25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform the Senate of the death yesterday evening of Senator Robert Duncan Sherrington. Senator Sherrington was elected to the Senate for Queensland in 1961 and took his place in the Senate in July 1962. He served on the Printing Committee from August 1962 until August 1965. He had been ill for some time but his death was sudden and unexpected.
Senator Sherrington was dedicated to the service of the Liberal Party and for many years was associated with public affairs in North Queensland. Honorable senators will remember him for his continued advocacy in this chamber of the development of north Queensland. He had almost a lifetime of experience in the sugar industry in Queensland. For a number of years he was a sugar chemist and later a cane inspector. Eventually, he became a successful cane producer on the Burdekin River. He served his State well and was most active in the Young Liberal Movement. He was Chairman of the north Queensland zone of the Liberal Party from 1954 to 1959 and since May 1963 was Liberal State President for Queensland. His death is a loss to the Senate, to the Government and to Australia. We deeply regret his death and extend our sympathy to his widow and children. T move -
That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of Robert Duncan Sherrington, Senator for the State of Queensland, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty). I do so on behalf of all members of the Australian Labour Party in the Senate. They and 1 were distressed by the news of Senator Sherrington’s death last evening. The late senator was one who had the keenest appreciation of the privilege and honour of serving his State as a member of this chamber. He was a model of exemplary behaviour in the Senate. He was constancy in his place, showing at all times an absorbed interest in all that was done and said in the chamber.
Nothing illustrated the fine qualities of the late senator more than his behaviour during his last illness. Following its diagnosis as an incurable complaint, he and I talked together about it. He faced the situation with clear eyed understanding s-nd realism. There was no despair. Even though he knew the verdict, he submitted himself to painful treatments in the vain hope that a cure might be effected. We spoke of the inbuilt destructibility of every human being, of death as an integral and natural part of life itself. We spoke of the advantages of an affliction that gave notice of death, enabled temporal dispositions to be effected and gave time to focus one’s thoughts on eternity. We philosophised about suffering and the virtue of enduring it in expiation of one’s transgressions and peccadilloes. I feel free to mention this in the hope that it will be a consolation to us all that he had these thoughts and made that approach to his end.
Senator Sherrington’s outstanding characteristic was his manliness. He had a capacity for warm friendship, tolerance and understanding. One had only to look into his eyes to see honesty and rectitude looking right back at you. There is no need to mourn the passing of a man of that type. We mourn for ourselves. We mourn for his sorrowing relatives who have been deprived prematurely of his cheerful society.
During his illness he was frequently in Canberra and mixed freely with his fellows, preserving the normal tenor of life as far as possible. I am happy to learn that yesterday he had his most peaceful day for a long time and passed away quite painlessly. I had deep respect and warm regard for the late senator, as had all Opposition senators. We shall miss him, and it is a matter of regret to us that he was not here long enough for us to know him more intimately than we did. I extend to Government senators our sympathy in the loss of their colleague. I extend to his widow who gave him the most devoted attention during his long illness, as well as to his daughters, son and other relatives, our deepest sympathy in their sad bereavement.
– I wish to associate the Australian Country Party with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition. Although this event has been expected for some time, nonetheless it is quite tragic when it occurs. All of us well remember Senator Sherrington’s coming here out of loyalty to his party and loyalty to the Senate, when it was quite obvious that he was suffering considerable pain and disability. I think we all agree that his actions on such occasions were the most courageous that any of us could ever hope to witness. The Country Party extends its deepest sympathy to Mrs. Sherrington and the family.
– My colleague, Senator McManus, and J desire to be associated with this motion of condolence on the death of Senator Sherrington. It was my privilege to know him for many years - indeed, many years before he was successful at the Senate election in 1961. In that election I was a candidate and was narrowly defeated by Senator Sherrington. I knew him as a good townsman in the district in which he lived, a man who took a very active and fruitful interest in local affairs and in the industry with which he was associated. He followed keenly the politics of the State and the Commonwealth, and I believe that since he was honoured by having been elected to this Senate he served the people of Queensland in an admirable fashion.
There is a lot I could say about Senator Sherrington, but I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, in an excellent and beautifully worded tribute to him, covered all that I would desire to say.
– I also am deeply indebted and grateful to Senator McKenna for the things that he said. They are What I would have wished to say but he said them far more capably than I could. I think most senators here realise that the death of Senator Sherrington is to me a great personal loss, because Bob and I were very close friends. During the years that his health was good whilst he was here, we were quite frequently referred to as “ the terrible twins “, because of our very close association. Robert Sherrington was a very fine man. He was gruff and blunt, but a man of very great honour and integrity. We used quite often to argue and disagree, but at the finish, when I had disagreed with him, I always found that I was wrong. I do not speak only in respect of politics, but in respect of most things that affect us in life.
He served his Party with very groat distinction. I think he was the first sitting Liberal Party senator to be elected as State President of the Party in Queensland. He sat on the Federal Executive and Federal Council of our Party. He was for some time a member of the Rural Committee of the Party, and his advice on and knowledge of rural matters were invaluable to that body. He was one of the breed of tough, fighting and kindly Australians that is unfortunately dying out. He was a very devoted and kindly family man and was terribly proud of his son and daughters, lt was a delight to see him with his grandchildren, who literally adored , him. Despite his gruffness and blunt ness, the children worshipped him. To his wife Muriel - who certainly, as Senator McKenna has said, has very bravely carried a great burden over the last few months - and to all his loved ones, my wife Isla and I express our very great sympathy. He was a man that this Parliament, his Party and Australia can ill afford to lose.
– I wish to associate myself with the motion of condolence. I knew Senator Robert Sherrington for several yeaTs and found that he had a wide knowledge of the sugar industry. He was always willing to discuss the problems of that industry with any member of the Opposition or of the Government parties. He was always available, also, to the Government to give it the benefit of his advice. He was a forthright, sincere and friendly gentleman.
I saw him on many occasions over recent weeks. Occasionally we would enter the parking area at the rear of the parliamentary offices in Adelaide Street. Brisbane, and walk together from that point to our offices. It pained me to walk beside him and notice how he was suffering. Although the distance to be covered was only 60 or 70 yards, he was compelled to rest against a wall on four of five occasions before reaching the front entrance. I used to walk along slowly with him so that I could afford him some physical assistance if he required it. He had great fortitude of which I will always have a memory. He was an official of his Party in Queensland anc was widely respected. 1 offer to his widow, his children and his other relatives my sincerest sympathy.
– In joining the mover and seconder of the resolution and those who have spoken in memory of Senator Bob Sherrington, I find this an occasion of great personal grief. 1 am privileged to place on record my profound respect for his memory and to extend to his widow and sorrowing family my deepest sympathy in their bereavement. I have been deeply warmed by the sentiments expressed this morning, especially those of Senator McKenna. 1 am sure that the late Senator Sherrington’s wife and family will also be warmed by the sentiments expressed.
Bob Sherrington was a splendid husband and father. He gave to all his children an outstanding education which, in itself, I believe to be an achievement. Our lives were closely linked in the Queensland political arena for upwards of 20 years. While 1 was Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Liberal Party in Queensland, he first became a member of our Executive. He was Chairman of our Rural Committee for four years; Chairman of our North Queensland Zone for five years; Vice President of our Party in Queensland for five years; and, finally, was President of the Queensland division of our party for two years until the time of his death.
As has been said, Senator Sherrington commenced his career as a sugar chemist and worked his way through to becoming a cane inspector. Then he became the owner of one of the most progressive sugar properties in the Ayr district. He was also actively engaged in local progress association work. He was chairman of the Maidavale Progress Association for three years and Chairman of the Combined Progress Associations of the Ayr district for two years. I think all will agree that his knowledge of the sugar and cattle industries was thorough and most comprehensive and his work to assist those engaged therein will long be remembered by the scores of people whom he guided and helped.
During my years as Deputy Premier of Queensland, his advice and help were invaluable to me on many occasions. In giving this help, he did not spare himself In any degree. Throughout my own serious illness about three years ago he did not fail to prove his very deep loyalty as a friend. When I was sworn in as a senator two years ago, I was indeed proud to have him as one of my sponsors, and also to consult with him on the business of the Senate in which we had a mutual interest. The loss of Senator Sherrington’s wisdom, knowledge and friendship is a grave blow to this House, to his party and to Queensland, lt is an even more profound loss to his host of friends, and they extend from the Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf of Carpentaria throughout Australia. I think his memory will live for many years.
– I would like to join in paying tribute to the late Senator Sherrington whom I knew im many years. To all of us the knowledge is sure that death is inevitable, but never in my professional life have I seen a man who so calmly and with so much fortitude accepted that his end was, not only inevitable, but comparatively near. Many were the occasions when I saw him serving not only in the Senate in relation to his senatorial responsibility, but also attending his office and meeting the needs of the public as a Queensland senator. In addition, he accepted the responsibilities of the highest office in his Party in the State of Queensland.
I never saw him downhearted, even in comparatively recent weeks when he was receiving treatment and much pain was occasioned him. Never did I hear him complain. It was only incidental if he happened to mention his illness. Not one word of moaning came from his lips. As Senator Benn has said, he suffered a measure of real physical discomfort just in attending his office. Yet I do not know any other man who could be as cheerful as he was.
As has been outlined for many years he was prominent in the sugar industry. He had an extensive knowledge of the growing side of it associated with an unsurpassed technical knowledge of it. He served everyone well. Although he was blunt, sharp and direct in expressing his opinions, I never knew him to be rude to anyone. He was definite. He was quite clear about where he was going. He was quite clear in conveying to people his opinions in relation to his political, public and private responsibilities.
To his sorrowing widow and children, on behalf of my wife I pay tribute and. extend condolences. I should particularly like to convey to Mrs. Sherrington, his sorrowing widow, my personal appreciation of the extraordinary attention and kindness that she constantly extended to her husband in recent weeks with calmness and fortitude which equalled his calmness and fortitude.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in (heir places.
– I suggest Mr President, that, as a mark of respect, the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 2.1S p.m.
– I am sure that the suggestion meets with the approval of the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 1.1.22 a.m. to 2.15 p.m.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the many conferences between this Government and commercial and manufacturing interests in the community with the object of boosting the economy, I ask whether the Minister will arrange for the Prime Minister to meet representatives of the many pensioner organisations. I assure him of the pensioners’ desperate need due to the increased cost of living. Does he not agree that the greatest boost to the economy would be secured by making substantial increases in pensions, as such money would be spent immediately and thus would bring benefit to all sections of the community?
