25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Will the Minister, when again discussing a long term loan with the Queensland Government for the purpose of increasing the supply of softwoods in the Commonwealth, ascertain whether that Government will undertake to commence maple, silky oak, cedar and mahogany plantations in north Queensland? Will he advise whether he proposes now to expand the cultivation of millable timbers in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory?
– A softwoods planting policy, including arrangements for loans to the States, was announced recently by the Government. In addition, each State has its own reafforestation programme. No doubt the Queensland Government will take into account the varieties of timber which the honorable senator has mentioned. I understand that the Commonwealth’s proposal deals with softwoods only, but if I am not correct in that I will get a statement on the matter from the Minister for National Development.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister seen a report that the South Australian Government has told a group of South Australian builders and real estate firms which operate offices in London that they cannot continue to bring out migrants unless they, make more generous housing finance available? Does the Minister consider that this decision will affect the flow of selected British migrants, who are so important to Australian and South Australian development? If so, can the Commonwealth exert any influence to have the decision reviewed? Finally, has the Minister any knowledge of what have been described as “ several unsatisfactory cases” in the plan operated by the builders?
– The honorable senator was good enough to draw my attention to this statement this morning, so 1 have had time to look at it and get some information. I have been informed that the Commonwealth authorities have been told by firms operating housing schemes for British migrants in South Australia with the State Government’s approval that they have received a letter to the effect that the Government of South Australia feels it can continue to give its sponsorship and approval to these schemes only if the builders can carry out certain undertakings, including making new arrangements for finance. In reply to the second part of the question, I can say that I have been further informed that the Press has reported that the Premier of South Australia stated that he was sure the new finance arrangements would not have an adverse effect on British migration to South Australia and that the conditions would be reviewed in six months to see whether any further adjustments were necessary. As to the third part of the question, there have been some isolated complaints about the operation of the schemes. However, in general, the schemes have given satisfaction to migrants and have proved beneficial to the immigration programme.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the present embargo imposed by the Victorian Government on poultry from other States in order to combat Newcastle disease is having serious effects on the New South Wales poultry industry? In the latter State more than 50,000 birds are in freezing chambers and no markets are available immediately. Is the Minister also aware that this situation, if not resolved quickly, will result in the dismissal of more than 200 members of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in New South Wales who are employed in the poultry industry? Since this virus has no effect on growth or egg production and can be detected only by pathological tests, have all State Governments except that of Victoria lifted the embargo on poultry and poultry products being introduced into their respective States? Under the circumstances, will the Minister for Health take the initiative in calling immediately a conference of the States to consider effective alternatives which, whilst avoiding production wastage and unemployment, will constitute effective disease eradication that will not be of the hit or miss variety as typified in the existing embargo method?
– I have been aware of the matter that the honorable senator has brought before the Senate today in the form of a question. I will be very pleased to discuss it personally with the Minister for Health.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Senate whether it is possible for the Government to continue to provide financial assistance for the operation of the Australian tractor testing station at Werribee? I ask this question in view of the importance of the station to the primary producers of Australia and because of the recommendation of the advisory committee of the Australian Agricultural Council that the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to support the station be extended for a further five years.
– The reason why this tractor testing has been discontinued is that sufficient use was not being made of the station. The Minister for Primary Industry gave this matter a lot of consideration before coming to his decision. The position in a nutshell is that sufficient use was not being made of the tractor testing station and for that reason it was decided to discontinue its operation.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that the 1954 Geneva Agreement provided for a free election in South Vietnam in a given period? I think the period was IS months. Is it a fact that a free election has not yet been held in South Vietnam? If so, why? Is it also a fact that at least 10 governments have been in office in South Vietnam since the 19S4 Geneva Agreement and all of them have been military takeover governments, dictatorial, corrupt and not represen tative of the South Vietnamese people? The Minister, in reply to a question that Senator Murphy asked last week as to whether or not we are at war in Vietnam, stated that Australia was committed in Vietnam at the request of the South Vietnamese Government. Will the Minister advise which one of the 10 or more governments made the request? Was the request made on a government to government level or on a diplomatic level? Was the request in written or verbal form? On what date, or even in what year, was the request made? Can the Minister produce any evidence on this so-called South Vietnamese request for Australian participation in that area? Finally, as the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, has said that we are at war in Vietnam, the present Prime Minister says that we are not, and the Minister apparently has not a clue either way, can he say without equivocation whether or not we are at war in Vietnam?
– At the present time the Senate is in the course of debating the very important statement made by the Prime Minister. I would have thought that the honorable senator, if he were game enough, would have made his speech during that debate, where the questions that he raises can be answered by members of the Government parties in their speeches. Instead, he asks a long propaganda question at question time. Although I think it is hardly worthwhile, I suggest to him that he put his question on the notice paper. If he does that, I will obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation, in view of the fact that Returned Service League sub-branches throughout Australia and many other Service and community organisations, for quick reference, need to have available an up to date copy of the Repatriation Act, with its amendments, will the Minister consider having all future amendments printed on only one side of the paper? This would enable amendments to be cut out and pasted into the Act. This, I understand, is done with amendments to Army text books. If the Minister agrees with the idea, will he suggest to the Minister for
Social Services that a similar procedure be adopted with regard to amendments to the Social Services Act?
– I shall certainly consider the request which has been made by the honorable senator, and if it is practicable, we will see what we can do. As to the second part of the question, I do not think that it is within my province to make a similar suggestion to the Minister for Social Services. Perhaps it would be better if such a request came from the honorable senator himself.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. 1 want to take this opportunity to assure the Minister that there is no basis of propaganda underlying it. As the consumer price index is not a reliable guide to the cost of living, is the Commonwealth Statistician making a survey of family expenditure? If he is doing so, on what basis is he making the survey and when will the results be available? If he is not making a survey, will he now proceed to make a survey of family expenditure in order to reveal to the Government and to the Australian public how difficult many tens of thousands of families are finding it just to exist?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that he place the question on the notice paper. There is a matter of policy involved and the Treasurer himself should be given the opportunity to answer it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Department of Civil Aviation has received an application from an airline company based in Victoria for a licence to operate an air passenger transport service throughout the Commonwealth?
– I am not in a position to give a categorical answer to the question. I have seen some Press reports. In the circumstances, I suggest that the question be placed on the notice paper and 1 shall get an answer from the Minister.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware that the Prime Minister of New Zealand has announced his intention to bring down legislation soon to cover the voting rights of New Zealand troops serving overseas? Will the Minister give sympathetic consideration to the proposal that voting rights be given to members of our armed forces between the ages of 18 and 21 years now serving overseas?
– I was not aware of the New Zealand position, to which the honorable senator has referred. The rest of the question is concerned, with a policy matter. If the honorable senator puts it on the notice paper I shall certainly see that it goes to the Government for consideration.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the present state of the dispute in South Vietnam between the Government of Air Vice-Marshal Ky and dissident Buddhists? Is there a possibility of a further change of Government? If so, would the Australian Government regard such a change as an improvement or otherwise?
– As the honorable senator and the Senate know, there have been expressions of dissatisfaction by some Buddhist leaders in Vietnam over the dismissal of a particular general in the northern provinces. It appears that these differences are the subject of discussion and arrangement. That is the only part of the honorable senator’s question to which I propose to reply.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister take steps to make facilities available for Australian apprentices to compete in the annual international competition for apprentices this year? I asked a similar question- last year. Will the Minister seek a report from the Australian
Apprenticeship Advisory Committee on the desirability of Australian apprentices participating in international competitions?
– I will bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service and ask him to provide a reply for the honorable senator.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Government noted comments by Sir Edgar Coles to the effect that current conditions amount almost to a recession in retailing, and by Mr. Staniforth Ricketson to the effect that there is growing apprehension in the business community regarding the overall loss of economic momentum? In view of these indictments of the Government’s failures in the field of economic planning, will the Government consider acting on Mr. Ricketson’s suggestion that it seek an interim increase in the basic wage pending completion of the hearing now in progress before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
– I read both statements with a great deal of interest. As I informed the House on another occasion, the Government is in contact with all phases of industry - manufacturing, distributing and so on - and with the Australian Council of Trade Unions on matters relating to the economy. Recently we had a series of discussions with these groups, from which we elicited a great deal of information. I think I mentioned also that industry has made available to the Government the forward order books of industrial and manufacturing concerns. I place great value upon this kind of information, which, until two or three years ago, was not available. The Government has taken certain steps to assist the economy. The honorable senator surely is aware of the additional finance which has been made available for housing, to help stimulate the economy in that field, and of the large sums of money which have been provided for drought relief. I can assure him that the Government is keeping the economy under review from day to day. That is why the economy is now so very healthy.
– Honorable senators will be pleased to know that we have in the gallery this afternoon Mr. Harry Chan, the first elected President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, who is accompanied by Mr. Peter Murray, Chairman of Committees. I am sure the Senate would like me to extend a welcome to them.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that there are no secret ballots for the election of delegates to the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board? Is it a fact also that there is widespread dissatisfaction throughout the wool industry with the present method of appointing delegates to these bodies? If these are facts, when will the Government see to it that there are secret ballots for election to these bodies so as to satisfy the people engaged in this all important industry?
– I will convey the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and seek a reply for the honorable senator.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has the Minister seen a statement in the Australian Press relating to a change in the rifles used in our activities in South Vietnam? In view of the great expense involved in the production of the FN rifle in Australia, is the Minister prepared to make a statement about the allegations appearing in the Press that this rifle is likely to be superseded by a new American rifle?
– The Minister for the Army has informed me that the Australian Army cannot verify the story of a United States Army proposal for a wholesale change to 5.56 millimetre (.223 in.) weapons, either Armalite or Stoner, in Vietnam or anywhere else. Because of our knowledge of current United States Army studies of small arms weapons systems and other associated activities, we do not believe that the United States Army is making such a major change. However, if this did happen we could obtain our 7.62 millimetre ammunition from Australia or other sources. This would involve us in some additional logistic effort but the position could be handled by our existing organisation for logistic support of our forces in South Vietnam.
– Last Wednesday I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question concerning figures relating to desertions from the Army of South Vietnam, and the Leader undertook to let me have a reply to it on the following day. Is he yet in a position to supply an answer?
– I undertook to give the honorable senator a reply as early as possible; 1 hoped it would be the following day. J received a note from the department concerned butthe honorable senator was not in the chamber at the time when I got it. The department stated that it had been unable to verify that the South Vietnamese Government had made such a statement but was undertaking further investigations and, as soon as possible, would give me the information. When I receive it, I shall make it available to the honorable senator.
– I direct to the Minister for Supply a question with reference to a statement he made last week in connection with an order for £400,000 worth of earth moving equipment required by the armed services, which was to be met from imported materials. What opportunities were given to Australian manufacturers of earth moving equipment to modify or adapt Australian made machines to meet the Services’ requirements? Will the Minister in future make the specifications available early in order that Australian manufacturers may be able to supply these orders?
– I understand that the specifications were made available to Australian industry - to all industry - for this particular Army requirement and that public tenders were called for it. Three tenders were received. When these were assessed, the Army was of the opinion that the tender from overseas was the only one that fulfilled the particular requirements which the Army needed at that stage to cover. It required earth moving equipment which could be taken onto barges and into aircraft at acute angles, and that sort of thing, and the overseas tender at that stage covered the technicalities. There were other technicalities which I have not at my fingertips. The honorable senator asks whether specifications will be made available earlier. I have received no complaint from industry that specifications were not received early enough. I shall certainly examine that position because if Australian industry is not getting specifications early - they are not received earlier overseas - and requires more time, I am all for giving Australian industry sufficient time to fulfill the requirements.
(Question No. 678.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions - 1, 2 and 3. I refer the honorable senator to the recently concluded debate in the House of Representatives on the Vernon Committee’s report.
(Question No. 752.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact, as stated in the “ Four Corners “ programme on national television, that an employee was dismissed from the Postmaster-General’s Department when it was discovered that the employee was an epileptic? If so, is this not contrary to the Government’s policy of assisting disabled people in employment?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
It is not possible to indentify positively the person interviewed on the television programme referred to but he is thought to have been an exempt employee in the lines staff in New South Wales. At the time the television programme was presented, this employee was absent on paid sick leave following an epileptic seizure on 1st November 1965. On 6th December 1965, following consideration of his case by the Director of Health, the employee was certified as fit to resume duty in a sedentary occupation where he would not endanger himself or others. Later he was offered suitable employment as a clerical assistant in the Stores and Contracts Branch, Sydney, and he commenced duty in this position on 17th January 1966. The employee concerned resigned from this employment on 20th January 1966, and is not now employed in the Department.
It is normal practice not to employ epileptics on lines work, but the employee concerned indicated on the form relating to medical fitness, which he completed at the time of his engagement, that he did not take fits, and it was not until the epileptic seizure on 1st November that his disability became known. Usually, in cases of this nature, arrange ments can be made to place the employee on other work, and it is only infrequently that an employee’s services are terminated through being certified by the Commonwealth Medical Officer as permanently unfit, or because a suitable position is not available. In recent years only three such cases have come to notice - one each in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
(Question No. 784.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What are the differences, if any. between the salaries paid to, and working conditions enjoyed by Commonwealth meat inspectors and New South Wales meat inspectors?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
The following information concerning the salaries and principal conditions of employment of Commonwealth and New South Wales meat inspectors is provided -
Salary Ranee -
Overtime in excess of the normal daily hours is paid at time and a half for the first three hours and double time thereafter. All overtime worked between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. is paid at double time.
All time worked on Sunday is paid at double time.
Inspectors required to work on a public holiday are paid single time in addition to the normal day’s salary.
NEW SOUTH WALES.
All time worked in excess of 40 hours is paid at time and a half.
All time worked on Sunday is paid at double time.
Inspectors required to work on a public holiday are paid single time in addition to the normal day’s salary.
Recreation Leave -
Three weeks each year.
Sick Leave -
At the end of the 1st year an inspector has a credit of four weeks on full pay plus four weeks on half pay less any sick leave taken during the year. Sick leave accumulates at the rate of two weeks on full pay plus two weeks on half pay for each completed year of service.
After 15 years service an inspector is credited with four and a half months furlough and after 20 years six months furlough. Furlough accrues at rate of nine days for each year of service.
The maximum number of units available is as follows -
Each unit is valued at $1.75 per week.
NEW SOUTH WALES.
Four weeks each year.
An inspector may be granted 10 days sick leave in the first year of service. After one year’s service he may be granted 15 days sick leave in any 12 months period and after two years service he may be granted 30 days in any 12 months period.
After 15 years service an inspector is credited with three months furlough increasing to six months after 20 years service. He is then credited with nine days for each year of service.
The maximum number of units available is as follows -
Each unit is valued at $2 per week.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia).I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following project -
Migrant Hostel at Randwick, New South Wales.
I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The summary of recommendations and conclusions of the Committee is as follows -
Heffron Park site as soon as replacement accommodation can be completed.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1966. Loan (Airlines Equipment) Bill 1966.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 1 1 8), 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.
Upon which Senator Kennelly had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert: - “ the Senate records -
its most emphatic opposition to the despatch of conscripted youths for service in Vietnam and the increased military commitment in that country, and
its disapproval of and grave concern at the Government’s failure -
to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community;
to retain an adequate and proper Australian share in the ownership and development of our national resources, particularly in Northern Australia;
to alleviate the effects of the drought and take steps to rehabilitate rural industries and conserve water resources;
to make adequate provision for housing and associated community facilities, and
to submit to referendum the two Bills to alter the Constitution in respect of Aborigines and the Parliament which were passed last year and, in connection with the latter Bill, to disclose the related distribution proposals “.
