25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a statement alleged to have been made by Alderman Harley, the Mayor of the Gold Coast, to the effect that the Minister’s statement about expenditure on the Coolangatta airport was a lot of hot air? Incidentally, I do not agree with the statement. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the approximate sums that are to be spent on the Coolangatta airport and the Canberra airport and what kind of work is to be carried out?
– I understand that yesterday the Department of Civil Aviation received a letter from the council which controls this airport with a view to ascertaining details of the scheme under which the Department works with various councils in setting airports in order, the airports then becoming council property, and the Department accepting responsibility for 50 per cent, of the maintenance thereafter. I have not at my fingertips details of proposals relating to the airports at Canberra and Coolangatta, but if the honorable senator places his question on the notice paper 1 shall get those details for him - I hope tomorrow.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. I refer to a statement issued recently by the Minister wherein he stated that officers of the United States Department of Defence at present in Canberra are working on logistics aspects of the agreements between Australia and America that were signed recently in Washington. The Minister indicated that the aim was to develop as much as possible a utilisation of compatible materials at.d equipment in the armed forces of Australia and America. Will the Minister please expound this idea to the Senate, setting out in particular the range of materials and equipment he had in mind and which the armed forces of Australia might utilise under these agreements?
– Obviously, it is advantageous that in appropriate circumstances the equipment used by the Australian forces should be identical, or at least compatible, with that used by the forces of the United States of America with whom we are, and for a number of years have been, associated in a number of defence arrangements. The defence report that was presented last year and the speech delivered late last year by the Prime Minister gave some indication of the type of equipment which the logistics agreement signed recently might cover. I think if 1 detail some of the equipment by way of illustration the honorable senator will receive the information he has requested. For the Navy, for example, there are the Charles F. Adams destroyers, with their many involved and intricate electronic systems; the Tracker anti-submarine aircraft; torpedoes; and missiles and ammunition. For the Army there are the amphibians and tracked carriers; fixed wing light aircraft such as the Cessna - and probably there will be others; helicopters; and radio and radar equipment, which the honorable senator will immediately realise, needs to be compatible with that used by the other Services. For the Air Force there are the FI IIA aircraft and its systems, weapons and missiles; Hercules medium transport aircraft; Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft which, incidentally, is a flying laboratory in much the same way that the Charles F. Adams destroyer is a floating laboratory; and the 130E Hercules transport aircraft.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. On 24th March I asked the Minister a question relating to newspaper allegations of immorality in Canberra hostels. To my question I have received in reply a letter from the Minister which gives the lie direct to the slanders. I thank the Minister for his courtesy to me, but I now wish to ask him: Since these slanderous attacks appeared with great prominence in newspapers in every State of the Commonwealth and no refutation has been made by a responsible person through the same medium and to the same extent, will- the Minister make a public statement on lines similar to those in his letter to me so that the good name of our young workers in Canberra will be reestablished in the public image and the parents of girls from distant States fully re-assured as to their welfare?
– I will ask the Minister whether he will make a statement along the lines suggested by the honorable senator if, indeed, he has not already done so. However, I cannot guarantee that it will receive the same wide publicity as the charges received.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by quoting a Press report which appeared in Brisbane on Monday last,5th April. The report states -
Next month B.O.A.C. will take Brisbane off its network. This is being done because the airport’s runways cannot carry the Rolls Royce Boeing jets the airline will use instead of Comets.
I ask the Minister whether the report is correct and, if so, how it can be reconciled with another report which appeared in the Brisbane Press last Friday, 2nd April, stating that Qantas Empire Airways Limited has just commenced its first non-stop 3,600 miles air service to Manila out of Brisbane, using Boeing 707V jets. I might add that the service was fully booked, even on the initial flight.
-I understand that the British Overseas Airways Corporation is withdrawing its Comets from the Australian service. They were operating to Brisbane and Melbourne. The new Rolls-Royce powered Boeing 707 jet aircraft weighs about 310,000 lb., whereas the Comet weighs about 160,000 lb. The Qantas flight to Manila from Brisbane to which the honorable senator referred was made by a Boeing 707, which, fully loaded, weighed about 260,000 lb. So the new Rolls-Royce powered 707 jet carries about 50,000 lb. additional weight. The honorable senator will recall the statement I made to the Senate last week in which I said that in the works programme is included an item of expenditure of £500,000 for the strengthening of the runways at Brisbane to receive the Boeing 707-338 jet aircraft. That amount is included in the programme which has been referred to an inter-departmental committee for consideration before it is included in the civil works programme in the next Budget
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that Australia had an overseas trade deficit of £10.1 million in March 1965, which has brought the total deficit for the first nine months of this financial year to £82.5 million? Is the Government concerned about this great trade deficit? If so, what action does it intend to take to rectify this serious matter affecting the wellbeing of every Australian?
– The honorable senator refers to the total deficit so far this year in our overseas trade balance. This is related to trade which has assumed record proportions under the administration of this Government. Imports in excess of exports have gradually reduced the record total by about £82.5 million. This is being watched very closely, but we still have a record amount of about £700 million in our total overseas reserves and at the present time there isno cause for real concern.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that Indonesia signed an agreement under United Nations auspices in 1962, guaranteeing the people of West New Guinea a plebiscite regarding self-determination? Was this one of the main conditions of the handover? If this plebiscite is refused, will Australia place this matter before the United Nations, censuring Indonesia for its blatant duplicity? Does the Minister consider that this may have been one of the reasons why Indonesia withdrew from the United Nations?
– The Department of External Affairs has no confirmation as yet of the report to which the honorable senator refers.
– It came over the air.
– Yes, but that is not really confirmation. The Department is checking with its Embassy in Djakarta. The Australian Government’s view on that matter would be a matter of policy which would be not dealt with in an answer to a parliamentary question.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has anything positive yet been done by the Commonwealth for the relief of the victims of recent disastrous bush fires in areas such as Marulan?
– As I have explained before in answers to questions, relief extended by the Commonwealth in cases of drought or fire is always initiated by the State concerned. I am not aware whether any approach has been made by the State. I shall make an inquiry and let the honorable senator know.
– I direct a question to to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, lt relates to the leading article in yesterday’s “ Financial Review “ headed “ Queries for the C.S.I. R.O.” The article, which occupies two columns, discusses a charge by two former officers of the . Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that the Organisation has withheld publication of material not favorable to the idea of northern development. Can the Minister advise me whether this criticism is based on fact?
– I saw the leading article referred to and, indeed, some other comments along the same lines in another place. I can say quite unequivocally that the C.S.I.R.O. does not suppress, and to the best of my knowledge has never suppressed, the results of any scientific research except on the ground of the executive’s judgment of the standard of the research reached or as to whether the area covered falls within the responsibility of the Organisation. Even then, it does not suppress the findings; it merely does not publish them. I can say unequivocally that no pressure has been put on the members of the executive of the C.S.I.R.O. to suppress or publish the results of any research or documentation, and from my knowledge gained through working with the members of the executive I have a pretty good idea that they would not take any notice if the Government attempted to bring such pressure to bear.
In the case mentioned by the honorable senator - that of Dr. Davidson who dealt with some aspects of the Ord River scheme - the doctor’s findings were not suppressed; they were not published by the C.S.I.R.O. because, in the judgment of the executive of the Organisation, they fell not within the responsibilities of the C.S.I.R.O. but more within the responsibilities of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I repeat that the findings were not suppressed; they were made available to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and to the Government of Western Australia.
To put the matter in a nutshell, the C.S.I.R.O. regards its responsibilities as find* ing out what will grow in particular land con*ditions and in particular climatic conditions, and how it can best be grown - what kind of treatment should be given to it; what kind of pesticide action should be taken and what kind of fertiliser should be added to the ground. It has regard to overall broad economics but not to the forecasting of future markets and things of that kind. It does not seek to influence policy but when those responsible decide that some area should be opened up, it does seek to provide properly based scientific research information on what can be grown there and how it can best be grown. That is the area to which it confines its scientific and industrial research publications.
– My question to the Leader of the Government refers to Australian participation in industrial ventures in Malaysia about which an appeal was made by the Prime Minister of Singapore during his recent visit to Australia. Apart from routine or exploratory investigations being conducted by Australian interests acting separately and on an individual firm basis, what government or departmental action is contemplated to organise and encourage Australian participation jointly with Malayan enterprise with a view to assisting the Malaysian economy?
– I think that the instrumentalities of the Department of Trade and Industry are used by Australian industrialists and investors in this connection. The Department’s officers at various points are available to advise Australian industrialists and investors and, as the Prime Minister of Singapore remarked on more than one occasion during his recent visit to Australia, there is already quite strong evidence of the active interest, and indeed participation, of Australian industry in some of the new ventures, particularly in Singapore itself. I have had the pleasure of seeing some of these industries which have been established, in some cases with Australian participation. I would think that in the main this has been helped by the activities of the Australian Department of Trade and Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence.I remind him that on 24th March I raised in the Senate a matter relating to the rates of pay of female members of the forces. He implied then that I had received advance information of a review which was being made. I assure him I had not. I now ask the Minister whether a review has been made of the rates of pay of female members of the forces. If it has, will he inform me and the Senate of the conclusions that were reached as a result of the review?
– I think the honorable senator is somewhat confused. As Minister for Defence, I did not take part in the debate which he initiated. The matter appropriately was one for the Services and the Minister who spoke for the Government was the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, that being the Service in which the greatest number of women are enlisted. I do not know the precise situation in respect of the review that has been mentioned but I will inquire and see that the information is given to the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has the Minister seen a report of the Victorian Public Health Commission that toy plastic sets being sold in Australia and imported from Hong Kong and the United States of America have plastic instruments that could blind, deafen or kill, and that similar sets had been withdrawn from sale in Perth after doctors had pointed out their dangers? Will the Minister investigate the powers available to him to prohibit the importation of such dangerous and possibly lethal toys? Will he take action to protect the interests of Australian children?
– Yes, I shall have inquiries made to ascertain where the responsibility lies. I hope to be in a position, perhaps by tomorrow, to comment on the question directed to me by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the importance to Australia of the sale of wool, the need to encourage the use of wool by manufacturers within Australia as well as overseas, and also the need to encourage consumers to purchase pure woollen goods, can the Minister say whether manufacturers within Australia have applied, or intend to apply, to the International Wool Secretariat for licences to use the wool quality mark which is now being used in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Japan, Belgium, Holland, Germany and France?
– As I understand the position, the International Wool Secretariat is responsible for the trade mark, the quality mark and the promotion of wool in countries other than Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. In those three countries the Wool Boards are responsible for the promotion of wool within the particular country. In Australia the Australian Wool Board has that responsibility. I understand that the Board, because of the success of the use of the quality mark overseas, is considering the adoption of a quality mark for the Australian trade. Manufacturers will be encouraged by promotional means to use this quality mark with a view to selling more wool in Australia.
Army Supplies. (Question No. 399.)
Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What has been the total amount spent by the Army on the purchase of (a) margarine and (b) butter in each of the last five years?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
Publications Committee. (Question No. 419.)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has the Departmental Publications Committee been abolished, as was recommended by the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer -
No. The future of the Departmental Publications Committee will be considered by the Government in conjunction with the Select Committee’s recommendation that a Government Publishing Office be established.
Debate resumed from 6th April (vide page 309), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Senate take note of the following paper - Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 23rd March 1965.
.- Mr. President, before the adjournment of this debate last night I was referring to the Vietnamese campaign, putting the view that it was entirely proper, and indeed, essential for the interests that the Western democracies represented that the line of division between North Vietnam and South Vietnam should be defended and preserved in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Convention of 1954. I was putting forward the view that the retaliation which should take place in the course of that defence by the South Vietnamese, with the aid of the U.S.A., must be commensurate with the intensity of the attack or subversion from the north.I was putting that viewpoint because of the importance which seemed to me to attach to the preservation of the South East Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia and, indeed, Mr. President, more importantly still, India. India is going through a terrifically anxious period of transition at this present time following the death of Prime Minister Nehru.
Mr. President, there is noone who will be satisfied with the activities connected with the defence of South Vietnam unless he is satisfied that they are properly confined to defence. Whereas some statements were made on the part of the American authorities that they were going to prosecute this war without limit and were going to escalate it, yet it has now been completely and authoritatively established that the American policy is to maintain retaliation simply on the basis of defence.
The President himself has said quite bluntly that the United States of America seeks no wider war. He said: “ We threaten no regime and covet no territory “. He said, also, that his sole purpose is to defend the South Vietnamese to enable them to develop an economy and a government that will express their purpose in life. The rapidity of changes of government in South Vietnam should convince us all that at present there are nothing like democratic institutions in that country and, indeed, the people are not yet at such a stage that democratic institutions appeal to them as a means of expression. So the main emphasis is, upon economic development and education. But that is a long process and no reasonable person can contemplate the present warlike activities being continued until it is completed.
We come then to the next stage, in regard to which discussion over the last three or four weeks has, I believe, done much to convince Australia and Great Britain that the President of the United States of America is at all times willing to engage in negotiations which have a real prospect of achieving an honorable peace. I agree with the President’s statement of 23rd March when he said -
As I have said in every part of the Union, I am ready to go anywhere at any time, and meet with anyone, whenever there is promise of progress toward an honorable peace.
He did not say: “ Provided it can be anticipated that at such a conference a final conclusion of peace can be obtained “. He said he will engage in negotiations whenever there is a prospect of moving a stage further towards an honorable peace. I was impressed by the remarks of Senator Willesee the other night when he gave what I thought was a most prudent reminder that it would be a great desertion, on the part of the President of the United States of America, of the people who depend upon his courage, judgment and leadership in this world crisis, if he were to buoy up their hopes by arranging a conference which seemed at the threshold to have no real prospect of success. I believe Senator Willesee’s view is realistic.
Reference has been made to the British Government’s proper concern to probe every possibility of finding negotiations out of which peace can come. I applaud that attitude and welcome the mission that has been undertaken by Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, provided that this is not another case of Runciman going to Czechoslovakia. There is no basis for anyone to suggest that Mr. Gordon Walker will not studiously observe a proper regard for the interests of the combatant who is carrying the main responsibility of the campaign and studiously regard the interests of South Vietnam, while not in the slightest degree subordinating their interests to the overwhelming purpose of securing peace. I would not be associated in any shape or form with surrendering the interests of the South Vietnamese for the purpose of obtaining peace. But the President, with all the sense of reality that goes with his announcements, should give the people represented by the bishops in Australia full confidence that his purpose is to secure peace so long as it can be obtained on the proper basis of protecting the South Vietnamese and stopping Communist aggression. While that campaign is in progress we are still involved in activities which are nothing less than war.
I am one who believes that it is the duty of the Australian Government not complacently to consider merely the possibilities of a negotiated peace but to arrange all the channels that its ingenuity can suggest whereby a workable programme for the cessation of these hostilities by negotiation can be evolved.
I cannot leave this subject without referring to a statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in the paper we are discussing. The Minister said that the United Nations Organisation must not be considered to have broken down, It seems to me that the implication in some of the statements by U Thant on this crisis is that the United Nations is completely impotent. Let us consider that implication in conjunction with the imbroglio that has arisen from the forfeiture by Russia and France and one or two other member nations of their right to vote in the General Assembly because of their refusal to pay contributions to the guarding campaigns that have been undertaken by the United Nations. As a result, the General Assembly adjourned without really deciding anything by an effective vote during the whole of the last session. In the circumstances one must contemplate the present disarray of the United Nations with dismay. I shall return to that matter in a moment, but I believe there is an imperative duty on all the countries, both large and small, which constitute the United Nations and wish for peace in Vietnam to regalvanise the United Nations Organisation so that it may contribute effectively to a solution of the crisis by peaceful means.
– That conflicts with the views expressed by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in the past few days.
– Not as I interpret them. I speak my judgment on this matter so far as I am informed. I confidently believe that the need to search for peace by negotiation and by the United Nations is regarded as strongly by the Prime Minister as by any one of us in this Parliament or in this country.
– That is not my interpretation of what the Prime Minister said.
– I would be happy 10 hear of further developments if there is anything to be said to the contrary; but I think anything to the contrary would be a complete misunderstanding of the Prime Minister’s remarks. I turn now to the problem of Indonesia. I think we should use this Indonesian crisis to try to understand the fundamental cause of what is called confrontation and what is revealed by the statement of the Minister for External Affairs to be obviously a continuous series of warlike attacks by Indonesia on Malaysia since the end of last October. For the first time we had catalogued by the Minister the date and a brief description of each incident in which Indonesians had violated Malaysian territory. Between the end of October last and when the Minister made his statement about a fortnight or three weeks ago more than 50 attacks had been made by armed Indonesians on Malaysian territory, including Borneo, i
We ought never to forget that the original concept of Malaysia was approved by Sukarno. We ought never to forget that his subsequent disapproval was advocated by the Communist Party in his own country. We ought never to forget that he then denigrated the United Nations, which sent out an impartial supervisor to ascertain whether or not the concept of Malaysia accorded with the will of the people of Malaya, Singapore and Borneo, including Sarawak. The United Nations satisfied itself that there had been a proper expression of the will of the people. Since then, and simultaneously with a creeping growth of Communist Party influence within the Indonesian Government, we have witnessed this vendetta which is called confrontation. Events have reached the stage where, not only have the representations and petitions of Malaysia to the United Nations to have the member countries of that Organisation assembled with a view to stopping this series of attacks and substituting peaceful means for them proved to be quite ineffective, but also Indonesia has withdrawn from the United Nations.
If the Communists, with the assistance of the A fro- Asians, encourage the establishment of an opposing united nations organisation, the United Nations, already weakened, will be presented with a tremendous challenge to its respect and very existence. We would then find ourselves in a world in which power politics predominated. The prospect for the genuine’ United Nations, the function of which is to solve issues like the current one by peaceful means and without resort to arms, would be sad indeed. Although it is dangerous to try to establish parallels in history, I believe it is helpful for us to cast our minds back to the time when Hitler took Germany out of the League of Nations and to note the rapid development of events under Nazi aggression until within five or six years the world was aflame. Events developed with terrific rapidity between the time when he made his first attempt at force in Austria and the eventual invasion df France. We recall the incidents that occurred in Czechoslovakia and Poland in the meantime. Reflection upon those events must lead us to the conclusion that everything that has motivated the Indonesian campaign of confrontation has not been revealed on the surface.
To all this we must add our apprehension when we see Communist China forging a closer understanding with Indonesia in relation to both the supply of arms and trading arrangements. I am reminded of the diplomacy that preceded the attack on Poland. From memory, Hitler’s diplomacy won Russia over to an alliance as a substitute for the persistent hostility between Germany and Russia up to that time, not more than three months before Germany’s attack was launched on Poland. That alliance left the Allies without the prospect of Russian aid, as well as exposing a flank for Hitler to march upon.