– -The Government has had at least two conferences a year with representatives of the manufacturing and commercial interests. These conferences have been of great benefit to the Government and to those interests themselves. In the discussions, we have been able to exchange ideas on the current condition of the economy. Manufacturers, in particular, have their order books which provide a very good index of what lies ahead. Access to them is of some value in assessing the state of the economy. I noticed that the honorable senator forgot to mention that we also have had conferences with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We always have conferences with the trade unions. He requested the Government to do something for the pensioners. I remind him that every year social service benefits receive deep consideration shortly before the Budget is presented. The record of this Government in the field of social services is beyond comparison with that of any other government in the history of the Commonwealth.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to a report which appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun NewsPictorial “ of 16th March and which stated that students representing the Sydney University A.L.P. Club, the Socialist Club and the Youth Campaign Against Conscription addressed a lunch hour meeting at the University of Sydney the day before? By way of preface, I point out that the report claimed that these clubs set out to advise students on ways and means of avoiding conscription and throwing the Department of Labour and National Service into confusion. Amongst other things it was alleged that they advised students, first, to duplicate names of friends and enemies on conscription cards; secondly, to burn conscription cards; and thirdly, to purposely fail the medical examination. Will the Minister ask his colleagues to investigate the matters raised in order to see whether any of the fraudulent practices recommended to the students by the A.L.P. Club, the Socialist Club and the Youth Campaign Against Conscription are being adopted and, if they are, what remedies are available against such practices?
– I saw the newspaper report of the incident to which the honorable senator has referred. I think it would be better if the question were placed on the notice paper so that my colleagues, the Minister tor Labour and National Service and the Attorney-General, both of whom are concerned in this matter, could give considered replies on whether, in fact, involved in this matter is incitement to make false declarations and to break the law and, if the law is being broken in any way. give a report on that, to the Senate.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister had an opportunity to s:udy the publication “ Directory of Overseas Investment “ which was issued du- ing the past week by the Department of Trade anc Industry and which sets forth an analysis of overseas equity holdings in Australian industries? Does he not agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the position gives cause for considerable alarm? What steps, if any, does the Government now propose to take to arrest this alarming and undesirable trend?
– I have not had an opportunity to study closely the overseas investment brochure to which the honorable senator refers. I certainly do not agree that there is any cause for alarm. Overseas investment has been of great assistance in the development of Australia. We have gained immensely in the manufacturing field from the assistance that has come in the form of capital, capital goods and the latest machinery and know-how. I, and I think any other Australian, would prefer to see in any industry some Australian component, but I repeat that not for one moment do I believe that there is any need for alarm at the present situation.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Egyptian Government has ever approached the Australian Government with a request to co-operate in the establishment of a war museum on the site of the battle of El Alamein to commemorate one of the most historic battles of the North African campaign of World War II? Following that battle the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force received outstanding commendations from Field Marshal . Alexander and Field Marshal Montgomery on the critically important role it played. If an approach was made, what was the outcome of the request? Would such a request, if made, receive favourable consideration?
– I read in the Press this morning about the matter to which the honorable senator has referred and it attracted my interest. I ascertained from the appropriate Department that a request has been received and that a report on the request is being considered. A decision is expected to be made in the very near future.
– A few months ago I think I could have answered this question and have given the honorable senator the names of the authors of the “ Yes “ case. As a certain amount of time has since passed, I am not in a position at the moment to give him those names. I shall obtain the names and see whether I can answer the question in the manner he desires.
– I ask the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation whether it is a fact that the estimates of that body for 1964-65 made provision for the establishment of a plant introduction centre in the Mount Barker area of Western Australia. Can the Minister inform me why this project was not carried out? Has the CS.I.R.O. given further consideration to continuing with its original plans for this much needed centre?
– I have not in my mind details of the estimates submitted to the Parliament for the CS.I.R.O. for the year referred to. I do not believe that the estimates as submitted to the Parliament did contain provision for the work which the honorable senator mentioned.
– I did not say that they were submitted to the Parliament.
– I understood the honorable senator to refer to the estimates for the C.S.I.R.O.
– To the best of my recollection, the estimates for the C.S.I.R.O. which we saw did not contain anything of this kind. The whole question as to what should be done in this area has been the subject of discussion by the C.S.I.R.O. and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. They believe that the best work that can be done there is concerned with the establishment, nutrition and growth of the perennial grasses which are at present in the area rather than with trying to experiment with and establish new grasses. Both organisations are working along those lines in collaboration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. When can the Senate expect an authoritative statement on the respective status of General Suharto and President Sukarno in the current power struggle in Indonesia?
– I do not think I can either answer that question or suggest that it be placed on notice. The situation in the area is obviously quite fluid. I do not think that speculation on it could actually help us or advance our knowledge.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In the statement on softwood planting, which was presented to the Senate yesterday, the Minister said -
Following its investigations, the Forestry Council estimated that an area of more than four million acres could be made available for planting softwoods without encroaching on the better areas of the hardwood forests.
I now ask: Of the four million acres referred to, how many acres in this estimate relate to Queensland?
– I was very interested indeed in the report of the Australian Forestry Council. I was particularly interested in the assistance which the Commonwealth is giving by way of a grant to all of the States to increase the afforestation of softwoods within each State. I think this is a forward move. It will be of great benefit to the States and will assist Australia in providing its own softwoods, lt is a great leap forward. I was interested in the details of this proposal because my own State of Tasmania will benefit from it if the State Government accepts the offer of the Commonwealth Government. I took note of the acreages. To the best of my knowledge, there are to be about 400,000 acres in Queensland. I do not think that the Forestry Council has yet decided on the type of softwood for Queensland. There has been some divergence of view on the best type of softwood to grow there, but I am reasonably sure that Queensland is to have an acreage of 400,000.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Housing. I ask: Will the Minister review the decisions of former Ministers for Housing that excluded Salvation Army personnel who had served on active service from receiving benefits under the War Service Homes Act, and afford benefits to them as some recognition of their valuable service and preparedness to face dangers during the Second World War?
– As honorable senators will realise, this is a matter of policy. I cannot discuss it in answer to a question in the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Would the Minister be good enough to advise the Senate on the progress of the Organisation’s researches into ways and means of preventing water evaporation, especially on large surfaces? Are special investigations taking place in relation to the evaporation that undoubtedly will occur at the Chowilla dam in South Australia?
– The C.S.I.R.O. has been carrying out experiments in general on the saving of loss of water through evaporation and has brought the research to the point where it is clear that the dusting of a chemical, which I think is cetyl alcohol, on large areas of stored water will save up to 15 per cent, of the water which would otherwise evaporate, and will save it at the negligible cost of from lc to 5c or 6c per one thousand gallons of water saved. This is for larger areas. Experiments with smaller areas have not reached the stage where it is possible to say what the results will be. No special investigations have been carried out on the Chowilla dam, but the work which has been done applies to ail large surfaces and would no doubt be of use to those concerned with the Chowilla dam.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Last week the Minister, in reply to a question asked by Senator Cohen in regard to tertiary education, stated - lt has been argued quite extensively in academic circles that the mere completion of the secondary form of education does not of itself indicate an ability to properly pursue a tertiary education course.
Will the Minister indicate who won the argument? Which universities agree with his statement? If any university does agree with that statement, what are the additional criteria necessary to enable a student to qualify for entrance to a university? Finally, why do universities demand and in fact set a standard for a matriculation examination?
– Quite a number of vice-chancellors of universities and other academics have made it clear that they agree, not with my statement, but with the statement clearly set out in the report of the Martin Committee on Tertiary Education which has been presented to and debated by this Parliament. I refer to the particular statement in that report which says that the present so-called matriculation examination - and this is a misnomer, incidentally, because a matriculation examination, properly so-called, is one set by a university for entrance to that university - is supposed to do two things which no examination can be expected to do properly. This is the view of the Martin Committee on this matter.
One of the things a matriculation examination is supposed to do is to give a clear indication that the person sitting for the examination has reached a standard that is equal to the successful completion of a secondary education. The other thing a matriculation examination is supposed to do is to show that such a person has reached a standard that will make it very likely that be will successfully conclude tertiary education. A matriculation examination cannot be expected to meet these two tests. That is the view of the Martin Committee. This view has been expounded and agreed to by a number of academics. I do not have their names in my mind but. if the honorable senator is interested in this matter no doubt by search through newspapers he will see where these people have made such public statements.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: In view of the importance of the Ord River scheme to northern development, can the Minister advise me whether it is a fact that this year’s cotton crops on the Ord River are expected to yield far heavier returns than the crops did last year? Will this result confirm the economic success of the scheme? When can we expect a favorable reply to the application by the Western Australian Government for financial assistance to complete the main scheme?
– I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice paper as I think the Minister for National Development should reply to it. I myself have no knowledge of the estimate of the cotton crop on the Ord River this year.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. In answer to Senator Davidson, the Minister said that the C.S.I.R.O. had a chemical that would save 1 5 per cent, of the water lost through evaporation over a large area. I ask the Minister: Will he procure for me any data on the subject as he knows F would be interested in it in another sphere?
– I shall most definitely obtain from the CS.I.R.O. the data on the experiments that have been carried out so fl:ai this information can be applied to the Albert Park Lake. However, I want to make it perfectly clear that the cetyl alcohol would have to be bought by the Albert Park Trust.
– My question to the Minister for Housing relates to the additional $15 million which the Commonwealth proposes to make available to the Slates under the Commonwealth and state Housing Agreement to stimulate home building this financial year. When will this amount be made available to the States? On what basis will the allocations be made? What amount will South Australia receive?
– I think the honorable senator will recall the Treasurer’s statement which I read in the Senate yesterday. The amount to be made available to the States will be made available commencing immediately in the hope that the number of approvals, and consequently the number of completed houses, will increase substantially in the first half of the year. This proposal shows the Government’s very real appreciation of needs in the housing field. I remind the Senate that the Treasurer stated that the additional finance would be made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which provides that 70 per cent, of the funds allocated shall go to housing commissions and not less than 30 per cent, to home builders’ accounts. I believe that the proposal will provide an important stimulus towards finding a solution of the problem in housing which has confronted the Government for some time. I point out that the Government is aware of the need for more houses. I believe the Government’s action in this instance will result in a much improved home building programme in this country of ours.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It relates to the iron ore industry. Is the Minister aware of the expressed intention of the New Zealand Government to retain a 25 per cent, equity in the proposed iron ore industry now under examination in that country? What is the primary reason why such an attitude cannot be adopted by Australia, in a manner consistent with that of the Chifley Labour Government when establishing the Bell Bay aluminium industry in co-operation with the Cosgrove Labour Government in Tasmania?