.- The Senate is considering the ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to the Parliament on 8th March 1966. This statement included references to many subjects but one matter dealt with in it is of such transcending importance that, in my view, it dwarfs all other matters. I refer to what the Prime Minister said with regard to the policy of the Government relating to defence and, particularly, our engagement in Vietnam. I should think that, at this particular stage of Australia’s history and in the particular situation in which this country finds itself in regard to that commitment, this is a subject to which the Senate will give most careful and thoughtful consideration. I believe that the committing by the Australian Government of an increased number of troops to warlike operations in South Vietnam imposes a duty upon every senator to scrutinize the situation carefully and to bring to bear upon it the best judgment that he can.
Mr. President, I believe that a senator sitting in his place here is in the position, first, as a person. It is inevitable that among the 60 of us there will be different personal reactions to a national duty of this kind. I mention this at the beginning of my speech because I do believe that in a democracy where we have accepted a policy of compulsory military service for national defence whether at home or abroad - I subscribe to that policy; I have said that
I am bound to subscribe to the policy after a great deal of consideration and with very great sadness - we hear little of the personal reaction that every member of the Australian community feels in regard to that decision. I, as a senator representing some of the Australian community, feel very keenly the necessity to commit this nation at the present time to active warlike operations involving the youth of our country. I think that it is fitting at this point to remind the Senate of what President Johnson said on 28th July of last year in this connection. After affirming his unwavering resolution for American defence of the principles that the Vietnam commitment involved, President Johnson said -
Let me also add now a personal note. 1 do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth, our finest young men, into battle. I have spoken to you today of the divisions and the forces and the battalions and the units. But I know them all, every one. I have seen them in a thousand streets, of a hundred towns, in every state of this union - working and laughing and building, and filled with hope and life. I think that I know, too, how their mothers weep and how their families sorrow. This is the most agonising and the most painful duty of your President. . . .
I quote that statement because it is too often forgotten, although sometimes it is remembered in jeering terms when referring to American leaders, that these people feel a sense of personal grief about these matters, no less than their critics do. I have no doubt that the Australian leaders, although they have not been so prominent as the Americans in expressing this point of view, share those personal sentiments. The expression of them, I believe, would give comfort to the people who are personally involved. I think it is well to remind ourselves that President Johnson saw fit to make that doubly clear. As an expression from him, and coming from a soldier’s heart - he served in the last war - it can be accepted as comprehensive.
I would hope that there would be very few in this chamber who would be capable of bringing this debate down to the level of discussing this issue on a party political basis. It is inevitable, as we are engaged in politics, that our differences in that respect will emerge and divide us, but to make party politic issues the dominant consideration or the governing consideration when dealing with the question of Vietnam would be, to me, unworthy of our opportunities and of our places in the Australian Paliament. 1 will make only a passing reference to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) said in this respect, in the hope that all other senators will adopt a similar approach. Senator Kennelly referred to a gallup poll and taunted Government speakers with the political consequences of the Government’s policy. All I want to say about that is that 1 am proud of a government that will come to a resolution on a national matter of this sort, whatever be the political consequences partywise.
Senator Kennelly ridiculed the idea that the national morale in South Vietnam is important. We heard a very thoughtful speech by Senator Drake-Brockman, an airman of great distinction in the Second World War. He put forward the view that the matter of the resolution and courage of the home front, including the Australian home front as well as the South Vietnamese home front, is very important. Anybody who remembers the terrific use that Hitler made of suitable propaganda in appropriate ways will remember that he was able to wither the national will of his victims so that there was no resolution to resist in many of the European countries that capitulated before the final catastrophe of the Second World War came upon us.
For the purpose of the Parliament and the nation forming their opinions on Australia’s responsibility in this instance, we might ask: What is the cause of the conflict in South Vietnam? We all know that the Geneva Agreement provided, not for two separate nations, but for Vietnam to be divided into two regions along the line of the 17th parallel. The purpose was to maintain a cease fire so that the two regions could address themselves to the problem of the appropriate administration or administrations for the Vietnamese people. In this chamber this afternoon I heard an honorable senator imply in a question that some undertaking had been given or some understanding had been reached that the people of Vietnam would be ready for free elections within a period of 18 months. My understanding of the position is that he is completely and sadly in error.
– Then what is the fact?
– Please do not ask me to discuss in detail a matter of that sort. I am open to correction by anybody who is better informed-
– I am not better informed, but perhaps I am more accurate.
– Few people would credit the honorable senator with either more accuracy or more eccentricity. What I am saying is that the whole idea of the separation of Vietnam was that the people should be able to occupy separate regions according to their choice - we know that about one million migrated from the north to the south and that a much smaller number migrated from the south to the north - for the purpose of preparing the country for a free expression of the will of the people. Of course, progress was being made towards that end, not in a period of 18 months but over a period of about five years.
The Foreign Secretary in the United Kingdom Labour Government, Mr. Michael Stewart, has established himself in my understanding as a man of a very great sense of purpose and a very great sense of responsibility. We have it on the authority of his first statement in that portfolio to the House of Commons, that it was when South Vietnam was growing to a noticeable stage of economic improvement that the guerrilla warfare of the Vietcong started to depredate the country. There was unmistakable evidence that those activities were being assisted by infiltration from the North and by active direction from North Vietnam where there was an administration avowedly of Communist faith, It seems to me that in that situation, where there were growing guerrilla attacks from within assisted by infiltrators directed from without, it became a matter of very great concern for, shall I say, the West - for those who fought on our side in the Second World War to resist dictatorial aggression and to maintain free institutions - to know whether they should abstain from actively assisting the South Vitnamese people against these attacks.
So it seemed to me that America took a most grave decision, though I think, she took it responsibly, first of all to lend the aid of advisers. Again on my recollection of Mr. Michael Stewart’s statement, these advisers numbered between 500 and 700 American persons in Vietnam in 1959, but their strength had to grow commensurately with the expansion of the guerrilla attacks.
– That number was not reached until 1961.
– I thank the Minister. The American Government took the decision to expand its resistance under the conviction that it was acting on the highest principles to maintain free institutions. There is a very thoughtful statement in the speech which was made by the President of the United States on 28th July 1965. He said -
We have learned at a terriple and brutal cost that retreat does not bring safety and weakness docs not bring peace.
I have referred in this chamber before to the fact that the critics were legion who denounced the European democracies in the five or seven years before the Second World War for not facing the duty of resisting aggression first in the Saar, then in Austria and then in the Sudetenland. Finally the democracies felt that aggression must be faced and they entered into a collective pact for the defence of Poland. It was the infrac tion of that pact which brought on the Second World War. I believe that that is what President Johnson was referring to in the passage which I have just read out.
If one reads the statements which have been made by Mr. Ball, Mr. McNamara and Mr. Dean Rusk, one finds that they constantly refer to the catastrophe which overcame Europe by appeasement and failure to face a challenge. In the same speech Lyndon Johnson made another statement to which I wish to give emphasis. He said -
We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate, but there is no one else.
There was a withering of Britain’s power because for a time she accepted alone the challenge in the Second World War. She emerged from the war and operated under the policies enunciated by postwar governments - the prudence of those policies has yet to be established in the light of the experience of the present generation - but the sad fact is that her capacity to withstand challenges had disappeared. I believe that the United States of America, which we criticised for a delayed entry into the defence of democracy in the First World War and which was the subject of severe criticism for delaying entry into the Second World War until she was actually struck at Pearl Harbour, ought to receive the most unstinted credit for emerging from a period of disengagement and assuming a position where it became possible for her President to say, as to Vietnam -
We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate, but there is no one else.
To me, that shows a sense of national responsibility. I do not believe, as 1 have heard some people on the opposite side of the chamber and outside the Parliament suggest repeatedly, that America has a colonial purpose or any idea of fostering trade and economic or national interests in preserving the people of South Vietnam. On the contrary, because of her dire experiences in the Second World War, and knowing what caused and what followed that war, she has felt bound to commit the flower of her youth and to tax h2r people to a terrific degree in an effort to mobilise a force which will foil the infiltrators of South Vietnam and frustrate the guerrilla attacks from North Vietnam. As the President has said, operations which began as a reprisal have had to grow commensurate with the attack.
The position now is that America has, I think, 200,000 troops in Vietnam. As I understand, their chief purpose is to restrict the movement south of men and equipment from North Vietnam and so give time to the South Vietnamese to enable them to reach the stage where they can put their administration in order and establish stable government. I do not understand the jeers which have come because there have been 10 or more forms of administration in South Vietnam since 1954. There are jeers that the South Vietnamese administration is not a freely elected democratic administration such as is the nature of our Government. Those things, Mr. President, indicate to me that the critics of our espousal of the South Vietnamese do not understand the fundamental purpose of it. This purpose is to bring these people, through the opportunity that we wish to protect, to a stage where they can - being Asians, being retarded at the start, and having all the difficulties created by this violent internal disturbance constantly striking at any improvement that they happen to make - establish freely elected institutions.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ retarded at the start “?
– I have regard to the fact that in Vietnam, as well as in other South East Asian countries there was not anything like a semblance of democratic parliamentary government at the time which I call the start, that is, in 1954. Military governments and authoritarian governments, with a people whose literacy is not of a very high level, are more the order of the going there than the reverse. People gibe at the idea that we are supporting a government of the order that I have - perhaps most inappropriately - described. I have haltingly, no doubt, conveyed something of my conception of the position for criticism, and improvement if you like. It is no ground for divesting ourselves of out responsibility to say that the South Vietnamese Government is such as I have described.
So, Mr. President, I reach the conclusion - as I said last year and as I repeat because of some snivelling gibe that was made at it - with a heavy heart, that it is the inescapable duty of Australia, when America has accepted a commitment of the sort that I have described, having regard to our treaty obligations and also because it is merely common purpose with our outlook - to stand on that line in defence of that purpose. That decision, I think, is the only one that could be taken with the proper interests of Australia’s security in mind.
– What treaty obligations are there?
– I was referring to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. There is an additional consideration that weighs with me. It is that I do not regard this as a civil war simply. It has the elements of civil war, in my view, and if I am wrong 1 hope to be corrected by those around me. I intrude in these debates only because 1 am conscious that a speech reveals the inadequacies of one’s understanding and, if a debate is any good, then co-operative discussion and resolution of purpose will fill in these gaps and strengthen our understanding hereafter. I believe it is not a civil war simply. It has elements of civil war, inasmuch as the insurrectionists, the Vietcong, consist partly of South Vietnamese people, but they are being directed and assisted by a Communist State to the north, North Vietnam. I believe that Mr. Hasluck, our Minister for External Affairs, was correct when he said on 2nd September 1965 that the events there have their bearing on a world contest of power and ideology and are clearly linked with the advancement of Chinese policies. The evidence is plain that China is advancing her policies and interests in Vietnam.
When I read the speech of the Chinese Minister for National Defence on 3rd September 1965 I find in it a most assertive statement that the purpose of this Communist engagement, insofar as Communist elements are engaging themselves in Vietnam, is not simply to subdue South Vietnam and remain content at the southern border. He criticises the Khrushchev revisionists and virulently attacks the revised Soviet policy. He refers to United States imperialism becoming incensed. He says that the United States will become involved and its fine dream of Soviet and United States cooperation to dominate the world will be spoiled. So he is showing enmity towards not only the United States but also the Soviet Union at that stage. Then he says -
The sacrifice of a small number of people in revolutionary wars is repaid by security tor whole nations, whole countries and even the whole of mankind; temporary suffering is repaid by lasting or even perpetual peace and happiness. War can temper the people and push history forward. In this sense, war is a great school.
There the Communist Minister for National Defence, in relation to this very engagement in Vietnam, is preaching the doctrine that war is a great school. He goes on to say -
Hi is referring there to revolutionary wars. Then he makes a statement which should not escape our attention -
The struggle of the Vietnamese people against U.S. aggression and for national salvation is now the focus of the people of the world against U.S. aggression.
– Supported by China, but it is not an active participant.
– 1 would be prepared to discuss the interjection, crediting it with having a thoughtful base. I would think it to be understood that Communist Chinese troops are not engaged in these activities in South Vietnam. I think that is the fact, according to all of the evidence that I know - although Communist weapons are found there. But it is well established, I would think, by the evidence that has been furnished to us, that the activities in South Vietnam are being directed and assisted by both North Vietnam and Communist China. The point that I am seeking to make here is that this is but an incident of the general programme that Communist China is putting forward. The Chinese Minister for National Defence says -
It is not the final struggle. It is just the focus or flashpoint of the present engagement. As has been said here previously, such tremendous world forces are in conflict in Vietnam that it would be utter folly to think that we could withdraw from South Vietnam tomorrow, allow anything that might emerge from the confusion, accept any administration that might be set up throughout North and South Vietnam, con cede that the Communists could go to the southern border and expect sweet peace.
World history has shown in the divisions of territory in Berlin and Korea and in Vietnam itself that wherever there is a line bordering upon Communism, there is an exertion of force in the spirit of the purpose pronounced by the Chinese Communist Minister for Defence. Therefore, it would be folly to concede a withdrawal from the 17th parallel to the south coast of Vietnam because immediately we would be confronted with the same conflict there. It is reassuring to me to find that that is the view also of the Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Harold Wilson who said in a speech on 19th July 1965 - . . The American position, which we support, is this - that when conditions have been created in which the people of South Viet Nam can determine their own future free from external interference, the United States will be ready and eager to withdraw her forces from South Viet Nam.
This is what they have said and we support them. This is right, but it can only be as a result of a conference. We support that too. A unilateral withdrawal of the United Stales would have incalculable results . . .
He meant, for disaster. As late as 3 1st January 1966, Mr. Wilson made a statement on the policy of his Government after the American suspension of bombing over Christmas. Speaking on behalf of the British Labour Government, Mr. Wilson said -
I have tried to consider this conflict as the point of focus of a world struggle. I have tried to analyse the attitude of people I believe to be responsible, and who do not yield to propaganda but who view it as a national duty to put first the security of Great Britain and the United States of America. We as representatives of an Australian democracy would be recreant to the security of Australia if we did not confidently accept the same point of view. One of those points of view comes from a Government whose party political purposes conflict internally with those of the party I support. But it should be reassuring to us that in Great Britain, where party considerations have little or no bearing upon foreign policy, they despise the maD who would consider party interests first when discussing national security. When I find Mr. Wilson and Mr. Michael Stewart as late as January 1966 supporting this view, I as an Australian am compelled to accept it.
When I addressed myself to this matter last year I stated firmly and somewhat truculently that I was not satisfied with the efforts being made while holding the line with combat troops, to negotiate a peace through diplomats and politicians and to get to some understanding at the conference table. Happily we find that efforts have been made since, first by Great Britain direct to Russia, followed by Mr. Wilson’s effort at the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Subsequently his personal representative, Mr. Gordon Walker, made an attempt to get an understanding and Mr. Davies, another member of the House of Commons allied to Mr. Wilson, thought he would have a special right to enter the halls of Hanoi. Then it was stated by President Lyndon Johnson that he would engage in an unconditional discussion and go anywhere at any time if he could get discussions started on the cessation of hostilities. In a responsible statement recently on behalf of the United States I saw a reference to no less than 300 contacts that had been made in the last few months in an endeavour to get the ear of the Communist State of North Vietnam. But how truculently hostile and offensive have been the refusals even when Mr. Shastri and President Tito endeavoured to get communication in spite of reviling insults that were poured out officially on them. This reaction made it quite clear that the Communists of North Vietnam intend to maintain this conflict as a means of resolution.