It is said that Communist China is not yet ready for aggression of that kind, but I believe that she has secured with Indonesia an understanding which, in relation to the weakening of the United Nations and the persistent warlike attacks upon Malaysia, is indeed alarming. Over 50 attacks have been made by the Indonesians since the end of October, not merely one or two attacks which we have read about in the daily Press. I am bound to say that in my judgment it is the utmost folly in the world that the Indonesian people should be led into such a stupid campaign against Malaysia, a campaign which attacks the principles upon which Indonesia’s independence was established - the right of any people by a free expression of opinion to establish their own form of government.
There is reality, Mr. President, and complete genuineness in the approach of every Australian to the realisation that for us there are enormous advantages in’ developing a friendly relationship with Indonesia. It is a great tribute to the forbearance of the leaders of Malaysia and to the Australian Government - Mr. Paul Hasluck, the Minister for External Affairs, called it “ maturity “ in his statement - that rather than allow this continued series of attacks to inflame us and so provoke us as to precipitate a declared war, restraint has been exercised in the hope that the Indonesian people will somehow see a way to divorce themselves from their present irresponsible leadership.
Help must be given to Malaysia. Indonesian Ministers are already adverting to the fact that Australian soldiers are taking up their positions on the borders of Borneo. For my part, as that situation is reached, the Government is bound to curtail, diminish and withdraw any aid being given to Indonesia that can promote economic strength and so strengthen an enemy that has forced our soldiers to be committed to that extent. At the same time, I agree fully with the judgment of the Honorable Paul Hasluck. 1 have unqualified confidence in his judgment of the programme of aid, but if Indonesia continues its attacks, it must forfeit any right to aid from us that can possibly be used in strength against us.
Mr. President, my time is limited and I wish to refer now to the United Nations. I am tremendously grateful to the Minister for making such reference to the United Nations as he did in his statement. It completely answers any suggestion that ours is a sabre rattling government or a government that relies upon war. The Minister has emphasised that we seek the revival of the United Nations as an effective instrument of peace, but the Government has a duty not only to express this purpose but also to work for it in every possible avenue. I believe that it could recruit people in this community with special values in international machinery, special understanding of the way in which international sovereignty should be governed by machinery, and special understanding of just those problems that are besetting the efficacy of the Security Council and bedevilling the United Nations. I believe that people have to be working on this continuously as a consuming purpose. The Government, as I see it, is leaving it simply to the Department of External Affairs.
I turn from that brief reference to the United Nations to a. brief reference to united Europe. Glad I am that the Honorable Paul Hasluck has forefronted in his papers here a reference to the significance of united Europe and reminded us that although in the economic sense the programme was foiled by De Gaulle some two years ago - a matter for which we may be grateful and perhaps, should not criticise De Gaulle in the long run - Erhard and De Gaulle, aided by Spaak and his committee, have been earnestly engaging their attention this time upon not solely an economic union of Europe but a political unification that will give unity in foreign policy and unity in defence of Europe. The latest news puts even Russia in contemplation in that structure. It may be that as the growth of this significance dawns upon us, if there are permanent adverse interests between Communist China and Russia, with the now more mature development of Russia, we may get a stronger Europe, either confederated or federated. One thing that seems to be certain is that it will pay considerable respect in these matters to the influence of England and the genius of English leadership. Short of some such structure as that, one sees the twin evils of potential development in 10 years in either Germany or Communist Russia. If there are to be all of these imbalances in Asia without some degree of unity in Europe, our situation, I believe, will be parlous indeed. 1 make that brief reference to a united Europe and the United Nations because, in my view, altogether too little consideration has been given in this Parliament to each of these matters in the past. I am tremendously grateful that Mr. Hasluck has reminded us of the significance of each and insists on them as integral parts of Australia’s policy in making the announcement of his policy with regard to Vietnam and Indonesia. I conclude by simply saying that in discussing these matters we are. discussing the policy that the Government of this country should pursue. Because there are differences of emphasis in that policy this in no way detracts from the determination of this nation to defend itself and the ideals that we cherish in our Western way of life. But it is no use the Government holding a policy in a thoughtful community such as this without time and again explaining that policy, and the facts upon which it is based, to our people because only by persuading the thoughtful people in Australia that the basic facts justify such a policy can you get a union of strength within the nation which will guarantee that that policy will be effectuated and that the nation will survive.
.- The predominant feature of Senator Wright’s speech was the revelation of his deep innermost fears that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), and the Government have not a clue as to which way we are beading in international affairs. Senator Wright, in the early part of his speech yesterday, speaking quite candidly from his deep beliefs, said -
I believe, however, that there is no confidence that the campaign in Vietnam will be won by war, having regard to the nature of the country and the campaign.
Yet the Minister for External Affairs has repeatedly expounded the theory of power politics, which is a contradiction of the basic hopes of the people in this chamber and the people generally throughout Australia that somewhere in the vacuum, in this clash of power politics, reason, negotiation and finally a peaceful settlement will ensue. I was also impressed by Senator Wright when the stated -
I want to criticise the Government I support for not taking purposeful action to advise the Australian people immediately this revolution in the American attitude took place.
He was referring to the open attack on the bases of the North Vietnamese forces beyond the 17th parallel in Vietnam. He went on to say -
The Australian Government should have told the people just what activities the Americans were retaliating against, lt should have kept Australia comprehensively informed from day to day on the attacks from North Vietnam against which we had to retaliate; on the concentration of troops and the military significance of bridges and roads that were the subject of attack.
I agree with Senator Wright that the people of Australia have been very scantily informed of the nature of this dilemma in which we find ourselves.
Comprehensive as was the Minister’s statement - bis first as Minister for External Affairs - it indicated that he had become, unwittingly perhaps, the successor to a long line of Ministers for External Affairs who had never taken the people of Australia into their confidence and who had never educated the people, as a good Minister for External Affairs should, on our situation in South East Asia and the difficulties and challenges that have to be met in that area. During the last 15 years all our Ministers for External Affairs have taken a close, blinkered view of our position in South East Asian affairs. Their minds have centred on the old world. They have, in turn, followed the policies of England and America, or of both. I believe that in the United Nations they have been responsible for many of the moves that have brought about the situation that now exist in the organisation. This matter was referred to by Senator Wright. Recently we have seen the serious development of the withdrawal of Indonesia from the United Nations, lt affects us greatly because that was one of the remaining links that we had with Indonesia.
Previous Ministers for External Affairs, and also the present Minister, have not possessed enough knowledge of the meaning of the word “ face “ in South East Asia, and in Indonesia in particular. All along the line we have seen repeated opposition to encouraging people who regard face as important to sit in the United Nations. We have a similar position with mainland China at the present time. After all, I suppose the future and the wellbeing of Chiang Kai-shek and his followers in Taiwan have to be considered. There is no doubt (hat when history is written it will be found to have been a mistake to have made this issue such a decisive one, and to contrast the exiled Government of China with the established Government of China. Yet that has been the reason why one of the countries of the world, with such a tremendously large population and with such vast military potential, has never been brought to the United Nations to discuss matters that affect all of us. Therefore, I believe that a tragic error has been made in our foreign policy in the last 15 years. We have constantly and persistently refused to recognise this most important fact.
More recently we saw the withdrawal of Indonesia from the United Nations. The same position applies in this respect. There is a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “face” in South East Asia. It does not matter whether we call it pride, nationalism or something else. The word “ face “ is sufficient designation. We heard Senator Wright give the background of the formation of Malaysia. To my knowledge, President Sukarno did not favour the formation of Malaysia as it now exists. He worked very hard for a wider union in South East Asia. He worked for what was known as the Maphilindo concept. It was to include Malaya, the Philippines and Indonesia. It was designed to bring about the grouping of a big population of predominantly Malay people. President Sukarno believed in that concept, as did President Macapagal of the Philippines. Its purpose was to bring, about an economic, political and social union;, to bring about the very thing for which the bombs, the napalm and the phosphorus are being used in North Vietnam today - stability in South East Asia.
However, the time came when, through the various influences that were brought to bear upon the matter, Malaysia was formed. There were contradictions and argument as to whether Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak were to be included in the Malaysian Federation. Eventually that matter was settled by a type of plebiscite conducted by the United Nations. Indonesia was excluded from participating in it and more or less suffered loss of face. These are the areas in which there has been a constant lack of diplomacy on the part of Australia and in which its foreign policy has been unsatisfactory. Australia has not tried to keep the doors open for what we have heard said is the only hope, that is, a negotiated and peaceful settlement of the dispute. War cannot settle the problem in South East Asia.
The next phase in the situation was Australia’s implicit support of Malaysia taking a seat on the Security Council. I ask all honorable senators to consider whether, when they look back on history, they think that Malaysia warranted and was ready to take a seat on the Security Council. It is like a child in swaddling clothes trying to do a man’s job. The decisive factor behind it all was the conflict of ideologies, and the jealousies that existed between Indonesian and Malaysian personalities at the time. We know that there were seething differences between Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya and President Sukarno of Indonesia. The differences ranged from the personality level to the national level. Yet these pin-pricking things that could quite easily have been avoided by diplomacy, were allowed to develop, in my view, willy-nilly. Instead of Indonesia being made to feel that it had been given at least equal recognition at the United Nations, it was slapped down like a school boy. Not only was Malaysia given equality, but within 12 months of its formation it was given a seat on the Security Council. I believe that was bad national and international diplomacy.
I have here some comments that were taken from the Launceston “Examiner” newspaper. They deal with the recent con ference between Dr. Subandrio, and. Mr. Ellsworth Bunker, in the presence of President Sukarno. Mr. Bunker was an emissary from President Johnson of the United States. They had a round table conference. The article stated that on specific issues there was agreement to disagree. It stated further -
Even if we cannot get an agreement on all specific issues, then at least we should minimise the irritation on both sides.
Despite the fact that Indonesians have burnt American libraries, seized American oil wells and committed many other provocative acts, we see Mr. Bunker, representing the President of the United States, sitting at a table with President Sukarno trying to limit the area of irritation. To me this was a substantial advance in the situation as it existed up till last week. An attempt had been made to try to find areas of agreement. From that it will be possible to try to resolve the areas of disagreement. The talks were conducted on a man to man basis. There were some areas of agreement..
What have we seen from Australia in this connection? We have never seen the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Minzies) go to speak to President Sukarno. We have never seen extended to President Sukarno an invitation to visit Australia, similar to the one that was given to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew recently, In all reason we must see that there are ‘ advantages in trying to enlarge the area of agreement. The position is that Australia could quite easily become the target for propaganda in Indonesia. We have a tradition of friendship with the Indonesian people. They believed that the spirit and goodwill of the Australian people helped them to reach the stage where they were able to get rid of the long suffered foreign influence in their country - the Dutch influence. They still believe that if it had not been for the moral support of the Australian people they may not have won that battle for freedom. The Indonesians then put forward their arguments relating to West Irian, or as it was called, West New Guinea. All the way along the line the Government did not favour that argument. We backed a loser. Now Indonesia has control of that area. Of course, Australia’s actions at that time were further grounds for mistrust and misunderstanding between’ us- and our nearest neighbour.
– ls the honorable senator suggesting that we were wrong?
– No. We were the only ones in step. I honestly believe that, when the whole thing is boiled down, it may be said that the Indonesians had a greater right to West Irian than any other country in the world.
– The West Irians are entitled to a plebiscite.
– We will talk about that in 1968.
– It will be too late then.
– You are jumping your bridges. I am speaking of areas of agreement and disagreement between Australia and our next door neighbour, Indonesia, where there are 100 million people arid where there is a reservoir of goodwill which has a big hole in it. That hole has been caused as much by the foreign policy of Australia as by the foreign policy of Indonesia.
– New Guinea is closer to us than Indonesia.
– As a matter of fact, West Irian is closer to us than areas of the Australian mandate. That is what makes my point clearer and even more important. The newspaper article to which I referred earlier said that if the position between Australia and Indonesia deteriorated Australia would become the target for internal propaganda in Indonesia. It would then be too late for conversations and round table agreements. If the position, deteriorated we could quite rightly say that we were an aggrieved nation and we would be accused of sueing for mercy. I believe that time is still available for us to take the attitude that we have to live geographically with the Indonesian people for ever and a day. For us .to be able to prosper properly in Australia, and for the Indonesian people to prosper, we have to be able to get on as neighbours should and must get on. I make the plea to the Minister for External Affairs that he get out of his head the idea that friction and, possibly, war, between Australia and Indonesia is inevitable. I make the plea, that he also try to persuade the Government of this.
There has been a rapid deterioration of relations in the last 18 months - since the formation of Malaysia. In the process, the Indonesian Government has gone to the Communist Chinese Government seeking assistance. The Indonesian Government did not do that before this critical situation arose. It did not approach China.
– Who started it? We did not start it.
– We did not do anything to try to check it. There was also the internal situation in Indonesia where, admittedly, there was a strong Communist segment amongst the people. I understand that 25 per cent, of the people were Communist sympathisers. We also knew that those people had representation in the Indonesian Government. But instead of trying to support those with whom we had some grounds for agreement we gave strength, by the non-support of our possible friends, to the 25 per cent, of Indonesians who were Communist supporters. The strength of that group of Communist supporters is growing daily. This is a serious fault in our diplomatic relationship with our nearest neighbour. I have spent quite a bit of time on this particular matter.
I believe that the Prime Minister could and should go to Djakarta or invite Dr. Sukarno to Canberra before it is too late. We do not ha/e any face to lose here in Australia yet; although we have let go by the minor insults to the visiting Indonesian clergymen who went to Western Australia. It think it is shameful for that incident to have happened. After all, we do not have to be lovey-dovey with people but we can at least give them their national dues as visitors to our country.
– That incident was not as bad as the burning of the British and American Embassies though, was it?
– That is the whole question. We are flying so many different banners at the same time that we do not know which one is correct. I suppose if thehonorable senator was to get on to another argument it could be said that it is up to us, as a supposedly sophisticated, prosperous and intelligent race of people to make concessions. If we get down and scrabble in the gutter we have to expect what comes from that level.
– What do you mean by that, Senator?
– J mean that you do not get a right out of two wrongs. However, we have shown our basic firmness on the Malaysian issue and now we could equally show our capacity and willingness to come to some agreement with Indonesia. As a matter of fact I cannot understand why Australia does not make a defence pact and a non-aggression pact with Indonesia. Why should we not do that?
– You could not rely on Indonesia’s word for five minutes.
– Can we rely on the word of anyone? For example, say we had a non-aggression pact with Dr. Diem and he suddenly was found expendable and assassinated. Someone else would take over. Would you rely on the word of that person? A pact is not made with a person, it is made with the people of a country.
– Indonesia has doubled on her word so often it is a wonder anyone would believe it.
– But has Indonesia had a friend? For a start the Indonesians could not rely on anyone. Only Australia was for them when they first gained independence. We were for them, first of all, when the Japanese withdrew and then, later, in recognition of their independence from the Dutch. They did not have any friends; in fact, they did not have anything. They were left impoverished by two or three hunderd years of fierce exploitation.
– But Sukarno was assisting the Japs against Australia.
– There were lots of people in funk holes during the war. However, Australia gave Indonesia substantial aid and we were about the only friends she had at that time. I believe that a lot of that friendship could be kept. We are faced with a situation further to our north which Senator Wright concedes cannot be settled by war. The nature of the country and the whole set up are proof positive that the problem cannot be settled by war. We have not a great amount of background support in those areas. During the time I spent in Thailand I heard - through the general run of public opinion there - that the Prime Minister of that country was a racketeer; that he was involved in all sorts of investments; that he was getting a cut out of the lottery and that he had concubines all over the place. Not only that, but 1 also heard that the way he stopped his generals revolting against him was to-
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise to take a point of order. I believe that Senator O’Byrne should not make reflections like that on the head of a friendly nation. I ask him whether, on reflection, he will withdraw the remarks he made.
– I cannot possibly do that because the man concerned is now dead. He was publicly tried in his country and all his ill gotten goods confiscated.
– To reflect upon him is against the Standing Orders.
– The position is that people up in those countries are further away from us and are not as reliable as we are led to believe.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wedgwood). - Does the Minister wish to pursue his point of order?
– Yes, Madam Acting Deputy President. The honorable senator may generalise if he likes, but it is quite contrary to the Standing Orders to reflect upon the personal character of the leader of a friendly nation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I uphold the point of order. Do you dissent from my ruling, Senator O’Byrne?
– No, Madam Acting Deputy President. I want to find out what your ruling is.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - My ruling is that you may not reflect on a friendly country in this way.
– I was not reflecting on a country. I was reflecting on a person who is deceased.
– You did not say at the time that he was deceased. You referred to the Prime Minister of Thailand. You did not say: “ The late Prime Minister “.
– I did. I said that after he died they confiscated his goods.
– Let us make it per.fectly clear. It was after I had taken the point of order that the honorable Senator said: “ The late Prime Minister “. Up to the time I took the point you had referred to “The Prime Minister”. If you will clarify that I will withdraw the point of order.
– The only way in which I can clarify it is to say that this kind of conduct does not win our confidence so that we can, as Senator Kendall and Senator Wood said, take their word. We are prepared to take the word of people like that, yet we are differentiating in the case of our nearest neighbour. That is the point I am making. However, it would take much longer than the time available to me to cover the problem of Indonesia.
I would like now to refer to the statement of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on Vietnam. However much we deplore the war in Vietnam, we know that it is on and is getting hotter and hotter all the time. An article in the “ Daily Mirror “ of Tuesday 6th April 1965 was headed “ Sir Robert’s Subservience “. I want to dissociate myself from the attitude taken by the Prime Minister that whatever world opinion was and whatever anyone else might say, he would stand alone like Horatio or the hero in “High Noon” and batter and beat everyone around the place. Such conduct is not good enough in a delicate situation such as we are experiencing at the present time. We have an image in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the Australian people. The article in the “ Daily Mirror “ said, of Australians -
They are alert to the dilemma of the U.S. in South East Asia. They know that President Johnson inherited a commitment in the area which he cannot renounce without accepting defeat and the recriminations of people who stake their future on American support. In recent weeks the tempo of this small war has risen sharply, and with it the uneasiness of the free world. Air strikes to the north causing loss of civilian lives, bombing with napalm and phosphorus have sent a shudder through the world. Could the Prime Minister have been unaware of this massive feeling of revulsion when he said that U.S. intervention in Vietnam was the greatest act of moral courage since Britain stood alone in World War 117 We are committed in Vietnam, but we don’t have to smack our lips over it. Sir Robert was sharply rebuked by the London Daily Mirror’s columnist, Cassandra, who said: “ I think the Americans are right in their policy. But gushing jingoistic tributes like this about what is going on only add a sense of the bombastic macabre to the horrible proceedings.