– I am sorry that I have not the mind of the New Zealand Government. If the honorable senator wishes to pursue this matter he should put his question on the notice paper. If he does so, 1 will ask the Minister for National Development to give him a reply, provided of course that the Minister has the mind of the New Zealand Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. As most honorable senators are aware, one of the great problems in land development is the cost of ringbarking and dealing with regrowth, but it appears that there has been a spectacular breakthrough by the use of a newly discovered and patented poison to kill regrowth and, incidentally, grown trees. Will the Minister have his officers, in conjunction with officers of the Department of Primary Industry, investigate” this new aid to land development with a view to its production, advertisement and subsequent distribution throughout the Commonwealth to all people who are battling with this great problem?
– I will find out more about this poison for the honorable senator but I point out that it is not the function of the CS.I.R.O. to contribute towards the production or distribution of any of these things. The function of the CS.I.R.O. is to carry out research, to discover what some substance will do towards destroying unwanted weed or timber growth and then to make that knowledge available to the State Governments or to whoever may have the responsibility of applying that knowledge. If the honorable senator will tell me the name of the poison - I do not know what it is - I will find out about it for him, but I can promise no more than that.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Will the Minister state whether the Government has rejected the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Television whose report was tabled in the Papua and New Guinea House of Assembly on 7th March 1966? If the report has not been rejected, will the Minister state when instructional television in particular is expected to begin in the Territory and whether the recommended priorities for establishment of instructional television in the Southern Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Madang, Morobe, Sepik and Western Highlands, in that order, will be adopted?
– I do not even know whether the report has been presented to the Commonwealth Government, although I doubt it. In saying that, I distinguish between the Commonwealth Government and the House of Assembly. I suggest, however, that the honorable senator put the question on the notice paper so that he may get a considered reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister seen a report that a committee of the Congress of the United States of America has criticised the South Vietnamese Government for failing to give more help to refugees, estimated to number one million, who are now existing in South Vietnam as a result of the bitter struggle in that country? In view of their poverty, hopelessness and despair, caused by the horrible war that is being fought on their soil, will the Australian Government be prepared to place the case of these people for more aid before the United Nations Organisation and its agencies?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred but there is no doubt that, quite apart from the one million refugees who originally left North Vietnam to escape Communism and are living in South Vietnam, some hundreds of thousands of refugees have left zones which have been temporarily occupied by the Vietcong in order to escape from the repressions of the Vietcong. These people have been resettled in other parts of Vietnam. If the honorable senator will let me know where he saw the report I will study it and refer it to the Minister for External Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Postmaster-General acknowledge the hardships suffered by blind citizens to the extent of granting in the next Budget an application made on their behalf for a reduction of 17 per cent, in telephone rentals and thus make it easier for these unfortunate people to maintain communication with friends, relatives and business houses? It is very difficult for them to move about because of their disabilities.
– The provision of concessions in the Budget is clearly a matter of policy. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice paper 1 will refer it to the Postmaster-General.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation when projected plans for the improvement of airport facilities at Townsville would be completed. Has the Minister obtained the information?
– Maintenance works on the existing apron at Townsville are expected to be commenced in April and should be completed by the middle of 1966. The expenditure involved is about $20,000. A new concrete apron to accommodate jet aircraft will be commenced in the second half of this year and completed early in 1967. The cost is approximately $200,000.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I preface it by pointing out that there is a tendency for the defence forces to try to put square pegs into round boles. I can cite a private example of my own son, who has a private pilot’s licence and was allocated to the Army when he was called up for national service. Can the Minister give a guarantee that national service trainees who have qualified for their commercial pilots’ licences will not be used as infantry men? I ask this question seriously because there is a case of a boy in Launceston who has a commercial pilot’s licence and has already been called up.
– I doubt whether this is a question for the Minister for Labour and National Service because, although he is responsible for administering the call-up and providing national servicemen to the armed forces, the forces then decide the use that they will make of the manpower available. I shall find out to which Minister this question ought to be referred. I think it is probably the Minister for Defence.
(Question No. 786.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
It is understood that some organisations do seek donations from intending residents of the home. Providing the donation becomes its absolute property and is not subject to legal rights of occupancy or repayment, it may form part of the organisation’s funds for the purpose of attracting the Commonwealth subsidy.
– 1 present the following paper -
Report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee covering the period from June 1962 to November 1965.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection leave is granted.
– In pursuance of its function of advising the Commonwealth Government, through the Prime Minister, on matters concerning the effects of ionising radiation on the Australian community, the N.R.A.C., reviewed during 1965 those matters studied by the Committee since it presented its previous report in July 1962. In its present report the Committee has concentrated its attention on fallout from nuclear tests. An assessment is made of the possible effects on health in Australia of fallout from all tests conducted to date. Proposals by France to conduct weapons tests in the South Pacific Ocean in the near future have also been considered and possible effects on health in Australia evaluated.
On the question of hazards arising from those tests already conducted, fallout monitoring programmes have continued over the Australian continent since the Committee’s last report in 1962, and the Committee has accordingly had at its disposal a most extensive body of data on the levels of fallout radioactivity in Australia. The report presents these facts lucidly and in lay language. Appendices to the report give the detailed technical information. Having reviewed all of the information available to it, the Committee sees no reason to amend its previous conclusion that there is no significant hazard to the health of the
Australian population now or in the future as a result of past nuclear tests.
The French Government will probably commence later this year the testing of nuclear weapons on a site being established for this purpose in the South Pacific Ocean, some 4,000 miles east of Australia. It is expected that at first the tests will involve only low yield nuclear weapons but later megaton weapons will be included. In assessing the possible position in Australia the Committee had available an analysis of the problem prepared by the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee. The National Radiation Advisory Committee is satisfied that the proposed weapons tests are unlikely to lead to a significant health hazard in Australia. I might add that this assessment is supported by the report received from Professor E. W. Titterton and Mr. J. R. Moroney of their discussions with the French authorities in Paris last December in regard to the safety measures being undertaken by the French.
The major programmes for monitoring fallout in Australia are carried out under the direction of the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee; much of this work features in the Report now before you. The National Radiation Advisory Committee, being familiar with these current programmes and also with those to be implemented in relation to the proposed French tests, believes that they are adequate to provide for thorough assessment of the situation in Australia. The measurement and analysis which must be made to provide reliable information on these low levels of radioactivity is an exacting and slow process and, obviously, we cannot expect useful statements of fallout levels to be made on a day-to-day basis. However, honorable senators can be assured that adequate monitoring programmes will be implemented on a continuing basis to keep a check on the level of radioactive fallout following future tests.
Reports on Items.
. -I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Glass grains (Ballotini).
Peanuts, peanut oil and olive oil.
I also present reports by the Tariff Board on -
Copper and brass strip, etc.
Garage and workshop test equipment, and
Phenol formaldehyde moulding material (Dumping and Subsidies Act). which do not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leave - The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is leaving Australia this weekend to lead the Australian delegation to the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East meeting which will open in New Delhi on 22nd March and he will subsequently go to Rome to preside over a meeting of all the Australian Heads of Mission from our posts in Africa. This meeting of Heads of Mission will afford an opportunity to the Government to receive from its own representatives an up-to-date assessment of the present and prospective situation in Africa.
While in India the Minister will have the opportunity of meeting the President, the new Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of India and of discussing with them matters of common concern. The Indian Government has invited him to be their official guest during the period of his stay outside attendance at the E.C.A.F.E. meeting. On his way to Rome he will take the opportunity of paying an official visit to Israel and to Greece, again with the main purpose of meeting the Foreign Ministers of those countries and of having discussion with our own Ambassadors.
As the Minister for External Affairs was required to make the visits I have mentioned, the Prime Minister has taken advantage of his presence overseas to ask him to make a special visit to Washington, the United Nations headquarters at New York, and London in order to continue the highlevel discussions with our allies concerning the situations which we are facing in Asia and the trends of policy and to pursue the contacts we have with countries interested in the region and with the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. On his way home he will complete this particular round of discussion by calling at Wellington in order to talk with the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs of New Zealand.
During the absence of the Minister, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who ordinarily represents him in this chamber, will act as Minister for External Affairs. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) will deal with matters affecting the External Affairs portfolio in the House of Representatives.
Message received from the House of Reppresentatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connection with the Foreign Affairs Committee -
That Mr. Malcolm Fraser be discharged -from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That until such time as Opposition members of the House of Representatives are nominated to serve on the Committee, Mr. Bowen be a member of the Committee.
– I have received a letter from Senator Scott tendering his resignation from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1963, Senator Branson bc appointed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Debate resumed from 16th March 1966 (vide page 61), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On behalf of the Opposition I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ but the Senate is of opinion that the financing of the purchase of aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission and Qantas Empire Airways Limited should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas “.
This Bill is similar to two measures passed in 1964 which also permitted borrowing overseas by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. and the Australian National Airlines Commission. In this instance, the legislation is to authorise the borrowing of SUS54 million by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas
Empire Airways Ltd. and as in the other case, on behalf of the other airline. The Opposition approves of money being made available for Qantas to maintain and extend its services. Qantas is a public corporation. It is the instrument through which the Commonwealth engages in the international airlines industry. It is socialism in practice, lt is a successful business venture and we think that its success will continue. Wc criticise the method of financing this great public enterprise by borrowing from private overseas financiers. Who are these financiers? Their names are set out in the Bill, where it is stated that the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York is acting as agent on behalf of itself and a number of other corporations. From that company we are to borrow $14 million; The Chase Manhattan Bank (National Association) is to lend $14 million; Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company $7 million; Chemical Bank New York Trust Company $4 million; Irving Trust Company $4 million; United California Bank $4 million; Northern Trust Company $3 million; Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association $2 million; and the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago $2 million.
When a corporation such as Qantas needs money, it is necessary, first, to examine what avenues are available through which to raise that finance. The obvious avenues, apart from using the public credit of the community, through the Commonwealth Bank or its ancillaries, are the international agencies. We are not in the position of a private person. We are a sovereign country. We have a government and we have entered into international arrangements with other sovereign governments to set up world banking corporations to deal with exactly this kind of situation. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has a charter which enables it to lend money for purposes such as that covered by this legislation. In the past it has lent a great deal of money for the purposes of reconstruction and development, particularly in the field of transportation. Its most recent annual report shows that there has been an increasing trend towards member countries borrowing money from it for the purpose of engaging in the maintenance or extension of their transportation activities. So here is an obvious avenue.
