24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 28a, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senator A. M. Benn, Senator A. Hendrickson and Senator D. M. Tangney to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications - Senator K. M. Anderson, Senator A. M. Benn, Senator H. G. J. Cant, Senator D. C. Hannaford, Senator G. C. Hannan, Senator P. J. Kennelly, and Senator A. R. Robertson.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Customs and Excise. My question concerns censorship of literature. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to an advertising folder bearing the picture of a nude woman adorned only by a twig and very small leaves held in the hand? The folder has been posted from the United States of America to many men in Australia. It advertises a new magazine which is said to be devoted to love in its infinite variety. The name of the magazine is “ Eros “. I have a copy of the folder before me now. If the Minister will train his ‘bi-focals in my direction he will be able to see it. After inspecting the folder, which I will give to the Minister, will he give an opinion on whether it is obscene or is designed to appeal to the baser instincts? Does the Minister agree that this folder is not the type of thing that should be allowed to come into the hands of excitable and impressionable youth? I do not expect the Minister to be a conservative moralist, but does he agree that there is a line of demarcation between exposure of feminine beauty and obvious appeal to the baser instincts? In part the folder reads - Like Eve -
– Order! The honorable senator should ask his question. He is now giving information.
– I realize that it is difficult to intercept ordinary mail. Will the Minister alert his forces to ensure that magazines imported into this country shall comply with our standards of decency?
– I have not seen the folder to which the honorable senator has referred. At the moment he has that advantage of me. I know nothing about the folder. From what I have heard I understand that it emanates from the United States of America and seeks subscriptions to a magazine. I understand also that the annual subscription to the magazine is .about eight dollars.
– About fifteen dollars, I think.
– All I can say is that if the magazine arrives in Australia my officers will examine it and deal with it according to the standards laid down. We cannot pre-judge any magazine or other publication until it comes to hand and we have seen it.
The honorable senator says that the folder comes by mail. Any suggested action which would involve tampering with mails would certainly give rise to difficulties. In no circumstances would the censorship authorities have anything to do with examining the mails in search of the folder. However, if any of the susceptible and impressionable young senators send their eight dollars to America with the idea of getting the magazine, and if copies arrive in Australia, customs officers will be alerted to examine them under the normal procedures prescribed by the Customs Act.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister indicate whether it is still intended to serve the north-west coast of Tasmania from the television station now being erected on Mount Barrow?
When will this station be in operation? Is it still proposed to erect a relay station at Burnie to transmit programmes from the Mount Barrow station? Has the Australian Broadcasting Control Board abandoned phase four of its programme which envisages a separate television station at Burnie? Is it correct that the booster station to be erected on Flinders Island will be used only to relay programmes from mainland stations occasionally and will not transmit continually so as to enable viewers to tune into it at any time? Can the Minister provide any information concerning the proposed booster station on King Island?
– I understand that it is the intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to service the north-west coast of Tasmania with a television station now being erected on Mount Barrow. I have been advised that when this station is in operation, the total population of Tasmania, with the exception 20,000 people, will be serviced. The commercial station on Mount Barrow will come into operation in May, 1962, and I think the national station there will come into operation in July, 1963. I have no knowledge of the plans to cover Flinders Island and King Island, but I shall refer that portion of the question to my colleague and get his reply for the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the the United States of America Atomic Energy Commission has a division called Operation Plowshare, which is concerning itself with the development of peaceful uses of nuclear explosions? Is it a fact that Dr. Higgins, the director of this division, is at present in Australia advocating techniques and quoting costs which probably could be realized in the construction of dams, canals, water storages and harbours, as well as various applications in mining, by the use of underground nuclear explosions? Also, is it a fact that the costs quoted indicate that these new methods are very much cheaper than the present conventional methods? Is it a fact, too, that a dam such as the proposed Chowilla dam in South Australia could be constructed for approximately £1,000,000 instead of the £14,000,000 that has been, estimated by. the River Murray Commission?’ Could the expected loss by evaporation- be greatly reduced and the capacity- increased by deepening the floor of the storage by a series of similar, if smaller, nuclear explosions? Would any danger to human, animal or vegetable life be caused by radio-activity in the water thus stored and eventually released for irrigation, industrial or domestic use? If the Minister’s answers indicate that the Plowshare operations are a successful revolution in hydrological and mining engineering, will he request the River Murray Commission to investigate the possibilities immediately?
– I had an idea that this question would be asked, and I prepared some notes so that I could answer with reasonable accuracy. I was asked a question on this subject the other day. Since then I have had an opportunity to meet Dr. Higgins and to have a discussion with him. I have not the slightest doubt that his visit to Australia is an important event which could have far-reaching effects on Australian development: I think that two great factors which will influence Australian development are the best use of our water resources and the development of port facilities in the north. The indications are that the use of nuclear explosives would lead to a substantial reduction of the heavy capital expenditure involved in the construction of large water storages. I hesitate to confirm the figure given by Senator Buttfield - I should like first to have advice from my professional officers - but there is little doubt that with the use of nuclear explosives, the capital costs of large - T emphasize the word large - water storages would be dramatically reduced.
The reduction of costs is not the only thing involved. It is more than possible that, as a result of the development of this new technique, it should be economically feasible to put water storages in existing flood plains. I would describe such storages4 as being in the nature of deep ponds’, adjacent to an existing river flow. That method could be used when no suitable site for a conventional dam was available. The present thinking is that this would enable a new approach to be made to the use of river waters. In the case of the river Murray, for instance, a large surplus of water flows out to sea, and by building water storages of this kind great waste would be avoided. Another interesting point is that deep water storages would prevent the very large losses of water that now occur as the result of evaporation. In places like South Australia, not only would losses from evaporation be reduced, but deep water storages might inhibit, or prevent, losses due to the salt content of the water.
As to the safety aspect, I am assured that the experimental work that has been carried out shows that the danger from radiation is very small, even now. In the course of the experimental work men have worked normal shifts on the excavations, without any ill effects. I do not understand this personally, but I am advised that the radiation following a nuclear explosion is immediately absorbed by the rock structures surrounding the site of the explosion.
Dr. Higgins was invited to come to Australia by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. He will deliver a series of lectures to professional men. Senator Buttfield has requested that he communicate with the River Murray Commission. I hope and expect that the members of the River Murray Commission will meet Dr. Higgins and perhaps attend his lectures. I am sure that they will be greatly interested in this new approach. I have arranged, of course, for officers of my department to keep in close touch with all developments that occur. I have been informed that it may be two or three years before the Plowshare group will be in a position to make a detailed estimate of costs for a major engineering proposal.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Trade. Is the Government giving a very special welcome to the Canadian trade mission which has arrived in Australia to investigate opportunities for increasing Canada’s exports to Australia? As Australia’s adverse trade balance with Canada has exceeded £100,000,000 in the last ten years, is the Government doing everything possible to help this trade mission to exploit the Australian market, which the Canadians delightfully describe as Canada’s fifth most important export market? Does the Government realize that Canada has always been one of Australia’s worst markets? Is it a fact that Australia’s exports to Canada are falling at an alarming rate and that for the first six months of the current fiscal year Australia’s exports to Canada have dropped by more than £1,000,000? What does the Government propose to do to rectify this most unsatisfactory situation?
– I am sure that we all welcome the members of the Canadian trade mission to Australia. They are here on a trade mission and to investigate the possibilities for future development. We, of course, sent a mission to Canada last year.
– It was not very successful.
– That is a matter for debate. A mission was sent from Australia last year and its members have reported on certain trade contacts that they established in Canada. I trust that those contacts will lead to an increase of exports to Canada. The honorable senator says, quite rightly, that our trade balance with Canada is too adverse and that Australia must increase its exports to Canada. We started to explore that matter about eighteen months ago. I am sure that the mission in Australia will find Australian exports lines that will interest Canada just as much as it will find markets for Canadian goods in this country.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by congratulating the Postmaster-General and his technical officers on a great breakthrough in trunk-line telephone services and the charging technique for trunk-line calls. I refer to the inauguration next week-end of the new subscriber-trunk-dialling service between Canberra and Sydney. Can the Minister supply me with a time-table showing when other capital cities will be connected with this subscriber-trunk-dialling service? In particular, when will Adelaide and South Australian subscribers enjoy this benefit? Can the Minister explain broadly how the system of recording trunk charges for periods under three minutes will work?
– The subscribertrunkdialling system, which will be introduced between Canberra and Sydney on Saturday next, represents the successful fulfilment of the first step in the long-range planning of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide Australia with a communications system second to none in the world. Senator Laught has asked for a time-table for the capital cities, emphasizing the claims of Adelaide. I cannot give him a time-table, but I can say to him that plans are in hand for the extension of the system to all capital cities. I detect in his question some desire to have this programme speeded up. That desire is logical because the new system will bring great benefits to subscribers in both speed and economy.
I am afraid that in reply to a question without notice I cannot give a detailed answer about the formula to be adopted for charging; but I can give a simple analogy, using the present base rate of 4d. for my purpose. For instance, let us take a trunk call, which at present costs 6s. If a subscriber can complete in ten seconds a call to a place for which the charge is at present 6s the charge will be 4d., which means that the cost of the call will be based on the unit of 4d. If any one is of the opinion that that will reduce the Postal Department’s revenue, let me say to him that the whole scheme is designed to provide a service and to make channels available for the use of more subscribers. A subscriber will be able to make a call at a much cheaper rate if he can reduce the time involved. That will be in his own interests and at the same time make the channels available for a greater volume of business.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that during the last ten years an amount exceeding £1,000,000 has been spent on the purchase, maintenance and running expenses of motor cars used in Australian missions abroad. Will the Minister supply a list of the embassies, high commissions and other overseas establishments which use exclusively Australian-made motor cars, such as Holdens?
– I would not be expected, I am sure, to have in my mind full details of all the costs over the last ten years involved In buying, running and maintaining motor cars in all the missions which Australia has abroad. It may well be that the cost averages £100,000 a year, which is the figure given by the honorable senator, but I shall be glad to see whether the figures for that period can be found for him. I shall supply him with a list of the missions which use exclusively Australian motor cars, such as Holdens.
– Yes, the rabbit population in Australia is definitely increasing. The reasons are partly because of the growth of resistance to myxomatosis and partly because of very good breeding conditions over the last year or two. No new virus has been developed by the C.S.I.R.O., nor is there a reasonable chance of one being developed, but this and other methods of rabbit control are constantly under study by the organization. The last two parts of the honorable senator’s question therefore do not arise.
– What about the use of 1080?
– That is a poison.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: How many oil wells are being drilled in Australia at the present time? How many wells are expected to be drilled during the next twelve months? I also ask, not for the purpose of making a comparison, which would be unfair, but for information, whether the Minister will obtain the number of wells drilled in Canada and the United States of America in 1961.
– I am sorry, but I shall have to ask Senator Brown to place the question on the notice-paper. I think it is wiser to do so, because I have the idea that inaccurate figures, if given, may create a bad impression.
Generally speaking, there has been quite a good move forward in the tempo of drilling activity, which is a most desirable objective indeed. We have done a fair amount of seismic work; but, of course, you have to drill a hole before you can get the oil. It was for that reason that we extended the subsidy system to cover the drilling operation for the wildcat hole. I shall get the information as quickly as I can and let Senator Brown have it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, refers to an address given in Canberra last night by Dr. Gary Higgins and a subsequent statement reported to have been made by Dr. Raggatt of the Department of National Development. Mr. Higgins referred to the relation of nuclear energy from underground atomic explosions and the production of fresh water from sea water. Dr. Raggatt is reported to have said that South Australia faced a prospect of having to reduce agricultural production because of lack of water, and that nuclear explosion was a practical way for that State out of the difficulty. Can the Minister say whether there are any plans to embark on a programme of study relating to this matter, especially in relation to South Australia?
– I have seen only one newspaper report of what Dr. Raggatt said last night. Therefore, I hesitate to confirm the accuracy of the press reports. But I should think it would be impossible for Dr. Raggatt or any other Australian to think or speak about this matter without having at the back of his mind the South Australian position. South Australia, with its lack of natural water resources and the problem of salinity in the Murray River, is the natural place in which this new approach could be made.
I have been asked whether there is a special programme for South Australia. No, there is not; this development is still in its infancy, but undoubtedly, there must be a programme. Whether the work is done by the Commonwealth or the South Australian Government, South Australia so lends itself to the adoption of this approach that the matter must be looked at very carefully.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report from unnamed medical authorities to the effect that there is in existence a virus which causes an infection that has all the early symptoms of poliomyelitis, and that the virus is virulent in its form and is resistant to any known antibiotics? Has the Department of Health examined this serious matter? Has the new Sabin vaccine been tested as an immunization shield against this new unnamed and cruel virus?
– I did see the report to which Senator Anderson has referred. Because of my own particular interest in the matter, I asked the Director-General of Health to give me an informative note on it. This is what he says -
The illnesses caused by Coxsackie and echo viruses do not respond to Sails vaccine. It is true that some cases have occurred in recent years with symptoms suggestive of poliomyelitis which turned out to be due to Coxsackie virus or to echo virus infections.
This is a well-established fact.
When a case of poliomyelitis is admitted to hospital specimens are taken for laboratory investigation and the diagnosis is confirmed by isolation of the poliomyelitis virus. Occasionally an echo or Coxsackie virus has been isolated but, in practically every instance, the illness was not of a serious nature and, in most of the cases with paralysis this was found to be transient and no permanent disability resulted.
One could not be dogmatic that every case was of a mild nature without consulting all the case histories in every State, but, generally speaking, this was so.
The echo and Coxsackie viruses can cause a variety of illnesses other than the occasional poliolike case. Many of these illnesses are minor indispositions and their variety is not surprising when one realises that there are 25 types of echo virus and 24 types of Coxsackie virus.
At the moment neither of these viruses is causing diseases as serious as the polio virus, nor do they present such a public health problem. They are being extensively studied in virus reference laboratories throughout Australia.
Australia has not experimented with the Sabin vaccine in this field, anc) I am not aware of any such experiments overseas.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of figures published to-day, which indicate that in point of population Canberra now ranks tenth among Australian cities, will the Minister for the Interior consider extending to its citizens the right now enjoyed by the citizens of other cities and towns, even those of Snake Gully standard - that is, the right to elect a local governing authority with the full rights and responsibilities of a city council?
– I have noted the population status of Canberra, as revealed by the recent census. I am not in a position to give the honorable senator an undertaking that local governing powers will be bestowed upon the citizens of Canberra. That is a matter of policy. I shall bring the request to the notice of my colleague and he will, I am sure, at least study it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade: Is it a fact that Mrs. Beryl Wilson, an Australian living in the United States of America, has been appointed a marketing officer in the Australian trade commissioner service in Los Angeles? As Mrs. Wilson is the first woman to be appointed by an Australian government to such a position, will the Minister inform the Senate of the scale of remuneration and allowances paid to marketing officers and say whether Mrs. Wilson will receive the same rates of pay and allowances as a male marketing officer?
– It is a fact that Mrs. Wilson has been appointed to the Trade Commissioner Service. That is a very good indication that the Department of Trade is prepared to use every means to increase our export trade. Mrs. Wilson is, I understand, the first woman to be appointed to such a position. We all hope that she will be very successful in her work. Her remuneration is the same as that of male marketing officers. I am sure that that information will give great satisfaction to the women senators. The rate of pay is between 5,355 dollars and 6,875 dollars per annum, with an entertainment allowance of 250 dollars per annum.
– Is the Minister for Health or the Government concerned about the recent decision of medical men in Sydney to increase visitation and consultation fees? Does the Minister believe that this decision will embarrass medical benefit funds in any way? Has the Government any plan to compensate the people and make it possible for them to get the benefits that should be received from such funds?
– I have no official knowledge that medical practitioners in Sydney intend to increase their fees. That fact alone, I suggest, precludes me from offering any comment. I cannot deal with the matter until I know the precise terms of the proposal. However, I can assure the honorable senator that this Government’s policy always has been to assist the needy people in the community. That matter is always in the forefront of the Government’s mind. This Government’s policy has never been to try to bridge the gap between payments from medical funds and the cost of medical treatment. The Commonwealth has no authority over the medical profession. Doctors come under the jurisdiction of the States. I assure the Senate that if the Commonwealth ever attempted to bridge the gap between doctors’ fees and payments made by medical funds, the taxpayers would be called upon to carry an intolerable burden.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Has his attention been directed to recent newspaper statements that a Sydney boy was to star in the United States of America in a coast-to-coast colour television hook-up last week-end? In view of the many technical and economic problems involved, will the Minister inform the Senate whether Australian authorities have commenced investigations into the development of television transmissions in colour? If so, what is the present position? Has any development schedule been prepared in relation to colour television in Australia or is such a schedule in the course of preparation?
– There are no proposals afoot to introduce colour television into Australia. As far as I know, the United
States of America is the only country that has colour television. There receivers for colour transmissions cost, I understand, three or four times as much as receivers designed to show a picture in black and white. I understand that until the very great obstacle of high costs is reduced, colour television will not be considered seriously in Australia. However, I assure the honorable senator that the Postmaster-General’s Department is interested in colour television and is watching developments.
– I was pleased to hear the Minister for Health refer to the Government’s policy about bridging the gap between medical expenses and payments by medical benefits funds. Will the Minister inquire into the reason for the discrepancy in payments made by these funds for the services of physiotherapists and doctors? There is a very big gap between the amounts paid for a doctor’s services and the amounts paid for the services of a physiotherapist. Will the Government endeavour to have increased payments made to sufferers who have recourse to physiotherapists? At the present time those payments are very low compared with the payments made in respect of a doctor’s services.
– I can only repeat in different language what I said a few minutes ago. This Government’s view has been and always will be that the members of the medical profession - indeed, of any profession - shall have the right to fix their own fees. That is one of the basic principles of private enterprise and one on which this Government stands very firmly. For that reason there well may be a gap between the contribution that we make to the patient and the amount charged by the doctor or the physiotherapist. I make the point that under the system adopted by this Government room exists always for negotiation. Much can be done by the Government and the professional people concerned in negotiating a common policy for the benefit of the people concerned.
– I ask a question of the Acting Minister for Trade. I refer to an announcement made by the Minister only yesterday of the recent opening of two sub-offices of the Australian Trade Commissioner Service in America.I refer particularly to the office established in Los Angeles and referred to earlier by Senator Wedgwood. The office is staffed by one person - Mrs. Beryl Wilson. She is an Australian living in the United States of America. She has the official status of Australian Marketing Officer. Recently I made a courtesy visit to her office and in the course of my inquiries she informed me that during the first six weeks that her office was open she received 79 inquiries from prospective migrants. In addition, she received many inquiries from television engineers and personnel who expressed a desire to come to Australia rather than to emigrate to Europe or South America. Will the Minister confer with the Minister for External Affairs or the Minister for Immigration to see whether it is possible to extend our activities in the United States of America in order to take advantage of this golden opportunity to add desirable citizens to our population?
– I am interested to hear that Senator Wardlaw can confirm the value of our marketing officer in Los Angeles, Mrs. Wilson. It is interesting to hear that she has had a number of inquiries about emigration to Australia. I do not know what the position is in the United States so far as our Department of Immigration is concerned but I will be happy to bring Senator Wardlaw’s comments to the notice of the Minister for Immigration and ask him to give some consideration to them.
– Having in mind the question asked by Senator Wedgwood and the very satisfactory reply given by the Acting Minister for Trade, I now ask a question of the Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs. My question relates to the appointment of Miss Cynthia Nelson to a very high diplomatic post abroad but at a salary less than would be paid if the position had been filled by a male. Will the Minister confer with the Acting Minister for Trade to see whether the same satisfactory result may be achieved with regard to Miss Nelson as was achieved with regard to the appointment of Mrs. Wilson?
– I will bring the question to the notice of Sir Garfield Barwick. No doubt he will supply reasons to Senator Tangney for any action to which she objects. He may even confer with her in an effort to overcome any objections that she may have.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs whether he will remind the Senate of the treaty obligations with regard to the use of air corridors into Berlin. Will he give the Senate the most recent information in the possession of the Government concerning interference with those air corridors?
– The treaty obligations with regard to access to Berlin by the Western powers are, in the opinion of the Western powers and, I think of all impartial observers, because no other interpretation can be placed on the wording of the treaty, that the Western powers shall have free and unimpeded access to the city of Berlin. Lately a number of attempts have been made by the Soviet Government to interfere with and impede access to Berlin via the air corridors. That interference first took the form of notification to the Western powers that certain areas and certain heights would be required for use by the Soviet air force and therefore should not be used by civil aircraft operated in and out of Berlin by the Western powers. That proposition by the Soviet Union was rejected by the Western powers. After that rejection there were instances of Soviet aircraft flying dangerously close to aircraft belonging to the Western powers and engaged in their lawful occupations. Lately, I understand, although I have not had confirmation of this fact, what was known in the last war as “ window “ - that is, aluminium foil strip - has been dropped in the corridors in an effort to interfere with navigational and safety aids. That action has been taken by the Soviet with callous disregard for the safety of persons using the air corridors. The Western powers maintain and will continue to maintain their rights of access over these corridors.
– My question without notice is submitted to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, and it relates to the recent voluminous report by the committee that inquired into the wool industry. Does the Government propose to submit the report to the various organizations concerned with the production of wool and invite them to express their considered views on it? Will the Government endeavour to obtain agreement among the organizations on the major recommendations in the committee’s- report?
– The Government has already submitted this report to the leaders of the wool industry. In reply to Senator Vincent’s inquiry about what the Government proposes to do, I make it quite plain to him that the Government’s policy always has been, and I hope always will be, to take guidance from the industry itself. I am not in a position to say any more, than that the Government has made the report available to the industry and it will welcome and examine any proposals arising from the report that the industry puts before it.
I am hopeful - and indeed the Government is hopeful - that the various sections of the industry will get together on common ground on this matter and that, if and when they make proposals, they will have the backing of the whole industry. The Government would welcome that approach to the problems that face the wool industry to-day.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister in a position to supply the Senate with details of the progress made in mining research in the district of Cobar, in New South Wales?
– I think it would be better if this question were placed on the notice-paper, so that it could be answered accurately. Quite large-scale development has been planned and is in contemplation, which will have the effect of reviving mining activity in that area. However, I shall get an accurate description of the developments if the question is put on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Last week, honorable senators discussed the “policy that has developed in the last few months of directing to the member of the House of Representatives for the division in which a constituent lives a Minister’s answer to a senator’s representations on behalf of that constituent. At that time I asked through you, Mr. President, what we could do in this matter, and the Leader of the Government said that he had discussed the position with the Ministers concerned. Can the Minister give the Senate a further report on the progress of the negotiations?
– No, I cannot give a further report on the progress of the negotiations, but 1 think the matter will be brought to finality very quickly.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister say whether there is any plan for the establishment of a coaxial cable between Melbourne and Adelaide similar to that which is shortly to operate betwen Sydney and Melbourne? Will the Minister say when we may expect the installation of equipment that will enable television programmes to be relayed between Adelaide and the eastern States?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is planning the installation of a coaxial cable and microwave system between Melbourne and Adelaide to service, among other things, television requirements of western Victoria and the south-east of South Australia. Preliminary engineering plans and works are already in hand, and I am under the impression that the system is expected to be completed some time in 1964 or early 1965.
– My question is submitted to the Minister for National Development. It relates to planning by the respective States for the establishment of atomic reactors for industrial power. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether any of the States are at the moment planning for the use of atomic power, and can he give any information to the Senate about the future planning of the States in this matter? I assume that the policy is the same as has been announced many times by him - that this is a matter for State action. Also, will the Minister say how long it will take from the time planning commences until a reactor can be built in Australia for industrial purposes? Would the Minister like to comment upon the possibility that within, say, the next ten or fifteen years the production of power from the atom could be cheaper than thermal power in Australia? Will the Minister also tell the Senate what encouragement and assistance are likely to be given by the Commonwealth to any of the States that are now prepared to plan for atomic power for industry?
– This is quite a comprehensive question but I shall do my best to answer it in short terms. The first consideration is that the cost of atomic power should be competitive with that of other forms of power. The present indications are that the cost curves will meet in 1968, 1969 or 1970. Great Britain has committed itself to a programme for the production of, I think, 5,000 megawatts by nuclear power stations by the end of 1968, in the belief that at that time the costs will be competitive.
One cannot answer this question in general terms. The circumstances vary from place to place. The circumstances in New South Wales, which has very large coal deposits that are quickly won, are very different from those in other States. The great need in Australia is the evolution of a small reactor of from 20,000 to 30,000- kilowatt capacity which could be used in outlying areas for mining and other activities.
I do not think I can say more than that. The problem is constantly under consideration. As Senator Vincent knows, we have quite a large establishment at Lucas Heights which is engaged in research into the production of a small reactor such as I have mentioned for Australian purposes. It is expected that this research programme will be completed in 1964 or 1965, and then we will consider the next stage to be undertaken. I should think that the period from the time a reactor plan is put on the drawing board until the reactor is actually built and comes into operation is about five years.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Will he bring to the attention of the National Capital Development Commission the necessity for the provision of footpaths in places where street traffic is becoming very heavy - notably in King’s-avenue at the approach to the bridge, and near the new buildings of the Australian National University where that dangerous device, the motor cycle, is often used with great impetuosity?
– I will bring the points raised by Senator McCallum to the notice of the Minister, and I am sure that he will forward them to the National Capital Development Commission. Canberra is growing so rapidly that the commission is faced with a tremendous task in providing the amenities necessary to keep pace with that growth. I know something of the country towns of Australia. 1 know of no country town that is growing so rapidly as Canberra.
– Not so much about a country town!
– If you care to call it a country city, that will suit me. The expression “ provincial city “ might meet with the approval of my caustic friend on my left. To all intents and purposes, Canberra is a provincial city. As I have said, it is growing very rapidly. I know of no other city of comparable status in which the amenities required to keep pace with development are being provided so rapidly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer: -
As previously stated, following informal discussions concerning the possibility of establishing a United States Naval Radio Communications Station in Australia, two United States technical survey teams, and a number of other technical personnel, have visited this country to study problems associated with the construction of such a station. These investigations are continuing without commitment. Certain proposals have now been made by the United States authorities and are being studied by the appropriate Australian authorities. It is not practicable to answer the honorable senator’s question in detail at this stage of the consideration of the proposals.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The British Government is keeping the Australian Government informed of the progress of the negotiations for the possible entry of Britain into the European Economic Community and consulting with us in regard to those aspects of the negotiations that concern Australia’s interests.
As the honorable senator will appreciate, 1 cannot disclose the detailed information of a confidential nature that the British Government has been conveying to the Australian Government. 1 can say, however, that the negotiations, which have been proceeding in Brussels since last October, have concentrated up to the present on an examination and an exchange of views between the participants, on the issues involved. Because of the complexity of the issues, this necessarily takes a good deal of time. The negotiations are now expected to proceed at a faster tempo.
As honorable senators will be aware from statements made both by British and Australian Ministers, the British Government fully shares the concern of the Australian Government to maintain the long-established flow of trade between their two countries, lt is the intention of Britain in its negotiations to secure special arrangements to protect these important trading interests.
This Government is concerned that not only the British Government but also the governments of the Six Community countries and the United States Government should be made fully aware of Australia’s interest in the negotiations which Britain is conducting. This is a principal purpose of the talks that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade will be having in North America and Britain and Europe during the next few weeks.
The honorable senator’s second question was whether a decision had been made on whether the. Australian Minister for Trade will be given access to the conference table. That is not what the Australian Government has sought. We do not and cannot claim to take a full part in the negotiations. The status which Australia seeks, and which Britain supports, is one that would give Australian representatives an appropriate basis - for example, in certain committees and working parties - to speak on matters that bear directly on Australian trade interests that stand to be affected.