So I cannot escape the conviction that we have to join the Americans in holding this line for the protection of the South Vietnamese. This must be done so that their small country will not be subjugated but will have an opportunity to develop itself; so that its institutions may be preserved and so that it will not be occupied by Communist forces from the North with all that that means to Pacific security. As an Australian nation we entered the First and Second World Wars in defence of a principle. When we consider the sacrifices involved, I think that nobody, knowing the mistakes that were made and the dreadful strategic mismanagement of our forces in the First World War and to some extent the inevitable mistakes of the Second World War, would wish that we could have been disengaged from those two conflicts. But whatever the sacrifice today, Australia’s national security demands that we stand with the United States in South Vietnam.
There are aspects of the Prime Minister’s statement which were new. For the first time the right honorable gentleman announced a policy under which the number of Australian troops in Vietnam was to be increased from 1,500 to 4,500. He told us that these troops would be retired from tours of duty every 12 months. I am very glad about that. He said also that one-third of our contingent would consist of national service trainees. The young men of this country will not flinch from their duty fairly to face any conflict that the defence of this country requires.
Within the last 18 months we have adopted the policy of making defence service compulsory and of requiring that service to be undertaken at home or abroad. I support that policy. I do so because of the most impressive history of the United States of America in this respect. The United States Embassy here has been good enough to provide me with the history of the nature of service in the American armed forces. Having entered the first period of the Civil War with volunteers, the powers that be in that democracy found the adoption of compulsory service to be imperative. In the war of 1812 they were ready to engage in compulsory military service. I shall say no more about that war. Then in the two World Wars, right from the first time when American troops were committed, America had compulsory military service. The Americans have recognised it as being the paramount duty of the manhood of any community. That fact was recognised when war was glorified, but now when war means madness and is engaged in only as the ultimate means of defence it is still the inalienable obligation of the manhood of a community to fight for the defence of that community and its components - their families, their homes and the institutions under which they have had the opportunity to live. 1 recall the First World War, from which I emerged as a youth of 15 years, and the Second World War, in which I was engaged as a volunteer although I never saw battle. We recall that during both those wars compulsory service was bandied about in Australia as a political issue. In Australia it has become an issue that excites great political contention. Surely no politician will be recreant to his trust as, I am ashamed to say, were the leaders in government in this country in 1917. When the lines of our fighting forces in France were dwindling the Government of the day did not have the decency and the courage to say that the law of this country would require sufficient reinforcements to be sent forward to ensure that one man in the Austraiian Imperial Force was not defending a position that should be defended by five men. No government of worth equal even to the value of the leather in one’s boot heels would leave fighting men in that position. Compulsory service is fair service and is the inalienable obligation of our manhood.
However, in my view, men who are engaged at the compulsion of the nation’s Parliament should have the assurance that, if they are maimed or wounded, they will not be recompensed with an exiguous repatriation pension but will enjoy compensation at least comparable with that which would be awarded in civil life for similar wounds or injuries. If a man becomes a totally and permanently incapacitated unit of society, he should not be left to linger for 40 years on a pension that is less than the basic wage when people who are injured in similar fashion in Pitt Street, in Sydney, are awarded by juries £40,000 or £50,000 or, as by one judge recently, a sum of £67,000. An obligation should be cast upon the industries and the capital undertakings in this country that are being protected to yield a compensation fund so that the members of our combat forces will be entitled, not to the present rate of pension, but to a proper rate of pension. Those who are wounded should be assured of receiving everything that money can provide and those who might be killed should have been assured that their wives would receive at least a house rent free during their widowhood and thu their children would be afforded ample opportunity to receive an education such as the father could have provided. These are the inescapable obligations of any country the Parliament of which has compelled men to go to battle.
I call for an entirely new outlook upon compensation - not repatriation pensions - for men who are engaged by this nation under the present system, particularly as the numbers involved are not such that an inflationary crisis would be precipitated or that our monetary system would be destroyed and so make the compensation worthless. The numbers involved are such that about 10 of the companies in this country could provide continuing compensation on the scale that I have called for without feeling it. Secondly, being committedto a conflict of this sort. I believe we have an obligation not to allow a compulsory national service training scheme automatically to be translated into a national compulsory service scheme. To my way of thinking, if national service trainees are to be automatically engaged in these warlike operations, the basis of the compulsory obligation should be broadened to include, not only the 20 year old group, but also group1! of the most virile manhood ranging from 20 to 35 years of age. That, of course, would call for a just system of selection.
Thirdly, we must have regard to the situation in which we find ourselves with this policy and this challenge. In the history of compulsory military service in Australia, conscription became a most odious and offensive word after the referendum campaign of 1916-17, and has been made a politically offensive word ever since. This is seen to be particularly so when we remember the views expressed from both sides during the second world war when John Curtin deemed it necessary to have the right compulsorily to employ men on military service north of Australia. Political forces were brought to bear against this decision. Any man of honour in this country would fight the person who offered him the insult that attaches to the word conscript. I believe that it is the obvious and bounden duty of this Parliament to pass a law to prevent that insult being offered to members of the units of our defence forces. These young men go into the forces by compulsion, that is, as the result of the making of a law by this Parliament. But when Parliament makes compulsory military service the law of the country, it should not be a means by which young men are mortally insulted. We give protection to public officers and to men carrying out public duties in other fields. Every public servant of this country is protected by law from having insults offered to him in the course of his public duty. I plead for the recognition within the Parliament of the need, on grounds of decency, to prevent these men having applied to them that term which in Australia is odious and offensive - conscripts.
– The Catholic Church refers to them as such in tonight’s Press. Why does not the honorable senator face facts?
– Senator Cavanagh, I do not disparage nor do I withhold respect from the Catholic Church, any other church or any other institution. The Churches, in my view, are sometimes no more worthy of being representative of the Deity than politicians are of being representative of their country.
So, Madam Acting Deputy President, I take the opportunity of advancing my view yet again. But not indefinitely will I do it in vain. I have mentioned my adherence to the cause and my support for the policy of the Government. My support is conditioned first, by the provision of a proper basis of repatriation. It is conditioned, secondly, by acceptance of the principle of making eligible for compulsory service for engagement overseas, not merely on the 20 year old group, but on the groups of virile manhood. Thirdly, it is conditioned by acceptance of the basis that men who are called up for compulsory service are protected against being offered the greatest insult, that is, to be termed conscripts.
.- The Senate is discussing a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) in respect of the policy of his Government. When making that statement the Prime Minister referred to many important matters. One of them was the state of affairs in Vietnam. Another was the state of the Australian economy at the present time. The Prime Minister, when discussing matters generally, used two words. They were “ growth “ and “ stability “. I propose to apply my remarks to those words.
On behalf of the Australian Labour Party, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) has moved an amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the paper, lt mentions specifically the failure of the Government to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community and also to alleviate the effects of the drought and to take steps to rehabilitate rural industries and conserve water resources. It is to those two matters in particular that 1 wish to address my remarks.
When making use of the words “ growth “ and “ stability “, the Prime Minister evidently wished to present a picture of Australia growing in respect of primary, secondary and tertiary industries, providing employment for school leavers and migrants coming here from other countries and, at the same time, making the economy stable. Is it any wonder at all that my Party supports the amendment? When discussing its policy, the Government often refers to full employment. It has been stated that full employment cannot be achieved. Some people, especially members on the Government side, claim that while we can have a state of employment that is almost full, there must be a certain amount of unemployment. It appears that it is the State of Queensland that always has to suffer that small amount of unemployment. In January of this year, 78,308 persons were out of work in the Commonwealth. Queensland had 18.971 of them. At that time the number of persons out of employment in the Commonwealth was 1.7 per cent, of the workforce. Unemployment in Queensland at that time represented 3.1 per cent, of the workforce; in New South Wales, 1.5 per cent.; in Victoria, 4.1 per cent.; in South Australia, 1.7 per cent.; in Western Australia, 1.2 per cent.; and in Tasmania, 2 per cent. In January of this year. Queensland was in the worst plight of all the States in respect of unemployment.
We know that, in these days, there is a means of making payments to persons who have lost their employment. We know of the provisions of the Social Services Act. The payments are referred to as unemployment benefit. It requires very little imagination on the part of anyone to understand quite clearly how the standard of living of the typical worker is exploded when he no longer has wages and is in receipt of the unemployment benefit. I have not referred to the waiting period of two weeks when he is without any income; that is, between the time his wages cease and he is paid the benefit. In Brisbane 1,549 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. This benefit has to be paid from the funds of the Commonwealth. Those funds have to be kept alive by direct and indirect taxation.
There are several small cities in Queensland, which is, I think, the most decentralised Stale in the Commonwealth. In January of this year 897 persons in Bundaberg were receiving the unemployment benefit. In Townsville the number was 652. In Mackay, which is the centre of the Dawson electorate, 645 workless people were receiving the benefit. In Cairns, a scenic city and a city in a scenic district, a further 592 usually hardworking people were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. In the small town of Ayr 497 people had to receive what was once referred to as “ the dole “. In Rockhampton there were 450 unemployed people in receipt of the benefit, and 432 in the comparatively small city of Maryborough. In Toowoomba the figure was 410; in Innisfail, 248; in Ingham, 244; and in Ipswich, 234. To my mind, the picture which the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), has endeavoured to paint when referring to growth and stability does not materialise when one examines the conditions which have existed this year in Queensland.
I am glad to hear that the Commonwealth proposes to launch a housing scheme almost forthwith. The funds will be made available and from then on houses will be constructed for those who require them. It would seem that the Government has learned something when it proposes to put a housing scheme into operation forthwith. It now knows from experience - having been in office for over 16 years - that one of the best ways to relieve unemployment is to start the building trades moving. When the building trades are active, many other avenues of employment are made available and the general employment situation improves almost overnight. I believe that by December of this year there will be no unemployment at all in the Commonwealth. There will not be even 1.7 per cent, of the work force unemployed. These situations can be relieved if the Government has the urge and the incentive to relieve them. The reafforestation scheme mentioned by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) is a positive way of relieving unemployment without incurring any capital expenditure. All that are required to employ thousands of men are spades or shovels and axes. They might also require a tractor or a utility truck or two. This is one of the best means of relieving unemployment that can be found. The Government will soon have workless people in Queensland engaged in reafforestation. I do not think they could be more gainfully employed than in reforesting the lands in Queensland which over the years have been denuded of valuable millable timber.
I now turn to the Government’s record over the past 16 or 17 years in relation to the economy. I fail to see any evidence of any attempt whatever on the part of the Government to stabilise the economy of Australia and to improve and stabilise the purchasing power of the wage earners. The Government has an inglorious record in regard to instability and inflation. It has been stated here on numerous occasions by honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber that the best yardstick of inflation has always been the basic wage. At present the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is dealing with the basic wage. I do not want my remarks to be associated with anything taking place before that tribunal, but I predict that there will soon be a new basic wage of at least £1 a week more than the prevailing one. When this Government, having come into office in 1949, settled down to work in 1950 the basic wage was £6 9s. a week. I do not propose to go over the 43 increases that have been made in the basic wage between 1949 and now, but I will mention the increases that have been effected over fiveyear periods, in order to give the people of the Commonwealth an idea of how this Government has failed miserably to stabilise living standards and improve the purchasing power of all citizens. As I said a moment ago, in 1950 the basic wage was £6 9s. a week. In 1955 it was £11 7s., an increase of £4 18s. In 1960 it was £13 16s., an increase of £7 7s. over the 1950 figure. In 1965 the basic wage reached £15 14s. a week, exactly £9 5s. more than in 1950. Anybody who endeavoured to convince me that £15 14s. a week in 1965 had a greater purchasing power than £6 9s. a week in 1950 would certainly have a job ahead of him. lt would be almost impossible to convince me of that.
In other ways also, of course, the Government has failed to recognise any rules at all in regard to economic stability. It is true that there has been a certain amount of economic growth and that certain overseas companies have come here and developed - or exploited - Australia’s resources. They have developed them not for the purpose of providing more industries here but in order to transport raw materials overseas for processing. Queensland has had that experience in regard to bauxite from Weipa and other parts of the State. Western Australia is now going through that process in a wholesale way, in respect of its iron ore. 1 believe the best evidence of the increasing interest rates charged by the Commonwealth Government is to be found in the documents from various government agencies that come before us from time to time. In 1951, the rate of interest in operation was £3 4s. 3d. per cent. In 1952 it was £3 15s. per cent.
– On what level was that?
– That was from the Commonwealth Treasury to an authority. If the honorable senator wishes, I will be happy to give him all the rates of interest. They are undeniable. They are in this document for anyone to see. I am quoting the rates of interest that the Commonwealth Treasury charged the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I cannot be fairer than that. If any honorable senator who is interested in this matter turns to page 50 of the latest report of the Authority, he will find the rates of interest set out. He will also notice that £265,938,000 has been made available to the Authority by the Treasury for the purpose of carrying out the Snowy Mountains project.
Now I will continue with the theme of my speech. In 1950 the rate of interest was £3 2s. 6d. per cent. By 1955 it had reached £4 10s. per cent. By 1960 it was £5 per cent. Last year it was £5 5s. per cent. If that is evidence of stability, then I do not know what stability is. As I am uttering these words, I am aware that these are not the minimum rates of interest pay able by members of the public. People for whom houses are built from money advanced by the Commonwealth Government are required to pay interest at the rate of 6 or 6i per cent. A person who borrows money from a savings bank for the purpose o£ constructing a house is charged 6 per cent. So the Australian Labour Party had every justification for including in its amendment the words “ the Government’s failure to maintain the purchasing power of the Australian community “.
There was a great to-do in Australia towards the end of the last session of this Parliament, in November of last year, when the Government proposed to introduce a trade practices bill. The purpose of the bill was made clear to everyone. After it was passed in December and assented to on 18 th December, all the housewives of the Commonwealth called together their children, their friends and their relatives and said to them: “ It is time for a feast. Let us go to the shops of the great shopping combines - the drive-in shopping centres and other places - and purchase all the foodstuffs that we possibly can. We will have a feast because the corrupt and restrictive trade practices that have operated in society since 2,000 years before Christ have been extirpated by the Government, lt has introduced legislation to extirpate them completely.” When the housewives, with their children, their friends and their relatives, went to the shops, they were greatly dismayed. They found that there had been no reductions whatsoever in the prices of foodstuffs. Of course, there have been no reductions since then.
However, so as not to let the spirit of feasting die, the housewives said: “ Decimal currency will be introduced in February. Then we will have an opportunity to obtain foodstuffs at much lower prices. So we will defer the holding of the festival until then.” But when decimal currency was introduced on 14th February, what happened? The prices of basic foodstuffs were increased. I could quote the increases one by one, but I do not propose to do so. Some of them were very substantial. So there has been no feasting at all by the housewives, their children, their friends and their relatives. In fact, they could not have afforded to celebrate reductions in food prices if there had been any.
Honorable senators will recall that, when the Estimates and Budget Papers were presented last year, the Government proposed to raise certain sums by way of taxation for various purposes, which were all justifiable. Every year the Government goes through this process. Last year it said that its receipts would be £2,493 million and that its expenditure would be £2,667 million. It also stated that it would collect £592 million from individuals and £306 million from companies, in the form of income tax. I propose to paint a picture of the Government needlessly paying out money in the future. The Government had been in office for 16 years up to last year. It should have had all the agencies of the Commonwealth organised in such a way that information in relation to the welfare of the economy and of the people could be communicated to it in an ordinary way so that special requests would not have to be made for such information.