The Minister for External Affairs concluded his speech by saying -
As an Australian 1 do not want to look on our neighbours in Asia as buffer States. 1 see them rather as pare of a structure of hope in which Australia itself, like each of them, is only one of many pillars. The structure weakens if any one of us should fall. The hope must belong not to one but to all.
I want now to repeat what was said by the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party on February 7th following a meeting of its Foreign Affairs Committee. It is as follows -
At this moment it seems clear that President Johnson is determined to limit the area of American retaliation to the factors believed to be assisting the Vietcong attacks, and that he is resisting the bellicose and lunatic urgings to launch all-out war against North Vietnam.’
We have lunatic urgers in this country doing just that. “ Lunatic urging “ is a very apt phrase for it. These lunatic urgers -
– Who is doing that?
– You do not have to go far to find those who are doing it in spirit, if not in words. The quotation continues -
At the same time many responsible voices are being raised in America, notably that of the Democratic majority leader, Senator Mike Mansfield, to promote new efforts to halt the drift of war over Vietnam, and similar efforts are being made by world leaders, notably U Thant, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Mr. Stewart, who has branded the war as cruel and unnecessary, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Lester Pearson, and the governments of India and France.
These are the people to whom our Prime Minister was referring when he said: “ I don’t care what they say; I’m standing my ground “. The statement continues -
Australia should be supporting these efforts with all its might. It is a tragic fact that the Australian Government is not doing so, but on the contrary, is merely applauding the military measures, encouraging further military measures and persisting in the impossible attitude that Vietnam poses a purely military problem, which can be solved by a military victory alone.
The Australian Government is betraying the Australian people by its refusal, or failure, to support the efforts of U Thant, United Nations Secretary-General, in this direction as set out in his statement of February 12th “to shift the quest for a solution away from the field of battle to the conference table “.
We are faced with a shocking dilemma. The whole situation is highly explosive. Around the world wherever the line of demarcation exists there is conflict. In the long run the Western power bloc and the Communist bloc will either collide in an Armageddon or agree to disagree and coexist. The great difficulty is that we are fighting wars on different fronts. The Western world is fighting a war on the front of Communism. This is a war which exists through poverty and ignorance and all the other’ disabilities that have been inherited in certain countries. - Senator Anderson. - Do not forget confrontation.
– We are involved in confrontation but I have not the time to give my views on that matter. The people we are lined up against are fighting only one war - the war for the expansion throughout the world of the Communist ideology. In our purpose we face divided issues. Not only have we to fight on one front; behind us we have all the legacies of hundreds of years of injustice and inequality. We have the legacy of people who have been deprived of the blessings that God has given to human beings. Those who have been deprived of these things can sec others enjoying them and they want to achieve this enjoyment for themselves. Throughout the world there are movements for independence. Unfortunately we have the habit of blaming any country which seeks independence and wants to upset the existing order. Whether the existing order is good or bad we brand all those who oppose it as Communist.
We will not succeed in that way. We have to find a climate in which our philosophy can thrive and prosper and in which we can win the confidence of these people. We must win the confidence of the Asian and African people also because racial strife is currently a serious challenge to mankind. Even in a civilised country such as the United States of America the problem of colour is one of immense significance. There are highly intelligent, peaceful and industrious persons among the coloured people of the United States but we see burning hatred building up between the white and the coloured people there. The same thing is to be seen throughout Africa and particularly in South Africa. The outlook for mankind is frightening. The policy speech of the Minister for External Affairs does not show any light on the hill for us.
I hope that before long the Australian Government will realise that it has been treading a negative path. There is no solution to our problems in war. The only hope for the survival of mankind lies in negotiation and the building up of the United Nations. That is the only way man can reach his destiny in peace. Unfortunately I can not see anything in the statement by the Minister to give me confidence in the future.
– I find it difficult to cross swords with a fellow ex-serviceman but Senator O’Byrne has made some statements which I cannot allow to go unchallenged. The honorable senator spoke of negotiations. This is a word we understand; but how do you negotiate with people who use the very time of negotiation to carry on a shooting war? To negotiate is good, but you can negotiate only if both parties are prepared to come to the negotiation table and act honourably. Senator O’Byrne said we must have some sort of an agreement with Indonesia and the peoples to the north of Australia. I was not surprised this morning - ‘but I was very upset - to read a statement made by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, in Djakarta yesterday. He said that Indonesia would break its agreement with Holland and refuse to hold a plebiscite in West Irian. He said -
The plebiscite does not exist.
Indonesia signed an agreement to hold a plebiscite in 1969 in West Irian, formerly Dutch New Guinea. This is the sort of thing that Senator O’Byrne suggested; but what did the agreement mean to Indonesia? It was not worth the paper it was written on. Dr. Subandrio said yesterday: “We will break our word “. In other words he said in effect: “We never intended to do it “. This was a document signed under the auspices of the United Nations which supervised West Irian while the negotiations were proceeding. One of the basic points in the handover was that the people of West Irian would be allowed self-determination. What has happened? Dr. Subandrio said -
You just think there is no 1969. Leave 1969 to me.
I do not know how you can sign agreements with people like that. Indonesia has shown that it has no intention of living up to any of the agreements it has made.
– The party which the honorable senator supports approved it.
– I am not saying whether it did or not. I say that the Indonesians signed an agreement to hold a plebiscite in West Irian in 1969 and now Dr. Subandrio has said that no plebiscite will be held. Senator O’Byrne took the Prime
Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to task over his attitude to Vietnam. Apparently you cannot win. Because the Prime Minister has taken a strong, firm stand and stuck to it, he is now to blame according to Senator O’Byrne. If he had vacillated on this matter - for it one day and against it the next - Senator O’Byrne would have been the first to challenge the right honorable gentleman on a stop-go defence policy. 1 was delighted to read the statement by the Prime Minister to this effect -
I have heard suggestions that the United Slates, instead of fighting should negotiate - negotiate with an enemy that has violated a truce, ignored its international obligations; with people who will keep on shooting when the Americans have stopped shooting.
The Prime Minister concluded -
I shall continue to denounce this.
Is there anybody on the Opposition side who would not denounce the fact that these people are continuing shooting? The statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is one of the finest I have heard presented to this Parliament. It is a document that has the personal stamp of Paul Hasluck on it. It is something from the man himself; I do not think it was prepared by the Department. I would ask all interested Australians to read this statement and then re-read it. I would like to have said the things that Mr. Hasluck has said but I cannot aspire to express thoughts put so brilliantly and impressively.
If we look to the north of Australia, the prospect fills the average person with an awful feeling of impending doom because of the insidious way that Communism has been creeping further and further south through the years. People cannot be blamed for feeling pessimistic and for believing that to a certain extent we are . living on borrowed time. Perhaps we are. But that is a defeatist attitude. It is one that we cannot tolerate. We must look at this situation a little more closely. It was once stated that nothing new could be said, that things could only be said in a different way. I shall endeavour to say things in a different way because, as I said earlier, the Minister has said adequately what I should, like to have said and to have claimed as my own personal thoughts.
I maintain that the fight for Australia’s existence and survival is being waged at this very moment in South Vietnam. That is our front line, and I believe that Malaysia is our last line of defence beyond the shores of Australia. So let me deal first with Vietnam. God forbid that South Vietnam should be overcome. But if she is, then Thailand and Cambodia would be next, followed by Malaysia and Singapore. Then would follow our turn. The Minister for External Affairs dealt with this aspect of the matter to a certain extent when he said -
Peking has recently served notice that Thailand, a peaceful country, is in danger of becoming the object of what might be called conquest by subversion. Chinese radio and news agencies are -now publishing the programme of an organisation describing itself as the “Thailand Patriotic Front “ which, working from Peking, calls for the overthrow of what it calls the “facist” Thai Government. Radio Hanoi is also broadcasting the same material.
So the pattern is there. The forces of the north are confident that they will win in Vietnam, and the heat is now being turned on to Thailand. In my opinion, Cambodia has virtually gone; she is the soft underbelly and is ready to take to Communism almost immediately.
What is the situation in Vietnam? This country has been attacked by Chinese Communists from and through North Vietnam. I do not think anybody disagrees with that statement. Yet we are told by the supporters of the Communists that it is for the people of South Vietnam themselves to establish a political regime which will withstand internal subversion. How can that possibly be done in the existing circumstances? We must remember that the South Vietnamese are dealing, not with a simple situation of local unrest, but with a large scale campaign of assassination and terrorism that is directed from outside the country. The Minister said - lt would be a dangerous thing to argue that, because subversive elements inspired from outside have achieved some success in creating instability within a country, these elements thereby earn the right to . become the government of that country. In Souh Vietnam one may ask what future security, freedom and religious tolerance there would be for the millions of people who have committed themselves to resistance against Communism
What will happen to these people if North Vietnam succeeds in its efforts to take over South Vietnam? The situation will be worse than some of the things that happened in occupied countries during the last war.
If I have any criticism to offer, it is that we are not doing enough in South Vietnam. We should tell America that this is as much our fight as it is theirs - that for us it is a fight for survival, because we are much closer to Vietnam than is any other Western country.
– Would they want us to do more?
– I do not intend to be sidetracked. They are very grateful for what we are doing.
– Who is?
– South Vietnam. But surely they would be grateful if this help were extended.
– Does the honorable senator mean the present Government of that country or the Government of tomorrow?
– I do not intend to bc drawn into an argument on that matter at this stage. The Minister for External Affairs went on to say -
If the United States did withdraw, the same conflict would be renewed somewhere else.
Of course it would. The present conflict is a part of the whole pattern. The Minister continued -
Within a brief period the struggle now taking place in South Vietnam would be shifted to Thailand.
That is what I said earlier. Then he said -
If in turn there was abandonment of Thailand, it would shift to Malaysia - to Indonesia, to Burma, to India and further.
The Minister did not say so, but the “further” would be Australia. To say that is to be quite logical.
The great tragedy of what is happening in Asia today is that the people concerned are not warlike. I am sure Senator Anderson, who is at present in the chamber, will agree with that statement. Both of us lived in this area for nearly four years. I lived with Malays, I lived with Thais, and I have had quite a lot of association with the Vietnamese. They are a gentle and kindly people who demand very little from life. They are quite happy to live their kampongs type of life. They have no territorial ambitions but just wish to be left alone to choose their own destiny. But the awful, insidious doctrine of Communism presses on inexorably, regardless of what the people think or want.
I am not a gloomy prophet, but, unless resolute action is taken now, I foresee the day when perhaps Australia will be engulfed just as the rest of Asia has been, or is being, engulfed by the Communists. I only hope to goodness, Sir, that the Americans remain firm and resolute in their present actions against the Vietcong. If the Americans weaken, it will be only a matter of time before our own fate is sealed and we see the sequence of events that I mentioned earlier. There are things that we as a nation can do to prevent that outcome. I say that, because I do not believe in negative criticism. I chide the Government for some of the things that have happened. I do not think we are doing enough to foster goodwill and to co-operate with other countries in Asia that are threatened, as we are. I refer to the Philippines, Formosa or free China, about which I want to say a little more later, Japan and South Korea, which are not involved directly now but which will become involved. Those countries are opposed to Communism.
– What about India?
– Yes, and India. I was speaking more of the area that lies to the east of Vietnam. Those countries are carrying on a fight against Communism. We are not doing enough to foster their goodwill. I believe that this Government has tended to ignore those countries far too much. We have a classic example of that in the fact that we have not reciprocal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, or Formosa as it is known to many people. To do that is to make a fatal mistake; it is one for which some day the Government might have to answer. I honestly believe that, if as members of Parliament we are ever called to account for our mistakes, the number one charge against us will be that to a large extent we have ignored our great friends in this part of Asia. Nobody will tell me that by ignoring free China we are doing anything to help in Asia. But we are quite prepared to accept the fact that that country has sent to Australia one of her top diplomats in the person of Dr. Chen Chih Mai. He has a brilliant diplomatic record and we accept him as the representative of free China today. But what have we clone? We do not even have a consulate in Taiwan. I think it is an insult to that country, and if its inhabitants were not such gentlemanly people I think they would tell us so in no uncertain manner.
There is a wealth of goodwill for Australians in these countries, but we ignore that goodwill because we are too timid to take a stand. Perhaps for too long we were tied to the apron strings of Great Britain. Great Britain recognises Communist China but we, to use the Australian vernacular, do not have the guts to stand on our own and say that we will send a diplomat to Taiwan - to free China.
– Does the honorable senator think that we can teach the British anything about diplomacy?
– I will not be drawn into that argument. I think power politics are being played. We are not prepared to accept the fact that the people of Taiwan are our friends and to send there a diplomat of standing equal to that of Dr. Chen Chih Mai, Taiwan’s representative in this country. We are represented in other countries in this area. We are prepared to stand beside Malaysia and South Vietnam. Why do we not do something more positive in the one country that has shown some guts in taking a stand? Taiwan has taken on Mao Tse-tung and his forces yet we ignore that country diplomatically. When I was in Taiwan I was forced to hang my head in shame because we had no consulate there and I had to go to the American authorities. I believe that we are gratuitously insulting about 12 million people who have one of the finest armed forces in Asia today. I believe it is second only to that of Korea in that respect. The military efforts of Taiwan make ours look like those of a kindergarten by comparison.
– The honorable senator is pretty critical of the Government.
– I am being critical, because a country with 600,000 troops under arms, by its operations in the offshore islands, is preventing 80 per cent, of the Red Chinese Navy, 60 per cent, of the Red Chinese Air Force and 40 per cent, of the Red Chinese Army from moving away from the off shore islands to bring death and destruction elsewhere. I am very conscious of this fact. I believe it is an insult to a nation doing so much that we do not enter into an exchange of diplomats. I intend to be critical.
The logical way for me to proceed is to say that I disagree entirely with some of the sentiments expressed about the recognition of Red China. I was grateful to see that the Minister, at least, shares this opinion with me, because in his statement he said -
Some people are disposed to argue that we should facilitate the representation of Communist China in the United Nations. Certainly our long term objective must be the achievement of stable political relationships amongst all countries of the world. So long, however, as the Peking regime continues to threaten the Chinese Nationalist Government and the people of Formosa, to promote the export of revolution abroad and to construct nuclear weapons to back these policies contrary to the overwhelming voice of world opinion, one can hardly expect this regime to help to solve any of the major problems facing the United Nations.
The Communist Chinese have never had a moral claim to admission to the United Nations because they have betrayed every principle for which the United Nations stands. They are the people who raped Tibet. They walked in and took over Tibet. They invaded India and were the prime movers behind the war in Korea. They are the people who fed and sponsored Communist activities in Malaya from immediately after the last war until a few years ago. They have no right to join the United Nations because they are not prepared to live by the principles of that organisation.
– They also put the screws on Burma.
– -That is very true. I am unhappy that I must say what I am about to say about the United Nations. It was a wonderful concept of free people who looked to that organisation to solve the grave problems that confront the world about every 20 years. But today I think the United Nations could be a dangerous thing, because we in the West tend to look to it, to solve all our problems. We say: “We will go to the United Nations with this problem. It is the international body “. All honorable senators know what happens. The talk goes on and on for weeks and months and nothing happens. While discussions are proceeding the people who are opposed to the free world are steadily fulfilling their ambitions. They use the United Nations successfully to achieve their own ends. I am reluctant to say it, but I think the United Nations might be a danger to the free world because of the way it is used and exploited by the forces that oppose the ideologies of the Western world. The Minister was honest enough to say -
As honorable members are aware, the General Assembly was unable to proceed with its business. . . .
The other observation is that at the present time the General Assembly, and indeed the Security Council, cannot be relied upon as a significant and effective means of keeping the peace of the world. ls that not a tragedy? Would any small country in danger of invasion or acts of aggression against its sovereignty and territory be warranted in having full confidence that the United Nations would protect it? No, it could not have that guarantee. Small countries do not have faith in the United Nations because that faith has been destroyed by the actions of the forces of Communism which are doing their level best to destroy the principles for which the United Nations stands - for the good of mankind and the free world in general.
– That does not make the United Nations a danger, does it?
– Only to the extent that we tend to rely on it and, to use Senator O’Byrne’s expression, to go to it to negotiate the world’s problems. Our opponents today, the Communists, tend to use the United Nations to further their aims. Perhaps I could give, as an example, Vietnam. If the Communists move into a country and set up a puppet government and, in the United Nations, can obtain 47 votes of the AfroAsian bloc, that puppet government then becomes the official government. Therein lies the danger of the use made by the Communists of the United Nations. The United Nations is a wonderful concept, but I wonder whether it is not being abused to the point where it could become a danger. In South East Asia today the people who trusted the United Nations are now turning to the armed strength of the United States of America to provide the protection that smaller nations should be able to get from the United Nations but cannot rely on today. The Minister said - . . in South and South East Asia, it is American armed strength which is the reality behind which the countries in that area have retained their liberty to choose their own courses.
That is so, not because they have the protection of the United Nations, but because they have the protection of American armed might. I am in agreement with the following statement by the Minister -
For us, neutralism is not a practical choice. We Australians must choose our side because in the immediate future we are determined to ensure the defence and the survival of our country and we want to preserve our right and our capacity to apply our own faith and ideals regarding human society in Australia.
– We have to be part of a team. We cannot initiate a war.
– No, I do not for one moment suggest that we should; far be it from me to do that. We cannot hide our heads and say that what is going on in Vietnam at this moment is not deciding or could not decide the future of this country. If we lose in South Vietnam, it will be only a matter of time before the Communists walk straight over Cambodia, because it will fold up. Thailand will put up a token resistance, and then it will go; then there will be Malaysia and then Australia. I hope to goodness that it will not happen, but it will happen unless there is some resolution and some strength such as America is giving today, but America must be supported by the very people that she is trying to save.
– Any war in any place could contain the seeds of our destruction and that of the rest of the world.
– That is true, hut I believe that it is a lot closer than we thought 12 or 18 months ago. If one stops and thinks, he can almost feel the breathing down his neck, as a result of the tragic turn of events in the small divided countries of Asia. Senator Willesee has been there and he can probably speak with more authority than I of Laos and Vietnam. We as Australians are at the crossroads of our destiny. We are like l. child who has grown up a little too quickly. We have been forced to make decisions now, when we would like to have been a little more mature. The wheel of fate has turned quickly. We are a country that used to live in wonderful, splendid isolation. As an island continent we felt safe. We did not have to make such decisions, but they have been pushed upon us very rapidly. Time has been running out for Australia, so the decisions must be made.
