24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question without notice is directed to the Acting Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that a system of packing apples in what are known as “ celpak” cartons has been developed in Tasmania, and that these cartons are easier te handle and cheaper to ship than timber cases, and ensure the arrival on the overseas markets of the valuable Tasmanian export apple crop bruise-free? Has the Minister received any reports from his departmental officers overseas on the quality of the fruit arriving from this year’s harvest?
– I understand the honorable senator to be referring to the “ cel-pak “ carton, which is used extensively in Tasmania. Its use has resulted in fruit of far better quality being landed in Great Britain, and in greatly cheapening handling charges because the cartons can be handled much more easily on the wharf. It has also led to increased sales of fruit.
– Where are the cartons made?
– I think they are made in Australia. As the honorable senator is no doubt aware, most of the fruit from Tasmania is shipped in this manner. If any honorable senators want to study the quality of the fruit packed in this way, and to see how the pack has maintained the quality of the fruit, they can see a carton in the Government senators’ room, and they are quite at liberty to help themselves to a sample of the fruit.
– I wish to direct a question without notice to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Is it a fact that Dr. Richard E. Shope of the Rockefeller Institute, New York, the discoverer of fibroma and an expert on myxomatosis, was invited to Australia to report on the possible danger of fibroma spreading among the Australian wild rabbit population in the same way as myxomatosis, thus immunizing rabbits against this killer virus? Is it a fact that fibroma virus is already being used on New South Wales farms to protect rabbits against myxomatosis? In view of the seriousness of the rabbit menace will the Government take any steps required to prohibit fibroma virus from being used in places from which it may spread uncontrolled throughout Australia?
– Yes, Dr. Shope came to Australia. I understand that he was the discoverer of fibroma virus, though I am not certain of that. He conferred with representatives of the Government of Victoria and, I think, the Government of New South Wales, and spent some time in discussions with myself and officials of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The subject he was concerned in was whether the use of fibroma virus, which is used to immunize rabbits against myxomatosis on private rabbit farms, was likely to be in any way a danger to the effectiveness of myxomatosis among wild rabbits. I have not yet seen the report that he has made. I have seen in the press some indications of his views. If those particular indications are correct, it is quite clear that he cannot say definitely that the use of fibroma virus does not constitute a danger to the spread of myxomatosis among wild rabbits. If that is so, while it is not within the province of this Government to prevent State governments from allowing the use of the virus, nevertheless any government that does permit its use is endangering the economy not only of other States, but also of Australia as a whole, in the production of wheat and beef.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, in view of an answer that I received from him yesterday. Is it a fact that the Minister now claims that the Government’s migration programme is based on the number of long-term and permanent arrivals coming here, and that it takes no account of the number of permanent departures? If this is so, when was this practice first adopted? Is it a fact that many people included in the figure for long-term permanent arrivals are Australians who are returning after having been overseas for more than twelve months? If so, would it follow that the Government’s migration programme figure includes a substantial number of such Australians? If this is the fact, why is the Minister so determined to count returning Australians as migrants?
– As I read to the honorable senator the answer that I gave on behalf of the Minister yesterday I was struck by a reference to the fact that the figures were based on long-term permanent arrivals from, I think, the year 1934. Whatever the method of calculation, it has been in operation for a considerable number of years. Therefore, even if the honorable senator does not agree with the basis of comparison, as it has been a constant basis it is quite a fair and proper comparison. That is the only way in which to deal with statistics. If the honorable senator would like any other part of his question answered, I ask him to put it on the notice-paper and I will get the answer for him.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has reminded himself of the question I asked a fortnight ago concerning the report of the British Institute of Surgeons and Physicians on the effects of cigarette smoking in relation to lung cancer, when the Minister said that he would consult his own experts and obtain from them an expression of opinion.
– Mr. President, I have been supplied with the following information in reply to the question asked by Senator Wright: -
A report on smoking and health was recently published by the Royal College of Physicians in Great Britain. The report was compiled by nine eminent specialists and presented to a general meeting of the Fellows of the College before publication.
The report refers to statistical evidence that there has been a great increase in deaths from lung cancer in many countries during the past 45 years. Some of the increase may be due to better diagnosis, but much of it is due to a real increase in the incidence. Statistics also show that men are affected much more often than women. ft is clear from the report that the incidence of certain serious diseases is much greater for heavy smokers than for light smokers or for persons who do not smoke at all. These diseases include lung cancer and a number of bronchial ailments.
The report advocates the general discouragement of smoking, particularly by young people.
More effort is needed to discover the most effective means of dissuading children from starting the smoking habit until they reach maturity when they can decide for themselves.
The Royal College of Physicians has made a most important study of this matter. The results of their study point to the need for a much greater understanding by our young people of the risks associated with smoking. It would be an excellent thing if adequate instruction were provided in educational institutions, especially high schools, regarding the possible dangers to health resulting from smoking. Adequate and properly explained information on this matter would enable young people to be well informed regarding the risks involved before they commence smoking.
It is evident that the value of educative work in schools, &c, will be reduced if posters, television and radio advertisements are specially designed to attract young people to smoking. I express the hope that advertisers will examine this matter with a view to developing appropriate means of meeting this problem by voluntary action. This is clearly to be preferred to Government interference with advertising activities.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that this week the trade unions of Australia are campaigning in an effort to have recognized the decision of the International Labour Organization that equal pay be given, without discrimination as to sex, to persons doing equal work? Does the Minister recollect that when sections 90 and 100 of the industrial code of the International Labour Organization were formulated by the organization as a sub-committee of the United Nations, the Treasurer was chairman of that sub-committee? Does the Minister recollect that the organization requested all nations to implement its decision that in relation to conditions and rates of pay no discrimination be made between the sexes? Will the Minister encourage the Treasurer to make, in the House of Representatives, a similar statement to that which he made before the International Labour Organization, and to support the introduction into Australia of this well-deserved reform? Is the Government prepared to legislate for equal pay for equal work, without discrimination between male and female workers?
– At the conference to which the honorable senator referred, which dealt with the question of equal pay for work of equal value, the Australian delegates refrained from participation in the final decision, but made it perfectly clear in so doing that they did not oppose the concept. They explained that they belived that, because of the arbitration system that operated in Australia, a matter of so much importance to the Australian economy should be the subject of Arbitration Court action before legislation was introduced to give effect to the principle. That being the view then of the present Treasurer, I am sure that it would be so now. I may add that I cannot understand why, if the unions are, as is alleged, engaged in some sort of campaign to achieve equal pay for work of equal value, they do not take action before the Arbitration Court, because that is the accepted method by which such changes can be brought about in Australia.
– I ask the
Minister for Health a question which arises out of an answer that he gave a few minutes ago. There seems to be an ambiguity in the statement that he read. Is it limited to cigarette smoking or does it include smoking of all kinds?
– The report brought down by the Royal College of Physicians is a most interesting one, which examines in great detail the effect of smoking upon human beings.
– It does not tell you how to give up smoking, does it?
– Yes, it does. One merely needs some strength of character. The researches of the Royal College of Physicians have revealed that people who smoke cigars are much less susceptible to this malady and certain other maladies than are those who smoke cigarettes. I realize, of course, that only the chosen few have the wherewithal to indulge in Havana cigars. The researches showed also that pipe smokers are freer from this malady than are those who smoke cigarettes. Finally, it was concluded that heavy cigarette smokers run a greater risk than do those people normally described as light smokers. I do not know where the line of demarcation is drawn between light smokers and heavy smokers. That is a matter of opinion. However, I want to make the point that the research workers did bring down conclusive evidence that those who smoke cigarettes to excess are laying themselves open to some danger.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say. whether it is the intention of his colleague to initiate a debate on the report of the wool marketing committee of inquiry? Has the Minister seen a report stating that the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation has disagreed with the findings of the committee of inquiry in relation to a reserve price plan for wool to defeat pies, or buyers who band together to keep wool prices down, and is asking for such a plan to be submitted to a ballot of growers? Would the Minister consider establishing the machinery for conducting such a ballot of wool-growers throughout Australia as soon as possible, because the growers claim that the wool industry is in a worse position now than it was before the marketing inquiry commenced?
– I do not know whether the Minister for Primary Industry intends to initiate a debate on this subject. I will discuss the matter with him, and inform the honorable senator of the result of our discussion. I know that some disappointment has been expressed at the findings of this committee. Some sections of the industry are most enthusiastically in favour of a reserve price plan for wool, but other sections of the industry hold a different view. The Government is pursuing the policy it has always pursued in matters of this kind. It believes that primary producers have the right to indicate to the Government what they want to be done with their industries. As I said yesterday, this Government will not foist a plan upon the wool industry until the industry has asked for the plan to be put into operation. The Government is vitally interested in the wool industry. Who in this country is not interested in it? Any action taken to-day in relation to a reserve price could have far-reaching effects on the industry for generations to come. Anything that is done must be done by the growers and the Government in collaboration, and must be designed to give the industry the encouragement and the protection it needs so that it can play its part in the development of this country.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry yet been informed of the decision of the wool growers’ representatives regarding their attitude towards the legislation, which is now about to be re-enacted, concerning the research levy which was introduced about twelve months ago?
– 1 had an opportunity only last week to listen to portion of the discussion at the annual conference of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, for which this matter of a wool levy for promotion purposes has been a very lively issue for a long time. Last year, when the legislation was presented to the Parliament, it was stated that it would Operate for a period of twelve months, an undertaking being given that limitation of the period in that way would permit a review of the position. The industry was anxious to see the findings of the committee of inquiry which had been set up to investigate wool marketing, before it committed itself to payment of the levy for a longer period than twelve months. Last week, the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, which has very mixed views on this matter, decided, while it had the report of the committee of inquiry in its hands, to support payment of the levy, at the present rate, for a further period of twelve months. My understanding of the position is that the federal council of the State organizations have agreed that the levy shall remain at 10s. a bale for the next twelve months.
– Not Western Australia.
– Yes, Western Australia too.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by Senator Cooke. Is the Minister aware that Equal Pay Week is sponsored by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and is being observed in every State? Since the Government parties have the majority of female members in this Parliament, and as I understand that female members of the Parliament receive pay equal to that of male members, will the Government take steps to see that the principle of equal pay for equal work is established in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The Government’s position in this respect has been stated by my colleague. The practice that is being observed applies outside the Public Service as well as inside it, the Government’s view being that matters of this kind are best settled by the Arbitration Court. I think that that is also the view of the vast majority of Australians. So far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned, the present position is that it operates under an award made by the Public Service Arbitrator which lays down the conditions under which women shall be employed. The Government observes that award so far as it goes, but in respect of margins over and above actual award rates, no differentiation is made. Where margins in excess of award rates are prescribed, those margins are given equally to males and females. In other words, the Commonwealth is observing the principle so far as it can within the limits of the Australian arbitration system.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Has his attention been directed to a press report which stated that a government servant whose wife worked in the same building was not permitted to take her as a passenger in a Commonwealth car that was provided for him daily to take him to and from his place of work, and that he had to drive past her while she walked home, whilst in another instance a father was not permitted to take his child to school, even though he had to drive right past the school? If those reports are correct, does not the Minister think that the departmental decisions were harsh and that action of this kind represents a bureaucratic splitting of straws?
– I have not seen the report to which Senator Branson has referred. Neither am I prepared to make any comment on statements that are said to have appeared in a newspaper report. Suffice to say that we, as the custodians of the people’s assets, must jealously guard their property. It could well be argued, I suppose, that in the incidents referred to in the newspaper report that policy had been carried to extremes, but fundamentally the responsibility of the Minister for the Interior, or any other Minister, is to safeguard the people’s assets. In this case I will refer the matter to my colleague in another place, whose comment I will make available to Senator Branson.
– I wish to ask a question along the lines of the question asked by Senator Cooke, because I have a great deal of sympathy with him in this matter. I am a great believer in and a strong supporter of the principle of equal pay for equal work. I remind the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, to whom I address my question, that I am a member of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. That union has had unlimited trouble, and far from complete success, in getting trade unions to apply the principle of equal pay for equal work to members of their own staffs. Will the Minister agree that, if Equal Pay Week is to be a success, the trade unions must set an example by applying the principle throughout the various trades halls of Australia?
– Not only is it axiomatic that this principle should be applied by the trade unions in respect of persons employed by them, but it is very pleasing to know that the reluctance on the part of the trade unions to apply the principle has been ventilated in this place. I hope that the persons concerned will take notice of the honorable senator’s remarks.
– I address a series of questions to the Minister for National Development. They relate to the very important discovery, announced some time ago, of deposits of iron ore in the Pilbarra district of Western Australia. Is the Minister able to give any further information about these most important and interesting discoveries? In particular, can he say whether they will lead to the finding of the largest deposits of iron ore in Australia? Are the deposits likely to be among the largest in the world? How long will it be before the full extent of the deposits and the grade of ore in them are known? What stage has been reached in the planning of port facilities on the coast for the export of ore from those deposits? Will the Minister comment on views expressed in the press on the possibility of a second steel industry being founded upon these great deposits?
– I shall resist the temptation to make a general statement and shall go straight to the point. I do not think it is yet possible to say how great are the iron deposits at Pilbarra. I have been criticized for taking a too-optimistic view of them, but each report that I see indicates that the importance of the deposits is greater than was indicated in the previous report. The deposits are basically a matter for the Western Australian Government. It holds the legal rights qua mining. The latest information that I have is that the Western Australian Government has allocated more than 100 iron ore reserves for further exploration. An interesting development with regard to these deposits is the link between the Rio Tinto, Consolidated Zinc and Kaiser organizations. Those are three really big mining organizations, with very great capital reserves. There is no doubt at all that the iron ore reserves in themselves are sufficiently large to service a second steel industry in Australia. We live in hope that we shall get a second steel industry in Australia because of the discovery of these reserves
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade seen a reported statement by Sir John Crawford that he was shocked at the way in which Australia was glossing over the effects of Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market? Does he agree that such entry will have grave consequences for Australian trade? If he does, when did that realization corns to him?
– I have read the press report of Sir John Crawford’s address, and I look forward to receiving the full text of it. I lead with great interest that he said that the Australian people had failed to realize the full impact of-
– Because you misled them.
– The honorable senator is entitled to put a certain construction on the position; but he has asked a question and I am giving him an answer. If anybody has talked for the last five years about something that he knows nothing about, it has been Senator Hendrickson. I say that without any doubt.
– That is an opinion.
– Yes, and you may express yours.
– You answer the question.
– I noted with great interest that Sir John Crawford said that the Australian people were not aware of the difficulties that may arise if Great Britain enters the Common Market. Of course, those difficulties are the reason why the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, is in Europe at present having discussions with the governments of all the Common Market countries and putting before them Australia’s point of view. We must always bear in mind that Great Britain has said that she will enter the Common Market only if the interests of the Commonwealth are safeguarded.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Trade on the matter raised by Senator Hendrickson. In view of the statements made by Sir John Crawford and the uncertainty and doubt in the minds of most people with regard to the European Common Market, will the Minister have a paper on this matter prepared for presentation to the Senate so that we may discuss the European Common Market and all its ramifications and present to the people a more complete and uptodate picture of what Great Britain’s entry would mean to Australia?
– No doubt the Minister for Trade, who will return to Australia within the next ten days or a fortnight, will give to the Parliament the information that he has received in his discussions overseas. Meanwhile, I say to the honorable senator that no subject has had more written about it by well-informed people than this subject has. There is a wealth of printed information that the honorable senator can obtain and read to inform herself on this subject.
– I have read it.
– If you have digested the material that is available, I do not think the Government or anybody else can do anything more for you.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Have any arrangements been made for a conference of the interested States and the Commonwealth on the Chowilla dam project?
– The last statement I heard on this matter was that the Prime Minister was trying to arrange a conference, I think, before Easter. When three Premiers and the Prime Minister are involved, it is not easy to find a date that is convenient for every one. I know that the Prime Minister at this stage is endeavouring to arrange a convenient date, but I am not aware that any date has been decided upon.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer recollect that prior to the presentation of the last Budget he was asked by the Opposition in this chamber to give favorable and sympathetic consideration to the removal of the 12i per cent, sales tax then and now operating on staple foods in the diet of the people of Australia? Is the Minister prepared to support strongly the submission to Cabinet of a case for the removal of sales tax on primary products, such as flour, sugar, milk, eggs, yeast, fruit, wheatmeal, cheese and dried fruits, that are used in making cakes, pastries, fruit loaves, cheese bread and bread, which are staple foods in the Australian diet? Does he not believe that by putting such a high indirect tax on the people’s necessary foodstuffs, he is forcing up the cost structure even more in Australia? Can he explain why workers, pensioners and others on low incomes should be taxed at the rate of 12i per cent, on the food they buy, irrespective of their capacity to pay, when dog biscuits, which contain some of the same kind of food, are free of sales tax? Does he think that this is economically good for Australia, or does he think that it is unwise for the Government to force up the living costs of Australian people on the staple items of diet to which I have referred?
– I do not know whether the point that the honorable senator is trying to make is that dogs should be taxed for eating dog biscuits. Yes, I remember representations being made last year on this matter. They were considered, as I informed the honorable senator they would be considered. In relation to the whole field of taxation, including sales tax, this question did receive consideration. The fact is, of course, that many of the individual items, if not all of them, are themselves in isolation exempt from sales tax, but when made up into a cake or other manufactured foodstuff they are not. This question involves consideration of the principles of sales tax in very general terms. The honorable senator put the question to me rather cunningly, I thought: Would I strongly support this representation? The honorable senator knows full well that the Government speaks with one voice. All that I will say to the honorable senator is that I have noted his representations and I shall see that they are brought to the notice of the Treasurer for consideration at the appropriate time, but I shall never be informing him of the particular line I take on this matter.
– I wish to direct a question without notice to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the tremendous and justifiable emphasis being placed by the Government at present upon our overseas trading relations, does not the Minister believe it to be important that Australian customers should be fully apprised of the country of origin when buying imported goods? Is it not a fact that the United States of America will not admit goods from Communist satellite countries unless they are marked, “ Made in Soviet Occupied Germany “, “ Made in Soviet Occupied Hungary “, or the like? Will the
Minister consider imposing a similar restriction in regard to importations into this country?
– The honorable senator is aware, because there have been some correspondence and discussion on this between himself and the department, that no such restriction is at present applicable under the Australian act. I shall consider whether there is ground for including that particular matter in any further regulations that may be issued.
- Mr. President, with regard to the question that I previously asked the Acting Minister for Trade, I have the press report here and what Sir John Crawford said- - The PRESIDENT.- Order! Senator, you are giving information, whereas you should ask a question. Will you please do so?
– Very well. I should like to ask the Minister whether, because of his thorough knowledge, and the Government’s knowledge of the risk of economic instability inherent in Great Britain’s joining the European Economic Community, he will, through you, Sir, warn this Parliament, and give the people of Australia the reason for his warning, of the risk that is involved, and that has arisen because of the lack of foresight on the part of the Government.
– Noting the honorable senator’s love for the reading of newspapers, I suggest that he cannot have read the statements of the Minister for Trade during the past twelve months or more; otherwise he would not ask that any more should be done than the Minister for Trade has been doing.
– I wish to direct a question to the Acting Minister for Trade. Is it not a fact that the Governor-General’s Speeches addressed to previous Parliaments for at least the past four years have brought to the notice of all members of this Parliament the fact that Britain’s joining the European Economic Community has held a high place in the discussions in each of those years at the Prime Ministers’ Conferences in London?
– I thank he honorable senator for the information. I could not say yes or no to his question because I do not recall what happened, but if the honorable senator states as a fact what he has suggested in his question I am quite prepared to accept it.