The request that Britain put forward on our behalf has been discussed at a meeting of Ministers of Britain and the Six. Mo decision has been taken. The matter is to be considered further at a similar meeting later this month. In the meantime the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade will be talking on this matter wilh British Ministers.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Excise Act 1901-1958.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide the authority to pay refunds and make remissions of duty on excisable goods, subject to conditions and restrictions to be prescribed. Previously this authority has been vested only in the Excise Regulations. The validity of the regulations is questionable and, to remove any doubts, it is proposed to include an appropriate section in the Excise Act.
Regulations to be promulgated under the proposed new section 78 will cover the procedures and conditions which will apply. In general these will be on similar lines to the existing Excise Regulations with the exception that special provision will be made to cover refunds on manufactured tobacco products. So far as tobacco products are concerned it is proposed to provide in the regulations for refund of the excise duty paid on manufactured products that are returned to factories for treatment or remanufacture, because of deterioration after delivery from customs control. Because of this latter proposal sections 73 and 74 (and related regulations’) will be redundant and they are being repealed.
I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That a Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances be appointed, to consist of Senators Arnold, Laught, McKellar, Sandford, Willesee, Wood and Wright, such senators having been duly nominated in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 36a.
Message received from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in the following terms: -
That a joint committee be appointed to con.sder foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That thirteen members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in this resolution;
the members of the committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time;
The committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either house of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being;
three members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee;
the committee shall, for considerations of national security in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives for his confidential information;
subject to the Minister for External Affairs being informed, the Committee shall have power to invite persons to give evidence before it;
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to call for official papers or records;
subject to paragraph 4(e), all evidence submitted to the committee, both written and oral, shall be regarded as confidential to the committee;
the Senate be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on such committee.
That the committee have power to consider the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs appointed in the previous Parliament relating to any matter on which that committee had not completed its inquiry.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate concurs in the Resolution transmitted to the Senate by Message No. 11 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That Senators Buttfield, Cole, McCallum, Maher and Scott be members of such joint committee.
That, until such time as the two remaining vacancies for members of the Senate on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Senators Mariner and Robertson be members of the committee.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– I would have preferred the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to speak first. Mr. President, I wish to make a plea to the Opposition to join the Foreign Affairs Committee.Of course nothing has been said in this chamber on the subject to which I can reply; I can answer only the general reasons that have been given in another place and in this chamber previously for members of the Opposition not joining the committee. The reasons given are not adequate. One objection - we hear it repeated ad nauseamis that this committee is merely a study group. If that were true, that would be a reason for joining and not for abstaining from joining.
Some members of the Opposition ma think that they have sufficient knowledge of foreign affairs to make it unnecessary for them to join such a study group. I have been reading seriously on foreign affairs ever since I could read. To-day I read the newspapers and reviews and follow the foreign politics of many countries, but I have not sufficient knowledge to dispense with the support that I find in the committee. If this committee is really a study group, that is a reason for joining the committee and not for abstaining from joining it, because the information that is given is of such value that every honorable senator would benefit by having it.
– The members of the committee are not allowed to inform other members of the Parliament. They are bound to secrecy.
– That is quite untrue. Members of the Opposition are completely ignorant of how the committee works. If they joined the committee, they would not say that at all.
– The terms of appointment say that members are bound to secrecy.
– If the honorable senator will make his interjection clearly, I will answer it.
– The terms of appointment say, “ The committee and its subcommittees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret”.
– Certainly, the proceedings are secret; but that does not mean that all the knowledge that we obtain there is confidential.
– What is the good of gaining knowledge unless you can give it to somebody else?
– All knowledge is useful. That is an opinion that I have had ever since my childhood.
– It is not useful if it is locked up in a safe.
– Some one once said that there is no bad beer; there is simply some beer that is better than other beer. Some knowledge is more useful than other knowledge. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the terms of appointment of the committee to say that its members are not allowed to use the information they obtain. They are not allowed to inform people how they obtain the information. There are certain confidential matters that they are asked not mention at all. I can remember one confidential piece of information which I obtained ten years ago and of which I have never spoken to anybody at all. But in the general give-and-take in the debates that take place - frequently debates do take place - everybody’s knowledge is increased and everybody’s capacity to understand foreign affairs is augmented.
It is not true to say that the committee has no influence. Since I cannot say what confidential knowledge we have obtained in the committee, I cannot give the Senate proof of this statement; but it is a fact that the committee has had an effect and an impact on policy. That is a fact that every person who has been on the committee for any considerable time knows. I was a member of the first committee; I was not a member for three years; and I am a member now.
It is important that we obtain a bilateral foreign policy. There should be a certain uniformity of Australian opinion, perhaps not in every respect, but in matters on which we have to negotiate with other powers. Recently I had the opportunity to talk about our policy to a good many people in the United States of America. Some of them were people with power and influence. They said to me, quite rightly, “ We would like to see from your country a uniform voice on this matter or that matter.” There is no such thing, and there never has been. Of course, the point is that we had no real foreign policy-
– It is just as well for Australia that there is a difference of opinion on foreign policy.
– It is a good thing to have a uniform and correct policy. That can be obtained only by the free exchange of views. If a man is so sufficient in his opinions that he will not condescend to argue, he will never condescend to compromise. There can be no foreign policy without that. It may be very good for the electoral success of people such as Senator Hendrickson and it may be good for the electoral success of one party or the other, but it is no good for the Commonwealth of Australia that it should speak with a divided voice in foreign countries. Nothing is more important at this moment than that we should speak with one voice to the United States of America. I am not saying that there is a monopoly of wisdom or knowledge on this side of the chamber.
– Hear, hear!
– It is a pity that when we are discussing a great national issue for a few minutes Senator Hendrickson cannot forget the party dogfight. When we talk to people outside Australia on essential matters we should talk with one voice. There have been men in the Labour Party-
– To U Nu and Dim
– I wish to say, if I may be allowed to finish the sentence, that in the Labour Party there have been and still are men who have given good service in presenting the Australian viewpoint. Among those men I include my friend, Mr. Norman Makin, who, as Australian Ambassador in Washington, presented the case for Australia in the highest quarters in a very convincing way. I obtained that information in the United States of America when talking to an ex-senator. I was told that Mr. Makin was held in very high regard by the congressional leaders and the President himself. It is essential that we should have a foreign policy which is the foreign policy of Australia and not of any political party. I can only give my own opinion - and it is an opinion based on knowledge, not on prejudice that if the members of the Opposition were to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee the value of that committee would be greatly increased and its influence on opinion and policy would be what it ought to be.
– I gather from what Senator McCallum has had to say that he supports the motion submitted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sponer).
– I rise to take the opposite view and to oppose the motion on behalf of the Opposition, That will not surprise the Senate because I have had that duty to discharge on a number of occasions, particularly in 1956, when the matter was thoroughly canvassed. In February of that year I placed on record every view that the Opposition held on this matter, and I stated at length our reasons for those views. In 1959, on 26th February, which was the last occasion that the matter was before us, 1 again addressed my mind to it. 1 incorporated in “ Hansard “ what I had said in 1956 and really only summarized the view of the Opposition on that occasion. I do not see any reason to recant anything that I said on both those previous occasions. The attitude of the Opposition has not varied throughout the intervening period.
Senator McCallum indicated that he thought there was at least virtue in knowledge and that knowledge could be gathered from the deliberations of a committee, even if it functioned only at the level of a study group. That is true. I agree that knowledge is power. I acknowledge that there is virtue in discussion. I merely put the view that, vis-st-vis this particular committee, our own party committee which is concerned with the subject of external affairs is just as meritorious and certainly not as expensive, because the members of our committee devote their time and energies to their task on behalf of the party without any particular emolument and without any particular facilities. So, the advantages of a study group are immediately available to the Australian Labour Party, and it does not feel at any disadvantage in not having the facilities of the Foreign Affairs Committee available to it.
– You cannot meet the officers of the department on the same level as a parliamentary committee can. That is an important consideration.
– That may be true. When I need information on international affairs I find no difficulty in making a proper approach to the department. My needs have been well met on many occasions, by the supplying of maps, documents and all the data that I felt I needed to inform my mind.
– It is not available to the rank and file.
– There are no conditions attached to the documents that are made available to me from time to time.
I merely make a formal and courteous application, and the department complies with it, very generously and most helpfully. I have no difficulty in obtaining the matter I require, and I pay a tribute to the service that the department provides in that respect.
– Do you get confidential documents?
– Nothing that comes to me is marked confidential.
– The material that comes to the committee is so marked.
– I know it is marked confidential, but one can read it in the newspapers simultaneously on most occasions.
– That is where you are wrong. Not all of it can be read in the newspapers.
– On most occasions’ it can be. I can summarize the attitude of the Australian Labour Party by saying that this is not a true joint committee of the Parliament at all because it has no right to report to the Parliament unless the appropriate Minister consents, and it may do so then only if its report is concerned with a subject matter that the Minister has referred to it. We heard the President read out all the conditions governing the functions of the committee.
– If the committee represented the whole Senate, that might be changed.
– I say to the honorable senator that we are canvassing a motion which includes the conditions I have mentioned. We are considering a resolution to that effect, and we are to say “ Yes “ or “No” to it.
If there is to be a change, let us know about it quickly so that we may make up our minds on it. But we are certainly not going to regard the committee as a proper parliamentary joint committee, when it has no right to report to the Parliament except with the consent of the Minister. Again, it is not a type of committee on which the Australian Labour Party could be represented, because the moment representatives of our party were appointed to it they would become prisoners of the committee in the terms of the motion before the Senate. They would have to sit in secret and keep as secret the information that was conveyed to them. They would not be free to communicate to their party their knowledge, the contents of documents that were before them, or the particulars of evidence given to them. Therefore, the moment they joined the committee they would cease to function as representatives of the party and, as Senator Hendrickson reminds me, of the people we represent.
Having been inveigled on to the committee, they would be immediately muzzled. They would not be free to convey to the people they represented the information they received. Surely those two factors - the lack of the right to report to the Parliament, and the inability to convey information to the people that we are supposed to represent - would make a farce of our participation. The two factors that I have mentioned reduce the committee to a study group, as Senator McCallum said.
– No, I did not. I said that even if it were only that, it would still be useful.
– I accept what the honorable senator says. Even if it is only a study group, I do not say that it does not serve some useful purpose for those who are members of it, at that level.
– It is more like the Ku-Klux-Klan.
– I do not know whether I will subscribe to that exact proposition, but there is a high element of secrecy about it all and the members are denied the opportunity to use their knowledge. It would not surprise me to learn from Senator McCallum that a vast number of the documents that come to the committee are marked confidential.
– Some are.
– And, of course, they would be concerned with the matters most in issue and of most importance.
On looking through the terms of the motion, it is obvious that they are open to all the objections I have voiced on behalf of the Labour Party from time to time in this chamber. Paragraph 3, for instance, provides -
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That is not acceptable to us. Subparagraph (e) of paragraph 4 states that - the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the com’ mittee otherwise directs.
There is a complete prohibition on members using the information they receive, without the consent of the Minister. That is not acceptable to us, either.
– The committee’s proceedings are secret.
– Yes, but are not the proceedings all the happenings that occur at the sittings of the committee?
– The sources of the information are secret.
– And the information itself is secret, too.
– Much of it is common knowledge, or could be.
– It is my belief that much of the material that the committee considers is common knowledge. Much of it is available to our own committee.
– But it is difficult to acquire, all the same.
– No, it just wants intelligent effort and application. That is all that is required.
– You do not always get it, though.
– You do not always get intelligent effort.
– But if you are on a committee of this kind you apply yourself to it.
– We must take the terms of the motion as they have been expressed. In view of what I have just read, it is unquestionable that all matters which are considered by the committee are to be kept secret unless the Minister unlocks the door. No member of the Opposition would consent to be bound by that provision.
I have already dealt with sub-paragraph (g), which limits the committee in reporting to the Parliament, and then only when the Minister agrees that it may do so. Subparagraph (i) provides - subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to call for official papers or records;
Without the Minister’s consent, the committee cannot even call for a single paper or record. In other words, it is the Minister’s committee.
– Even the American Secretary of State refuses to give information to the powerful American Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I can understand that happening in a particular case of great national import - in a situation that is urgent. But here where is the qualification in relation to that type of situation? The whole thing is completely in the hands of the Minister. The committee has no real power of its own. In the view that the Opposition takes, it just comes down to being a useful study group. We are quite content to pursue our own studies. If your opinion is formulated and moulded by a witness or written evidence it is very important to the acceptance of your viewpoint that you indicate the source! upon which you base your opinion or belief.
– In the majority of cases, such a witness would not disclose his views to you unless he knew that you were bound by confidence.
– What is the good of the committee?
– What is the use of it?
– To inform the mind of the Parliament.
– You do not inform the mind of the Parliament because you cannot report to the Parliament.
– I sum up the situation by repeating what I have said on prior occasions, with as much emphasis as I then applied to the question. I have stated, perhaps in some more details, our objections, perhaps in some more detail, our objections. We voiced them in discussions with a private conferences with him. I repeat what I have said on many occasion - that I was most anxious to have our party join a committee of this type if we could get the right conditions. We stated them again and again to the Minister. We thought from time to time that we had made some progress with him; but we are left in the position indicated in the motion. I merely say that those terms are quite unacceptable to the Opposition.
– I have a few brief observations to make following the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The honorable senator commenced by saying that he felt it was his duty to discharge his obligation to explain the views of the Opposition. I appreciate the way in which he put them, because I sometimes feel that the heart of the Leader of the Opposition is not in what he says. In those few words to which I have referred I think he conveyed completely to us on this side of the chamber the fact that he did not like this idea very much himself.
– Do not believe it. I repudiate that.
– I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition regarded it as his duty to say what he said. I place it no higher than that. In the circumstances, it was a difficult duty, because I suggest that what he said was not the true view of a great many people in the Labour movement. The honorable senator omitted to explain the real reason why the Australian Labour Party will not join this committee. There is a very obvious and palpable reason why it will not do so. It is this: As a party, it is controlled and managed by an outside authority.
– What rubbish!
– There is the rub. There is the reason. That is something which the Opposition does not like very much, but it is true. The Opposition is responsible to and is governed by a body higher than itself, to which it must answer. In those circumstances, how can an opposition join a committee which conducts its affairs in secret? It cannot do so. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should have been a little more frank about this and should have explained to the Senate that it is in a dilemma in this case because it cannot afford to join a body and debate or discuss something which is not available to its own masters. Unfortunately, that is the main reason why the Labour movement cannot come in on this committee.
I repeat that that is the reason, but let us consider the excuses - they are not reasons - for the Leader of Opposition taking the stand that the Opposition could not join this committee. Aided by interjections from our mutual friend, Senator Hendrickson, Senator McKenna uttered a lot of nonsense about the idea that this committee was only a study group. How can any member of the Opposition make any assessment of what this committee does or what its effect is when Opposition members have never sat on it? Any such assessment is pure surmise.
– It does nothing.
– Any such assessment is pure guesswork. Senator Hendrickson has not any idea of what happens at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Nor have you.
– I have. I have sat on it for six years. In those six years I have gleaned a little idea of what does happen inside the doors of the committee .room. Senator Hendrickson has never been inside those doors during those six years, yet he poses as the authority on what the committee does. That being so, are we not getting down to rather childish elements in this debate? Opposition members cannot say what happens inside those doors, because they have never been inside.
I repeat that this committee is not a study group. Any member of the committee starts off by learning something. Do not tell me that we all cannot learn something. This committee exercises a considerable influence in this country and on the Government, and very properly so. If the Labour Party could alter its policy, cut adrift from its own masters, become a true political party responsible to itself, and join the Foreign Affairs Committee, the committee would be even better than it is. It could be improved by having members of the Opposition included in its membership; we admit that. I express great regret at the fact that, because of this rigid midVictorian idea of party organization, this aged, conservative party still flounders and is unable to take part in the activities of such an important committee. This committee cannot act otherwise than behind closed doors, as everybody in the Opposition knows. Will the Leader of the Opposition say that when he was a Minister of the Crown he informed other members of his party or outside interests of what took place behind the doors of the Cabinet room?
Would he suggest that that happened? Of course, he would not. Would he say that Dr. Evatt, when Minister for External Affairs - and a very competent one, too, at times - could not very well carry out his obligations as Minister because, having taken an oath of secrecy, he could not inform other people of what had taken place inside his own office? Why do the members of the Opposition come along with the feeble argument that the principles they applied when in office cannot apply in this case?
In matters of external affairs, there has to be a degree of secrecy. An oath of secrecy has to be taken by members of this committee. Members of the Opposition are fully aware that some matters of high national import cannot be discussed openly, as can other political matters. That is why it is so essential that this committee should work behind closed doors. It would be a mockery of a foreign affairs committee if it did not do so. It could not discuss important national questions without this degree of secrecy.
– Dr. Evatt was a strong advocate of the Opposition joining with us in the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the Opposition had its own study group, which does just as good a job. That epitomizes the ideas of the Labour movement. It cannot get away from its own party, or from the direction of its masters. Even at the international level, it must obey. It is ironical and regrettable that this is so. In every other country the left-wing Labour movement, or what passes for it, has broken away from the mid-Victorian tradition of being answerable to some other authority. In Great Britain, foreign affairs are discussed behind closed doors by the members of all parties, who take an oath of secrecy. The members of the Opposition come up with this cock and bull story that they have their own party committee, which does work that is just as good as that done by the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is a lot of nonsense.
On these national questions we should have the benefit of the informed views of every party. How can this committee work without being given information of a secret nature? As a member of the committee I have had many documents marked not only “ confidential “ but also “ secret “, the contents of which I cannot disclose. It is obvious that members of the parliamentary committee of the Labour movement do not have access to those. It is unfortunate that they cannot have such access. If they had, they would be better informed on foreign affairs. It is nonsense to say that a parliamentary party committee can inform itself fully on such matters, without proper information. If that is one of the arguments that the Labour Opposition is using, it is a pretty poor one.
Finally, I want to refer to a matter mentioned by Senator McKellar - that is, the importance of the political parties in this country having some common ground on international affairs. It is time that we in this country grew up. A great deal of harm is being done by the Labour movement in keeping apart from the three other parties - the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labour Party - on matters of international importance. For example, it is obvious that there could have been a common policy, with basic principles - perhaps we could have differed in detail - in relation to New Guinea. History will show how much harm has been done to Australia by some unfortunate utterances of the Leader of the Opposition in another place. He made some unfortunate and ill-informed utterances which, I suggest, would never have been made if members of the Labour movement had been on this joint committee.
– They would not have been allowed to say anything.
– Senator Hendrickson is interrupting all the time. He has been overseas as a member of a joint delegation on matters relating to international affairs. I am informed to his credit, that when he was overseas he spoke as with one voice with his colleagues on this side of the chamber, and with considerable distinction. Why could he not do that in Australia? We find that at any time when members of the Opposition go overseas with Government supporters to represent this country at meetings such as those of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, they become part of a team, and the team speaks with one voice. Why, in the name of all that is sane, is that not done inside Australia in relation to international affairs, when men like Senator Hendrickson can do it overseas? Senator Hendrickson is a little critical of us to-day, in his usual way, but overseas he spoke as a member of a team, which hammered out a joint policy. I suggest that it is time the Labour Party abandoned its mid-Victorian ideas and did something about this. For too long we have been playing with these very serious matters. Perhaps we have not had enough experience; perhaps the Labour movement has not had enough experience. Perhaps we have not had the responsibility for our external affairs for long enough to learn, as we must learn eventually, to speak with a common voice on matters of high principle.
I support the motion and say once again how sorry I am that members of the Opposition are unable, for the reasons I have mentioned, to join this committee.
– I desire, first, to reply to Senator Vincent’s accusation that Senator McKenna’ and the other members of the Opposition did not believe, in their hearts, in what Senator McKenna said. I give the assurance that we on this side of the Senate, as a party, unanimously, wholeheartedly and unequivocally endorse what Senator McKenna said. The status of this committee is highly challengeable.
Every other joint committee for many years has comprised representatives of both sides of both Houses of the Parliament. Through a subterfuge, by recognition of a one-man band, this committee is allowed to function with all the powers of an ordinary joint committee, with ability to travel from place to place, to call witnesses, swear people on oath to give evidence, and carry out all the other functions of a committee, whereas basically it is not strictly a committee representing both sides of both Houses.
– Only because the Opposition will not join it.
– The Government has got round that difficulty in some way. After 1st July next, the committee will be in an even more ridiculous position.
Senator Vincent accuses us of having rigid, mid-Victorian minds, because we have not taken part in the proceedings. Ever since this committee has been functioning, our external affairs have continually and progressively deteriorated, for the simple reason that the committee has not taken the people of Australia into its confidence. The people do not know what committee members are doing. These few study-groupers have private, backscratching assemblies.
Sitting suspended from 12.45> to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was replying to some of the points made by Senator Vincent with regard to the Opposition’s attitude to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. It is stretching the imagination somewhat to refer to this committee as a joint committee. Traditionally a joint committee is one comprising members of both parties in both Houses A joint committee has parliamentary authority to subpoena witnesses, to expend money in travelling expenses and even to pay witnesses’ expenses if necessary. It is a parliamentary institution. The vital element in a joint committee is that it be fully representative of both sides of both Houses. I contend that when a committee does not represent both sides of the Parliament, it has no authority to function.
One of this committee’s greatest sins is that it has failed to achieve any worthwhile purpose. A joint committee of the Parliament should be able to keep the Parliament informed of what is happening. As Senator McKellar said yesterday, the primary producers of Australia are bewildered and confused by the Government’s banking policy. Well, the entire population is confused and bewildered by the Government’s foreign policy. Members of the committee have done nothing to inform the Parliament on foreign affairs matters for the simple reason that important matters are not discussed by the committee. During the life of this committee Australia’s foreign relations have deteriorated consistently and progressively. The methods adopted to solve many of our international problems should be made known to the people. The Government’s attitude towards Dr. Verwoerd’s policy in South Africa reflected not the views of the Australian people but perhaps those of the select few members of the Foreign Affairs Committee who were briefed on this subject. People may gain the impression that tried, trusted and intelligent men are selected by the Government for membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee so that they may be spokesmen for the Government within their party and, if necessary, in other places. But it is impossible for the ordinary man to comprehend what is the Government’s policy in relation to foreign affairs. The Government blows hot and cold on its foreign affairs policy. Its policy is a stop-and-go policy. The present situation in West New Guinea may be attributed directly to the activities of our Foreign Affairs Committee. The views of the committee are not those of the Australian people. The Indonesian problem that been allowed to get out of hand. Over the years the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Government have supported the Dutch; but in more recent times they have not given the Indonesians or the Dutch any hint of the direction in which we were going. In our own long-term interests we should have taken the initiative and supported the Dutch when they sought to have the administration of West New Guinea taken over by the United Nations. From our point of view that would have been a most satisfactory solution.
– By force?
– I am speaking about the United Nations. The United Nations can conduct its operations on a diplomatic level - a much higher level than I would expect from the members of the committee. The status of this committee is open to challenge. It would appear to be a mutual admiration society, glorying in how much it knows and how little anybody else knows about the Government’s foreign policy.
– How do you know that the committee is not equally divided on some of these questions?
– The committee is restricted by having to sit behind closed doors. It has no power to submit a minority report. It exists at the express wish of the Minister for External Affairs. It continues to function under the command of the Minister. Its very existence depends on the whim of the Minister.
– Do you want to take the responsibility away from the Minister?
– The calibre of the men who sit on the committee is such that any one of them would be able to share responsibility with the Minister. I have no fault to find with the calibre of the members of the committee. I think they are trustworthy and that in their own way they believe they are doing a good job. But I do not think they have set their sights in the right direction. I do not think their views represent those of the Australian people. The Australian people do not know what goes on in the committee because all meetings are held in camera. The committee has some of the qualities of the Ku-Klux-Klan when we see that under the terms of the motion - the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
Everything depends on the category into which the information falls - whether it is official, secret or top-secret - and whether the documents that come from the Department of External Affairs are on the restricted distribution list. Those restrictions circumscribe the committee’s activities. I would not object to the committee being provided with limited information if it had the authority to tell the people of Australia, in this chamber and on the hustings, what it was doing. But the committee is ministerially brain-washed.
– I have heard that term before.
– Brain-washing is exactly what happens to the members of the committee. The committee serves as a medium for briefing suitable members of the Parliament on the Government’s line on foreign affairs. When you say that you have said practically everything about the committee.
– You have not mentioned foreign affairs since the Hobart conference about seven years ago.
– That is an interesting point. Despite what Senator Henty says, since about 1954 we have seen a steady deterioration in our relationships with other countries. Senator McCallum claimed that every member of the committee increases his knowledge of international affairs. That is a most desirable exercise.
The day when any one believes that he knows everything or knows a lot is the very day when he has to start realizing how little he does know. This is an ersatz committee. I have had a lot of experience on committees and know what an advantage it is for both sides of both Houses to I look upon my colleagues on the Government and welfare of this Commonwealth. 1 know what good results can be achieved. ] look upon my colleagues on the Government side who have served on various committees of which 1 have been a member, such as the Public Works Committee, with the greatest of admiration and respect because of their attitude to positive matters. ] have seen the unity of purpose that can be achieved and the value of it. But they are positive things. Then we come to the field of the abstract, where there are human differences because of the lack of understanding of meanings and of where we are going. Just take the contentious words that we use every day, such as “ freedom “, “ liberty “, and “ democracy “. Any statement made on foreign affairs is crammed full of these abstracts. They are on the level of the airy-fairy. No one ever gets down to tin tacks and says what we mean or where we are going. Yet to-day the Government’s foreign affairs policy is going along the lines that lead to the final impact between two of the greatest forces that the world has ever known - the United States of America and the Soviet Union. That is a nihilism. It is going towards an inevitable clash, and it is utter, crass stupidity for any government to take a negative line. Yet, the line-up to-day is all in the direction of that ultimate crash. I believe that men of goodwill, Christian men, should be working towards the great principle of Christianity - peace on earth, good will toward men - in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
– What do you mean by that7
– It means, in simple language, the Australian Labour Party’s policy: Peace on earth, good will toward men. I put it to honorable senators that a foregin affairs committee could have a most important function in our Parliament. I am all in favour of joint committees that assist in the government and administration of this country, not in any superauthoritative way, but as co-operators in the government. That is the principle of democracy - bringing the people and their representatives to participate in the government of their own country; government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Yet here we have a Cabinet that is suprademocratic or supra-parliamentary, which meets in conclave a«d makes its own decisions. It asks the people for a blank cheque at election time, and it indiscriminately writes out its own cheques. As a further buffer, it wants to set up committees like this, which are completely circumscribed by ministerial discretion. When Senator Vincent was speaking he implied, by one of these subtle and insinuating references, that the Labour Party is not answerable to the people and that we are governed by an outside body.
– I did not imply it; I said it.
– Yes, and you implied, too. that we were answerable to an international body.
– That is a point which I want to take up with the honorable senator. We are not answerable to any international body. We are Australians by birth, we are Australians in purpose, and Australia’s destiny is our main interest. This implication that we have connexions with international bodies is beneath contempt, You speak about outside bodies, yet you know in your own heart, Senator Vincent, that your Liberal Party organization has copied our procedure and our practice of party organization in every particular. Your colleagues saw it so effective in the organization of another political party when yours had nothing. When your colleagues were in the political wilderness they had no political organization and found that the only way to win an election was to go to the people, to form branches, to get the youth of the country behind them. They had to get all the instrumentalities, including men’s and women’s organizations sympathetic te them, gradually extending the carrot in front of them on the end of a stick. But it has taken them only a short time to catch up with you. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. They are catching up with you now. So, when you speak about an outside body, you should turn your conscience within. Sir Philip McBride - I have the greatest admiration for his intelligence, standing and Australianism - is virtually the unpaid governing director of the Liberal Party, and his close associates outside the political sphere have influence over the members of this Parliament who sit on the Government side which is equal to if not greater than any influence that is held over members on this side.