In these matters the Government and the Opposition have fairly small differences of opinion really, because we are all dedicated to preserving a way of life in Australia as we want it to be. Every one of us in his quieter moments realises that this is a very serious time in Australia’s history. After six years in the last war, I only hope and pray that the decisions that are being made today in Australia will be the right ones, because I am ‘like the fellow in the film - like Adam, I have four sons.
Senator RIDLEY (South Australia) [5.4J. - 1 did not intend to take part in this debate not because I fail to appreciate the importance of it but because, as Senator Branson said in his closing remarks, there is very little difference between the Government and the Opposition on this matter. That is most certainly true. Anybody who has listened to the debate or who has read the record of it will be able to differentiate between the beliefs of the speakers and the thoughts that they expressed in trying to push a particular angle. I think that at least 50 per cent, of Senator Branson’s speech was what he completely believed in and 50 per cent, of it was directed to excusing his support of the Government’s policy which he does not believe in. One one occasion, in reply to an interjection, he said: “ I do not care what the Government thinks. This is what I think.”
– Over Taiwan. I reiterate that.
– I might sound critical, but I do not intend to be. Senator Branson said that both sides of the chamber believed that we should protect our way of life. I agree with that 100 per cent. The differences of opinion that have emerged during the debate have not been in respect of what we are attempting to safeguard so much as in respect of the method that we use in safeguarding it. The criticism that we on this side have levelled at the Government has been no greater than that which has come from the other side. Senator Branson cited the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) that neutralism is not a practical choice for Australia. Of course, it is not. We are not debating a situation that could exist to the north of us. We are debating a situation that does exist.
It is only an academic argument to claim that what the United States of America did in the past was wrong. We have to cope with the situation that exists now, regardless of whether the United States was wrong 10 or 15 years ago. If there were a change of government tomorrow, we would have the same situation to face. We cannot undo the past. Nothing whatever is gained by saying that what was done previously was wrong. To that extent, I think, the debate has been good. It has indicated to people who want to be convinced that there is little difference of opinion between the two sides of the Parliament about safeguarding our way of life, as Senator Branson put it. But nobody on either side can say that any person has not a right to criticise. If Senator Branson thinks his party is wrong, as in some respects he admitted he thought it was, he has the right to say so. There appears to be developing in Australia a feeling, such as appeared in America a few years ago, that one cannot criticise without being branded as something. If I say something that differs from what somebody else has said about Communist China, I may be branded as a Communist. That is where debate becomes useless, purposeless and wrong. I am happy to say that of the debates that I have heard in the comparatively few years that I have been in this place, this one has been less notable for that aspect than has any other, although some honorable senators on the Government side have not lost sight of it altogether and have repeated the phrases that we have heard so often.
Perhaps I did Senator Branson an injustice in saying that only 50 per cent, of his speech reflected his beliefs. I think the percentage was much higher than that. However, he did descend to arguing that the actions of a country were not decided by the circumstances confronting it but by whether it had a Communist government or a government of some other political colour that we cannot identify. However, the fact remains that apart from the Communist countries, it is not possible to identify exactly the nature of the governments that hold office in South East Asian countries. They certainly cannot be called democratic. Senator Branson referred to the rape of Tibet, but no one in his wildest imagination can suggest that Tibet had a democratic government before the Chinese invasion, or that the way of life in Tibet at that time was parallel to our own.
Let us consider the Government we are supporting in Taiwan or Formosa. We even bandy the names of countries around. We do not know whether the correct name is Taiwan or Formosa. The whole thing becomes political. Possibly one can detect a person’s politics by the name he gives to a country. If he speaks of Formosa perhaps one can say that he is pro-United States, and if he says Taiwan he is pro-China.
– That is not right. The free Chinese themselves call it Taiwan. They do not like it to be called Formosa because that is what the Red Chinese call it.
– I do not think so.
– My word they do.
– Well, I stand corrected. I was in Red China and the Red Chinese called it Taiwan. My understanding is that Formosa is the name given to the country by the present regime there. Am I right?
– No, the Japanese gave it that name.
– Originally the Portuguese called it Formosa.
– Well, 1 stand corrected. I was merely making the point, regardless of whether my interpretation was the correct one, that a political flavour is associated even with the name of a country. Let me use another means of illustrating my point. Publications in United States refer to Peking as Peiping. There is a political flavour in that.
– West New Guinea and Irian Barat.
– That is right. There are several instances. But 1 am getting a little away from my argument. The point I was trying to make was that overall the debate has been a good one. It has proved one thing, and one thing only - that honorable senators on this side of the House are not sympathetic to Communism, as honorable senators on the Government side have alleged us to be.
We on this side of the chamber, the Labour Opposition, do not differ from the Government about South Vietnam, but we do differ from the Government - not so much from individual members on the Government side because they have indicated in their speeches that they agree with us - in its method of convincing the people of South Vietnam that they should hang on. If you ask people to hang on, they must be given something they can hang on to, something in which they can believe. At least we can criticise America to the extent that she has not given to the people of South Vietnam, any more than she gave the people of South Korea or the people of any other country in Asia, some semblance of the way of life in which we believe and for which we have fought.
No honorable senator on the Government side has indicated at any stage in this debate that he is prepared to go along with the Labour Party in its belief that if we are to have a government in Vietnam which we will support, it must be a government based on a democratic system similar to our own. That is the point of the debate. There is no difference in our intent. All of us in this chamber know that we must cope with the situation as it exists. If we on this side became the Government tomorrow we would be faced with the same problems as confront the present Administration. The one cardinal point is that no honorable senator on the Government side has said: “ We propose that some form of government should be set up in South East Asia which is somewhat parallel to our own democratic system “.
.- I have listened to this debate with a good deal of interest, centred as it has been on the statement that was made to the Parliament some time ago by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck). The Minister’s factual statement set out, I think, the principles in which the great majority of the Australian people believe. That aspect has been reiterated over the past several days by many honorable senators who have participated in the debate. It has been an important debate dealing with matters that are extremely vital to Australia and to its future as a nation. The great pity is that the influence of Australia to shape events as they ought to be shaped is not stronger than it is.
The position that exists in South East Asia is well known to everyone. It has been stated in this chamber by several speakers on a number of occasions over the past few days. I think of a statement that was made during the recent Senate election campaign concerning measures taken by the Government regarding the defence of this country. It was said that never before had a Commonwealth Government done such a thing in peacetime. That statement immediately took my mind back to the days when, after a declaration of war, the youth of the country used to try out their conclusions on the field of battle. When the war was over an indemnity was imposed upon the vanquished and that was the end of it. But the whole concept of war in the world today has changed. Any diplomatic method is used by unscrupulous countries to subvert the economy and the way of life of the people of a country over whom they wish to exert domination.
Under the agreement that was signed, South Vietnam was to be a separate entity from North Vietnam. But its borders have been violated by troops, organised over the border in another country, to the extent that, according to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) approximately 100,000 armed men have infiltrated the country. They have used guerrilla warfare tactics. They have committed assassinations and have used whatever methods of sabotage have been available to them. Undoubtedly the intention is to torment and terrorise the people to the extent that it will be impossible for the country to continue as an economic unit. In the end the people will say in desperation: “Take us over and give us peace and stability.” That is the objective behind the assassination of civil servants, health officials, school teachers and others performing a public duty.
Does that not render foolish the contention that is advanced so often that the United States of America, or some other country, should do something to lift the standard of living of these people and to give them a democratic form of government? The very economy which they are expected to uplift has been rendered almost impotent by the infiltration and the sabotage tactics that are being adopted. Surely the first thing to do is to put out the fire that is consuming the country. If that is done and a state of peace and stability achieved, we may be able to start to build something worthwhile on firm and stable foundations.
The problem that confronts the free world is: What is to be done about it? I agree with what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said about the United States of America. I look with some relief at the fact that over the last 30 years or so the policy of the United States has undergone a rapid change. I remember the idealism of Woodrow Wilson after the 1914-18 War and how it was rejected by the American people. They were sick and tired of the bloodshed and the carnage that had occurred in Europe. When the war ended they said: “ Let us get right out of it and live by ourselves.” They did so and continued in that way until the outbreak of the last world war. Due to the influence of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt it was realised that that stand had to be abandoned. The American people realised that they were part and parcel of the world and could not live entirely by themselves. They saw that what went on in the world ultimately affected them.
That situation brought about a revulsion of American policy, and the policy that was then adopted has continued until the present time. The United States of America, which is a great power and has great force and potential, is big enough and strong enough to say that it will take its stand with the free world and prevent Communism from spreading and subjugating the rest of the world. The United States has taken over the role that was once occupied by the United Kingdom. Today it is the greatest force in the world for holding back the aggressive tendencies of Communism.
At least Red China has been sincere about its aims. As has been pointed out in this chamber, once South Vietnam succumbs, Laos and Thailand will follow. Only in today’s Press it was reported that notice has, in effect, been served on Thailand that it will be the next target. The Minister in his statement said -
Chinese radio and news agencies are now publishing the programme of an organisation describing itself as the “ Thailand Patriotic Front “ which, from Peking, calls for the overthrow of what it calls the “ Fascist “ Thai Government. Radio Hanoi-
Hanoi is the springboard of the present attack on South Vietnam - is also broadcasting the same material.
The Red Chinese have never disguised their intentions. They have almost played a new game. Go back in history and consider the policies that have been followed by aggressive dictators over the centuries. The words of Napoleon often come to me. He said to his ambassadors: “Talk peace while we get ready for war.” That was deception, of course. That is precisely what he did. If you come forward in history to the time of Hitler most honorable senators recall that he proclaimed his peaceful intentions, his devotion to peace and a policy of negotiation as a means of settling international disputes on every possible occasion. He often used to say that such and such an area was the last territorial demand he would make on any country, while at the same time he was preparing for war. It has transpired since the end of World War II that he did not make any secret of the fact that when Germany was sufficiently strong he would go to war. That is precisely what happened. But the Red Chinese have never sought to hide their intentions in that way in any manner whatsoever. They have, on many occasions, avowed their intention of subverting the world to Communism by means of force. In point of fact, Mr. President, the split that has taken place between Moscow and Peking has been brought about because Moscow would not tie itself to the aggressive policy of Red China. The Government of Red China has even gone so far as to say that it could survive an atomic war, that it would not be afraid of such a war and that it believes that sufficient of its population could survive to carry on with their peculiar “ ism “ and so subvert the rest of the world. That policy has brought about a split in the Communist camp the world over until today in Australia we have a very perculiar minority group of people who believe that we should throw away the traditions which the British races have built up over the centuries for some “ ism “ which is akin to Hitlerism in that it subverts the freedom of the individual. But in this country we have two distinct Communist Parties, one following the heirachy in Moscow and the other that in Peking. I repeat, the Communists have never sought to disguise their intentions. It is. a fact that the Communist Government of Red China has proclaimed its .aggressive intentions since it came to power.
Is anyone naive enough to believe that after South Vietnam and after Thailand are submerged the Communists will stop there?
Will that be the end of it? Or will the Communists continue until the whole of South East Asia is submerged? Will they continue until they reach the borders of Australia? When they reach our borders will they say: “ Well now, here we must stop,” after their appetite has been whetted? What will happen then? That is what makes me so concerned about some of the people of Australia.
I admit that we in Australia follow a system that allows the right to the individual to. criticise and to publicise his criticism. I defend that system. I believe that that is one of the things which we call the British way of life. I believe that the great majority of the people of Australia take the view expressed, in the main, by the Minister for External Affairs in the statement he made a fortnight ago. Still, there are some people - I do not think their numbers are great - who condemn the United States of America for attempting to stop this aggression by the Communists when we are right in its path. Honorable senators could understand some Americans, who are somewhat removed from the path of the thrust of the Red Chinese towards the south east, for criticising their own Government for throwing so much weight into this struggle. But I am amazed that some people in this country just seem to shut their eyes to. the fact that we stand in the line of fire and object to the protection being afforded to us by the only country capable of giving it.
I have received a number of letters and other material from a body called the Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom. I suppose it has written to other honorable senators. I have read some of the material but of course it follows the Communist line. The organisation condemns the policy of the United States in South Vietnam. It makes all sorts of wild charges against the United States, even one of using bacterial warfare, I think. Some of the charges are quite false. However, one thing is certain: Although they call themselves the Women’s League for International Peace and Freedom, if the policy they followed were to be given effect to the world over it would certainly extinguish all freedom. The only freedom would be such as was laid down by the Communist hierarcy - whichever one happened to be top dog at the moment.
That is the position. What is to be done about it? How can these people be stopped?
How can the inherent rights of the small country be guarded so that its people are able to work out their own salvation without being subjugated by some force outside their borders? Let me say something about what I read in the Press only yesterday. In this chamber today we have heard something about the corruption of some of these governments in South East Asia. Every honorable senator knows that there have been corrupt governments from the beginning of time. I do not doubt for a moment that there have been corrupt governments in South Vietnam. Probably there have been corrupt governments in Thailand. There always have been governments of that type. But even if that is true it does not alter the fact that whether these people have good governments or corrupt governments they should be allowed to work out their own salvation without the threat of outside force and without being’ compelled to follow some “ ism “.
– Is it not true that every government that fights against a Red takeover is always called corrupt?
– Yes. Every method is used for propaganda purposes. The imposition of this tyranny is called “liberation “. The very antithesis of democracy -^government in which the ordinary man and the ordinary woman have no say whatever - is called a people’s republic. But whatever government may rule in these South East Asian countries, the people have the inherent right to work out their own salvation and no doubt would do so in time if they were not subjugated and placed in a position from which there seems to be little chance of resurrection. I believe that this aggression, as in Cuba, can be stopped only by force or the threat of force. I know all the evils that war brings in its path, but unless the world is to be entirely subjugated to tyranny, aggression must be met by force or with the threat of force. The people who are organising aggression must be made to realise that it simply does not pay to continue. It is reasonable to think that so long as the Communists believe they are winning; so long as they believe that the internal position of South Vietnam is becoming worse and worse and that the United States of America, with her allies, is not able to do much about it, they will not be prepared to enter into negotiations. If they do enter into negotiations, in my opinion the cardinal point is that whatever agreement is entered into - if such a thing is possible - it must be policed by a force capable of seeing that it is completely carried out.
For the past few Sunday nights I have watched on television ex-President Truman of the United States of America giving an account of his negotiations with the Communists after World War II. He said he was amazed at the great adaptability of Stalin and how easy a man he was to negotiate with. He said that, to his great surprise, Stalin would readily agree to almost anything. However, he went on to say that, to his chagrin, Stalin would just as easily and completely repudiate everything he had agreed to. Unless there is some force capable of ensuring that a negotiated peace agreement is carried out in its entirety and, above all, that peoples are allowed to work out their own destiny, the agreement is likely to be broken by the Communists. The experience of Laos and Tibet shows that. I am afraid that in the absence of adequate policing measures the Communist powers would use an agreement in Vietnam to gain some advantage over the other powers that were parties to the agreement.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 till 8 p.m.
– Further south from Vietnam, the other trouble spot is Indonesia right at our door and but a few hours flight from the northern part of Australia. If one can accept any of the authoritative statements that are made from time to time on conditions in that country, it can be said that Indonesia is probably one of the failures of self government in the past decade. So far as can be seen, the Indonesian Government has done little to uplift or better the great mass of the people. Instead of concentrating on affairs at home, the Indonesian Government has turned its attention to foreign fields. It is a government which decries colonialism and imperialism and attributes the Federation of Malaysia to British imperialism. But at the same time it has taken over West Irian by force of arms. According to the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) and others, Indonesia had no claim in justice to West Irian, and I agree. It had no claim to that area from the point of view of race or priority. If fact, Indonesia is now making a colony of West Irian while accusing the British people of neocolonialism in respect of the Federation of Malaysia.
The Indonesian Government is using the same tactics as the Communists are using in South Vietnam. Indonesians are attempting to infiltrate Malaysia so that guerrilla bands will make it increasingly difficult for Malaysia to function as an economic unit. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, made a statement not long ago that the conomic position in Indonesia was so bad and was deteriorating so fast that like others before them in a similar position, the Indonesian leaders were turning to foreign adventure to divert the people of Indonesia from their predicament. It might well be beyond the wit of man - or at least it will need a complete reversal of policy on the part of President Sukarno - to attempt to arrest the downward trend in the Indonesian economy.
In addition, I believe Indonesia has the biggest Communist Party outside the Communist countries. It may be that Sukarno has been dragged along at the heels of the Communist Party. He may be doing things that will worsen still more the lot of the Indonesian people because he is caught up with his Communist confederates; I do not know. But until there is some readjustment in the Indonesian Government and a realisation that a real effort must be made to better the lot of the Indonesian people, it may well be that those who maintain the dictatorship in Indonesia will seek to divert attention from internal troubles by some foreign adventure.
It can be said that to a very large extent the United Nations Organisation has failed. It has failed because the member nations have not given it the support it deserves. They have failed to provide the police force it must have if it is to prove effective in saving the world from a threatened conflagration. Nevertheless I am one who would support the United Nations in the hope, vain though it may be, that ultimately it can be made to work effectively. The United Nations Organisation still provides a sounding board and a debating arena where the people of the member nations can vent their grievances. Until there is no hope left and while there is a chance that it will serve the interests of peace in the world, the United Nations should be supported by all peace loving people.
I am one of the great majority of people in this country who believe the rights of the individual are sacrosanct and that this is an area where no government, whether it be a lone dictatorship or dictatorship by a coterie, should encroach. I believe it is the right of the individual to live his own life and to work out his own solutions within the law. I value the rights of the people of Australia. The world is poised today in two separate camps. Under the Communist form of government, the individual is a mere chattel of the State to be exploited as a coterie of men think fit and without any say in the government of the country. I believe we should cling fast to the British tradition that a man has the right to bc as free as he can having regard to the rights of others.
– This is an arena into which I rarely venture but the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is the first on international matters that he has made to the Parliament since he accepted his portfolio. It has been suggested therefore that the allegedly knowledgeable and those not so knowledgeable should take part in this debate. I come into the latter category on this occasion but I realise that there is one focal point common to all in this debate, whether we come from the Government side or the Opposition. That common focal point is ignorance. The Minister for External Affairs has not fulfilled his obligations to the Parliament in that he took so long to make a public statement on international affairs. The Minister might claim that he has the benefit of the advice of his diplomats. But let us consider how valuable that advice is.
The Minister said in another place that honorable members were entitled to range all over the world in this debate, lt is peculiar that little has been said in the debate, however, about South America or Africa. They are two of the major continents of the world, and both experience a great measure of unrest. I understand that the Minister said nothing about either continent.