– I wish to direct a question without notice to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that some time ago the Government placed an embargo on the export of beryllium ores? Is it a fact that the Government was the sole buyer of these ores? Is it a fact that there is no longer an embargo on their export? If so, what steps has the Government taken to sell them?
– My recollection is - and I shall correct this if I am wrong - that the Government had placed an embargo on the export of beryllium ores. Then we found that supplies were increasing, and there was no market presently available in Australia. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission had obtained its full requirements, and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission had also obtained its requirements, so the embargo was lifted on the ground that we were holding in stockpiles sufficient for our own immediate requirements. We watch the situation from year to year, and we find that demand is again increasing. Beryllium is turning out to be a very interesting metal indeed in the construction of atomic power reactors, and we want to be quite certain that we have our own requirements safeguarded.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, Will he complete the answer that he was giving to the question which I asked yesterday? I asked him, in view of the troubles in Africa - I meant the whole continent - and the possibility that people of European descent would wish for a home and a more secure future, what steps the Department of Immigration was taking to secure some of these immigrants for Australia.
– I think I rather stressed in reply to the honorable senator’s question yesterday that the matters I referred to applied only to South Africa, whereas the honorable senator was asking about Africa as a whole. I shall get the information for the honorable senator if he puts the question of the notice-paper.. I think the same conditions would apply to other parts of Africa, but I should like to make certain on that point.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the plight of many age and invalid pensioners living alone to whom a telephone is of great benefit, particularly in times of emergency, and as the department has already granted concessions in the payment of wireless and television licence-fees, will the Minister consider extending these concessions to telephone rentals?
– I know that from time to time the Postmaster-General has given careful consideration to similar representations. This is a budget matter and I give Senator Tangney an undertaking to bring the representations before the PostmasterGeneral again. I am sure that he, in his wisdom, will make the correct decision.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: As direct telephone dialling is now possible between Canberra and Sydney, can the Minister give any indication when those facilities will be available between Canberra and Melbourne, and between Sydney and Melbourne?
– I can answer that question only in general terms - it will be in the very near future. I am sorry that I cannot be more specific.
– My question to the Minister for Health refers to the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Kalgoorlie, a most worthy institution, as I am sure the Minister will agree. This particular service, which operates over a vast portion of Australia, will be requiring in the near future a new aeroplane, and it is now considering how to finance the purchase. Can the Minister indicate what might be
Government policy towards assisting in the purchase of a new aeroplane for the service?
– Since 1950, I think, this Government has made very substantial grants to the Royal Flying Doctor Service on a three-yearly or four-yearly basis in order to enable the organization, which is rendering excellent service to the far-flung areas of our Commonwealth, to do some forward planning. The last agreement was made in 1958 and it expires next June. From memory, I think it made provision for some £67,000 a year. Any future grants to the service are a matter of Government policy and for consideration in the Budget. I assure the honorable senator that the points he has made will be brought to the notice of the Government so that consideration can be given to encouraging the organization to maintain a service that is of great value to people in the western and northern areas of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister aware of a request by the Institute of Public Affairs to the Federal Government to categorize the figures of registered unemployment to show short term and casual workers, both men and women; elderly retired people, both men and women; migrants and non-migrants; and married and single men and women applicants under 21 years of age? Is the Minister aware that school children in Western Australia who obtained casual work over last Christmas, but were put off after Christmas, were registered as unemployed while waiting for their colleges to open in February, thus producing a false figure of unemployment in that State?
– I was not aware of the matter that the honorable senator has brought to my attention. If there has been an approach by the Institute of Public Affairs, it will have gone directly to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I shall ask the Minister to let me, know immediately he has decided whether he can meet the request so that I may advise the honorable senator.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– My reply is short and precise so that there may be no misunderstanding in the honorable senator’s mind where the responsibility lies in case he desires to take further action in this matter, ft is as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
The Minister points out that the representations to which the honorable senatorhas referred have not been overlooked or ignored. Because of the interest which was being shown in the matter, the Minister thought it desirable to set out, for publication, the history of the experimental frequency modulation transmissions and the reasons for the decision to discontinue them. This the Minister did in a carefully prepared statement issued on 31st May, 1961, which dealt in some detail with developments in regard to the allocation of frequencies whichled to the decision. The statement fully explained the reasons why it had been considered necessary to discontinue the transmissions following consideration of the matter from all angles by the Radio Frequency Allocation Review
Committee, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Post Office. It was only after carefully considering the expert advice given to him that the Minister endorsed the decision to discontinue the experimental frequency modulation broadcasting services. Although the Minister is, of course, sorry that disappointment has been caused to a number of people, the Minister still feels that the decision had to be taken in the general public interest for the reasons outlined in his statement.
In discussing this matter at a meeting which took place in the House on Thursday, 26th October, 1961, the Postmaster-General emphasized the difficulty in satisfying the needs for the services which had to be included in this part of the spectrum. In particular, the amount of space that can be allocated for the rapidly growing number of fixed and mobile stations needed by commercial and industrial undertakings and for essential public services posed a special problem. These have increased from less than 8,000 in 1955 to more than 29,000 at the present time. If this rate of growth continues and this seems certain, there will be 50,000 fixed and mobilestations licensed to operate in the V.H.F. band by 1965.
The Postmaster-General went on to say that these services have a considerable importance and value to the community. They provide for a wide range of Government and semi-Government operations, police, fire, ambulance, electricity and water authorities, harbour and marine activities, in addition to the very large and growing needs of a wide variety of commercial users and industries. Successful economic operation of many of the industries concerned now depends heavily on the effective use of mobile and point to point radio services in the V.H.F. band. The PostmasterGeneral reiterated his previous statement that any choice as between the needs of fixed and mobile services and frequency modulation broadcasting lay firmly in favour of the former. 4 and 5. Many public statements have been made on this matter and the Minister has no reason to doubt that the statements attributed to Sir Charles Moses and the late Sir Richard Boyer were, in fact, made.
Report of Tariff Board
– I lay on the table of the Senate the report of the Tariff Board on nitrogenous fertilizers and I ask for the leave of the Senate to make a statement.
– The Government has decided to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board for the payment of a bounty of £2 a ton for three years to producers of sulphate of ammonia produced and sold in Australia for use as fertilizer. A bill to authorize the payment of the bounty from 1st April, 1962, will be brought before the Parliament during the current session.
The Government has also accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation for the removal of the temporary duties on sulphate of ammonia, urea and other synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers. Action is being taken to introduce the necessary tariff alterations. As a consequence urea, sulphate of ammonia and other synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers will be admitted free of duty under the British Preferential Tariff from 5th April, 1962.
Sulphate of ammonia is the only synthetic nitrogenous fertilizer produced in Australia at present. Australian production of sulphate of ammonia is approximately 100,000 tons a year. About 50 per cent of this production is sold as a straight fertilizer and the balance, except for a small quantity used in industry, is sold in composite fertilizers. The greatest demand for sulphate of ammonia has been for sugar cane production.
In formulating its recommendations, the Tariff Board concluded that, whilst the various nitrogenous fertilizers compete in varying degrees with each other, each has its own particular use and they are by no means fully interchangeable. Also it was clearly desirable that users should have access to all types of nitrogenous fertilizers at the lowest possible cost. The board therefore recommended assistance by bounty to offset the Australian industry’s disability in relation to imported sulphate of ammonia. The removal of the temporary duties on synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers and the introduction of the bounty on sulphate of ammonia should have beneficial effects on prices to users. The Government would expect that the price of sulphate of ammonia, for example, should fall to somewhere near the 1960-61 level.
The Government has decided to ask the Tariff Board to review the question of assistance to the production of nitrogenous fertilizers in Australia prior to the expiration of the three-year bounty period.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 760), on motion by Senator Paltridge-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned last evening, I was discussing whether the Government could expect private industry to provide during the coming year £150,000,000 for the expansion programme which will be necessary if those presently unemployed are to find work.
Does the Government really believe that private industry can expand at that rate? I invite the attention of the Senate to a statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) on 21st February. He said -
If we talk in terms of people engaged in manufactures in Australia, we can say that in 1933 22 per cent, of our work force was employed by manufacturing industries and that in 1959, when our total work force was 4,000,000, the proportion had increased to 30 per cent.
During that period of 26 years we have been able to increase the proportion of our work force employed in manufacturing industries by only 8 per cent., but, in spite of that, the Government is trying to convince us that the sum mentioned in this bill will be sufficient to cope with the re-employment of 189,000 people this year. The Government is being over-optimistic if it thinks this measure can achieve the objective which we would all like to achieve. The spoon-feeding of small amounts of money into the economy in this way will not provide secure employment for those who are now unemployed, particularly as this measure will be effective only until 30tn June. The money has been given to the States, and the States, have been requested to spend it before the end of the financial year.
Any one who has taken note of employment trends in the past knows that during the last quarter of a financial year there is always some reduction in the number of persons employed, as government works programmes tail off. If no reductions take place, certainly no more men are employed. The reason for this is that, generally speaking, a government’s funds commence to run out in the last quarter of a financial year and it has to restrict its works programmes until fresh funds are made available. The effect of this measure will be to allow governments to keep in employment those who are employed at present.
The measure will not provide sufficient funds to allow any State government, or the Commonwealth Government, to introduce a policy of equal pay for equal work. I was interested in some questions on that subject that were asked to-day. Senator McManus directed attention to what the trade unions are doing about equal pay for their own employees. Western Australia is to receive about £600,000 of this special grant. There is a branch of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia operating in that State. Senator McManus said he was proud of the fact that he was a clerk. He was wedded to the principle of equal pay for the sexes and had worked in the Clerks’ Union for the implementation of that principle. I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that a number of members of the Clerks Union working in government service in Western Australia do not receive equal pay for the work they perform. The secretary of the union in Western Australia, who is also the president of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, has not, since he has been the secretary of the union, made one application to the arbitration court for an increase in wages, or for equal pay for the sexes. When a member of this Senate lauds himself for being in favour of this principle, knowing that the organization to which he belongs is doing nothing about implementing it, I think that is downright dishonesty.
I listened attentively to Senator Scott when, he spoke on this measure last evening. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) have said that the purpose of the bill is to take up unemployment, and that the distribution of the money between the States is based on the percentage of unemployment in each State. Senator Scott tried to twist that statement by saying that the distribution is based on the efficiency of the governments in the various States. We on this side of the chamber do not accept that the State governments are responsible for the unemployment that exists in Australia to-day. We say that the responsibility lies at the door of the Federal Government, because of the economic measures that it brought down during I960.. I do not limit the measures to those introduced in November of 1960. Personally, I think that the measures brought down in February of 1960 were more drastic than those brought down in November. It is useless for any honorable senator to try to lay the responsibility for unemployment at the door of any State government. T$e State governments have no control over the finances raised within the States. They take what is given to them by the Commonwealth Government and they should try to use the money in an efficient manner.
I would say to Senator Scott that the moneys received by the Western Australian Government have not been used in the most efficient manner. One of the reasons why Western Australia’s share of this money is much less than that of other States with smaller populations is that the Western Australian Government was able to give to a large manufacturing firm a loan of £2,500,000, interest-free for twenty years. The Brand Government made that loan to Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited to entice the company to come to Western Australia. The whole project of the company will cost only £3,500,000, yet the State Government was prepared to lend £2,500,000 interest-free for a period of twenty years. I repeat that that is one of the things that must be looked at when these matters are being considered.
The second-reading speech of the Minister made clear that this money is being provided for the sole purpose of relieving unemployment. We must consider the types of employment that will be provided. We, in Western Australia, are very conscious that the Liberal-Country Party Government has, over the past three years, destroyed what is known as the day-labour system. Senator Lillico was very disgusted because the Reece Government, in Tasmania, was not using a contract system, instead of a day-labour system, to construct roads in that State. We, in Western Australia, are very disturbed that the LiberalCountry Party Government has adopted the contract system in place of the daylabour system in the building industry. No doubt honorable senators will remember that a few weeks ago an apprenticeship commission presented a report concerning the training of apprentices in Australia. It is action of the kind I have just mentioned which is destroying the opportunities for the employment of apprentices in Australia to-day, because when the contract system operates contractors have insufficient stability to permit them to engage indentured workers for a period of five years.
Under the apprenticeship system, an employer who wishes to employ an apprentice must be prepared to provide work for him over a period of five years. If he has not in front of him contracts covering a period of five years, he cannot take on an apprentice. The result is that an insufficient number of apprentices is being trained in Australia to-day. The Liberal-Country Party Government of Western Australia has gone so far as to suggest to the trade union movement that the period of apprenticeship should be reduced from five years to four years. The trade unions are very jealous of the skills that tradesmen are called upon to apply in the execution of their trades, and they say that a four-year training period would result in inefficient tradesmen being turned out. No doubt, if the State Government pursues the suggestion that the period of apprenticeship be reduced, the apprenticeship regulations will be amended and the trade union movement will just have to accept the position.
Great stress is being placed on the need to bring skilled migrants to this country, but within a very short time even greater stress will have to be placed on the need for skilled workers. Unless the migrants who are skilled workers come from Englishspeaking countries, they are not a very great asset to this country, because it takes them some time to learn Australian ways and also to learn the English language, so that they may be communicated with at the factories and other places where they are employed. Looking fairly well ahead, we1 can see that it will not be very long before Australia will have to re-introduce the scheme which operated during the war, under which semi-skilled workers were upgraded to permit them to perform tradesmen’s tasks.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), in his second-reading speech, stated that the grants provided for in the bill were intended to provide finance for employment-giving activities, mainly in the works field. I suppose that if one looks at this matter as- narrowly as the Government looks at the infusion into the community of credit on a short-term basis, one must also give a very narrow meaning to the phrase “ works field “. We expect something better than that from these Government parties which preached so much about national development during the general election campaign in December last. If money is to be made available for developmental works it should be made available on a scale that will allow of developmental works being carried out expeditiously and efficiently. It is true that the Commonwealth Government proposes to expend some £41,000,000 on a standard-gauge railway in Western Australia, but that is only one of the developmental projects that need to be undertaken. Throughout the State and throughout Australia as a whole, there are many other projects that could be commenced and which would provide employment over a long period. Why does not the Government say to the various States, “In order to assist with national development, we will give you a certain sum of money each year over a fixed number of years”? If the States were to be given money on that basis they would be able to make proper plans for the employment of the expanding work force.
The granting of money to the States for a period of three or four months, as the Government proposes under this bill, will not cure our economic ills. I highlight that statement by saying that to my knowledge the Government of Western Australia has notified all building workers employed on maintenance work on hospitals within the State that their employment will cease within two months. There are two interpretations which can be placed on that statement. The first is that there will be insufficient money to employ those workers for a longer period, and the second is that they were to be employed only until such time as the State election had been held. I give the State government credit for not using the employment of those people as an election bait, although we are aware that many election baits are used. I instance the matter to show that the Government of Western Australia has insufficient money to keep those workers in constant employment. It has had to tell them that within two months their employment will cease.
Again we come up against the problem of the Commonwealth Employment Service issuing statements about the number of people that it has placed in employment. We know that people are being given employment, particularly in the public sector and not so much in the private sector, and we also know that before the Government of Western Australia will employ a man he must go down and register at the employment office. He thus becomes another person whom the employment office has placed in employment, despite the fact that he might not have been registered at the employment office, or that he was engaged before registering. That is an instance of the creation of fictitious figures in order to assist the Government to get out of a very sticky spot in respect of unemployment.
Senator Lillico is very much out of touch with events in Australia to-day. In referring to unemployment, he said that it had persisted for the last six months or so. I remind him that in July of last year, before the Budget was presented,, there were 113,000 unemployed in Australia.
– The Prime Minister said that there was only a nominal amount of unemployment.
– The Prime Minister may have his own ideas of the description that should be given to a certain number of unemployed. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) adopts the practice of referring to the unemployed as a percentage of the labour force. They are prepared to deal with human beings as statistics. I notice, on reading “ Hansard “, that an attempt was made last evening to tie Senator Dittmer down to a certain figure which could be regarded as full employment. Senator Scott has gone on record as saying that that number would be 60,000. I do not subscribe to that view, nor do I say that every one in Australia can be employed, but I do say that the only figure which will satisfy the Australian Labour Party is that which is arrived at when every person who is able and willing to work, and who wants work, has the opportunity to obtain a job. A certain number of unemployed might still be left, but no doubt it would consist mainly of those who did not want work, those who could not work full time, and those who could do only selected work of a kind which was not available. To express full employment as a figure is wrong. The Australian Labour Party does not believe that you can set a figure as representing full employment, despite what Senator Scott may claim was said in 1946 by Mr. Haylen. Statements such as that attributed to Mr. Haylen are made in the light of conditions as they exist at a given time. To-day, sixteen years after that statement was made, we on this side of the chamber are not prepared to be bound by it. Full employment, in our view, means that a job is available for every man and woman who wants one.
I direct the attention of the Senate to figures relating to unemployment. I have said in this chamber before that the unemployment figures given to the Parliament and to the public do not show correctly the proportion of the work force that is seeking employment, because the work force as it is referred to in this connexion is an inflated work force. The Australian work force, as defined by the Commonwealth Statistician for census purposes, includes employers, self-employed persons, wage and salary earners, unemployed persons and all persons helping in any industry, business, trade or service but not in receipt of wages or salary. According to the Statistician’s definition, wage and salary earners include rural workers, those in private domestic service and members of the forces. The Statistician says that precise statistics of the work force are not available except at census times, and the current estimate of about 4,200,000 is based on the assumption that the present work force bears the same relationship to the estimated population, according to age groups, as it bore at the time of the 1954 census. That very wide definition of the work force embraces practically everybody except women and children. Almost everybody else is regarded as a part of the work force. If you say that 100,000 persons are registered for employment, and you divide that figure into the work force figure, the result is fictitious. Are employers seeking employment? Are self-employed persons seeking employment? It is wrong to seek to express the figures relating to unemployed persons as a percentage by basing those figures on a definition as wide as the one that I have cited.
– What do you suggest in place of that definition?
– When the Statistician wants to refer to the number of unemployed as a percentage of the work force, he resorts to the definition that I have cited. But when he wishes to refer to the number of persons in employment, he uses a different definition. I suggest that in all cases he should use the definition that he uses when dealing with persons in employment, because under that definition the work force contains almost 1,000,000 fewer persons than it contains under the other definition.
– I appreciate that that is what the Statistician does, but what is important in this connexion is what the Department of Labour and National Service does with its records.
– Although the Minister for Labour and National Service presents the report compiled by his department each month, the figures contained in that report are obtained from the Statistician. I am aware that the Statistician operates on instructions from the Minister. I am aware also that the work force definition to which I have already referred has been in operation for years. There is nothing new about it. I do not accuse the Government of having introduced this definition or interpretation of a work force.
Senator Paltridge. - I regret interjecting again, but I think it is necessary to indicate that the Department of Labour and National Service produces from its own records its own statistics in relation to employment and unemployment.
– I am citing the report of the Minister for Labour and National Service, issued at 9 p.m. on Monday, 15th January, 1962.
Various reasons have been given for the present employment position in Australia. Mr. McMahon has said that persons leaving school boosted the unemployment figures. No doubt persons leaving school in January helped to boost the unemployment figures, but in February many of those persons returned to school. Mr. Menzies has said that Labour Party calamity howlers were destroying confidence in the community and creating unemployment. Senator McKellar has said that married women in employment were the cause of the present high unemployment figures. Mr. Cleaver, the honorable member for Swan, has said that malingerers - people who did not want to work - were responsible for the unemployment figures. None of the honorable members or senators to whom I have referred will adroit that the unemployment situation was brought about by the Government’s economic measures. I do not doubt that the Government did not intend to cause as much unemployment as was caused, because Sir Garfield Barwick is on record as saying that unemployment had gone further than the Government intended. Nevertheless, the Government has not at any time said what it did intend.