Is the money really available? It is available because we have previously approached the Bank and borrowed money for this very purpose. That was done some years ago, as is shown in the annual report for the financial year 1964-65, which was presented by the former Treasurer under the International Monetary Agreements Acts. On page 4 of that report, under the heading “ International Bank for Reconstruction and Development “, we read -
Seven loans aggregating $417,730,000 have been arranged under loan agreements with the International Bank. Drawings under these agreements were used for the purchase of specified imports for various Australian industries except for the loan of November 1956, which was used solely for the purchase of aircraft and equipment for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., and the loan of January 1962, the proceeds of which are being made available in Australian currency to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
Here we have an international bank - a bank set up by a number of governments of which the Australian Government is one - with money available for purposes such as this. We have need of money. Yet we have not approached that bank for this money.
– For what year was that report?
– -The loan for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. was in 1956. The report is for the financial year 1964-65.
– Would not such a loan come within the category of a loan raised overseas?
– Of course it would. I am dealing first with the general matter of the avenues available to this Government for financing such a project. Here is one obvious avenue. No answer has been forthcoming from the Government on why an approach was not made to the Bank. If an approach was made, we have not been told why the Bank rejected the application.
If we participate with other governments in the setting up of a truly international bank for purposes such as this, surely we should endeavour to encourage its activities by approaching it, where necessary. If we have to borrow from overseas, should we not have the money available in our own reserves, surely the first body to approach is the International Bank. The Australian Government is not a private person. Australia should not be approaching private bankers for a purpose such as this. One would think that the obvious approach would be to the international governmental bank. But such an approach was not made and no reason is forthcoming as to why it was not made.
– What would be the advantage?
Senator MURPHY__ Senator Turnbull asks me what advantage there would be in approaching the International Bank. First, we would be dealing with governments and an inter-governmental corporation. If governments will be needing money from time to time for various purposes, it is important that there should be an agency which they can approach. I have in mind purposes such as providing equipment for Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. and financing the projects of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. If governments are to retain the advantages of international banking facilities, we must use the existing facilities. As in the case of any other facility, banking facilities must be used if they are to be effective. So I give that .answer in the first place. We should not ignore the agency that we helped to create. The use of that agency will mean that its operations can be maintained and extended. One would think that, if we have to go overseas for money, the approach ought not to be made to private bankers of the kind I have referred to. That is the first criticism that I make of this measure.
The next relates to the fact that the Government has stated that its reason for introducing this measure is that it believes it must take advantage of whatever opportunities arise to borrow overseas at reasonable rates of interest in order to strengthen our reserves or to arrest the rate at which they are declining. That is an extraordinary statement. Here we have a great Commonwealth of approximately 12 million people, who are occupying a continent. We have a great international airline. The amount involved here is a mere $54 million. Yet the Government comes into this chamber and says: “ Unless we run around the world in order to raise from private persons sums such as this sum of $54 million, which in the national context are paltry, we will be in trouble. We need to do this to strengthen our reserves or to arrest the rate at which they are declining.” Such an attitude is simply not acceptable. We have reserves which are vastly in excess of the sums that are involved in this loan, whether we think of the principal of $54 million or of the interest, which is likely to be $25 million or $30 million.
Some very restrictive conditions are set forth in the loan agreement. One of these is section 7, which reads -
The Commonwealth represents and warrants that there has been no material adverse change in the financial, economic or political conditions of the Commonwealth from the conditions set forth in the Prospectus dated November 9, 1965 relating to the Commonwealth’s Twenty Year Si per cent. Bonds Duc November 1, 1985.
One would think that a sovereign government such as the Australian Government would not be prepared to accept such a condition. It is not consistent with the dignity of this Commonwealth that it should have to represent such matters to private bankers overseas. No sovereign country should ever have to put itself in the position where, in order to borrow a sum of money which is small in the national context, it has to agree to conditions of the kind that are imposed by a money lender upon a private person.
I have mentioned that section because I went to the trouble of obtaining the prospectus which is referred to in it. The prospectus contains some interesting material. lt shows that Australia’s situation, in relation to its balance of payments position on current account, is certainly a somewhat serious one. Over the last five years there has been a deficit balance on current account. For the year ending 30th June 1961, the deficit balance was £368 million and for the next year it was £1 million. For the year ending 30th June 1963 it was £238 million, for the next year it was £30 million and for (he year ending 30th June 1965 it was £392 million. The following comment is made in this interesting document -
As shown in the preceding table, Australia has in recent years normally had deficits in its current transactions with the United States and Canada, with the United Kingdom and with Other NonSterling Countries, but surpluses with Other Sterling Area and Common Market countries as a group, with Japan and with the U.S.S.R. and China (Mainland). Australia’s deficit resulting from trade and other current transactions with the United States and Canada has been financed mainly from private capital inflow and public authority borrowing supplemented, when _ necessary, by calling on holdings of gold and foreign exchange.
In the post-war years there has been a considerable inflow of capital from the dollar area, mainly in the form of private investment from the United States, loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and public and private loans arranged by the Commonwealth. There was an inflow of £410 million of United States and Canadian investment in companies in Australia between June 1959 and June 1964.
The prospectus, in a further section, sets out Australia’s international reserves. From a study of these reserves, it appears that there is no justification whatever for the Government’s statement that it is necessary to borrow this money in the way contemplated by this Bill in order to stabilise the reserves. The international reserves consist of holdings of gold and foreign exchange, the latter being mainly sterling invested for the most part in short term British Government treasury bills. The prospectus shows that the reserves were £551 million as at 30th June 1961, £561 million as at 30th June 1962, £626 million as at 30th June 1963, £854 million as at 30th June 1964 and £696 million as at 30*h June 1965. Although there has been some fluctuation during the five year period, the international reserves as at 30th June 1965, and indeed as at 29th September 1965, were considerably in excess of the reserves some five years ago.
The situation as at the end of 1965 was that the total reserves were $1,278 million. In addition, we had potential drawing rights on the International Monetary Fund of $589 million. So, using banking jargon, we had both first and ‘second line reserves of $1,867 million. It is against this background that the Opposition, as I have indicated in the amendment which I have moved, criticises the Government on the basis that the amount required should be met from revenue and not from a loan raised overseas. I do say that, if we decline to approach the International Bank which we have helped to set up and if we consider borrowing money otherwise, we ought to obtain the amount from revenue. We have strong first and second lines of reserves. Why should we not avail ourselves of those reserves instead of committing ourselves to this kind of arrangement with private bankers overseas? We ought to be all the more concerned to ‘see thai ‘we avoid the pitfall represented by overseas control in this community because of the situation which is disclosed in that prospectus.
Despite what has been said here even today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty), there is great alarm in Australia at the degree of overseas control of commerce and industry in this community. That control is increasing. It is causing concern not only to the members of this Opposition but also to the manufacturing and commercial interests which see the approach of a situation such as occurred in Canada. The economy in Canada was controlled to such a degree by outside interests that even the political activities of the country were not entirely under the Government’s control. As is well known, this situation led to a great clash between the Ministers in Canada and the Government of the United States of America. We see dangers in the finance of Australia, particularly of public enterprise, being dealt with in such a way that we become dependent upon finance from international sources which are not public in the sense of the International Bank and the other parts of the world banking system. This country ought to insist upon the banking requirements being dealt with by the International Bank. If the resources of that bank are not sufficient to meet our problem, then we ought to raise this matter. We ought to see that the international banking facilities are sufficient. The position of our country is that we have an airline that is viable, successful, stable and secure. In this state of affairs, why should we have to be in the situation where we must go to private bankers overseas for finance?
– What does it matter whether it is public or private money?
– It matters a great deal. First, 1. will deal with it on the political basis. We object to a public enterprise being financed from private sources. This is the argument which in essence divides us. We think that it is utterly wrong that the future of our country and its national development should depend on raising money from sources such as this. Apart from that which divides u? on political grounds in, perhaps the- narrow sense, there is a wider ground, too. The Government should see that Austral i i uses the international agencies which are available to provide finance or that we ss-j that those agencies are extended and built up to meet the requirements of countries such as ours.
– International Socialism.
– The honorable senator says international Socialism in a jocular vein. This is exactly what is coming about in the world. It is inevitable. This will happen no matter whether the Opposition or the present Government is in power. Inevitably, month after month, year after year, we are in 3 situation where we are having to accept these things because they are obviously in the public interest. It is in the public interest that there be Socialism in international banking, lt is so inescapable . that the Government has accepted the proposition. The Government has acted on it. All we say is that the Government should carry it out to the full, having recognised that this is in the public interest. We do not attack the Government for doing this at all. We say that to this extent the Government has acted properly in the interests of the country. What we say is that, having seen that this is so, the Government should go further and follow this principle to the full and that the Government, having seen that something is proper, should not be mean and limited about it.
What the Government should do is to adopt this principle in fuH measure so that other developing countries may have made available to them, as we should have made available to us, world credit from a governmental agency. If we do not do so, let us use the resources which we have. We have international resources which are quite sufficient to cover a small sum such as this. There is no doubt about that fact. Our resources are quite sufficient to cover the raising of this amount. Why, then, should we not use our own resources? After all, the money has to be paid back at some stage. The Government does not escape the repayments. If the Government adopts the policy set out in the Bill, it means that we are going to be paying back principal and interest and there will be a drain on our reserves as we repay that money over the years.
When sums of money such as this are paid overseas by way of interest, we say that there is no return to the Australian Treasury. It is not as if. the money was raised internally and the Government was able to say that portion of whatever was paid in interest would come back to it by way of taxation or by other means through which it would be filtered back into the funds of the community. We believe that the Government is continuing with the policy of going round the world borrowing from Swiss financiers, British financiers, and United States financiers. The Government is borrowing relatively small sums on conditions set out in agreements which are not consistent with the dignity of the Government. We say that, failing recourse to the International Bank, we ought to be able to face up to the situation and say: “ This is the kind of project on which we are prepared to use our resources.” What other project is there which is more important? What are our reserves for if not to be used for activities such as this? This is the notion of reserves. A country has reserves which arc there to meet the commitments that are essential. Here is a commitment which is essential and which will enable us to make further moneys. Surely it is more important to use our reserves in a project such as this - the maintenance and extension of our international airline - than it is to use our reserves for all sorts of other things.
– On that argument, can the honorable senator see a reduction of the reserves in the next 12 months due to drought?
– The implication of the question is that our reserves may reduce to such a point that it would be dangerous for us to reduce them now by some $54 million for the purpose I suggest. If that is so, then the situation is so critical that the Government which the honorable senator supports should be facing up to it and seeing what restrictions can be placed on other commodities, not on finance for the international airline. A great number of imports at present coming into this country should be cut off, if we want to save our reserves, before cutting off the funds which should be made available to the international airline. To us, the argument is unanswerable. We have reserves which we consider to be substantial, but if they are not substantial the Government should be doing something about them.
This is not one of the activities which should be precluded from the use of our reserves, when there are obviously so many others upon which the reserves are being frittered away.
