problem is nation-wide. I think it was one of the new senators who pointed out that we have the necessary men and materials to overcome the housing problem, and that we have confidence in the younger generation. I believe that, if the younger generation was encouraged to see things in the right way, it would do just as well as, or even better than, we who are older do in these matters.
We, as a national Parliament, should ensure that the benefits of the advancement of science and of national development are spread fairly throughout the nation. But the Government never offers any suggestion aimed at achieving that end. I say more in sorrow than in anger, as I said earlier, that this Government believes it can just drift along and all will be well.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 February 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590225_senate_23_s14/>.