Let us look at the situation that faces the Government now. It is estimated that this year farm incomes will fall by $357 million. Income from wool will fall by $62 million; from wheat by $44 million; from meat by $42 million; and from sugar by $22 million. There has been no growth in farm incomes for some years. There may be no appreciable increase in the incomes of some graziers for at least four or five years. The sugar growers have been treated rather badly because of the prices that they have received for their sugar, on the one hand, and because of poor crops, due to the drought, on the other. This is the situation of the sugar growers: In 1963 the average price for sugar was £71 7s. a ton. That was considered to be a boom year because in one part of the year the price of sugar reached the record level of £103 per ton on the world market. In 1964 it reached £93 per ton, and the average price, or the British negotiated price for that year, was £71 7s. per ton. If one looked only at what I have just stated one would think that the sugar growers were enjoying a grand time. But for the last 10 years, the average price for sugar on the world market works out at £31 10s. per ton. Last year there was a marked change in the price of sugar. The highest price in the last 12 months was £24 5s. per ton, and the price reached the record low level of £17 15s. per ton. There are thousands of sugar growers, and for a number of years the Commonwealth Government has been collecting substantial amounts from each of them in income tax. It is doubtful whether the Government will collect the same amount of income tax next year or in the years ahead.
I have pointed out that farm income has fallen. Stock losses have been staggering in both New South Wales and Queensland. Mr. Deputy President, you will have a clear conception of what I am about to say because this position applies in Western Australia. It is considered in the grazing and rural portions of Queensland and the north western regions of New South Wales that in a period of three years, people on farms and other rural properties can expect one good year, one fair year and one fairly dry year. It also can be stated quite positively that a severe drought will occur about once every eight or nine years. That is a known fact and can be written down as gospel. The Government should have known by March of last year that the whole of Western Queensland was in a serious drought position. It should also have known that New South Wales was facing a creeping drought. If the Government did not know its ignorance would have been due to lack of organisation on its part. The Commonwealth Government has the services of the Department of Primary Industry, which has field officers. Reports are obtainable from various centres as to the amount of rainfall. Somebody in the Department of Primary Industry should have had the job of collecting information relating to rainfall and the dry conditions which were developing in the rural and pastoral areas. The Commonwealth Government could have made a decision to purchase fodder in certain parts of Australia which had enjoyed a good season, or it could have purchased it in New Zealand. It should have done these things.
Earlier I referred to the rates of interest which are payable by various authorities. I would like to quote an interesting passage from the report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the year ended 30th June 1965. It refers to the bill which the Authority must meet by way of interest charges. It points out the number of acre feet that are irrigated in Victoria from the waters which pass through the control of the Authority. It also points out that those who are using the water are really getting it for nothing; they are not required to pay for it. This is what the Authority stated in its report -
On the basis of electricity benefits alone, the economics of the Scheme are sound. If account is taken of the benefits due to the provision of irrigation water its economics are greatly enhanced, lt is estimated that the Scheme will provide sufficient additional water to justify an increase in the normal annual supply for irrigation of approximately 1,100,000 acre feet to the Mumimbidgee and 800,000 acre feet to the Murray, a total sufficient to irrigate an area of at least 1,000 square miles. No charge is made to the States for the supply of this water, the total cost of the Scheme being recouped from the sale of electricity.
The Commonwealth Government knows that Queensland and certain portions of New South Wales are subject to devastating droughts, lt also knows that water is available for irrigation purposes from the Snowy Mountains scheme and that fodder can be produced in some of the irrigation areas. An endeavour should be made, even now, to start a scheme. I do not say that the individual farmer on the Mumimbidgee or Murray Rivers should go out and grow lucerne or some suitable fodder for starving stock in Queensland in the hope of being recompensed at some later period. A special arrangement should be arrived at between people who are engaged in that class of irrigation work and the Commonwealth Government. It could be a separate industry from the grazing industry. We know that another great drought will occur and that severe losses will be incurred. It is not only the individual grazier who loses in a drought. Those living in the district and who gain employment from the grazing industry also lose. The Commonwealth Government loses in the long run. It will get very little taxation from some of these people this year. As I said before, the Commonwealth Government had every opportunity for ascertaining first hand information on the nature of the drought. It had the means to do so, but it did not bother. It did not set in motion procedures which would give it the information.
I wish to refer to Emerald, which is a town in Queensland. Senator Lawrie will know its location. From May to November 1965, 85 points of rain fell in that district.
It was the lowest reading on record since observations were begun in 1883.
– ls the honorable senator blaming the Government for that?
– Well, the honorable senator is a dunce if ever there was one. He is the very picture of a dunce. Fancy saying: “ Do you blame the Government for that? “
– That is unparliamentary language.
– The Minister is not in the Chair. 1 am trying to tell Senator Prowse that information was available to the Government which would have made it well aware as early as March of last year that the most destructive drought that Australia had experienced for 30 or 40 years was creeping upon the land. If there is no rain, there is a drought. If there is no rain for three years, there is a drought that lasts for three years. With those simple remarks I will continue.
For the period from May to November 1965 Emerald had 85 points, which was the lowest rainfall on record since observations began in 1883 and was less than one-tenth of the average of 9 inches 26 points. Barcaldine, one of the greatest wool producing districts in Queensland, or even in Australia, had very little rain between November 1964 and November 1965. It had 7 inches 42 points, the second lowest since the beginning of records in 1886. The lowest November to November total was 6 inches 72 points, in 1946-47. The average rainfall is 21 inches 30 points.
Rockhampton, on the Queensland coast, is the centre of a big grazing area. It had 38 points of rain in November 1965. Records have been kept since 1871 but only once - in 1901-02, when 10½ inches fell - has the rainfall from the December of one year to the November of the following year been less than the total of 12 inches 79 points which fell in the period from December 1964 to November 1965. In each month in that period, except in April, the rainfall was not more than one-half of the month’s average. Winton, another great wool producing area in the west of Queensland, suffered extremely dry conditions for quite a long while. No rain fell during
November 1964 and only a few points fell in December of that year. The rainfall of 6 inches 33 points in the 13 months from November 1964 to December 1965 was the fourth lowest recorded for such a period since the beginning of rainfall records in 1 884. The driest period was from November 1904 to December 1905, when only 4 inches 2 points fell, compared with an average of 17 inches 13 points.
I could mention other districts but there is nothing to be gained from that. 1 merely want to point out that all this information was available to the Government last year. Although it had thousands of public servants employed, no-one thought of establishing an organisation which would have allowed the Government to learn the rainfall in the western regions and then to employ field officers to traverse the country to see what could be done to prevent the terrific stock losses which occurred. Nothing was done by anyone. Now the Government has to make loans available to the graziers who suffered stock losses to enable them to get back into business. The stock owners - they were stock owners but they are not at the present time - will have to restock their properties and will have to pay interest on the loans advanced by the Commonwealth. All of this trouble could have been avoided. I am charging the Government with neglect. It has been grossly neglectful of the primary duty of a government. It could have turned to the State Governments for assistance. If a government allows a drought to make .the stock owners poverty stricken, without a hope of resuscitating their properties, it does not deserve to be a government. Believe me, when the election campaign is being conducted next December I shall highlight these matters over the air and in my travels throughout the country.
I could mention other cases of neglect but I have said sufficient to prove that the Government has never paid any attention to the instability of the purchasing power of the people. It has neglected the prime function of a government in a drought period, lt has shut its eyes and its ears to what was going on around it. No-one can tell me that the Cabinet did not know in March last year that a drought was causing ruin in Queensland. But nothing was done. The Government appears to be surprised when it is told that Queensland experienced a drought last year. The Treasury has made a paltry sum available for the purpose of allowing the owners to restock their properties. The graziers have lush pastures at the present time but no stock to eat the fodder. The export meat works in north Queensland will be opening this month or next month, but I cannot see the season lasting for any period, because there is no stock to kill.
– The meat works do not look like starting because of industrial trouble.
– The honorable senator should not be nasty. 1 know what he is trying to say. The season will be brief because stock numbers have been depleted. Breeding stock have died because of the drought. I do not know what the graziers will do. Unfortunately, I cannot paint the picture black enough or make it dismal enough. The true picture is far worse than I have been able to paint it. In view of present conditions, I do not know how the Government can describe our economy as a growing and a stable economy. If the present conditions are a sign of growth and stability, let us have none of it in the future. My goodness, I intend to be in the chamber to vote for the amendment which my Party has proposed.
– At the outset I should like to extend my congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) on the first major statement he has made in that capacity. Before developing the theme of that statement, I want to point out to Senator Benn that my Party in New South Wales was active in trying to do something about the drought even prior to the period he mentioned. I know he will get some comfort from that statement.
I propose to devote most of my remarks to the position in Vietnam. I remind honorable senators that on 2nd September 1964, during the debate on the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, I went to some pains to traverse the situation as it then was in Vietnam. That was right from the time when the division of Vietnam into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, as we now know it, occurred in 1954. I also mentioned during the course of the debate how difficult it would be for any government taking over for the first time to carry on the administration because when the French left Vietnam they did not, whether by accident or design - those were the words I used - leave any civil servants as we know them to help the incoming government. Therefore, no matter what government took office, it had no trained personnel to help it. The position was aggravated by the religious differences between the parties at that time. It is true that there has been a succession of governments ever since, but these are some of the difficulties that led to the serious situation that developed speedily afterwards and which is, indeed, ever so much worse now.
So far as we in Australia are concerned, I just want to pose this question: Are we prepared to take the gamble that, if we keep out of South Vietnam and see fit not to render any assistance at all to our ally, the United States, and if the North Vietnamese are successful, Communism will not take over and we, in the course of time, will not be threatened here? If we are prepared to take that gamble, O.K., there is no need for us to send troops there. I think it is too big a gamble for us to take, quite apart from anything else, and I propose a little later to give reasons why I feel we should be represented there. 1 suppose that were this country invaded members of the Opposition would expect and would be grateful for any help that would be coming to us from our great ally, the United States. We would expect help from America. We know that we would get it, and we would accept it. Are we to accept this situation yet stand aside when our ally is in need of assistance? Are we to refuse to play our part in this alliance that we have with the United States, saying: “ Oh, it is all right. You come and protect us, but if you happen to get into a bad jam anywhere in the world we feel that you will get out of it all right. Do not expect us to help you.” That is not the sort of alliance that can last. We all recognise that. So what we have to do in alliance with the United States is to pull our weight so far as our conditions allow us to do, and that is what this Government is doing and proposes to do. We have this responsibility and we must discharge it, and I fail to see how people can say that this is not our war. It is our war. We have as much at stake in Vietnam as the United States has, or even more. That being so, we have to face the fact that we must play our part in assisting the United States in the task that she has undertaken.
We have no territorial ambitions; everybody agrees that we have none. I have said many times here that the first task of any government is to protect this country of ours. This is one way in which we have to set about protecting it; that is, by seeing that our future, so far as we can safeguard it, is not jeopardised. Why are we in South Vietnam? As I see it, we are there for at least three reasons. The first is that the South Vietnamese asked for help. The second is that our great ally needs help and it is our responsibility to give that help. The third is that should the Communists - by which I mean the North Vietnamese and those people who are helping them - be successful there, this would be merely another gain in their long drawn out plan eventually to achieve world domination. It is just as clear as that. It is not just a short term policy upon which they have embarked. This has been proved over and over again. It has been said over and over again that their long term policy is world domination. If they had a win in Vietnam, it would be a gain in their long term plan of world domination.
So much has been written and is still being written and spoken about the call up of our young men. After all, what is the position with the United States? It has been calling up its young men for quite a number of years. Are we to adopt the attitude that it is all right for the United States to call up its young men by the thousands and spend millions of dollars in the fighting, which affects us just as much as it affects the United States? Are we to say to the United States: “ That is all right for you but we do not think that we should do so “? It is really beyond my comprehension that people adopt this attitude. Were we to adopt this attitude we would simply raise the flag of shame in Australia. We would be disgraced for hundreds of years to come, and rightly so, if we were to act in this manner.
Surely we have seen the folly of appeasement over the years. We saw it with Hitler, and we saw it in other circumstances since. We have the example of our great, friendly Commonwealth partner, India, which adopted this principle of non-alignment, non-intervention, non-aggression, refusal to rearm, and all the rest. What happened? In the short space of a few weeks she had to adopt a crash programme of rearmament, assisted by the United States and Great Britain; otherwise she would have suffered even more grieviously than she did. lt is only too plain to most of us, 1 think, that it is not sufficient for us to sit down and say to our neighbours, “ We will not injure you “, and expect in return that we will not be injured by somebody else. This just does not work and we all recognise that position, if we are honest. 1 am quite convinced that, in spite of some of the criticism that we get from time to time, the great, solid majority of Australians are very much behind the Government’s action in regard to Vietnam.
– Is the Minister prepared to test it?
– Yes, any time the honorable senator likes. I challenged him to a test in relation to the waterside workers a while ago. What has happened about that?
– Is the Minister prepared to test it?
– There will be a testing time soon and the honorable senator and his Party will bite the dust as they have bitten it on every other occasion.
The next question is as to whether or not we should send national service trainees to Vietnam. Surely to goodness people do not think that this is done without being forced into this position. We have responsibilities there. I have said at least three or four times already that we have as much at stake as, or more at stake than, the United States, lt is just as simple as that. We have not sufficient men in our Regular Army for the commitment that we have to stand up to in Vietnam. As a consequence, we have to send a proportion of our national service trainees to assist the Regular Army. I know that there is some criticism about sending these fellows to Vietnam while not giving them a vote. I remind the Senate that they are not called up until they have passed their twentieth birthday. By the time the training is undertaken and they are eventually put into this area the vast majority of them will be old enough to receive a vote. The other day one body gave as only 1 per cent, the proportion of those who would be unable to vote when they reached Vietnam. I am not suggesting that that figure is correct. I have heard another estimate that 95 per cent, of them would be eligible to vote by the time they got into that area. This is the position: We have not sufficient trained men and we have no option but to send our national servicemen. In my opinion, these lads will willingly carry out the responsibility that is to be placed on them.
If we value our liberty and our standard of living, surely they are worth some sacrifice. This has been the pattern throughout history. Sacrifices are never distributed evenly no matter what persons or governments might do. Unfortunately, it always falls upon some to make heavier sacrifices than others. I cannot see any way out of that. If we say that Australia is not worth this sacrifice, we are saying in the popular vernacular that it is not worth two bob. If it is worth anything to us, we must be prepared to make sacrifices. Some will say that it is all right for fellows like me to say that the other man can make the sacrifice but it has fallen to the lot of some of us at least to offer to make sacrifices in the defence of Australia. I see many who have done so in this Senate. I remind honorable senators of a poem written many years ago-
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!
That is the spirit of thousands of our young men today. Thank goodness it is there. It has been suggested that we should not have a call up of young men without a call up of wealth and resources. Probably there would be such a call up of national wealth in an all out war; but fortunately we are not faced with an all out war today and I do not think we will be faced with one. Therefore, such a call up does not arise.
Reference has been made to peace overtures. Senator Wright mentioned that hundreds of peace overtures have been made. Even today the Press reports that another attempt has been made bv the United States and once again the overtures have been turned down. It is wrong to say that no attempt has been made to achieve peace in this troubled country.