The Government cannot have it both ways. If we are in this dangerous and critical position, why does not the Government face up to it and fell the people the true story instead of coming forward with all kinds of ministerial statements which are full of soothing syrup and designed to make us believe that everything is all right? If everything is all right, we can finance this great public project out of our own funds, which are supported by our international reserves. If everything is not all right, the Government is deceiving the people of this country.
For those reasons I have proposed the amendment standing in my name, which indicates that while we do not object to funds being raised to enable Qantas to carry on its activities, we do object to the method by which they are being raised. We believe they should be raised from the current account. To do anything else is not consistent with the economic situation as the Government pretends it to be.
– I second the motion moved by Senator Murphy and shall attack the Loan Agreement on the same lines as he has done. The Bill proposes that we raise $54 million - maybe. The Government and the airlines are in such a confused state as a result of the Government’s activities that neither of them even knows the amount of money that they want to borrow. It may be $40 million, it may be $47 million, it may be $54 million. This legislation is typical of that which the Government presents to the Senate. Senator Murphy was quite right when he accused the Government of not handling the finances of this country in a proper manner.
The agreement provides for a rate of interest approximating 5i per cen*. for the period of the loan. This means that something like $25 million, in addition to the principal borrowed, will have to be repaid. If we are so worried about the run down in our overseas reserves that we cannot afford to take $40 million out of them to purchase these, aircraft, can we afford over the long term- rover the life of these aircraft - to take out $70 million? That is what the proposal amounts to. This is the kind of financing in which the Government indulges. Senator Mattner is interjecting. Lel me point out to him that the Government side apparently has not a speaker to defend the proposal. Why did not the honorable senator place his name on the list of speakers? There are plenty of opportunities for him to state his views. Instead of butting in. let him place his name on the list of speakers and speak up.
Clause 5 of the Bill indicates tint the rate of interest to be paid by the airlines to the Government will not necessarily be 51 per cent. The relevant words are - . . the Treasurer may. on behalf of the Commonwealth, lend to the Commission and to that company, respectively, upon such terms and conditions as he determines, such amounts as are, in the aggregate, equivalent to the moneys borrowed under the Lean Agreement.
Although the Commonwealth Government will, on behalf of the airlines, borrow $54 million at a rate of interest approximating 5i per cent., the airlines may have to pay interest of 7 per cent., which, according to the Government is a reasonable rate. 1 well remember when the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) was Treasurer that he made a speech about setting up a housing loans insurance scheme. On that occasion he said that companies would be asked to lend money at a reasonable rate of interest, and the reasonable rate of interest turned out to be 7 per cent. So it is likely that the two airlines will be asked to pay 7 per cent, on the money which is being borrowed on their behalf. In addition to this, as from 15th November last we have to pay onehalf per cent, commitment interest. This will be loaded on to the airlines because it is unlikely that the Government, having regard to the way in which it has handled financial matters over the years, will pay it.
An examination of the Agreement reveals that we have no right to spend as we wish the money we are borrowing. To avoid the United States equalisation tax, we are bound by the Agreement to buy goods manufactured by America. We nave no rights in the matter. The Opposition believes that if we used our overseas reserves we could shop around for the best types of aircraft and perhaps obtain them at a lower price because we would be in a position to bargain with the manufacturers. Although I travel in Boeing 727’s I am not satisfied that this is the best type of aircraft available. Boeing 727’s have been involved in four crashes and part of an engine fell out of one only yesterday. Yet we have been told that this type of aircraft is quite safe. The DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation went to the United States to attend an inquiry into the crashes and returned with a story that the fault is not in the aircraft but in the training of the pilots. I repeat that I am not satisfied this is the best type of aircraft available, yet under the terms of the Agreement we will be bound to purchase aircraft manufactured in America. We on this side of the House do not believe that a deal of this kind is necessary or advisable. We believe we should use our reserves and purchase aircraft outright.
asked Senator Murphy certain questions about our balance of payments. He wanted to know whether our reserves would be in danger if we took the miserable sum of $54 million out of them. For Senator Wright’s information, I point out that $54 million represents approximately 21 per cent, of our present first and second line overseas reserves. Apart from the advice that we can obtain for ourselves, we on this side of the chamber have to rely on official documents published by government instrumentalities. On page 49 of the Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin dealing with the Australian balance of payments the Government’s advisers have this to say -
There is no thought here of setting down a balance of payments forecast for some future year. A substantial surplus could be shown on the basis of assumptions which could be advanced quite plausibly; conversely a substantial deficit could be shown on assumptions perhaps just as plausible. The most it has been intended to say is that, while concern about the balance of payments will bo our normal lot, there is not in our economic situation anything to suggest a continuing long-term slate of external imbalance.
That is the advice that we get from the Treasury and we accept it for the purposes of this argument. I might argue in another debate that this is an over optimistic statement, but for the purposes of this debate I say that the Treasury is satisfied that there is not an external imbalance. Therefore, we say, an expenditure of 24 per cent, of our overseas balances for the purchase of these aircraft, to avoid interest and to allow us to purchase in whatever market we want to purchase the aircraft, is not too much to ask of this Government.
What is the state of our external balances on first and second line reserves? At 31st December 1965 the deficit in the balance of payments over the preceding 18 months had reduced gold and foreign exchange holdings to $1,278 million. Meanwhile, potential drawing rights on the International Monetary Fund had increased to $589 million bringing total reserves, first and second line, to $1,867 million. That is approximately $US2,000 million. We want to borrow $US54 million. We are told that we cannot avoid it. We have been asked what reserves are for. I believe that this Government thinks that reserves have only one purpose, that is, that they shall stand as a buffer between the Government’s stop and go policy and bankruptcy. That is all that the Government uses these reserves for. When it stops the economy, it uses the reserves to keep us in balance and when it lets the economy go again the balance of payments builds up. This appears to me to be the only purpose for which the Government considers overseas reserves should be held. But we are of a different opinion. We believe that in times like these we should use the overseas balances for the purpose of financing our public enterprises.
We add to this optimistic statement the statement of the Prime Minister. He is constantly telling the people that there is no cause for alarm, yet practically every business director in Australia is warning the Government about the economic situation. The Prime Minister smooths it over and tells the people that our economic situation is quite good. We must not forget that even though he stands in the shadow of the great white father, he has just forsaken the Treasury portfolio and should have brought with him a fair idea of the economic situation. If we take the two statements together for the purposes of this debate, there is no cause for pessimism in respect of the balance of payments. It has been said in another place that the purchase of these aircraft will allow Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. to earn overseas funds for Australia and allow Trans-Australia Airlines to earn profits for the Commonwealth Government. It must not be forgotten that T.A.A. must pay the dividend prescribed by the Minister.
Profit must be made after all other commitments are met and if T.A.A. has to pay back principal and interest in respect of this loan the ‘amount of income that it must earn to pay the dividend determined by the Minister will have to be ever so much higher. Does this mean that there is an intention in the mind of the Government to increase air fares? There is pressure by Ansett-A.N.A. all the time for an increase in air fares, and if T.A.A. is unable to comply with the Minister’s direction in respect of declaring a dividend it will have to go along to the Minister and ask for an increase in fares. This will impose a greater burden on the Australian people.
– What rate of interest does Ansett-A.N.A. have to pay on the market for the money that it borrows?
– If the ho 101able senator wants to get into an argument about a difference in the interest that has to be paid by T.A.A. on its capital borrowings and the interest paid by Ansett-A.N.A on its capital borrowings, I ask him to investigate also the position in respect of payment of taxation by Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. in order to see where we stand. If T.A.A. has to reimburse the Government for the money borrowed on its behalf - the Agreement does not tell us what it is - on a borrowing of $54 million the repayment will run out at about $19 million. This has to be paid back overseas. Any overseas income that Qantas may earn will be dissipated by T.A.A. through the Government’s having to repay the loan plus interest. So out of it all’ we get no benefit whatsoever. T.A.A. will have to increase its income, for the purpose not of paying a greater dividend but of repaying an overseas loan that is quite unnecessary.
I cannot emphasise too much the position that we are in with the number of aircraft types on the world market today. That is what is causing confusion in the mind of Qantas, in determining whether it wants 3, 4 or 5 Boeing 707 aircraft now because supersonic aircraft may come on the market. But there is one thing that is sure for the people of Australia. The type of aircraft that they will use for the next eight years or for the period of this loan will be” static, in view of the expected life of the aircraft to be purchased under the loan. There will be no improvement in (he types of aircraft that will be available to the Australian people. Irrespective of the improvements that are made over this period, the Australian people will not get the benefit of these improvements, because the Government has the right under the Airlines Equipment Act to determine the types of aircraft to be imported. There is no competition in Australia. There is in fact a national airline run by two authorities - a company and a commission. There is no competition in fares, schedules or anything else. The position cannot be controlled overseas, because Qantas is in competition with overseas airlines. Overseas, there is no rationalisation and Qantas must constantly improve and keep up to date with the type of service that it gives.
For these reasons, we believe that the Government should use the overseas reserves for the purpose for which they were raised, lt is true that the money that is in our overseas reserves has not been earned by us. Over the period that this Government has been in office we have not shown a profit on our trading current account. We have been able to balance our books only by the good grace of investment in this country by other people or by borrowing from overseas. Our balance of payments rose by $22 million in November last because we raised a loan overseas. What sort of financing is this? When we start to get into trouble we borrow to build up our balance of payments. Nevertheless, if the money is there in the balance of payments and if the forecast of the Treasury and the Prime Minister on the economic situation is so optimistic, there is no reason to believe that we should pay for nothing. I am criticising now not the $54 million that will be paid for the purchase of aircraft but the extra $25 million that will be paid out in interest. For that we will get nothing. It will have to come out of the pockets of the Australian taxpayer or the travelling public. If that can be avoided by using overseas reserves, it is the duty of this Government to avoid it. I have pleasure in seconding the amendment moved by Senator Murphy.
– I would like the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty), when replying to the debate, to clear up some points. Senator Murphy raised a most important point when he said that we should apply to the International Monetary Fund rather than to private banks for these funds. Senator Wright seemed to think that that would make no real difference. The Government’s policy today is so deplorable that one would think that all it is trying to do is to make Australia the 51st State of the United States of America. This is another example of that. Instead of standing on our own feet, we find that we have to borrow money from private banks in the United States. I think that is degrading. It may be that no monetary benefit would be obtained if we went to an international bank, set up with our Government as a partner, rather than to a private bank. I suppose the rates of interest would be nearly the same. But it is degrading that the Australian Government should have to go to a private bank. That is my first objection to what the Government is doing.