Let me return now to the bill before the Senate The grant provided in this bill is to be allocated among the States according to the percentages of persons unemployed in the various States. Western Australia will receive a smaller amount than the other States. It has been claimed that the credit squeeze had very little effect in Western Australia and was not the cause of the unemployment situation there. If it is conceded that over the past few years unemployment in Western Australia has been running at between 6,000 and 7,000 persons, it must be admitted that the position in that State is chronic, and is not merely a temporary position resulting from the credit squeeze. Therefore, more than £600,000 will be required to find employment for the persons who are out of work to-day in Western Australia.
The adoption of short-term measures for the infusion of public money into the economy is not a cure for unemployment. If the Government wants to do something constructive about the unemployment situation, and if it wants to provide employment for our expanding labour force, it must plan to spend a certain amount of money on developmental works throughout the country. That is something that it promised to do in November of last year.
– I rise to support the bill. At the outset, may I correct a statement made by Senator Cant. If he refers to the speech that I made, I think, the week before last, to which he alluded, he will find that I did not blame married women for the unemployment position. I suggest that he reread my speech. If he does so, he will see that the statement he made about my speech is not correct.
The purpose of this bill has been stated several times already in this debate; but as the debate has been resumed this afternoon and for the benefit of the people who are listening to this speech, T propose to refer to some of the statement that have been made during the debate. The bill authorizes payments to the States of amounts totalling £10,000,000. These are additional payments to those that have been made during the past few months. I believe those payments can be regarded as very satisfactory and as reflecting credit on the Commonwealth Government which has made them.
We recall that on 7th February the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement in which he announced certain Cabinet decisions that were made after a consideration of the unemployment position. The Prime Minister said -
We will put before the meeting of Premiers next week an offer to provide forthwith a special nonrepayable grant of £10,000,000 for employmentgiving activities, mainly in the works field. The detailed application of this sum, as a supplement in the current financial year, will be discussed with the Premiers. It is our intention that it should be supplied and allocated mainly on the basis of meeting employment needs.
Already we have seen some quite good results of the Government’s measures, although the period since those measures began to operate has been very short. This Commonwealth offer, including the suggested distribution of the total grant, was considered by the Premiers, along with the other Commonwealth offers to advance additional amounts to the States for housing and to support an increase in the borrowing programmes of local authorities and semi-governmental bodies.
Let us look at the amounts to be paid to the States. New South Wales will receive no less than £2,240,000; Victoria will receive £1,800,000, Queensland £3,340,000, South Australia £970,000, Western Australia £660,000, and Tasmania £990,000. I repeat that the grants do not involve the States in any interest payments or repayments of the grants. Surely an offer of this nature would have been undreamt of about ten years ago. Indeed, had any one suggested at that time that the Commonwealth Government should make a grant of this nature and this size to the States, the suggestion would have been laughed away as something beyond the realms of practical politics altogether. Yet here we see it as an accomplished fact.
We know that the unemployment figure reached a very high level indeed. It went higher than the Government wished it to go. The objective of this Government ever since it assumed office has been to try to provide the greatest possible amount of employment in the existing circumstances. The Government has not deviated from that policy. But, because certain measures that were put into operation and the conditions in which Australia was placed brought about quite an appreciable amount of unemployment, short-term measures were taken to correct the position. So successful have those measures been already that the latest figures we have received show a tremendous fall of about 19,000 in the number of people unemployed. That is an unprecedented fall in unemployment figures in the history of the Commonwealth. I believe that we can derive very great satisfaction from that fact. I sincerely hope that in the months to come we will continue to see very substantial decreases in the unemployment figures.
I wish to refer to one aspect of the employment position that I believe we must consider. On Monday of this week in Sydney I was told of men wanting some repairs done on their properties and houses. After calling tenders and interviewing several people, they accepted the quotes of two men who turned out to be carpenters who formerly were building contractors - employers of labour. These two men did the job themselves. The explanation that they gave was that labour conditions had reached such a pitch that they were no longer able to carry on as building contractors because they found it was far more satisfactory for them to do the work themselves. My remarks should not be taken as suggesting that we should employ workmen at sweated rates. I am not suggesting that for one moment. I am making these remarks as a warning and to let working people know that there is a danger of their killing the goose that lays the golden egg-
In New South Wales to-day we have a government that is trying to institute a 35-hour week. Actually, 35 hours a week is about all most people work under the 40-hour week system. The New South Wales Government has set out to reduce still further the number of hours worked per week. That is probably very fine for a country if its economy can afford it. I believe that the case to which I have referred shows very clearly that Australia cannot afford a 35-hour week. It would affect the high cost structure in Australia. I have been preaching about this question of high costs in season and out of season since I came into the Senate, because increased costs eventually fall back on the primary producers and people on fixed incomes. They cannot pass on the increases.
As an illustration of the effect of high costs, I refer to a certain company in New South Wales which at the moment is having a very rough time financially. It started to build and partly built a palatial hotel. In the building of that hotel builders’ labourers were paid at the rate of £40 a week. Is it any wonder that that company is in a financial morass to-day? That is the type of thing that brought about unemployment and the bursting of the bubble. I repeat that I am not making these remarks in the hope that we will condone sweated labour or low-paid labour. I am making them as a warning to employees. In their own interests, they should see that they do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
During the past few weeks we have been told that there has been a great dearth of home-building. Again I am referring to my State of New South Wales. Despite the large amount of money available for home-building, there is no doubt that in that State to-day it is not being used. Why is it not being used? I believe that two or three factors come into this question. First, there has been quite a bit of loss of confidence. Secondly, the price of land is too high. This was mentioned by Senator Anderson in a speech that he made in this chamber only last week. The price of building blocks is beyond the means of many young people. Added to the cost of the home that they wish to build, the price is far beyond their financial means. Certain figures have been given to me. I think they were cited in this chamber. To-day it costs in the vicinity of £400 a square to build a timber home. In the city of Sydney two palatial buildings are being built by the Commonwealth at the present time. On the figures that have been given from time to time, the combined* cost of the two buildings will be between £7,000,000 and £9,000,000. Of course, the building of them is creating quite a deal of employment and use of materials. Other buildings are also under construction at the moment. A shipping company is engaged in the construction of a multi-storied building. An office block is being built by the New South Wales Government. The excavation work for that building has been done. I believe that it will have about 40 stories. What it will cost I do not know. Only this week schemes have been submitted for the development of a certain area. The cost of some of the schemes is as low as £30,000,000 and the cost of other schemes is as high as £50,000,000.
If that is not enough, another project known as the Australia Square, will cost something like £5,000,000. A building scheme at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in the heart of Sydney is being sponsored by the Church of England, and this, in turn, will cost £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 or perhaps more. All this in a time of supposed financial stringency, when this Government has brought so much woe and despair to the country, according to many of our opponents. Yet in one city of Australia alone projects are in course of construction, or have been planned to be completed within the next seven, eight or ten years, to the total value of about £80,000,000 or £90,000,000. So much for the story of woe that has been getting about. I have said before, and I say again, that the Government of New South Wales had an opportunity to provide worthwhile productive employment had it honoured its obligations under the Snowy Mountains scheme and built the Blowering Dam. Instead of fulfilling this obligation it did not do anything at all towards forwarding this project, and consequently a golden opportunity was lost to keep in employment some of the people who have been out of employment for the past four, five or six months.
In the bill before us, emphasis has been placed on the works that are being undertaken to provide employment. Perhaps some primary producers are saying, “ That is all very well, but what is happening to us? “ We must bear in mind that full employment provides potential buyers for the products of primary producers, and to that extent, of course, the primary pro ducers will benefit. Quite apart from the moral aspect of providing work for people who are willing to work, and who have been unable to get jobs, primary producers will reap some worthwhile economic benefit from this measure.
Had this £10,000,000 that we are speaking of been a gift on its own it would have been creditable, but coming on top of all the moneys that have been made available over the past twelve years or so, it is very generous indeed. Grants have been made to Queensland. I do not begrudge Queensland that. They were productive grants, and will bring worthwhile benefits to Australia, such as beef roads. Honorable members should bear in mind that the Commonwealth Government came to the assistance of Queensland in providing funds for the Mr Isa railway. I recollect that £30,000,000 was made available to Western Australia for the construction of railways in that State. Money has been provided also for quite a number of other projects that I do not propose to mention at this juncture. This substantial assistance by the Commonwealth has been made available to the States on top of the amounts provided for in this bill.
A Melbourne newspaper yesterday published an article headed, “You are better off now than in the 1930’s”. It was a report from Melbourne of a survey made by the Institute of Public Affairs, and it contained these words -
The average Australian today owns more goods, eats better food, and can afford more luxuries than his father did in the 1930’s.
I do not think any honorable senator can dispute that. The article continues -
These are the conclusions of a survey by the Institute of Public Affairs comparing Australia now with. Australia in the thirties.
In the 1930’s there were eight cars for every 100 Australians. Today there are 20 cars a hundred.
The number of radios has increased by more than 300 per cent, from 17 a hundred to 60 a hundred; and telephones have increased from 10 to 22 a 100.
I do not propose to mention all of the results of the survey, but I should like to mention this one, which was recently referred to by Senator Anderson and other honorable senators -
Three out of every four homes are now owned or being bought by their occupants. In the 1930’s the proportion was less than one in two.
The report continues -
People are also, saving more. Even when allowance was made for price changes, savings bank deposits a head increased during the 1950’ s at a rate three times that of the 1930’s.
Social service benefits a head of population have more than doubled (in comparative prices).
The number of people covered by superannuation schemes has greatly increased and today about a third of all male employees are now covered by retirement benefits.
The survey says that the experience of the 1950’s has given Australians an entirely new conception of the Australian nation and its future.
The survey winds up by saying that the things which the new generation tend to take for granted remain a source of wonder to their ‘predecessors. Surely honorable senators cannot quarrel with the accuracy of that survey and the conclusions that are drawn from it. The fact that building in Sydney is proceeding at the rate that I have mentioned, and the result of the survey that I have just referred to, are indications of prosperity. I mentioned recently in the Senate the campaign that was being waged by certain newspapers deliberately, it seemed to me, in an attempt to create a feeling of non-confidence, not only in the Government - they can do that if they want to - but also in the whole economic system. At the same time the newspapers admitted that what Australia needed was a feeling of confidence, but instead of using their undoubted power to promote that feeling of confidence, they did just the opposite. That, Sir, in my opinion, is unpardonable, and it is a disgrace to any newspaper indulging in such tactics.
Senator Cant has said that the amount provided in this measure is inadequate. I suppose that if the Government had provided £20,000,000 it would have been the Opposition’s job to say that that amount also was inadequate. However, in the light of the brief survey that I have just given, I contend that the amount is very generous. In to-day’s press there is a statement that the Ford motor company is putting on an additional 75 men. I think that refers to its Sydney plant. I understand that another firm is advertising for something like 200 toolmakers. All this points to the turn of the tide, shall I say - and this before the short-term measures that have been undertaken by the Government have had an opportunity to take effect. Therefore, we can look to the future with great confidence.
The Government has succeeded in reducing unemployment, and there is no question about the future of Australia - with one exception, and I utter this warning which is similar to that which was issued by Sir John Crawford and published in the press to-day. It is a warning that has been uttered over and over again by our Minister for Trade, the Honorable John McEwen - that is, the consequences that could flow to Australia if the United Kingdom decides to join the European Common Market. I am quite sure that all honorable senators feel that the United Kingdom will be forced to join, unless the terms are so stringent that they do not allow her to fulfil her obligations to countries such as Australia. I agree with Sir John Crawford. The export of many of our primary products is in grave danger - wool perhaps not to the same degree - but I fully agree with what he said about many of our other primary commodities. Mr. McEwen made it plain in his reported statement in Great Britain the other day that if we lost the United Kingdom market for butter, there was simply no other market for us. These are the matters that we have to take note of. Therefore, when I say that we Australians can probably look forward with confidence to national prosperity, we must keep this factor in mind. That is why our Minister for Trade is overseas to-day, doing the sterling job that he went there to do.
Senator Cant mentioned what he called the inaccuracy of the employment and unemployment figures. I do not propose to go into that matter beyond saying that here, again, it is the Opposition’s job to decry what the Government is doing and to try to make party political capital out of it. When the employment and unemployment figures suit Opposition senators, they use them in one context; but when the figures do not suit them, they complain that the basis of their computation is wrong. Of course, I could be wrong myself, but that is my feeling. In view of the purpose for which the bill was drafted, I congratulate the Government upon bringing it down and I give it my support.
– Mr. President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During my speech a few minutes ago I said that several persons had found various reasons for the unemployment in Australia to-day, and I referred to Senator McKellar as blaming the married women for the high figure of unemployed. Senator McKellar when he rose said that he wanted to correct my statement. I am not in the habit of misquoting persons. I now quote from “Hansard” of 21st February last. At page 45 Senator McKellar is reported as having said -
Now we come to employment, or rather unemployment. This Government, of course, has been heckled for many months about the numbers of unemployed in our midst. Nobody regrets more than I do that men, particularly those with families, want employment and cannot get it. But we must remember that many of the persons registered as unemployed are married women. Do not let us forget also that to-day we have very large numbers of married women in employment. 1 am not saying that they should not be in employment, but if they were not so employed we would probably have far fewer people, listed as unemployed.
Those are the words that he used on 21st February last. 1 hope that when I made my speech I did not misquote the honorable senator.
.- During this debate Government senators have been suggesting that the Government is to be congratulated upon the measure that we are now discussing. Indeed, Senator McKellar used those words just before he sat down. 1 am wondering, Mr. President, how any Government senator could feel any elation over the fact that the Government has had to introduce a measure of this description. We recall the time last year, not very long ago, when members of the Opposition here and in another place were chiding the Government for its financial policy and suggesting that it would cause acute unemployment and that it would seriously affect the economy of this country. The Government pooh-poohed the idea and suggested that everything in the garden was lovely. We made no bones about the matter. We directed the attention of the Government to what was likely to happen; and the fact that this measure is now before the Parliament of this country is proof of the contentions raised by the Opposition in those days.
The Minister, in introducing the bill, intimated that its purpose is to authorize payments to the States of amounts totalling £10,000,000 in this financial year and that these amounts are being’ made available in the form of non-repayable grants and are additional to the national assistance grants paid to the States under the State Grants Act of 1959. He went on to state that this measure followed from the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 7th February last that Cabinet, after valuable consultation with a wide range of industries and interests, had reviewed the state of the economy and had closely considered policy and appropriate action. The Minister said that the Prime Minister on that occasion intimated that the Government was concerned at both the level of unemployment then evident and the weakness of confidence throughout the community. He went on to outline a series of measures that the Government intended to take to deal with this situation. i Since this Parliament assembled the
Government has introduced four such measures. We had, first, the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill, then the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Rebate) Bill, and the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Provisional Tax) Bill. Now we have the fourth measure. I suggest that none of these four measures is likely to meet the position as outlined by the Prime Minister in his statement. Before I expand that proposition I emphasize how interesting it is to compare the Prime Minister’s statement of 7th February hist with the statement in his policy speech last year. I was not in the country when be made his policy speech, but since my return I have had the opportunity to peruse a copy of it. I find that at that time the Prime Minister suggested that any unemployment was quite within control and that everything would be all right. I note that he condemned the policies that were outlined by the leader of the Labour Party for an amelioration of the conditions then existing as being irresponsible, outrageous and beyond the financial capacity of the Government.
What a remarkable change took place between December and February. What was it that caused the Prime Minister suddenly to realize that something was wrong with the economy of Australia, that there was unemployment and that he should call into consultation representatives of banking, industry, commerce and the trade union movement? What a remarkable change took place in those few short months. Of course, we all know what happened on that occasion. We know the Government’s feeling of complacency and assurance, which manifested itself in every speech by Ministers, even in this Senate. We know of the feeling abroad that the Government was in office for keeps, as one honorable senator mentioned here during a discussion on wheat. Therefore, he said, any policy, whether good, bad or indifferent, that might be brought forward by this Government, would be accepted by the people. We know of the shock that the Government received at the recent election when it suddenly realized that many people in Australia agreed with what they had been told by the Opposition here and in another place. The Australian electors were thinking along the same lines as the Opposition, and it was a miracle that the Government was returned to occupy the treasury bench. Quite a remarkable change has come over the scene. We have been regaled with figures relating to the unemployment problem. We are told that the problem is now being solved. Let us visualize the situation which existed in Australia prior to the imposition of the Government’s restrictions, which necessitated the introduction of these three panic measures in order to ameliorate the position.
Prior to the introduction of the Government’s restrictive, measures, Australia was advancing and our economy was expanding. Senator McKellar spoke of buildings being erected in Sydney and elsewhere. That was indicative of a condition that existed generally throughout Australia. Industry was expanding, and overseas capital was being invested in this country. In the eyes of the world, Australia was seen as a developing nation with a great future. It appeared that there was nothing that could not be achieved. Unfortunately, the Government became afraid of our wealth and potentiality and said that Australia was progressing too fast. It brought down proposals which, like a cold chilly blast, nearly destroyed Australia’s economy altogether.
It would be interesting to learn who were really the authors of the financial pro posals that were introduced by the Government at that time. I remember listening to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in another place- during the debate on those measures. He was full of self-assurance, believing that the plan he was proposing was the medicine for Australia. What a different, chastened . Treasurer we have to-day! What a meek man he has become by comparison with the Treasurer of that day when everything that he said was correct! What a difference we now see! Let me refer briefly to the two previous measures which were introduced by the Government, as they are part of the trinity by which the Government hopes to restore stability to the economy of Australia.
First, there was a measure to reduce sales tax on motor vehicles. It has brought stability to the motor vehicle industry, or at least has put a silver lining to the cloud of depression. The industry is getting back on to an even keel, although possibly it will not reach the stability that could have been achieved had there been no interference earlier. The second measure provided for a reduction of income tax. This measure was designed to stimulate the spending power of the community. However, the wrong people are receiving the benefit of that measure. The working people of Australia, who would have spent whatever money they could get in purchasing consumer goods, thus stimulating the economy, are receiving a very small measure of relief. Those who, despite the restrictions, were still able to enjoy the good things of life, are the ones who will benefit most materially as a result of the income tax reduction.
This bill provides for £10,000,000 to be distributed to the States on the basis of the extent of unemployment in each State. In the schedule of the bill it is provided that £1,800,000 shall be allocated to Victoria, which is my own State. It is suggested that this money should be spent on government, semi-government and municipal works. Honorable senators who have had any experience in local government matters will appreciate that municipal councils will be unable to participate in the spending of any of the money that is being made available because their share must come out of loan funds. They have no large surpluses of money available.
It is rather remarkable that this money is to be handed to the States free of interest. However, municipalities will not be absolved from paying interest on the money they will be forced to borrow - if they are able to do so - to undertake any work. I am interested in this matter. I know that the council in my own municipality could undertake certain works if it received a share of this money. However, it is unable to share in this grant in the manner desired by the Government, because the Government has stated that the money must be expended before the end of this financial year. Municipalities and other local government bodies, which are engaged in the expenditure of loan money, are required by State controllers of finance to make known in advance their loan requirements for the ensuing financial year. Long ago they intimated what they wanted to spend by the end of June this year. That was necessary to enable State Premiers to formulate their claims for loan money for submission to the Loan Council. It is therefore impossible for those bodies to expend any of this money. Perhaps other organizations, such as the Victorian Country Roads Board, might be able to keep in employment men whom they intended to dismiss. Our Premier has directed those organizations to do this.