Senator Vincent knows also that in any organization there must be discipline, whether it is the home or the community. The party that he supports has its discipline, because I understand that it was even able, through the party and through its caucus, to prevent a humble Opposition senator from obtaining leave to make a statement. There can be a very close vote on it, but the forms of the Parliament can be completely by-passed by pressures that are not applied from the Senate itself but come from an outside body composed of other people from another place, which I shall not mention in this austere and august chamber.
However, I must get back to the debate again. We cannot participate in the activities of this committee. We cannot afford the risk of public condemnation by associating ourselves with and placing our imprimatur on the activities of this committee while it is completely circumscribed by the discretion of the Minister. We do not know which Minister it is. We do not know whether it may be the Right Honorable Lord Casey, whether it may be the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the next day, or whether it may be Sir Garfield Barwick the next day, each one of them with different approaches to foreign affairs. For instance, Lord Casey was influenced by what was known as the Poona psychology - “ Put a whiff of grapeshot into the rabble, and back to the residency for tiffin, old boy? “ He had the mid-Victorian idea of running the native peoples. Yet on the other hand, when the Prime Minister was Minister for External Affairs. he was too busy, because his essay into foreign affairs at Suez was suez-cide to him politically as a foreign affairs minister. He made a Nasser himself on another occasion, and then had to give up the ghost.
– Tell us the story about the one who changed his plumage in mid-air.
– He was shot down as a dead duck, like the honorable senator.
– I conclude by stating categorically that we on this side of this chamber and our party have unanimously agreed that we will not participate in this joint committee, because the activities of the committee are not truly joint; they are circumscribed, and the committee does not carry out the true functions of a joint parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs.
– I rise to express my surprise at, and my absolute disapproval of, the excuses - not reasons - given by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the action of the Opposition in not joining the Foreign Affairs Committee. I feel that the excuses he made indicate a distinct lack of interest in national affairs on the part of the Opposition and, what is perhaps much more serious, a distinct lack of interest in international affairs. We are living at a time when both national and international affairs are of primary importance.
I want to deal with only two of the excuses that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. He stated - it was not completely true, but true only in part - that the Foreign Affairs Committee, as it has been constituted for some years, has been only a study group. If that is so, it was rather sad to hear a confession by the Leader of the Opposition that honorable senators opposite do not wish to be educated on national and international affairs.
The other excuse given was that the Opposition had a foreign affairs committee of its own. It would be interesting for us on this side of the chamber to know whether that foreign affairs committee sits behind closed doors and whether any of its conclusions are published anywhere or are ever quoted by members of the Opposition.
It would be interesting also to know whether the damaging statement that was made publicly by the Leader of the Opposition in another- place on New -Guinea was inspired by the Opposition’s foreign affairs committee.- Or was the statement merely a venomous attack on the present Government in an attempt to complicate international matters?
In the light of what has been stated, the Opposition might like to answer some questions. First, has it a foreign policy at all? Secondly-, if it has, when can we expect to hear the substance of that foreign policy?
– You can read it in the “Tribune” any week.
– Old McCarthy raises his head again!
– I thought of that, but, because of the criticism we have heard recently of newspapers, I wanted authentic information. I should like to get a statement of the Opposition’s foreign policy straight from the Opposition, not from a newspaper. The third question is: Is that policy, if the Opposition has one, inspired and directed by overseas masters, as was suggested by Senator Vincent?
I have had the honour of being a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee for many years, and I can assure honorable senators that I am a much better educated woman as a result of being a member of that committee. I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the committee, and particularly to the chairman whom we have had for so long, for the wonderful work that has been done in the interests of international understanding. I deplore exceedingly the statement made by Senator O’Byrne, and also the attitude that the Opposition is adopting at this time of great international stress. It will not join this committee, which could help in presenting a united front by this very important country, of Australia.
– I did not intend to take any part in this debate-
– You have been swotting up your speech for hours.
– Some day we might hear about the policy of the Navy from the Minister of the Navy (Senator
Gorton). I was about to say that 1 did not intend to speak until I heard Senator Vincent’s speech. He said ‘that the Opposition’s refusal to accept: -the suggestion by the Government that members of the Opposition join -this proposed Foreign Affairs Committee was dictated by outside influence. I remind Senator Vincent that there is a gentleman by the name of Sir Philip McBride, who told him - and the honorable senator cringed when he heard it - that he was not to allow his beautiful countenance to be seen on the television screen in Western Australia. Sir Philip McBride said, in effect, “ You shall not be one of those who meet the press and state their policy “.
– Who do you think is more powerful, Joe Chamberlain or Sir Philip McBride?
– If the honorable senator were to ask me who had the greatest ability, and who was more sincere in defending the rights of the people of this country, I would say Joe Chamberlain.
– You have not answered the question.
– I want to say, for the information of members of this chamber, and1 particularly for the information of honorable senators opposite, in answer to Senator Robertson, that the Australian Labour Party’s foreign policy, when the party comes into power after the next election, will be the same as the policy it had when the present Government parties repudiated the defence of this country in 1941.
– Is it the same as that stated in the Hobart conference decisions?
– If I may depart from my argument for a moment, let me say that at the Hobart conference this party decided on a foreign policy.
– Whose was it?
– Our foreign policy is decided by the people who constitute the great Australian Labour Party. I want to say to Senator Hannan, who is interjecting now, that if he had any of the stuff which it takes to make a decent man, he would resign from the Government because of its attitude towards feeding what he has often termed the heathens of mainland China.
– 1 have never referred to them as heathens.
– You have referred to them as Communists.
– As Communists, yes.
– My interpretation of the word “ Communist “, as it is used to-day, is that it relates to those people who took over the control of Russia and committed atrocities in 1917. I venture to say, Mr. President, that nobody can truthfully say that similar incidents occurred in mainland China. People like Senator Hannan say that we would’ not recognize mainland China, but when Sir Philip McBride says, “ Be quiet, son “, they do as they are told and they do recognize mainland China. We are very fortunate to have a market in mainland China, but let me get back to Senator Vincent’s statement on the matter under discussion.
– Get off the China hobby-horse.
– I know this is a very sore point with the honorable senator. When he is told what he should do, when Sir Philip McBride cracks the political whip, there is no one who squirms like he does.
– He does not turn a somersault like you did.
– I have never turned a somersault in my life.
– Not much!
– Tell me when. There is no honorable senator in this chamber who can say that I have ever deviated from the platform and the policy of the great Australian Labour Party. But I venture to say that I could point the finger at many honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber. Let me get back to Senator Vincent’s statement. He said that our attitude to the suggestion is dictated to us by outside powers or foreign interests. The caucus of the Australian Labour Party is constituted by men who are selected by the rank and file of the Australian Labour movement to represent them in this and the other House of Parliament. We make up our own minds on whether we will accept the invitation of the Government to join this committee.
I am very anxious that some organization should be set up to help us in the defence of this great country. When I was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly I went to the trouble of finding out why the Minister for External Affairs should have such dictatorial powers as to be able to direct that nothing submitted to the committee could be divulged to the parties represented on that committee. An eminent man from the Department of External Affairs told me that the members could report to their parties on the activities of that committee. I now find that the terms of appointment emphasize that the committee and its subcommittees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret.
– Do you mean that you have just found that out now?
– That has been there for the last ten years.
– I agree with the Minister for the Navy. I am a little more up to date than his Navy is. The point I am making is that I was making inquiries and investigating every avenue by which we could take part in a committee such as this, which would be in the interests of the defence of Australia. I made inquiries from people who I thought would know, but evidently they did not know because they told me that I or a member of my party could be a member of that committee and report to our caucus on the proceedings of the committee. However, that is forbidden.
What is the use of this committee which sits under the dictatorship of the Fuehrer, the Minister for External Affairs, if the deliberations and proceedings of the committee cannot be made available to the Parliament? If the exhibition of our present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) overseas was due to knowledge given to him by the Foreign Affairs committee, we should abandon that committee. His exhibition in regard to the Suez Canal crisis was disgraceful.
– That is untrue.
– I know that you do not like to hear the truth. The exhibitions of the Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference and the United Nations General Assembly were also disgraceful. At the General Assembly the present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) had his speech prepared and delivered to the capitalist press of the United States of America when he received a telephone call from the Prime Minister to this effect: “ Don’t you say a word. I will be there.” The Prime Minister flew to the United States and stopped the present Minister for External Affairs, who was then only AttorneyGeneral, from making his statement. The statement had to be withdrawn from the press. What happened when the learned gentleman, who had been told all the facts and what should be done in the interests of this country by the Foreign Affairs committee, made his speech in the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York? What was the result?
– They adopted what he suggested.
– Five people stayed in the Assembly. I believe, as the Minister for the Navy said, that they did adopt the Prime Minister’s suggestion; but there were only five of them. They were not the people that the Prime Minister had to convince. He had to convince not five but the majority of the nations that constitute the United Nations.
I believe that people glow with pride when they look back to the foreign policy of the great Australian Labour Party from 1941 to 1945. Just imagine the humiliation of the then Prime Minister, John Curtin, when he was forced to tell the world that Australia was adequately defended. He was forced to say that, Mr. President, because he could not tell Australia’s enemies that our defences had been neglected.
– And he was forced to tell the world that Australia would not send its troops north of a certain line.
– I say to the
Minister for the Navy, and I want him to remember this: I hope the day never comes again when, whatever government may be in power, Australia will send troops over seas .as we sent them to Crete and other battle areas in the Middle. East to meet the greatest mechanized army that the world had ever known with no armaments with which to defend themselves. While those troops were overseas, the members of the Cabinet in Australia - Mr. Menzies, Sir Arthur Fadden, or Mr. Fadden as he then was, Sir Earle Page and others - played politics. The relevant statements are on record in “ Hansard “. Mr. Menzies was stabbing Mr. Fadden in the back and vice versa - that is all on record - while our gallant boys, the youth and beauty of this country, were in the Middle East.
– Now you are talking about me.
– If you were there, Mr. Minister - I do not doubt the veracity of your statement - am I correct in saying that you were not armed as you should have been; that you were without armaments to fight the great German and Italian armies? Am I correct or incorrect?
– You are wrong. We had Spitfires and they were as good as any other aeroplane.
– I merely challenge Senator Gorton to stand up in this chamber and deny the statements that I have made.
– I have just done so.
– He knows that it is a fact that Australian soldiers were sent to the Middle East unprepared to meet the enemy, under the foreign policy of the people who to-day-
– Do you deny that your Labour Government sent 7,000 militia boys to New Guinea and that they landed on 1st January, 1942, with only 5,000 rifles?
– I am very pleased that Senator Mattner has made an interjection. If the chamber was not so wide I would shake his hand and thank him for that information.
– Your party was in government at that time.
– Remember that when those boys went to the islands in 1942 our party had been in government for only about five minutes. We had to send them and all that we had to send with them were broomsticks and some rifles, but they had no ammunition to put in the rifles. I agree with that. That is why we are worried about what we are being asked to do, namely, to join this fascist organization that has been set up by the Government under the dictatorship of the Fuehrer, the Minister for External Affairs.
– Order! The honorable senator must withdraw that reference to the Minister for External Affairs.
– All right, I will withdraw it. I was saying that he was a leader using tactics similar to those used by a person who was called “ The Fuehrer “ in the 1930’s. He has a committee to camouflage from the people of Australia the fact that the Government has no idea of defending Australia. The Government is not genuine in its defence policy. There is no sincerity in this Government, lt is not concerned with defending Australia any more than were governments of the same political colour in the 1930’s and at the outbreak of the Second World War.
We would be happy to join any committee that would obtain information to help to defend this country. But what is the good of gaining knowledge if you cannot let somebody else learn from the knowledge that you have gained? What is the good of all the knowledge that the people on the Foreign Affairs Committee gain? What is the use of it to the defence of this country? Who knows what is in their minds? Do we believe that they are organizing ways and means, under the guidance of Senator Hannan, of having submarines to torpedo the ships taking Australian wheat to mainland China? Is that in their policy? I dare say that it may be.
– Was it not Senator Hannan’s father who stood as a Lang Labour Party candidate?
– I did not want to mention that, but Senator Kennelly has mentioned that Senator Hannan, who has accused me of turning somersaults, is the son of a man who stood as a Lang Labour Party candidate for the State seat of Albury in New South Wales.
– And I am proud of my father.
– Your father would not be proud of you.
– He would not have joined the rag-tag and bob-tail mob that forms the Labour Party to-day.
– Senator Hannan is where he is under great protest. I venture to say that nine-tenths of his colleagues in his own party would be glad to see his back. I believe that in 1965 the Senate will be rid of a person who has acted as the late Senator McCarthy did in the United States of America. He is a typical McCarthy man.
Has the Minister for External Affairs, or has the Government, no confidence at all in the members of this committee? Surely some of the matters that it discusses could be brought before the Parliament. After all, this is the Parliament of the Commonwealth-
– And some of its members are suspect.
– That filthy thing! What a mind he has! If they are suspect-
– Ask him to name them.
– No, I do not want another disgraceful incident such as that which happened in this chamber yesterday. Whatever we may think of one another, we are the trusted representatives of the people of Australia. If there is anything secret that we should know, the Parliament can be assembled in secret conference. When that happens, every member is on his honour not to divulge what is discussed. You cannot have eight or ten men meeting and deciding on most important issues, and then having the boss cocky, the Minister for External Affairs, saying that the matters discussed shall not be divulged. We will not accept that.
– It is done in England, as you know very well. Your colleagues in England agree with this procedure.
– Our colleagues in England do not agree with the tactics that are adopted here. The system in England is quite different from the Foreign Affairs Committee set-up suggested by our Minister for External Affairs in the motion before the Senate. In England, the members of the committee are not bound to secrecy.
– They are.
– They are not.
– And they observe it, which is more important.
– Yes, it is quite true that that is important. If there was anything disturbing the minds of the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and if it were desirable to bring the matter before the Parliament so that something might be done about it, then the Parliament could be called into secret session and information about the matter given to it. But what does the Prime Minister want to do? He sees failure right in front of him. He has seen it there ever since 1949, because the bosses that control him are the real bosses overseas to-day. He has seen disaster there.
I venture to say that the supporters of the Government are not very pleased about the reports of the conferences that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is having in the United States. The Minister for Trade can see danger ahead. The Minister for External Affairs wants to have responsible members from this side of the chamber, men of ability, joining the nitwits from the other side who will constitute the Foreign Affairs Committee, so that he can blame them for the failures that will be apparent to the people in the years to come. The party on this side of the Senate has proved itself to be loyal-
– It has lost six elections in a row.
– Our late leaders, Mr. Curtin and Mr. Ben Chifley, did much to enhance Australia’s reputation overseas. As a party, we believe in the Australian way of life. I say to Senator Hannan that there is no member of the party who has been elected on Communist Party preferences. Ours is the only party which will fight the Communists.
– That is wrong.
– Tell me why it is wrong. Senator Hannan is fond of interjecting in a certain way, but there is no senator on this side of the chamber who has been elected on Communist preferences. The Menzies Government, on the other hand, is in office to-day because the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was elected on Communist preferences.
I say in all sincerity that the Australian Labour Party has proved its loyalty and has done its best to defend this country in the two greatest crises that the country has ever gone through. I refer to the First World War, during which Australia was governed by a Labour administration, and the Second World War, when Labour had to come to the rescue after the war had been going for eighteen months. We have proved our bona fides.
– Get your figures right.
– I have done so. We have proved that ours is a party which is loyal to the British way of life. I do not want honorable senators opposite to think that our British way of life was given to us. On the contrary, it was fought for by the pioneers who built the great trade union movement and the Labour Party. Our fathers and our grandfathers before them made great sacrifices, and we do not want to lose the results of their efforts. We are prepared to use any means at our disposal to defend this country and to keep our British way of life.
When this Government gives us an opportunity to do so, we will take an active part in any committee that is serving the defence interests of this country, but we are not prepared to take part in an organization which is going to be a fill-in, or a cover-up, for people who were unable to defend Australia. We are prepared to co-operate at any time with any committee that can function as a committee should and which is able to bring important questions before the Parliament, whether in public session or in secret session; but we are not prepared to accept the conditions embodied in the dictatorial motion which has been proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to-day. I wholeheartedly support the case that was so ably put by my leader, and later by Senator O’Byrne.
.- I rather regret the tone which has developed in this debate. After all, the discussion is concerned with a simple motion of the re-appointment of the joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I should think that events that happened at Suez, in the First World War and in the Second World War, were beyond the range of the motion. We should forget past struggles and party differences where international affairs are concerned and apply ourselves in a spirit of goodwill and unity of purpose to the solution of the great problems which beset this troubled world to-day. There are big problems which invite the earnest consideration of every member of this Senate, of the Parliament at large, and also of the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Some of those problems are known to all honorable senators, but I shall recount them to refresh our minds. Instead of worrying about our political differences in the past we should be meeting together to try to solve them, or to make some contribution to their solution. There are the problems of nuclear tests, disarmament, neo-colonialism, captive nations, subversion and wars in South-East Asia and, above all, the development of atomic missiles, weapons and vehicles of war which could de-fertilize large regions of the earth and destroy millions of human beings. They are the great problems to which every thoughtful Australian should apply himself at this stage of history. Ample scope is provided in the discussions of the Foreign Affairs Committee for a consideration of these matters. Only a limited number of excellent men can be elected to the committee, but good men from both sides of the Senate elected to the committee could apply themselves to these matters and perhaps come up with an idea that would be helpful in promoting goodwill and in trying to avoid the commotions which incite so many races of people to-day.
I say proudly that I was a foundation member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. My colleagues have been good enough after each election to send me back to the committee. During my membership of it I have held the offices of chairman and deputy chairman. I forget which of those offices I occupied when the formation of a joint committee was first considered. Mr. Casey, who is now Lord Casey, was then the Minister for External Affairs. At that time there were very interesting discussions, which almost succeeded, between Senator
Gorton and myself, who represented the committee, and Dr. Evatt and Mr. Calwell, who is the present Leader of the Opposition in another place. We met in Mr. Casey’s office, and I can assure you that there were very animated discussions. I am pleased to be able to say that, although since then Dr. Evatt has been condemned on so many counts, at that time he adopted a broad view and stood solidly for the appointment of a joint committee on foreign affairs. Dr. Evatt was experienced in that field. He had been the Minister for External Affairs in the Chifley Government, had travelled widely, and had been at the United Nations conference in San Francisco when the charter of the United Nations was first adopted. Therefore, his view had to be respected.
To my great regret, Mr. Calwell led the forces within the Australian Labour Party which were hostile to the formation of a joint committee. We narrowed down the points of difference and, if I remember rightly, the matter was taken back to the Labour caucus by Dr. Evatt and Mr. Calwell at least three times before the door finally was slammed against those of us who were eager to see formed a joint committee on foreign affairs. Now, because there is not in the Labour Party a forceful character like Dr. Evatt to promote the formation of a joint committee, it seems, to my very great regret, that we have got further apart than ever.
One of the points made by Mr. Calwell at the time was that the Labour Party objected to proceedings of the committee being held in secret. He said that the committee’s deliberations should be open to members of the press and the public. He suggested that anybody who wished to do so should be able to come along and hear the proceedings. The committee took the view - I think it is widely shared by supporters of the Government - that it would be quite wrong for proceedings relating to foreign affairs, which touched upon delicate subjects and our relationships with foreign countries, to be brought out into the open. Mr. Calwell said that the committee should be modelled on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the United States of America. It is not for me to condemn the methods that are employed in a friendly country, but I would be horrified to think that we had a committee before which
Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs could be summoned and questioned in public - grilled, one might say - about the strength and weaknesses of the armed forces. That would have been the effect of the proposal advocated by Mr. Calwell and those who now so strongly oppose the formation of a joint committee unless provision is made for publicity and for nothing to be withheld from the public. That was, and I think still is, the fundamental point of difference between the members of the committee and those who support the Government on the one hand, and members of the Opposition on the other hand.
Let me put to reasonable, thinking members of the Opposition how absurd the position would be. Perhaps a member of the committee could be approached by representatives of the enemies of our country and could be persuaded to ask embarrassing questions in public of service chiefs. That just will not go down. It is opposed to all British methods of dealing with matters of high international value. We would not surrender on that point. We did not want to have a committee which would be a publicity hunting ground for those who wanted to have their names printed in the press and have their photographs published, and those who made wild statements such as those which are made frequently in another place right here in Canberra.
It has been the custom of the committee to invite distinguished gentlemen from foreign countries to come before it and to address members on problems which affect their own countries and their relationships with contiguous or distantly separated countries, as the case may be. Is it likely that ambassadors or their nominees would come before a committee which made no provision for secrecy and submit themselves to a public examination during which they would have to state their views in the full glare of publicity, have their opinions broadcast throughout the world and get themselves into trouble with their own governments because of statements they might make under crossexamination? Such a procedure just would not work. I should not like to think that we would invite the ambassador for South Viet Nam or for Thailand to come before a committee without any provision being made for secrecy and with some member on the committee being free to divulge what the ambassador said.
– Cannot you tell anybody at all?
– No - only those within the restricted circle, including the committee, the Minister and the Government. We must not forget that the final word on any matter relating to foreign affairs does not lie with the committee. The committee can express a view which may go to the highest place; but in the final analysis it is the Cabinet, the Government, which makes a determination on these matters of high policy. It is quite right that it should be so; I would not have it otherwise. We are in the position of wanting to hear the views of distinguished representatives of the governments of countries which may be in grave fear of attack by contiguous or nearby countries. Where is the diplomat who would be prepared to open up his heart to us, tell us what his Government expected and prepare us for what was likely to happen, if he thought that what he said could be divulged by some member of the committee? There must be secrecy in these matters.
– What really is your function? Is it just to advise the Minister?
– Our function is to study the problems.
– And then keep quiet?
– No, not at all. We discuss them. We often invite the Minister in to hear us, so that we may state our case to him. As may be seen from the motion, there is a form whereby we can make a statement to the Minister or to the Parliament in certain circumstances. These matters are handled much better away from publicity, because they must be handled delicately. I am fully in agreement with the methods adopted. If members of the Opposition were to join the committee and share with us the knowledge that we gain, much good could be done quietly through their party and ours. We would be much stronger in placing emphasis on a particular aspect and in stating the view of the committee, having studied all the information available and all the circumstances surrounding any particular matter.
In the committee, we look at the problems in all the hot spots throughout the world. Wherever in the world our minds rove, there are wars and threats of war. We try to get down to the cause of the turbulence, to find out what is happening and the reasons for it. We make ourselves well informed. The committee is certainly a study group. I went into the committee, one might say, without any knowledge at all of foreign affairs except what I had read in the newspapers. As I often read as I run, I had never applied myself with any particular purposefulness to a study of these matters. In the committee, being one of a group of individuals dedicated to the study of these problems, and hearing each man’s point of view, after a year, two years or three years, one becomes very much better informed about world affairs. Since I joined the committee, I have noticed that every member has improved greatly in his grasp of these problems. Brilliant young fellows come into the committee and, having watched them for three, four or five years, I am satisfied that they are the material of which ministers for external affairs are made, and that they are qualifying themselves for office eventually by the acquisition of a great fund of knowledge of happenings of a turbulent character throughout the world.
This is a committee that should be encouraged. With the inevitable swing of the pendulum, sooner or later it will be the turn of the Opposition to take office. It is therefore highly important, in my judgment, that the men in opposition to-day who have a flair for foreign affairs should have a chance to join the committee, participate in its proceedings, and qualify themselves, by the knowledge that they gain, for the higher offices which involve the fate and future of our country. I should like to see the Opposition link up with us in this committee. This is a world of great uncertainty, and in the future we will face enormous problems. Populations are increasing all over the world. Pressures of every kind are upon us. We want our best men, to whichever party they belong, to stand together, to face these problems and to find some solutions.
The fears of the Opposition about joining this committee are not warranted. They would not have to identify themselves with the opinions of government supporters on the committee. It is a good thing to have a refreshing, opposing line of thought. Differences inside the committee could be hammered out. I remind honorable senators opposite, who have fears about associating with Government supporters on a committee of this kind, meeting behind closed doors, that there is an old saying to the effect that the worst never comes. They would gain much if they were to grasp the nettle and join with us in this committee so that Australia would have some chance of unity in its external policies. In view of the disturbed conditions that exist in the world to-day, that is important, I support the motion.
– I had not intended to speak on this motion until I heard some Government supporters discoursing on it. This is a matter that should be viewed in perspective. It is a proposal to set up a joint committee on foreign affairs. As has been asked from this side of the chamber, what purpose would be served if the Australian Labour Party elected members to the committee, when anything that those members might find out from their association with Government members on the committee and from their investigations of foreign affairs, could not be divulged, even in our own party room when we might be discussing very important matters pertaining to foreign relations? According to the constitution of the committee, members of this party who participated would have to sit dumb in the party room, unable to reveal, perhaps, very important information obtained through the committee.
This is purely and simply a committee to advise the Minister. Nothing can be done except with the Minister’s consent. The motion states, in part -
The Committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
The Committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the Committee otherwise directs.
Even if the committee makes a request, power rests with the Minister to refuse to permit the committee to divulge anything that it desires to be divulged. The motion continues - . . The Committee shall, for consideration of national security in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the Committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the Committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent.
So the committee is absolutely useless as an effective body for dealing with foreign affairs. In the world in which we live today - a powder-keg world with difficulties everywhere, with conflicting ideologies and very little hope of getting agreement among heads of state - what purpose would be served if we were to join this committee? The purpose would be purely and simply to give an already dictatorial Minister information gleaned by the committee. Senator Vincent claimed that the Australian Labour Party was dictated to by outside interests. That is to-day’s funny story. If Little Audrey were here she would laugh and laugh. As has been pointed out before, the people who sit on the other side of this chamber are dictated to far more than are we who sit on this side. The federal president of the Liberal Party, Sir Philip McBride, forbade Liberal candidates to appear on television during the last election campaign. Some of the people who sit opposite and who thought they were photogenic would have rushed the opportunity to appear on television, but the order went out from the federal executive, through Sir Philip McBride, that no Liberal candidate was to appear on television. Was that not a dictatorial act? Nothing like that has happened within the Labour Party. Its candidates were free to appear on television if they wanted to and they did in fact appear on the programme arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. But although Liberal candidates were anxious to participate in that programme, they were not allowed to do so.
According to newspaper reports, the federal executive of the Liberal Party has, since the election, called Ministers of this Government before it. I do not know whether the Ministers called before the federal executive include the hill-billy Ministers in the Government, but at least the Liberal Party Ministers were called before the executive because of the terrific setback that the Government received on 9th December. Apparently Ministers were required or will be required to give an account of themselves.
On the subject of foreign policy, whenever red China is mentioned, Senator “ McCarthy “ Hannan comes in hook, line and sinker. If it were not for Corns and red China, Senator Hannan would have nothing about which to speak, although he may be able to say something occasionally about Oliver Cromwell.
– He could still refer to the Hobart conference.
– I am glad that you mentioned that. The decisions taken at the Hobart conference have ultimately proved to be correct so far as foreign policy is concerned. The Hobart conference recommended that red China be admitted to the United Nations. Such a suggestion sends a shudder down the Hannan spine. Why should we oppose the entry of mainland China or red China - call it what you will - to the United Nations?