Another objection I have to this method of financing relates to capital investment in Australia. The Minister said today that the position in that respect is not alarming, but here again we find the same attitude: “ Let us tie ourselves to the United States. To allow the Americans to invest in Australia is far better than helping them out in Vietnam. If we allow them to invest here, it is quite certain that they will protect us.”
– The United Kingdom has by far the greatest investment in Australia.
– Yes, but it has not large defence forces to help us. If we want to tie ourselves to the United States, then allowing capital investment in Australia from there is a good way of making sure that the Americans will come to protect us if we need them. I am not really worried about the amount of capital that American investors have invested in Australia, although I think it is dangerous that they should have control over so many of our companies. What I object to is the Government allowing overseas companies, in which we have no equity whatever, to borrow on our loan market. One has only to take General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. - or its hire purchase subsidiary - and the Ford company as examples. Both have borrowed on our loan market. Yet we go to the United States to borrow from private banks there. That does not make sense to me. We allow capital investment in Australia from other countries - I think such investment is getting near the safety margin - but if we need it for the development of Australia, let us accept it. However, there is no need to go further and let companies such as those 1 have mentioned borrow on our loan market when we have no right to any equity in them. Senator Wright asked: “ What about the drought? How is it going to affect our reserves? “ That is a matter for the future, but I think that nearly all economists say that we ‘will be able to cope with the drought because our level of prosperity is so high.
Turning from the question of finance, I come to the types of aircraft being purchased. 1 want to take issue with the Government and its policy of the continual purchase of American aircraft. I said whilst I was overseas that we Australians are just as much to blame as is anyone else for the downfall of the British aircraft industry. We have continually bought American aircraft. We refused to buy the British TSR2. 1 shall not discuss whether or not it was going to be successful. But there is still very much doubt whether the FI 1 1 is going to be successful. When we questioned the advisability of buying the Fill we were told that the Americans had a set figure for the purchase of their aircraft and that the British had not, so that we had to buy the American aircraft. This has been shown to have been a downright lie. Whether it was a deliberate lie I do not know, but it has been proved that (he American aircraft is going to cost a lot more than was originally thought. We still do not know whether the cost will go up by leaps and bounds as in the case of the opera house in Sydney. Here again, the Government must buy American aircraft.
I dislike this subservience to the United States. I want to make it quite clear that I like Americans. I have enjoyed being in America and I have a lot of friends there. But I do not think it is to the national good that we should be so subservient to another country. I took the trouble to ring the general manager of Qantas to try to find out about these aircraft, but I am still awaiting the courtesy of a reply. Another aspect is the number of aircraft required. I have been informed that the new type of aircraft has been selected because it is needed for freight purposes. I understand it is a com bined passenger and freight plane, but it is slower than others in use and this will go against it so far as passenger traffic is concerned. People just do not like to travel on slow planes. Even if the time saved amounts to only 10 minutes, in these days of rush people prefer to travel on a Boeing 727 rather than a Viscount.
Another point is that I do not suppose we will get delivery of these aircraft until next year, and I understand that by 1970 supersonic aircraft will be in service. I am not sure of that, and the Minister can correct me if I am wrong. But if that is so, the aircraft now being purchased will then all be obsolete and no-one will travel on them. People will want to travel on an aircraft with a speed of 1,400 miles an hour instead of one with a speed of 600 miles an hour. I understand that the supersonic planes are coming out and will be available somewhere in 1970.
– Why not dispense with planes and buy only wings?
– Why not just have a rocket? I could not imagine any finer sight than Senator Wright on an intercontinental missile, shooting off to London.
– We might have a moonship by then. I have a secret list of passengers for it, who will be going only one way.
– I will not join the secret list until I know how to get back. I ask the Minister to reply to some of these points. Does he think we should be buying Boeings which will be obsolete in another three years? Does he not think that we should be able to raise the money we need on our own loan market? There is no doubt that we could raise a loan of $54 million on our market quite’ easily. If we had prohibited American companies which do not allow us any equity in their undertakings here from borrowing on the Australian market, we could have used the money which they have taken out for their companies. I hope the Minister will clear up these points.
– I think this is the fourth year in which the Opposition has moved an amendment similar to this when we have been authorising the raising of funds on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways
Ltd. and the Australian National Airlines Commission to enable them to purchase aircraft. In the meantime, Qantas has gone merrily on, being a very fine Australian airline, a very successful Australian airline and a very efficient Australian airline. Qantas has used the money that we have borrowed for it over the last four or five years to purchase the most up-to-date planes and to extend its business. It operates throughout the world and is looked upon as one of the greatest international airlines. The Opposition’s suggestion is that politicians should tell the airline what types of aircraft it should buy. Goodness me, Qantas knows more about running airlines and about aircraft than Senator Cant. Senator Turnbull or Senator Murphy is ever likely to know. Qantas is a great international airline and one which has been tremendously successful. It earns more in overseas funds than will be required to amortise the repayments of capital and interest both on its own behalf and on behalf of Trans-Australia Airlines.
I hope I have disposed of any suggestion that difficulty will be experienced in repaying the loan and interest. Senator Cant’s arithmetic was a little astray. The total sum borrowed will be SUS54 million; interest charges and the half per cent, commitment fee will amount to £US14.2 million, making a total of $US68.2 million, and not SUS90 million as claimed by Senator Cant. The honorable senator was only about SUS23 million out in his calculation.
– The Minister is saying $US68 million; I said $US70 million.’
– The honorable senator said SUS90 million. I made a note of it. Some of the matters that have been referred to in this debate are of great interest to the Senate. I wish to congratulate the Secretary to the Treasury for arranging this loan for the purchase of aircraft at the reasonable rate of interest to be charged. We are still drawing on the funds raised by borrowing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on behalf of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. That loan, which was opposed by the Opposition at the time, was the last occasion on which we borrowed from the International Bank for Recon struction and Development, and the interest payable thereon is at the rate of 5i per cent. The loan we are now discussing was arranged by the Secretary to the Treasury at an interest rate of a little less than Si per cent. For the purpose of this discussion, I shall refer to the interest rate as 5i per cent., a rate which includes the one-half per cent, commitment fee payable while the total loan approved is not borrowed. It is an excellent deal on behalf of tha two airlines.
I would like to put in proper perspective the argument about the purchase of aircraft. It is not in the cycle to which Senator Cant refers; it is in entirely the opposite cycle. The airlines have evaluated the aircraft through very competent evaluation teams which travelled throughout the world before deciding upon the aircraft to be purchased - DC9’s and Boeing 707- 338C’s. Having decided that these are the aircraft best suited to their requirements, the airlines placed their orders. It is necessary to place orders early in order to get in on the cycle of production and obtain deliveries from the factories. Having placed their orders in the cycle, the airlines then approached the Government - being two Government instrumentalities - to find out whether money could be raised in the United States to purchase the aircraft.
It is not true to say that because the airlines are borrowing American money they are obliged to buy American aircraft. The loan that has been arranged is an excellent deal because the repayments will be made by the airlines from funds earned by the aircraft which are the subject of the loan. The loan and interest charges will be repaid out of the profits and earnings of the airlines. If any honorable senator opposite can suggest a better deal than to repay the loan borrowed to purchase aircraft from profits earned by those aircraft, I will be quite prepared to listen to him.
– Why cannot we borrow the money locally?
– The honorable senator’s questions will be answered. He raised the question of supersonic aircraft. Qantas has orders placed for supersonic aircraft.
– But does not know whether to buy them.
– Yes, it does. The honorable senator is being childish. They will be purchased when they are available. They are in the order book. There is the Concorde in the United Kingdom, and the supersonic aircraft to be manufactured in the United States by the company which obtains a development grant from the United States Government. I understand that it will be Lockheed. Orders have been placed for both types of aircraft. Qantas is aware of developments in supersonic aircraft. It is known that the Concorde has been improved so that its speed has been increased from 1,400 miles an hour to 1,600 miles an hour, and that the Lockheed supersonic aircraft is capable of 2,000 miles an hour. Qantas is up to date in these matters.
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the United States of America to see the particular type of aircraft we are discussing now. The orders have been placed. We are on the list. Qantas has always been a capable and efficient business because it watches aircraft developments and places orders ahead so that it is amongst the first users of modern aircraft. In this way Qantas has developed into a fine international business. Under no circumstances could I allow the uninformed opinions of honorable senators opposite to cast a slur on Qantas.
– No one has cast a slur on the airlines.
– The honorable senator suggested that Qantas was buying the aircraft without knowing that they were coming. Qantas is buying them because it knows they are coming and it needs them. Senator Cant referred to what he described as the confused state of the airlines. He said that they did not know how many aircraft they war.ted. I have pointed out that the orders of the airlines are in the books of the aircraft companies. If it is found that business is increasing faster than was anticipated, the airlines will have the capacity to handle the increased traffic. It will not be necessary for them to attempt to get their orders listed in the order book later on, when the aircraft will not be available. Because the orders have been placed ahead, the airlines will be able to handle increases in traffic as they occur. This is a very sound and forward looking policy adopted by the airlines. If international and domestic traffic increases to the degree that the present fleets cannot handle it, they will be there with the aircraft and will be able immediately to commence repaying the loan borrowed to purchase the aircraft. It is darned good business and I am very proud, as we all should be, of the way that Qantas runs its business.
Much has been said about our overseas reserves. I have referred to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the purpose of which is to make loans to assist underdeveloped countries. We have borrowed money from that Bank on behalf of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority at an interest rate of’5f per cent. The loan which is the subject of this legislation has been arranged at a much cheaper rate of interest from the consortium detailed in the Bill. Our overseas reserves are not playthings. They belong to the people of Australia, to the Australian traders, and to the Government. They must be used to pay for all the international trading that takes place between Australia and overseas countries and for our defence needs. We cannot rob the international reserves which have been built up by our wheat and wool producers and by all those people who have sold goods overseas. Instead of our exports being paid for by overseas currency, credit is built up in our reserves and payments are made to the producers in Australian currency. Our overseas reserves are then used to pay for our imports. Our overseas reserves cannot be used for capital expenditure of the type under discussion when loans can be arranged at cheap rates of interest from the available overseas sources.
Reference has been made to borrowing in Australia. Those honorable senators who advocate that we should raise the money in Australia should talk to the State Premiers and local government authorities and semigovernment instrumentalities who are clamouring for capital in Australia to carry out developmental works. It is suggested that the Commonwealth Government should enter the local market and rob the State Governments and local councils of their access to the field in which they borrow urgently needed funds.
– Any private person can raise as much money as he likes.
– He has to be of good standing.
– I am thinking of the Reid Murray and H. G. Palmer companies and a few others.