How valuable is the advice of diplomats? I have a great regard for the personnel of the diplomatic service. I know that they are intellectual, that they are sincere and that they toil arduously. But how many of them speak the language of the people amongst whom they live or work? How many of them know thoroughly the history of the people amongst whom they serve as diplomats? What do they know of the fears and hopes of the people amongst whom they live? Even the nationals of the various countries do not know what the future holds for them. How reliable then can be the advice that the Minister tenders to this Parliament? Nowhere in the Minister’s speeches do we read any observations on the social and economic conditions of the people whom we are discussing. We do not know what their political aspirations are. How can we know just what are their fears about the governments that are in control of the territories in which they live?
As we trace the course of history, we see how savagery moved into slavery, slavery into feudalism, and feudalism into commercialism and industrialism. More than a century ago there appeared on the scene a man named Karl Marx who believed that history was the revolutionary march of the proletariat based on dialectical materialism, that of necessity there must be class warfare, and that there could be no progress for the masses other than through massacre and bloodshed. I personally do not think that that is the story of history. Nor do I think that the story of history is the story of kings and queens, or of victories and defeats in battle. There may have been territorial changes with steps forward and steps backward; but I believe that history consists of the march of the poor and the underprivileged against wealth and privilege. I have heard supporters of the Government attacking Communism as it exists in the Soviet States and in China. But they just do not know what they are talking about. In the Soviet states there is not Communism as visualised by Karl Marx. The political philosophy that has been adopted in the Soviets is another form of state capitalism which has been imposed by the minority on the majority. Whether it has been done in sincerity or not I am not in a position to say; I just do not know. At least I am honest enough to admit my ignorance of the conditions that exist in other countries.
I do not say that we can draw a straight line and insist that it should be followed. Who is to say what constitutes the straight line? Senator Lillico, who preceded me, spoke about Vietnam and Indonesia. One could lock horns with him in relation to Indonesia. Let us not forget that for 400 years Indonesia was a colonised and suppressed country. I am not blaming the Dutch; to colonise was the habit and custom of the times. Those who had the power to subject other people just did so. Possibly if the position had been reversed and the Indonesians could have brought the Dutch into subjection they would have done so. I have argued with the representatives of African states that, if the African states had had the power to subject the British to colonial rule they would have done so. It is of no use condemning the British or the Dutch; that sort of thing just occurred in the course of history.
Let us be quite frank about Indonesia. I know that Dr. Sukarno is not a great economist and that he does not pay great attention to the economic well being of his country. Despite his collaboration with the Japanese, Dr. Sukarno has seen fit to achieve freedom for the Indonesians and to establish the Republic of Indonesia. We cannot deny him credit for giving to the Indonesians a sense of nationalism and for bringing to the country a great measure of literacy. I admit that in many areas the people are starving and that, in spite of the existence of a considerable area of arable land and of great wealth in the form of minerals and oil, he has not lifted the economic standard as high as he might have done. We must be realistic. Irrespective of any fault we may find in the man, we cannot deny that he has helped the Indonesians in the two respects I have mentioned. The people are behind him because, as I said earlier, he has given them a sense of nationalism associated with liberation and has brought to them a great measure of literacy. When we note that Indonesian Timor is only 400 miles from Darwin, we must realise that we have to live adjacent to this great independent republic.
We. on this side of the Senate disapprove many of Sukarno’s actions. But what does the Government do to ascertain his motives? lt is all very well to say that there are a number of Communists in Indonesia. Where deprivation exists there will be an ism, whether it be Communism, Fascism, Nationalism, Catholicism or Protestantism. Anything that seems to offer people something better than the conditions in which they exist is the ism that will appeal to them. Wherever there is starvation and death there must be hope in a basic philosophy that can offer the people something better. We must face up to that if we are to approach the problems of these people from a philosophic standpoint.
Vietnam and the other countries of South East Asia are thrown about as though they do not amount to anything - as though they are just pawns in the game of power politics. As I interpreted it, the statement delivered by the Minister for External Affairs placed undue emphasis on power politics. I realise that you must lead from strength and be guided by power, but surely that is not to be the ultimate aim. We are appreciative of the efforts of the United States of America to preserve peace throughout the world, but we are not obliged to condone every action of the United States. I believe that the American authorities are big enough to realise that we are entitled to criticise, even though they do not alter their course of action because of any opinion we hold. When somebody on this side of the Parliament rises to speak but hesitates to espouse a particular course of action that has been adopted by the United States, a supporter of the Government rises and accuses him of being anti-American. The fact that one criticises certain action on the part of the United States does not mean that he is antiAmerican. We are entitled, as representatives of the Australian people, elected by duly constituted means, to espouse the cause that we believe to be correct. We are entitled to criticise, condone, approve or disapprove of events in Vietnam.
For a long time over 30 million people in Vietnam were colonised. Together with Laos and Cambodia, Vietnam was regarded by France as a French balcony in the Pacific. That term was repeatedly used in a sense derogatory to the national aspirations of the Vietnamese. Their rights as human beings to exist in a decent environment with proper social, economic and political systems were not recognised. With the upsurge of nationalism that occurred after the last war, it was inevitable that there would be a change in Vietnam. As you know much better than I do, Mr. Acting Deputy President, Laos and Cambodia allegedly became independent. In Vietnam many severe and bloody battles were fought until peace was brought about in 1954 by the signing of the Geneva Agreement. In effect, it appears to have been no agreement at all. A nominal cessation of hostilities was brought about, but following the intrusion of North Vietnamese into South Vietnam, at the request of the South Vietnamese authorities the United States of America intervened. I think the United States first went into South Vietnam in 1956, and assistance has been given since that time.
It is said that negotiations should be conducted to restore peace to Vietnam because of its importance in world affairs and its vital impact on the stability of South East Asia. In Australia we fear the onward march of the Chinese Communists, but at least the Opposition recognises that there can be no obligation on the United States to get out of South Vietnam pending negotiations. We are not so silly as to say that the United States should just walk out of South Vietnam and allow its opponents to walk in. But .we do say that if there is any possibility of a solution to this difficult problem facing the world today, there should be no hesitancy to negotiate.
The United State of America is representative of everything that is typical of the Western world. It leads from strength and can be guided by power. I do not think any honorable senator will deny that the United States is the greatest material power in the world today. Because of its strength, there should be no hesitancy to embark on negotiations, even though a number of Vietcong troops may be in South Vietnam. I do not know where to obtain correct information about South Vietnam. Many conflicting reports are published. Certain documents state that the Vietcong troops are equipped with Communist weapons and are aided by Russia. The North Vietnamese claim that their arms have been captured from the South Vietnamese or have been handed over to them. The stories conflict. Yet on no occasion has the Government sought to send to Vietnam an observation team of personnel who might know the language, something of the history of the people and the difficulties they face, their social and economic aspirations and what they fear for the future. Such a team might discover whether the people there fear colonial control by an overseas power or domination by China. The approach of the Government has been superficial and it has been recreant to its trust. Australian servicemen are dying overseas and this year conscription is to be introduced so that young men will be obligated to serve overseas when ordered by the Government. But little is being done by the Government, other than to adopt a superficial approach to grave international problems.
It is not so long ago that it was suggested that there could be no co-existence with the Soviet - that there would be inevitable destruction of one side or the other. Yet now we look to Russia in no small measure as a bulwark against China. I am not condoning Russia’s actions by any means. Whether those who led in the climb to power by the Communists were sincere is for them to answer, but their attainment of power is associated with the massacre and destruction of millions. Whether those millions destroyed have served a purpose in providing a measure of material welfare for the people who live within the Soviet territories is for the survivors to decide. I think Government supporters will agree that we look to the Soviet to act as a bulwark against China. Not many years have passed since we believed that there could be no end but the inevitable destruction of the Soviet or the Western world. 1 want to make quite clear my position and that of the Australian Labour Party. We do not condone the Communist regime in China, but at least we recognise that it does exist. Frequently, references have been made to the intrusion of Communist China into Tibet. The Labour Party does not condone that action, nor the Communist intrusion into northern India. That action has been condemned. I do not claim to be an authority on the McMahon line. However, it was an arbitrary determination made by an outside power and condemned by Chiang Kai-Shek, a man of whom Government supporters are so proud. I do not condemn Chiang Kai-Shek, but when he was in control of China the corrupt acts of many of his associates paved the way for the rise to power of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai. Both Chinese groups, opposed to each other for control of China, agree that the McMahon line was determined irregularly and illegally and is not associated with China’s rights. Time after time Government supporters have referred to the intrusion of Communist China into India, but Chiang Kai-Shek has said that the McMahon line is an irregular and illegal boundary.
– They had to go through Tibet to get there.
– I am saying that the Labour Party does not condone what Government supporters term the rape of Tibet. Many irregular features were associated with the control of Tibet, but time is not available for me to discuss in any detail the history of those countries. I am pointing out the false attitude that honorable senators opposite adopt, the specious arguments that they bring before the Australian people, and the way in which they attempt to delude members of the Opposition callously, with disregard of the truth and no recognition of veracity.
– Get up on to the higher plane upon which you started.
– Do not interruptI have not many minutes left. I feel that here is a case where we can approach these problems simply with a sincere desire to accomplish something. Abuse on either side accomplishes nothing. Distrust of one’s opponents on these occasions will realise nothing. We start here, seeking something that is worthwhile for Australia - the preservation of our way of life. All of us on both sides of the chamber desire to preserve our way of life, and we seek that which is best for the various countries that have come under discussion. The superficial approach adopted by many will not accomplish much, if anything. We realise that these unfortunate people do not necessarily want our way of government. Our way of government is not necessarily the best or most acceptable to them. There are many features in Thailand, that are condemned by many members of my own party. For example, they say that there is no recognition of trade unions. This we condemn. People are gaoled without trial. If we occupied Thailand and if the forces of an antagonistic regime were sitting on our borders, with members intruding into our territory, and if we did not know friends from enemies, it would be interesting to see what we would do.
Let us not forget that we have perpetrated injustices against individuals. It was done during the last war, in ignorance but with an interse desire to preserve the integrity of this country. It is not a bad slogan to put oneself in Gilligan’s place, to realise what one would do if one were in Gilligan’s place. It is difficult to appreciate the problems that face these people. It is inevitable that there will be an evolutionary march of the poor and underprivileged against poverty and privilege, irrespective of the regime or the form of government, whether it be a dictatorship or what we are pleased to term a democracy. It is inevitable that this will take place; and it is our reponsibility, within the limit of power available to us, realising that whether or not we are a major trading nation, we are small in terms of numbers, to learn as much as we possibly can in an endeavour to assist those people whom we regard as unfortunate and to bring them a better way of life.
.- 1 do not often do this, but I feel bound to congratulate Senator Dittmer upon the restrained and tolerant nature of his address to the chamber. The Senate is indebted to him for a careful and dispassionate analysis of the foreign problems which face this nation. There might well be ohe or two points in his remarks to which I cannot accede, and perhaps I should direct some attention to them at the outset of what I have to say merely, as my friend Senator Laught says, to put him right on one or two things. The calm and measured approach which the honorable senator has displayed might yet herald the introduction of a bipartisan foreign policy which would be such a boon to this nation. If there is one matter upon which in the national interest the two great divisions of political opinion in this country should agree, it is foreign policy, with its associated matters of defence and treaties. I hope to hear more - perhaps in my case I should say “ read “ more - of Senator Dittmer’s approaches along these lines.
There are one or two matters which Senator Laught and I believe should be corrected. For example, it is wrong to say that hunger, poverty and disease automatically attract Communist power and Communist bayonets. The East Germans, despite the devastation of the war, were a civilised, cultured people, and they had Communism foisted upon them by Soviet bayonets. The little people of Latvia, who had been independent for centuries, with a standard of living much higher than what the Muscovites have ever had, found themselves forcibly incorporated in the Soviet Union by the power of Soviet bayonets. The position was the same with Lithuania and Estonia. Hungary and Central Europe had a higher standard of living than the Soviet Union ever had, but they find themselves with a Communist yoke, riveted upon them by the power of Soviet bayonets.
Senator Dittmer felt some umbrage at the proposition which he thought emanated from this side - I have never heard it propounded - that we must automatically follow the United States in all foreign adventures. I do not attribute this to the honorable senator, but most people who criticise the following of the American line criticise it simply because they realise that the material, physical, and in a sense moral power of the United States is the greatest bulwark against the success of world Socialism and world Communism. I do not suggest . that we should automatically follow whatever the United States says or does. But as a person who believes that the Anzus Pact is the most beneficial document which this country has ever signed, I think we need the strongest positive reasons for taking a contrary line to the United States. Quite apart from the question of trust and confidence, there should be a most manifest advantage accruing to the security of this nation before we deliberately cross swords with the only ally with the power and the will to defend this country in its hour of need.
I do not say that mistakes have not been made. Let us take South Vietnam. I think that the American intelligence services in Vietnam have been gravely at fault. Reports, particularly those published in American and French newspapers, have been grossly misleading as to both social and general conditions, and have done a great deal to bring about one of the major tragedies in this unhappy country in the past few years. I refer to the murder of President Diem. He was no democrat in the sense in which we use the word. But with all his faults he was a man of tremendous integrity, a man with a great respect for justice, an intrepid fighter who stayed at his post in Vietnam although he knew that he was almost certain to be assassinated by some fanatics, as in fact he ultimately was. When allowance is made for all the troubles and difficulties that were stirred up against the regime by allegations of Buddhist persecution - most of them illusory, most of them imaginary, most of them discredited by the independent commission of the United Nations - he stands at least as a man upon whose integrity the West could count. It is no part of my province to criticise- the existing regime in a friendly country, and I do not propose to do so. AH I say is that the West suffered a severe blow with the departure of Diem.
My friend Senator Dittmer has now suggested that there should be no hesitation on Australia’s part or on the part of the United States in entering into negotiations to end the slaughter in Vietnam. Negotiate with whom? Do we negotiate with Ho Chi Minh? Do we negotiate with Mao Tse-tung? Do we negotiate with Kosygin or Brezhnev? -Do we negotiate with the local head man of the Vietcong in a particular area, a particular delta, a particular village which they happen to be holding at the moment? One has only to recite the difficulties to see the trouble one would have in arriving at any sane and coherent treaty, any sane and coherent arrangement, which would guarantee the safety, the integrity and the independence of the people of South Vietnam.
Back in 1954 when the French were ignominiously expelled from this part of the world after a crushing defeat, the main nations of the West with an interest in this area - the United States and Great Britain - chose Diem to lead his war torn and ragged country back into some semblance of order and decency. He found a country which was torn by quaint religious sects such as the Cao Dai, the Hao Dai. He found Saigon a city in which police powers were sold. One can imagine what the fines were like when police powers were exercised under a franchise. The right to fine was bought from the puppet emperor Bao Dai, and these sects had the right to police the laws, and the fines that were inflicted belonged to the sects. Bawdy houses and all forms of vice and corruption flourished in Saigon. I do not say that it is now a holy city, but in the eight years in which this redoubtable fighter was in charge in Vietnam, the city of Saigon certainly underwent a tremendous change for the better.
I am one of those who believe and have often said in the Senate that the power of television as a propaganda medium for influencing the minds of the masses is unrivalled in the modern world or in the ancient world. In a sense, I think its power of indoctrination is greater than the power of the atom bomb. I recall watching a socalled documentary on Saigon after the assassination of the President. One got the impression that the entire city danced for joy. Pictures were shown of troops receiving loaves of bread from dancing girls. The whole atmosphere and story in the documentary were of unalloyed joy in this great city. Frankly, I did not believe it and 1 made my own inquiries from reliable sources on the spot, or from what I believe to be reliable sources, which do not have to pander to the senationalism of journalists or of the documentary makers. I found that the estimate was that in a city of 2 million people approximately 1,500 turned out to celebrate the change of regime. I mention those figures only to give some indication of how difficult it is for the average citizen to form a calm, reasoned, dispassionate and, above all, accurate - accuracy is the most necessary quality in these matters - assessment of the position in South East Asia.
Before concluding my reference to what my friend Senator Dittmer had <to say to the effect that we now regard the Soviet as a bulwark against China, let me admit that it is indeed true that the Soviet and China seem to have had some form of major diplomatic disagreement. Much of the warmth of Marxism-Leninism - if I can speak of warmth in that context - which bound the two countries together seems to have been dissipated. But I think we should remember that Kosygin said a few weeks ago that in the event of any serious trouble with the West, Russia would stand shoulder to shoulder with her Communist comrades of Red China. Even forgetting what Kosygin said, I think it should be recalled that the main ground of disagreement between the two great Communist powers was not whether they should take us over; it was not whether Communism should march triumphant through the entire world; it was simply an argument as to the best method of doing this. The Chinese Communists believe it should be done pretty well straight away, by the sword. The Russians feel that it should be done through subversion, infiltration, indoctrination and through stooges in other countries so that the power and the will of the West to resist will be sapping and the countries of the West will fall like ripe plums into the Communist orbit.
Without in any way sounding presumptuous,I should like to congratulate the Minister upon the first foreign affairs statement which he has put to this Parliament since he assumed this responsible and important portfolio. I think it is right, as the Minister has done, that he should devote so much time to and place so much emphasis upon Vietnam. There is a particular aspect of warfare in the jungle which is tremendously frustrating for organised forces and for organised government. One of the great successes of Australian forces attached to Sir Gerald Templar’s army in Malaya was the assistance that they gave the British in cutting down terrorist activities in that area about 12 years ago.
– It was in the post-war period.
– That is right. As I recall, the main terrorist activity developed about 1948. Would that be right?
– It was about then.
– Yes, about 1948. In Malaya, Sir Gerald was able to isolate the terrorists from contact with the local people. By the use of fortified villages he managed to cut off their supplies of food and manpower and ultimately succeeded in winding up their activities. I am not quite sure of the actual logistics, but my recollection is that it took 17 British Commonwealth troops in the field to cope with every terrorist. I think the ratio was about 17 to1. The guerrillas in Malaya were unsupported from outside. Because they were unable to get help from outside they were defeated. In a sense, the position in Vietnam is completely the opposite. Guerrilla warfare is being waged. A North Vietnamese looks exactly the same as a South Vietnamese. You cannot tell by looking at a Vietnamese which side he is on.
Great help and assistance was received by the guerrillas in South Vietnam from the regime in Hanoi and from Red China. For many years the Ho Chi Minh trail, which ran clown from the eastern boundaries of Loas, provided an unhindered and unattacked route of supply for terrorist activities in South Vietnam. Chinese Communists and Hanoi Communist junks sailed down outside the territorial waters and smuggled arms and supplies ashore without let or hindrance from the Western authorities, which were assisting the South Vietnamese Government. Now the Americans have called a halt to that activity and Ho Chi Minh’s trail has been attacked and blocked. Air raids of some substance have been carried out on military targets in the north. Radar stations have been attacked and demolished by American aircraft.