It is desired that this money should be expended by 30lh June of this year. So far, so good. We support the bill, because it will make available a certain amount of money, but we must look beyond 30th June. Where do we go from there? Could it be said that our economy to-day is in such a condition that we may look forward to a continuation of prosperity? Even if these grants stimulate the economy for a short period, what will happen after that? When we look around, we see that confidence is not returning in the economic field. Senator McKellar mentioned a large New South Wales organization. I imagine that we all know the group to which he was referring. That organization is almost on the brink of destruction, involving some millions of pounds of Australian money. The directors are at their wits’ end in trying to prevent the whole edifice from collapsing around their ears. What did the chairman of this organization say? He said that it v/us caught by the financial squeeze.
What did a shipping magnate say who came to Australia from England recently? The chairman of P. & O.-Orient lines of Australia Proprietary Limited, blamed the credit squeeze in Australia for the company’s loss of profits. What has been disclosed during the past few weeks in the financial statements presented by companies in Australia? Are there any indications by the chairmen of directors or the spokesmen for those companies that they have any confidence in the future, or that they expect that conditions will return to what they were before the Government took the action that it did take? Is any confidence indicated by stock exchange reports? If confidence were returning to the business and industrial community, you would expect to see an indication of it in stock exchange reports. Day after day, however, there is a downward trend, showing that the Australian people have no confidence in the measures which the Government has introduced into this Parliament.
Government supporters in the Senate, and in another place, have preened themselves as they have claimed that the Government has restored Australia to the position it was in before the Government acted in 1960. I received to-day a copy of “ The Taxpayers’ Bulletin” of 24th March. The leading article is headed “ More Stimulus Needed “, and it states -
The good news of this week was that the unemployment situation had improved in February.
That is one of the bright spots about which honorable senators opposite have been talking. The article continues -
The nol-so-good news - made available in a survey conducted jointly by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales-
If there were a great wave of prosperity, I suggest that those two organizations would be the first to proclaim it from the housetops - was that there had been no real improvement in manufacturing activity since November; seventy per cent, of a representative group of companies were still working below economic levels of capacity - pretty much the same position as that obtaining at the end of last year. In addition, on the less hopeful side, there was the continuing reluctance of the business community to avail itself of the credit that had been freely available: bank advances had shown no significant advance - or, indeed, any advance - since the credit squeeze was relaxed.
So it goes on. That statement indicates that instead of there being a resurgence of prosperity, there is no prosperity at all.
What comfort can we take from the measures that are being introduced? What indication is there that prosperity will return? The business community is afraid to advance, because it is not sure that the Government really believes that the measures it is introducing are in the best interests of the people. They are measures introduced in a fit of panic, in the hope of winning the votes of electors should there be an election, at an early date. I suggest that the Government should do something more than introduce measures of this character, if the country is to be restored to the prosperity it enjoyed prior to the introduction of the Government’s credit squeeze.
, - in reply - I listened with considerable surprise to some parts of the speech made by Senator Sheehan. Looking back to the condition of the economy at the end of 1960, the honorable senator said that at that time the economy was running along smoothly, and that we had a condition of full employment. More surprising still, he mentioned with approval that, at that time, investment money was flowing into this country. He then proceeded to say that the Government took panic action which produced a set of conditions that brought near disaster to Australia. I suggest that the honorable senator’s hind sight, or his recollection of what happened in 1960, is as inaccurate as his diagnosis of the state of the economy at the present time.
As is recognized now by all, and as was recognized then by the Government, at the end of 1960 the economy was in a condition of boom which, had it been allowed to continue, would have become a condition of burst, with all the accompanying economic consequences. It was for that reason that the Government took the action which it did take in 1960. I remind the Senate that it acted against the background of an inflation that had been persisting throughout the year and of a condition in respect of our overseas funds which was, in fact, perilous. What has been the result of this action on those two important aspects of the economy? Certainly inflation has been halted; no one will deny that. No one will deny that our overseas funds have been restored to a- level of complete safety.
I am pleased to note that this bill has the support of all parties in the Parliament. It is one of a series of measures taken by the Government to re-activate the economy in those areas in which it requires reactivation. This measure takes its place along with the bill to increase loan allocations to local government authorities. That measure provided for local government spending, and has a relation to this measure, which will stimulate spending by State governments. It will play its part, together with the sales tax reduction, the income tax concession, the investment allowances, the increased expenditure on housing, and the like. It is part of a programme to achieve a quick result. Specifically, this measure is designed to do just that.
A good deal has been said during the debate about the allocation of the money. My friend Senator Dittmer, exercising that wide national conspectus which seldom permits him to see south of the Tweed River, spoke of the needs of Queensland. Similarly, my colleague from Western Australia, Senator Scott, spoke in his usual rugged and vigorous way about the needs of his State. Why was this particular allocation decided upon? It was designed to produce a quick result in those sore spots in the economy which needed quick treatment. You put a poultice on that part of your leg where there is a boil, Sir, not where there is no boil. In this instance, the Government was completely justified in taking the very realistic view that the money should be applied in such a way as to achieve the quickest result in those geographical areas of Australia which most needed attention. That is why, of course, the allocation has been made in the way I have indicated. In addition, regard was had to the fact that States like Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia would benefit to a great extent by virtue of the action we had taken in other directions. For example, the motor industry would be stimulated by the remission of sales tax. The motor industry is to be found in New
South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Queensland does not have such an industry, and that is one of the reasons why that State received a bigger cut of the cake than would appear to be proportionate.
As I have said, this measure was designed to achieve a quick result. With the other measures proposed by the Government, it is producing the result for which it was designed. The members of the Opposition speak on the subject of employment and unemployment as if it were their political holy writ, but what is the situation in respect of employment? The number of unemployed is coming down very fast indeed. During the last month for which records are available, there was a reduction of more than 19,000 in the number of registered unemployed. The reduction of unemployment is continuing all round us. We can see it happening. The statistics that are coming in from individual industries indicate that in almost every section of the economy employment is picking up very rapidly.
I think it is relevant to refer to the report of the Victorian Institute of Public Affairs regarding the method” of presenting unemployment figures. This report was referred to by my colleague, Senator McKellar, who indicated that there was a tendency on the part of Australians to regard people who arc registered as unemployed as being in dire need or in drastic circumstances. Let me say at once that while I, no less than any honorable senator who sits on the other side of the chamber, desire to see a condition of full employment, we should not get the unemployment figures out of perspective. The Victorian Institute of Public Affairs has suggested, and very soundly, I believe, that the figures should be categorized as between skilled and unskilled workers - men and women; short-term and casual workers - men and women; elderly, retired people - mcn and women; migrants and non-migrants - married and single men and women; and applicants under 21 years of age. 1 suggest, and indeed, I propose to take this matter up with my colleague, that we should see whether it is not possible to have a better presentation of the figures so that the Australian public will be better informed of the particular categories and areas in which unemployment is occurring.
I have referred to the categories which the Victorian Institute of Public Affairs has suggested. To those categories I would add one other. I was surprised to find during the Christmas rece’ss that students on vacation may receive unemployment benefit. 1 did not know until then that many university students on vacation applied for unemployment benefit and received it. I say nothing at this point about their eligibility for the benefit, but I do say that if there is a number of persons in that category, the Australian public would be better informed if it knew just what that number was.
– But you will admit, Mr. Minister, that if the Commonwealth Employment Service can provide work for those people they have to take the jobs that are offered or forgo the benefit.
– Indeed they have. Does the honorable senator object to that?
– No, I do not.
– A university student on leave may go along and record his name as that of an unemployed person. He qualifies for the unemployment benefit and receives it. Why, in the name of all that is holy, should he not be obliged to take the employment that is provided for him?
This debate has been concerned with special grants to the States. They will be required neither to pay interest nor to repay the principal. The grants are being made for. the. purpose of achieving a quick result, and it is gratifying to the Government and, indeed, to all Australians, to see that they are having the result for’ which they were designed. I express the Government’s appreciation of the fact that the measure has attracted the support of all parties in the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.35 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 15th March (vide page 584), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the following paper: -
Netherlands-Indonesian Dispute - Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated 15th March, 1962- be printed.
– Mr. President, on 15th March last the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) made a statement relating to West New Guinea, which, of course, is territory held by the Netherlands. His statement was repeated in the Senate on the same day and a formal motion was moved that the paper be printed.I now open the debate for the Opposition on that motion.
BeforeI go to the heart of the matter I want to make a few general observations. My first observation is inspired by what I find from personal experience to be a great lack of knowledge among the Australian people as to the titles to the various elements of New Guinea. I am surprised to find so little understanding among so many people as to how the various sections of the island are held. Accordingly, for the sake of the record, I will refer very briefly to that aspect.
The western section of the island is held by the Netherlands as Netherlands territory. That is the area now in dispute. The middle section - Papua - is held by Australia as Australian territory by grant from the British Government in 1905. The eastern section of the island is held by Australia, not in its own right - not as part of Australian territory - but simply as trustee, on behalf of the United Nations, for the benefit of the native inhabitants. The trusteeship of that territory was first granted to Australia through the League of Nations in 1920, when Australia took over the territory as a former German possession.
Australia has merged the two areas that it holds - the one that it owns and the one that it holds as trustee - and has bound itself tolead the native inhabitants in both areas to self-government and independence. Australia submits to United Nations inspection of both areas. It reports annually to the United Nations on both areas. So, in fact, Australia holdsfor itself no part of New Guinea. Australia makes no pr ofit for itself from New Guinea. Indeed, the Australian taxpayer contributessome £17,000,000 a year for the upkeep of the Australian territory.
The Netherlands has acknowledged a duty to the native inhabitants of West New Guinea similar to that acknowledged by Australia in relation to the inhabitants of the areas under its control. The Netherlands makes no profit from West New Guinea, and taxpayers of the Netherlands contribute something of the order of £10,000,000 a year for the maintenance of the area. Accordingly, I put the argument that there is no element of colonialism in New Guinea. The occupying powers - Australia and the Netherlands - incur heavy annual expenditure in the discharge of a great moral obligation to the native peoples - an obligation acknowledged before the world.
Now I would like to deal, generally only at this stage, with West New Guinea itself. The situation in that area, as the Opposition sees it, is one of supreme importance to Australia, not merely for the present but because it involves the whole future of our country. The situation there draws us against our will into the vortex of world politics and power politics. It impacts immediately on the question of our security as a nation. We are forced into determining an attitude in a dispute between two nations, with each of which we are friendly and with each of which we are most anxious to remain friendly, but which, unfortunately, are engaged at the moment in minor hostilities that could rapidly expand into a major conflict and even erupt into world war. That is a situation that Australia cannot afford to ignore. Our attitude cannot be determined by a mere preference for one or other of the contestants. We must determine our attitude. We must make a decision in those circumstances, and it is important for us that our decision should be able to stand the test of time. It can do that only if it is based on considerations of good faith and justice. In fact, only in that way can it be the right decision. I submit that that does not prevent us from having a proper regard for our own self-interest in the matter of our own preservation as a nation. The Opposition believes that Australia, fortunately, is able to take an attitude that serves the causes of good faith and justice without harming our best interests.
Finally, under this general heading I would like to give a very brief history of the dispute that is now plaguing this part of the world. Following the last war, when the Dutch sought to return to their former possessions in this part of the world, the Indonesians declared their independence. They announced the Republic of the United States of Indonesia. When fighting began, Australia intervened and had the matter referred to the United Nations. Long discussions ensued. There were a number of treaties and a number of rendezvous at which the matter was negotiated. Finally a treaty was signed granting to Indonesia a charter of independence and of sovereignty over the areas formerly held by the Dutch for centuries. One thing only was exempted from that treaty. I have read the grant of the transfer of sovereignty. Article I. is in extraordinary brief form. I need not quote it in detail. One clause in Article II. concerns the present position and reads -
The status quo of the residency of New Guinea shall be maintained with the stipulation that, within a year from the date of transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia, the question of the political status of New Guinea be determined through negotiations between the Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The phrase “ the status quo of the residency of New Guinea “ was the subject of correspondence, dated 2nd November, 1949, between the chairman of the Indonesian delegation and the chairman of the Netherlands delegation. Letters were exchanged, explaining that that portion of the charter which referred to the status quo of the residency of New Guinea being maintained meant that it would be maintained though continuing under the government of the Netherlands. So before the charter of sovereignty actually became effective on 27th December, 1949, it was clear that West New Guinea was exempted from the grant of sovereignty and the preservation of the status quo in the terms I have indicated was clearly agreed to.
In 19S4 Indonesia sought in the United Nations itself a declaration that the area in question should be passed over to Indonesia. At that stage Australia opposed the matter being discussed in the United Nations. Australia objected to the matter being listed on the agenda for discussion. It was there, I suggest, that Australia made its first and greatest mistake.
– When was that?
– In 1954. At that time Indonesia was heavily involved with insurrection in its own country, the new Afro-Asian countries had not emerged, the whole strength of feeling had not been developed and there were not as many members in the United Nations as there are now. I suggest that that was a most priceless opportunity for Australia to advance this argument: Let the United Nations resolve this dispute by declaring a United Nations trusteeship under a commission. That commission could have been composed of a number of countries including Indonesia and Australia, with Australia as the administering authority of the trust for the whole island.
We had a good case for that. We were administering two-thirds of the island. We were experienced in a way in which no other country is experienced. It was far better that all the inhabitants of the island be led through to independence and selfgovernment under people of one culture instead of two cultures, under a European civilization rather than under an Asian civilization and a European civilization. The island might well have reached unity in a very much quicker time had that been done, and I suggest that all the elements that are now bedevilling the situation would have been resolved. That is where I see our country, under this Government, making its first great mistake.
– What was the decision of the United Nations at that time?
-The United Nations did nothing about it.
– Do you say that Australia was responsible for that?
– I say that Australia might have addressed an entirely different argument. Had Australia put the argument that I have suggested, it would have had a very much better chance of carrying the day to the advantage of the native people and also of this country. It may well be too late to put an argument of that nature to-day; but I will come to that aspect in due course. At the moment I am seeking to give a brief review of some of the highlights in the development of the dispute.
Indonesia kept up the campaign consistently and constantly increased it in intensity with the passage of the years. That went on until Dr. Subandrio came to this country in February, 1959, to endeavour to win Australia to the viewpoint of his country. His visit was well discussed in the Parliament. The joint communique’ that emerged from that visit was also discussed; but pervading all of that was an assurance from Dr. Subandrio to Australia, welcomed by all parties, that Indonesia would not resort to force or threats of force in pursuing its claim to West New Guinea.
In April, 1961, General Nasution of Indonesia - a very distinguished gentleman - came to Australia to be given opportunities to put the viewpoint of his country not only to parliamentarians and the Government but also to the nation on television and radio. He was given very wonderful opportunities. He, too, repeated assurances that no force would be used. Then we come to 19th December, 1961, when the President of Indonesia, Dr. Soekarno, issued his tri-command, of which Sir Garfield Barwick spoke in his statement. It is interesting to hear the exact terms of the tri-command ordering violence. It reads -
Listen, O all Indonesian people. This is my firm command, that you foil the establishment of a State of Papua. And what more do I command? Fly the Flag, the red and white flag, in Papua. Foil them and fly our own flag and be prepared for the coming general mobilization - general mobilization covering all Indonesian people to liberate West Irian from the claws of the Dutch imperialism.
That is the language of the tri-command referred to by the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs in his very recent statement. That was the first and most emphatic call to arms. Soon after, it was followed by orders for a general mobilization. In fact there were hostilities on 15th January this year when an engagement took place between Dutch warships and torpedo boats from Indonesia. Some vessels were sunk; men were killed; and some Indonesians were captured, although later released. On 22nd January, President Soekarno made his announcement that Indo nesia was determined to gain West New Guinea this year. The talks went on in those terms.
Ultimately, under pressure from friendly nations - I presume, including our own - Holland and Indonesia agreed to meet in secret talks at Washington. Even whilst those talks were current, President Soekarno was making belligerent statements. In fact, it is now clear that whilst those talks were going on Indonesian troops were making forays against the coast of West New Guinea, probing Dutch defences, seeking to establish beach-heads and so on. As we know, the talks were called off by Indonesia without any conclusion being reached. That must have embarrassed the Minister for External Affairs who, in the concluding passage of the statement he made on this matter, claimed that the fact that secret negotiations were mooted and at that time were about to take place - he spoke on 15th March - showed the wisdom of the policy that the Government was pursuing. Nothing came from those negotiations. There cannot be very much element of wisdom in the policy when, even during the currency of the talks, hostilities are proceeding and the talks come to an abrupt end after almost only a few hours’ discussion. Whether or not they will be resumed under the pressures that are now being applied is very hard to say. In the meantime, of course, we are moving rapidly towards some larger aspect of war in the area. The Dutch are reinforcing substantially their troops and their defences, and the Indonesians are probing more and more. That, Mr. President, in very broad terms, in my view, gives the general picture and the general atmosphere.
I believe, as I said, that Australia must look for some principles upon which to stand - principles that will be based on good faith and justice. That brings me immediately to a consideration of the body formed to preserve world peace, namely the United Nations. We know that it was formed against a background of all the horrors of the Second World War, with its dreadful brutalities fresh in the minds of men, and also with the knowledge of the awful devastation that nuclear power could wreak in the mass destruction of mankind. The United Nations was formed to prevent the mass destruction of the greatest miracle of creation; that is, man himself. It was formed to free all the vast resources of manpower and materials and services of every kind from the need for preparations for war. It was formed to divert all those great resources into the provision of education, adequate food, clothing and shelter for the millions of people throughout the world who did not have those benefits. These were the great thoughts that animated those who were responsible for the formation of the United Nations: To outlaw war and to prevent a recurrence of the type of thing that the world had seen.
Now, we can acknowledge that it is an imperfect organization, in the first place because it is a human institution, and in the second place because its founders, particularly the great nations, did not trust one another. The new organization was hampered because, whilst the nations moved into this new form of world government, they retreated simultaneously into an even more intense nationalism; moving towards the form of world government but nevertheless, I repeat retreating into an even more intense nationalism - a tendency that is aggravated by the emergence of new, and I might add inexperienced, nations of the world.
I suppose that in a world which in 3,000 years has known 3,000 wars and just as many revolutions it would be folly to expect the United Nations to succeed in outlawing war in less than two decades. We cannot expect that. But the important argument is that it is the one and only hope for a fear-torn world. The only alternative at the moment to the United Nations Organization is naked power politics and a return to war. It is with those thoughts in mind that the Australian Labour Party, the Opposition in this place, has always committed itself to unswerving support of and loyalty to the United Nations Organization. That has been our policy throughout the period. We feel that that organization is the only real hope for a small nation, particularly a nation as small as our own, and that only under the effective protection of a body of that kind can Australia proceed uninterruptedly on its course of developing its own nationhood.
What is the attitude of the Menzies Government to the United Nations Organi zation in this dispute? The statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick), in effect, was this: “ It is no use referring this dispute to the United Nations Organization. We cannot refer it to the Security Council. What is the use? We would run into a Russian veto.” Likewise he says, in effect - I am not quoting him exactly: “It is no use referring the matter at this stage to the General Assembly. The numbers are against us. We have not got the numbers.” He does point out that they are keeping contact with their great allies - and I shall read what he said in that regard. He said: -
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 wtih our allies and friends in the United Nations in relation to the suitability and timing of a reference of the dispute to the organization.
It is futile, apparently, at this stage to refer it to the Security Council or to the General Assembly, and we are waiting on our great friends and further events to determine whether we shall ever refer it to the United Nations, and when we shall do that What is the Government waiting for, I ask.
– How long is it since the United Nations discussed this particular question?
– The United Nations discussed this in a different context in November last. They had the Dutch resolution, the African resolution and the Indian resolution before them. They debated it late into November. But the situation has changed most significantly since then.
– What happened in regard to the resolutions?