– I know that the honorable senator, as a Socialist, would like to have firm control of all of these things. He would like to have his thumb on all of them. But in the last 15 years, under private enterprise, Australia has developed to an extent that the Labour Party never even dreamt of. There has been tremendous development in Australia.
The Opposition is proposing that this money should be raised on the local market, so depriving the State Governments, local government authorities and semigovernmental bodies of access to that market when already there is not enough money to go round. In the last few years the Commonwealth has underwritten those bodies for far more than the amounts that they themselves could borrow, namely to the extent of $1,740 million. We have assisted them because they have not been able to borrow in Australia. If we went on to the local market for this type of loan, from where would the State Governments borrow money?
– Why does the Government allow the Americans to borrow on our market?
– If members of the Opposition wish to ruin the market for the State Governments and local government authorities in which the honorable senator who has just interjected was interested until a little while ago, let them go ahead.
– Can the Minister explain why the Government allows the Americans to borrow on our market although the State Governments are unable to borrow on it?
– Members of the Opposition are objecting to our borrowing on the American market. The Secretary to the Treasury has arranged loans at a rate of interest which is a magnificent indication of the status of Australia. Australia is able to borrow on world markets because of its solidity and stability. It is able to borrow money from this consortium at this rate of interest so that Qantas and T.A.A. can have the latest aircraft and make additional profits. This also enables them to amortise the cost of their aircraft over a short period, so that when the aircraft become obsolete, as the honorable senator mentioned, they can be sold and replaced by the latest and most modern aircraft. Nobody in the Senate will say that the Australian airlines have not kept up to date with the latest developments in aircraft.
– What about when our airlines were prevented from buying Caravelles?
– How far back would the honorable senator like to go? If he examines the position in relation to the Caravelle aircraft, he will find that at that stage we had no airports which were able to take pure jet aircraft. Had the airlines purchased Caravelles, the Australian taxpayers would have been involved in an enormous outlay in order to prepare the airports for them. That is why the Caravelle was not allowed into Australia - and rightly so. I believe that I have covered most of the points that were raised.
– No, you have not.
– What else would the honorable senator like me to cover?
– I want to know why the Government allows American companies to borrow on our market when Australians have no equity in them and our State Governments are crying out for more money.
– I can see no reason why Americans should not be able to borrow on our market, if they are creditworthy. I will bet that many Australian investors wish that they had lent their money to American companies, such as General Motors-Holden’s Pty. Ltd., instead of to some of the Australian companies which have been performing pretty badly and from which they are never likely to have their money repaid. They would have welcomed the opportunity to invest in American’ companies, had it been available to them at the time they invested in the Australian companies.
The Opposition’s approach on this occasion is the same as that which it has made for the last four years. Every time we want to borrow money from overseas to enable Qantas - this magnificent airline which has developed tremendously, which is one of the great international airlines and which is an airline of which every Australian can be proud - to purchase the aircraft that it believes to be best suited to its purposes, the Opposition suggests that we are doing some damage to the airline. I believe that the Qantas officials know more about this matter than honorable senators do. This is the fourth year in succession in which the Opposition has adopted this approach. I hope that the Senate will not accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– If I understood the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) correctly, when he was replying at the second reading stage he informed honorable senators that the Agreement was not entered into for the purpose of purchasing any Boeing 727 aircraft for Trans- Australia Airlines but was for the purpose of purchasing nine DC9 aircraft.
– One Boeing 727 is to be purchased.
– Let the Minister have a look at the transcript of his speech and, having done so, not alter it. I should like him to explain the Agreement to me. It sets out in United States dollars the amount that is required by T.A.A. to finance the purchase of one Boeing 727 and three Douglas DC9 aircraft. Will the Minister elaborate on this? The Minister having said that the Agreement was not for the purpose of purchasing Boeing 727 aircraft but for the purchase of nine DC9’s, we should know a little bit more about the Agreement.
– I am sorry if the honorable senator understood me to say that nine DC9 aircraft are to be purchased. That is not correct. Three DC9’s are to be purchased. I believe I did make an error and that I said no Boeing 727 aircraft were to be purchased. One such aircraft is to be bought.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th March (vide page 87), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Senate take note of the following paper -
Statement of Policy by New Government - Ministerial Statement, 8th March 1966. and on the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly (vide page 63).
.- When the debate was adjourned last night I had projected the proposition that the people of Vietnam, be they north or south of the line that was drawn as a result of the Geneva Accord of 1954, were ripe for the espousal of a philosophy different from that which existed during the time of French colonial rule. It is with that in mind that 1 am trying to explain my view as to how Australia and the United States of America came to be involved in this brutal, barbaric and immoral war, and of the position that faces us in the immediate future, lt is rather interesting that I should have spoken of French colonial rule. The French, having learned a lesson from their colonial experience in Indo-China, have since withdrawn from other spheres of interest such as Algeria and Morocco. Not only have they gone back within their own boundaries in Europe, but they have created a most serious situation in the strategic defence of, and economic plans for, western Europe. At the present time De Gaulle is in Moscow for talks, which follow a request to the United States to withdraw her troops and bases from France. Perhaps these more recent events are part of the picture of a colonial power withdrawing from her spheres of influence.
We must pay close regard to the nature of the revolutions and upheavals that are taking place throughout the world but mainly in South East Asian areas or areas that arc nearer to Australia than to Europe, and try to ascertain what the consequences will be. Last night I pointed out that in Indo-China, as in Russia and China, an alternative way of life and philosophy were sought. Until we examine the factors that were involved initially in the struggle in Vietnam and those which exist at present wc will not understand the nature of the war and our involvement. I propose to refer to the Vietcong, but I may. say first that the term “ cong “ does not mean “ Communist “ but means “ friend “. So it seems rather peculiar for us in Australia and the people of the United States to be referring to these people as the Vietcong. The Vietcong hold very strong political views. Those views are sufficiently strong for the Vietcong to be prepared to participate in warfare in conditions of great hardship, living off the land and in underground tunnels and caverns. Evidently their willingness to do so stems from the strength of their political and philosophical views. Unless we kill them by some means or other or offer them some alternative to their political and philosophical views, they will maintain their pre sent attitude. We have to accept that as a fact. We either have to kill them for holding their views or persuade them in one way or another to change their views. It is very difficult to make an individual change a deeply held belief.
– Is that really a fair presentation? Are not these people asserting their views by violence?
– If the honorable senator will allow me to proceed, I shall develop that theme a little later. As the honorable senator knows very well, one action often brings about equal reaction. The violence possibly comes as a sequel. The guerrilla technique, when it meets opposition, gives rise to violence. So, -as I described earlier, we have this barbaric and wicket type of warfare in Vietnam at the present time.
Despite the line at the 17th parallel which, after all, is a line on a map, the North and South Vietnamese people are of the same breed and race. The only thing that divides them is their political philosophy. Under the 1954 Geneva Accords, people holding one philosophy were supposed to go to the north of the line, and the others were supposed to stay in the south. But there was a massive migration down from the north. This line roughly divided the same race of people into different political and philosophical groups. Whether we like to admit it or not, what is actually happening in Vietnam now is fratricide. That is to say, within the same racial group brother is fighting brother. When people on the local level take the view that this is not a civil war, they are not admitting the facts of the case. It is a civil war.
To take the point further, there are actually two types of war going on in Vietnam. There is the war between the Vietnamese people themselves for control of their own land, and there is a war involving global strategy. But before I discuss that point I point out that in this struggle of brother against brother we have seen demonstrations against the corruption and inefficiency of the Diem regime. The situation was brought very strongly to the forefront by the actions of the Buddhists. We saw Buddhist monks publicly burning themselves as a protest against the Diem regime. 0[ course, it was easy to say that the Buddhists were being persuaded and influenced by the Communists. But it is rather interesting to note that when Diem went, the burnings stopped and the Buddhists went back to their philosophy of peace and gentleness and all the other things that are enshrined in the Buddhist religion.
From the circumstances existing in Vietnam, the struggle could well be described as a civil war. The South Vietnamese could easily be fighting, and in fact are fighting, other South Vietnamese, and the North Vietnamese could easily be fighting other North Vietnamese because of the fact that many people migrated from the north to the south after the Geneva Accords. We must not forget that we are dealing with people who, although divided politically, are of the same racial group. It is not a case of two countries fighting one another. That is why I say that people are justified in describing this struggle as a civil war. In those circumstances and as a consequence of the ferment, discontent and upheaval immediately after the Geneva Accords and during the Diem regime in such an important strategic part of South East Asia, the United States of America was influenced to support Diem with military advisers and to provide substantial financial aid. It did so in an effort to bolster those sections of the Vietnamese people who were concentrated around Saigon in the hope that they could rally public support amongst their people and by so doing establish conditions in which a stable government could be established and continue to function.
But unfortunately, the greater the flow of assistance into the country, the greater was the flow of arms into the hands of the Vietcong. When the International Control Commission made its report, it said that the overwhelming bulk of arms being used by the Vietcong in the war in Vietnam had been captured from the South -Vietnamese army, ft also found that not only were the arms being captured from the South Vietnamese, but also that there was a tremendous number of defections from the South Vietnamese army. These defectors included men who had been trained by the American advisers and who had been given all the information on counter guerrilla warfare. As a consequence, larger areas which were under the control of the South Vietnam Government came under Vietcong influence.
– From which report is the honorable senator purporting to quote?
– I am referring to the report of the International Control Commission.
– It made 1 2 reports. To which one is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring to the last of the Commission’s reports, in which it found that Chinese and Russian arms were drifting down from the north, but that the preponderance of the arms being used by the Vietcong had been captured from the South Vietnamese army and were of United States manufacture.
– The report had nothing to say about defections.
– This report did not mention that, but there were reports of defections by complete units of the South Vietnamese army. Of course, that is quite understandable because of the strong influence exercised by the Vietcong in the protected hamlets. I do not know whether “ protected hamlets “ is the correct term to use, but it conveys the idea. This influence is such that any man who shows any signs of outwardly assisting the cause of South Vietnam receives pretty severe treatment from the representatives of the Vietcong in his hamlet. Both night and day the Vietcong are watching for opportunities to continue their guerrilla type of warfare. I think it will be accepted that, physically, this was a civil war. The problems of that civil war are still mixed up with the war as at the present time.
I come to what I could describe as the second nature of this war. This concerns the global strategy of the western world and represents, in my view, the core of the whole struggle in South Vietnam. This is the containment of Communism, whether it be Russian or Chinese Communism. I do not think we can have any doubt that the United States, whose great military power is supported by its abundance of production and wealth, has set about establishing a line around the surface of the globe within which it intends to hold Communism. Even though the United States may be able to contain Communism militarily, the situation reminds me of the story of the Dutch boy who put his finger in a hole in the dyke to stop water flowing through it. But the water still flowed through. Similarly, the position is such that it is difficult to stop the spread of an ideology by military means.