Questions have been asked in the Senate about the number of desertions from the South Vietnamese Army. I wonder how many desertions from the Vietcong have occurred. I made some reference to these when I spoke previously. We were told then that desertions from the Vietcong were quite heavy and I have no doubt they are still occurring on the same scale. Korea, which suffered heavily from the effects of war seven or eight years ago, has seen fit to send an additional 20,000 troops to Vietnam. It would be to our undying shame if we allowed other nations like Korea to fight our battles for us. We could not expect assistance from them if we ever needed it. In August last, President Johnson in a message to the American people on the tragic conflict in Vietnam, constructed a clear definition of America’s role in Vietnam as follows -
The dangers and hopes that Vietnam holds for all free men.
The fullness and limits of our (U.S.) national objectives in a war we did not seek.
The constant effort on our part to bring this war we do not desire to a quick and honorable end. 1 direct the attention of honorable senators to two points in that speech - “ a war we did not seek “ and “ this war we do not desire “. It is true to say that the free world did not seek or desire this war but unlike the Opposition, we believe it is essential that this war should be won. To think otherwise is unspeakable. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) as Leader of the Opposition in another place, has made an issue of conscription. He has challenged the Government to fight an election on this issue. It would be well for honorable senators to cogitate seriously on this question. We are facing a time of great crisis; but Australia has faced similar crises before, and I am sure she will come through this one as she has done in the past.
But in all seriousness, I question the motives behind the pronouncements of the Leader of the Opposition. 1 have been delving into the records of the once great Australian Labour Party, the Party led by Mr. Calwell, and I find some of the facts that have emerged quite interesting. I quote from the written official records of the Australian Labour Party so that I will not misquote the Leader of the Opposition. I propose to quote from them because they illustrate that then, as now, there is little loyalty in Labour’s ranks. Certainly a great division existed then, as now, on the question of conscription. It is a pity now, as it was then, that no coherent view on the important issue is forthcoming from Labour.
I recite the facts for all honorable senators so that they may decide for themselves how divided Labour was then, and is now, on the issue. On 17th November 1942, Mr. John Curtin first announced to a special meeting of the Federal Labour Conference his Government’s plans to extend the area outside Australia where the Australian militia might be sent for the defence of Australia. Let me remind the Senate that at that time the Japanese hordes were threatening our shores. Mr. Curtin felt it his duty, plain and simple, to extend the area where so called conscripts might fight. Mr. Curtin was not afraid to go to his Party to seek its support. It is now recorded history that it was Mr. Calwell who led the faction inside the Labour Party opposed to Mr. Curtin’s ideas and ideals. Was it not Mr. Calwell who, on the completion of Mr. Curtin’s appeal to Conference for support for his proposal, came out vehemently in opposition to his Leader and the nation’s Prime Minister? It is recorded in the official records of the A.L.P. Conference that Mr. Calwell even contested Mr. Curtin’s right to bring the matter forward for discussion at all. According to the records, Mr. Calwell claimed the matter was not one for discussion by the Conference. He further claimed that Mr. Curtin’s proposal should be remitted to the six State branches before Federal Conference could commit the Labour movement to overseas service. Imagine any responsible man taking such a narrow insular stand while the nation was engulfed in an all out war.
It is on the official Labour records, too, how Mr. Calwell continued a bitter battle for days against the so called “ Conscriptionists “ at that Conference which finally humiliated its leader, Mr. Curtin, in the eyes of the nation when Conference spurned Mr. Curtin and accepted the viewpoint of delegates lead by Mr. Calwell that the State branches should have their say on this vital subject. How incongruous to suggest that it was a matter for the States. Several weeks later, on 4th January 1943, a special Federal Conference of the Australian Labour Party was held and gave its approval by 24 votes to 12 to send our militia overseas to defend us in the South West Pacific area just as we are doing today.
Let it be remembered that after Mr. Calwell’s State of Victoria and Queensland had been outvoted by the other four States, Mr. Calwell continued his fight against his leader, the nation’s Prime Minister. It is on the records of the Labour Party that within a matter of days after this decision had been reached, Mr. Calwell returned to the fight. He prevailed upon his State Executive on 22nd January 1943 to continue the fight against Mr. Curtin’s proposals. The hitherto unpublished records of the Federal and Victorian sections of the Labour Party show that Mr. Calwell relentlessly pursued his leader. In the same manner he is opposing conscription today. Finally, at a meeting of the Victorian Branch Executive Mr. Calwell successfully proposed a motion to have revoked the Federal Conference decision supporting Mr. Curtin’s proposals.
It is important to make public the behind the scenes attempts by Mr. Calwell to negate the undertakings that were given by the Labour leader to General MacArthur at a period when the threat to our shores was at its most dangerous peak. The same threat exists today. These are my final comments on this inglorious page of Labour’s history, which is now being repeated after 23 years: The words uttered by Mr. Calwell are the words of a man who is insecure about security. Mr. Calwell is a man who lives in history instead of with it. He was prominent in the conscription fight of the First World War. Certainly the indisputable facts that I have given for the first time publicly show that he was to the fore in campaigning against his own leader and the nation’s Prime Minister in the Second World War. He is a man who is living in the past. He is living remote from all the dangerous realities that are inherent in the present crucial situation. It is quite obvious that he not only is immersed in the conscription question but has a phobia about it.
I believe that Australia faces danger. I have said so several times. It is the bounden duty of our Government to face up to this danger. This it has done. In adopting its present attitude, Labour is following a dangerous line. I say to the Opposition once again: Why is it that on this occasion, as on so many occasions in the past, we are experiencing opposition to measures that the Government has submitted to the Parliament for the defence of Australia? One could be pardoned for thinking that, either wittingly or unwittingly, the Opposition is concerned not so much about defending this country as about putting obstacles in the way of those who want to defend it. In doing so it is only assisting those whom we are trying to defeat.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy President, I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy President, the statement that I am about to read was made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) in the House of Representatives on 10th March. Where the personal pronoun “ I “ is used, it refers to the Minister for External Affairs. The statement is as follows -
Before we start debating what we are doing or what we ought to do in Australian foreign policy let us face plainly the fact that there aTe two things we cannot do. We cannot change Australia’s geographical situation and we cannot cancel out the great forces that are bringing massive changes in the world today and particularly in the southern half of Asia. We in Australia are living on the edge of a great upheaval both in human relations and in the ideas which influence the conduct of mankind. We cannot withdraw from this region and we cannot do anything to prevent the upheaval.
The Australian foreign policy, developed in this setting, must protect and advance Australian interests. This does not mean isolation, which would be equally foolish for us whether we chose it as a policy or whether we drifted into it through lack of care. We have to ally ourselves with others if an Australian policy is to have any effect. We need allies for the sake of our own security. We need allies so that the principles which we regard as vital shall prevail. We choose the principles on which our conduct is to rest and, having chosen them, we stand with those powers who will help maintain them. We examine the dangers to our own security and stand with those who will help us face those dangers. Then we must learn to be a good ally ourselves - to be ready to help as well as be helped. We do not want simply to stand in the shade of any nation. As a small, independent and resolute people we have chosen whom and what we will support and whom and what we will resist. We rely on others and trust they can rely on us.
Our foreign policy is based on a proper concern for the security of our own nation, on a belief that certain principles of international conduct must be observed in order to have fair and honorable dealings between nations and peoples and in order that peace may be achieved in the world, and on a belief that certain conditions will be more conducive to peaceful relations between nations and to co-operation for mutual benefit than other conditions.
The danger to Australia’s security is twofold. There is the danger of global war. If it occurs this will probably turn into a nuclear war in which the whole of mankind will suffer. That danger of global war is being averted by the diplomacy of power and, although not a. great power ourselves, we have a part to play in the diplomacy of power. A more direct danger is presented to us by the active and belligerent fact of Asian Communist imperialism. This is being held in check by the resistance of the free countries of Asia, helped by nonAsian countries, including ourselves.
For the sake of our own security we will continue to support the United States and its allies in maintaining the restraints of power against the two other great aggregations of power, while hoping that throughout the world success in containment of power will be followed in all cases by attempts to develop the conditions for co-existence. We will continue to support, both in the forum of the United Nations and in all situations in which the organs of the United Nations have any capacity to act, the standards of international conduct set out in the Purposes and Principles of the Charter. We will continue to apply uv same principles in all our other international dealings.
We will continue to support the resistance of free countries to external aggression aimed at the overthrow of their independence and we will join in cooperative measures for the common security of the region in which we live. Recognising that security is only the beginning and not the end, we will continue to work with others for the economic and social advancement of the peoples of the less-developed countries.
What I have said hitherto applies to the whole of our foreign policy. I want now to trace the application of this policy in Asia. We do not imagine for a moment that we or any other power can turn back history or cancel the changes taking place in Asia. We have carried out for many years past, both under my distinguished predecessors and in my own term of office, a policy that respects the neutrality of those who choose to be neutral and respects the sovereignty and independence of all Asian powers. I believe that this side of our policy has shown some considerable success. We value today the regard and respect of our Asian neighbours and their co-operation in various common enterprises.
We want to see Asia free from fear and insecurity in which the independent nations will be able to develop for themselves the kind of society and the forms of government that they believe are best suited to themselves, where human welfare can be advanced more rapidly, and where economic progress will strengthen the means by which each country will be able to support its own independence. We want to see the conditions in which such free and prosperous nations will be able by their own decision to co-operate more fully in measures for common welfare and security. This means that it must be an Asia free from the domination of any single great power and safe from the persistent subversion of a communism which is being used deliberately as an instrument of imperialist power.
It is plain that a foreign policy of this kind requires Australia to know as much as it is humanly possible to know about the facts of Asia, to enter as closely as it is humanly possible to enter into friendly contact with the peoples of Asia and to study with a clear vision all the facts we gather and to maintain in friendliness all the associations we form.
Our whole interest as Australians is in the advance of all the peoples of this region to a new and brighter future of freedom, independence and opportunity. What threatens this freedom and independence and what dims their hope for the future is the dread of domination by the new imperialism of China and the throttling grip of Communist aggressors. It is the Communists who have themselves announced their plans. Are these so-called liberation fronts - the National Liberation Front of Vietnam, the Malaysian Liberation Front or the Thailand Liberation Front, all of whom have lodging and blessing in Peking - created to ensure that the peoples of Asia will be free to choose for themselves? Of course not. They have been formed and dedicated to the purpose of bringing these countries, without free choice, under Communist rule. Marshal Ky, Prime Minister of South Vietnam, spoke the plain truth when he spoke of the National Enslavement Front.
The story favoured by the Communists gives a false picture of Asia today. We are not engaged in the rearguard struggle of a doomed colonialism. We are taking part in the establishment of conditions which allow independent nations to exist and prosper in Asia. Free Asia needs the reinforcement of the free world. It was essentially Western power, allied with the growth of South Korean strength, that successfully repelled Communist aggression in Korea - so successfully in fact that the Government of the Republic of Korea is today able to contribute substantial forces for the defence of South Vietnam. It was the British military presence in the Malaysia-Singapore area, with help from Australia and New Zealand, that helped Malaya to overcome the challenge of the Communist terrorists. It is this same military strength which is helping Malaysia to resist Indonesian confrontation, despite all the psychological and political devices used in the confrontation campaign to undermine the will of the Malaysian people. Britain’s presence in the MalaysiaSingapore area continues to exercise its historic role in stabilising the area, and it is sanctioned by the consent and goodwill of the people of Malaysia and Singapore. Japan and the Philippines have freely negotiated defence treaties with the United States which recognise that their national security is linked to the power of the United States. The central issue, common to all these situations, is that the freedom and independence that the nations of Asia have won with the end of the colonial era can be preserved and that they can choose their own future.
I turn now to look at the most critical centre of conflict in Asia today - South Vietnam. 1 submit first to the House and to the people of Australia that we cannot see that conflict clearly if we look only at Vietnam. This is not only a local struggle. It continues to harass the thoughts of compassionate people in all lands, and attempts to find a settlement fail because it is so much more than a local struggle.
Behind Vietnam lies a wider conflict that extends from the northern frontiers of India to the dividing line in Korea; that engages the worldwide diplomacy of the Soviet Union no less than the worldwide diplomacy of the United States; and that casts the shadow of fear over millions of people in all lands of southern Asia no less than the shadow of terror over the villagers of the Mekong delta. This is a war that affects the fate of all countries of South East Asia - a war that throws into sharp relief the aim of Communist China to dominate them by force. These are things seen most vividly and felt most painfully by the countries of the region.
We do not imagine that a lasting arrangement can emerge in Asia which does not take account of what exists on the Chinese mainland. That is not the same thing as immediate recognition of Communist China or its admission to the United Nations. Those are simply parts of the whole question of China. What we are trying to do is to establish and make clear the conditions whereby China and the countries of the region can live peaceably side by side. One essential condition is that there should be no Chinese domination attempted by force or threat of force. We and other nations Te standing up for that principle now in Vietnam.
Tt will take time - indeed, it may take a very long time - to reach an accommodation with China. China itself must make some response and make some movement towards accommodation. Some persons, Australians and others, talk of recognition and of United Nations membership solely in terms of action by us and countries that think like us. But China itself would have to contribute something. Any acceptable accommodation will have to provide for the independence and security of China’s neighbours and must not involve abandonment of Taiwan.
Communist China is a big country in area and population. It has substantial forces, and a revolutionary policy both internally and internationally. But we should not allow ourselves to be bemused into thinking that Peking has been uniformly infallible or successful. What is its record? It has brought together in certain respects the Soviet Union and the United States, by its clumsy and doctrinaire threatening of both. China has alienated a large part of the nonaligned world by its treacherous armed aggression against India and by its bullying tactics at Afro-Asian gatherings. It is not a record of success. It is a record of miscalculation and failure. If we hold on with courage to resist aggression while pursuing positive policies of political and economic development we shall win through.
What we, who are on the fringe of the region, are also concerned about and what we hope that all nations in all continents will be concerned about is that events in Asia are also a threat to the peace of the world. They present today to the world the greatest risk of global war. Indeed, over thirty nations have seen this and are giving some support to South Vietnam in its struggle. Are they giving enough? If they see that their fate and their future are also involved in the present struggle, if they see that the aggression that has to be resisted and the principles of the United Nations Charter which have to be upheld in Asia today are the same as those that lie at the core of peace in every continent of the world, should they not do more? This struggle to save freedom in Asia is the struggle of the whole of the free world..
Sometimes unfortunately any statement about the risk of global war arising in Asia is translated only into a fear of escalation or a fear of provoking those from whom the threat comes. The real risk lies not in the fear of provoking Communist aggression: It lies in any failure to block it. The damage to the principles on which alone peace can be founded is done by neglecting them, not by applying them.
The character of the war in Vietnam is appearing more starkly as the months go by. As operations proceed and the attack on the Vietcong uncovers more of the enemy strength, the old fiction that this was just a band of rural patriots fighting with weapons captured from their oppressors becomes more ridiculous than ever. As underground headquarters, dumps of supplies and weapons, and the organisational structure of the Vietcong are revealed, it becomes plainer than ever that this attack has been prepared in breadth and in depth and organised with professional skill over a period of years and that year by year more and more sophisticated weapons of foreign Communist manufacture have been fed into South Vietnam from the North. I saw myself in Saigon a few days before Christmas photographs of one of the well prepared underground headquarters of the Vietcong and I have talked with Australian soldiers who cleared these redoubts. I saw in Saigon thousands of weapons captured from the Vietcong and alongside them other military and semi-military supplies from Communist China and Communist Europe. South Vietnam is opposing not a local band of dissident citizens but the deliberately created and well organised instrument of North Vietnamese aggression. In all, the Communists have at least 800.000 regular troops, some 120,000 guerrillas and some 18,000 men in administrative and support troops. As more and more of the enemy are captured or defect, unit identifications and interrogations help to give increasing precision to our knowledge of enemy strength. The Vietcong have perhaps as many as fifteen regiments of their own which have been established and trained with the help of North Vietnamese cadres and increasingly armed with Chinese equipment. Among the Vietcong there is an ever growing proportion of men infiltrated from the North. In all, over 60,000 men have been infiltrated from the North since 1959. Included in this figure are 18,000 men in regular units of the North Vietnamese Army. There are now nine and probably more regiments of the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam. These regular units are being reinforced from other forces of the North Vietnamese Army illegally stationed in the eastern parts of Laos.