– I will come to that, but one thing at a time. The world is faced with an entirely different position today. At that stage, the plain threat of violence had not been made by Indonesia. At that stage, there were no hostilities current; there was no probing of defences; there was no strengthening of defences at that stage by the Dutch. There is now an entirely new situation, and the fact that this dispute was before the United Nations without a conclusion being reached does not give the Government the right to think that in a completely changed situation a firm decision would not be made by the United Nations. In any event, I conceive it to be the duty of this country to impress its view on the other nations, particularly the nations that were opposed to the resolutions late last year and particularly on those who abstained from voting. Surely there is a duty upon a nation such as ours, convinced as it ought to be of the rightness of the argument that it puts, to be out advocating it amongst those nations. 1 conceive that to be its duty, and that is “ where the Government has failed.
I was asked by Senator Paltridge what happened to the resolutions. Well, it is a long story, of course. Most of the resolutions swung about the question whether self-determination of dependent peoples was to be the guiding consideration. There was a debate on the preamble to the African resolution, and I remind the Senate that the voting figures were 53 in favour, 36 against and 14 abstentions. That was not a bad result.
– On what resolution?
– On the clause in the preamble seeking to uphold the right of dependent people to independence.
– Would you explain-
– Let me finish the theme. I am dealing with Senator Paltridge at the moment, who asked me what the figures were. I say that the figures showed a majority of the nations in favour of upholding the principle of self-determination. Again, on the African resolution, when the full resolution was put, a majority of the United Nations was still prepared to send a commission in to investigate the state of affairs and to propose plans for putting it under the United Nations trusteeship. So that the Government of to-day starts with a majority of the United Nations. It is not as though it had first to win a majority; its trouble is to win a majority of twothirds, which would be required. Surely the effort facing this country is merely to convince the uncommitted nations and the nations that hitherto have been opposed to our viewpoint, and to persuade them of the justice of a decision which sets its face, first, against aggression and, secondly, in favour of self-determination by dependent people.
– Senator, are you suggesting that we should again commit this question to the United Nations, and that we are the only nation that should do so?
– Indeed I do. That is the very theme which I am developing, and there is a perfect precedent for what I propose. Back in 1947 - I have told the Senate before of the story in those days - when the Dutch were killing hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in a conflict -
– No! Hundreds of thousands?
– Australia referred the matter to the United Nations, and I have told the Senate before that we were prepared to do it by ourselves but Mr. Chifley decided in the end” to see whether the United States of America would join us. The Americans did join us in the reference. But I say that we were prepared to lead and to do it alone. Let me make one other comment on that point. In those days Australia did have some nations to follow her. Australia did lead. This country was the acknowledged leader of many of the nations in the United Nations, particularly the smaller nations. To-day, no nation follows Australia in the international sphere. We do not lead anybody, we just follow. I say to Senator Vincent, who asked the question, that this is the opportunity for this nation to assert itself - to command some respect in the international field by showing that it is firmly based on principle and that it is prepared to move alone, if need be. Thar is the burden of our complaint.
The Government acknowledges that aggression is wrong and that selfdetermination is proper; but having affirmed those principles it retreats from them, as I hope to show. Certainly it docs nothing about them. The Government is letting events take their own course. When will it move? Is the Government waiting for the present minor hostilities to spread into a major conflagration? Or is the Government waiting until Russia and China, which have announced their support for the Indonesian case in this dispute, to come into the area with weapons? Surely wisdom, good sense and, finally, our obligation under the charier demand that we take this new situation of hostilities back to United Nations and ask it to look at the matter again. Let Australia take its hands out of its pockets, if I may speak metaphorically, and set about winning the support of some of the uncommitted nations and the new nations. After all is said and done, if they are not prepared to stand up when aggression occurs in their part of the world, they do not know when their day will dawn. If in the future there is aggression in this area from any source against Australian-held Papua or eastern New Guinea, are the same principles to apply? Is there to be no reference to the United Nations? If we cannot look to that body for the preservation of peace in the world, where else can we look? It is the one thing to do.
The interjections have rather diverted me for the time being, but I come back to my main theme. It is very significant to me that the Minister for External Affairs, in his statement, never once referred to the fact that hostilities had broken out, that there had been the clash with the torpedo boats and the other incidents. The Minister for External Affairs came into this Parliament on 15th April and, in a lengthy statement, made not the slightest reference to these hostilities. He ignored them. I cannot for a moment believe that he did not know about them. Of course, he did. But he ignored them. And I ask: Why? Now that they are clearly before him in a more aggravated form, I say that the Minister is immediately faced with this question: Is he going to allow the matter to become worse, or is he, as an interested party, at least going to make some reference to the United Nations in the new context?
After all is said and done, regardless of the result of the reference, the United Nations Organization, whether it be the General Assembly or the Security Council, is the greatest forum in the world. It is the best platform for propaganda, the gathering place for representatives of the nations. Rather than disseminating one’s efforts all round the world, one can sit down there with the representatives of the various countries, and persuade one’s views to them. I say that there is everything to be gained by making this reference. What is to be lost by doing so? That is the question that I pose to the Government.
I want to point to the contrast of the Government’s earlier attitude when the Prime Minister, speaking on 27th April, 1961, after General Nasution had been here, had this to say - and I quote from page 1248 of “Hansard” of that date -
At the same time, I said, not only Australia but other nations could not but be disturbed by any use of force, since even limited hostilities, whether in New Guinea or in Laos, could have unforeseen and deplorable consequences. We were therefore glad to have the General’s renewed assurances that force would not be used.
I now want to give one particular quotation referring to the United Nations, which was more in favour with the Government then. I quote from the Prime Minister’s speech on page 1249 from “ Hansard “ -
I repeat, in the most categorical terms, that Australia, has no military commitment with the Netherlands in relation to West New Guinea, direct or indirect. But armed conflict in that country, whether arising from mass invasion or limited guerrilla episodes, created by armed infiltration, would present Australia, in common with other countries, with a grave problem. Any such conflict could certainly not be ignored by the United Nations.
So said the Prime Minister of the country. That is the very situation with which we are faced. That is my comment there. The Prime Minister went on -
It would engage the attention, helpful or otherwise, of the great powers. It would threaten world peace, and could well bring disaster to South-East Asia by its encouragement of Communist activity and intervention.
There, very clearly, the Government through the Prime Minister contemplated that the United Nations should intervene as a matter of duty and obligation. Why refuse to refer it now, when the very situation that the Prime Minister then envisaged now confronts us? Dr. Evatt, in the speech that he made in 1958, made the position very plain. He said that we should seek the eventual administration of the whole island of New Guinea as one unit under the supervision provided for by the Trusteeship Council, together with some administering authority. He stated -
I repeat, that Australia should oppose any attempt by Indonesia to supplant the Netherlands
Government in West New Guinea. If Indonesia attempted that by force or threat of force, that would be a violation of the Chaner.
– What did he say that he would do?
– He would do the very thing that I am suggesting at the moment. He would refer any such threat to the United Nations. That is what I recommend to the Government to-day. That is what Labour has consistently recommended down the years. By affirming that principle in April of last year and by now saying that it is not worthwhile putting this situation to the United Nations until our great and powerful friends are sometime willing to join us in the matter, the Government is bringing the United Nations Organization itself into disrepute. We of the Opposition are very disturbed that that argument should be put. It is quite obvious that if there is conflict between Indonesia and the Dutch in West New Guinea, Australia cannot avoid being involved. Do we continue to trade with Indonesia? Do we continue to trade with the Dutch in West New Guinea? What does each of them think of us if we do so. Will our communications by air and sea with our own territories be affected? Will we be suspected of carrying goods that might help one of the contestants? It is most important that we should escape being involved and embarrassed if a conflict did develop in that area, lt is little wonder in these circumstances that Bishop Strong of New Guinea should warn Australia, and the Government in particular, of a weakening over New Guinea. In the press of Monday, 2nd April, there is a heading, “ Government policy attacked. Bishop warns of weakening over New Guinea.” The report reads -
The Anglican bishop of New Guinea, Bishop Philip Strong, said to-night that he was distressed at the weakening policy of the Australian Government in New Guinea.
I understand that he has had some 30 years of experience, and in this statement, 1 think, he expressed himself in the most moderate terms. He said -
At first it adopted a very firm line in regard to the West New Guinea problem. I maintain Australia should hold to that principle. Latterly there seems to be a -weakening by the Government. This must have a very important impression on the world. It is also very important for the native people in New Guinea to have great trust in Australia. It would be wrong if they found that Australia allowed part of New Guinea to be taken by force . . . Australia ought to stand on two moral principles - firstly, that New Guinea should have self-determination and, secondly, to protest against any aggression. Australia should not be prepared to accept this aggression. I am not advocating we should resort to force.
We have seen the very first point of weakening of the Government’s stand on the question of aggression. That is apparent. Does it need any further proof? We say that the United Nations should at that point bc invoked.
– Are you holding the bishop up as an authority in that regard?
– I am indicating what the bishop said. I am stating that he has knowledge of New Guinea extending over many decades.
– You are holding him up as an authority?
– I am quoting him exactly in the context in which he spoke.
– You accept him as an authority.
– You are telling me.
– You are quoting his statement. I want to know whether you accept him as an authority.
– I certainly say that he is an experienced gentleman, who would understand the New Guinea people and their aspirations.
– You say, then, that he must be an authority. That is all I want to know, whether or not you think he is an authority.
– All I am prepared to say to the honorable senator is that in this matter the bishop has reached right conclusions, with which 1 completely agree.
I now come to the second question, the matter of the self-determination of these people. That is the next great principle. It is clearly provided in the charter of the United Nations, in chapter 11, article 73, that -
Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples nave not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount …
That is the pledge made by every member of the United Nations which has, or assumes at any stage, control over dependent people. An obligation that they accept is -
To develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions . . .
It is unquestionable that that is the obligation that rests upon us and upon the Dutch in New Guinea. This Government has, again and again, announced its adherence to the principle of self-determination. That is why, when Dr. Subandrio, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, was in Australia, the nation was shocked that the Prime Minister, in a joint communique with the doctor from Indonesia, should indicate that as long as Indonesia and Holland reached agreement between themselves without force or threat of force, and in accordance with internationally accepted principles, we in Australia would accept that position. We then took the stand - I spoke on it in this place - that Holland was not free to dispose of the people or to deny them their chance of self-determination. The Dutch had a contract with Australia to work with us in order to bring the whole island to independence in due course. That was one obligation. They had a greater obligation, under article 73 of the charter of the United Nations. They were bound in both those ways.
Back in 1959, we felt that the proper political aspirations of the Papuan people had been ignored in that communique. When the Prime Minister was pressed, he came into the Parliament on 24th February, 1959, and said that we had a vital interest in New Guinea and that in any negotiations that took place he would expect to have our voice heard. What have we heard about that? What effort has the Australian Government made in the meantime to have its voice heard in the course of any of these negotiations? I have not heard anything about it. I invite anybody on the Government side to tell me whether anything was ever done about that. Those words of the Prime Minister appear in “ Hansard “ of 24th February, 1959. What do we find to-day? The Minister for External Affairs said, on the first page of his statement, that Australia was not a party principal. In short, we are washing our hands of the matter.
– What do you think the Prime Minister discussed with General Nasution?
– We have had a very long statement from the Prime Minister about what he discussed with General Nasution. That has all appeared in the press. The Prime Minister said in February, 1959 -
We expect to have our voice heard in any negotiations.
Negotiations were proceeding a few days ago. Australia, having a vital interest in New Guinea, as the Prime Minister affirmed in February, 1959, should at least have argued for a place at the conference table in any arrangement disposing of West New Guinea. As I indicate, we agree to co-operate.
The Papuans in West New Guinea are much further along the road to civilization and an understanding of democratic processes than most people think. I quote from the writing of a Dutchman, or a man with a Dutch name, Justus M. van der Kroef, Professor of Political Science, University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Describing the situation in New Guinea, he stated -
The new Papuan nationalism in West New Guinea has been evident from a host of developments, among them (I) the emergence of eight political parties since August, 1960, (2) the opening of a 29 member embryo territorial parliament, the so-called New Guinea Council, in April, 1961, with elected as well as appointed members, and with a heavy Papuan majority, and (3) the promulgation, on October 19, 1961, of a “Manifesto” by a “ National Committee “ of some 60 Papuan leaders, which established a new national flag, anthem, seal and national name, i.e. Papua Barat for the territory. … At the same time all groups are united behind the principle of independence for the territory, free from both Dutch and Indonesian control.
The people are alive to the fact that they are a race, and they want independence and self-government. One can find, in the records of their council, their demand for freedom by 1970. They want the Dutch to continue, because it is of the utmost importance that the United Nations send a commission, and Indonesia will not enable the Papuan people to exercise their right of self-determination and freedom. That is contained in a recommendation made by the council. One finds them demanding a voice in talks on their future. One of their mcn in the council made a suggestion that might well have been adopted by the Australian Government. Another suggestion was for a goodwill mission to lobby the West Papuan cause in Afro-Asian countries, including Indonesia. “ Mr. Hasluck, the Minister for Territories, came back from a visit to our own territory in New Guinea in February, 1962. He said that he had talked with about 600 Papuan and New Guinea leaders, and that at ail the centres the speakers expressed concern over West New Guinea. Above all, they frequently asked him whether it was possible, after Papua-New Guinea had reached self-determination, for the Territory to become the seventh State of Australia. I mention these things to show that the people of New Guinea are politically alive, that the movement is on, and that, no matter what happens in that area, now that their political aspirations have been aroused they will continue, through thick and thin, until those aspirations come ultimately to fruition. It is the kind of thing we have seen happen elsewhere in the world. To interpose obstacles to the achievement of that end would merely be to perpetuate turmoil and conflict in the area. Now is the time to make a stand and see that an opportunity will be given for the peoples of the three areas to be drawn together in self-government and independence as soon as possible, not as two or three different lots of peoples, but as one people, lt is inevitable that that will come.
We have seen a complete change in the Government’s attitude to the importance of New Guinea to Australia. Sir Percy Spender, speaking in the United Nations on 24th November, 1954, said -
The Australian people took the view that, first, the Indonesian Republic had no claim whatever to West New Guinea, and secondly, that the indigenous peoples of the Territory must not be handed over to any nation, but that, within the terms and the spirit of the Charter, they should be permitted to determine their own ultimate destiny.
Yet to-day the Prime Minister and the Government of this country repudiate that. They say that if the Dutch and the Indonesians reach an agreement, that will be all right with this country. It was not all right with the Government in 1954. Sir Percy Spender said also -
There was not one dissentient voice in Australia to-day which would deny that the security of Australia and the security of New Guinea were indivisible. That meant that Australia had a continuing interest that the whole of that area should remain stable and secure both under present arrangements and when its peoples were ready to .work out their own destiny.
There has been a complete change from that firm attitude. Australia’s policy has become weaker and weaker as time has gone by.
I want to refer now to something that the Prime Minister had to say about Mr. Calwell’s speech. I should like to read exactly what the Prime Minister said on this question of self-determination.
– When was this?
– On 29th March - last Thursday evening, I think. I am quoting from page 1161 of “Hansard”. The Prime Minister, speaking of his days at the bar, said -
We had a broad rule, as cross-examiners, that if you could bowl a witness out in a really good cold-blooded lie you ought not to worry about him much longer thereafter. Bearing that little principle in mind, I just take one statement among the many made by the honorable gentleman in the course of his speech.
He was there referring to Mr. Calwell - “ Have we, as a government, ever insisted on the principle of self-determination? “ he asked. “ Oh no “, he said, “ the Prime Minister himself has admitted that the Government has not.”
Then the Prime Minister went on -
He then proceeds to quote from a speech of mine made in this House on 27th April, 1961, after the visit of General Nasution. He quoted two passages, lorn out of their context, one of them referring to sovereignty and the other referring to domestic jurisdiction. And with a triumph of eloquence, or what passes for eloquence, he said, “ Here you are! This is an admission by the Prime Minister that the principle of self-determination, to which the Labour Party is now so devoted, has been abandoned by him and is not worth a mention.”
Then the Prime Minister proceeded to quote from his speech of 27th April, 1961, and he said -
Sir, I recall the old principle of crossexamination to which I referred, and if he-
That would be Mr. Calwell - were the witness 1 would say, “ I leave it there.”
That is a very serious accusation, made in a public way, against Mr. Calwell. It is wholly unjustified. I want to quote from Mr. Calwell’s speech to prove what I say. The Prime Minister said that Mr. Calwell quoted two passages from his speech, torn from their context. The two passages were quoted at page 14 of Mr. Calwell’s speech. They were quoted verbatim. They acknowledge the fact that the Government recognized Dutch sovereignty and had the objective of self-determination. Mr. Calwell quoted the two points exactly as the Prime Minister had put them, but he went further and praised the speech of April, 1961. Mr. Calwell said-
Australians might be forgiven, therefore, for believing that at last the Menzies Government was attaching proper importance to the principle of self-determination. The Prime Minister’s personal attachment to the principle of self-determination seems to grow, because he emphasised it again and again during the election campaign. Speaking in a broadcast on 24th November, 1961, the Prime Minister-
Mr. Calwell went on to quote exactly what the Prime Minister said. He then referred to 28th November, when the Prime Minister spoke on television. Mr. Calwell again favorably quoted the Prime Minister as upholding self-determination for the area. He put it this way -
And so, at last, on 28th November, 1961, the Prime Minister seemed to have come to grips with the basic principle at stake. After the tortuous gropings, the switches and confusions of the past, a human principle had ousted a lawyer’s concept for the domination of his mind. At last, the human rights of the people of West New Guinea had taken pre-eminence over the legal rights of the Dutch.
From that point, Mr. Calwell took the Prime Minister to task for his vacation of insistence upon self-determination on 21st December, 1961; in the statement made on 30th December by the new Minister for External Affairs, Sir Garfield Barwick; and, above all, in a statement made on 4th January, 1962. What Mr. Calwell did was, not what the Prime Minister claimed he did, but the very reverse. In fact, he praised the Prime Minister of this country for his attitude in April, 1961. The Prime Minister completely reversed what Mr. Calwell said about that. Why did he use those tactics? He wanted to avoid what Mr. Calwell had charged him with - with vacating the principle of self-determination in January. Bishop Strong, as well as Mr. Calwell, referred to this. I come back to the little story that was told by the Prime Minister. Leaving out the question of veracity, I make the comment that he made. I leave the matter there. I shall let the facts speak for themselves.
This is a great matter, of vast importance to Australia. One could talk for hours about it and probably not advance it much farther. I have dealt with the question of resistance to aggression and with the question of self-determination. I have not dealt adequately with the strategic importance of New Guinea to Australia, an importance that I affirm very solidly and solemnly. I repeat on behalf of the Australian Labour Party that we believe that the Government has let the country down by its inaction on this matter.
– I hope that, at the outset of what I have to say, I shall be forgiven if I do not pursue Senator McKenna along the course which he took in the last part of his speech, when he referred to what he said the Prime Minister said Mr. Calwell said during some debate which took place somewhere else. That is no doubt of importance, if there were but world enough and time to follow it, but there is not. The honorable senator read from a number of pages devoted to two speeches. Frankly, Sir, his comments in that respect did not appear to me to be very germane to the subject we ought to be discussing, which is the history of the events leading up to the present situation to the north and the choices of action which are now before us, having regard to the events to our north, choices of action which have been proffered to us on the one hand by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and on the other hand by the Government. We have to consider which is the best choice for Australia to make in all the circumstances.
I should like to follow Senator McKenna to some extent in recounting the history of the events leading to the present situation, but I shall recount them, I think, a little more fully, because there were some parts of the historical perspective which were left out of his speech, and there is one important part about which I disagree with him.