– What have these remarks got to do with a foreign affairs committee?
– My remarks have a lot to do with foreign affairs, lady. I heard Senator Buttfield on one occasion claim in this chamber that she represented 10,000,000 people on Formosa. By way of interjection I asked her had she met all of them. I do not know how many of those 10,000,000 people she saw, but she came into this chamber and claimed to present their views.
The admission of red China to the United Nations is a matter very pertinent to this debate because it is a debate concerning the formation of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. As far as I know, mainland China is a foreign country. If any reference to the admission of red China to the United Nations is irrelevant to this debate, then I do not know what I am talking about. Senator Vincent has, by way of interjection, referred to the Hobart conference. The resolutions adopted by my party at the Hobart conference stand. The decisions taken at the Hobart conference with regard to foreign policy have proved to be correct. Honorable senators opposite should tread warily when they talk about foreign relations. At any time of crisis this Government has blundered badly as far as foreign relations are concerned. I cannot be upbraided for telling the truth no matter how often I tell it. Apparently honorable senators opposite need constant reminders of these facts. In 1941 the government of the day, which was supported by the parties that support the present Government, did not have a foreign policy. The Labour Party had to come to Australia’s rescue. I hear Senator Mattner grumbling.
– You arc not telling the truth.
– They say that empty carts rattle most.
– Mr. President, I rise to a point of order. Is it parliamentary language for an honorable senator to say that another honorable senator is not telling the truth?
– I did not hear the remark.
– Even if you did not hear the remark, would it be a parliamentary expression? I should like to know for future reference.
– Speaking to the point of order, if, Mr. President, you rule that it would be unparliamentary for an honorable senator to say that another honorable senator was not telling the truth, will you rule that it would be quite in order for an honorable senator to say that in his opinion another honorable senator was not telling the truth?
– Senator Mattner did not say that.
– I am asking the President a question.
– Mr. President, is there any difference between the expression, “ You are not telling the truth “, and the expression, “ In my opinion you are not telling the truth “? After all, if an honorable senator says, “ You are not telling the1 truth”,, is he not in fact expressing an opinion?
– If an honorable senator obviously is not telling the truth, I suggest that it is perfectly in order for another honorable senator to refer to that fact.
– I wish that were the rule. I would agree to that readily.
– Speaking to the point of order, I remind honorable senators opposite that they, on a former occasion, carried by vote a resolution that an honorable senator may deliberately misrepresent anybody. The proceedings to which I am referring are recorded in the annals of the Senate. I do not know the difference between not telling the truth and deliberate misrepresentation.
– Order! it is not in order for an honorable senator to accuse another honorable senator of telling a lie. I remind honorable senators that this afternoon a good deal of liberty and licence has been permitted in the chamber. Remarks have been made upon which I would have ruled had points of order been taken. I warn honorable senators that for the remainder of this debate I will rule very quickly on any point of order that is taken.
– Earlier in the debate Senator Mattner, by way of interjection, made a derogatory remark about the state of our defences in 1942.
– No, Senator Mattner referred to 1942 when a Labour government was in power. I want to be fair to the honorable senator. I repeat what has already been said often, that the) Australian Labour Government under the late lohn Curtin, one of the greatest statesmen Australia has ever had, had been in power in this country for only a few months. I agree with Senator Mattner that not only the equipment but also the general provisions for the troops were in a very bad state at that time, duc wholly and solely to the inaction of the Menzies’ Liberal Government over two years of warfare to which this country had been subjected. I think it called itself a Liberal government then.
– No. they were not Liberals then.
– They might have called themselves members of the United Australia Party or Nationalists. The Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies was Prime Minister of this country at the outbreak of war. He is such an egotist that he always uses the first person. It has always registered very clearly in my mind that on Sunday evening, 3rd September, 1939, I was listening to my radio in Melbourne when the Right Honorable Robert Gordon Menzies came on the air and said, “ I am your Prime Minister “, and went on to tell us that we were_ at war with Germany. He was Prime Minister from then until 1941, when, as every one knows, because he had lost the confidence of his own party and was unable to carry on, it devolved upon the Labour Party under the leadership of John Curtin to take over. It is history that the Australian war effort under Labour administration not only was one of the greatest in the world but it also earned the admiration of every other country. No one can deny that. Therefore, when you little Sir Echoes over there talk about foreign policy you need to take your minds back to periods of crisis and realize that on each and every occasion of crisis in this country you people, whatever name you masqueraded under at the time, have invariably failed Australia, as no doubt you would do again.
It was only when the last shot had been fired, when a very war-weary people were tired of economic controls which were absolutely essential in war-time, that members of the Liberal Party and Country Party were able to climb on the bandwagon and win an election with a lot of spurious promises that they never intended to keep, could not keep, and never have kept. They came into power in 1949. As has been pointed out by other honorable senators from this side, it is absolutely futile for members of the Labour Party to associate themselves with this Foreign Affairs Committee. Any information that members of the committee gather cannot be divulged without the express consent of the Minister for External Affairs, whoever he may be at the time. We do not know much about the capacity of the present Minister for External Affairs in this sphere, because he has had that portfolio for only a short time, but we do know the tragic mess that his predecessor made in that position. There is no need to rehash the tragic failures of the present Prime Minister in the field of foreign affairs, when he held the portfolios of Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. We know what happened at Suez and in the United Nations’ consideration of the South African apartheid policy. All of the Prime Minister’s statements overseas were quite obviously accepted by other countries as being the voice of Australia. It is absolutely necessary that we know that the correct opinions are being voiced by the responsible Minister, whoever he may be.
I do not intend to delay the Senate at any great length; the whole subject has been canvassed fairly extensively, but I must repeat what other honorable senators from this side have said, just to show that there is unanimity amongst us and that this is not the opinion of only one or two. We believe that there is nothing whatever to be gained from members of our party belonging to this Foreign Affairs Committee, when the committee is tied hand and foot and not allowed to express an opinion except with the express permission of the Minister for External Affairs.
Senator Maher, in his contribution to the debate, said that we oppose a joint committee on foreign affairs. We do not actually oppose such a committee at all, provided it is properly constituted and its members are given a reasonable amount of freedom without, of course, endangering the security of the country. We are just as aware as honorable senators on the Government side of the necessity to safeguard the security of this country.
– Why not join the committee for a year, and experiment?
– One cannot afford to experiment in matters such as this. Senator Maher said that we actually oppose the setting up of this joint committee, but we do- not. However, we refuse to take part in a joint committee on foreign affairs under the conditions laid down by the Minister. It would serve no purpose whatever. No matter what information the members of the committee may glean, they would not be permitted to divulge it or make it known anywhere at all without the express permission of the Minister.
Senator Maher said also that the committee had power to call before it various eminent persons, including heads of the services, who are well versed in matters of foreign policy and defence requirements. If we joined this joint committee and it summoned before it some of these responsible heads of Services to give evidence, and if we found that we were gravely short of certain defence requirements, we would have to sit dumb and say nothing whatever about it.
– No; you could pass that on to the Minister.
– Let us assume that it was referred to the Minister and he refused, as he has power to do, to grant permission to mention it to anyone. In spite of the fact that members of the committee knew that a dangerous situation existed, they would not be permitted to reveal their knowledge anywhere, even in their own party rooms where such vital questions were discussed. Senator Maher concluded by saying that if Labour senators were members of this committee they need not identify themselves with the opinions of the government members. However, the same argument applies. We could not identify ourselves with anyone because we would be under the absolute control of the Minister for the time being. I repeat, with emphasis and sincerity, what other senators on this side have said. It is absolutely useless to try to form a committee comprised of members from both sides of the Parliament to consider such vitally important matters, when the members of the committee will be tied hand and foot by the Minister. They cannot move, they cannot express any opinions, indeed, they cannot do anything at all without the express direction of the Minister for Externa] Affairs.
.- 1 should like to join with Senator Maher in expressing regret that the Labour Party has dragged this debate down to the level of the gutter. That was especially so in the case of Senator Sandford and of one or two other people to whom I hope to have an opportunity to refer. Senator Hendrickson made the flamboyant claim that no Labour man in this Senate had ever been elected on Communist preferences.
– That is right.
– If honorable senators care to look at the Commonwealth election returns for the year 1958, they will find that the senator who has just resumed his seat, Senator Charles William Sandford-
– You are wrong.
– He is misquoting, and” is referring to the wrong man.
– If the honorable senator has been misrepresented or reflected upon, he can clear the matter up at the end of Senator Hannan’s speech.
– I withdraw and apologize. 1 called him William. It should have been Walter. I apologize to ali the Williams in the Senate. If you look at the returns issued by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, you will see that they disclose that Senator Charles Walter Sandford was elected on the bulk of the preferences of the Communist Gibson. Of 13,000 preference votes cast by those who supported Communist Gibson, Senator Charles Walter Sandford received just on 8,000. That is real help and real assistance from the Communists. There is a complete rebuttal of the statement that Senator Hendrickson made.
I realize that in dealing with figures and with matters such as defence, political philosophy and, particularly, foreign affairs, the Labour Party is not circumscribed by facts. That is of great assistance in putting up some sort of a case. Senator Hendrickson repeated what his leader in another place had said - namely, that the Government has its majority because of Communist preferences “in the Moreton electorate. That, of course, was’ a complete falsehood. The statement was carefully designed to suggest some lack of sincerity in the Government’s ideological approach. I know that Labour senators are not particularly interested in accuracy, but if they refer to the records they will find that 694 votes were cast for the Communist candidate in Moreton, and that approximately 600 of the Communist preference votes went to the Labour Party. If that is the sort of support that my party receives from the Communists, good-oh! That is the sort of support I want. I want to see the Communists on the other side.
Senator Hendrickson was pleased to make some reference to my attitude towards red China. 1 do not intend to deal with that subject at great length, but it strikes me as odd that people who claim to be interested in Australia’s welfare, in the development of Australian trade and in Australian employment can wax lyrical about the prospect of a market in red China and about the cultural and social benefits that would flow from social intercourse with that nation. They wax lyrical about those things, although red China has not a cracker to pay for our products and certainly there is very little that it can export to this country in the way of ideological philosophy. The people who applaud and cheer red China are the very people who in this chamber, with their colleagues in another place, attacked the trade treaty with Japan. Japan has money with which to pay us. Japan does buy our goods. Japan is outside the red orbit - and that, of course, is the cardinal offence that it has committed. Japan has refused to truckle to the reds in Asia, and that puts it outside the pale of the Labour Party’s foreign policy.
Senator Hendrickson was thoroughly misleading in reference to the state of the nation’s defences when John Curtin took office. I agree with Senator Sandford that John Curtin was a great Australian. I am not being mealy-mouthted. Not only do I concede that he was a great Australian, but I am proud of it. When Curtin took office, he said, being an honest man, that the nation’s defences had never been sounder and that he was taking over a good Army, a good Navy and a good Air Force and was completely happy with the way that the munitions industry had been organized. Senator Sandford is interjecting. Is he calling Curtin a liar? That is a discreditable suggestion.
– I was referring to your statement.
– I rise to a point of order. We are debating the question whether the Labour Party should join a certain committee. That being so, I cannot understand what this reference to Mr. Curtin has to do with the subject under discussion.
- Senator Arnold, if you had been here earlier in the debate you would know that in their speeches honorable senators have ranged over a very wide field. I do not want to confine the debate strictly to the question of the formation of the foreign affairs committee, because that question raises questions of defence and other questions. I have decided not to ask honorable senators to confine their remarks directly to the proposed resolution before the Chair. I think I must allow considerable latitude in this debate.
– Before adverting to the proposed work of the committee, and to the Labour Party’s excuses for refusing to join the committee, I am duty-bound to refer to some remarks which Senator Hendrickson made about my father. It is true that my father was a member of the Labour Party. It is true that he stood for Parliament under the endorsement of John Lang. But he belonged to a Labour. Party which had nothing whatever to do with unity tickets. He belonged to a Labour Party which did not have its foreign policy determined by the Healys and other Communists on the waterfront. He belonged to a Labour Party which was a party of moderation and reform. If it is of any interest to the Senate, let me say that I was a boy of, I think, seven when my father began his political activities.
Senator Hendrickson made one other reference to me. I am sorry that he is not in the chamber, because I feel that I should not tell him of his somersaults in his absence. There is this one other matter to which I must refer, apart from his reference to my father. I object most strenuously to a senator standing up in this place and making a dirty, rotten, sectarian insinuation in an attempt to refute something I said in an interjection which I made on political grounds. There is no other way of interpreting Senator Hendrickson’s remark that my colleagues on this side would be anxious to see my back. In the heat of debate, he may call me a McCarthy. I will pass that, although it is offensive. I am glad that the honorable senator has returned to the chamber. For his benefit, I shall repeat that the part of his speech to which I took violent objection was the dirty, rotten, sectarian insinuation in the statement that my colleagues on this side of the chamber would be glad to see my back.
– I said nothing about sectarianism.
– You did not have the courage to say it.
– 1 should like to make an explanation.
– You cannot make it now.
– Then I ask for a withdrawal. 1 do not think he has any religion.
– Order! I call Senator Hannan.
– I go back to a man who is so lacking in physical, mental and moral courage that he will not come right out into the open and say exactly what he means, but couches his speech in snide, snivelling terms which befit a man who since 1955 has turned around to bite the hand of the man who put him here. On more than one occasion in this chamber, for some reason or other which escapes me, Senator Hendrickson has been pleased, when I have put forward a point of view on foreign affairs, to refer to me as Santamaria. I do not know why he has done that), but he has done it on three occasions.
– You cannot find that on record in “ Hansard “. I have never mentioned that. I think he has more ability than you have.
– I want to tell the Senate-
– Order! I direct your attention, Senator Hannan, to the fact that you are straying from the motion completely.
– The position that obtains, Sir, is that when questions of foreign affairs have been debated in this chamber, I have directed attention to the very strict nexus between the Labour Party’s foreign policy and the views expressed in the “ Tribune “ and “ Guardian “ every week. In making comparisons of foreign policy, on a number of occasions the honorable senator has referred to me as Santamaria. I remind him that ten or twelve years ago he did not have the same point of view as he has now, when he went crawling on his hands and knees to Santamaria to get endorsement in the Labour Party Senate team in Victoria.
– Mr. President, I rise to order. On my oath, I have never seen Santamaria in my life, except on television; and I have never crawled to him or Senator Hannan.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator Hannan.
– The position is that ten or twelve years ago the honorable senator-
– Mr. President, may I ask you what connexion Santamaria has with this debate on the Foreign Affairs Committee?
– Santamaria has as much relation to the subject-matter of the debate as much of the rest of the debate this afternoon has had. I call Senator Hannan.
– I was saying that Senator Hendrickson crawled on his hands and knees to Santamaria in order to get endorsement for the Labour Senate team in Victoria.
– It is a pity we have not a photograph.
– As Senator Maher says, what a pity it is that we have not a photograph of him. Having obtained preselection, the honorable senator was elected to the Senate. Then there was a big split in the Labour Party. In order to show how militant, how vigorous and how left-wing he is and how well he fits in with the junta that controls the Australian Labour Party in Victoria, he now has to turn around and continuously use the name of the man, who put him here in a sense, using it as a symbol of disrespect and as something like an epithet. I ask you, Mr. President: Is that any way for him to treat his benefactor?
It is a great pity, of course, that because of mental stumbling blocks of that type the Parliament has been unable to achieve a bipartisan foreign policy. The position is quite different in England. In that country the Labour Party presents no alibis for running away from co-operating in foreign affairs. If my memory serves me rightly, the late Ernest Bevin, as foreign minister, took up an even more forthright position in regard to Communist aggression than the conservative foreign minister of a slightly later day took up. I believe it is highly desirable that the Labour Party should get rid of its old hag-ridden, redcontrolled shibboleths, come out into the open with the Government and formulate a sensible Australian foreign policy. One big advantage of a committee composed of both Government and Opposition members would be that Labour senators would not make such silly speeches on foreign affairs in this place. That in itself would be something of value.
When the present Government came into power at the end of 1949 it was in considerable difficulties on foreign affairs because of the unreliable image that had been created in the minds of our allies by the preceding Labour Minister for External Affairs. Rightly or wrongly, the Americans had the idea that Comrade Healy, so beloved of the Earl of Warwick on the other side of the chamber, was running our foreign affairs because he dictated which ships would sail and which ships would bc repaired and completely controlled activities on the waterfront. The simple truth of the matter was that our allies just could not trust the Australian Labour government of the day on foreign affairs.
When the Menzies Government came into power it was able to negotiate the great Anzus treaty and also the Seato treaty, which, however, is not quite so important because it is not so strong. Unfortunately, for this nation, the Labour Party policy was hammered out - I use the words “ hammered out “ in a euphemistic sense - at Hobart in 1955-
– It was sickled out, too.
– Let us say that it was cut out with a sickle. That policy embodied certain matters that are cardinal features of Communist Party foreign policy; for instance, the recognition of red China. That is not just a plank in the Labour Party’s platform. If one looks at the Labour Party’s little handbook, which can be bought for ls., one finds that it is referred to as a cardinal plank; that is, one of the most important planks in its platform. One could mention seven or eight other matters, such as the recall of troops from Malaya and truckling to Communist aggression where it shows its head. So much of Labour policy formulated at the Hobart conference was in tune with Communist ideas that Comrade Sharkey was able to say after 1955, “Now the Labour Party and the Communist Party can go forward hand in hand “. What a marriage!
Such policies would be disastrous for Australia if they were ever foisted upon it. Labour’s foreign policy does not win many friends even among its own supporters. If you look around you see daubed in whitewash on bridges, culverts and public buildings this sort of useless left-wing slander that is designed solely to split the nation on the issue of foreign affairs. In this chamber and in another place the Labour Party continuously attacks the defence vote. It says that we should not spend £200,000,000 a year on defence and that we should devote that money to social services. The Labour Party having said that for about the last ten years, we now find that the leader of that party in another place (Mr. Calwell) wants to attack Soekarno. He wants to go to war over West New Guinea almost before any one has considered it. The truth of the matter appears to be that Senator Vincent was quite right. The Labour Party has no foreign policy, despite what is written in the little shilling book, except what twelve good men and true, or twelve men, anyhow, tell it from time to time, and that is one of the real reasons why honorable senators opposite feel themselves obliged to refrain from joining the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– Or to excuse themselves from doing so.
– To use it, say, as a sort of alibi. One difficulty in discussing foreign affairs and the Foreign Affairs Committee-
– Get your mind out of the gutter.
– The Australian Labour Party, as my friend Senator Toohey points out, has dredged the gutter in this debate. As in most foreign affairs debates, it finds itself pathologically incapable of thought not only on matters of an economic nature but also on those relating to foreign affairs. Whenever one puts up a rational argument in relation to such matters it is disposed of, or an attempt is made to dispose of it, as Senator Kennelly did this afternoon, by the use of the single word “ McCarthy “. 1 do not know exactly what the honorable senator intends to imply by the word “ McCarthy “, but I think it is intended to be offensive and to act as a rebuttal of any form of logical argument. I believe it is intended to be used as a complete and absolute substitute for thought. Senator Kennelly uses it very frequently for that purpose.
I notice that the honorable senator has been preparing himself assiduously for this debate for the last hour or more. He has been hoping to be able to wait until I have said my piece, so he can get up and’ scream “McCarthy” all the louder. I therefore feel compelled, Mr. President, to make some reference to the ineptitude of this parrot cry, or should I say, galah cry, in relation to foreign affairs. The fate of a nation should not be determined by the simple use of a silly slogan, a silly epithet, or a silly term.
– How silly can you get?
– As my friend Senator Dittmer put it, “ How silly can you get? “ I thought that that matter was disposed of yesterday. Since my friend the Earl of Warwick ran away from the position earlier in the afternoon, I thought that I should put these ideas before him, to give him something to go on in a few minutes. The alibis which have been put forward by the Labour Party sound totally unconvincing. As I have said, they are obviously galah cries by people who are not thinking for themselves, and they provide absolutely no genuine reason why the Labour Party should not nominate members to sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. President. Senator Hannan said that I had cringed and crawled to some person by the name of Santamaria for my pre-selection as a Labour candidate, and that I am, and have been, biting the hand that fed me. I have never spoken to Mr. Santamaria in my life. I have seen him once on television. He has not at any time been a member of a trade union or any branch of the Australian Labour Party. Therefore, to my knowledge, he could not have, had any influence on an A.L.P. pre-selection ballot. I ask, Sir, that Senator Hannan be ordered to withdraw those words.
– The honorable senator cannot ask for a withdrawal now.
– Well, when can I have them withdrawn?
– This is a most interesting debate. I am delighted, Sir, that you have taken the very wise course, if I may say so with the greatest respect, of allowing the debate to cover a wide field. It would be most unfair if honorable senators were not given an opportunity to discusss statements made earlier in the debate which perhaps might not have come within the standards of procedure that you normally encourage in this chamber. The debate has arisen because the Australian Labour Party has seen fit to refrain from appointing representatives to the Foreign Affairs Committee proposed by the Government. It is well to remember that the Labour Party is just as interested in the foreign policy of this nation as are its political opponents.
We refuse to join the Foreign Affairs Committee on the grounds that it is not like any other committee which is appointed by the Parliament, that the whole structure is under the control of one man, and that witnesses may appear before it only if he says so. If the committee desires to obtain information, the Minister for External Affairs must agree. The Labour Party representatives who serve on parliamentary committees are appointed by the party. They put the views of the party before those committees, and the party is entitled to be informed of any decisions that are arrived at. Surely there is no thought that any member of a political party in this Parliament would do anything to endanger the safety of the nation. If the Labour Party were to appoint members to the Foreign Affairs Committee, why should they be able to discuss only those matters approved by the Minister for External Affairs? I believe, as every one else believes, that Australia has to be extremely careful about its foreign policy, particularly in view of our isolation from our allies.
If the Government wishes to have a joint committee on foreign affairs, it should be prepared to give the committee a degree of freedom. It must be prepared to trust the members of the committee and to have faith in them, from whichever political party they come. It should recognize that they would do nothing to harm the safety of Australia. If the Government was prepared to appoint a committee in the normal way and to allow members to take back to the parties appointing them information about the matters discussed, and in that way guide the party in forming its views, I believe there would be a case for such a committee. Let us be honest with ourselves. I cannot see any hope of a foreign policy being agreed upon between the two major political parties. With all respect to Senator Hannan, I declare that the Labour Party has not been in the habit of using Communism to win elections. But the Government parties have done so over the years. It has even had a Petrov inquiry to help it win an election. To be quite honest, we do not trust you people over there. If there was another election, to save your seats and remain in office you would, if it suited you to do so, without any evidence whatever, label the party to which I belong, or individual members of it as being allies of a foreign power. You do so because you know quite well that it helps you.
– Not now. The people are getting sick of it.
– That was proved conclusively during the last election when Mr. McEwen, I think, at a meeting in the country said it was about time people stopped saying that if the Labour Party was elected to office this country’s safety would be endangered. It is pleasing to hear that said at last. One does not expect that kind of statement from small men. One expects from them only the same old Com attitude, the McCarthy attitude, which is paying handsome dividends to those who adopt it. In a number of instances it gets them into an unwanted position. Fortunately, there is every chance, by a stroke of fortune, of their not being here within a few years.
– If I can stand against you for No. 3 position, that will do me.
– At least I have some respect for the political principles I have espoused for 40 years of more. So there is no chance of your standing against me for No. 3 position.
– That is lucky for you.
– In view of the way the political pendulum has swung, I know who has the better chance. If I have a little chat with you later, we may be able to make it worth while. Surely it is time we grew up and forgot the past. It is true that I have used the Communist weapon. I used it for one reason. Everybody knows that I have never been connected with the Communist Party and that I fought against its influence in the organization to which I belonged for a long period. Everybody knows why I mentioned here the case of Healy. I mentioned it from a personal standpoint, not a political standpoint.
– You will have to do better than that.
– The majority of the people on your side of the Senate knew that to be the position. They have had one bad apple that they have used in order to help them remain here. But it will only be a matter of time before that apple is thrown out of the case.
In the interests of the nation, it is about time that we said whether we believe it to be desirable that we become members of a joint committee. As late as 3fh December last, the people of Australia did not seem to think that we had done anything that was very wrong in not joining the Foreign Affairs Committee. The number of votes received by the Labour Party totalled hundreds of thousands more than those received by the two Government parties. Let me assure everybody, particularly those who unfortunately have no political convictions but who continually attempt to brand others, that you will not find a member of the Labour Party who will damage the prestige or safety of this country.
I ask all fair-minded persons to read the motion. Can any self-respecting person join a foreign affairs committee which is not allowed to consider matters unless a particular person says it may, and which cannot interview anybody unless that same person is prepared to say that it may? Sub-paragraph (e) of paragraph four reads - the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
Sub-paragraph (g) provides, inter alia - the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent.
The motion also provides that the committee shall not invite persons to give evidence before it without the consent of the Minister for External Affairs. A similar provision applies to calling for official papers.
It is about time that we attempted to debate matters on a high plane. My friend, Senator Vincent, wanted to know what was the Labour Party’s defence and external affairs policy in 1955. As I like to accommodate the honorable senator, I shall read it. It is rather long, but at least I shall have the pleasure of reading it in “ Hansard “, and so will Senator Vincent.
– What about incorporating it in “ Hansard “ ?
– No. I think it will be much better if 1 read it, because I shall then recall what I voted for in 1955, which is a long time ago. I want to make sure that I do not forget anything. I hope I will not burden the honorable senator, but I shall try to read it carefully and get through it. Under the heading “International Affairs and World Peace “ it reads -
Having regard to the present state of international tension and the resulting threat to world peace, this Conference declares-
May I say, for Senator Vincent’s edification, that the conference was held at Hobart on 15th March, 1955, and following days. The declaration reads -
– Do they object to that?
– That is what I want to know. I should like to know whether any honorable senator takes objection to any part of it. Senator Vincent seemed to take violent objection, by interjection, to the 1955 decisions. I am certain that even he will not find anything wrong with that. If honorable senators opposite have any objection after I have read the declaration through, we shall debate it. It continues -
Is there anything wrong with that? They are dumb. It goes on -
Is there any objection to that one?
– The United Nations cannot bring conflict to an end.
– With great respect to Senator Buttfield, I shall hand her the book afterwards, when she can raise an objection. The next item is -
All of us remember well the tragedy of Indo-China, when French and native people in their thousands were slaughtered.
– Have you found out yet what Senator Hannan objects to?
– You are not reading all the resolution.
– Yes, I am. I do object to any senator implying that I am untruthful. I imagine that Senator Hannan, particularly, will not like the resolution, because he will find it as harmless as I did.
– It is window-dressing.
– We are going right through it. It was asked for; otherwise I would not have mentioned it.
– Get on with it.
– When you were on your feet, I did not interject.
– You interjected before I spoke.
– You were not on your feet then.
– Order! Senator Kennelly, if you address your remarks to me, you will get on very much better. I shall keep order in the Senate.
– I am delighted, Mr. President. I am at all times only too pleased to show you the respect that you deserve. May I go on to item number five, and would those people who asked for it please listen? lt states -
Indo-China is typical of those cases where inexcusable delay in recognizing a genuine Nationalist anti-colonial movement in Asia resulted in Communism gradually capturing the Nationalist movement. The result was that democratic Nationalism suffered a severe setback.
The Labour Party advocates generous assistance by Australia to Asian peoples suffering from poverty, disease, and lack of educational facilities. This is only part of our task. Asian peoples also demand - in accordance with the United Nations Charter - the end of colonialism whenever and wherever the people are fit for selfgovernment. Even more, Asia rightly demands recognition of the dignity and self-respect of Asian nations and peoples. Unless all these principles are fully acknowledged, Western Nations will find it impossible to achieve that real cooperation of Asia which is basic to the maintenance of peace.