President Johnson has made it abundantly clear that there will be no repetition of the Yalu River fiasco in Vietnam. Honorable senators will recall that the United Nations forces in North Korea - I suppose I could almost say they were American forces, but they were United Nations forces, under the command of General MacArthur, then of General Mark Clark, and later of General Van Fleet - had to suffer bombing by Chinese planes which came down, attacked the supply routes and then flew safely back across the Yalu River. American fighters could go as far as the Yalu River and then had to watch the Chinese aircraft land safely on the other side. The political view at the time was: “We must not provoke the Red Chinese by attacking their planes in their own territory”.
General MacArthur, in his memoirs which were published shortly before his death, said that he took exception to the impossible drain which this placed upon his forces. He sought permission from the political command to bomb the bridges across the Yalu River. At first his request was refused. He persisted and pointed out the heavy losses which this continual supply train was causing to his troops. Finally he received permission to knock out the bridges, provided that he bombed them from the Korean end and not from the Chinese end. Of course, this gave the Chinese anti-aircraft gunners almost sitting duck targets as the American and U.N. aircraft flew in in an almost hopeless attempt to make sure that the bombs landed on the Korean side of the bridges and not on the Chinese side. Of course, MacArthur had to call off the attempt. The Americans have made it abundantly clear that that sort of thing will not happen again. It has happened to a certain extent already in Vietnam. But President Johnson has made it clear that if it has happened in the past, it will not happen in the future.
One of the things which has surprised me in newspapers, magazines and public discussion in this country has been the amazing opposition - and in some cases the opposition has come from honorable senators opposite - to certain military measures which have been taken by the Americans. I refer in the first instance to the use of non-lethal gas, or tear gas, as we commonly call it. It is a gas which has been used in Cyprus by British and other authorities on many occasions. It has been used as a means to quell riots and to prevent serious injury. The Vietcong in Vietnam have made a practice of using as hostages women and children of South Vietnamese villages. They have used them as shields against counter attacks by Government forces and American forces. My recollection is that on three occasions the Americans have had to use tear gas in order to immobilise the Vietcong troops while people were rescued. An American- General said -
The people at home and the people who write to the newspapers should give a little more of their sympathy to my men who are losing their lives rather than to the Vietcong whose eyes are made to water.
In one of today’s newspapers I saw four horrible photographs of the war in South Vietnam. My recollection of the photographs is that they depicted South Vietnamese troops extracting information from prisoners. The methods used were certainly not those which would commend themselves to us. But in a cruel and bitter civil war we do our side a grave disservice if the allegation is made that all the harshness and brutality is being used by the Government troops. I wonder whether the member of Parliament who arranged the publicity of those photogaphs would be just as interested in the photograph of the United Nations officer who had his head dragged off by chains drawn by Vietcong horses? I wonder whether he would be just as interested in one of the half dozen other forms of almost bestial brutality that is practised by Vietcong agents predominantly against headmen, head villagers and people who are being used by the South Vietnamese Government in an attempt to keep the agricultural areas of the country settled?
I think it is a lamentable affair that the slaughter has to continue in South Vietnam. But there does come a time in the affairs of man and the affairs of a nation when the desire for peace and the desire to extend goodwill to all men and to all nations is subordinate to the desire for survival. It is a truism that if the American forces negotiated a phoney arrangement with, let us say, Ho Chi Minh - I pick his name out of the air because I do not know with whom it is suggested we should negotiate - there would not be the slightest guarantee that the arrangement would be honoured. Would there be any protection at all for the North Vietnamese who have fled their country and have attempted to make their homes in South Vietnam? I wonder why the Press gives us so little information on the 150,000 North Vietnamese who are at the present time endeavouring to make their way south? They are homeless and unprotected. They are liable to be hit with bullets, by accident from the Government troops and by design from the Vietcong.
I will leave that area of the world for a moment. I feel that we in this country are very fortunate in having the friendship and the trust - I want to emphasise the word “ trust “ - of the United States of America.
– Of the British too?
– Yes. I agree with that. I am dealing now with the significance that attaches to the naval base at Learmont on the North West Cape. A few months ago I had an opportunity of spending a few days with the admiral in charge of the project at the Pentagon. It was very reassuring to me, as an Australian back bencher, to know the significance which American planners attach to the operation of this great naval communication station. There are only two similar stations in the world. The station at North West Cape is the third, lt completes the American communications system for use with the redoubtable Polaris submarine.
There was one other area of world tension to which the Minister for External Affairs did not advert, according to my recollection. The present pressure had not been applied in this area on 23rd March when he delivered his statement. I refer, of course, to the constant running sore of Berlin. A few months ago I had an opportunity of visiting the Berlin wall and of going through West Berlin. There a man or a woman is free to act and free to go where he or she pleases and may go into East Berlin where the usual Communist controls are all too evident. I ascertained that since the city was divided into four sectors - I do not mean since the wall was erected which was only three years ago - 20,000 patrolling policemen have defected from East Berlin to the West. That is three times the number of men in the Victorian police force. That does not seem to say much for the workers’ paradise. Since even the policemen defect it looks as if we should examine with most minute care any suggestion that that type of philosophy should ever be exported to this country. Figures were given to me by an official of the West Berlin Senate which showed that in every ten days a man, a woman or a child was shot attempting to scale the Berlin wall. What was their crime? They had had the workers’ paradise. They sought the freedom of the West and gambled. In the course of every ten days one of them paid with their lives for their desire to experience the freedom which here we regard as our birthright. I think the present blockade shows that Red arrogance has not changed at all but I hope that the Western powers will use the same strength they showed at the time of the Berlin airlift. It is impossible to go past the Tempelhof aerodrome in Berlin without noticing its large concrete memorial to the 280 men of the Royal Air Force, the United States Air Force and other airmen who lost their lives in bringing food, supplies and equipment into Berlin during the blockade. Most of those men lost their lives because the Russians jammed the radio communications system homing on Tempelhof airport. I think the Minister for External Affairs has made it clear that Australian foreign policy is in good hands in the case of the present Administration and I give the statement my wholehearted support.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) in this debate because I always feel that matters of foreign affairs are always foreign affairs to me. They always change too quickly for me to catch up with them. I think that applies to most honorable senators in this Senate. There is a crisis one day and our blood pressures rise. It occurred at the time of the incident in the Bay of Tonkin. A few days after such crisis they disappear, nothing happens and we do not hear any more about them. It is by the very nature of things that this occurs.
Australia is a comparatively small country when it comes to measuring itself in foreign affairs and commitments overseas and in taking up responsibilities in securing peace. It is peace that we all want. But none of us can be authorities on foreign affairs. I dare say that there is a great deal of truth in what Senator Dittmer said when he claimed that the one thing that united us was our ignorance of the real truth of what was going on in foreign affairs all over the world. I heard Senator Hannan say a while ago: “ Why don’t the newspapers tell us this? Why don’t they report other things?” Unfortunately, in our estimate of foreign affairs and of what is happening all over the world we have to depend on the newspapers. Like politicians, newspapers are part of the general apparatus of government and political affairs. Sometimes they do a lot of harm and do not report as they should. In this chamber many honorable senators have risen and imputed wrong motives to the Australian Labour Party. It has been charged in this chamber that we are in the same category as those people who say: “ Get out Yanks “. Of course that is untrue but if the story is repeated often enough some people will believe it.
It is not true to say that the Australian Labour Party is not appreciative of what the United States of America is doing in South Vietnam. Surely it is true to say that if the Americans were not in South Vietnam the position would be much worse for Australia. Our casualties in the forces operating against the Vietcong in South Vietnam would be much heavier than they are and we would be much more heavily committed if the Americans were not operating in that area. I have also heard honorable senators ask: “Why do we not do more?” When such a question was put this afternoon I interjected and said: “ What more can we do?” We have not been asked to do more. There is a certain section in the community today which believes that it is better to be dead than Red. Honorable senators know the section I am referring to. Those people are always critical of the Australian Labour Party because we are not pro-war. Those people are actually prowar and war is their only solution. No honorable senator would want more war than we already have. I would say that the major overall policy of the Government of the United States is to limit the war in South Vietnam. That is how peace has been kept over the last 10 years - by limiting the war.
Senator Hannan really drew me into this debate because he asked: “Who will we negotiate with?” I think this is a terribly naive statement for Senator Hannan to make. Whether it was the First World War, the Japanese war or the Second World War, negotiations for peace were going on while fighting continued. I remember the case of the German who flew across to England to negotiate but was arrested.
– That is rightRudolf Hess. He went to England to negotiate while the war was on.
– He did not get much chance to negotiate.
– I know that. But Senator Hannan seems to dispute the assertion that we should negotiate. He asked whether we should negotiate with Mao Tse-tung. What would be wrong with negotiating with Mao Tse-tung if by doing so we could save lives? After all, the Government’s representatives had no difficulty in negotiating with the Chinese Government to sell our wheat. Only recently we tied up business with the Chinese amounting to something like £40 million.
– I think Ho Chi Minh was mentioned.
– It does not matter who it is; I would rather negotiate with the Chinese Government to end the war than to sell our wheat I would feel that 1 was doing my duty to my fellow men more effectively if I negotiated to save the lives of even two or three Australian soldiers who might die in the next week or so.
– I take it that the honorable senator believes the Chinese are behind this war?
– I do not think there is any real evidence that they are effectively in the war at all.
– If they are not in it, why negotiate with them?
– You are quibbling now. You said that the Labour Party does not want to negotiate. I say that we do, and that is the only difference between us and the Liberal Party. I dare say that behind the scenes members of the Liberal Party would favour negotiation, but surely they would not be insane enough not to want to negotiate. Surely any conservative in the world would want to negotiate in this matter if he could. He would swallow his pride in any circumstances to stop a war.
– President Johnson said he would talk to anyone to try to stop the war.
– Only two years ago in this Senate we were tearing our hair over Cuba, and while we were doing so negotiations were going on behind the scenes. A settlement was arrived at and there was no war. We are in favour of negotiation. Supporters of the Government talk a lot about negotiations in industrial matters and we support the idea of negotiations generally. I do not know why honorable senators opposite object to negotiation to prevent war. Senator Hannan also said that he disputed Senator Dittmer’s statement that poverty brings Communism. I do not see how any rational person can dispute that statement. Senator Hannan said that poverty was not the cause of Communism in East Berlin, Latvia, Hungary. But they were all poverty stricken. There might have been no Communism in the Soviet Union itself after the First World War if the people had had enough food. I thought it was an accepted axiom that empty bellies mean Communism. That is my complaint about this Government and all other governments which do not make a concerted attack on world poverty. Wherever there are signs of war and wherever the freedom and peace of the white races of the world are in danger, there is poverty. Is it not extraordinary that the great wealthy nations of the world, including the Soviet Union, America, England and France, all enjoying comfort and abundance, are watching, waiting, sensing the danger of atomic war over issues which are being decided in an area which is really proverty-stricken? That is true. It is true also of Africa, where the dark races have been freed and have been given their political independence. We will have many more situations such as we have in Vietnam today. They may arise in Kenya or anywhere else in Africa where democracy has broken down and revolutions and counter-revolutions are threatened.
The white nations - the major races of the world - are surely not prepared to have the peace of the world destroyed over a dispute in Africa, after we have settled the dispute in Vietnam. I believe that the situation in Vietnam will be cleared up within a few weeks. I would say that negotiations are going on now to settle it. What is involved in that situation as far as the people of South Vietnam are concerned? We talked a lot about Korea, but that war passed over and we never hear of the Koreans now. France got out of Vietnam but did not take her money out of the country. France still has £1,000 million invested there. AH sorts of contradictory things like that occur and they make peace in Vietnam quite possible.
– You know that France had no option. She could not take her money out of Vietnam.
– We tore our hair over West Irian but the Dutch who retired from Dutch New Guinea are now returning and playing their part in the resettlement of the area, despite the alleged threat by Indonesia. The Dutch are a wise people. They are not panicking. A philosopher said that man does not live by bread alone, and that is true, but the peoples of Asia and Africa have to find not only freedom, but also jobs, security and a decent standard of living. At one time the idea of raising their standards did not occur to them because their half of the world’s people did not know how the other half lived. But today they do know. International communications and travel have let the Indians know what they are missing and, despite what Senator Hannan said, poverty is still the curse of this world.
Only the other day a Cabinet Minister from India said publicly in Sydney that one Indian in three is starving today. I believe that is a conservative estimate. I was in Bombay for two days recently and I do not see how the people of India can be saved from Communism unless we do something about feeding them. Senator Hannan claims that poverty and Communism have nothing in common; they have everything in common and the Communist is only effective where there are empty bellies.
– That is not what I said.
– Let me instance some of my experiences in Bombay. I think a lady senator from Victoria was in Bombay at the same time as I was. I was taken for afternoon tea to one of the embassy offices about 100 yards from the Bombay Post Office. I looked out the window of the third floor flat in which : I was and saw in a quarry or excavation along side it 70 or 80 Indian coolies in the hot sun, digging out blue metal. They were excavating for another block of flats which, by the way, were not to be for them. They had no proper tools but only little chisels and hammers. The job had been in progress for two years. Each day the workers started at sun-up and knocked off when the sun went down. I ask the reason why they worked such long hours and was told: “ You have to sleep on the job or else you lose your job “. They dug all day and slept in the quarry at night, only 100 yards from the Bombay Post Office. I saw seven or eight women dressed in dirty clothes which were clinging to their backbones. They were carrying blue metal in baskets from the quarry to the trucks. I also saw six or seven little babies lying at the side of the quarry in the sun, black with dirt. Two mothers put their baskets of metal down and leaned over the babies, like dogs, to give them their four o’clock feed. That is what goes on in Bombay. I do not blame the Government of India. The Government has an immense problem. How can it solve the problem? I asked what happened when one of those workers dropped dead and was told: “Look over there. There are plenty of others to fill their jobs”. These people have no addresses and I doubt whether they even have names, but they are doing this work in Bombay. One of the officials of our Department of External Affairs in Bombay was warned, when he went with his wife into a certain area, not to look or give alms to the poor or he would be surrounded and injured. His wife did. She was foolish enough to hand a cripple a coin. Within minutes they were surrounded and she was scratched and injured sufficiently to finish up in hospital. They were surrounded by poverty stricken cripples.
I was in a taxi and saw three bodies on the road. 1 do not know how they died. They had no names or addresses. The bodies were swept around a corner, kerosene was thrown on them and they were burnt in front of my eyes. That was the easiest way to get rid of the bodies I suppose; but who worried? The taxi driver said: “ If you are feeling like that we will go to a funeral “. We went to see the funeral of some Parsee and saw the birds eating their flesh. I make these points to show that we are dealing with another class of people. But poverty is there and I do not see how Communism can be kept out of India unless we do something to make our contribution. It was a sad couple of days for me in Bombay.
The position is not as bad but is much the same in Singapore. There are people everywhere living on the streets. It is a great problem. What are we to do about saving the East from Communism? They are not the only two places in the East in that condition. Egypt is nearly as bad. There is poverty there and in fact there is poverty everywhere.
Honorable senators opposite hate Communism as we do but they fear it more than we do. It is no good to fear Communism because that stops you from facing the issue. One must look at Communism and see what it means and how to handle it. Probably it was American aid through the Marshall Plan which saved Italy from being Communist. There is not much doubt about that. Through Marshall aid the workers in Italy were put to work. There are Communists in Italy of the type who vote Communist; but American Marshall aid did more to save this world from Communism than many people are prepared to agree. Without it our problem would have been greater.
The problem of Communism should not simply be related to the East where the standard of living is low, but it is not a real issue in any other part of the world. As Senator Dittmer said in one of the best speeches he has made in the Senate in my opinion, when we first had to face the Soviet Union, the people who were fearful of Communism - the Jeremiahs - thought the worst was going to happen; but it did not happen. They are still waiting for it to happen and it probably never will happen. We of the Western world would not deserve to live if we allowed an issue like Vietnam to endanger the peace of the world.
I do not think it is possible to endanger world peace in a situation like Vietnam. The people of the Soviet Union have too much to lose to risk war over an issue like that. I certainly believe the Western world has too much to lose. I criticise the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) for his statement that if he is the only Prime Minister left to denounce negotiation he will denounce it. I do not know just what he meant, but he will probably have to eat his words because the situation in South Vietnam will be resolved, I believe, without any consultation with Australia.
What does our trade in wheat mean to the rest of the world? They cannot think that we are really genuine about Vietnam or that we are really serious about fighting this issue and mean what, we say. I do not say that we should not trade with China. I think that is one of the solutions to the world situation and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Harold Wilson, is giving a lead in that respect. I was in the House of Commons when the Labour Government announced its decision to buy aeroplanes from the United States of America and to close down British aircraft factories. The Conservatives of Great Britain wanted to build British aircraft whether they could sell them or not. As Mr. Wilson told them, Mr. Thorneycroft built aircraft in England that should never have been built and then became a salesman in Europe. What did he sell? The answer is: Nothing. Mr. Wilson told them: “You wanted to build aircraft in Great Britain because you wanted only one customerthe British taxpayer. The Labour Government says that we will deal with American interests and have business agreements with them for the building and buying of aircraft. We will put our limited work force to work for other things.”
If people all over the Western world are preparing for war, how can we end starvation? The wealthy Western world should be preparing plans to end starvation in the Eastern countries so that we can beat Communism that way. That is the constructive way to do the job and world opinion is behind it. A war on poverty has been started in the United States. We have the same sort of political message here; but it is the war on poverty in the East that we need to wage, and we should get busy about it. Why should we limit the growing of wheat or any other cereal? We should be subsidising salesto Eastern countries and showing by our efforts that we really mean what we are talking about. That is better than making bellicose, belligerent speeches about what we will do, or that we will not negotiate. We will have to negotiate. The situation in Vietnam cannot be allowed to endanger the peace of the world because as so many people, great and small, know the next war will be the last war for all of us. Nobody wants it. I was impressed by the speeches made by the Minister and by Senator Wright and others.
– What about mine?