We now have a much more realistic knowledge of the enemy as a result of the more intensive fighting, the greater difficulty of concealment by North Vietnam and the knowledge progressively uncovered of the long preparations and planning of the other side. The challenge is being faced with a better assessment of what it is and a clearer determination on how and where to meet it. There are now about 300,000 men in the regular forces of South Vietnam, which is a significant increase in the past six months. There are now more than 215,000 American troops in Vietnam, supported by forces from Korea, Australia and New Zealand totalling some 20,000 men. As announced last Tuesday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) the Australian Government has decided that the battalion now in South Vietnam will be replaced by a self-contained Australian task force under Australian command of some 4,500 men. The Philippines Congress is at present considering a proposal by the Philippines Government to despatch an engineering construction battalion supported by security forces. To make possible this buildup of strength, ports of entry and bases have been established and secured at points along the coastline of South Vietnam. The ocean approaches are securely controlled and the United States is also able to make a vast use of aircraft and helicopters, from both carriers and land bases.
One other part of the character of the conflict is also being revealed more starkly than before. Up to date, as honorable members know from statements previously made in this House and by documents published, the enemy has not shown any interest in peaceful settlement by negotiation. Early this year further overtures were made. The bombing of North Vietnam was suspended for 37 days. Although an earlier pause in bombing last May had evoked no response from the enemy the United States was willing to try once again to demonstrate its readiness to end hostilities if it could see hope for a just solution by peaceful means. Governments of Communist countries and of non-aligned countries which might possess some influence in Peking and Hanoi were approached. Direct contact with the Hanoi regime was made in some capitals where the United States and North Vietnam were both represented. All these approaches were summarily rejected. Peking, Hanoi and the Vietcong prefer war. Let us face that plain fact. They prefer war. They have chosen war. They said so in plain and angry words. They denounced American- efforts for peace, and the restrained bombing of the North was resumed.
I should like to say something about the bombing of the North. The original decision by the United States to begin bombing of North Vietnam early last year was not taken lightly. Indeed, so strong was the desire to avoid spreading hostilities and destruction that the decision to undertake bombing was delayed far beyond the time when, on military grounds, it became justified. The simple fact is that for some years the Vietcong - armed, supplied, and directed from North Vietnam - have been waging a campaign of terrorism and guerrilla warfare in the South while the North was left untouched. The point was reached where we could no longer ask the people of South Vietnam to sit and take it and fight the Vietnamese Communists only at the places of the latter’s choosing. The three objectives of bombing, as defined at the outset by Mr. McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence, were, first, to demonstrate to the South Vietnamese that they could depend upon American support; second, to reduce the flow of men and equipment from the North to the South and/ or to increase the cost of that flow to the North Vietnamese; and third, to put political pressure on North Vietnam to halt their campaign of subversion in the South by demonstrating to them that they had no chance of success.
Notwithstanding the limited purposes of the bombing, its suspension meant real sacrifices from a military standpoint. The evidence is clear that the North used the month-long lull to repair damaged infiltration routes and bridges, to send men and material to the South more freely and to recover from some of the losses that had been inflicted on them in the South. The lull in the bombing was a liberal declaration of the sincerity of the search by the United States for negotiations for a peaceful settlement. They paid, and paid heavily, for their forbearance by the advantage the enemy took from the lull and the sad fact is that the pause failed to bring negotiations in sight. The Australian Government supported the eventual decision of the United States to resume the bombing.
While on our side the search for peace will go on, the prospects are of a long and difficult struggle in Vietnam. The possibility of military victory has been denied to the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese armies supporting them. They do not have the logistics or the fire power to defeat the South Vietnamese and their allies in open battle. They can no longer hope to bring about the disintegration of the forces opposing them by rapid attack and dispersal with light losses to themselves. They will try to wear us out. They will try to undermine our resolution. This has become a test of will. It is also a test of faith. In countries such as our own and the United States the questioning, the search for some way for peace, will go on. It is our pride as a free people that this questioning and the public debate can take place. But, whilst we debate, let none of us forget the central issues which are at stake.
Some people who think that we should negotiate and not fight address all their persuasions to the United States. In that quarter no persuasion is needed. The United States has demonstrated again and again its readiness to talk. The need is for some persuasion to be urged on Hanoi, which has hitherto shown a total unwillingness to talk, a total disregard of any overtures, and a clear preference to try to obtain its own ends by force and to unify Vietnam under Communist rule regardless of the wishes of the people of the South. On our side we have done what we can to bring Hanoi to the conference table. We would prefer to talk than to fight. But if we are to make real progress towards a peaceful solution, our policies for peace must be conducted with great care and realism and an unfaltering firmness of purpose. This has been the lesson in all the efforts to negotiate with the Communists in the successive post-war crises. We must avoid the risk that eagerness to find a peaceful solution may lead to adjustments in our own position which come perilously close to yielding ground that must not be yielded. We must also avoid the risk of raising doubts and adversely affecting the morale of those who live in the region - not simply in Vietnam - and the morale of those who have committed their lives and the future of their families to the successful outcome of the struggle. Many are in free countries which are even closer to the conflict than Australia and are now under direct pressure.
Talking is not an objective in itself, but a means to an end. We have to be vigilant lest the idea of talk for its own sake leads us into traps and quicksands. What is the purpose of talking? Surely it is the same as the purpose of our present fighting - to stop the Vietcong from terrorising the people, to enable the people of Vietnam to make a free choice of their future, and to prevent the Communist agressor from taking over by force yet another country.
Any reference to negotiations raises the question of whether the United Nations can play a useful role. Honorable members will be aware of the attempts made by the Secretary-General, U Thant, to bring about discussions, and they will also be aware of the lack of response to his attempts. They will also be aware of the view U Thant has expressed that at the present juncture he does not see any useful possibilities in involvement of the United Nations in the Vietnam conflict. They will be aware of the action of the United States in bringing the issue to the Security Council. The history of all those attempts reveals that in present circumstances the United Nations has little or no chance of being helpful.
In moments when we declare greater resolution we need to be clear about our aims. Our aims are to defend South Vietnam, to preserve its security and to allow it freely to determine the economic and political system it wants. We have no military designs on the enemy, who has himself flouted the Geneva Agreements, other than to deter him. We are prepared to accept the present authorities in North Vietnam as they are, to work with them and to have them share in programmes for economic development in South East Asia. Nor is our aim to prevent South Vietnam and North Vietnam from coming closer together after fighting has stopped. It is their business, if they wish to, to establish links and develop practical co-operation. In addition, we recognise that a strong and pervasive sense of Vietnamese nationalism, provided it is not turned against its neighbours, can be a positive good in strengthening the sense of national independence among China’s southern neighbours.
Our aims in South Vietnam are limited, but they are clear, they are steady. They are in keeping with the commitments which were entered into more than 10 years ago when the Government declared that it “ would view aggression in violation of the Indo-China settlement as a threat to international peace and security “ and agreed that South Vietnam should come under the protection of S.E.A.T.O.
I have dwelt at some length on Vietnam because I believe that these simple and plain truths need to be stated repeatedly and firmly. It is all very well for the critics and the doubters - wholly sincere as I know many of them are - to plead for negotiations. They are understandably unhappy over the loss of life, the waste and the brutalising effects of a protracted war. We are all unhappy about those things. But the critics have no solutions of their own which can be accepted with honour and with prudence; they have no practical formula for bringing the parties to the negotiating table; they have no course to propose as a genuine alternative to the one which we are pursuing.
Australia is part of this struggle because we cannot allow it to be lost by default. We are not in it at the behest of any nation or group of nations. We are in it by our own choice and our own decision because the result is a matter of crucial importance to us.
The leaders of South Vietnam face enormous problems in repairing the devastated economy and giving hope to a society which is disrupted by terror and wearied by suffering. But they show a heartening awareness of what needs to be done and a heartening strength of purpose. On my visit to Saigon in December I found the Government of South Vietnam more realistic and purposeful compared with some of its predecessors. President Johnson was similarly encouraged when he met these leaders in Honolulu. They are young and vigorous nationalists, attached to no traditional form of privilege or to vested interests, who accept the need for reform and development. They accept the need for foreign aid and help, and the Australian Government for its part will continue to do all it can to provide it. I commend to honorable members the statement of the purposes of the Government of Vietnam contained in the recent Declaration of Honolulu.
Although Vietnam occupies much of our attention, I would again remind honorable members that our policy and diplomacy in Asia cover many other fields. I wish to report to the House some of the more recent developments in the range of multilateral and bilateral relationships we are building up on the economic and social side. I shall start with the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Since Australia became a regional member of E.C.A.F.E. three years ago we have played an increasing part in its activities. I attended the last session of the full Commission and I intend to attend the next session in New Delhi in a few days’ time. In our participation in the work of E.C.A.F.E. we are seeking to be good neighbours, in a practical sense, by pooling our experience and expertise in matters of economic development for others to draw on it as they deem appropriate. In return, we profit by the access E.C.A.F.E. affords us to the knowledge of other members of the region.
E.C.A.F.E. had a large share in fostering an important new regional initiative - the Asian Development Bank, which is expected to begin operations later this year. As honorable members know, I led the Australian delegation to the ministerial conference in Manila last December which approved, for ratification by governments, the Articles of Agreement of that Bank, lt has long been recognised that a major obstacle to economic progress in the Asian region is the lack of capital to finance development projects. The Asian Development Bank will help to make good that lack, and to this end the Australian Government proposes to contribute SUS85 million to the Bank’s working capital. As already indicated, the Government will introduce legislation to authorise ratification of the Articles of Agreement of the Bank. Once our ratification has been approved and the Bank has come into existence we shall expect to play an active role in its work.
Australia is also taking an active part in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. U.N.C.T.A.D. is now an established feature of the United Nations machinery and its permanent headquarters and secretariat are being set up in Geneva. We in Australia ourselves know, from curTent experience, many of the difficulties that face developing countries. We know the problems inherent in developing an industrial base while a country is still very heavily dependent on the export of a limited range of primary commodities; and because of this we have not found it difficult to understand many of the desires which have found expression in U.N.C.T.A.D.
Australia has become a member of the group of donor countries which constitute the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Development Assistance Committee is the recognised forum for discussion of aid policies and practices among the major donors of aid. It includes a number of European countries, the United States, Canada and Japan. We have felt that we should, if possible, put ourselves in a position to benefit from regular discussion with the other major donors and to contribute our own not inconsiderable experience and our views to the common pool.
At this point I should mention one other important decision in the field of aid - the decision to make a special contribution to the value of $A8 million to India for the relief of what is expected to be a critical shortage of food in that country in 1966. This gift is additional to the contribution which Australia makes to the long term economic development of India from our regular annual aid appropriations. The Government has gladly made this emergency contribution, and I am pleased that it is being supplemented so substantially by the voluntary efforts of Australian Churches and private organisations.
At the same time I am bound to observe that the responsibility for assisting the people of India in their hour of need must necessarily rest with the international community as a whole. Too often those countries, such as Australia, which -produce the commodities which India requires are regarded as bearing the main responsibility by reason of that fact alone. This is not, I may say, a view which is prevalent in India itself. But I have found it expressed in surprising quarters elsewhere. In the view of the Government, there is no less a responsibility on the great industrial countries than on the food producing countries. Because they do not have food to offer, their contribution can and should take other forms, including assistance with foreign exchange to enable India to buy food on the world market. If other countries were to contribute in the same proportion as Australia - over and above their normal aid expenditure - then the international effort to aid India would look much better than it now does.
Apart from special non-recurring contributions of this kind, Australia’s regular aid programmes are continuing on a scale which is comparable to that of most other aid donors. As to their effectiveness, I would say that it is my constant aim to improve our performance. During my recent visit to South East Asia I saw in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam unmistakable evidence of the importance with which our aid is regarded and of the successful completion of several big projects, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances.
I have been speaking about our relations with Asia through the medium of economic and technical aid and co-operation. But this is of course only one facet of our present day association with and interest in the activities of our neighbour countries. Let me turn now to two countries with which Australia has particularly close associations. The separation of Malaysia and Singapore has not led to any reduction in Australia’s continuing assistance in their joint resistance to Indonesian confrontation or in collective defence planning generally. Despite our disappointment over the separation, Australia has continued to enjoy a close relationship with both countries.
The act of separation did not, in itself, resolve all the practical and administrative questions that obviously arise when a federation is brought to an end. This has meant that there have been differences of opinion between Malaysia and Singapore on a number of matters, and other differences may continue to arise. But over and above such differences is a sober appreciation by both states of the problems that they share, and the dangers to which they are jointly exposed. For our part, and to the extent that it is appropriate, we shall continue to counsel the advantages of close institutional relationships between the two states in economics and defence. We welcome the recognition by the British Government of the importance of retaining the Singapore and Malaysian military bases and the affirmation, in last month’s White Paper on defence, that Britain will continue to maintain substantial strength in the region.
In Indonesia the situation is in truth still so fluid that it would be neither prudent nor helpful for me to engage in comment or speculation about it. lt has been noteworthy that most countries, like Australia, have recognised that this is a domestic crisis. We have been circumspect in our comments on it. The notable exception has been the Communist regime in Peking which, under considerable suspicion of involvement in the abortive coup of last September, has been aggressively outspoken and partisan about the whole situation ever since. Peking has used all its considerable resources of propaganda in seeking to influence openly the course of internal political developments within Indonesia. We in this country, and other countries of Asia and Africa which are observing these events, should take careful note of the light thrown on the conduct and motivation of Peking’s external policies, including its readiness to interfere in the domestic policies of other governments.
The past few months have also seen a continuing deterioration of the economic situation, with the erosion of capital assets, the running down of foreign exchange and accumulation of debts, problems of credit and stagnating production. There is, as I said in October last, a formidable task to be done in concentrating resources, both human and material, on domestic construction and development. The longer this is postponed, the harder the task will be.
Let me turn for a few moments to India and Pakistan - two fellow members of the Commonwealth whose friendship we value highly and whose relations deeply concern Australia. The Tashkent Agreement of 10th January, concluded between President Ayub of Pakistan and the late Prime Minister of India, Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri, has been followed by the withdrawal of forces, as agreed, by the scheduled date of 25th February, and by a further agreement to reduce forces along the ceasefire line in Kashmir to levels decided in 1949. These measures contribute significantly to the reduction of tension in the sub-continent and offer hope of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, which is essential if the sub-continent is to tackle successfully its great social and economic problems and also its external security problems. The statesmanship and wisdom of President Ayub and the late Mr. Shastri in reaching this Agreement receive our fullest commendation and support. We also welcome the fact that the new Indian Government of Mrs. Indira Gandhi has made clear its strong desire to improve relations with Pakistan and to secure lasting peace on the sub-continent.