No objection is raised. To continue -
– You are getting warm now.
– If you object, you should do so. The declaration continues -
– You are getting warmer.
– God forbid that I should ever expect the unanimous agreement of my friends on the other side to the policy of this party. The declaration continues -
This Conference is firmly of the opinion that there is a grossly inadequate understanding of Asian problems in Australia and of Australian problems in Asia. Therefore, it establishes the policy of encouraging exchanges of official and unofficial visits between our countries. In particular, the Australian Labour Movement itself should seek direct contact with Asian countries. In this connection, no Asian country should be excluded from such exchanges.
Honorable senators opposite would object to that. We say that if we are to talk to people in Asia, we should talk to all people in Asia. I have not heard, as yet, any great objection. Certainly one senator said that I was getting hot, but he has since become silent.
– I shall take it apart for you later.
– I like to be honest when I stand here.
– That would be a new development.
– Do not be mean and filthy.
– I apologize. I should not have said that that would be a new development. 1 withdraw the remark.
– I thank Senator Hannan for his action. The next item is No. 11. There is a lot more in the book. Honorable senators opposite wanted it and I had to go and get it. If they ask for these things, I like to be obliging.
– We did not ask for it.
– Our friend Senator Vincent, on more than one occassion, asked for it.
– Show it to him at tea time.
– No, it is very handy for me to get it into the record. I am sorry that 1 cannot read this more quickly.
– You want to refresh your memory, do you not?
– The conference was held in 1955. That is a long time ago and a good deal of water has flowed under the bridge since that time. We all are getting a little older year by year, including my friend who interjected. All of us need to be brought up to date on happenings in years gone by. The next item in the declaration reads -
The Australian Labor Party should seek the appointment of observers at the forthcoming Afric -Asian Conference in Indonesia. Delegates representing Labor should be arranged between the Federal Executive of the A.L.P. and the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.
The declaration continues -
The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the peoples of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war causing danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere and all its inhabitants which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “. This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any Nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.
I think every honorable senator on this side of the chamber hopes that all nations will ban atomic weapons. The declaration continues -
Conference therefore directs the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to press for effective action directed towards these great ends. We are convinced that in years to come a nation’s true greatness will come to be measured by its courageous approach to the solution of these tremendous problems here and now.
The S.E.A.T.O. Organisation must devote special attention to the peaceful settlement of international disputes in South-east Asia.
– That is the Commo line.
– Well, I do not know. A headline in the “ News Weekly “ of 14th March reads, “ U.S. Ignores Seato “. The article is written by John Williams. I do not know whether he is a son of Williams of the Melbourne “ Herald “. I think he must be. In his article he states -
This means that Seato is finished.
– You would like to see it finished.
– No, although 1 do not think it will help the safety of this nation very much. If Senator Vincent means that I want to see an end* to an organization that could protect Australia, he is wrong. Surely in this age we are entitled to differ from each other as long as our differences are of honest intention. Let me continue with this declaration. I wish I had agreed earlier to incorporate it in “ Hansard “. Item No. 13 continues -
S.E.A.T.O. as a regional organization within the United Nations has a positive duty to try to lessen international tension in South-east Asia and tha Pacific. It should discharge that duty.
There is nothing wrong with that. The declaration continues -
– That has been changed a bit.
– 1 thought I was helping the honorable senator because on at least three occasions he asked for the deliberations of the Hobart conference in 1955. After 8 o’clock to-night, or in a week’s time, we will deal with what Senator Vincent wants. The declaration continues -
It should also aim at improving the standards of life for all the peoples throughout this area - so vital to Australia.
I doubt whether Senator Vincent is as keen now to hear the words of this declaration as he was earlier. Of all the nations that were not members of the United Nations in 1955, only Korea, Viet Nam, Germany, Switzerland and China are still outside the organization. Korea, Viet Nam and
Germany are divided countries. Why Switzerland is not a member, if it desires to become a member, I do not know. 1 do know that in 1955 we said that all the nations of the world could become members of it. Since 1955 many nations have been born, and honorable senators on both sides wish them well. The only nation about which there is any controversy is China. According to this Government, Australia does not want to sit with China in the United Nations.
– China will not sit with us unless we surrender Formosa to it.
– I do not know that there are any specific demands by China at the moment. The Labour Party has not said that mainland China alone, of the two Chinese areas, should be admitted. All we say is that China is the only nation whose application to join the United Nations this Government will not support. However, it is delighted to sell to that country our wheat and wool and anything else that it will buy.
– Would you sell the Formosans to it, too?
– Up to date the Government has not sold the Formosans to mainland China, though I do not know what it will do in the future. One wonders just how far the Government will go. I could never understand the Government’s attitude. Honorable senators will recall that diplomatic relations with Russia were abruptly cut off on account of the Petrov inquiry, and it- was the present Government that renewed them. Whether the Government was prepared at that time to back Stalinism against the Communist philosophy of Mao Tse-tung, I do not know, but it seems fantastic to me that Government members were prepared to bring into their own land one brand of communism . yet will not allow the other people to sit in the United Nations. I said one brand of communism; I do not know whether there are two brands of communism. I do not know much even about one brand, but I have read something about it in years gone by. One wonders what exception Senator Vincent or any other supporter of the Government can take to the Labour Party’s 1955 decisions, which he was so keen to hear.
– There were other resolutions passed at that time.
– I do not think the honorable senator would accuse me of not stating the decisions faithfully. I got the book containing them from the Parliamentary Library, and if the honorable senator wants to look at it he is at liberty to get it. I went to the trouble, also, to get a copy of the foreign policy - or external affairs policy, call it what you will - of the Labour Party, as amended by the 1961 conference. I have also a copy of the Liberal Party’s foreign policy. I do not see anything in either of them that one could honestly say would harm this nation. True, there are matters in the Liberal Party policy that are not in ours, but I suppose the only big difference between the two is their attitudes towards Seato and Anzus. Paragraph 13 (3) (b) of the Liberal Party policy refers to: -
Participation in regional defensive agreements, such as Anzus and Seato.
Paragraph 13 of the Labour Party’s policy states: -
The S.E.A.T.O. Organization must devote special attention to the peaceful settlement of international disputes in South-east Asia. S.E.A.T.O. as a regional organization within the United Nations has a positive duty to try to lessen international tension in South-east Asia and the Pacific. It should discharge that duty.
I must thank you, Mr. Acting DeputyPresident, for the liberty, or perhaps I should say the licence, that you have given me in this debate. I make a very earnest appeal. This nation needs the constructive thought of all parties. It is much harder than one would imagine to state a reason why the Labour Party will not join this committee, without being subjected to misrepresentation. As the press of this nation, with the exception of one newspaper in the last two or three months, has seen fit to keep up the barrage against this party, I think we are entitled to say that our reasons for not joining the committee are valid within our own party. They have been amply stated by the Leader of the Opposition and others. Speaking from a personal point of view - the party has not made a decision on this - I sincerely believe that if there were a foreign affairs committee representing both sides and all schools of thought in the Parliament, with the freedom of thought and action that it should have and the trust that it ought to get from the Minister, irrespective of the colour of the government, that government should at least have enough trust in members who are elected to the National Parliament to know that they would not do anything that would in any way injure Australia.
– This debate has ranged widely over the subject of foreign affairs, though we should be discussing the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I believe that I am able to give a better opinion of this committee than are most other members of this Parliament. It could be said that I am half-way between those who oppose its appointment and those who favour it. In addition, I have had a good deal of experience of the committee. Opposition senators have explained why, in their view, there should not be a Foreign Affairs Committee, and Government senators have given reasons for the formation of such a committee. I have watched the committee work for a number of years now, and I am in full agreement with those honorable senators who have said that the committee should continue. That does not mean, however, that I think the committee could not be improved. Whether the Opposition wishes to join the committee or not is its own business, but if it does not join, I think it will be the loser.
The committee deals with a variety of subjects and its activities are not circumscribed so much as some honorable senators seem to think. In fact, I have never found the committee to be circumscribed at all. All kinds of subjects have been dealt with very fully, without the consent of the Minister. Sub-committees have been formed and discussions have taken place. Information has been obtained from personages in high positions, and in many cases the requests for those personages to give information have not been made through the Minister. The Minister realizes that the committee has a job to do, and he has given it broad subjects to deal with, thus allowing the members to consider many aspects of those broad subjects.
A great deal of freedom has been given to members of the committee to study and to make the results of their study known for the benefit of others, including, incidentally, many of their colleagues. Everything dealt with by the Foreign Affairs Committee is not necessarily secret. Members keep secret those things they are asked to keep secret, but with their education in relation to the various aspects of foreign affairs, they can do a great deal to help in educating others. I think it is a very good committee in that respect. I agree with the Opposition that the committee should have great power, because a lack of power may be one of its weaknesses at present. I admit that the powers of the committee have to be circumscribed because it is dealing with foreign affairs, and with information that cannot be bandied about, but I think that the committee should be given greater strength.
It has been said that the committee is merely a study group. Naturally, it is a study group in the first place, but it has reached some very sound findings, in some cases after up to two years of study of a particular subject. I think there should be some means by which the findings of the committee can be implemented, and not, as at present, merely placed before the Minister with a statement to the effect, “ This is the result of our study over two years; will you do something along the lines that we suggest? “ At present, the Minister is in a position to say either “ Yes “ or “ No “. That is why I say the committee should be given more power. If it had been a joint parliamentary committee in the fullest sense of the term - and that almost came about in the 1950’s, as those who were in the Labour caucus room in those days will remember - I believe the committee would have really amounted to something and would have been given a great deal more power by the Government.
It was a mistake for the Opposition not to join the committee in the first place, and it is even more foolish to perpetuate that mistake. It has been said that you cannot tell your colleagues in the caucus room what you have been discussing in the committee. The Foreign Affairs Committee is not unique in that. The executive of the Labour caucus frequently makes certain findings which it does not pass on to the ordinary members of caucus. A similar situation exists with the Foreign Affairs Committee.
You cannot expect to go out after a secret meeting and tell every Tom, Dick and Harry what has been discussed. During the past six or seven years there has never been, to my knowledge, one case of leakage of information from the committee. That indicates that the people on the committee have taken their work seriously and have realized their responsibility to the Government and to Australia. At times the committee has been supplied with secret information that could have been of use to people who were not very friendly to this country.
Mr. President, I believe that for the good of the Parliament itself, this committee should continue. It could be a means whereby the two warring sections of the Parliament, if you like to put it that way, could get together in the interests of a mutual understanding of Australia’s dangers and of making an effort to overcome them. If the Government and Opposition parties joined together in the work of this committee, trying to arrive at a mutual understanding, that would be the first step towards the formulation of a unanimous policy on foreign affairs. I believe that will come about by force of circumstances in the not far distant future. By refusing to join this committee, the Labour Party is being foolish and is doing an injury to the future welfare of Australia. Unless we get together now and formulate a common policy for the defence of this country, we shall endanger not only ourselves but those who come after us. I support the motion.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Mr. President, I was on my feet.
– Order! That does not make any difference. The Minister for Civil Aviation rose and I called him.
– But, Sir, I was on my feet before the Minister rose.
– Order! I called the Minister.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 536) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 14th March (vide page 524), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill before the Senate is to amend the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959-1961 by making a further addition of £5,000,000 to the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank. lt will be recalled that last October a similar amendment was made, and £5,000,000 was also added to the capital of the bank at that time. I congratulate the Government on making available to the bank the sum of £10,000,000 in six months, giving the bank a total capital of £25,857,000. The bank is in a very healthy position, therefore, so far as its capital is concerned. In addition, it has available to it substantial assets, and it has been able to borrow large sums of money from the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
Before I proceed to say something of the operations of the Development Bank, I want to refer to some of the points made by Opposition senators during the debate. In opening the discussion for the Opposition, Senator Toohey stated that he and other members of the Opposition had complained, during the course of a debate on this subject last October, that the Government, instead of proposing to increase the capital of the bank by £5,000,000 at that time, should have been increasing it by £10,000,000. The honorable senator may have been genuine in his attempt to have the amount increased, but I point out to him that it is the prerogative, of the Opposition to oppose and to suggest to the Government that amounts proposed to be provided in such circumstances should be increased. I remind the honorable senator that the Government has always recognized that the time would arrive when the capital of the bank would need to be increased to meet applications for advances as they came forward. In answer to questions that have been asked in the Senate from time to time, the appropriate Minister, on behalf of the Government, has always made it clear that should the time arrive when the Development Bank required more capital, the Government would see to it that additional capital was provided. I also remind the honorable senator that at no time during the operations of the bank has it suffered from lack of capital.
I want to refer to the claim made by members of the Australian Labour Party that that party was responsible for the establishment of the Development Bank. During the current sessional period of the Parliament, claims have been made on a number of occasions by honorable senators opposite that legislation introduced in the Parliament was in accordance with the policy of the Labour Party, but little did I think, when this debate commenced, that the Labour Party would go so far as to claim that the establishment of the Development Bank was a part of its policy. True it is that the Labour Party was responsible for establishing the Commonwealth Bank, and it is also true that in the Commonwealth Bank there was formerly a Mortgage Bank Department; but I suggest to honorable senators opposite that the charter of the Development Bank differs greatly from that of the old Mortgage Bank Department. In fact, the Development Bank is a new type of bank amongst banking institutions. During this debate I have not heard honorable senators opposite mention the fact that for two years the Labour Party delayed the implementation of the Commonwealth Banks Act. For two years, that party prevented the primary producers, who required money to carry out developmental work, from obtaining it. Now, they claim that it is their party which is helping the primary producers.
I turn to the problem of the costs that primary producers have to meet. A great deal has been said on this matter. I agree that one of the biggest problems which confront the primary producers to-day is that of costs. We all know that the gap between the cost of production and the price that the grower receives overseas for his product has closed to such an extent that there is practically none left. We all know, too, of the important part that the primary producers are playing in earning export income for this country. It would be a tragedy if costs were allowed to continue to rise and eventually to prevent the primary producers from producing the commodities we need. I know that the Labour Party is worried, to a degree, by this problem. Nevertheless, it amazes me that time and again members of the Opposition should come into this chamber and weep crocodile tears for the primary producers. When it suits them to do so, they support the sections and the forces that are seeking to increase the costs that primary producers have to meet.
Senator O’Byrne, when replying to Senator McKellar’s speech last night, said that the private banks had treated the primary producers very badly. Nothing could be further from the truth than that statement. The private banks have played a very important part in the development of this country. I know that in recent times, during the period of restriction on credit, a great number of people engaged in primary production complained that their opportunities to obtain credit were restricted. During that time I received only two letters on the subject. Upon asking for further information, I found that one man who was making the complaint had had his overdraft reduced by only £50 and that his overdraft had stood at the same figure for approximately twelve years. I do not think any private bank could be blamed for that sort of treatment. The policy of the Government differs from that of the Labour Party. We on this side are in favour of the continuation of the private banking system.
I turn now to the functions of the Development Bank. It is interesting to note that the Commonwealth Banks Act provides, in section 72 -
The functions of the Development Bank are -
to provide finance for persons -
for the purposes of primary production; or
for the establishment or development of industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings, in cases where, in the opinion of the Development Bank, the provision of the finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions; and
to provide advice and assistance with a view to promoting the efficient organization and conduct of primary production or of industrial undertakings.
Section 73 sets out the matters to be taken into consideration in providing this finance. It reads - (1.) In determining whether or not finance shall be provided for a person, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations of that person becoming, or continuing to be, successful and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available in respect of that finance.
The overriding consideration is that the lack of security need not necessarily be the debarring factor.
The Development Bank has functioned very well during the two years it has been in operation. I have travelled throughout Western Australia and have noticed the tremendous amount of development in the clearing of properties. Upon making inquiries about where the finance came from, I have been told that it came from the Development Bank. I take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate the personnel of the bank upon the work that they have done. It will be recalled that when the bank was set up just over two years ago it was a new type of banking institution and that there were very few men who had the experience needed for the kind of activity that was envisaged. The bank had to set about the task of training additional personnel.
I repeat that the bank has functioned very well. But I want to make one qualification. I believe it has paid too much attention to the lending of money to men who are established on farms. The number of applications that have been approved looks rather good. Indeed, it is good. But I believe that too many farmers who are established and who perhaps are working on a rather substantial overdraft and cannot get further finance to do developmental work have approached the Development Bank to obtain money for that work. The position of young farmers is not so happy. I have received a number of letters from people who have submitted to the Development Bank applications which have been rejected. Upon looking through those applications, I found that a number of them were for activities that were outside the scope of the bank. They were applications for finance for carry-on expenses or to buy land next door, or something of that kind.
Amongst them were a number from young people each of whom has a block of land which is partly paid off, an overdraft with a private bank, and stock and plant which perhaps is under lien to a stock firm. When it is all added up, the security is not as good as it seems to be. 1 believe the bank should extend itself to cope with such applications.
Let me refer to my own experience. When I returned from the war I bought a block of land which I paid for in part. I had to obtain liens from the stock firms to buy sheep, and I had to buy my plant gradually. However, my overdraft would not allow me to do more than carry on and meet my repayments. I worked under those conditions for a number of years. A new bank was opened in the area and the manager offered to give me an overdraft which was double my existing overdraft if I would transfer my business to his institution. That increased accommodation gave me an opportunity to go ahead and develop my property. As the years went by I was able to pay off the property and other debts. Many young farmers are handicapped by lack of capital. That is particularly so in Western Australia where, in recent years, the State Government has thrown open large areas of land for selection. Many young farmers have taken up areas, but some are struggling to hold them.
Then again, there is the case of young farmers who have been brought up on farms but who lack capital and cannot take up a block of land. Many of us in Western Australia remember the days when the old Agricultural Bank was in existence. That bank has been responsible to a great degree for the development of the wheat belt. It allowed men to go on to the land, some of them having no security whatever. After they had cleared 50 or 100 acres they applied to the bank for a long-term loan. After the clearing had been inspected and passed, the bank advanced money to the applicants at the rate of 30s. an acre. The applicants were then in a position to clear other portions of their farms and to apply for further advances. However, over the years we have seen a change in bank lending. Some of the sources from which primary producers used to obtain finance have dried up. About the time to which I refer, private banks provided finance, not as long-term loans, but in equivalent form in the way of overdrafts. Those overdrafts carried the man on the land through his operations until he had developed the farm. In the case of farmers who could not get further finance, storekeepers very often carried them through until they received after-harvest payments.
However, Sir, to-day we find that the private trading banks are reluctant to lend on long terms. Only the other day I was talking to a farmer who wanted money for development. He said, “ I can get plenty of money till after harvest, but what good is that to me for developing my property? “ Development work cannot be carried out with short-term loans. I listened very carefully to the points made by Senator McKellar and I must agree that something should be done about rural finance. I hope that the Government will have a very close look at this matter and, perhaps, do something in the future to improve the position.
I want to make another point in regard to the Development Bank. From experience and from talks I have had with people having close associations with it, both applicants and bank officers, I believe it would be a very good thing for the bank to appoint in each district a retired farmer of great experience and high integrity, who knows the people and the district and what it is able to do. That man having been appointed, on an honorary basis or at a small remuneration, his job would be to inspect and report on the property of an applicant for finance. He would have a good idea of the capabilities of the property, and having lived in the district all his life, possibly, he would be in a good position to know applicants from the area. I believe that in this way we would get much further along the road towards establishing young men successfully on the land. I hope that the Government will have a look at that proposition.
Senator Wright raised the subject of interest rates. He said that, in his opinion, the average maximum rate of 6 per cent, now operating was far too high, and he suggested a reduction to 4± per cent, to coincide with the rate paid for Commonwealth housing loans. All of us would like to see lower interest rates. All primary producers would like to see long-term loans at low interest. If this bank functions as I think it should, it will become a risk bank and, therefore, perhaps, be entitled to higher interest than would normally be paid. But the bank, as it functions at present, does not take a risk, and therefore the interest rate should be reduced. I want it to take a risk on a young man who goes on to the land with a thorough knowledge of farming but who has not the security that banks like applicants to have. If the Development Bank will take the risk of seeing that man over the hump, as I call it, it will be entitled, I believe, to 6 per cent. interest. But, in present circumstances, I am inclined to agree with Senator Wright.
In relation to the established farmer, this bank has functioned very well since its introduction. I should like to see its functions extended to take care of the younger farmer who has not the equity that the bank wants at present. The personnel of the bank have done a particularly fine job in bringing it to the position it occupies at the present time. I support the bill.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy President, the purpose of this bill has been stated often. The bill will increase the funds of the Commonwealth Development Bank by £5,000,000. Certain persons have claimed the credit for inaugurating the Development Bank, but I thought Senator O’Byrne set them right when he reminded them that in 1959, in his second-reading speech on the Commonwealth Banks Bill, the Treasurer, Mr. Harold Holt, said -
The last-mentioned of these banks will be constituted as an amalgamation, with some increase of resources and some change of responsibilities, of the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank.
The Treasurer was referring there to the Commonwealth Development Bank. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to make a statement relating to the Netherlands-Indonesian dispute.
– The statement that is being made in another place by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) reads -
Whenever there has been an appropriate occasion the Government has given the House the opportunity to consider fully the state of the dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands over the territory of West New Guinea, and Australia’s attitude towards it. The visit to Australia, in April, 1961, by General Nasution was the last such occasion. Following that visit, our attitude was stated comprehensively by the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Menzies).
It might be helpful to remind the House of the main elements of Australian policy as then conveyed by the Prime Minister to General Nasution. In essence -
We recognized Dutch sovereignty, we dealt with the Netherlands as the sovereign power and we approved of the policy of ultimate selfdetermination which the Netherlands had adopted in relation to the indigenous inhabitants of West New Guinea;
We were not prepared to put pressure on the Netherlands to negotiate for the transfer of sovereignty or to abandon its policy of self-determination for the indigenous inhabitants;
We would recognize and respect decisions of the Netherlands as the sovereign power, with respect to the transfer of sovereignty of the territory, or the pursuit of its policy of selfdetermination, Australia being neither a party principal nor a self-appointed arbitrator in these matters;
We were on most friendly terms with both the Netherlands and Indonesia. Our recognition of Netherlands sovereignty should not be construed as indicating any hostility to Indonesia;
There should be no recourse to force to resolve the differences between the Netherlands and Indonesia. We had no military commitment with the Netherlands but armed conflict in West New Guinea would present Australia, in common with other countries, with a grave problem and would certainly not be ignored by the United Nations. It would threaten world peace and could well bring disaster to SouthEast Asia by its encouragement of Communist activity and intervention;
We sought for peaceful negotiation at all times, and said that such negotiation should be conducted without threat of force of any shape or kind; we emphasized that we attached the greatest importance to the renewed assurances that Indonesia would pursue its claim peacefully.
Before proceeding further, it is as well that I suggest to the House some fundamentals which should bekept in mind when Australia’s policies arc in discussion. Australia has no territorial claims to the territory of West New Guinea; nor has it any right or claim to dictate or to compel the manner in which those having the administration of that territory should govern or administer it. Australia, of course, has views as to how its own best interests could be served by or in that territory and also as to what ought there to be done for the benefit of the indigenous inhabitants. But the achievement of these views, however strongly held and however closely they touch Australian interests, may only be pursued by diplomatic activity through the ordinary channels of international intercourse and in the United Nations.
The Commonwealth of Australia has itself no land boundaries with its neighbours. Consequently the need to accept the outcome of history in the distribution of territories amongst its neighbours has not to be considered by Australians with any frequency, if at all. But we are mindful, I am sure, of the course enjoined by the preamble to the charter, and intend, in conformity with it, “ to practice tolerance and live together in peace with “ our neighbours, as ourselves, good neighbours. This we have done and will do in our Territories of Papua and New Guinea, where we do share a land frontier. As to those territories, we have territorial rights which we will defend to the utmost, in which proper task we would expect, and have no reason to doubt, that we will receive the full assistance and support of our great allies. The quite different situation which exists in respect of West New Guinea will be obvious to honourable members.
Sovereignty and its recognition are the very essence of international relationships and particularly of the United Nations organization, a circumstance which article 2 (1) of the charter underlines by stating, “ The organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members “. To Australia, as to all others of the smaller powers, including Indonesia, the maintenance of sovereignty is of the utmost national importance. No doubt, increasing areas of international agreement may call increasingly for some surrender of sovereignty in particular respects, but, if it does, that surrender will itself be by an exercise of sovereignty, by the free will of sovereign peoples. Of course the possession of sovereignty does not preclude, indeed in these days it involves, due consideration of the rights and aspirations of dependent peoples.
The policies with respect to the NetherlandsIndonesian dispute, of which I have reminded the House, were adopted against the background of an intention on the part of the Netherlands to apply the principle of self-determination to its territory of West New Guinea and to remain in administration until the indigenous people had advanced to the point where they were fully able to govern themselves and to choose for themselves their international associations. Indeed, the jointly agreed principles adopted by the Netherlands and Australian governments, in November, 1957, and announced to the House at that time, contain the following three clauses: -
The Australian and Netherlands governments are therefore pursuing, and will continue to pursue, policies directed towards the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples in their territories in a manner which recognizes this ethnological and geographical affinity.
At the same time, the two governments will continue, and strengthen, the cooperation at present existing between their respective administrations in the territories.
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.
Our interest in the Papuan inhabitants of the territory thus found satisfaction in the recognition of the sovereignty of the Netherlands and in that country’s assurances as to the treatment of the indigenous population.
Much discussion in this dispute has turned upon the application of the “ principle of selfdetermination “.
As the next few pages of the prepared statement set out the principles, I ask the Senate for leave to incorporate those pages in “ Hansard.”
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Is leave granted?
– No. The statement is meaningless to honorable senators unless we hear all of it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being an objection, leave is not granted.
– The statement continues -
I should perhaps remind honorable members of what the charter has to say on this matter and on the obligations of nations towards the people of their dependent territories.
The second of the purposes of the United Nations, as set out in article 1, is: “ to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace “.
But West New Guinea is a non-self-governing territory; and it is to the chapter of the charter directed specifically to such territories to which we must turn in order to find the charter obligation of the Netherlands towards the people of West New Guinea. It is provided in article 73 (b) that administering states “ accept as a sacred trust the obligation “… “ to develop self-government (not, it may be observed independence), to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement “.
These are the obligations which the Netherlands assumed towards the people of West New Guinea so far as the United Nations charter is concerned. Of course the Netherlands may choose to accept for itself a greater obligation to the dependent people if it considers it right to do so. And, indeed, by its actions and declarations to which I have already referred, it has done so.
By way of comparison I should say that the obligation of the administering power in respect of a trust territory such as Australian New Guinea is, as might be expected, more definitely stated in the United Nations charter. The basic objective of the trusteeship system is to promote the progressive development of the inhabitants “ towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and of the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement “. I may remark in passing that even in this case the grant of independence is not made obligatory by the charter.
In the case of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the United Nations charter provides one set of obligations in respect of Papua and another in respect of the Trust Territory of New Guinea: The Government’s general policy in respect of both is as the Prime Minister told the House last year “ to promote the advancement of the people so that ultimately they will choose for themselves their own constitution and their future relationship with us”. A full presentation of Australian policy objectives was made by my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in this House on 23rd August, 1960.
Thus, we have a situation under which the Netherlands Government is subjected to one definition of obligations in the United Nations charter but has voluntarily entered on a wider programme; the Australian Government is subjected to the same obligation in respect of Papua and to a different and more specific obligation in respect of the Trust Territory of New Guinea - territories which we administer under the Administrative Union with a policy and an objective common to both - to bring the people as soon as we can to the point where they are able to make a free choice of their future, both in form of government and in international relationship.