The genesis of this present dispute - I do not at this stage call it aggression - was at the end of the last war when the Government of the United States of America, under the then leadership of President Roosevelt, with a feeling of anti-colonialism in its bones, prevented the return of the Dutch and other people to countries which they had colonized before the war, thereby allowing the Indonesian nationalists to take over from the Japanese Government which had fallen at the end of the war. That led to the Indonesians, in the course of considerable fighting, eventually securing their own government in what they regarded as their own country.
At that stage it is quite true that the Government of Australia intervened before the United Nations, stating that there was a conflict going on to our north and asking for intervention. That led, with the support of the then government, to the handing over to the Indonesians of what had formerly been the territory of Indonesia. At that stage, no considerations of selfdetermination were worrying the Australian Government. At that time the Government was quite prepared, as indeed in logic it had to be prepared for all the territories which had previously constituted the Dutch East Indies to pass by agreement to the new sovereignty of Indonesia; but at the last moment there was a reservation by the Dutch of one part of those territories, now known as West New Guinea.
I think Senator McKenna sought to indicate to the Senate that at that stage it was agreed between the Dutch and the Indonesians that this territory should be excluded from such “transfer.
– For one year.
– That is the point I wish to make. There was no indefinite agreement as to that at all. It was an agreement that that question should be reserved and resolved in the space of one year. Attempts were made to do that, attempts in which diplomatic activity was quite intense on all sides. A meeting was held to try to resolve this particular question in 1949, and another in 1950. Both broke down. At that stage, Holland incorporated West New Guinea constitutionally according to her constitution, in her own territory, as an integral part of Holland.
The Indonesians then said, “ There is no further purpose in bilateral negotiations over this matter. We will take it to the United Nations “, the course, I point out by interpolation, which is so strongly urged on us by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. It was taken to the United Nations in 1954, when the political committee urged negotiations, but the plenary session of the General Assembly refused to take any action at all in the matter, claiming that it was not under its jurisdiction.
At that stage Australia supported the claim of the Netherlands that it was an internal, matter. Again, in 1955 the Indonesians took the matter to the United Nations. They did not bring it up themselves. There were fifteen Afro-Asian States which inscribed the matter on the agenda of the first committee, which again urged action by the United Nations; but action was again refused by the plenary session. It refused to recommend to the United Nations even requests for negotiations over this territory to be resumed between Indonesia and Holland. Nevertheless, there were more attempts at bilateral negotiations, but they broke down in 1956. In 1957, for the third time, the matter was brought before the United Nations.
The first committee adopted a resolution asking, this time, that the President of the United Nations General Assembly should appoint a good offices committee to try to bring about a solution by negotiation of this outstanding question. The United Nations, in plenary session, voted so that that resolution was not passed. It did not secure a majority of votes.
– That was the fourth reference?
– That was the fourth reference, and I point out that on all four of those references the United Nations, voting according to its constitution - and let us not bring in here any side-tracking talk of absolute majorities - voted that it would not even urge negotiations on the matter.
– Which way did Australia vote on all those occasions?
– On all those occasions Australia supported the Dutch position on this matter.
– Against the Indonesians and in support of the Dutch?
– That is correct. I have given the record of this matter before the United Nations. I have shown that there were four references and four votes, and that on each occasion there was the same result. I think we can draw from that two conclusions. Having regard to that history, which began in 1949 and followed the course I have indicated, of constant claim and constant negotiation, I think it is going much too far to say that this is a matter which can be compared to a sudden and unprovoked aggression such as we have seen in other parts of the world, where one country has attacked another to take from it some piece of land in the undisputed possession of the country which had the land. From what I have just said, I do not wish it to be thought that I am taking one side or the other on this matter. I merely wish to point out that straight and outright claims of aggression have to be checked against the history of the matter all through the years.
It was after the breakdown of those last attempts at negotiations in the United Nations that Indonesia took over Dutch assets in that country and confiscated them. In February, 1959, the Indonesian Foreign Minister visited Australia with results of which we have heard. After that visit, a communique was issued in which the Indonesians firmly stated once again their belief that they were right in their claim to what they said was a part of a territory previously ruled as a unit by Holland, and which they therefore felt they had a right to rule as a unit after the adoption of the resolution to which I have previously referred. We for our part stated that we were not a party principal to the resolution, that wc would be prepared not to oppose any change in sovereignty as between Holland and Indonesia, but that we would wish to sec the interests of the local inhabitants preserved.
In the course of this debate the Government has been asked what has been done al any time by Australia or Australians. I think the record clearly indicates that there has been continuous diplomatic activity on our part. I have not referred to the many visits made to Indonesia by the former Minister for External Affairs, the present Lord Casey, nor have I referred to the activities of Australian diplomats at the
United Nations or in countries concerned with this dispute. Dr. Subandrio visited Australia. Later in the same year, the Prime Minister of Malaya visited Australia and said that Dr. Soekarno hoped that this long-standing dispute, in which both sides felt they were right, did not erupt into open conflict. The Prime Minister of Malaya - a man with a great sense of responsibility for the part of the world in which he lives and a great desire that it should not be disturbed by conflict, as I know from speaking with him personally - sought to mediate in the dispute to see whether he could bring about a solution to the problem whereby the interests of the parties concerned could be, if not completely met,, at least met to the greatest extent as far as each party was concerned.
– With the concurrence of the Australian Government, I presume.
– The Prime Minister of Malaya was in consultation with the Australian Government and with other governments at the time. His efforts failed.
Then, in 1961 - we are getting closer to the present day - there was a sudden and dramatic chance in the position that had prevailed for the previous eleven years. At that time, the Dutch came before the United Nations and abandoned their previous statement that West New Guinea was an integral part of Holland and had been, under its constitution, incorporated in Holland. Instead, the Dutch offered to relinquish their sovereignty either to some local representatives, if sufficient could be found in the territory to whom sovereignty could be relinquished, or to a commission appointed by the United Nations to look after that territory until such time as some other arrangements could be made. A complete change of approach by Holland occurred in 1961. That should be clearly understood, because it is of the essence of the argument. At that stage, the Dutch announced that they were prepared to give up the sovereignty that they previously had not been prepared to relinquish. The matter came before the United Nations and, as we have heard to-night, the United Nations, voting according to its constitution, to which we” all subscribe, refused to agree to set up a commission to take over control of this territory. —
– By a two-thirds majority.
– Yes. It is of no great significance to throw in that comment. Australia and all other nations are subscribers to the United Nations. If you believe in the United Nations you subscribe to its charter and to its practices. You cannot say, as is implied in the interjection, that you agree to certain actions taken by the United Nations but not to others. We all have agreed to a method by which the General Assembly expresses its views. By that method the General Assembly expressed its view against the establishment of a United Nations commission to run West New Guinea. The United Nations did not express that view in’ a situation markedly different from the situation that prevails to-day. I differ strongly from what Senator McKenna indicated he believed the position to be. When the United Nations decision was taken in 1961, Indonesia publicly made it clear in the United Nations that if this resolution were passed, and if sovereignty were taken away from the Dutch, with whom she had a long-standing dispute, which she believed she eventually would win, she would feel freed from the undertaking not to use force - an undertaking given to the Dutch when they were in control. Not only did Indonesia make that position clear, but for some time before that armed Indonesian commandos had been landing at various parts of West New Guinea. Those infiltrations have been publicly known since November, 1960. So, the position when the United Nations reached its decision was not greatly different from the position that exists now.
– What was the factor that you say influenced Indonesia to retract from her assurance not to use force?
– Indonesia stated, in effect, that her undertaking was given not to use force to wrest sovereignty from the Dutch, but if the situation changed and the territory was handed over to somebody else, Indonesia would feel freed from her undertaking. But I do not wish to be diverted from the theme that I was developing. The United Nations refused Holland’s propositions, and refused them in circumstances more analogous to those that exist now. From the point of view of a country situated as is Australia, it is not only the fact that the United Nations voted against this resolution that is of significance. Some regard must be paid also to the nations in the United Nations that voted against this proposition. Almost all of the Asian nations, and most of the African nations, voted against the proposition to hand over sovereignty to the United Nations or to the indigenous people. Those Asian nations are nations for which we have great respect, and with which, in many cases, we are closely allied. They include Burma, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ceylon, the Congo, Ethiopia, Malaya, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand. The action of those nations in voting against the Dutch proposal can be interpreted in only one way.
– But there was no vote on the Dutch resolution.
– There was no vote on the Dutch resolution. There was a vote taken on a resolution submitted by the Brazzaville powers, which was precisely the same as the Dutch resolution. The Dutch withdrew their resolution later because it was completely covered by the Brazzaville resolution. I see the Leader of the Opposition shaking his head, so I will substantiate the truth of what I have said by giving the substance of the Brazzaville resolution.
– Was it propounded by the African nations?
– It was propounded by a group of African nations which formerly had been under French domination. The resolution called for bilateral negotiations without prejudice to respect for the will and self-determination of the people, and, if the parties failed to reach agreement by 1st March, 1962, for a commission of five from the United Nations to be set up with terms of reference similar to those in the Dutch resolution; that is, to inquire into the situation in the Territory itself and to examine the possibilities of establishing, for an interim period, an international system for the administration and supervision of the Territory. That was the substance of the Brazzaville resolution which, because in substance it was so identical with the Dutch resolution, led to the Dutch resolution eventually being withdrawn.
That being the history of the situation, I pass on now to a consideration of the present position. The present position is that as a result of these resolutions being refused and as a result of intense diplomatic activity in which Australia took its full part, negotiations between the Indonesians and the Dutch began again in an endeavour to find some way out of the present impasse. I have a belief that interruptions may occur but those negotiations will continue. Certainly, I have a conviction that the furthering of the continuation of those negotiations is the proper course for Australia to follow. On the one hand, we are told by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, the Leader of the Australian Labour Party, that we should be prepared to use force to prevent a transfer of sovereignty in this part of the world.
– When did he say that?
– I propose to read to the Senate the statement that the Leader of the Opposition made on 9th February, 1962. In that statement this passage occurs -
If Indonesia seeks to deny the principles of the United Nations Charter and to use force to create a potential threat to Australia’s security–
All of this statement is based on his assumption that a transfer of sovereignty does this-
– Read what he said.
– I will read what he said. He continued - then I say, with all due regard to the gravity of the situation that the threat must be faced.
If that statement from a responsible leader of an opposition in the situation that prevails does not indicate that we should be prepared to use force, then my regard for the responsibility of that leader is even lower than I think it is.
To-night we were told by the Leader of the Opposition in this place that the proper course is to refer the matter to the United Nations. Refer what? Should we refer it to a committee which five or six times has considered this matter, including one occasion as late as four months ago? Should we refer the fact that negotiations are going on between Holland and Indonesia? There does not seem to be much to refer in that.
Do we ask the United Nations to stop the negotiations? Do we ask it to intervene?
– Are the negotiations going on?
– At the moment they are interrupted, but they have started. Is it not better to try to get them to be continued? I believe that it is. If Senator O’Byrne, who is interjecting, does not think that it is, he has the right to put forward his opinion.
In the light of the long history of references to the United Nations up to just a few months ago, it seems to me to be absolutely futile to pretend that any sort of solution of this problem will be achieved by throwing up our hands and saying, “ Refer it to the United Nations “. If we achieve the same result again - there is nothing to indicate that we will not - have we solved anything? If we do not achieve the same result, what action do we take other than the action that we are seeking to take to ensure that negotiations resume. I always thought that the wish of the United Nations itself was that such matters as this should be settled by negotiation. Up until now, I always thought that the wish of the Opposition was that such matters as this should be settled by negotiation, too. If they cannot be settled by negotiation - we would certainly do our very best to see that they were - and if, as I believe is clear to any thinking person, referring the matter to the United Nations not only is no solution but also gives no hope, then what course is to be adopted? I come back to the words of the Leader of the Opposition in another place on the one hand, because they contain a possible, feasible course. If the negotiations fail and the United Nations cannot act, then we could use force ourselves alone or with somebody else, if we can get them to help us to prevent Indonesia taking over the Territory. That is one possible course.
– How could we use force without the help of other nations?
– Order! The Minister wishes to be heard in silence and I intend to see that he is.
– I am not advocating this course. I am putting this forward as what the Leader of the Opposition in another place advocated. I am putting it forward as a possible course and one that
I believe the Leader of the Opposition in another place advocated; but it is not a course that I advocate. Personally, I believe that it would be to the greatest possible detriment of Australia’s interests to use force in this matter in any way, or even, as the Leader of the Opposition in this place suggested, to come as a third party into the dispute between Indonesia and Holland with some claim to the Territory and asking to have it brought under a United Nations trusteeship in which somehow we would be reflected.
As one who has to live in this country and whose children have to live in this country, in the light of the history of this matter and the attitude of the United Nations to it - all of which is on record - and in the light of the indicated Dutch intention to withdraw their sovereignty from that territory, given as late as last November, I must say that in my view the use of force by this country in any way, creating an irredentist attitude in the country that will always be our nearest northern neighbour, would do the greatest possible disservice that could be done to this generation and future generations of Australians. So, we will continue our best efforts to see that this dispute is settled by negotiation. That offers a hope which the history of references to the United Nations does not and cannot offer in this matter.
– Mr. President, this debate and the action that will follow it, I believe, mean much to the future of Australia. In order to understand this matter it is important to know something about the history that has been given by Senator McKenna and Senator Gorton. One portion of the history that was not referred to and about which I believe the people want to know is this: Have the Indonesians any legal right to West New Guinea? The answer is that although she claims such a right she has not, as yet, taken the matter to the body that could declare whether or not her claim is valid. That body is the International Court of Justice. There Indonesia’s legal right to West New Guinea could be determined. Knowing that her arguments for legal right to New Guinea are very meagre indeed, Indonesia has refused, right throughout the years, to take her case to the
International Court, which could have settled this matter very early in the dispute.
– Where does the World Court sit?
– In The Hague.
– Where is The Hague?
– If you do not believe in the World Court, on which Australia has its own judge, it is a sorry lookout.
– Does Senator O’Byrne imply by his interjection that the World Court is a Dutch court?
– The Indonesians will not go there.
– You are just ignorant beyond description.
– Order! Senator Cole has the call.
– There are 1,000,000,000 coloured people in the world. Senator Wright is not the only white man on the earth.
– Senator O’Byrne would not understand about the World Court, so we will leave him in his ignorance. The World Court consists of judges from all countries in the world. They have been elected to the court, and would have given a legal decision on this subject which would have been accepted and would have added a great deal of power and strength to the arguments that are put forward in the United Nations.
– There was not a rubber man on it from Malaya who had to resign, was there?
– You would not understand what you are talking about. I hope that you will speak later on this subject.
– No. You are going to hog the air on the subject. You always do.
– Order! There is no need for interjections. *
– I agree with Senator McKenna that Australia’s first mistake was that it did not refer this matter to the United Nations. At the beginning we had a majority at the United Nations in dealing with these subjects. I believe that at the beginning it would have been rather unwise to refer this matter to the United Nations.
The government of the day had that view as well. But conditions in the world, with new nations growing up and being admitted to the United Nations, changed the complexion of the situation. I say that our mistake was not at the beginning, but as we could see the support for our view dwindling in the United Nations we should have sought a decision there.
– When you are in control you submit a problem?
– That is correct.
– You believe in the science of numbers?
– It is a very good science, too. lt must be remembered that Australia set out deliberately to keep this matter out of the United Nations, and I should say that Australia was in the forefront of the diplomatic activities that were carried on, and are carried on, in getting votes in the United Nations and keeping the matter out of that organization. So, I believe that our first mistake in this argument that is going on now between Indonesia and West New Guinea was our not taking it to the United Nations, where a decision could have been reached in favour of the view we are taking.
– It has been there five times.
– It has been discussed only. What has happened in the past few years in Dutch New Guinea? The Dutch realize that they must leave, and that selfdetermination of the people will, for once, be arrived at. Dutch New Guinea is costing the Netherlands Government about £10,000,000 a year. Its method of bringing the people to self-determination is different from that which Australia is following in its section of New Guinea. The Dutch know that they have very little time in which to bring these people to a state in which they shall have a certain amount of control at once, and finally control the government themselves. Australia is starting with the lower echelons and gradually educating the people to realize their responsibility. The Dutch are taking the other line; they are preparing the elite of the country for self-government. That method may not be as successful as our own, but we know that we shall have more time to develop our part of the country than the Dutch will have to develop theirs. The Dutch system could work very successfully, too. We have seen what has been done in other parts of the world, including the Congo, where quite a number of tribes are uncivilized and will be controlled by, shall 1 say, the elite of the native population. The same thing could happen in Dutch New Guinea.
– You would not hand a country over to a lot of Hitlers, would you?
– Order! Senator Cole is making his own speech.
– I am trying to help him.
– I do not need your help, thanks. What is the position in Indonesia? I believe that the government there is in a grave dilemma. Indonesia is very close to our shores, and has about 80,000,000 people. At the present time, that country is virtually controlled by the’ army, or perhaps it is more correct to say by the right wing. But there is a very, very strong Communist element within that country, especially in its municipal government, which I should say is almost completely controlled by the Communist element. How long can Indonesia remain free of complete Communist control? As I say, the Government is in a dilemma. All the parties in that country want West New Guinea as part of their nation.
– Mostly because of, shall we say, national pride and prestige. The point is that the present Government is’ not sure whether it should support the right wing elements, such as the army. If it thought that it would remain in control of that country for many years its attitude may be different. However, we must realize that that country can become communistic at any time. Only a few months ago, President Soekarno appointed two top Communists to his Cabinet. Once the Communists enter the higher offices of the departmenst of state, then trouble can be. expected, especially when the lower ranks have fallen. We can expect that within the next ten years Indonesia will become, a Communist threat to. Australia.
– I do not think so. There are some powerful elements in that country.
– I know there Is a powerful element there. In other countries powerful elements have been opposed to communism but they have not been successful.
– The Democratic Labour Party?
– That is one element in this country. The members of that party are making sure that communism does not come into this country. They will not allow your unity tickets to bring it here. If Australia goes against the wishes of the present Government of Indonesia, it will retaliate by cutting off trade with this country. That is the dilemma facing us, but is it not better for us to lose that trade and stand by what we have said is important - the right of these people to self-determination? Self-determination is a fine phrase and everybody believes in it. But it seems to be a different matter when it comes to the point of fighting for the principle. We in Australia say that we believe in the principle of selfdetermination for the people of West New Guinea. But what is the use of saying something if we are not willing to follow it up with action?
– What do you mean by that?
– I shall come to that in a few moments. Senator Gorton to-night mentioned statements that were made by Mr. Arthur Calwell, the Leader of the Labour Party. His remarks were very strong and somewhat personally critical of President Soekarno - though to some extent I agree with Mr. Calwell on this aspect. However, I believe that he could have done much more for this country if he had couched his words in a different tone and had said that as the Government of Australia had supported the Republic of Indonesia in its efforts to gain its own independence, Indonesia must appreciate and understand Australia’s support for the right of self-determination of the people of West New Guinea. He should have told Indonesian leaders that Australia could not, on the one hand, support them in their efforts to gain independence, and on the other hand, stand idly by and allow Indonesia to take over these people of West New Guinea who have a similar right to self-determination. If the Leader of the Labour Party had said that he would have gained more respect.
What is the attitude of the Australian people on this issue? Do we regard it as important to our defence? We have studied the subject for a long time; and some take the view that Indonesia’s claim to West New Guinea, if successful, does not pose at present a great defence risk to Australia, and that under present conditions we could be as readily invaded from Indonesia itself as from West New Guinea. But, as I said before, within the next ten years Indonesia could become a Communist country. If we allow that country to take over West New Guinea, in ten years’ time, perhaps, for the first time in our history, a Communist country would lie just across our border. That is the danger to Australia. If SouthEast Asia goes - and the way that we are using our influence in South-East Asia now seems to suggest that this will happen - and we have a Communist country right on our doorstep, border incidents could arise in New Guinea, and all sorts of excuses could be made for them. It could be argued against us that the people of our New Guinea are of the same type as those in West New Guinea and should be united with them. The Communists need no urging to find excuses for plans if they have the force to put them into effect.