With regard to the Tashkent Agreement, the Australian Government acknowledges the responsible and constructive role played by the Soviet Union in bringing the two countries together in Russian territory. The Soviet Government has recently shown some awareness of the dangers of unrest in the sub-continent, and of the opportunities that this offers to Communist China to meddle and to pursue its expansionist aims. It is perhaps too much to hope for any early extension of a helpful and responsible Soviet role to other parts of Asia and elsewhere in the world. Differences between the Soviet and Western objectives are still acute. But in the long term we hope that some kind of broad common purpose in keeping the peace in the world will emerge.
Of all the regions of the world it is the African continent that has suffered most from feverish restlessness over the past few months. This has been marked not only by the increasingly acute crisis over Rhodesia but by violent developments in several of the newly independent countries. In Africa more than thirty countries have become independent in the last decade, and have thereby assumed sole responsibility for their great and diverse political and social problems. Given these problems and their magnitude and the different stages of development within the region, it was not to be expected that the early years of independence of the new African states would pass without setbacks. Each of these countries with limited resources has to find its own way in its own time, and should be allowed by others to do so. It is also very desirable that the African countries should be allowed, without interference from abroad, to develop their relationships with one another, and we shall do all we can to assist this process within the limits of our capacity.
This is the spirit in which the Australian Government has approached the crisis over Rhodesia, where the attempts to promote peaceful and unimpeded progress towards majority rule were interrupted by the unilateral declaration of independence. Australia, in common with the rest of the Commonwealth and virtually the whole of the international community, refused to recognise the regime of Mr. Smith and has cooperated with Britain in the application of economic and financial measures designed to secure a peaceful return to constitutional government. The effect of these measures is beginning to be felt and the Government has seen no need to deviate from its view that what is needed in this situation is not the use of force but firm and patient support of the British Government as it seeks to carry out its responsibilities.
In conclusion, I want to say a few words about the continuing activities of the Department of External Affairs in its constructive efforts to strengthen our own position in the world, to understand external problems more clearly and to contribute to their solution more helpfully. Our diplomatic work is growing both in range and in intensity. After nearly two years’ experience with the portfolio, I am personally greatly heartened at the repeated signs I have found that in most of the 40 capitals in which Australia is represented we have established ourselves in truth and regard and that we have access to places of influence because we have earned the confidence of others. I believe we are thought of as a reliable people and I hope that nations who are undergoing trial are also thinking of us as a nation that is trying to understand and to help and to respect the rights of others.
We have also entered very largely into the diplomatic traffic of the world, both in the three capitals to which we are most closely linked - London, Washington and the international capital at the United Nations headquarters - and also in other capitals at which we are represented. Canberra itself, with our positive encouragement, is being visited to an increasing extent by statesmen of other lands and we have profited by the visits we have received over the past year by the Vice-President of the United States, Mr. Hubert Humphrey, the Ministers of Defence of Britain and New Zealand, and other persons in high office from Britain, the United States, India, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, the Federal Republic of Germany, and other countries. The President of the Malagasy Republic was the first head of state from Africa to visit Australia. Last month the Prime Minister of Thailand, accompanied by the Foreign Minister and the Minister of National Development, was here.
Australian Ministers and members of Parliament have themselves travelled more frequently, particularly in Asia. Our own ambassadors have been called frequently into consultation, both in special regional meetings under my chairmanship and by returning individually to Canberra. Personal contact has been made between myself and the Foreign Ministers of nearly all the countries with whom we have relationships.
Before passing on, I should like to express publicly the appreciation of the Government and, can I say, of members of the Parliament, for the many kindnesses received from our Asian neighbours. Asia is a land of courtesy, i and my colleagues and out ambassadors have appreciated greatly the consideration shown to us at all times. We have appreciated even more as a mark of growing friendship the frankness and the clearness with which the statesmen of Asia have been ready to discuss with us matters of common concern. As my own friendship and regard for them has grown, I trust their friendship and regard for us has also grown.
A nation of our size is not heard by speaking loudly, it is not heard by speaking all the time. We are listened to and we have influence if others believe that we talk sense, that we talk in good faith and that we back up our words with deeds. We are trying to establish those conditions and I am encouraged to believe that we are succeeding.
I present the following paper -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 22nd March 1966 - and move -
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th March (vide page 63), on motion by Senator McKellar -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill provides that as from the first meeting of the next Parliament the member representing the Australian Capital Territory shall have the same voting rights as has any other member of the House of Representatives. Perhaps more in an endeavour to tidy up the matter in my own mind than to advise honorable senators of what they probably know already, I feel it would not be amiss if I were to recount at least some of the recent history of the efforts to obtain for the member representing the Australian Capital Territory the right to vote on all matters before the Federal Parliament.
It is known that for some considerable time there has been agitation for this right to be afforded the representative of the electors in the Territory but it is worth recalling that in 1959 the Opposition - the Australian Labour Party - advanced the specific proposition that this right should be afforded him. This proposition remained on the notice paper, if my memory serves me correctly, until the 24th Parliament was prorogued. It then disappeared into the limbo where items which from time to time disappear from the notice paper seem to go, often never to be seen again. However, the matter was revived again by the Opposition in 1962, and again the Government did not see fit to accept the proposition and if was rejected.
It goes without saying that the Australian Labour Party gives this measure its wholehearted support. It would not be amiss if I were to comment briefly at this stage on one or two of the statements made by the Minister in his second reading speech. Before doing that, however, I want to point out that it is not my intention, if I can possibly avoid it, to recount any of the things that have been said in another place. It is perhaps true to say that we senators from time to time read the “ Hansard “ reports of debates in the House of Representatives - not, as many people suspect, for the purpose of stealing some of the remarks made in that place and using them ourselves but mainly in order to refrain from repetition if it is possible to do so. I do not want to indulge in any repetition if I can avoid it. But I do. find it necessary to make two brief references to the second reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), because I think that they have considerable significance in regard to the Bill. I refer to that section which reads -
When the first member was elected to represent the Australian Capital Territory, the number of electors was approximately 11,800 and most people would agree that there could be no justification for the granting of full voting rights to the member until the number of electors for the Territory approximated the average enrolment for the States.
I think that one, reading the second reading speech, can say that this sounds a fairly reasonable proposition, but that figure of 1,800 does not become such a fantastic proposition when measured against the fact that in some electorates today, I am given to understand, we have an imbalance on the other end of the pendulum whereby electorates contain approximately 100,000 electors.
– In some the number exceeds that figure.
– As Senator Kennelly reminds me, in some the number exceeds that number. This, to some extent, destroys the effectiveness of the Minister’s argument when he makes this point in his second reading speech, as Senator Ridley says - and I think it is a fairly reasonable proposition - as an excuse for what he did not do. I do not want it to be understood by the Senate that I am advocating any differential quotas for electorates, but I feel that it is justifiable to make reference to some inconsistencies on the part of other people and on the part of other parties.
Let me refer to the only other passage that I wish to read in the second reading speech. The Minister says -
I know that there are many members in the Parliament who feel that if the member for the Australian Capital Territory is given full voting rights, then a similar right should be given to the member for the Northern Territory. However, I would again emphasise that we are giving this voting right to the member for the Australian Capital Territory only because it conforms with the principle that we have always adopted. That is that the right should be given only when the enrolment for a territory approaches the electoral quota.
This statement by the Minister opens an interesting proposition. Honorable senators are quite well aware of the fact that some people talked in the same terms as the Minister in 1962, when members of the Opposition last sought to have full voting rights extended, regardless of the number of electors on the roll for the Australian Capital Territory at that time. The move then was resisted by people who today are advocating openly that there should be disparity in respect of the numbers of people who send their parliamentary representatives to the Senate and the other place. I think it is reasonable to state that they could well have shown some consistency in 1962 to fit in with the beliefs that they are enunciating today. Perhaps the Minister will comment on this matter when he makes his contribution to conclude the debate. Again I say that I am not advocating that there should be any great disparity between the number of voters in various electorates, but I draw attention to the fact that on the one hand the Government uses this as a reason for denying representation, and on the other hand some of its members and one of its major coalition parties have been advocating for some considerable time that this argument is not an argument at all and, in fact, that it ought to be disregarded entirely.
I had an opportunity as a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory to observe some of the somewhat unusual activity and demanding work imposed upon the member representing this electorate. I do not want it to be understood that simply because the present incumbent of the position is a member of the same party as myself I am heaping any excessive degree of eulogy on him. The fact is that a member representing any political party would have to do the same as this member does, and would have to engage in all sorts of unusual activities which are additional to the activities engaged in by those who represent city electorates in the States.
As a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I had the opportunity to observe at first hand some of the unusual features of this work. As a matter of fact, with a sense of utter unreality on one occasion I - living almost 1,000 miles away from Canberra itself - found myself proposing a resolution to provide for an extra 10 ft. of width to be given to a street bounding one of the new shopping centres in one of the suburbs of the Yarralumla Creek Valley project. I regret to say that my endeavours in this matter were not rewarded by a street being named after me, but I am still living in hope. However, I make this point because it emphasises the type of unusual function that the member for the Australian Capital Territory - and I have no doubt the member for the Northern Territory also - because of the way in which the activities of the Federal Government are interwoven with the activities of the community itself, have to be ombudsmen and State and Federal members in one, and it is no exaggeration to say that they have to be something in the nature of a local councillor and also a local counsellor. These are just some of the functions that a member representing a constituency such as the Australian Capital Territory has to accept as additional burdens of representation. We should be fully aware of this fact and, being aware of it, to have denied a vote in the past to a person doing this type of work was less than justice.
I think it would be fair to say that the real issue in this matter is not so much the question of whether the member for the Australian Capital Territory represents, as he did when this matter first came before the Parliament, 11,000 electors, or whether he represents, as he does today, in the vicinity of 40,000 electors, and of whether the member for the Northern Territory represents a smaller number. To my mind, these are not the real issues. J think the issue that ought to be exercising the minds of this chamber and the other place, when the voting rights of members are debated, is that if a person is entitled to represent in this Parliament any section of the Australian community, it should not be conditional representation; it should be full representation based on the right to vote, as well as the right to speak. To provide anything less than this is to do less than justice, not only to those who occupy the position of member for the Australian Capital Territory or member for the Northern Territory, but also to parliamentary democracy itself.
So, inasmuch as this Bill provides for the rectification, in part at least, of this shortcoming - it goes half way towards establishing parliamentary democracy in the two Territories - the Government is to be congratulated. I hope that we shall have an opportunity in the not too distant future to say that we wholeheartedly endorse the proposition and congratulate the Government again, when it gives the Northern Territory the same degree of democracy as is being extended to the Australian Capital Territory in the terms of this Bill.
Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) 19.01. - When the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) replies I should like him to elaborate on two matters he raised in his second reading speech. I have read the speech several times and I am quite unconvinced by the reasons for the Government’s decision to give the member for the Australian Capital Territory a vote in the House of Representatives but to delay it until after the next election. In considering a full vote for the representatives of both the Australian Capital Territory and the
Northern Territory, the Government’s criterion is the number of voters and it has decided that the figure should approximate the number of voters in other electorates. Actually I would say the criterion is the number of voters who should be in the other electorates because, as Senator Toohey has pointed out, the number of voters in other electorates varies from 100,000 to as few as 32,000 in at least one electorate. I am unimpressed by the Government’s decision to pick a figure as the criterion while excluding every other consideration.
In Canberra we have one of the fastest developing areas in Australia if not in the world. The situation in the A.C.T. is abnormal in that there is no basic industrial growth but an increase in population by shifting, in some cases, hundreds of people to the Territory when transferring departments to the National Capital. This raises a series of problems affecting the parliamentary representative for the Australian Capital Territory some of which have been mentioned by Senator Toohey. Quite apart from his electoral duties, there are a number of matters on which the voice of the member for the A.C.T. should have been heard over the years in this Parliament. The Government has ruled that the member for the A.C.T. will have a voice in these matters when the electorate reaches a certain number of voters but even now when its own criterion has been reached, the Government refuses a full vote to the member for the A.C.T. until after the next election. I do not want to get into controversial matters but it appears to me that there is a fair amount of politics in this move.
In the case of the Northern Territory the Government has shown complete lack of sympathy, knowledge and understanding. It has told the people of the Northern Territory that they must wait until it also achieves the false criterion set up by the Government before the member for the Northern Territory will have a full voice in the Parliament to talk on the problems of the Territory. Those problems are peculiar in relation to the rest of the world, let alone Australia, because in the north we have one of the few tropical areas of the world where white people can thrive alongside the indigenous people without the spread of disease. This area presents a challenge but the Government has merely said it will give the member for the Northern Territory a vote sometime in the future when, if the Government does not change its criterion, it will see how the population is progressing. What is wanted in this Parliament is a voice on the development of northern Australia and this is something the Government lacks. This voice should be brought into the Parliament. There is an urgent and growing need for it, but the Government continues to exclude it. The Australian Labour Party has been trying to force this need to the attention of the Government since 1950 and particularly in the light of developments in the north; but the response of the Government has always been in effect: “ Never mind that; this is the criterion. When your numbers reach a figure which is acceptable to us we will give the voice of the north a chance “.
In these two Territories, the parliamentary representatives are in a peculiar situation. In the Australian Capital Territory where the National Capital is developing rapidly, the Government will not listen to the voice of the member of Parliament until after the next election. The Government has ruled that the member for the Australian Capital Territory should vote only on ordinances and other matters directly affecting the Australian Capital Terrority as though this were a section of the community set out in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean instead of being the administrative hub of Australia. In the case of the Northern Territory the Government doubles the offence. The Government has closed its ears to this area. It lacks knowledge and advice about the Northern Territory. What advice it has had it has ignored. The Government has said in effect: “ We will not listen to the voice of the Northern Territory until it gets the numbers “, and it has fixed the numbers on the basis of the older settled areas such as the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. One has only to examine the situation more fully to see the fallacy of the Government’s arguments.
I should like the Minister to explain why the Government is delaying a full vote for the member for the Australian Capital Territory until after the next election and why it takes suc’h a narrow view of the rights of the Northern Territory, ignoring the voice of the member who represents this important part of the North. Why does it insist on waiting until the Northern Territory gets a certain number of electors before it will listen to the one man who has experience in this section of Australia when every other part of Australia is given a voice?
– in reply - I thank members of the Opposition for their attitude to the Bill and for the speedy passage I anticipate in the committee stage. 1 must refrain from accepting the invitation of Senator Toohey to enter into an excursion on matters which could be more appropriately discussed when we have an electoral bill or a proposed redistribution before us. Senator Willesee asks why we did not give the representatives of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory full voting rights straight away. The answer is to be found in my second reading speech in which I pointed out that, at the end of January J 966, the number of electors enrolled for the A.C.T. was 43,401. I added -
At that time, the average enrolment for the electoral divisions, excluding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, was 49,236. It is expected that the Australian Capital Territory enrolment will reach 47,000 by the . end of this year.
I think that is sufficient reason why this power is not being given straight away. I remind Senator Willesee that the member for the Australian Capital Territory was elected on the basis of a limited vote. Now the voting rights of the member are to be widened and he will be getting what Senator Willesee has requested. Maybe the honorable senator will think this is a little belated. Without knowing exactly what will happen in the Northern Territory, I believe that the population is increasing and if we are faced with the appropriate situation I have no doubt the member for the Northern Territory will eventually get a vote also. I do not agree with Senator Willesee’s statement that the Government has no knowledge of the Northern Territory. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has a knowledge of the Northern Territory that is surpassed by very few members of this Parliament, either in the Senate or in the other place. The Minister has spent a lot of his life there. It is all very well for some honorable senators to grin. I know the Minister for Territories and I know that he has worked a great deal harder there and lost a lot more sweat in the north than many of those who are now criticising him. I speak in defence of Mr. Barnes on that score. I do not think 1 need to elaborate on any other points. I am sorry Senator Toohey did not get a Canberra street named after him but the name of Toohey is well known in Canberra and in many other places.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.-I asked that the Bill be taken clause by clause so that I could have an opportunity to direct attention to Clause 2 which is drafted in a most unusual form. Honorable senators will notice that’ it provides -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which the House of Representatives first meets after the general election of members of the House of Representatives next held after this Act receives the Royal Assent.