– Is it not the cause of the Communists to spread their ideology by war?
– I think the Communists would prefer to do this by subtle means - by infiltration, persuasion, example and in other ways. That is the nature of their efforts.
– The Communists did that in Tibet, India and other places.
– They also use guerrilla tactics.
– And bombs.
– In the final analysis, the Communists resort to war.
– And violence.
– Yes, they achieve their purpose by violence too. After all, we heard about violence of a type the other day in Saigon. The South Vietnamese Government has been trying to stop profiteering. The people would not take any notice of the decree of the Government in this regard. The Government decided that it had to take violent action - not that I agree with it. Violence is not always confined to one sphere. There are people who want to hang other people for various reasons. That is violence, too. So often violence is very closely associated with our ordinary lives.
The point I am making is that the United States of America and the N.A.T.O. powers had a big advantage in Europe to carry out part of their global strategy because of the division of Europe, more or less along the Elbe, as an aftermath of the 1939-1945 War. Friendly powers such as France, Belgium, Holland, West Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden helped with the logistics of this strategy. Above all, those countries welcomed the people who came from Britain and from the U.S. to carry out this policy of containment. Further along the containment line we. find a series of uncommitted countries such as India and Pakistan and, if we can include them, Burma and Laos. The situation in creating this cordon sanitaire is different in Asia from what it is in Europe. Nevertheless, a compromise has been reached in Europe about which I think the French people would say: “ Ils ne passeront pas “ - thus far and no farther. They shall not pass. So, a compromise of co-existence has been established in Europe.
The western world has received no support from the people themselves in South East Asia. Evidently, we are in a country where we do not know whom to trust. In South Vietnam our soldiers go out on leave to a cafe to enjoy food and music. While they are doing so a hand grenade is likely to be thrown among them and they are blown to smithereens. A person who looks quite unimportant may be riding a pushbike and holding a telegram in his hand. The tubes of the tyres of that pushbike are filled with gelignite. That person walks into a building through the front door and straight out the back door. His pushbike which he has left at the front explodes. This kind of thing is going on at Saigon, Kwei, Da Nang and other areas of Vietnam. This violence makes it so much more difficult for the line of containment to be drawn in South East Asia. But having accepted this tremendous ^ responsibility of being the holders of the line for the western world, the United States has had to ensure the continuation of a non-Communist government in South Vietnam. It has had to anticipate also a direct confrontation with China.
Those are the two wars in Vietnam of which I have spoken. First, there is the local civil war without any fighting over the line of containment but with bombing of strategic areas and. supply lines. The other war has implications for the United States and Australia - indeed, all the western powers - of coming to direct confrontation with China. We have heard about the escalation of this war. The announcement made by the Prime Minister that we are to increase our forces in Vietnam to 4,500 is, in anyone’s language, an escalation of this war. It is reported that there are approximately 200,000 United States military personnel in Vietnam. We are getting to the stage, with such vast numbers, that something has to give. What is to be the likely outcome?
There are three alternatives. There is victory for us, there is defeat for us and there is compromise. I take the view that the point of desperation having been reached after 20 years of war in Vietnam, the people in that country who are still hanging on and carrying on as they have over the years will not be in much of a mood for a compromise along the lines of the Geneva Accord. I believe that the French and the British, partners in the Accord, were glad to get out of Vietnam on the best terms available. America, although a party to the Accord, never signed it. Not being a signatory, and therefore never having ratified it, America may be able to make a completely new Accord with the Vietcong.
– But America agreed to abide by it.
– No, I do not think the United States ever actually recognised th: Accord. Although she helped to draw it up, she more or less took on the battle.
– The United States did nothing to disturb it.
– That is right, the Americans did not want to disturb it.
– They said that if the Accord were broken they would regard that as a matter of great seriousness.
– -Yes. Well, the Accord was broken because it provided for an election and an election did not take p ace. I think one of the main bargaining points at the time was that when the troops were removed there would be an attempt to unify Vietnam, In other circumstances, at other times or in other places, that may have been desirable. I suppose that on St. Patrick’s Day I would be almost committing sacrilege in saying that I am glad that the north and south of Ireland have been unified - a most desirable th.ing after the unhappy events in the history of that country.
– It is not unified.
Senator O’BYRNE__ The north and south are not unified but they are not at one another’s throats - and that, to me, is unity.
I believe that victory for the United States and Australia would mean the decimation of the Vietnamese people. The greatest possible military might that could be assembled in Vietnam would have to be turned on the Vietcong. Having regard to the present means of warfare, I am sure that the ferocity of the fighting now going on in Vietnam would pale into insignificance if the United States forces went into North Vietnam to gain the victory. This could happen quite easily with an escalation of the conflict because it is an easy step from bombing strategic targets to attempting actual military occupation. If the situation arose that it was thought necessary to go into North Vietnam, both the United States and Australia would have to send even more troops because the fighting would reach an even greater degree of ferocity. Then we would face the risk of a war with China, which has promised its support for North Vietnam. However, I do not know whether China would honour that promise in the final analysis. If that stage was reached, both the United States and Australia would have to send every possible man they could spare to hold the line.
I can see a situation in which there would be one million troops, not a quarter of a million as at present, in Vietnam. Confrontation could quite easily take place. I believe we stand very close to that position. We are poised on the brink of fighting a nation of 800 million people on their borders. The oldest strategy in the world is to try to choose your own fighting ground. In the past, if you could get on a little hill and fire your arrows on the men below that was pretty good strategy. In the present instance and as a natural consequence of escalation, troops of the western world would be fighting in tropical swamps, in jungles, in rain forests and the like, completely out of their natural environment and in direct confrontation with China. In addition to the unfamiliar geographical conditions, we would need to have long lines of supply. If a war were fought in those circumstances with conventional weapons it could go on for 100 years. No-one would know how long it would last. However, has man reached the stage at which he would undertake a 100 years war rather than use the thermo nuclear bomb to try to settle it in a short time?
– What is the alternative position the honorable senator advances?
– I have in my notes: “ Can this be avoided?” I do not think the position has been stated truthfully to either the Australian people or the American people. 1 do not think the Australian Government has been quite honest in presenting the facts and the implications of our involvement in South East Asia. I am certain the general public does not understand the implications. Certain members of the United States Senate are making public statements which, if they were made in Australia would bring the security services down on them. The Australian propaganda machine, carefully directed, makes it almost a serious offence not to adopt the view that this conflict is not very important, that there is not even a war going on. If we ask whether Australia is at war we are accused of indulging in some legalistic argument. “ Business as usual “ is the attitude. We are sending additional troops to Vietnam, and the Prime Minister has announced that we are also selling them some bullets. Who is selling all the goods? Not Australia.
– Did the honorable senator say “ bullets “?
– Bullets, yes - small arms.
S«nator Gorton. - When did the Prime Minister announce that?
– I think it is in his statement.
– No. He said we could supply them and are negotiating for their supply.
– We are negotiating for the supply of small arms.
– To China?
– No, we are negotiating with Vietnam. I am sorry if I did not stale the position clearly. The Government regards the present situation as a case of business as usual; there is no need to declare war; there is no need to introduce any special war time legislation; this is a kind of part time exercise that need not disturb anyone. I point out that although the Stock Exchange has been disturbed, it has not been unduly disturbed. International shipping continues to operate as usual, and the theatre of war is more or less confined. I suppose that if there were a declaration of war and people throughout the world were made fully aware of the situation, they would be clamouring in practically every country to be placed on a war footing.
This would be the case if the implications of the war in Vietnam were fully understood.
– The honorable senator has not given any instances yet of what he believes to be misstatements. Can he give us those?
– 1 have outlined what I believe are facts, not misstatements of fact. The final solution of this problem, as I pointed out, will be victory, defeat or compromise. We are not allowing it to reach the second stage. We are supporting the war. We are sending more troops to assist in the escalation. If we do that, we are condoning the final solution.
Are the other nations of South East Asia to remain uncommitted? Whose side would they be on if they altered their present policy of being uncommitted? There is evidence of unrest everywhere throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The Vietcong insist that Americans and Australians leave the country. This is the main obstacle to negotiations. The United States desires to see a stable government firmly in the saddle in Saigon before withdrawing its forces. There we have our great problem. What would the United States consider to be a stable government? What would the North Vietnamese consider to be a stable government? The United States would like to see in power a government that it could rely on, and then pour in as much financial assistance as would rapidly raise the hopes and living standards of the South Vietnamese people to a stage at which they would want to uphold and defend their newly acquired standards. That could only be done if a government that the United States would tolerate were established in South Vietnam.
There is the problem. The South Vietnamese will not admit the political existence of the Vietcong. They know that the Vietcong are there but they will not have any truck with them. I believe that eventually if we do have this compromise the Vietcong will have to be included in any government. If a section of the United Nations were to conduct some sort of election, the world would have to face up to the fact that what the people chose - whether it was an antiCommunist government, a compromise anti and pro-Communist government, or a Communist dominated government - would have to be admitted and accepted.
Summing up, we are involved in this war which can alter the whole shape of history, particularly in relation to Australia. We hope that by our co-operation with the world’s greatest military power we will ensure that it will help us. But once before in its history the United States had a policy of isolation. If the American public were to decide that the war and its objectives were not in their interests and that the cost was too high, and if the American forces were withdrawn into isolation, Australia would be left with 1,000 million neighbours, with whom we would have to deal in the future and whose disrespect, to say the least, we had earned.
We should seek an alternative to escalation of the war and the sending of extra troops, particularly youths of one age group - 20 year olds, who have not the right to choose whether to be conscripted and sent there. This is morally wrong and will not serve either the immediate or the future interest of Australia. I hope that the Government will continue to use every effort to find a compromise that is the only alternative to the worst of all possible things that could happen, that is, a thermo-nuclear war which would involve the whole human race. That is something that is too horrible to contemplate.
I intended to comment on two other aspects of the Prime Minister’s statement -our internal economics and the drought - but as my time has almost expired I shall have to wait for another occasion on which to develop my thoughts on those matters. The speech that the Prime Minister made at his much heralded debut in his new office could only be described as inadequate, inept, and showing the inefficiency of his Government in respect of its lack of dynamic and imaginative administration. The Government fails to try to get out of its rut of stop, splutter and go. Formerly, it was stop and go; now the splutter alternates between the stop and the go. If the Government were really aware of what was going on in the financial and industrial community it would know that its sands are running out. If Dawson is any indicator of the unpopularity of the Government, it will have to look out.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660317_senate_25_s31/>.