I say that the preservation of West New Guinea is vital to our national defence, not at this moment but in the foreseeable future. The loss of West New Guinea to the Indonesians could help to destroy the defences of Australia. For these reasons we should take action now. It is important that West New Guinea does not belong to Indonesia. I suppose that every senator present realizes that it should not become part of Indonesia. But what are we prepared to do about the matter? I believe that the present Government will merely rely on negotiations, but I do not think that they will be very successful. Negotiations at the point of a gun are never very successful. I fear that those negotiations will break down and that aggression will occur. That is the immediate risk. Are we, as a country with a vital interest in this dispute, to stand aside and say that it is no concern of ours? If we do so, 1 believe that we are writing our own death warrant.
– The implications go wider than West New Guinea.
– Yes, they will go far in the long run, but the present dispute is of immediate concern to Australia. We must look to our own heritage. At the present time we can take a stand in this dispute on West New Guinea. The Dutch are prepared to take a stand. They are sending out ships, men and munitions to support their stand. If Holland is willing to do all that, Australia should bc willing to do something to look after its future. Some people argue that to take this attitude makes one a warmonger. My answer is that it is better to act now, when Indonesia is weak. If we can go to the United Nations and get a common-sense decision from it, let us go there. If we can persuade the United Nations to take over the trusteeship of West New Guinea, 1 would not be against the proposal if it would help Australia. I am afraid that the record of the United Nations la stopping wars is not very good. The only time it seems to be able to prevent wars is when aggression occurs between two Western countries, which agree of their own volition to cease fighting. 1 know that the United Nations Organization is a great organization because of all its humanitarian work, but it is not of very much value in stopping wars. I do not have the same faith as has Senator McKenna in what the United Nations will do in that regard. Neither have I very much faith in the negotiations between the two countries, to which the Minister referred. If there are to be negotiations at the point of a gun, it is almost certain that West New Guinea will become Indonesian. Any person who wants that should say so. Any person who does not believe in self-determination should say so.
More than anything else, I wanted from the Minister, not an argument on the United Nations, but a statement about our defence. That is the important matter for us to be considering. The danger is coming closer and closer. If aggression takes place, West New Guinea is invaded, and we participate, the efficient forces that we have will be very effective. But we must see that all arms of our defences are built up to the maximum. I hope that when the next Budget is prepared the Government will not be penny-scraping and afraid of spending money on our defence. What will other countries say if we cannot do anything to help the Dutch in West New Guinea in only a little scrap? What will happen when the testing time comes later through our Seato alliance?
– Have we any treaty obligations to the Dutch?
– What duty have we to intervene in their defence?
– I am trying to point out that in our own interests, for the benefit of Australia, we should do something about it.
– -It is not our fight.
– I know that it is not our fight, but it will be our fight later on. The Government should state that we do not believe in aggression, and that if there is aggression in West New Guinea we will come in on the side of the Dutch. Then there would not be any aggression.
– How hopeful you are!
– I am not hopeful at all. There would not be aggression. We must have something to back a show of force. I hope that we have it. I should have liked the Minister to tell us something about our forces. It is time we built them up for the defence of Australia. It is most important that we start right now.
– Do you think that that might encourage Communist supporters of Indonesia to avalanche their forces against us?
– Of course, they will go there. The Indonesians will be equipped with Communist weapons, but at present they have not the trained personnel to use them. We should step in now while we have a chance. I expect that later on that country will become Communist and when that happens it will be too late. This is apparent all round the world, and especially in South Vietnam at the present time. We shall not win a fight by sitting down. If we show firmness now, we might have time to build up our forces. We should not just sit back and allow these things to happen.
– Do you mean that we should start fighting now?
– Do not be ridiculous.
– What do you mean by not sitting back?
– The Government should at least show some guts. The defence of Australia is most important. I was very pleased when the United States of America, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand said that they were willing to act independently of their Seato obligations, and that they would not rely upon a meeting and unanimous approval of all the powers. That is a step in the right direction, I hope that if Thailand is invaded this country will live up to its treaty obligations. We must stop the downrush of communism in South-East Asia; otherwise we shall be fighting it in Australia.
– You cannot link Seato with New Guinea at the moment.
– Seato is not concerned with New Guinea, but we must not be limited by the scrap of paper that we have signed. That scrap of paper is legal and important, but we must do more than merely rely upon it. The people of Australia are more aware of the West New Guinea position than is generally believed. The man in the street knows what could happen if West New Guinea were taken over by the Indonesians. Many people regard West New Guinea in the same light as East New Guinea, where thousands of Australians fought to safeguard Australia from invasion. If there is an Indonesian invasion of West New Guinea and we do not fight, the Australian people will show their indignation by ousting the Government that allowed it to happen. I say that because of the feelings of the ordinary man in the street on this matter. He is not guided by treaties. Sentiment is associated with his thoughts on the matter. If the Government is not prepared to stem aggression in New Guinea, it could quite easily lose office.
– Not so long ago we saw the spectacle of Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, stating publicly his party’s policy on New Guinea and, in doing so, indulging in a spot of sabre rattling. The policy of the party was changed very much to-night by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). There has been a distinct change of policy. We heard the Leader of the Democratic Labour Party (Senator Cole), speaking in his own right, giving what I assume is the policy of the D.L.P. Following the former policy of the Australian Labour Party, he indulged in a spot of sabre rattling too.
I think we should look at this matter a little more objectively and with a little less sentiment, and try to find some common ground. There is a good deal of room for agreement between all three parties. Remarks such as “ The Government should show more guts “ do not get us anywhere. I commence my contribution to the debate by making a reference to the real issue between the two parties that are quarrelling - the Dutch and the Indonesians. It is the question of sovereignty. Let me say quite frankly that I subscribe fully to the proposition that, under the principles of international law, the Dutch have an unanswerable claim of right to West New Guinea. Personally, I do not think there is any doubt about that at all, and the Australian Government has stated in unequivocal terms that that is so. It has stated that it accepts the proposition that the Dutch have sovereignty over West New Guinea. The facts are not disputed. On 27th December, 1949. the Netherlands Government transferred absolute sovereignty over the area known as Indonesia to the new Republic of Indonesia, by an instrument known as the charter of the transfer of sovereignty. There was an important exception to that transfer of sovereignty, and I shall quote from the remarks of the representative of Indonesia during the last United Nations debate on this question. At page 289 of the report of the proceedings he is reported as having said -
While article I of the Charter of the Transfer of Sovereignty, Appendix VH, provided for the unconditional and irrevocable transfer of sovereignty, article 2 of the same agreement provided that “ the status quo of the Residency of New Guinea shall be maintained, with the stipulation that within a year from the date of transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia the question of the political status of New Guinea-
I emphasize that - be determined through negotiations between the -Republic of the United States of Indonesia and the Kingdom of The Netherlands.
It is only four months ago that the representative of Indonesia postulated that proposition in the United Nations. It happens to be good law.
It is now a matter of history that the Indonesians and the Dutch proceeded to negotiate in the terms of that charter but got precisely nowhere. That is not in dispute. The Indonesians at that time - ‘this is pertinent to what I am talking about - argued that de jure sovereignty of New Guinea flowed from that charter to Indonesia, and that all that remained to be discussed was the question of the de facto administration of the area, which was still, of course, controlled by the Dutch. The Dutch did not see it like that, and they many times offered to have the matter decided in the International Court of Justice. On every occasion the Indonesians - probably because they had a very weak case - refused to join issue in the court. This is all history.
It was not until 1956 that a change came over the scene, when the Indonesians, anxious to revive the whole question, abrogated the charter of the transfer of sovereignty, which by that time had become a document .with the imprimatur of the United Nations organization. The Indonesians abrogated that charter, for a very good reason. They then started to argue that sovereignty of West New Guinea did not flow from the charter, as was originally argued, but from their declaration of independence, made in 1945. That was the new argument put forward by Indonesia. With great respect, I think it was just as weak as the first argument, because it got the Indonesians precisely nowhere with international lawyers.
If sovereignty is based on a declaration of independence, then the sovereignty of Great Britain changes every Saturday afternoon with the declarations that are made in Hyde Park. I would think that the declaration of independence of Indonesia has as much force in relation to sovereignty as the innumerable declarations that are made in Hyde Park. I do not think that, legally speaking, the Indonesians have a leg to stand upon when it comes to the matter of a legal right to the sovereignty of West New Guinea. I do not think it can be seriously argued that they have such a legal right.
It is argued that they have some moral right. It is argued by some people, including the Indonesians themselves, that West New Guinea was originally a part of the Netherlands Indies and should, therefore, now belong to Indonesia. I do not think there is much moral force behind that proposition. There may be a lot of sentiment behind it, but not much moral force. When it comes to moral reasons why the Indonesians should have West New Guinea, I do not think they are in a very strong position. What moral claim could they have, when they have never had de facto control of the territory, when not one Papuan has been consulted about the change of sovereignty, and when not one Papuan was consulted about the declaration of independence in 1945? West New Guinea is not racially or culturally a part of Indonesia. Geographically, it is no more a part of Indonesia than is British North Borneo, Portuguese Timor, or, for that matter, Australian New Guinea.
Let us take this argument on moral principles a little further. The Indonesians have said - General Nasution has said it many times - that they would not give the indigenous people of New Guinea the right of selfdetermination, because under Indonesian rule they would be a part of the Indonesian empire. That has been said, and I do not think it has ever been denied. That weakens any moral claim on the part of the Indonesians. On the subject of morals, I refer again to the unequivocal promise given by the leader of Indonesia to the Government of Australia that in no circumstances would force be used to further the claims of Indonesia to West New Guinea. With great respect to everybody who has participated in the debate to-night, that issue has been dodged. Undoubtedly, force has been used. The Indonesians have broken their word to us, and that very much weakens their claim on moral grounds.
I fully realize, having said that, that the question cannot be left there. There are many other factors involved. I do not think this matter can really be argued from a legal point of view, if we wish to get very far with ii. After all, Sir, if you are suddenly alone in the jungle, unarmed, and you are surrounded by a crowd of very voracious cannibals who are well armed and particularly well developed physically, you do not endeavour to argue the legal aspects of the law relating to cannibalism. You must do something else; otherwise the pot will boil. 1 suggest there are plenty of factors involved in the question of West New Guinea, other than the legal question, and I think that those other factors are the realities of the problem.
I wish, now to refer to important and serious matters which are of great significance, particularly to this country. I propose to refer to them before touching on our own policy. The realities of this problem of West New Guinea may be summed up briefly. Indonesia has very powerful armed forces which it is obviously ready to use and which it intends to use. More importantly still from an international point of view, as Senator Gorton has said, Indonesia has some very powerful friends across the seas who are in fact supporting her claims to West New Guinea. That is a reality of life which we cannot overlook. Senator Gorton read out the names of the countries which supported, in effect, the claims of Indonesia at the last discussion of the subject at the United Nations, and, by implication,, denied the right of the indigenous population to self-determination.
I wish to develop that angle for a moment because I think it is very important. The first international reality of this problem, if I may use that expression, concerns the Communist nations which are unquestionably supporting the claims of Indonesia in the dispute. In fact, those nations are going further than that. I would go so far as to say that they are doing everything possible to provoke the outbreak of hostilities, a subject to which Senator Cole referred so honestly and vehemently earlier to-night. The Communists want war and they have a vested interest in the outbreak of hostilities in that area. 1 am of the opinion that they are doing everything they can to stir up trouble between the Netherlands on the one hand and the Indonesians on the other. They want to defeat and to humiliate the Netherlands in this struggle which, if it came to a show of arms in the immediate future, I honestly believe would not result in a win for the Dutch.
The Communists, following their usual pattern, are out to defeat and humiliate the Netherlands, but that does not mean that they are going to use their own forces and to go in and assist Soekarno on the slightest provocation. They do not want a war, won by Soekarno, which would leave Indonesia stronger than before, and with a stronger, anti-Communist Soekarno. They want a war in which they can not only defeat and humiliate the Netherlands but in which they can infiltrate the Indonesian islands and cause so much chaos that they can step in and take over in the usual Communist fashion. So, they are seeking to do two things. As I have said, they are seeking to defeat the Dutch, and they are seeking to defeat Soekarno.
– They are using Soekarno as a tool for their own ends.
– Yes. The Indonesians need to be very careful about whom they invite to the party. If Dr. Soekarno succeeds in getting some of those people to the party, he may find them very difficult guests to get rid of. That has happened in so many countries before. As Senator Cole has said, it will be a terrible thing if the Communists are given the chance to take over. I repeat that they have a vested interest in strife and turmoil and, if necessary, in the use of force. They are doing everything they can to encourage the Indonesians to use force. That is one of the facts of life that we must consider.
As Senator Gorton mentioned, we must face the fact that every Asian nonCommunist nation is supporting by implication, and by very strong implication, the claim of Indonesia. They did so on the last occasion that the United Nations discussed the matter. Every one of them voted against the Dutch and for the Indonesians. They arc not, of course, seeking to expel the Dutch for the same reasons and motives as are the Communists. I am not suggesting that at the moment. They have other motives. They have a traditional dislike of what they now call colonialism. That is a hatred which we must appreciate and try to understand, lt is there, and it increases; the problem.
There is another complicating factor tq which I want to refer. It is the attitude of the United States of America. We must not always assume that the United States thinks as we do on this matter. I wish to refer very briefly to the policy of the United States, as expressed in the United Nations debate. The representative of that country said -
The Assembly -
Meaning the United Nations General Assembly - should not be asked to accept either the Netherlands or the Indonesian claim to sovereignty.
That was the ‘first proposition advanced on behalf of the United States. That policy differs, of course, from that of Australia. We have been quite frank in accepting the proposition that sovereignty rests with Holland. The United States policy became even more confused when the representative went on to say -
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 -
I think this is the most critical and confusing part of the statement - every reasonable opportunity should be provided to Indonesia to pursue its objective of achieving integration of West New Guinea with Indonesia.
That is the stated policy of the Americans. With great respect, it is a rather complicated mixture of common sense and a good deal of backwoods prejudice on what they feel about colonialism. I think that that prejudice has influenced their views.
The right of self-determination involves the transference of sovereignty to the Indonesian population. How can selfdetermination be advocated and, at the same time, the integration of West New Guinea with Indonesia also be advocated? For the life of me, I cannot follow American foreign policy in relation to that statement. I merely point out that that is another complicating factor that we have to look at. I do not think the Dutch can derive any solace from that statement of American policy. If its ingredients are put together, it leaves a very serious problem, with the odds heavily in favour of Dr. Soekarno. No wonder he is a little chary about negotiations. In view of the support that he has from other nations, the urgings of the Communist nations and the confusing policy enunciated by America, it is little wonder that he is trying a few excursions into the area to see how he goes. Those are the realities of a situation that is fraught with many difficulties as far as we in Australia are concerned.
I want to refer now to Australia’s policy in this matter. Australia has been one of the few countries to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Dutch over West New Guinea. We have acknowledged that sovereignty since 1949, and will continue to do so. The importance of sovereignty over this area cannot be over-emphasized, because it is bound up with the rights of the indigenous people to self-determination. The two ideas are complementary. We have constantly advocated self-determination for the indigenous people of the territory, and will continue to do so. As I have said, the two ideas are complementary; you cannot advocate one without the other. You cannot, for example, advocate what the Americans are advocating - the right of selfdetermination by the people and a fusion of sovereignty with some other nation. Those are contradictions in terms and concepts.
I think we recognize that this is a local argument. Recognition of that factor is an important element in the problem that we face. An important item in our policy is that we recognize that the quarrel between the Dutch and the Indonesians is a quarrel particularly theirs. We have no quarrel with either country. We have no treaty obligations to the Dutch or to the Indonesians. Other than for reasons of sentiment, which I submit are not relevant, we have no moral obligations to support either nation in this dispute. It is a local dispute. The Leader of the Labour Party did this very desirable element in our policy, with which I think he agrees, no great good when he began rattling the sabre a couple of months ago, because that is the proper way to disrupt the even course of events that might lead to a peaceful solution of the dispute.
– Is it fair to say that?
– I am merely drawing an inference from Mr. Calwell’s remarks as reported in the newspapers.
– Senator Gorton has quoted what Mr. Calwell said in his speech on this subject. You are now referring to newspaper statements.
– Has Mr. Calwell ever rebutted those statements?
– Surely you do not require a person to deny everything that is wrongly attributed to him by the newspapers. That would be a full-time job.
– I would like to continue with my speech. I refer now to a most important aspect of Australian policy. We accept the sovereignty of the Dutch. We accept this dispute as a local dispute. We are trying to confine it to a local dispute. The more we encourage other nations to become involved in this dispute the greater are the chances of the Communists becoming directly involved. That is elementary. That has been the Communist pattern for the last twenty years. We must continue to try to solve this problem, not by resort to arms, not by talk of armed conflict, but by negotiation between the two parties that are having the row. 1 know that recently the two countries concerned held: negotiations. Let us be fair about this matter. Because those negotiations failed, is there any reason why we should not try again? Do not tell me that anybody is so timid or so fearful that he will not try to negotiate further on this difficult problem. I would expect perhaps a dozen failures before a solution is reached.
Some interesting factors emerged from that recent abortive discussion. It was not a discussion to solve the dispute. It was a discussion merely to see whether the two countries concerned could arrive at a basis for negotiation. Although the discussion was abortive, it does not necessarily mean that the two countries can never get together to discuss the merits of the issue. The issue was not discussed at the conference. The only thing discussed was whether the two countries could arrive at some basis for negotiation. The Indonesians held the view that they possess sovereignty, and the only thing to be discussed was the transfer of de facto administration. The Dutch did not agree with that submission. They said that they wanted to discuss other matters, including the rights of the indigenous people. So there was no firm basis for discussion, and the Indonesians walked out.
President Kennedy has suggested to the Indonesians a further basis for discussion. I think the Indonesians will pay a good deal of heed to what President Kennedy has said. We must do all in our power to get the two parties together for further discussion. I am well aware that we have a United Nations Organization. I agree with many of the things that Senator McKenna said about that organization. The United Nations has on five separate occasions in the last ten years discussed this problem, and has got precisely nowhere. I do not think the Government would suggest that never again shall the question be referred to the United Nations. It is a matter of timing.
– The fifth proposal of the Dutch was radically different from the previous four.
– I concede that. One significant element arose out of the last submission by the Dutch. The only element of the dispute in the United Nations about which there was any agreement at all times by a majority of nations was that the two nations concerned should get together and try to negotiate a settlement. That was the only thing that may be said to have come from the United Nations meeting last December, and about which there was any element of unanimity. As for the remaining elements of the dispute, there was no chance of agreement. But there was some semblance of agreement that the nations concerned in the dispute should themselves get together and try to settle the dispute. That is exactly what happened. The learned secretary of the United Nations Organization eventually succeeded in getting the two nations together in pursuance of what could be regarded as an agreement by the United Nations, but the meeting of those two nations was abortive. Are we to throw up our hands in horror because of that? Are we to do what Senator Cole suggested - run for the sword because one meeting was abortive? That meeting lasted for three days. Are we chicken-hearted? Do we believe that war will solve this problem? Certainly not! Are not the Opposition and the Government agreed on that point? Are not the Opposition and the Government agreed that this is really a matter of timing - that it would be futile to go again at this point of time to the United Nations, only a few months after the previous discussions had been abandoned? Would not further discussions now be abandoned? Is it not better to allow the discussions to take place in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the members of the United Nations and see whether some finality can be reached?