– I think Senator Hannan has a one track mind on these things. I know it is important to have people who are extreme in their views because that helps to develop a middle of the road democratic approach to these problems and that is more likely to be understood in the countries where peace is endangered today. Those people who would rather be dead than Red have their part to play but they must never be allowed to dominate foreign affairs in any government whether it be Labour or Liberal. We must always negotiate. Negotiation is the art of democratic government. One never wins outright in a democratic situation. Some people call such an approach appeasement. It is not necessarily appeasement but is a middle of the road approach. Negotiation is a basic part of democracy. I believe that, as Senator Dittmer suggested, we should send delegations to the East and keep in touch with public opinion in those countries. It should not be necessary to depend upon newspapers to learn about what is happen ing in other countries. Of course, I know the Government does not do that. But even governments might get wrong information about what is happening in other countries. Delegations which move among the people of the other countries in the East could do a lot more good than official ministerial parties who fly to other countries, are taken on guided tours and then fly back. That is not the way in which to get international understanding. Mr. President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, our brief experience in administering the homes savings grant scheme has extended our knowledge of the many ways in which young people save for and acquire a home. This experience has satisfied us that some amendments should be introduced into the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964. The Homes Savings Grant Bill 1965 will do this. The main purposes of this Bill are to make a number of young persons excluded by the existing legislation from the benefits of the scheme eligible to receive a grant, and to allow money saved and used in a number of ways to acquire a home to be treated as acceptable savings. The amendments not only will increase the number of young people eligible to receive a larger grant, but also will permit others to receive a larger grant than is payable to them under the existing legislation.
The payment of homes savings grants is, of course, a novel operation. In devising the initial administrative arrangements, we recognised that the sensible approach was to determine the basic principles, to provide an operational framework that would take into account the factors then known to us, and to stand ready to propose amendments to overcome fringe problems brought to light by experience in administering the scheme.
In presenting the Homes Savings Grant Bill to the Senate in May last year, the Minister then representing the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) indicated that it would be unlikely that we had foreseen all the circumstances in which young people save and acquire their homes.
Applications for the grant were first received in July last year. Since then, 26,000 applications have been lodged, of which 19,000 have been determined. Almost the whole of the applications not yet determined are either awaiting further advice or evidence from the applicant, held pending passage of this amending Bill, or are in process of being examined in our offices. Some 1 7,300 grants have already been paid. Of the 1,600 applicants who have failed to qualify, some will become eligible for a grant if and when the amendments now proposed are accepted.. A total of nearly £4 million has been paid out in grants, and the average grant has been close to £230. I think these figures leave no doubt that the scheme has got off to a successful start. Letters we have received indicate that the grants have been of material assistance to very many young couples acquiring and furnishing their own homes.
The principles on which the scheme has been based have been proved to be fundamentally sound, but, as expected, experience has revealed the desirability for some amendment of the administrative provisions. The amendments have been drafted to ensure that the scheme will benefit the people it is designed to help and will achieve the broad objectives it has been framed to assist.
Some of the amendments will vary the legislative requirements in respect of the house and land for purposes of the scheme. Others will widen the definition of acceptable savings, including a manner in which the savings may be held at a person’s prescribed date, savings used in the acquisition of the home, and savings held in trust. Also the opportunity is being taken to make a number of minor amendments of a technical or tidying up nature. I do not propose to comment on all the proposed amendments. An explanatory memorandum setting out the meaning of each proposed amendment is being circulated to all honorable senators. All the significant amendments are summarised in the first six pages of this memorandum.
I now wish to comment briefly on the more important proposals. It is proposed that a person who does not have a satisfactory tenure of the land on which the home is being built at the time he enters into a building contract will become eligible to receive a grant if he satisfies the secretary that he will secure adequate tenure of the land, lt is also proposed that the Act be amended to permit persons who have not entered into a contract in writing to buy or build their homes to become eligible if they satisfy the Department of Housing that they are taking steps to acquire, and will acquire, a home. However, production of a contract in writing will expedite the payment of a grant.
In many cases, the contract to buy or build the home is entered into, or the land is held, by a parent or another person as trustee for an applicant for the grant. This is frequently the case where the applicant is a minor. Under the present Act, persons are ineligible for a grant if they do not settle their affairs in their own names. Where the contract for the purchase or construction of the home is entered into or where the land on which the home is to be built is held by a trustee for the sole benefit of the applicant and the applicant satisfies the Secretary that he will acquire an approved interest in the land, he will be eligible to receive a grant.
A number of young people will benefit from the proposal that money held in trust in acceptable forms for the sole benefit of the applicant, and money expended out of such a trust on or before the beneficiary’s prescribed date on a home for the beneficiary, may be treated as acceptable savings. Under the existing Act, expenditure on the home prior to the entry into a contract to buy or build the home may be treated as acceptable savings only if it is made to pay for the land or to pay a deposit in respect of the purchase of the home. We propose to remove these limits. All savings spent by a person prior to his prescribed date in connection with the acquisition of the home may be admissible as acceptable savings.
There are a number of cases where a person bought land on which he intended to build his home, but subsequently purchased an existing home or built elsewhere and later sold the first block. As the Act stands at present, the savings invested in the land first acquired do not count as savings for the purpose of the scheme unless the land was sold and the proceeds were paid into one of the acceptable forms of saving before the person’s prescribed date. In some instances, a person has been unable to do these things before his prescribed date. An amendment will provide that the amount paid by- the person for this land will be treated as acceptable savings, provided he has sold the land not later than six months after his prescribed date. However, money invested in land for speculative purposes will not be acceptable savings.
The Government’s decision to introduce these and other proposed amendments so soon after the commencement of the scheme demonstrates the sincerity of our promise to administer the scheme sympathetically. The Bill provides that the amendments will apply from 2nd December 1963, the effective date of commencement of the scheme. There is, of course, no time limit on the duration of the scheme. Nor is the grant, as some people have come to believe, a loan that must be repaid. It is a tax-free gift. We offer the benefits of the scheme to our young people, and I feel sure that all honorable senators will support me in advising those who have not already done so to open at once a home savings account with a bank or an account with a building society. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
– While it is unusual to debate a bill immediately the Minister has made his second reading speech, the Opposition is doing so on this occasion because we appreciate the urgency of the measure. Opposition members are just as anxious as Government supporters to rectify anomalies in the Homes Savings Grant Act and to give benefits to those who would not obtain benefits without the proposed amendments to the legislation. The Australian Labour Party is prepared to do everything possible to hasten the passage of the Bill, but this does not mean that we will neglect our responsibilities as guardians of those who do not now qualify and of applicants whom we believe are in need of additional support.
From the outset, the Labour Party has not accepted the homes savings grant scheme as one that will contribute to the building of more homes in Australia. The shortage of homes in Australia has at all times raised problems for governments. To my knowledge, at no time have there been sufficient homes. The scarcity has reached alarming proportions, although perhaps not a record. The annual reports of State housing authorities show that about 75,000 people are waiting for homes to be made available by those authorities.
Although we contend that the scheme will not provide more homes, we accepted it for what it was - an election promise which sought the support of young people to whom it offered a gift of taxpayers’ money to assist in acquiring homes. For that reason we . supported the principal Act and will on this occasion support the proposed legislation. However, at the Committee stage, we shall seek leave to move amendments.
The Labour Party has said, at least from the time of the 1961 general election, that the means of providing more homes and promoting home ownership is to make available more money for home construction, for longer periods of repayments, and by lending a bigger percentage of the valuation of a home. We say that interest rates should be reduced and that the skyrocketing prices of land should be controlled as they cannot be absorbed into the prices for which homes can be purchased. The Opposition regards the homes savings grants, not as a contribution towards increased home construction, but as a gift to home buyers who find it difficult to obtain a home.
Opposition speakers may attack the Government’s policy on home construction. I desire to review the Act, rather than refer to the limitations of the Government in the field of home building. I think the Act is so complicated that it prevents eligible applicants from ascertaining their entitlements. It can be understood by very few people, and in that number I do not include the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), nor the heads of his Department, nor myself. I believe that the principal Act will be made more confusing by the proposed amendments.
In the Minister’s second reading speech, reference was made to the number of applicants who had been processed and who had received grants. I have received correspondence from the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Association has written to the Minister to protest that applicants must wait 10 weeks to receive replies to their applications and that the administration and policing of the Act is so difficult that an officer can process only four applications a day.
The Department of Housing is unable to attract suitable officers and is forced to borrow them from other departments. This has been made necessary by the refusal of the Public Service Board, from the commencement of the scheme, to approve of the Department’s recommendations as to the number of staff required and the salary grades to be accorded to grants examiners. The result is that the Association has requested its members working for the Department of Housing to observe the regulations, because the excessive hours of overtime and time worked during the luncheon break have caused officers to absent themselves on sick leave. While officers are borrowed from other sections of the Public Service such as the War Service Homes Division, shortages of staff arc created in those other sections. I am informed that many borrowed officers are seeking to return to their original jobs because of the great amount of work causing long hours to be worked in the new department.
The Act seeks to pay married couples, one of whom is under the age of 36 years, a grant of one-third of their savings over a period to purchase their first matrimonial home. That promise was made by the Prime Minister and was included in the second reading speech of the Minister when the Homes Savings Grant Bill was introduced. If nothing more had been said, everyone would know his entitlement. Applications would be easily processed and no delays would be incurred. We would not be far removed from the position we are in today, with a complicated Act which, looking after certain vested interests, provides that savings must be placed in certain accounts. It is an Act that few can understand and it causes delays in administration. We should seek by all means to simplify it so that it may more easily be understood and the day hastened for fulfilment of the Government’s promise.
If there is any doubt in the minds of those administering the Act, an application is not granted. The arbitrary action by the Department in insisting upon the payment of 10 per cent, of the contract price before making a grant prejudices those who sought a loan for the purpose of bridging the deposit gap and makes grants available only to those people who have sufficient finance to obtain a block of land, arrange their mortgages and pay 10 per cent, of the price. The Department, by arbitrary action in 1964, was limiting to £560 the amount of savings in any one year which would attract a grant. This is quite contrary to the wording of the Act.
I shall endeavour to cite many other cases where, although in my humble opinion an applicant has been entitled to a grant, the grant has been refused, without any redress in law for the applicant, because there are clauses which provide that the Secretary may pay an amount not exceeding one-third of the savings. He may pay, and he may not pay. We might show that an applicant complied with the qualification, but the Department still has the provision that it may or may not pay. Although an applicant may be entitled to a grant equal to one-third of his savings, the provision states that the Department shall pay an amount not exceeding one-third. A lesser amount may be paid and the applicant has no redress.
During the second reading stage of the original Bill, I tried to interpret its meaning. Senator Sir William Spooner, who was then Leader of the Government in this chamber and in charge of the Bill, referred to my efforts to interpret as a most pathetic attempt. I admit my limitations and the fact that I am a layman. The honorable senator has a trained legal mind and a wealth of experience and I was prepared to accept that I had made a mistake, and that mine was a pathetic interpretation. He put me right by saying: “ I will give you an assurance that this is not the interpretation.” This related to one particular point. I was happy with that assurance, and I refrained from moving an amendment that I had proposed to move, knowing my limitations on interpretation. I would be happy today except that the Department administering the Act has pathetically interpreted it in a way which is contrary to the assurance given to me by the then Leader of the Government.
At the committee stage I shall seek to move an amendment to do justice in two respects. The intention will be to make grants to those persons, in respect of whose savings the prescribed date was 1964, who had their savings in banks other than the prescribed banks and who were justified in keeping them there on the assurance given by the responsible Minister in this chamber. The intention will be to honour the assurance given by that Minister. I hope that if it can bc shown that an assurance that persons would be eligible for grants was given but not carried out, irrespective of party politics the Senate will be big enough to say: “ We must honour the assurance of a responsible Minister and carry out any assurance that he has given “. I submitted to the Minister for Housing that Senator Sir William Spooner did give an assurance that moneys, in respect of which the prescribed date was 1964 would be counted as acceptable savings no matter where they were invested and I received a reply from Mr. Bury, which reads -
You also refer to the so-called assurance given you by the then Minister representing me in the Senate that money saved and held in any form in Australia would be acceptable as savings if it were converted into one of the acceptable forms by 31st December 1964. The reply he gave to your interjection indicates that he obviously had in mind persons with prescribed dates later than 31st December 1964. Section IS of the Act makes it quite clear that savings previously held in the form of an investment or otherwise before the prescribed date must be held at the prescribed date in certain specified forms where the prescribed date is on or before 31st December 1964.
I realise that if this assurance was only a so-called assurance and the Minister was under the impression that I was referring to a date after 31st December 1964, those persons who have been deprived of a grant have no further claim on the Department. Of four cases that 1 know, I have raised three in this chamber from time to time. One accepted my advice that the Minister had given this assurance that it was not necessary to transfer savings.
It will be recalled that section 15 of the Act relates to acceptable savings for the year 1964. Sub-section (3.) states that irrespective of where they are invested before the prescribed date, on the prescribed date they must be in certain accounts. We debated the measure in May 1964. It was to be retrospective to 2nd December 1963. People seeking benefits under an Act have some responsibility to find out the provisions with which they must comply. After the measure had gone through the Parliament in May there would be no justification for applicants not to have savings in a prescribed bank on a prescribed date, but what about the position of persons in February, before the Bill was drafted, before anyone knew what would be its provisions? One who, by a fluke, had his money in a prescribed bank, would get a grant, and one who had not would not get a grant. My speech related to the period from 2nd December 1963 to 21st May 1964, when we were debating the Bill. I refer to “Hansard” of 21st May 1964 at page 1432. 1 stated -
I am concerned about sub-clause (2.) of clause 15, which reads -
I then quoted the relevant portions of subclauses (2.) and (3.) and said -
I want to know what happens to those persons who have entered into contracts between the date of operation of this legislation - 2nd December, 1963 - and the present date.
The present date referred to was the 2nd May 1964. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that in that question I was referring to the period between 2nd December 1963 and the date of consideration of that Bill. I went on to say -
Those who have entered into contracts as at the prescribed date are obviously entitled to the grant if they fulfil the other requirements, but those who had their money invested at the prescribed date in something other than one of the institutions mentioned in the legislation are not eligible for a grant. Will the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) say whether this distinction is fair and whether there is any way of overcoming the anomaly?
Honorable senators will note that 1 specifically mentioned the date and asked whether there was any way of overcoming the anomaly. Senator Sir William Spooner replied in these terms -
Taking the last point first while it is fresh in my mind, I point out that the period between now and the end of December, 1964, is in the nature of a transitional period. In that transitional period savings, no matter in what form they are evidenced, become eligible for the grant. So if the couple marry and build a home they become eligible for the grant by virtue of the department accepting their savings in any form, investment or otherwise. That, I think, is the foundation for the answer to Senator Cavanagh’s query.
But Senator Cavanagh did not desire the Minister to make such a statement unless he knew the full implications. In my pathetic simplicity I interjected -
But their savings must be in a particular bank at the prescribed date.
Sir William Spooner replied ;
Not until 31st December, 1964. When you get to 31st December, 1964, by and large, with certain exceptions, your savings must be in a narrow group of savings banks, permanent building societies or trading banks. That proviso becomes operative from 1st January, 1965, with an exception in the case of credit unions and friendly societies,. which may continue the even tenor of their ways until 1967.
Reading that, I defy anyone to say that the assurance was not given to me. In my simplicity I accepted that assurance, despite the fact that my interpretation of the Act Icd me to believe that it was not correct. 1 accepted the Minister’s assurance because I believed it had legal basis and it went out to the world. As I have stated, I was concerned about four cases in my own State. I gave certain advice to the people involved after having the Minister’s assurance, but I now find that they are ineligible for the grant because they had savings, had signed the contract but had not transferred their savings to another account. Surely if there is any justice, if members of Parliament are to place any reliance on assurances given by Ministers, an amendment to overcome the anomaly that now exists and to make 1964 savings, wherever they may have been, acceptable savings, will be supported by every self-respecting senator in this place.
In making certain accusations that there is a lack of knowledge on the part of the Department, I want to direct attention to one clause in particular. I realise that it is very difficult for an inexperienced or inexpert advocate to explain such a complicated Bill. Honorable senators may have difficulty in following my argument so, in view of the lateness of the hour, I suggest that they read my remarks in “ Hansard “ tomorrow to see for themselves whether there is any substance in them. Perhaps with the legal talent in the Senate we will be able to get a proper interpretation of some of the clauses that I shall mention.
I believe that to interpret the Act correctly one must consider section 4 which relates to the prescribed date, section 14 which relates to eligibility for the grant, sections 15 and 16 which together indicate acceptable savings for a particular year and section 22 which relates to the amount that the Government will allow in the form of a grant based on acceptable savings as prescribed in sections 15 and 16.
The prescribed date is important. It is the date on which the contract is signed. Everything extends back 12 months from that particular date. Before the provisions of section 22 operate, an applicant must submit to certain eligibility tests prescribed by section 14. Most of this section is being amended, but I point out that one of the conditions of eligibility is contained in paragraph (d). The section states -
A person is an eligible person for the purposes of this Act if -
The important words are “ the person has saved moneys “. Section 14 (c) relates to residential qualifications and provides that an Australian applicant must have resided in Australia for three months immediately preceding the prescribed date, and that a new Australian must have been a resident of Australia for three years immediately preceding the prescribed date. Obviously the draftsman’s attention was directed to the importance of the words “ immediately preceding” because section 14(d) deliberately omits the word “ immediately “. Therefore, the qualification is that you save money - not that you have acceptable savings - for three years preceding the prescribed date. As I have an elector who was knocked back on this particular question I wrote to the Minister for Housing and asked him whether he was putting the wrong interpretation on the Act. With a knowledge of what the elector had saved over the seven year period, I suggested to the Minister that the three year period of saving had to be preceding the prescribed date but that it could be any three years within the seven year period. The Minister replied as follows on 24th December 1964 -
Regarding your comments on the provisions of Section 14 (d) of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964, I must point out that it was always intended, first, that a person must have saved over a period of three consecutive years and, second, that this period must have been the three years immediately preceding the prescribed date.
The Minister said “ it was always intended “. Who always intended? Must we read into the Act what the author has intended? Is that the proper way of interpreting the Act? Apparently that is the way in which the Department interpreted it in this particular case? The Minister continued -
The Act is, of course, administered on that basis. lt does not matter what the Act says, apparently. The Act is administered on that basis because it was always intended that that should be so. The Minister went on -
You will agree, I feel sure, that it would hardly be in keeping with the objective of regular and consistent saving for the home to apply any other rule.
I can see, of course, that Section .14 (d) of the Act could be read in isolation to give the interpretation you claim - namely, that a person could bc eligible if he has saved for a period of three years other than the three years immediately preceding the prescribed date. However, having regard to the Act as a whole, this would be a “’ forced “ interpretation and would be quite inconsistent with what has already been our intention and the principle underlying it. Carried to extremes, it would mean that a person approaching 36 years of age, who had saved for a period of three years as a child, but not subsequently, would be eligible for a grant! You will be aware that I recently announced several amendments to the Act which I propose introducing into Parliament early in the new session. I shall take the opportunity at the same time to seek amendment to Section 14 (d) to remove any possibility of further misunderstanding of the meaning of this Section.