What I think it important to point out is that there is no simple definition of the meaning of self-determination: For its precise meaning in relation to any dependent territory one must look to article 73 (b) of the charter and to any statements which the responsible administering power has made in explanation of the way in which it intends to put this obligation into effect.
I referred earlier to the main elements of Australian policy as recapitulated by the Prime Minister in April, 1961. Since April last several changes of the utmost importance have taken place in the attitudes of the parties principal - Indonesia and the Netherlands. These changes of attitude have been so fundamental that the situation itself has undergone a radical change. No discussion of the present situation or consideration of Australia’s attitude in the matter can properly take place without these events in mind and without observing the implications they involve.
In September, 1961, the Netherlands presented to the United Nations the dramatic proposal to pass to an international administration its declared role of preparing the 800,000 Papuan inhabitants for the exercise of self-determination, and to transfer the sovereignty of the territory to those inhabitants. The proposal, no doubt, resulted from the very great pressure which the very existence, but particularly the increasing intensity of the dispute with Indonesia, placed upon the Netherlands and from its desire to ensure, notwithstanding the growing pressure for early Netherlands withdrawal, that the inhabitants would have the opportunity to choose their own future.
The Netherlands had already entered upon a ten-year plan, to end in 1970, for stimulating the economic, social and cultural development ofthe territory; and had offered in 1960 to have the United Naitons scrutinize Netherlands administration of the territory. Legislation was passed in November, 1960, by the States General of the Netherlands - No. 5970 of 1960 - which recited the adoption of policies “ to accelerate the political development of West New Guinea aimed at selfgovernment “ and which provided for the creation of the Netherlands New Guinea Council. The council was in fact established in April, 1961, with a large majority of Papuan members. Immediately upon its establishment, the council was charged with making known to the Netherlands Government within twelve months its views as to the manner in which, and the possible desirability of fixing a term within which, selfgovernment was to be realized. These views were to be formulated against the background of the ten-year plan which was to end in 1970.
I might mention that the council reported on 16th February, 1962, that “ it was of the opinion that the year 1970 was the limit of the term within which self-determination could be exercised by the population of the Territory.”.
The Netherlands had indicated that the adoption of the ten-year plan did not mean that the Netherlands would necessarily retire from the territory upon its accomplishment. The Netherlands still asserted that it would remain until the process of bringing the indigenous people to a sufficient state of development to fit them for self-government and, if they chose it, for independence, was complete.
The proposal of September, 1961, however, to “ internationalize “ the administration of the territory of New Guinea was of a different order.
It appeared to presage a shorter period of preparation of the population for self-government and the attainment of independence. It seemed that it might well represent notice that the Netherlands was preparing to quit the territory at a much earlier date than had theretofore been envisaged.
I pause, if I might, to observe that the Netherlands programme of November, 1960, however suitable in West New Guinea involved an accelerated time-table which we would not feel justified in applying in our own New Guinea territory where we aim to endow the people with a reasonably developed economy and unified society when they take political control of their affairs. But the implications of the Netherlands proposal of September, 1961, by which West New Guinea might be set on its feet and depend on its own resources even earlier were wider than those of the accelerated programme which had preceded it - the more so if Indonesian goodwill and concurrence were not to be forthcoming. The full implications of a defenceless and economically unstable state of West New Guinea in such circumstances could not be left out of account.
Before continuing my recital of events since April, 1961, it might not be out of place for me to say that Australia intends to fulfil its voluntarily assumed obligation to the people of East New Guinea. Although, as the House is fully aware, that is a course which is now and will increasingly be burdensomely costly and devoid of any prospect of material gain, we shall carry on until the people are themselves fully capable of self-government and able to choose their future associations. In the midst of this dispute between the Netherlands and the Indonesians, it is right to reassure the people of our own territories of Papua-New Guinea that we shall stand by them and shall remain so long as they as a people wish that we should.
However, although aware of the potential difficulties to which I have called attention, the Government recognized that the proposal of the Netherlands to the United Nations was conceived as a means of giving the Papuans of West New Guinea a prospect of self-government and of freedom of choice, and did suggest a solution of the Dutch-Indonesian dispute which might well be accepted.
Meanwhile the Indonesian Government had strongly opposed these several developments. It took the view that the Indonesian people alone had the authority to form a national government in the territory. It claimed to see in the selfdetermination policy an attempt by the Netherlands to create a “ Katanga “ situation by separating from Indonesia a territory which it claimed should be Indonesian, an attempt at dismemberment. It saw the promotion of selfdetermination as the promotion of a separatist movement; it said that pursuit of the policy would “lead only to trouble in the future “ and that the policy must be opposed no matter by what means this was done. The Indonesian Government vowed its attachment to a policy described as economic, political, and military confrontation of the Netherlands. This policy was intended to achieve Indonesia’s demand for the incorporation in Indonesia of West New Guinea as portion of the former Dutch possessions, a portion which had not been included in the agreed transfer of sovereignty in 1949. In the United Nations discussion the Indonesian Government took the view that the Netherlands proposal completely ignored Indonesia’s claims, and it rejected the Netherlands proposal in emphatic terms.
The debate in the United Nations arising out of the Netherlands proposal was inconclusive. Competing resolutions unacceptable respectively to the Netherlands and to Indonesia failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority. It is worth recalling to the House the terms of the respective resolutions and the numbers, and the identity of the members of the United Nations who voted for or against them.
Three resolutions were introduced in the General Assembly. The texts of these, and the voting on them, were as follows: -
Netherlands Resolution “ The General Assembly
Recalling its resolution 1514 (XV) declaring, inter alia, that immediate steps shall be taken in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet obtained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
Considering the important role of the United Nations in assisting the development towards independence in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories,
Noting that Western New Guinea is administered under the terms of Chapter XI of the Charter and that the Administering Authority has declared that self-determination for the people of Western New Guinea in accordance with the principles of the Charter is the sole purpose of its policy,
Recognizing the paramount importance of respect for the principle of self-determination in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Noting also the statement that the Netherlands is preparedto implement resolution 1514 (XV) as promptly as possible, under the supervision and with the assistance of the United Nations, and for this purpose is prepared to transfer sovereignty to the people of the Territory,
Recognizing that the Territory concerned will for some time to come require international technical and economic assistance and guidance,
Nothing further that the Netherlands is prepared to agree that its present powers should, to the extent required for the above purpose, be exercised by an international organization or authority, with executive power, established by and operating under the United Nations,
Noting also that the Netherlands if prepared to continue its contribution to the development of the Territory on the basis of its present contribution until such time as may be decided upon in the future,
Recognizing that the future status of the Territory should be determined in accordance with the wishes of the population,
Recognizing the need for a full and impartial report on the present conditions in the Territory and on the possibilities of an early implementation of resolution 1514 (XV) with regard to the Territory,
Decides to set up a United Nations Commission for Netherlands New Guinea composed of … ;
Requests the Commission to investigate the possibilities of an early implementation of resolution 1514 (XV) in respect of Netherlands New Guinea and more specifically to this end to inquire into:
The political, economic, social and educational conditions in the Territory;
The opinion amongst the population as to its present situation and its future;
The possibility of organizing a plebiscite under the supervision of the United Nations in order to register the wishes of the population concerning their future, and the timing of the plebiscite;
The desirability and possibility of bringing the Territory, during the interim period, partially or wholly under the administration of an International Development Authority, established by and operating under the United Nations;
Request the Commission to report to the General Assembly at its seventeenth session;
Requests the Secretary-General to make available to the Commission the necessary staff and administrative facilities
During the debate the United States representative stated that the Netherlands proposals were imaginative and constructive, and that the United States could see no valid reason why selfdetermination should be denied the inhabitants of West New Guinea. On the other hand the Netherlands draft resolution did not sufficiently recognize the existence of Indonesia’s interest in the territory. The Assembly should not be asked to accept either the Netherlands or the Indonesian claim to sovereignty. The proper course was to ensure that the people of the area had an opportunity to express their own choice as to their political future under the aegis of the United Nations. During an interim period under United Nations administration, every reasonable opportunity should be provided to Indonesia to pursue its objective of achieving the integration of West New Guinea with Indonesia. The United States assumed that under such an administration Indonesia would have access to the area.
The Netherlands did not press for a vote after the resolution sponsored by a number of African countries failed to receive a two-thirds majority. The second of the resolutions to which I have referred reads -
Resolution sponsored by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Dahomey, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Upper Volta. “The General Assembly,
Recalling the principles set forth in its reso lution 1514 (XV) adopted on 14 December, 1960,
Recognizing that the territory of West New Guinea is the subject of a dispute between Indonesia and the Netherlands,
Believing that unless a satisfactory solution to this problem is found the situation created by this dispute is likely to endanger international peace and security,
Considering that a dispute of this nature can best be ended by a negotiated solution,
Believing that, failing an agreement between the parties, it is for the United Nations to implement measures calculated to bring about an equitable solution which will safeguard international peace and security,
Convinced, furthermore, that any solution which affects the final destiny of a NonSelfGoverning Territory must be based on the principle of self-determination of peoples in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,
Urges the Governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands to resume negotiations without delay with a view to reaching an agreement on the future of the territory of West New Guinea, without prejudice to respect for the will and self-determination of the peoples;
Requests the Secretary-General to use his good offices in the negotiations by taking, in relation to the two governments, all possible steps to facilitate the resumption and continuance of those negotiations;
Decides to establish a commission composed of five members appointed by the General Assembly on the proposal of its President;
Requests the Secretary-General to inform that Commission of the result of the negotiations by 1st March, 1962;
Instructs the Commission, if the parties have not reached a negotiated agreement by 1st March, 1962:
To carry out an investigation into the conditions prevailing in the territory;
To examine the possibilities of establishing, for an interim period, an international system for the administration and supervision of the territory;
To report to the General Assembly at its seventeenth session.
Declares that nothing in paragraph 5, sub-paragraph (b), shall prejudice the right of the population to decide, in the last resort, the status of the territory;
Requests the Secretary-General, in the case provided for in paragraph 5, to provide the Commission with the necessary staff, accommodation and administrative services.
A separate vote was first taken on the final preambular paragraph; convinced, furthermore, that any solution which affects the final destiny of a Non-Self-Governing Territory must be based on the principle of self-determination of peoples in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. The voting was 53 for; 36 against; 14 abstentions; which was short of the two-thirds majority required for adoption. Voting on the resolution as a whole amended by the deletion of the final preambular paragraph was as follows: -
In favour: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Dahomey, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Gabon, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama. Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Togo, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Against: Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Burma, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Cambodia, Ceylon, Congo (Leopoldville), Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia. Federation of Malaya, Ghana, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Rumania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, Yemen, Yugoslavia.
Abstaining: Austria, Ecuador, Guatemala, Iran, Japan, Laos, Portugal, South Africa, Turkey.
The result of the vote was 53 in favour, 41 against and nine abstentions.
The resolution was not adopted, having failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority. The third resolution was -
Indian Resolution: “The General Assembly,
Having considered the question of West
Irian (West New Guinea) in the general context of item 88, the situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples,
Having regard to the history of this question,
Considering that there is an unresolved dispute concerning West Irian between the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia,
Having heard the statements of the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia,
Being concerned that the continuance of this dispute may result in further worsening the relations between the two countries,
Bearing in mind the desirability of restoring normal friendly relations between the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia,
Believing that a peaceful and agreed solution of this problem is essential,
Urges the Governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands to engage themselves in further negotiations under the aegis of the President of the General Assembly with a view to finding a solution of this question in conformity with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter;
Requests the President to facilitate bilateral negotiations envisaged in paragraph 1 above under his auspices;
Requests the Governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands to co-operate in the implementation of paragraph 1 above, and to report to the United Nations General Assembly at its seventeenth session.”
Voting on the resolution was as follows: -
In favour: Albania, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burma, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Cambodia, Ceylon. Congo (Leopoldville), Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Federation of Malaya, Ghana. Guinea. Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordon, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, Yemen, Yugoslavia.
Against: Argentina, Australia. Belgium,
Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile. China, Colombia, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, Dahomey, Denmark, France, Gabon, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mauritania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain and NorthernIreland, United States of America.
Abstaining: Afghanistan, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Japan, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Somalia, Togo, Turkey, Upper Volta, Uruguay, Venezuela. (Liberia did not participate in the voting.)
The result of the vote was 41 in favour, 40 against and 21 abstentions.
The resolution was not adopted, having failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority.
Thus, in the result, the Netherlands withdrew its proposal in the face of flat Indonesian opposition to it - opposition which persisted even when the United States suggested the qualification that Indonesia should have access to the Papuans during the period of international administration.
Perhaps the most significant circumstance of the debate was that no Asian country supported the
Netherlands, only two voted for the “ French “ African resolution, and almost all supported Indonesia. It was thus made quite clear that, matters remaining as they were, no resolution in connexion with the dispute in any sense in opposition to the Indonesian point of view was likely to receive the support of the Asian members. Without that support no effective resolution could be carried.
Notwithstanding the impasse thus reached, the Netherlands indicated that it would continue to work for an international settlement of the dispute. At the same time the movement towards self-determination proceeded at a further accelerated pace. On 1st December, 1961, following a decision of the Netherlands New Guinea Council, a flag for the territory was flown and a territorial anthem sung publicly for the first time. The Indonesian Government for its part reiterated its demand that the territory be passed to Indonesian control and set forth in increasingly uncompromising terms its intention of enforcing compliance with that demand. ‘ It saw in the Netherlands Government permitting a Papuan flag and a Papuan anthem an attempt to forestall the possibility of Indonesian success by any means, peaceful or otherwise, in obtaining administration of the territory and an attempt to present Indonesia with an independent State of West New Guinea as a fait accompli. It thus felt that it had less time in which to pursue its demand.
On 19th December President Soekarno issued what was officially termed a people’s iri-command calling for readiness for general Indonesian mobilisation, for the unfurling in West New Guinea of the Indonesian Mag, and for the defeat of the formation of what the President called “ the puppet state of Papua “. The President’s statements indicated that a military enterprise against the Netherlands would be regarded as an exercise to “ liberate “ West Irian, as Indonesia consistently styles West New Guinea. It is not without significance that the Soviet leaders, in formulating their more recent views as to the possibility of co-existence between the Communist and the non-Communist world, have excepted from the proposition that war is not inevitable and should be avoided, wars of “ liberation “ which they applaud and are willing to encourage. Statements of the Communist bloc, both by the Soviet and by the Communist Chinese, have consistently indicated support for Indonesia, with promises of military aid, in any attempt to incorporate West New Guinea in the Republic of Indonesia by armed conflict, a course which both members of the bloc would regard as a war of liberation. 0, ,n . .
The President’s statement of December, 196L and subsequent statements of other Indonesian leaders were received by the Australian Government with the greatest disquiet. The Government entertained, and still entertains, the view that armed conflict in the- areas to the immediate north of Australia in connexion with this dispute would be most detrimental to the best interests of Australia - and that whether or not the conflict extended to involve the Communist powers, but particularly if it did, such conflict would both in the short and in the long run more likely than not ensure for the benefit of those powers and result in the spread of communism in . the ‘areas close to our shores. The Government was thus most concerned with Indonesia’s declarations of intention to resort to armed force -and in addition was shocked and dismayed that the President, should make these threats, having regard to the numerous solemn assurances , given . to Australia, .and also to the United Nations, that there would be no resort to force to enforce Indonesia’s claims to the territory of West New Guinea, Australia was the more concerned since the matter had so recently been the subject of consideration in the United Nations itself.
Having in mind the considerations that I have already mentioned, the Government on 30th December, 1961, publicly commended to both parties a negotiated settlement and took the opportunity not only to express its condemnation of any use of armed force but also to remind the Indonesian leaders of the solemn assurances which had been given to and accepted by Australia. It would be as well if the House had before it the statement which I then issued, and with the consent of the House, I incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
STATEMENT MADE BY THE MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ON SATURDAY, 30th DECEMBER, 1961. “ The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, said to-day that he fully realized the concern with which the Australian public viewed the present state of the controversy between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West New Guinea. Australians had welcomed and indeed relied upon the reiterated and unqualified declaration by Indonesian leaders that Indonesia would not resort to force in an endeavour to achieve its aims in West New Guinea. These declarations were made at times when the opportunities for and the prospects of negotiations of the rival points of view of Indonesia- and of the Netherlands were not as favorable as they are at the present time. Australia had indicated that there should be no armed conflict between two nations with both of whom it was friendly and that it regarded the issue between them as susceptible of a peaceful solution. “ Consequently Australians were shocked and dismayed that Indonesia should openly declare its intention to resort to force as a means of concluding the issue in its own favour. For any country to resort deliberately to bloodshed to gain such an objective could not fail to lose its respect and sympathy within the international community. Further, to introduce warfare and the abiding animosities which it was prone to generate into this hitherto peaceful region could create intolerable burdens for all the peoples of the area and for their descendants for generations to come. And not only was the threat or use of force expressly forbidden by the U.N. Charter but in this case the use of force would be a direct breach of faith with Australia having regard to the assurances which had been given at the highest level. “ The Minister said that along with all Australians he hoped that Indonesia and the Netherlands would enter such negotiations, preferably under the aegis of the United Nations in one form or another, and that they would both pursue these negotiations patiently to a conclusion satisfactory to themselves and to the community of nations. “The Minister pointed out that Australia was not a party principal in the dispute, but had, nonetheless, a great interest in the ability of the indigenous people of West New Guinea to have the ultimate choice of their own future whether it be for integration with Indonesia or for independence, with or without any relationship with the people of East New Guinea: Australia intended to lead the peoples for which it was at present responsible in East New Guinea to the point of exercising their own choice. It found it difficult to believe, particularly in the present state of world opinion, that Indonesia would wish ultimately to deny the people of West New Guinea a like opportunity for national choice. “ So far the Australian Government had not sought to interfere in the course pursued by either of the parties to the dispute. But the inescapable fact was that there was a threat of armed conflict between the disputants and possibly between others who would come to their support. The Minister said he had taken steps to convey to the Indonesian and Netherlands Governments respectively the Australian view that there should be no resort to force and that both governments should open negotiations without any preconditions but with neither party unmindful of the Charter principle that the indigenous people should ultimately be afforded an opportunity of choosing for themselves their future government and their international relationships. “ While the path to negotiation was open, as he believed it still was, the Minister thought it neither helpful nor appropriate to publicly canvass those courses of action which Australia might pursue in other eventualities. Apart from all else, Australians would recognize that in some, at least, of those eventualities, the interest and course of action of the governments of countries outside the immediate region would have great significance. “The Minister said that the Indonesian Ambassador had asked to see the Prime Minister personally and had done so this Saturday afternoon. The Prime Minister had conveyed to General Suadi the substance of the views set out in the Minister’s statement.”
I would like to point out to the House that the action thus taken by the Government was wholly in accord with our frequently enunciated policy in the West New Guinea dispute. It was wholly consistent with the Government’s statement of April 1961. On both occasions we said we opposed force; on both occasions we said that we had a great interest that the people of West New Guinea should ultimately choose their own future; and on both occasions we said that we stood for peaceful negotiation, though in April we recognized that it was for the Netherlands as the sovereign power to decide whether to negotiate or not, whereas in December we knew that the Netherlands was prepared to do so. We have reason to believe that the Government’s commendation of negotiations on 30th December, 1961, was welcomed by both parties and was not without consequence.
On 2nd January, 1962, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands indicated that his Government sought “ negotiation in a wider framework “, that it did not set the principle of self-determination as a pre-condition of negotiations, but that in any discussions it had to consider the interests of the population in the first place.
Arising out of the Government’s action of 30th December, 1961, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, appealed to us for understanding of the Indonesian position. I pointed out on 4th January, 1962, in a statement directed to that appeal, and plainly not a recapitulation of the total position of the Government, that the Australian Government’s commendation of a peaceful and patient negotiation sprang from an understanding of the Indonesian and of the Netherlands point of view, and that our attitude in the dispute, including our disapproval of the use of armed force and the threat of it, did not derive from any hostility towards Indonesia. The precise terms of my statement might be incorporated in “ Hansard “.
Shortly thereafter Cabinet undertook a most exhaustive review of the situation. Following that meeting the Prime Minister set out on behalf of the Government once more the firm principles guiding our approach to the dispute, and the consistent manner in which these principles were being applied to the developing situation. On 25th January, I declared publicly that the Government’s policy as stated by the Prime Minister on 12th January was unchanged. That declaration stands. The statements that were issued on 4th, 12th and 25th January, were as follows: -
STATEMENT MADE BY THE MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, ON THURSDAY, 4th JANUARY, 1962. “ The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, said to-day that he had no official confirmation of a published report that Indonesia had modified its claims to West New Guinea so as to make room for the eventual choice by Papuans of their own future. “ He said he hoped that the report had a sufficient foundation to indicate that the two parties would proceed to the conference table as he had suggested in his earlier statement. “ Referring to the hope expressed by Dr. Subandrio that Australia would understand Indonesia’s position, the Minister said that the Australian Government’s commendation of peaceful and patient negotiation to harmonize the respective views of Indonesia and of the Netherlands sprang, not from any misunderstanding of the Indonesian position, but rather from an understanding both of the Indonesian and of the Netherlands points of view. “ As long ago as the occasion of Dr. Subandrio’s visit to Australia, the Australian Government told the Indonesian Government that it would respect an agreement in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter made by Indonesia with the Netherlands in their dispute over West New Guinea provided that agreement was arrived at freely, not under duress or the threat of force. “ Sir Garfield said that Australia had demonstrated in many ways its desire to promote and maintain the friendliest relations with the people of Indonesia and the Government did not underestimate the value of Indonesian friendship or of the continuance of peaceful relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. “ He said he desired to make it clear that neither his comment on the declared intention to resort to force nor the commendation of negotiation without pre-conditions was made in any spirit of hostility towards Indonesia. “ Australia was unquestionably opposed to the use of force to settle international issues and was devoted to the peaceful solution of international problems. Indeed, it was with respect to the use of force that the Indonesian Government had sought from the Prime Minister and had received Australia’s views. “ Australia was anxious that the real opportunities and prospects for successful negotiation which now exist should not be lost. “The Minister emphasized that there was no present occasion for inflammatory or exaggerated statements as to the effect of the dispute on Australia. In particular, Sir Garfield said that he saw no evidence whatever of any present threat to Australia or to any Australian territorial interest. “ He felt sure that Australians realized the great importance of inducing a calm atmosphere in which both nations, with each of whom Australia was friendly, should be able to pursue their negotiations.”
STATEMENT MADE BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE RIGHT HON. R. G. MENZIES, ON FRIDAY, 12lh JANUARY, 1962. “ 1. The Cabinet has devoted a long time to a review of the more recent developments affecting Indonesia and West New Guinea. It was greatly assisted by a full factual review submitted by the Minister for External Affairs. The President of Indonesia has not only repeated his nation’s claims to the sovereignty of West New Guinea, but has made statements of intention to assert those claims by force of arms unless the Netherlands gives ground. “ 2. We are not a party principal to this dispute, but we have a lively interest in its settlement. As good friends and neighbours of the Dutch, and good friends and neighbours of the Indonesians, our great desire is for a peaceful settlement, not one compelled by threat or duress. “ 3. Looking at the matter in a world setting, we point out that the Charter of the United Nations requires the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and imposes obligations upon member nations to refrain from the threat or use of arms for the enforcement of territorial claims. “4. Australia, as a loyal member of the United Nations and as a nation vitally concerned with the preservation of peace in South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific, believes that it is essential for civilization that all nations should settle any differences by negotiation and not by force or the threat of force. “ 5. In the matter of West New Guinea, we have repeatedly made it clear that should the Nether lands and Indonesia come to an agreement, without force or duress, we would respect that agreement; and that we were and are deeply attached to the attainment by- under-developed peoples, after adequate and helpful preparation,, of the right to choose their own future. We ourselves have for many years followed and will, of course, continue to follow these ideas in the Australian territory of Papua and the Australian Trust Territory of New Guinea. “ 6. Our support of these ideas is not based upon hostility to any other nation, for we wish to live at peace with all. In our own case, we apply them out of a humane desire to raise the standards of living and of government among people for whom we feel a great moral responsibility. “ 7. We were on more than one occasion pleased to receive and to accept from the Government of Indonesia explicit assurances that arms would not be employed to enforce territorial claims to West New Guinea, and that Indonesia did not and would not make any claim to that portion of Papua and New Guinea for which we have direct responsibility. We feel that we are entitled to rely upon the performance of those assurances, to which we have attached and still attach the greatest importance. “ 8. We are reluctant to believe that the threats of war now being made by the Indonesian Government, in breach of these assurances, arc to be followed by action. War in this corner of the world is quite unnecessary, for the doors to free negotiation are wide open. Such a war would solve no problems, but would create animosities from which nobody except the Communist powers could profit. The paramount interests of the people of New Guinea, both West and East, and indeed of South-East Asia generally, cannot be served but must be damaged by war. “ 9. This is not a time for either bellicose or extravagant comments. The Government of Australia simply says that it recognizes and will discharge its prime responsibility for the security of Australia, its territories and its people. Having regard not only to our treaty rights and responsibilities but also to the hard facts of international life, we act in close consultation with the great free powers, particularly Great Britain and the United States of America. No responsible Australian would wish to see any action affecting the safety of Australia on the issues of war or peace in this area except in concert with our great and powerful friends. “ 10. It is for this reason that we are in constant contact with London and Washington and the United Nations Head-quarters, steadfastly maintaining the basic principle that the peaceful settlement Of disputes is the central theme and the supreme mission of the United Nations and indeed of any civilized order in the world, and that we are therefore deeply anxious that the West New Guinea problem should be resolved by negotiation, not under threat, but with a desire to do the best for the human beings who make up the population of the disputed territory. “11. We are constantly exploring with our principal allies the possibilities of securing United Nations activities in bringing about free negotiation and a peaceful settlement.”
STATEMENT MADE BY THE MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ON THURSDAY, 25th JANUARY, 1962. “The Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick, referred to-day to reports claiming that the Australian Government was due to change its attitude on the West New Guinea issue. ‘ These reports, acknowledged to be unofficial, are speculative ‘, Sir Garfield said. ‘ The Government’s position in respect of the dipute was set out in a statement made in Canberra by the Prime Minister on January 12th after Cabinet had discussed the matter. That statement makes it clear that the Government desires settlement of the dispute by peaceful means and not under duress or threat of war. The Prime Minister’s statement also makes it clear that Australia pre-eminently desires that the Papuans of West New Guinea should, in due course, be given the right to choose their own future. The Government has made no other decision. “ In conformity with this unchanged policy, on the one hand steps have been taken to persuade the parties to go to the conference table, and on the other the Government has expressed its disapproval of resort to war or threats of war. However, the ultimate resolution of the matter is one for the parties themselves with the assistance, the Australian Government hopes, of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. Australia, not being a party principal to the dispute, is not itself involved in these negotiations. It has made it abundantly clear that it will respect the voluntary agreement of the parties in conformity with the principles of the Charter’.”
I should like at this point to invite the attention of honorable members to suggestions made in some quarters that Australia should initiate action in the United Nations to ensure the application of Charter principles in the case of West New Guinea. The House will be aware of important changes in the composition and complexion of the United Nations, resulting from its greatly expanded membership in recent years. In 1945 there were 51 members. By 1957 the number had grown to 82. To-day the United Nations numbers 104 sovereign states. The great majority of the new membership is made up of countries which have newly achieved independence. Australia has welcomed their accession to independence and has voted consistently in favour of their admission to the United Nations. Australia believes that the new members have it in their hands to make important contributions to the work of the world organization and to strengthen the purposes and principles for which it stands.