These differences between the Government and the Opposition are not differences of policy. I am astonished that the Opposition should make such a contentious issue of what is really a matter of judgment. The Government has never said that it will never, in any circumstances, accept a reference of this issue to the United Nations again. The Government has merely said that at this point of time that course would be unwise. In that view it has the backing not only of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other Western democracies, but, strange to say, also of Indonesia itself. Would the Leader of the Opposition still insist on going alone when not one other member of the United Nations is in agreement with what he proposes? Surely the position was becoming Gilbertian to-night when the Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should go alone in this matter irrespective of what anybody else thought. Surely this question involves a matter of timing and we must leave to the Government the decision on when the United Nations should be approached.
Finally, I am optimistic enough to believe that eventually, with the good offices of such nations as the United States of America and India - both of which are now helping to bring Holland and Indonesia together - some basis for discussion and ultimate solution of this matter will be arrived at. That is the only thing that can be done and it is the best thing that can be done. I believe that the Government should be commended on the action it has taken in that respect, lt is showing some acuity, which, after all, is much more than the Opposition has shown on this difficult question.
– After listening to Senator Vincent’s speech I am even more confused than ever about the Government’s policy on West New Guinea. He talked a great deal about consultations and conferences between the two nations involved in this dispute - the Netherlands and Indonesia. I believe that a third and most important group of people is involved in this matter and have been completely ignored. I refer to the indigenous people of West New Guinea. It seems to me to be very cruel that two other groups of people - the Dutch and the Indonesians - should be meeting to decide how they will deal with a third group of people who have no say in their own future. If it is said that the reason for that is that the people of West New Guinea are not capable of dealing with their own situation, that is a reason why West New Guinea should continue as a trust territory until its future is decided by the United Nations. If, after so many hundred years of European rule, the people have not progressed beyond a completely primitive stage and can take no reasoned part in the discussion of their future, that seems to me to be an indictment of colonialism and just playing into the hands of the Communists and others who wish to capitalize on such a state of affairs.
Indonesia is a very important factor in Australian history and development. As the Dutch East Indies of old, it was one of the cardinal factors in the discovery of Australia. From the dawn of Australia as a white man’s country Indonesia has been of intense interest to Australia. The part of New Guinea that is under discussion is only about 200 miles from Cape York. It is as close to Australia as Canberra is to Sydney. That factor has not been brought out in this discussion. It ought to give us some food for thought.
– How far is Indonesia from the Australian mainland?
– Darwin is about 450 miles from Indonesian Timor. The aeroplane journey between those two places takes only about an hour and a half. That is another very important factor. Part of West New Guinea is only about 25 miles from the Molucca Islands, which are part of Indonesia. These factors of distance have to be taken into consideration in our discussions on this matter.
It becomes very important from Australia’s strategic point of view that we should know what is happening in West New Guinea. 1 do not consider that either the Dutch or the Indonesians should have the final say in the decision on what will happen in West New Guinea. Surely the indigenous people have some rights. Do we, as a nation, stand for bartering in human beings? The position is not that this is a completely uninhabited territory. It is inhabited by nearly 1,000,000 people. Surely those people who are indigenous to that territory have some rights in this matter. Surely we cannot just say, “ The Indonesians want this territory and the Dutch want it. We are on the side of the Dutch “; or “ We are on the side of the Indonesians. And the people themselves just have to accept our judgment. They cannot speak for themselves.” That is completely wrong.
– Are you suggesting that we intervene in Algeria?
– At the present time I am talking about West New Guinea which is contiguous to Australia and has a very important bearing on our defence. 1 agree with the point of view expressed by Senator Cole that the strategic importance of New Guinea is such that we have to take stock of our defences. 1 do not believe in sabre-rattling. I do not believe in going to war on this matter and having the mountains and valleys of New Guinea sprinkled once again with the blood of Australian servicemen. I do not believe that any one in this Parliament wishes to sec another war fought in New Guinea. However, we have to beware of aggression by any power that may seek to make capital out of the present situation in West New Guinea. That is where the Australian Labour Party stands in this matter. We do not want to see war. We do not want to have a war caused by this dispute. If there is a local conflict, we do not want it to develop into a world conflict. World conflicts have been started for much less reason than this dispute.
That is why we say that it is imperative that the decision in this matter bc made by the United Nations. I was amazed’ to hear Senator Vincent say that going to the United Nations is no good. 1 have heard that said several times in another place also. Surely it ill behoves members of this Parliament to preach the doctrine that the United Nations is ineffective and cannot do any good in a matter such as this. I heard another speaker say that the United Nations cannot stop wars. It can prevent and has prevented wars. In the history of the United Nations since its inception there have been disputes that have come very close to conflict. But for the intervention of the United Nations we could have been engaged in war. In similar civil disputes prior to the formation of the United Nations we would have been engaged in war.
Over the last twenty years partitions have come about in various countries. They are a source of a great deal of irritation and injustice to people on one side or the other of a divided country. We have only to look at Berlin to-day and see what is happening in that unhappy place with its Eastern and Western sectors. There has been war in Korea over the line of demarcation between the North and the South. In any country that is divided within itself there are the seeds of conflict. The United Nations was able to take a stand in Korea. I am quite certain that nobody wants the West New Guinea dispute to reach th*: point of actual conflict, as happened in Korea.
I think that the greatest hope for the peaceful settlement of this matter lies within the councils of the United Nations. We do not want the people of New Guinea to be given their freedom from colonialism, or whatever you like to call it, and to become an independent people too soon. We have seen what has happened in the Congo where people were given freedom before they were ready and able to make the best use of it. We do not want to see the tragedy which is the Congo repeated in a country so close to our shores as New Guinea. We do not want to see this division in New Guinea between two countries. It is now partly a trust territory of Australia, and the Australian Government is spending a great deal of money on the development of that part of the country.
We as Australians are vitally interested in the development of that part of New Guinea and its people. We are working towards making them a people who will 1 t .-. r b« able to evolve their own form of government and ensure their own continuation as a country. When they are ready for their freedom, they can have it.” The Government is working to that end. However, I say with great regret that I do not think this is true of Dutch New Guinea. If it were, that country would be much better developed than it is. Throughout its history it has never been the most important strategically, or the most important from the point of view of productivity, of the colonies of the Netherlands. It has been, perhaps, the least productive of all parts of the Netherlands East Indies empire. Now, when it is the sole remaining part of that once extensive and very rich empire which brought a great deal of wealth to the Netherlands, it is rather ironic that this least developed of all the possessions in the East Indies should be the centre of this controversy.
The Labour Party would not be a party to any negotiations for the disposal of West New Guinea without the consent of the indigenous people; that is, without the people of that country being given a voice in deciding what is to happen to them. What right has either Holland or Indonesia to decide the future of the 1,000,000 people in that territory without giving them a vote of their own. Earlier this evening, Senator Vincent referred to the failure of the talks between Indonesia and Holland with regard to West New Guinea. I should like to see these negotiations carried on, but as tripartite negotiations, with the native people of Dutch New Guinea also at the conference table. The present situation is like two people meeting to- dispose of some one else’s property and expecting that third person to be quite happy about it, or at least not to take any action if the disposal of the property is to his disadvantage. I am certain that an ultimate decision by the United Nations will be the only peaceful solution of the problem of the continuation of the trusteeship of Dutch New Guinea.
Some honorable senators have talked a lot of nonsense about this subject. They have spoken about sabre-rattling and so on. That is just a catch-cry, because I am certain that no member on either side of this Parliament would wish to hear any sabrerattling. No one wishes to see any country simply left aside ignominiously, without any defence of its principles. At the same time, we in Australia have to look to our own defence. From time to time in this Senate, for the past five or six years at least, and perhaps longer, I have been advocating the development of a naval base or some other kind of base on our western and northern shores. When the leader of the Australian Labour Party mentioned the defence of the northern part of Australia it was not with any thought of Australia becoming the aggressor in a war. It is plain common sense that we have to be prepared to defend Australia if the need arises. I do not for a moment think that the policy of the Indonesians is to attack Australia. I believe that all their protestations of affection and friendship for Australia are quite genuine. At the same time, they are not the main factors involved. I think that Indonesia could quite easily become the tool of at least one other major power, which could lead it up the garden path until it was impossible for it to draw back, and Australia could well be in the line of attack.
I wish the people of Indonesia well in their new-found independence. It took a long time for them to gain independence. I hope that they will use it to their best advantage. I trust that the people of West New Guinea, when they are competent to express their own opinion on this matter, will make a wise choice. The choice should be their own. In the meantime, it is up to the United Nations to ensure that the people of West New Guinea do not suffer during this period of indecision. There is a lot of talk about the evils of colonialism and the benefits of nationalism. Again, such points of view are very questionable. The old idea of colonialism has, of course, gone by the board, but during a period of colonial expansion a great deal was done by the mother countries to develop many of these areas. A great deal of money was spent on their development, and upon the education of their peoples. We know that many native peoples were exploited, but when we come to sum up the whole situation we find that those who use the term colonialism in its worst sense, or in the sense that some people ascribe to it to-day, are those who would do the very same thing again - acquire territories if they could, and not do very much to develop them. They would accept the benefits of having colonies without spending very much on their development or improvement.
Nationalism is on the march. We know this from the story of Africa to-day. The United Kingdom has done her best to assist in the development of the new nations by granting them their freedom when the time for it was ripe. This is a policy that could well be applied to Dutch New Guinea by the Dutch, and I think it will be applied. When the country is ready to assume full responsibilities for itself, that freedom will be given to it. I do not like the idea of a divided New Guinea. It would1 be rather an anomaly if one part of New Guinea were well developed - that is, the part of which Australia is the trustee - and the other part which is contiguous were left in its undeveloped state as it is to-day. Therefore, Labour policy is to ensure that the mandate of Dutch New Guinea is carried out to the full, and that the official decision about Dutch New Guinea is made, not by any second or third power, but by the indigenous people themselves with the full approval of the United Nations, whose job it is to see that the native peoples of that country are not exploited by either of those countries that are now contending for sovereignty over it.
– I must fully agree with the concluding sentiments expressed by Senator Tangney. 1 think that the ideal solution is that the present administration should continue, or should be replaced, if it has to be replaced before the indigenes are ready for self-government, by some other government acting under the same mandate. There is nothing contrary to that in the ministerial statement that we are debating. I think that a great deal of the Opposition’s argument is based on the assumption that Australia can play a much bigger part in this matter than it can, in fact. I wish that it could play a bigger part. I wish our weight were much greater in the councils of the world.
The fact is that this matter has been brought before the United Nations. Three resolutions were debated, but none of them was carried; and the decision to leave it to negotiation between the present holders of the title and the people who are claiming it is, in effect, a decision of the United Nations. At least by default it has said that it will not accept any of the resolutions that were brought before it. I personally thought that the proposal of the Dutch Foreign Minister was an admirable one, and had I been representing any country at the United Nations I would have been happy to support it. However, it failed, and it did so not only because Indonesia was determined not to accept it but also because, unfortunately, virtually all the nations of Asia and Africa wanted it settled in some other way.
I agree with Senator McKenna that this is not a dispute between the old colonialism and liberation. Both the territories of New Guinea are now administered by administering nations under the United Nations. Whatever faults can be found with the old Dutch colonialism, it is not manifest in the present administration of West New Guinea. But the weakness of the position - which all honorable senators acknowledge, I think - is that this proposition gets no support from any other powerful nation. I do not think that it would help the situation at all if Australia unilaterally said, “ We support the present position “. What would we be supporting? We would be supporting the present system, which is good. But there is no guarantee of the continuance of the present position, and, in any case, it has been made quite clear by Dutch policy that the Dutch intend to remain in West New Guinea only for a few years. If we could get behind the formal and diplomatic phrases and peer into the hearts and minds of the Dutch Government and the Dutch people, this would be their view: “We feel we have a trust to these people. We are not going to abandon it, and if force is attempted we shall resist it. But ultimately the matter must be resolved by a solution approved by the civilized world - and that will be by the United Nations.”
It is altogether a wrong interpretation of the present situation to regard the United Nations as a sort of impartial judge which will always act strictly in accordance with the principles of the Charter or with the directives that have been laid down for the administration of this country. The United Nations is a body that resembles parliament in this respect: The representatives come there with stated policies and they manoeuvre a good deal. They have also unstated policies. Unfortunately, though the Dutch administration in West New
Guinea is not the old colonialism, most of the former colonial powers believe that it is. I am afraid that too many Americans believe it is. I think that in the past American congressmen and senators - I have read their statements - and officials in the State Department have had a false image of the position. They think that the present administration in West New Guinea is merely a continuation of the old administration of the Dutch East Indies and some of them have a suspicion, for which there is no warrant, that the Dutch want to use it as a lever in order to re-assert some measure of their imperial control. There is no disposition on the part of the Government to prevent this issue from going to the United Nations. In fact, there is every indication that ultimately it will be settled by that organization. In the face of what has happened in the negotiations, particularly late last year, it is futile for us in Australia to assert simply that we will send this dispute back to the United Nations.
We have all tended to use very strong language in discussing this matter, and I also could use similar language. But in the dangerous world that we live in, that is not good in public discussion. I certainly do not concede anything to the claims of Indonesia, as I have read them, but I can quite understand why they have been put forward. The Indonesians are suffering from a dangerous passion - I shall not say malady because it is a healthy state if it does not go too far - of patriotism and nationalism. They are a newly independent nation. They feel that they have won their independence after centuries of subjugation. They feel that they have a right to this territory. I do not think that they have that right, but they believe that they do.
As I have said before in the chamber, every influence possible should be brought to bear so that the final settlement in this issue is just to the indigenes, for they are the people vitally concerned. The Charter of the United Nations and the special resolutions of the United Nations dealing with this question lay down that the interests of the indigenes should prevail. The Netherlands is not prepared to say that it will stay in West New Guinea indefinitely. The Dutch have fixed a term - I think a very short term - in which they hope to prepare the indigenous people for self- government. I think the term is far too short. To-day all these constitutional processes are being stepped up, but unfortunately one cannot speed up the natural processes of the human body or the human mind. I do not believe that any indigenous people in either our part or the Hollanders’ part of New Guinea will be ready for full self-government within the time that the Dutch have stated or the time that has been allotted to us. However, we Australians cannot stand up in the face of the whole world and say, “ We insist that the Netherlands which, by its own stated policy, is there only for a limited period, shall be permitted by our own force of arms to stay in West New Guinea until the Dutch decide to go “.
I believe that if a transfer of sovereignty is made every precaution should be taken in the form of treaty and, ultimately, in some mandate under the United Nations to ensure that the indigenous people shall continue to receive all the protection they enjoy at present and shall be given guarantees for their future protection. That is the most that we can do. I think it is wrong for the Opposition to insinuate that the Government, because it is not making violent public statements and not answering arguments that have been put, for instance, by the President of Indonesia, is doing nothing or has done nothing. This being a matter for negotiation between two principles, it will also be a matter for negotiation between governments. What our Government should do - as I believe it is doing - is to present to the other nations whose consent to the final settlement will be necessary - notably the United States - a case for just conditions for the people of West New Guinea.
I want to make only one other point this evening. It relates to defence. At the end of the last war and certainly at the conclusion of the First World War we thought that New Guinea was vital to our defence. That position no longer obtains. There are other places more dangerous to Australia than New Guinea. If a Communist or any other invasion is coming, it will not come through New Guinea. That is hardly likely. It is far more likely to come directly from the islands to the north of a much more vulnerable part of Australia - Cape York.
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.
– I claim the indulgence of the Senate for a few minutes to present a matter relating to section 78 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. As the Senate may know, that section refers to the deductions claimable by a person in relation to -
Gifts … of the value .of One pound and upwards of money or of property other than money which was purchased by the taxpayer within twelve months immediately preceding the making of the gift, made by the taxpayer in the year of income- to certain funds, authorities or institutions. These include, as set out in paragraph (xxvii) of sub-section (1.) - >
A public library, public museum or public art gallery, or an institution consisting of a public library, public museum and public art gallery or of any two of them.
The sub-section also covers gifts to the Sydney Opera House Appeal Fund, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Trust, the Industrial Design Council of Australia, the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales, and so on.
I invite the attention of the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) and the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Paltridge, to the fact that the provision inserted in 1957 is of very limited application. I believe that in order to keep abreast of modern times, it should be altered somewhat. I use as an illustration the gift of a piece of sculpture. If it is procured and donated to a public museum, art gallery or library, it will possibly remain almost hidden from public view in the cloisters of such establishment, but the donor may claim as a tax deduction the cost of the piece of sculpture, whether it be £100, £1,000 or £1,500. But if the piece of sculpture is put in the open in a public park, to give pleasure to countless thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, the matter is entirely different. It is not then regarded as a gift to the public and no deduction is claimable.
You, Mr. President, may think that this is a theoretical case, but the matter is at the present time of great importance in the city of Adelaide. I understand that quite a number of people in the city have in mind the making of donations for the purpose of beautifying parks, particularly parks where there are great facilities for children, and which European migrants are expected to frequent. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in accordance with the strict reading of the act, has refused to consider as allowable deductions objects of art and fine pieces of sculpture donated for this purpose. Quite a number of people have made inquiries - some have actually made gifts - but their representations have been rejected. I believe that it should not be the intention of Parliament to limit public benefactions in this way. If a gift goes into a virtually closed museum, library or art gallery, a deduction is allowed. If it is for public use and admiration, no deduction is allowed. I believe that the Government ought to have a look at this matter.
Let us assume that it is intended to perpetuate the memory of some public figure - one that comes to mind is the late Sir Earle Page - by the erection of a bust or statue. The obvious place for it, in the case of Sir Earle Page, would be in the country, possibly in Grafton. Any move to do that would not be encouraged tax-wise, but if the’ bust or statue were to be given to a museum in Sydney, the gift would be encouraged. In this modern age, when there is a tendency towards outdoor living and the beautification of parks with fountains, statues and sundials, the Government should consider the matter.
The Government has been very generous in relation to the scope of allowable deductions. As a matter of fact, I think it may have been a little too generous with regard to war memorials. All over Australia now we see a crop of buildings described as war memorials. Sometimes, one believes, the provision is a little stretched in that direction. This question was raised as recently as yesterday in Adelaide at a conference of the Taxpayers Association. A West Australian, Mr. E. H. Wheatley, is reported to have said -
Australia is becoming swamped with war memorials because of its tax laws. Gifts to community projects are not allowed. Civic-minded organizations register projects as war memorials and there is a danger of making a mockery of the word “memorial”.
I do not know exactly at what that person was driving, but apparently there is a feeling abroad that the term “ war memorial “ is becoming much wider than was originally intended. My purpose is to invite the attention of the Senate to the desirability of widening the provision relating to public museums, libraries or art galleries, to include public parks where objects of art and the like are finally placed.
– The subject raised by the honorable senator is an interesting one. Section 78 of the act lists those projects and appeals, donations to which are allowable as tax deductions. I am wondering whether the position has arisen from the fact that the law has not kept pace with the change in habit. I think it is commonly accepted now that all Australians spend much more time out of doors than they spend indoors. I cannot say for certain, but I should think that when the provision was originally made for a deduction in connexion with a gift to an art gallery or museum, it was possibly quite unusual for a park to be regarded as a place where large groups would assemble and take pleasure from seeing a piece of statuary.
I was interested in the list read by Senator Laught. It included the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Trust in Melbourne. Apparently, the law has caught up with that aspect of outdoor entertainment, but not with this other aspect of outdoor activity. The matter is one of great interest, and I shall ask the Treasurer to look at it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620404_senate_24_s21/>.