The Minister said, in effect, that although the Act could be read in that way, that was not the intention and therefore this- particular applicant would not receive his grant. While 1 said that the period had to be three years in seven years the Minister said that this could mean three years in the person’s childhood. I am inclined to agree that that would be a true interpretation in view of the fact that the Act does not state what are the acceptable savings which would be accumulated in seven years. The Act does not state the position and the Minister could be correct in that regard. 1 am still protesting about the rejection of this particular applicant on this occasion. Again I would ask that the legal brains consider whether that is not the true interpretation of the Act - that the period need not be three years.
Honorable senators can sense the desire of the Minister to amend this Act in order to get over any difficulty and so that it will fill the objective of encouraging regular and consistent savings in order to buy or build a home. Let us consider how the Minister does deal with this question of regular and consistent savings, lt may be that people seeking the grant do not have to save for the three years immediately preceding their prescribed date. The Minister, in this amending Bill, proposes to deal with section 14 (d) of the Act by inserting in its place the following clause - the Secretary is satisfied that the person held acceptable savings throughout the period of three years immediately preceding the prescribed date;
You will notice that the word “ acceptable “ is included. The Minister, with all sincerity, is trying to overcome a difficulty that has been raised. He proposes to insert a clause in the Act stating that the savings must be “ acceptable savings “ within the meaning of sections 15 and 16 of the Act. This means that they must be savings made within seven years. But the person concerned does not have to save within the three years before the prescribed date. He has to hold that money for three years before the prescribed date. Section 15 and section 16 make provision for acceptable savings made in any one year. Provision has been made for a loss of savings in any one year to be made up in another year. Under section 14 it is not necessary to save for three years to become eligible for the grant. You have to save for one year within the seven years and possibly it has to be the fourth year or previous years before the prescribed date because the money has to be held for three years. If you save in the fourth year before the prescribed date and hold (he amount for three years you are eligible for a third of the grant.
This is what the draftsman has done to a Minister and the officers of his Department who, 1 think, are sincerely trying to operate this Act. Perhaps the trouble is due to inexperience, or lack of knowledge; or my interpretation may be incorrect. However, I bring this matter under notice in order to hear the opinion of the legally trained mind on this question. If I am right about this matter it will show the inability of the Minister, and of his Department, to understand their own Act. On page 11 of the explanatory memorandum circulated by the Minister concerning this Bill it is stated -
The existing paragraph (d) of Section 14 is to be re-stated to make it clear that the savings period required to achieve eligibility-
Honorable senators will notice the words “ saving period “ - must include the three years immediately preceding an eligible person’s prescribed date and that the person must have held savings in an acceptable form or forms during that period.
At page 12 of the memorandum the Minister referred to section 16 and said -
Evidence of savings over a period of years is necessary to determine whether the amount saved in any savings year exceeds the limit of £250 on annual savings, and also to determine whether the person has saved in an acceptable form for at least three years.
I invite the Minister for Works, when he speaks during the Committee stage, to refer to any provision in the Bill which makes if necessary, any longer, to save for three years. I submit, in all sincerity that the Minister for Housing, or his Department, is unconcerned about the people affected by this Act. I say that because he has said, in effect: “ What does it matter what the Act states when the Department has the power to pay or not to pay a sum not exceeding a third and when we are administering the Act in accordance with what we intended should apply? “ Why does the Government propose to amend the Act if the Minister for Housing intends to administer it as he intends it should apply?
My time is limited but I would like to refer to other clauses that should be looked into. The provision limiting savings to £250 in one year will induce people to withdraw savings in excess of that sum made in one year, to put them into another account and to return them to the home savings account in another year when they are unable to save a sum of £250. In that way they will receive their full entitlement under this Act. Under the Act, the Secretary of the Department of Housing has power to decide whether a house was valued at more than the limit of £7,000. He could make that decision either on the basis of the actual cost of the house or on his valuation of it. 1 complained of the case of a person who owned a block of land and signed a contract for the construction of a house. In order to obtain a superior house and to keep its cost with that of the land, under £7,000 he did an amount of voluntary hard work at the weekends. This person took particular care with the contractor because he had read the advice freely given by the Department stating how the house would be valued. In a booklet entitled “ A Grant for Your Home “ the Department gives advice on how houses will be valued. It states -
Where a person buys the land and later builds a home on it, the cost of the land will usually be the actual price paid or being paid. Where land has been acquired by gift or bequest, or is held on lease or under a life interest, the value of the land will be the value as assessed by the Department.
The cost of an existing house and the land, or a home unit, will usually be the purchase price set out in the Contract of Sale.
The cost of a house being erected by a building contractor will usually be the contract price. If the house is being built by an owner-builder, the value of the completed house will be the value as assessed by the Department.
In the case of the person to whom J have referred as having increased the accommodation in the dwelling by his own efforts the Secretary of the Department made his own assessment, as he was entitled to do under the Act. So far, the Secretary has been able to make his assessment on the basis of cost or value. We are now taking that right away from him and the assessment has to be on the basis of value, taking into consideration such things as cost and improvements. During discussion the other day the Minister said that this is necessary because land which may have been bought years ago would have a different value today. Admittedly that is the reason for the method of valuation. But previously the Secretary had the alternative of considering only the cost factor and so assisting the person who put his own effort into building a home, or of making his own valuation and so excluding more elaborate homes. Why withdraw this discretion? The Bill also deals with the position of a person who owns a section of a title. It recognises the right of occupancy of a flat by a person who owns shares in a company which constructs the flats.
This Bill deletes the provision that to be eligible for a grant a person must occupy a dwelling within three months of its completion. The Minister’s explanation seemed to have some justification, but I think it is dangerous to give a grant to a person to acquire the whole interest in a property in which he does not intend to live.
I would like the Minister to explain, when replying to the debate, why the savings of children under 21 years of age of persons serving in the forces overseas are acceptable for the purposes of the grant and why the father in such a case can lump his wife’s savings and those of his children in for the purpose of obtaining a grant from the Government. It is difficult for me to understand this provision. One would have to study the Bill for a fortnight in order to understand it. 1 have put forward some matters which 1 think need investigation and consideration. In relation to the alleged assurance given to me by Sir William Spooner and to deal wilh institutions for the purpose of savings we shall move amendments at the Committee stage. I would like the Minister to clarify the points I have raised when he replies to the second reading debate.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales) [10.25].- Following Senator Cavanagh in the debate I think it might be fair for me to divide his speech into three parts. The first two parts contained rather general statements in criticism of the legislation and the third part was a detailed examination of a number of the provisions of the Bill, which I think would be more appropriately replied to by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) than by me. That applies also to the honorable senator’s comments concerning me, because at this stage 1 do not remember the circumstances and cannot by a quick reference to “ Hansard “ easily follow what happened during the debate to which he referred. The general statements made by Senator Cavanagh were, first that Labour does not accept this legislation as a scheme to help in the building of more homes in Australia, and that it has never done so. The short reply to that is that since the scheme has been in operation grants have amounted to £4 million. If £4 million is not an appreciable contribution to home building in Australia, then I think home building in this country is somewhat out of perspective. I believe it could fairly be claimed that to the sum of £4 million should be added the amount that young people have saved in order to qualify for that £4 million of subsidy.
Senator Cavanagh said that the Act was too complicated to be understood and that it was being made more confused by the amendments contained in this measure. My answer is that the Act is not as complicated as that, and that in the short period during which it has been in operation no less than 17,700 people have applied for grants and of that number some 16,000 have actually received them. Whilst a tribute should be paid to Senator Cavanagh for the amount of detailed work he has put into examining the clauses of the Bill, the purpose of his speech was to decry the legislation. Let us examine the legislation and remind ourselves of the opportunity it presents to the young people of Australia. I think this scheme was one of the many very good things contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) at the 1963 election. It should not pass unnoticed that Senator Cavanagh referred to a debate on this legislation in the Senate in May 1964. The fact that legislation of this kind and of this consequence was brought into the Parliament within five months after the election and was made retrospective to the date of the election reflects credit on the Government. The legislation was brought into Parliament in May 1964 and was made retrospective to the time of the election in December 1963.
– It was not 2nd
December. It was made retrospective to that date, but that was not the election date.
– I am sorry; it was somewhere about then. I remind the Senate of the main provisions of the principal Act which this legislation amends. The Act included for the first time a scheme for free grants to young married couples who had saved money to buy a home of their own. It introduced a new principle of encouraging young people to save money so that they could be assisted to purchase a home of their own choice without let or hindrance and without control from the Government. The young couple merely had to save and they became eligible for the grant for the first home they bought.
The Act authorised the payment of a Commonwealth grant of £1 for every £3 either or both of the young couple saved provided they were under 36 years of age; that the grant did not exceed £250 and that the savings were made in a period of at least three years. Three years was not the maximum period. They could take as long as they liked to make the saving. They could start when they were 16, 18 or 19 years old and spread the savings over a period of years, but there had to be a minimum saving period of three years because encouragement of savings is inherent in the scheme. The grant was limited to a house costing not more than £7,000. This was pioneering home finance legislation for Australia.
Senator Cavanagh analysed the provisions of the measure and criticised it in detail. In the light of his statements, I think it is refreshing to go back and look at the legislation broadly as a whole and not in detail so that we may remind ourselves of the significance of the Act and the extraordinarily valuable contribution it has made towards helping young people to obtain homes. There is no doubt that the scheme has been successful, lt has appealed to young people and has been of great assistance to them just as the Government originally anticipated-
– Why talk platitudes?
– lt is a soundly conceived scheme. It has been successful and is continuing to be successful. I shall quote the relevant figures again. 1 do not know why there should be objection on the part of Senator Cavanagh to my quoting these figures and reviewing the scheme. He began his speech by saying that the scheme did not help to build more houses. He said it had made no contribution towards the construction of more houses in Australia; but surely as an Australian he should take satisfaction in legislation of this importance which has been so successful. That is evidenced by the fact that since December 1963 - I refrain from mentioning the exact date because I might be corrected - there have been no fewer than 25,000 applications for assistance under this legislation. No fewer than 17,700 of the applications have been finalised and no fewer than 16,200 young couples have actually been paid in cash the benefits of this scheme. The average grant has been about £230 and the total is close to £4 million. 1 cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement. I repeat it from a speech made in another place and I do so because it is of fascinating interest. It was stated that between 18 and 20 per cent, of the homes that have changed hands in Australia since this legislation came into operation have been bought under benefits provided through the new legislation.
It must also be admitted and realised that the scheme is only in its infancy at this stage. Honorable senators should remember that the basis of the scheme is that young people have to save for a minimum period of three years to qualify for a grant. The legislation has been effective for only 17 months and all the applications and the work under this scheme relate not so much to new savings. When the legislation was implemented, the Government made a proviso in association with its election promise. It staled that the scheme would be made retrospective and that those who had saved for three years before the legislation became operative could obtain the benefits provided by it. So we are seeing the scheme operate so far only in its retrospective character. We have yet to see the scheme in operation as it gathers momentum and attracts young people of the future.
– It will be straightforward then.
– The complications will be removed. We will reach a stage shortly when young people will open their special accounts and the arrangements will flow without complications. Everybody knew when the Government took the decision to make the scheme retrospective that complications would be created in the drafting of the legislation and defining the terms under which the money would be available in respect of past transactions. That was made manifest when the legislation was originally introduced. The experience that has been gained in the time the Act has been operating makes the amendments before the Senate necessary.
The Bill contains 26 amendments to the Act and every one of them confers additional benefits on young people. All these amendments make the scheme more attractive and more valuable to young people who are prepared to save. I do not propose to attempt to discuss the 26 amendments in detail. That will be a task for the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) at the Committee stage. I compliment the Minister for Housing upon the way in which he has presented certain information to the Senate. The explanatory memorandum that has been circulated gives a picture of each of the amendments and presents supplementary information as well.
Three or four of the amendments are of more than passing interest. The one that intrigues me most is that which provides that a grant shall become available in circumstances where there is an oral contract for the purchase of a home. Ever since I have been a boy at school I have thought that evidence of a sale of land had to be in written form. However, I find upon inquiry that the acceptance of oral contracts is apparently used to a greater degree by the trusting residents of Western Australia than in other parts of the Commonwealth. Another amendment deals with the situation in which a contract has been completed but where the transaction has not advanced to the stage where ownership of the land vests in the applicant for a grant. Another amendment, which 1 believe is of greater significance than the one I have just mentioned, covers the situation in which a couple buy a block of land and enter into an arrangement to erect a home on that land, the title not to vest in them until the transaction is concluded. As I read the amendment, they will become eligible for a grant as at the commencement of the transaction rather than towards the end of it.
An interesting series of amendments arc those which make the provisions of the Act more readily applicable to minors. These amendments cover circumstances in which parents or others have opened trust accounts with savings banks or have made settlements or established trusts under which the beneficiaries are persons under the age of 21 years. Frequently people who lend money on real estate do not care to make the advances direct to minors but make them through parents or trustees. The legislation now before us will give to young people who are so situated and who otherwise would be eligible under the Act an opportunity to obtain a grant.
Another interesting amendment, which previously was debarred, will be of benefit to a young couple who have purchased a block of land with the intention of building but who have been attracted by another proposition, have bought a home, and have found themselves in the situation where their savings are locked up in the block of land that they bought originally. The amendment is designed to enable them to have the money that was invested in the original purchase taken into consideration in determining the grant. A further interesting amendment is designed to liberalise the method by which the Department of Housing may assess the limit of £7,000 for capital expenditure. It is proposed that the Department, in assessing that sum, may take into account not the actual value of the land at the time of the transaction but the price at which the applicant purchased it, perhaps some years previously, the land having since appreciated in value to the extent that the value of the asset is taken beyond the limit of £7,000.
I hope that I have given a reasonably accurate description of the proposed amendments to the Act. This is a sphere of activity in which I have taken a great deal of interest, and naturally I read the Bill with some care. 1 have not any doubt at all that this legislation will make an already important contribution to home ownership in Australia even more important. We can proceed in a new sphere such as this only in the light of experience that has been gained, and I should not be surprised to find more amending legislation introduced a year or so hence.
The importance of this measure is emphasised when it is viewed against the background of the Commonwealth’s overall housing arrangements. We in Australia have as effective an arrangement for providing finance for home ownership as has any other country. The contribution made by the Commonwealth Government to home ownership is very extensive. That contribution commences with the Government’s own responsibility in regard to war service homes. It extends indirectly, through the Government’s banking powers, to the great sums of money that are held by the savings banks, a substantial portion of which is, under the banking legislation, invested in homes. From there it proceeds to the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which large sums of money are made available each year to the States at subsidised rates of interest, 30 per cent, of the sums having to be made available to building societies. Included in the Commonwealth’s contribution are Commonwealth grants for homes for aged persons. In the current sessional period we have passed legislation to set up a new government instrumentality to insure mortgage moneys advanced for home building, and now we have before us this amending homes savings grant legislation. I believe that the Commonwealth is making an effective contribution in the field of housing - a contribution which is evidence of the Government’s regard for housing programmes in Australia. Against that background, Mr. President, I have very great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
.- 1 believe that the two previous speakers in this debate have endeavoured to examine the Homes Savings Grant Act and the amendments thereto in a fairly objective manner. Each has presented the case as he sees it from his particular point of view. I think that Senator Cavanagh is to be commended for his approach to the proposed amendments to the principal Act and for his endeavours to obtain from the Government information which I believe is necessary for our guidance. Senator Sir William Spooner endeavoured to examine the Act and the proposed amendments objectively but it was very noticeable that he was inclined to stress the good features of the legislation. I would not like to be accused of failing to realise that it has good features. Senator Sir William Spooner endeavoured to highlight its good features and to gloss over its anomalies. He said that since its introduction the Act had been very successful. If that is so, why in less than 12 months has the Government found it necessary to introduce a Bill comprising 26 amendments? I believe that the amendments are necessary because the Act has not been as successful as the Government desired. I think Senator Sir William Spooner somewhat destroyed his own argument in that respect and that the 26 proposed amendments are necessary to correct anomalies which exist in the Act.
– They will make it even more successful.
– I sincerely hope that they do. If the amendments achieve that purpose, I will be quite happy with the legislation. Senator Sir William Spooner said that the Act probably will be back in the Senate within the next year or two. I sincerely hope that it is, within a short space of time, so that it may be further improved. As the Act is now framed, it is most complicated and quite a number of young couples who have lodged applications for grants have had their applications refused because of anomalies in the legislation.
I believe that the Act should be amended - as is planned - in respect of oral contracts, and this was mentioned by Senator Sir William Spooner. I shall quote one case out of a number that have come to my notice where assistance has been refused because of an anomaly in the legislation. A young fellow who lives in Lindisfarne, a suburb of Hobart, applied to the Hobart office of the Department of Housing for a grant and his application was refused under section 14 (f) (i) of the Act. The reason for refusal was the failure of the applicant to sign a contract for construction of a home by a building contractor. On 6th November 1964, 1 wrote the following letter to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) -
The circumstances surrounding this case are that Mr. Jackson entered into what may be determined as an agreement or arrangement with Mr. C. F. Moore, Building Contractor, Hobart (who, incidentally, is a cousin of Mr. Jackson), to do certain work on the construction of the dwelling to the value of £4,348, the remainder of the work to be done by Mr. Jackson, himself. The value of such work being somewhat less than £1,000.
It is clear that the cost of the home would be less than the maximum of 7,000 provided for in the Act. My letter continued -
That agreement or arrangement was signed by Mr. Moore but there is nothing to indicate that Mr. Jackson accepted such arrangement.
As the work has proceeded as arranged, i feel it could be conceded that Mr. Jackson has accepted the terms. The date of the arrangement was, i think, dated January, 1964. i have suggested that as the arrangement was entered into, this is proof that negotiations had taken place - and providing the building contract is now drawn up and signed, Mr. Jackson should receive the benefits of the Homes Savings Grant Act.
This proposal has been rejected by your Department (Hobart) on the grounds that the contract could not be made retrospective. Such an attitude is, in my opinion, wrong and defeating the purpose of the Act.
The Minister’s prompt reply, dated 13 th November 1964, repeated the advice of his office in Hobart, that there was nothing in writing between the parties and that the Act provides that there must be a signed contract before a grant of £250 can be made available. That anomaly will be corrected by one of the proposed amendments, I am pleased to say. On 24th
December 1964 the Minister again wrote to me and informed me there was a possibility that, upon the passing of the proposed amendments now before the Senate, the application I have referred to would automatically be reconsidered. However, he does not hold out any hope that Mr. Jackson’s application will be approved.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.Sir Alister McMullin) Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 April 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650407_senate_25_s28/>.