At the same time, it is a simple fact of international life to-day that many of the new nations which have lately emerged from colonial rule quite understandably bring to the consideration of problems which have colonial aspects attitudes strongly influenced by past experience. In this they are under constant pressure and incitement from the Communist powers who see in the colonial question an instrument for the advancement of their own interests. In the presence of strong anti-colonial attitudes and the desire to maintain the territorial integrity of newly independent nations, the principles of self-determina tion are apt to receive less emphasis and indeed to be regarded as merely competitive with, and certainly not paramount to, what are considered to be the necessities and urgencies of anticolonialism.
This is not the place to discuss the apparent trends in the interpretation of the charter but it will not have escaped the notice of honorable members that there is a growing tendency to argue that sanctions may be imposed in the name of anti-colonialism - even resort to armed force for the purpose of “ liberation “ - that word of glorious history with which some countries try to justify acts of conquest or dispossession.
In such a situation, Australia must view the political realities clearly, without self-delusion that the organization is the same as it was in 1945. The relevance of the voting upon the Netherlands proposal will not escape the House.
There seems to be little point in courting the exercise of a veto by the Soviet Union in the Security Council, and whilst other possibilities of peacefully resolving the dispute remain open, we might well avoid presenting the Assembly with risks of a failure to resolve, or of an unsatisfactory resolution of, the dispute. It is not without significance that neither of the parties, nor any member of the organization, has seen fit to refer this dispute either to the Security Council or to the Assembly. Nonetheless, the desirability or otherwise of a reference to the United Nations has been considered carefully by the Government at each stage of the developing situation, and it has maintained regular diplomatic contact with our allies and friends in the United Nations in relation to the suitability and timing of a reference of the dispute to the organization.
I have felt compelled to say these things lest there may be a too facile belief in the efficacy of a reference of the West New Guinea dispute to the United Nations, but this does not mean that we should take a too tragic view of the effectiveness of the United Nations in the long term. We believe - and the record of the 16th Session gives a firm foundation for this belief - in the basic good sense and good faith of the great majority of the non-Communist members of the United Nations, and we believe that in general, policies which combine patience and moderation, with a firm attachment to principle, will come to command the support of the great majority of the members of the organization.
Australia’s support of the United Nations has never been in question. We have taken and will always take, our Charter responsibilities seriously. We have shown, and will continue to show in practical ways the high importance we attach to maintaining it as an effective instrument for the preservation of international peace and security, and for the economic and social advance of mankind.
I take leave now to refer to another matter. At one stage there were suggestions in certain quarters that this Government should not only publicly address itself to the situation which would arise in the event of hostilities but also make public commitments about what it would do in that event. In addition to what I have already said, there are two observations here to be made -
There can be no mistake about where we stand on this issue of force. No country has emphasized so consistently or so often in public statement and in private diplomacy the paramount need of removing any danger of a breach of the peace in our area. To this end we have addressed ourselves to the parties to the dispute, and in particular to Indonesia, and to our allies in this region.
I have traced for the House some of the events which have occurred since the visit of General Nasution last year. I have indicated to the House some of the considerations which must be in mind in the discussion of the dispute and of our attitude to it.
The Government has continued to press upon the parties that the paramount interests of all the people concerned is that there should be a just and peaceful settlement. It has continued to press very strongly, through dip lomatic channels, that the parties negotiate and that force be not resorted to, nor threat of it preclude or prejudice negotiations. For too long war-like threats were employed. Not the least of the dangers of such a course is that in arousing great emotion an atmosphere may be created in which negotiation becomes impossible. The deliberate parading of military potential in support of a political and diplomatic objective, even where that objective is sought urgently and with great emotion and conviction of its justice and justification, is not to be condoned. This Government condemns it.
But at the same time such a parade is not to be taken as a certain sign of crisis. Still less should it be taken as an occasion for bellicose statements which can only exacerbate the tensions of the moment and needlessly damage the goodwill we seek with our neighbours and with their and our friends of Asia. In all this Australians must not lose sight of our major interest in reducing the spread of communism to our north-west, in preventing hostilities in an area so proximateto our shore, and in promoting and extending our friendship with the people of Indonesia, with whom we desire to live, through the generations, in terms of good neighbourliness, both peoples, we would hope, bent on arresting the southward thrust of communism.
As 1 said on the 4th January, what is required is a calm atmosphere in which the parlies may advance peacefully to a negotiated agreement to resolve the dispute.
I would like, in making this statement to the House, to emphasize to both the parties that they should approach the negotiating table with goodwill, patience and flexibility, eschewing rigid altitudes which preclude progress. Each party, neither being excepted, carries a heavy responsibility not to remain obdurate and thus to expose the peoples of this area to hostilities, either as an incident, or as a means of the resolution, of the dispute. The enduring consequences, as well as the immediate risk of extension, of such hostilities, make imperative demands upon the parties to leave no stone unturned in the endeavour to reach a negotiated solution.
Australia, both under the prior Administration, and under the present Government, has made it perfectly clear that it regards the future of West New Guinea as a matter” for the determination of Indonesia and the Netherlands. I take leave, however, once more to say that Australia wants to see self-determination in New Guinea and to impress on both parties that whatever the outcome as to the immediate administration of the territory, the course which has already been commenced towards self-government and free choice of their future for the Papuan population of West New Guinea should be maintained. Indeed, the parties, both of them, might well recognize that the legitimate aspirations of the Papuans themselves have been so far aroused that, no matter how other circumstances may change their aspirations, they are likely now to persist with increasing strength until the day of their satisfaction.
The present situation is most delicate and most complicated. It is, on appearances, a paradoxical situation. On the one hand there are threats of force and apparent preparations for its use and for defence against its use. On the other hand, these activities are accompanied by avowals by the parties principal that hostilities are not desired or intended, and by expressions of optimism that a peaceful settlement will be reached and, indeed, that progress is being made towards such a settlement.
Negotiations proper have not yet begun, but there have been separate discussions with the Dutch ‘ and the Indonesians by U Thant and others and various informal contacts. The search for a basis for negotiations is continuing and there are improved prospects of the parties coming together in the reasonably near future for substantive discussions.
Public statements in the last few days by the two Governments indicate that they have now agreed to enter secret preliminary discussions. The Australian Government welcomes this agreement wholeheartedly and hopes it may constitute a significant step towards a just and peaceful settlement. For the Australian Government’s own part this development confirms it in its view of the wisdom of the policy which it has adopted towards the dispute and which I have just now recapitulated to honorable members. But progress will require not only goodwill but great discretion on the part of both Governments. In Indonesia and the Netherlands, national interests and public sentiment are high; and the two governments have no diplomatic relations. The procedure they are now apparently adopting - and it seems a wise one - is to explore in private and without publicity the possibilities of agreement. In these circumstances the absence of public evidence will not necessarily mean that progress is not in effect being made towards a settlement. This Government will of course keep the House as fully informed as circumstances allow consistent with its obligations to preserve the confidence of the two governments.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Netherlands-Indonesian Dispute - Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated 15th March, 1962- and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 573).
. - Prior to the adjournment of this debate I said that the Australian Labour Party welcomed the bill. I said also that, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in 1959 when he introduced the Commonwealth Banks Bill, the Development Bank is an amalgamation of what was the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank. It is true that there have been some alterations. In the original measure establishing the bank, there is a safeguard for the protection of private banks. One would readily expect that, because many of my friends opposite would not be here but for the finance and work of the private banks. The act prohibits the Development Bank from dealing with people with whom the private banks want to deal. The Development Bank is told, in effect, that it need not be much concerned about the securities offered; that it must be prepared to lend money after having had a look at the applicant and judging whether he is likely to make a success of his undertaking. If the bank believes that he will be successful, it is to give him the money and, in effect, wish him godspeed. That, of course, has never been the principle of a private bank. The first thought of private banks is whether the security offered is adequate.
– They would not last long if they did not take that attitude.
– But there is no need to adopt that attitude when the people’s money is involved. Government supporters do not care what they do wth the people’s money.
– Do not worry about that!
– They do not care. In the case of the Development Bank, security is not a consideration. The bank is required to have a look at the applicant. If his eyeballs are all right, he is a likely looking fellow, and there is some chance of his success, he gets the money.
– You would not have much hope, would you?
– If it came to looks, the honorable senator and I would nearly have a photo finish. The Government, also, has made the private banks agents of the Development Bank. Before this bank was established, private banks usually sent clients to their hire-purchase departments. If a person were badly in need of money, he would just have to pay interest at the flat rate of 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, which, as every one knows, works out over a period of years at 16 per cent, or 17 per cent., or sometimes more.
We welcome the bill and we ask why the Government does not place the Development Bank in the same position as a private bank, which can lend money to any person engaged in primary production or, in fact, to any person who, for instance, needs machinery to help him either in primary production or in an industrial enterprise. There is nothing in the legislation to prevent the bank from lending money to city industrial concerns that cannot obtain money elsewhere.
The act gives the bank the right to receive money on deposit. I should like the Minister, when replying, to state the number of depositors and the gross amount deposited with the Development Bank. The latest report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation does not show these figures. The bank is told that it cannot have as a client a person who can get elsewhere the money that he requires. A person who can be induced to go along to the hire-purchase departments of private banks is not likely to be passed up by them. Altogether, the Government has done as much as it could do to circumscribe the Development Bank. I believe that but for the Country Party there would be no Development Bank. To be quite candid, I could not see the Liberal section of the Government establishing such a bank.
As far as I can ascertain, the present capital of the Development Bank is £21,700,000, and its liabilities total £45,000,000. But the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the capital of which is £11,300,000, has liabilities of £360,000,000. This situation, I think, requires some explanation by the Minister. Senator Wright is concerned about the interest rate. The Government has the final say on the bank interest rate within the nation. It can decide what the rate is to be. Seemingly, in this instance, it has fixed the rate at about 6 per cent, or 7 per cent. I understand that the average rate charged by the Development Bank is 6£ per cent., but I agree that if this bank were allowed to operate in the same manner as other banks, the interest rates could be reduced. That would mean providing the bank with a much larger amount of money for lending purposes. I think everybody will agree that interest payments are a crippling cost to the farmer. Admittedly, the farmer must rely on the seasons for the success or otherwise of his labours. But he seems to be in the hands of banks much more than other persons in the community. In view of the state of our overseas balances, I think it would be a good thing if the farmer could obtain loans at lower rates of interest.
The farmer does not like to be forced to borrow money and he finds himself in his present predicament because of the action of this Government in removing all economic controls. I marvel how any young man to-day can contemplate going on the land. How much would he need to set himself up on a property? It would cost thousands to set him up in wheat growing or sheep raising in Victoria. I venture to suggest that the cost of placing a yong man on the land with any hope of making a success of the venture, taking into account the seasons, would be as high as £15,000 or £20,000. The small holdings in Victoria that were created by breaking up the very big stations are being merged into big holdings. No one wants that to happen, but the cost factor is forcing the amalgamation of small holdings. The Government must accept a lot of the blame for what is happening because it has placed votes before principles. It removed economic controls. It would cost a very great deal of money to place a young man on the land to-day and give him an even chance of success.
The Labour Party wants the Development Bank to expand so that it will be able to compete successfully against the fringe banking institutions. The Government, while it can fix bank interest rates, will not attempt to alter the Constitution in order to gain power over the fringe banking institutions. As was pointed out by Senator DrakeBrockman and other honorable senators, interest rates charged by fringe banking institutions are much higher than those charged by the orthodox banks. I class as fringe banking institutions the huge corporations - the insurance companies and the big woolbrokers, such as Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited, New Zealand Loan and. Mercantile Agency Company Limited and a number of others.
– Dalgety and Company Limited, I suppose?
– Yes, all of them. No government has any control over the interest rates that they can charge.
To-day Victoria is suffering one of the dryest periods in its history. A tribute should be paid to the persons responsible for controlling Victoria’s water resources for having so organized things as to allow the metropolitan area to use the amount of water that it is permitted to use, having regard to the very small amount of rain that has fallen in the last six months. The dry conditions are also affecting the country areas. It is true that wheat planting may be delayed for a few weeks yet, but the lack of rain is causing a great deal of concern to people who want to grow grass for fodder. If the farmer is forced to buy fodder in order to hold his stock rather than sell it at depressed prices, he will need to raise money.
Undoubtedly, the farmers would like to obtain their finance from the Commonwealth
Development Bank, but the bank cannot lend money to them if they are able to obtain their requirements from private banks. Any farmer who obtains his finance from the Development Bank will get a better deal than he would have obtained from a private bank. But how many people will the extra capital of £5,000,000 accommodate? In the financial year ended 30th June, 1961, the bank approved loans to 2,060 persons. Of that number 961 persons sought loans of amounts between £2,001 and £5,000. The total value of loans to those 961 persons was £3,348,000. Of the 961 successful applications for loans between £2,001 and £5,000, 53 were for industrial purposes.
The Commonwealth Development Bank should be given every encouragement. I should like to see it become the main banking institution for our primary producers. Everybody knows that rural borrowers may obtain money from hire-purchase companies at Ai per cent. - a flat rate of interest - for the purchase of farm implements. I know that it adds up to between 12 per cent, and 14 per cent, by the time the loan is paid back.
– It is between 9 per cent, and 9i per cent.
– I was given those figures by a man who has taken out a loan. He is a member of another place, and I thought he would know. However, I am delighted that it is 9 per cent, or 9i per cent. That makes a great difference to those who cannot come within the ambit of the bank’s loans. If this nation wants anything to-day, it wants production, particularly of those products that can be exported. Therefore, we should enlarge the capital of the Development Bank when additional capital is needed. This is its second enlargement by the Government in this financial year, but I should like the Government, when it considers this legislation in the future, to take away many of the impediments that can stop primary producers from obtaining loans from the bank.
In the main, primary producers are unfortunate people because they get the rough end of the stick. We in the cities, with our unions, do not get all we want, but we look after ourselves. There are ways of doing this, though some honorable senators might not like them. However, if we think we can win, we do not argue about the way in which we should achieve our objective, if we think we are entitled to strive for it. I do not disagree with that, but the farmer is not in the same position. He has to put up with a lot of things. It is true that the Government looks after the wheat farmer to some extent by guaranteeing the cost of production of 100,000,000 bushels for the export trade. A sum of £13,500,000 goes each year to the dairy industry, but not necessarily to the dairy farmers. The consumers get a fair share of it, because if the subsidy were not provided and they had to pay the cost of production of butter they would pay a great deal more for it than they now pay.
– Most of them would use margarine.
– People use margarine only because butter has been priced out of the market. I recall that when I spoke on this subject a couple of years ago I went to the trouble to ascertain the amount of butter consumed per head in Australia at that time compared with consumption ten years previously. The drop in consumption really surprised me. It is silly to say that any person, whoever he is, would eat margarine if he could get butter. The only thing that prevents people from buying butter is the cost of production.
I would not say that wool-growers are in a bad plight at the moment, but they are not far from it. The wool industry will doubtless be in trouble if nothing is done to prevent the operation of pies, irrespective of the proposals contained in the recent report of the committee of inquiry on that industry. The Government can give that report away as far as its helping the woolgrower is concerned. I read in one newspaper - it was not the “Sydney Morning Herald “; it was an evening newspaper in Sydney, for what that is worth - that the wool-growers are complaining very bitterly about the recent wool sales. Honorable senators opposite can place as much reliance on that report as they wish. I am always a bit careful about accepting the accuracy of these reports, but I read this one with interest because it dealt with a matter that is of grave concern to Australia. It stated that the Japanese are still operating pies at the New South Wales wool sales. I do not say that the report’ is right or wrong; I was not present at the sales. But the allegation is serious enough for some of us to try to find out whether or not it is true.
When the Senate is considering an amendment to this legislation one has an opportunity to study Australia’s rural industries. Though some of them are being helped, others are not. Meat seems to be holding its own at the moment, and let us hope it will continue to do so. But the observations that have been made about this industry and other primary industries have not taken into consideration what may happen if, as seems certain, the United Kingdom joins the European Common Market. Unfortunately for Australia, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), according to reports of his visit to the United States of America, has not met with much success. So Australia seems to be in rather a bad position; we do not seem to be holding the sixteen alley, if I may use that term. Last year’s report of the work of the Development Bank is most interesting. One portion of it states -
In determining whether or not to make finance available, the Development Bank is required to have regard primarily to the prospects of the borrowers’ operations being successful and not necessarily to the value of the security available to support the loan. While the Bank seems to obtain the best security available for its loans, it nevertheless attaches primary importance to efficiency, managerial capacity and integrity of applicants, as well as their capacity to repay their borrowings within a reasonable time.
I agree with what Senator Drake-Brockman said about short-term loans. Having a little knowledge of rural industries in my own State, I quite agree that the lending of money for a few short months would be of no great advantage to a person who wants to develop a rural property. It might tide him over until he sells his fat lambs or gets his wool cheque, but for the real development of his property he needs a loan for a reasonable period. Private banks are a bit wary and want to know what is most likely to happen, being concerned, as they always are, with only one thing - the profit motive. They might think that confidence will be restored. All of us, as Australians, hope that it will be. The people will then start to buy. In the main people buy to-day only on hire purchase. It is rather worrying to see the receipts of the savings banks going up and the hire-purchase debt going down and down, because that is not good for the economy of the country. People got into the frame of mind - I do not altogether agree with it - that it was good to earn as much as you could and to owe twice as much as you earned. I was never brought up to believe that that was a good thing, but in my younger days life was a lot tougher than it is now. The difficulty then was to find some one to owe money to.
I do not want to bring politics into this matter, but I must say that the credit squeeze imposed by the Government has had an effect on this bank. The credit squeeze was put into operation by the Government in the days when it had the idea that it would run everything in the nation. According to the report I have mentioned, the credit squeeze, as I have said, has had an effect on this bank. The report states -
During the year the bank was required to observe qualitative and quantitative restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of Australia in its supervision of the banking system as a whole, for it must be realized that the law, as it stands, requires that the Development Bank shall be subject to controls similar to those applicable to any other bank.
I suggest to the Government that the next time it has a look at the banking legislation it should consider removing the Development Bank from these controls, so that the production of our rural industries will not be adversely affected if the Government again applies remedies that do not have the desired effect. I do not know whether the Government believes that it is helping the people who run this bank as much as possible. The report states -
Full use of the Bank’s present resources is being made, and it is already clear that in the national interest the present resources will require to be augmented substantially.
Does the Government work these things out on a percentage basis Did it say on this occasion that the bank had a capital of about £21,000,000, and the addition of £5,000,000 would mean an increase of capital by about 25 per cent.? Does the Government agree that this is a substantial increase? I hope the Minister will answer those questions later. I believe that the amount should be greater than it is.
I am pleased to see from page 33 of the report that this bank made a profit. I am always delighted when I see that an enterprise owned by the nation has made a profit. I do not want the bank to make huge profits, but you cannot run these things on air, so to speak. Anyhow, I cannot do that in a little thing that I am interested in. The report states -
Profit for the year ended 30lh June, 1961, after providing for contingencies amounted to £611,590. This was an increase of £29,555 on the comparable figure for 1959-60 (which included profit on the business taken over from the Industrial Finance and Mortgage Bank Departments of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia on 14th January, I960).
I hope that the Minister will answer the two queries I have posed. The act gives the bank the right to accept deposits. My first question is: How many deposits have been accepted and what is the aggregate value? My second question is: Does the Government think that, in view of the success of the bank, it should take off the shackles and give the bank an open go, providing it with plenty of money? 1 do not mind if the Government says that the bank has been established only to help rural industry and those secondary industries, a portion of whose production can be exported. If the Minister will answer those questions I will be very pleased.
– I cannot allow this opportunity to go by without saying a few words on this measure in support of the Government. I do not think that what I have to say has been mentioned by any one to whom I have listened. This is one of the measures which were forecast in the Governor-General’s Speech. It is being brought down by the Government in an endeavour to relieve the present unemployment position. The Governor-General said that an amount of £5,000,000 would be allocated to the Development Bank by way of capital so that the bank could make advances for developmental purposes, both rural and industrial.
I have no doubt that when this bill is passed many of the applicants who will receive advances will convert their money into man-hours, as it were. Many people now unemployed will be employed in helping to develop industries and properties. I, for one, am pleased to be associated with a measure designed to help the development of Australia. It can be fairly said that the Development Bank is playing - an ever-increasing role in the development of this country. Before an applicant can obtain an advance from this bank for developmental purposes, he must have been refused, an advance by a private trading bank or other money-lending institution.
I think that in the old days (he trading banks assisted persons on rural properties to a much greater extent than they are doing at present. I can say with safety that 20 or 30 years ago private trading banks had a much greater part in the banking structure of Australia than at the present time. 1 have read that in the last year or so the amount of capital provided for the community by the private trading banks has dropped from about 50 per cent, to about 25 or 30 per cent, and that more and more finance is being obtained from the fringe banking institutions.
With the large-scale development that is taking place, it is essential that farmers who require finance should be able to obtain it. Evidently the best method of obtaining finance, in the initial stages anyway, is through the Development Bank. Largescale development is taking place throughout Australia, but particularly in Western Australia. Over the last three years the Government of that State has thrown open new areas of land at the rate of about 1,000,000 acres a year. We should realize the need for finance to develop those areas. Some completely new areas are being taken up. Usually those areas are allocated by the State Government through a board to people who can show that board that they can provide sufficient finance for at least the initial stage of the development of their properties.
In 1949-50, in the southern part of Western Australia many people, with the best intentions in the world, took up blocks of 2,000, 3,000 or 5,000 acres with about £4,000 or £5,000 to invest. They spent that money on their properties in clearing the land and buying plant. Then they ran out of money. They did not have enough money to buy seed and superphosphate for the first year’s operations. The then State government made finance available through the State Treasury. Those advances were administered by the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia in order to help those people carry on with the development of their properties. Finance amounting to £2,000 or £3,000 per settler was made available.
The spending of that money achieved the desired result of enabling those farmers to plant their crops and take them off. The result is that the farmers are still on their properties, whereas if that finance had not been made available they would not have been able to carry on and their properties would have been sold up. Since that time the State Government, through the Rural and Industries Bank, has made finance amounting to more than £100,000 a year available to farmers in those areas in special circumstances. The farmer is not required to pay interest for the first three years or to repay the capital for five years. If we want to put people without finance in new areas that is the type of finance that will have to be provided by the Development Bank.
Senator Kennelly said that he did not want to engage in party political tactics, but felt bound to say that the financial policy of the Development Bank was restricted by the Government through the Reserve Bank of Australia. He quoted various statements to that effect. I do not deny that for one moment. That was mentioned in the report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. In the introduction on page 5 of that report it is stated that Australia had quite a degree of inflation when those restrictions were imposed. I quote the following passage from the report: -
By the end of 1960-61, inflationary tendencies arising from excess demand had almost disappeared . . .
That means that after the Government’s restrictive credit policies had been in force, by the end of that year the inflationary tendencies had almost disappeared. The report continues - . . and the balance of payments outlook was considerably improved. However, production in certain sectors, particularly of some building materials, textiles, motor cars and durable consumer goods, was depressed through falling demand and unemployment had risen very significantly.
The report goes on to refer to the balanceofpayments position. It shows that in the year 1959-60 Australia had a net trading deficit of £219,000,000. The report says that Australia faced a very bad result. However, the Government took the right steps to correct the economic trends at that time, harsh as those steps were. It appears that the steps that the Government took on that occasion had the desired effect.
The report of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation also mentions one other matter to which I should like to refer before I conclude my speech. I believe it should be mentioned. The Development Bank supplies technical officers to advise people engaged in various industries on the best ways of conducting their businesses. Although it is specifically stated that the bank makes finance available for mining, I believe that its capacity to do so is very limited. The limitation is not so much on the finance as on the ability of technical officers to assess whether or not the bank should make finance available to a particular project. I strongly urge the Government to suggest that the Development Bank endeavour to obtain technical officers who are associated with and know the mining industry so that those officers can go out and investigate particular mining jobs and possibilities.
In my travels throughout Australia, I have come to know of quite a few people who have every chance of success but who cannot find the money to install the necessary plant. I know that some people will say that that is a job for a company; but as you know, Mr. President, no one has money to invest in ventures such as goldmining prospects in the north of Western Australia. People can invest their capital at 7, 8 and 9 per cent., and at 7 per cent, with a good deal of security. Such risk capital is not available at the moment. I could take honorable senators to places in the north of Western Australia which have large deposits that could be worked. They have been assayed and there are thousands and thousands of tons of ore that will average an ounce of gold to a ton of ore. I think those deposits should be exploited. There are many other matters that I should like to discuss, but the hour is late. I conclude by commending the Government on its action in stepping up the capital of this most important bank by £10,000,000 this year. I understand that that represents an increase in the capital of the bank of almost 40 per cent. As further finance is required, I am sure that the Government will see that it is forthcoming. I support the bill.
– lt is gratifying to the Australian Labour Party to see that the Government is again following the advice of the party regarding the Commonwealth Development Bank. It is also gratifying to know that the Government parties, particularly the Australian Country Party, are hanging ontenaciously to the great banking structure that was founded and developed by the Labour Party - the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Nobody can speak in other than the highest terms of the service that the Commonwealth Bank has given to Australia ever since its inception. To see a government of the character of the present Administration lauding, in small measure at this stage, of course, the efficiency and the value of the service of and the great necessity for, the Commonwealth Bank is indeed encouraging. But the Government has not stopped there, of course. It is carrying on the semi-nationalization of the private banks. To see the Government relying, to a large extent, on the Commonwealth Bank to save it from economic pressure is really good.
When a similar transfusion of £5,000,000 in the capital of the Development Bank was made at the end of last year, I think I said at the time that it was a puny effort in relation to the magnitude of the developmental needs of a country with as much potential as Australia has, but that nevertheless it was a step in the right direction. If it is the true function of the Development Bank to assist industries that are screaming out for development, then the provision of £5,000,000 on this occasion is the very least that should be done. As a matter of fact, if the business of development was to be dealt with on a really national scale, this bank would have to be expanded immensely.
There is one factor about this legislation that intrigues me. I know that Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was Treasurer, was very keen on the establishment of a Development Bank. The Country Party has wanted to see such a bank established and has pursued the matter. After the attempt that was made in 1961 to put the bank on an operational footing, the Minister for Trade and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) went about the country promising rural industries and those engaged in them that if they were suffering embarrassment because of a lack of finance - to develop their undertakings, or if they - had been badly treated because of the financial credit squeeze imposed by the Government, he would see to it, through the medium of the Development Bank, that they obtained the relief they sought. I should like to know whether the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of the bill, would be kind enough to let me have figures showing how many applications were made to the bank for assistance and how many were refused, together with the number of instances in which the bank took over the liabilities of persons who had been seriously hurt financially because of the pressure of the credit squeeze. No doubt many of those who suffered financial embarrassment because they could not borrow from the Development Bank for development purposes, submitted applications to the private banks which, in turn, sent them on to their susidiaries. As we know, the private banks conduct an illicit type of money lending by means of institutions which carry on business done by registered money lenders under the money lenders acts in the States. Those institutions operate under the auspices of the banks.
I have had several cases submitted to me concerning people who had written to Mr. McEwen and had their cases examined by the Development Bank, but who were unable to obtain assistance from the bank. In one case, I went to the trouble of obtaining from the individual who had made such an application the name of the bank with which he had transacted his business. It was a private bank. The bank said that, although his personal integrity was high and he was a hard worker, it was not within its power to assist him, though it gave him a very good reference. The case was referred to Mr. McEwen, who has political influence/ of course, and who had promised iri the first place that he would see that finance was made available in such circumstances. The person concerned went back to the Development Bank, only to be told: “ We cannot change our decision. It was made properly and honestly according to the policy on which ve are obliged to operate. But, of course., Mr. McEwen or the
Treasurer might give other directions,” The matter went back to Mr. McEwen and to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), but a reply ultimately came back that nothing could be done. Yet, this was a hardworking man who was engaged in a developmental project. He was paying 121 per cent, interest on short-term loan money money that he had raised from a private finance company. He had a quantity of crop sown, but it was not nearly sufficient to cover the developmental work that he wanted to undertake. In two cases of which I have knowledge, cases of purely developmental nature, those concerned were not able to get the bank to do anything for them.
I have no quarrel with the Development Bank. It is most efficient and has done an excellent job in every field in which it has operated, but it is restricted in a very real sense. In effect, it must take over from the private banks business about which those banks have said: “ We do not propose to enter that field. We cannot assist in it in any way.” It is easy to see why the Government has decided to release credit and to relieve the economic situation that has arisen. Let me refer to the bankruptcy statistics contained in the thirty-third annual report of the Attorney-General. It is astounding to note that while the number of bankruptcies in this country was 206 in 1946-47, 271 in 1947-48, 302 in 1948-49, and 333 in 1949-50, at the present time it is 2,368, or over 2,000 more than in each of the years to which I have referred. Those figures are to be found in the information on classified bankruptcies in the eighth schedule, at page 10 of the report. That increase in bankruptcies has occurred at a time when, according to the boasts of the Government, our rural industries have been solid and when, it is said, such industries should not be embarrassed by want of finance; when prices have been good, and, according to the Government, our economy has been on top of the world. Of 40 farmers who went bankrupt during the year ended 30th June, 1961, five were dairy farmers, eleven were poultry farmers and one was a cane grower. Twenty-four graziers went bankrupt. There was a total of 114 bankruptcies in 1945-46. In 1960-61, of the persons who went bankrupt 81 were engaged in rural industries. So, I say there is a real necessity for this Development Bank.
A feature of this legislation which should be considered is that if we propose to engage in development in the real sense of the word we must give more generous treatment to the less affluent people, the pioneers who undertake development with little capital. Because of the instructions issued by the Government, a man who has established himself on a farm and who has been able or even forced to arrange for finance at an exorbitant rate of interest cannot get any relief at all. The bank cannot go in and take over the liabilities that have been created because the farmer has been forced to enter into hire-purchase agreements. That applies, of course, not only to farmers but to others who are engaged in developmental work. It is all very well to say that the bank may step in and help a person who is taking over virgin land or is engaging in some other new project, provided there is no private bank which would accept his proposal. If he can get accommodation elsewhere, he is made to go elsewhere. The Government is trying to make the private banks think that they are free, private enterprise organizations. All that has happened is that there has been an almost total nationalization of banking in its legitimate form. The banks have been issued with directions from the Government. They are being regulated or rationalized. That is a nice word, Mr. Minister, is it not?
– It is one I have used.
– The meaning of rationalization is that an industry is nationalized, but any plums must go to those who have invested in the industry privately. In other words, a dividend must be paid to the private investor at the expense of the whole community, even though the risk is spread over the whole industry. The banks can conduct banking as banking and do quite a lucrative business as registered money-lenders at a flat rate of interest of 6 per cent, or higher. The true rate of interest charged is about 15 per cent. A rate of 12) per cent, is not uncommon.
I really think that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) thought he could get away with his proposal. What was intended to happen and what actually did happen are entirely different, but it was not the fault of the Development Bank. The Government has adopted a credit policy which has the effect of restricting the availability of capital in order to allow part of the financial operations of this country to be placed in the hands of people who are not doing legitimate banking but who are moneylenders in the real sense of the term. This Government has given that section of the community a privilege and a protection, but it is not prepared to say that that privilege and protection must be utilized to help the man who is trying to develop with a small amount of capital.
I am pleased to be able to say that the Commonwealth Development Bank has been able to operate successfully within the restricted field that is open to it. It has done an immense job. But a still greater job remains to be done. The Government has the great task of ensuring that financial relief is given to remedy a situation in which the number of bankruptcies has risen from approximately 114 in 1945-46 to 2,368 at the present time. I do not say that all those bankruptcies were the result of financial pressure, but the increase has been far too large for the Government to be able to deny that there is something wrong with our credit structure.
The Development Bank should be made really strong and should be able to relieve any approved developmental project of the high rate of interest that is forced upon it by either the hire-purchase organizations or institutions which engage in other forms of banking and which are able to extort unreasonable rates of interest for shortterm loans. I do not think the Development Bank is in a position at present to do as I have suggested. I do not think that, under the present structure, it can extend its horizon to enable it to meet the demands of this young country which has the greatest potential in the world and which is screaming out for development. On the last occasion I went around the world I visited countries that were supposed to be poor, but their expenditure on various projects was £27,000,000 or more. I saw in West Germany, Beirut, Iraq and Iran development which leads me to say that we are just tinkering with the game, lt rests with us to decide whether we should develop the country vigorously, and whether we should do something for the people who, because of the restrictions that have been applied to our banking system, are paying exhorbitant and crippling rates of interest on short-term loans.
The bill does not provide the Development Bank with an opportunity to do the task that needs to be performed. This Government, and members of the Australian Country Party in particular, have submitted this proposal to the public and are saying “We are correcting the situation”. But the bankruptcy figures and the high number of disillusioned applicants show that the bank is not doing the job adequately. Whilst I am very pleased to know that an extra sum of £5,000,000 is to be made available to the Development Bank, that sum is really only another pint of blood, as it were, infused into the system. I hope that the Government will soon make a worthwhile institution of the Development Bank. The bank is capable of doing things, but the Government’s policy is hindering it.
– in reply - It is always a matter of considerable satisfaction to a Minister to find that a Government measure is not opposed. Indeed on this occasion, as I understand the situation, it attracts the support of honorable senators in all parts of the Parliament. The Commonwealth Development Bank is a special purpose bank which was established only a couple of years ago to fill what was recognized as being a gap in the national equipment for the provision of finance. Because of the existence of that gap we as a nation had been unable to develop our resources to the extent that was considered desirable. I repeat that it is a special purpose bank. There is a disposition in the community and, if I may say so with respect, in the Parliament to regard this bank as being comparable wilh a bank in the ordinary sense of the term.
– Do you mean aa ordinary bank?
– Yes, an ordinary trading bank. I shall say a little more about that in a moment. To-night we have been discussing a bill which underlines the difference between this bank and every other bank that exists. The bill is designed to provide the bank with more capital. Where is that capital to come from? It will not come from trading profits, reserves or shareholders. The appropriation will come from Consolidated Revenue.
– You should not charge the cockies 6 per cent.
– You just keep quite. I suggest that that very significant fact underlines the difference between this bank and other banks. This misconception to which I refer runs to extremes. In some comments that have been made about the bank, there is the suggestion that the bank itself is not completely fulfilling the function for which it was set up. Suggestion is made that some types of advance which should attract Development Bank support have been rejected. That sort of criticism we get at one extreme. At the other extreme we get the sort of criticism that was made by Senator O’Byrne and echoed by other Opposition speakers, who seem to regard this institution as a medium which should be developed into a banking organization in the widest and most usual sense. Senator O’Byrne made the remark that in certain circumstances it could possibly put the other banks out of business.
– Out of rural business.
– The honorable senator said, “ out of business “. Let me read it to him.
– I meant rural business.
– I can only quote what the honorable senator said. He said, “ out of business “.I quote Senator O’Byrne on this, because it represents an opinion that is all too frequently held about the purpose of the Development Bank. The bank is established to fill a gap. It is a special purpose bank. It is not to enter into competition with the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia, the Rural Bank of New South Wales, or any private trading bank in the Commonwealth. That is not the purpose of the Development Bank. So important do I regard a proper understanding of this that, without apology, I propose to read a paper prepared and issued by the Commonwealth Development Bank, which puts on record the bank’s policy and practice in respect of loans. It states -
The functions of the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia in relation to the provision of finance are set out in sections 72 and 73 of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 and are as follows: - “ Section 72 (a) - to provide finance for persons -
Section 73 (1) In determining whether or not finance shall be provided for a person, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations of that person becoming, or continuing to be, successful and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available in respect of that finance.
The Development Bank shall not provide finance for a person to enable that person to. acquire goods for use otherwise than in the course of his business.”
That is a pretty hefty figure, as I think every one will agree, and it is not the absolute ceiling on lending. The document continues -
In the absence of exceptional circumstances, applicants will be expected to have a reasonable equity in their undertakings.
Efficiency, managerial capacity and integrity of the applicant, as well as prospects of the industry in which the applicant is engaged or intends to become engaged, will be important considerations in the assessment of proposals.
Within the above broad outlines, an over riding consideration in determining the administrative policy of . the Development Bank from time to time will be the need to ensure that its funds available for lending are directed towards the best interests of Australia through the approval of those proposals which have the more important developmental features.
The need to ensure that the bank’s funds are available for developmental purposes will mean that, except in special circumstances, the bank will not be able to approve applications which do not have any developmental features and which merely involve a change of ownership of land or other assets, or the taking over of debt from another lender.
The document is rather longer than I thought. I believe it to be important. It goes on to deal with the practices followed by the bank. I think it is very relevant to the debate and accordingly I propose to incorporate the remainder of it in “ Hansard “.
– I take it that it conforms with the act and does not merely express opinions.
– The document actually quotes the act and then sets out how the bank is to conform with the act. It is not a political document in any sense.
– God forbid that we can talk politics at seventeen minutes past ten at night.
– I had it in mind to make some passing reference, but I would not want to encourage it. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate the remainder of the document in “ Hansard “. It reads -
Method of Lending and Repayment Arrangements:
Lodgment of Applications:
HIRE PURCHASE FINANCE.
This advance of £5,000,000 in additional capital has been described by some as a small advance. Other senators have said, “Last year we told you that you would want more money “. In reply to that sort of argument, I can only say that when this Government established this bank two years ago, and began its operations by a transfer from the Reserve Bank of £5,000,000, which was added to the then existing resources of the bank, the Government stated that as this bank required more capital it would be furnished with more capital, and the Government has done just that. As more capital has been required, it has been provided. As I sat here and listened to some of the early criticism that came from Senator Toohey, who led for the Opposition, it appeared to me that he was advocating a policy of transferring to this bank not what it wants now, not what it has a need for now, but an amount which will look after its requirements for the next two, five or ten years. I submit that as the bank’s capital is appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund - as it is taxpayers’ funds - there is absolutely no merit in transferring now an amount that is not required for a specific purpose. The right and proper thing to do is to increase the bank’s capital as capital is required consequent upon expanding business.
Senator Cooke referred to the fact that some applicants may have been denied advances. Not at any time has the bank been unable to meet applications for overdrafts because of shortage of funds. Senator Cooke asked particularly about the number of loans that have been made by the bank. The most recent figures that I have are for the year 1960-61 in which no fewer than 2,060 applications were granted. That number represented about two-thirds of the number of applications received. No application was rejected for reasons that the bank was short of funds. I suggest that on any objective view of the matter the Government behaved reasonably in the matter of providing capital for the bank. It has not taken money from Consolidated Revenue before there has been a real demand for it.
There was some criticism of the part the trading banks have played in the provision of long-term finance. The varying pattern of the provision of finance over a long period of years makes interesting history. lt is true that at one time the banks did make a practice of providing long-term finance. In the post-war years that policy has been modified - greatly in some cases. But, in the circumstances in which they find it necessary to operate it is not true to say that the banks have in any way failed to make available finance to the community generally. It must be acknowledged that this matter of provision of long-term finance - Senator Drake-Brockman made a particularly direct and pertinent reference to it - is one in which there is an opportunity to strengthen the facilities that we have avail able. I remind the Senate that as recently as 7th February last the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced on behalf of the Government that discussions with the private banks were continuing in respect of a number of matters, including the all-important subject of the provision of long-term finance and practicability of the trading banks being -more active in this field. It may well be that quite soon we will be able to say something about that aspect.
Some comments were made about the interest rate charged by the Development Bank. According to the view taken the interest rate was claimed to be high to penal and it was claimed that the bank should not seek to make a large profit from its operations. The truth is that the bank docs not make a large profit. I am delighted to note - Senator Kennelly remarked on this fact - that a profit was made, but I think even Senator Kennelly will agree that a profit of £612,000 last year on funds employed of the order of £45,000,000 cannot be regarded as a large profit. It is interesting to observe that the rate charged - 6 per cent, on overdrafts - results in a loss in respect of rural business. So, in criticizing the bank for charging a high rate of interest to primary producers, honorable senators must remember that the rural business of the bank returns no profit at all. In considering the rate charged by a bank one must have regard also to the cost of some of the money that is employed by the bank. A study of the balance sheet will show that the bank has on loan from the Commonwealth Savings Bank a substantial amount of money- about £16,000,000.
– What is the Development Bank paying for that money?
– I cannot say offhand but in order to meet its own interest commitment the Commonwealth Savings Bank would have to charge about 5 per cent. The Development Bank gets at 5 per cent, that portion of its funds that it acquires for lending purposes and re-lends it at 6 per cent. I mention this fact to indicate to honorable senators, particularly those from the Australian Country Party who commented on the interest rate, that the rate charged, far from being a penal rate, is one that does not show a profit in respect of rural business. As a matter of interest let me refer also to the hire-purchase rate. The’ rate charged is 4i per cent, flat for rural borrowers and 4i per cent, for other borrowers. Those rates are equivalent to a true rate of 9 per cent, or 9i per cent.
– That is not bad but there is not enough money at those rates.
– I think anybody will agree that hire-purchase borrowing at 9 per cent, true is good borrowing. Senator Kennelly commented on the fact that the bank did not accept deposits. He pointed out that the act under which the bank is constituted did not prohibit the bank from accepting deposits. He wanted to know why the bank, therefore, did not accept deposits. The answer is that the Development Bank, operating in a special field for a special purpose, does not provide ordinary banking facilities.
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 negative.
– People do not go along with money to a bank, knowing in advance that it does not have the ordinary banking facilities. What attraction is there for a depositor to bank his money with the Development Bank? What rate of interest could it pay if it is to let out rural loans at a rate which is already involving it in some loss? It is far better, I am sure every one will agree, that it continue to have access to the funds of the Comonwealth Savings Bank for this sort of deposit money. Indeed, the suggestion that it should be got from the public is impracticable, for the very good reasons that I have stated - this bank does not have the facilities that the people want when they conduct deposit business with a bank.
Senator Kennelly referred also to the Development Bank’s ratio of liabilities to capital and compared that with the ratio of liabilities to capital of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. He pointed to the fact that the Commonwealth Trading Bank’s liabilities ran to some £300,000,000 - I am quoting from memory - as against a capital of £11,000,000. He said, “Why cannot the Development Bank have the same sort of ratio? “ The answer lies in the fact that the Commonwealth Trading Bank’s liabilities arise from the deposits it has received from people who bank with it, but the Development Bank, for the good reasons that I have stated, does not have that sort of deposit money.
I wish to speak for a few minutes only on the interesting speech of Senator DrakeBrockman. He raised the important subject of the position of the young farmer with his wife starting out on a block of land. He drew the picture, as all honorable senators knew it 30 or 40 years ago, of an institution such as the Agricultural Bank in Western Australia making an advance of 30s. an acre against land cleared. Of course, times and circumstances alter. There is no doubt that in their day the agricultural banks did a remarkably good job, but the plain fact is, as I am sure any farmer will agree, that people do not do that sort of pioneering to-day. Even if the rates of the agricultural banks were upgraded to make some comparison with what they did 30 or 40 years ago, they could not to-day provide the sort of finance which would attract young men to the land. I should like to make it perfectly clear, particularly for the benefit of Senator Drake-Brockman, that the newness of a man on the land does not disqualify him from assistance by the Development Bank. Indeed, in its annual report last year, it laid down the standards that it adopts. It said -
In determining whether or not to make finance available, the Development Bank is required to have regard primarily to the prospects of the borrower’s operations being successful and not necessarily to the value of the security available to support the loan. While the Bank seeks to obtain the best security available for its loans, it nevertheless attaches primary importance to the efficiency, managerial capacity and integrity of applicants, as well as their capacity to repay thenborrowings within a reasonable time.
There is another aspect of assistance to the new farmer which is personal but is of vital importance. A bank has to be very careful indeed that it saves the over-ambitious new farmer from overstretching himself. I ask the members of the Senate who are familiar with farming how many personal tragedies have they seen in rural areas because, unfortunately, young men have overstretched themselves financially. Necessarily, when assisting young men on the land, a bank must sometimes exercise a restraint which, in the short term, the applicant regards as something of a hardship but, in the long term, turns out to be very much to his benefit.
Senator Drake-Brockman mentioned the possibility of the Development Bank employing, in particular areas, men who have a special knowledge of those areas, to report to the bank on the possibility of applicants making a success of properties. It may come as somewhat of a surprise to some honorable senators when I say that the Government does not interfere in any way with the management or the administration of the bank, but I have taken a note of that suggestion so that the Treasurer might forward it to the bank for consideration and evaluation of its merit. I think I have covered the major points that were raised in the debate. I again express my satisfaction at the fact that the measure receives the support of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1962.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 13th March (vide page 472).
.- There is only one matter that I should like to put to the Minister. I dealt with it partially when these bills were being considered in committee the other evening. From memory 1 quoted the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as indicating that for the September quarter of 1960 vehicle registrations were at the rate of 330,000 per annum, and that he regarded that as an excessive level. I find that my memory did not betray me, because the Treasurer, on 21st March last, dealing with the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill had this to say -
Registrations of new motor vehicles had, by the September quarter, 1960, risen sharply to a rate in excess of 330,000 a year. In November, I960, the month in which the increased tax was applied, they were 23 per cent, higher than November, 1959. The rapid expansion of activity in the motor vehicle industry to meet this inordinate demand-
These are the words to which I direct the Minister’s attention - had set up heavy pressures on man-power, on the many associated industries and imports.
It is clear that, in the circumstances of that time, the production and registration of 330,000 vehicles a year was regarded as being of inordinate proportions. In recent months, discussions have taken place between the Government and the motor industry. Surely some understanding was come to about what represented a proper level of production in the industry. Surely the industry was not left to run free, without some indication from the Government of what a proper level of production would be. I merely ask the Minister whether there was any such discussion. If not, why not? If, in the circumstances of November of 1960, 330,000 registrations were regarded as inordinate, what is regarded as a satisfactory figure in the circumstances of to-day?
Am I right in assuming that the motor industry has a capacity production of 375,000 cars per annum? What I foresee, frankly, is that if the motor industry is left entirely to its own devices, without any indication from the Government, we will have a running free of production again, now that no restriction is imposed upon hire-purchase companies. If an inordinate demand was generated a year or two ago, it seems to me that the stage is set for that demand to be generated again. I believe it would be helpful to the trade, and to the community, if some idea were given of what the Government thinks is right in this matter.
Surely some discussion has taken place on this subject with the industry. I do not know how many Ministers were engaged in the conference that took place with the industry representatives, but I do know that a number of Ministers were present. Was any understanding arrived at? If the figure is confidential, I cannot ask that it be stated, but at least we should be told whether any understanding was arrived at.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) repeats the query that he put to me a night or two ago, and supports his query with the same line of argument. He will recall, I am sure, that when I spoke on this matter recently I indicated’ to him that the fixation of sales tax at any time - past, present or future - is naturally related to the economic circumstances that exist at that time. The honorable senator refers to a situation that existed in September of 1960, when car registrations were running at the rate of 330,000 a year, and points to a statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in respect of that rate. He must, if he is trying to present the whole picture, have regard to the other circumstances which existed at the time in the general economy and in the particular industry.
– I concede that.
– At that time, as the honorable senator well knows, there was roaring inflation, and an acute problem with overseas funds. In those circumstances, I do not think any one will deny, even now, that the Treasurer’s statement about the rate of registrations was correct.
Senator McKenna asks: What is the Government going to do in the future? What rate is it going to tell the motor industry is acceptable for the present, for three months’ time, for six months’ time, and for twelve months’ time? I put it to the honorable senator that that is not a reasonable or a practicable request. Private enterprise must have regard’ to circumstances as they change. Private enterprise itself has a responsibility to forecast conditions, and to meet those conditions It is not for a government to move in and tell private enterprise what it regards as an acceptable limit. Assuming that it were the responsibility of a government to do that, would it go to the Ford company, the Chrysler company or whoever else manufactures motor cars and say, in effect, “This is it chaps; 300,000 cars a year”. Having that number in mind the Government would then have to say to one company, “You can make 100,000”; to another, “You can make 125,000”; and to another, “ You can make only 50,000 “. As I said the other night, that is not a practicable proposition, at least from this Government’s point of view.
The Government will continue to keep in close touch with the industry. It has made no prediction of what is a desirable rate. I do not doubt that the motor-car industry, having regard to the problems from which it is now ‘ emerging, will itself exercise a little care as to its rate of production in the future and, without anything but an exchange of ideas between the Government and itself, will produce cars at a rate which will be proper and appropriate to circumstances as they change.
– I am indebted to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) for the time he took to give me that explanation, but it does not console me in the least. One of the factors at which’ the industry would have looked in September of 1960 was the state of mind of the Government which induced it to take the drastic action which it took in so many directions. I would say that that was the most important factor in the situation at that time. It was an extraordinarily good guide to the trade to know that registrations of the order of 330,000 per annum were regarded as inordinate. If, after all the measures that were taken, the Minister is not in a position to say now - in the light of the altered conditions of to-day - what he regards as reasonable, then he is not giving leadership, and the Government is not giving leadership or proper guidance, to the industry.
The Government should be in a position to indicate what it thinks, in the circumstances of to-day, is a reasonable rate of production. The industry should know what is in the mind of the Government. Because of an absence of that knowledge, the industry will have no confidence. The industry may fear that the Government has in mind a much lower rate. It will be afraid to expand for fear the Government will rush in with another severe tax increase or with credit restrictions. I would say that, in the interests of the economy of the nation, the Government should give some guidance to an industry which is responsible for so much employment. It is really vastly important that the Government should give a lead to this industry by giving it some idea of the rate of production that is regarded as reasonable. Members of the Government have one figure in their minds. The figure of 330,000 was inordinate eighteen months ago and no expression of opinion comes from the Government to the industry. 1 say that that is not proper leadership from the Government to one of the most important industries in the country.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– Order! Senator Kennelly will resume his seat. Honorable senators will remember that last Tuesday evening the committee decided to take these bills as a whole and Senator Kennelly desired to ask a question. He was assured that he would be given an opportunity to ask that question. He asked the question at some length. We then heard at least three speeches which I could regard only as being in the nature of second-reading speeches. Whatever you have in mind to say, Senator Kennelly, I hope that it is not a second-reading speech, because you will not be allowed to make it. If you refer only to the clauses of the bills, you will be all right. I call Senator Kennelly.
– I only want to say this, Mr. Temporary Chairman: I strongly object to your attitude. This is not the first time that you, as the Temporary Chairman or the Acting Deputy President, have shown a decided bias against this side of the chamber.
Order! You will withdraw that remark, Senator Kennelly.
– I will not withdraw it. I have had enough.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I call on you to withdraw that remark. It is disrespectful to the Chair.
– It is true and I refuse to withdraw it.
Order! In accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 439, I will leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
In the Senate:
– Mr. President, in committee Senator Kennelly alleged bias against the Chair. I called upon him to withdraw his remark and he refused to withdraw it. I left the Chair and I am now reporting to the Senate.
– Mr. President, I ask Senator Kennelly to make an explanation to the Senate.
– I make this explanation, Mr. President: I rose to speak and before I had uttered one word the Temporary Chairman of Committees saw fit to lecture me on what I ought to say, what I could not say and how I should say what I wanted to say. What happened last Tuesday night had no reference to to-night’s proceedings. Had I stood up and transgressed, he would have had a perfect right to call me to order and say that I was out of order. I believe that by lecturing me and telling me what I was to say he showed a bias, and I said so. I regret, Sir, that that is the explanation I have to make. I say that this is not the first time that Senator McKellar has shown a bias.
– Withdraw the bias part of it.
– No. I do not mind a fair thing; I am easy-going. But I will not be chopped about as I was. I think that is unfair.
– I realize, Mr. President, that there is really no opportunity for me to speak in these circumstances, but may I say a word?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Yes, Senator McKenna.
– I wish to say that Senator Kennelly has given a completely accurate version of what transpired.
– Except for what he said.
– I am not dealing with the virtue of what he said. The facts, as I recall them, are that we resumed, in committee, the consideration of the nine sales tax bills. I spoke on two occasions and completed what I had to say. Senator Kennelly rose and before he had spoken at all the Temporary Chairman of Committees addressed him. He referred to what had happened last Tuesday night and told Senator Kennelly that he would not allow him to make a second-reading speech, that he had to confine his remarks to the ambit of the bill, that he could ask a question and so forth. Senator Kennelly expressed resentment at that approach, said that this was not the first time that this had been done and alleged bias against the Temporary Chairman of Committees.
On proper reflection on the whole incident, 1 think that both parties should cancel it out and start again. Frankly, I think the Temporary Chairman of Committees was a bit hasty.
– He was perfectly within his rights.
– All I say is that at a stage when nothing had happened he was not entitled to anticipate that there would be a breach of the Standing Orders. In my view, his action was precipitate and drew from Senator Kennelly a natural resentment. This case might well be met, Mr. President, if the Temporary Chairman of Committees were to see some degree of haste in his attitude. If he were to advise you, Mr. President, that there might have been some element of precipitance in what he did, Senator Kennelly might then be prepared to cancel, as it were, his part in the proceedings to date and we all might be able to get back on an even keel without the Senate being unduly disturbed.
This is not a case of the fault or the matter originating on one side; there was some cause for resentment. For a senior member of the Senate who has an official position to be lectured before he had said anything at all was plainly not right, and it was bound to draw some resentment from the honorable senator. I shall not go into the question of terms and that type of thing. I believe it would be very much in the interests of the Senate if the two parties involved recognized that there had been a little haste or somewhat precipitate action. We could cancel out the whole transaction and start all over again, as I said.
– Mr. President, I should like to say that if Senator Kennelly thought I had bias against him, that is not correct. I have not any bias against any one in the Senate. My reason for rising as I did and speaking in the manner in which I spoke was that, as I mentioned when I rose, last Tuesday night Senator Kennelly asked whether he would be given an opportunity to ask a question if the committee took the bills as a whole. I assured him that he would be given that opportunity. As I said to-night, Senator Kennelly asked that question at some length.
As I also said to-night, the question was followed by speeches by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and, I think, Senator Armstrong. I am not sure whether it was Senator Armstrong or another member of the Opposition. Again, as I said to-night, in my opinion those speeches were more in the nature of second-reading speeches than speeches that should have been made in committee. My object in rising to-night was to prevent a repetition of that. I did not rise just on account of Senator Kennelly. I rose in case other members of the Opposition wanted to speak in the way I have indicated. That was my sole purpose. If Senator Kennelly thought that I had taken the opportunity just to pick him out, I sincerely assure him that such was not my intention. Senator McKenna’s suggestion is quite acceptable to me, Mr. President.
– In view of that statement, Mr. President, if I made a reflection on the Chair, I withdraw it.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without requests; report adopted.
Bills read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 8th March (vide page 435), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 27th March, at 3 p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connexion with the foreign Affairs Committee: -
That Mr. England, Mr. Failes, Mr. Fairbairn, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Howson, Mr. Mackinnon, Mr. Snedden and Mr. Turner be members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as the five remaining vacancies for members of the House of Representatives on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. J. M. Fraser, Mr. Haworth, Mr. Holten and Mr. Jess be members of the committee.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620315_senate_24_s21/>.