I have not seen a bill limiting the time for its operation expressed in that form before. I should like to know from the Minister for Repatriation whether there is any precedent known to him for that form of commencement in the operation of an act. There could be a dissolution tomorrow or, as could happen within the terms of the law, at any time before next February. It seems to me that there should be some circumstance which would make it proper for the Government to select an indefinite date for the commencement of the operation of the Act. I am not attacking the principle that the legislation should commence to operate after the next general election to occur at a predictable time - say in December next, by which time I understand the number of electors within the Australian Capital Territory will be sufficient to enable the Territory to qualify for full voting representation. But if a general election were to be held next month, it seems to me that that principle would be invaded. They are the two matters in relation to which I seek clarification.
– I have an answer before me, but I do not know whether I can read it. The answer is that there is no precedent. I am . told that this is a novel problem, but the next member to be elected will be elected as a voting member. I do not know whether that will make Senator Wright any happier.It does not convey much to me.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
.- I wish to refer to the entituling of this Bill. The restrictive approach that has been adopted by the draftsman, no doubt at the instance of the appropriate Minister, is designed to limit the ambit of debate on such a measure. It will be noted that the Bill is entituled -
To repeal section 6 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948-1959.
The proper title of the Bill should be “ To amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act 1948-1959 “. If that title had been adopted, both Houses of the Parliament would have been entitled to discuss all matters related to the repeal of section 6. The Parliament is being stultified by this deliberate campaign to restrict the scope of debate. I do not propose to move any amendment. I simply voice this point of view so that the matter can be attended to in the future.
– I am informed that one of the reasons for the narrowness of the drafting of this Bill was to prevent a long debate such as occurred in another place some time ago on another electoral Bill. No doubt Senator Wright is well aware of that debate. I understand that the Government is quite within its rightsin drafting the Bill in its present form.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKcllar) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 142).
– Mr. President, I am afraid that 1 have been a bit confused during the last hour or so. I have had to sit and listen to a ministerial statement that was so blatant in its propaganda and so full of gobbledygook that it is very difficult to collect one’s thoughts. The propaganda was so insidious and so intense that one would almost think that Dr. Goebbels himself had written it for the Minister. Indeed, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) adopted one of Goebbels’ principles in that he said he must repeat statements in order to impress the Australian public. I do not mind that so much. But I do object when the Minister goes to such great lengths to get his propaganda over to the public that he makes an untruthful statement about why we are in the war. I do not suppose I shall be allowed to continue my remarks about the statement that was made tonight. We shall have another opportunity to discuss it. So I shall return to the statement that was delivered by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt).
Before I deal with the subject of Vietnam, I should like to mention one other point about the Prime Minister’s statement. Surely we have some national pride and have not to become so immersed in Americanisms that we have to refer to such a statement as a state of the nation report. Could it not be described as a national report or a report to the nation? However, we are just about the fifty-first State of the United States of America, so I suppose we have to adopt all the sayings of the Americans.
I congratulate the Government upon its immigration policy. The step that the Government has now taken should have been taken years ago. It is time that we killed for ever any question about a white Australia policy. The existence of such a policy hurts the Asiatic countries with which we are trying to be friendly and is extremely annoying to them. The Canadians have never had a white Canadian policy, but if a person was not white I doubt whether he would ever get into Canada. Surely we can at least have the courtesy to pursue our white Australian policy by setting limits, as has been suggested in the statement of the Prime Minister. There is no reason why anyone of any nation should not be allowed into this country if he is over the age of 50 years and is prepared to bring capital in with him. That could not do any harm to this country. That is one way in which we could extend our immigration policy. Incidentally, I have asked a question about immigration which 1 hope will be answered before March 1967. I understand that there is quite intensive interest in the United States of America in emigration to Australia but that our programme is not advertised there. I understand that if we really got to work we could get a considerably greater number of migrants from the United States. I understand that the reason why our desire for immigrants is not advertised in the United States is that we may get negroes out here. Why can we not have some negroes? I do not think it would hurt. We now propose to let Asiatics in, so there is no reason why we should not have negroes. At any rate, this loosening of our immigration policy is something that we should be proud of.
I am not so proud of our defence effort as set out by the Prime Minister. As I have said previously, we are relying upon the help of other countries - first Great Britain, and now the United States of America. We have tied ourselves to their apron strings and consequently can spend a lot of money on ourselves and do little about defence. Admittedly, over the last three to four years, we have increased our expenditure on defence from 1 per cent, to approximately- 3 per cent, of our gross national product, whereas Great Britain still spends 9 per cent, and the United States of America 11 per cent, of their respective gross national products on defence. So, we are not doing very much in regard to our defence. But I do not want to stay on that subject too long, except to say that I want to make it quite clear that I approve and strongly support the action of the Government in regard to national service. However, I do not approve of the ballot system. If we are to have national service, it should be for everyone. The ballot system leads to too many suspicions as to why some people are in the ballot and some people are not. I am a strong believer in national service not only from a defence point of view but also from the health point of view. It is the best bit of preventive medicine that Australia can provide. The training of these boys by putting them through camp life will enable them to learn hygiene and preventive medicine.
– They can do that in national fitness camps.
– They can do that, but young men do not go into those camps.
I should like to mention also the question of overseas aid to which the Prime Minister made reference in his speech. The Prime Minister dealt with certain countries that are involved in the Colombo Plan. But we seem to have forgotten completely the countries in the South Pacific area which are nearer to us and which need more help. Australia does not do very much for them. 1 refer to Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Admittedly, Fiji is still under the control of the Colonial Office in London although it is heading towards its own Constitution. Fiji is a country that needs help. Yet, we give very little help to it. 1 think that, altogether, we spend approximately £1 million a year on various forms of assistance through the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. and other organisations in Fiji. Of the total exports from Fiji - and they are valued at £23 million a year - £20 million worth is as a direct result of Australian capital and investment in that island. This situation applies also to the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Gilbert and Ellice Islands.
Honorable senators may ask: “ What have these islands to do wilh us? Fiji is a Colonial Office problem, lt is a problem for the British Government. The British Government cannot look after this area any longer. It really becomes a question of who has the most interest in Fiji. This is Australia. That is why I am putting up the suggestion to the Government that it send a Minister there to have a look at the problems. I do not mean the political problems in these islands. They are pretty acute and, in fact worse than the political problems of New Guinea. 1 refer to the economic problems. Far more could be done in this regard especially in Fiji in relation to the tourist trade. Fiji also needs some money for the development of roads. I do not know whether the Asian Development Bank can help in this problem. Australia is to provide $65 million to this Bank-
– lt is $85 million.
– It is $85 million, but we cannot find much money for these countries in the South Pacific area. I understand - I do not know whether or not this is official - that the Government of Fiji did approach the Australian Government for a loan. This application was knocked back by the Treasury on the grounds that Australia does not give loans; it only grants gifts. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Fiji is prepared to accept a loan and we say that we do not give loans; we only grant gifts. The Australian Government did not give the Government of Fiji a gift of money. I presume this was because Fiji is still a responsibility of the Colonial Office.
– That is right.
– I plead with the Government to have a look at this problem. I ask the Prime Minister to have a look at it and to send someone over there. I know that an invitation was extended to a Minister to visit the country. However, some misunderstanding occurred and the visit never eventuated. If a Minister could go to this area and see the economic problems that exist, there is no reason why we should not lend these islands in the South Pacific a sum of money - they are prepared to repay it - in order to help them to gain further economic stability.
– Do these islands have access to the Asian Development Bank?
– I do not know. I presume the answer is “ No “ because it is the Asian Development Bank. The Minister for Supply, who is sitting at the table, may be able to obtain the answer to that question.
If the islands could borrow through the Asian Development Bank, this would be the answer to their problem. I know that £9 million is required for the building of a particular road in Fiji. This would be the greatest asset that Fiji could have. It takes five hours to travel 120 miles on the island. It takes us 2i hours or less to travel the same, distance in Tasmania. So honorable senator can imagine the condition of the roads in Fiji. Fiji needs this road to increase its tourist potential. If Australia could only give this area - not just Fiji, but the whole area - a repayable loan and set up a development bank or a rural bank or organise a loan through the Asian
Development Bank, it would be doing something to help the people of the area. The assistance, I think, would be greatly appreciated. After all, this area is in our sphere of influence.
– The British run Fiji and do nothing. Australia gets the money out of Fiji and does nothing.
– That is true. We should try to help the people. I do not blame the British Government because it has so many other responsibilities. We have hung on to Britain for so long that it now feels that it is time someone else took over some of its responsibilities.
– Some of the problems of the British Government are due to immigration.
– Yes, some of its problems are due to British people migrating here to help us. That is all the more reason why we should help Britain. One way we could help Britain would be by relieving it of the financial burden of looking after Fiji. New Zealand does a little, but it is very slight. It is only in the way of assistance in regard to trips to New Zealand for educational purposes and things like that. I am not decrying what the Australian Government is doing. Australia is providing approximately £1 million in various forms of aid to the Fijian Government. But Fiji needs a lot more. Australia is big enough, 1 feel, to lend £10 or £15 million to the whole area. I am sure the countries concerned would be prepared to pay back the money at a soft interest rate if we could provide it. After all, the Government takes our money through taxation, uses it for loan funds, and charges the State Governments 5 per cent, interest. So the Government may be able to work out some method of giving the Fijian people a cheap loan.
I come back to the important part of the statement by the Prime Minister - that is, that section dealing with Vietnam. I think there is so much confusion and propaganda in this whole business that we have really become brainwashed. We accuse China, other Communist countries and Hanoi of brainwashing everyone. But we are brainwashed too. There is no doubt whatsoever about that. It is pathetic. We have forgotten the reasons for the trouble in
Vietnam. We are all prepared to keep quiet about the religious strife there forgetting that one of the problems in Vietnam is the attempt to force an exogenous foreign religion and suppress an indigenous Buddhist religion. As honorable senators will have read in the Press recently, this problem of religion has now cropped up again. Of course, more instability and further problems will result from it.
We have forgotten the history of the Vietnamese people. We have forgotten that for centuries they have been opposed to the Chinese and Chinese rule. The Vietnamese people are the natural enemies of the People’s Republic of China. There is no reason at ali why we should nor have done something to swing them over our way irrespective of whether they are Communists or not.
Let us get on to the question of Communism. I am not afraid of it. I do not act like a Communist. Honorable senators might think that I talk like a Communist. But I do not believe in Communism. I have no time for it whatsoever. I have no fear of Communism ever coming into Australia. I am certain it never will because Communism is bred among those who have not.
– I thought it was bred in the universities.
– No, I do not think so. It is just that university people are intelligent enough to accept the Communist philosophy without making it a burden on the population. This is a thing that happens in every university. University people discuss and look into every philosophy. Communism, when it is not international aggressive Communism, is a philosophy just the same as Christianity, Buddhism, or any other philosophy - Nazism and so on. Communism has its supporters in the universities on those grounds alone. They study it and there are some points about it. This happens when people are young. I find that most of the people who were tinged pink at university become the most conservative of people as they grow older. I do not think the fact that they regarded Communism-
– Apparently not always.
– The people of Hungary said that they were not afraid of Communism.
– Well, I am still not frightened of it. 1 have never seen anything about Communism in this country that honorable senators can show me as having really put Australia in a backward position. We find Communism breeding where people are ill-educated and are hoping for something better in their way of life. This is what happened in China and that is why Mao was so successful. He gave the people what they wanted, what they had been hungering for for centuries - land. In fact, he made capitalists of them to a certain extent, even though they may not be individual capitalists. He gave them what they wanted - land. But the people in Vietnam have no land. Probably 90 per cent, or 95 per cent, of them are peasants and will remain peasants all their lives. Unless a Vietnamese is educated, he has no chance of getting off the land. He has no chance of being in the defence forces or the civil service, or of having any form of employment except as a serf on the land.
– Do not they own their land?
– Very few of them. It is the same there as it was in China.
– Who owns the land? You talk about peasants.
– The other 5 or 10 per cent, of the people own the land.
– That is incorrect.
– I am sure that the honorable senator will give proof of his statement. Most of these people do not own their land; they are peasants who work in the fields for other people. When somebody comes along and says: “ We will give you land “, they are only too ready to listen to his propaganda. We worry about China as a Communist country and are afraid of it, but the nature of Communism in China is something that very few people realise. Communism has united the Chinese nation. The Chinese now enjoy a prosperity which they never before enjoyed in their lives. Do not question me; ask anyone who has been to China. Even the old hands who have been there will tell you that the best thing that ever happened there was the discipline which Mao imposed on the Chinese, with the result that they have prosperity and contentment. With our high standard of living, we would not be satisfied with conditions there, but they are suitable to them. I think the best thing we could do, apart from recognising China - which I will come to next - would be to send a delegation from this Parliament to China. If we did this, I think we would find that things are not as bad there as they are made out to be. We shout at the Chinese and they shout at us, but we should go there and see the conditions for ourselves. We could send a party of 10 or 20 members of Parliament, some from each House and from each Party, to China to see it for themselves.
– Did the honorable senator go there?
– Yes, I went last year. I did not go this year because I thought that if I did so I would be called a Communist. I do not want to get on to the matter of Peking being a fascinating place, but I have seen it. I was born there, I left there and I have been back there. I suggest that instead of sending members of Parliament to meetings of the Inter Parliamentary Union or the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association we send them to China to see what is going on there. In that way we would do more good for world peace. The next thing is that unless we recognise China in the United Nations we are an immoral nation.
– What would the honorable senator do about Taiwan?
– I was not going to bring Taiwan into the debate, but I would say that if Chiang Kai-shek tried to invade China with five divisions of his army, three of them would defect on the first day. Do not forget that they are Chinese people. It is just the same as saying that Tasmania or Western Australia is going to defect and set up its own community.
– We tried it once.
– I know. Taiwan has done it very successfully, but only because of Chiang Kai-shek and America’s promise. Support Taiwan as a separate nation, if you wish. I would be quite happy about that, if Taiwan wanted it to be so, but in due course China will engulf it. But that is not the problem at the moment. If you want to keep Taiwan as a separate nation, recognise it as a separate nation; hut for heavens sake do not recognise China whenever she waves a bank note in your face and you want to sell your wheat to her, and then subsequently refuse to recognise her. Do not be so morally unsound that you will sell your wheat or other products to her and then say: “ We do not recognise you “. I was told at the United Nations, when I was there, that this is not a one sided matter, because China does not want to be a member of the United Nations. Let us put it squarely to the Chinese. They say there are certain reasons, which they give, why they cannot join. Let us say to them: “ We will accept you on one condition - that we recognise Taiwan “. It will then be up to the Chinese to come in or not. If they do not. that is their business; but at least we will have made them the offer. But we do not even make the offer. I feel that the Government should stop being so subservient to the United States and stand on its own feet for a change. If we are prepared to sell things to China, we should recognise her.
I suppose T should not discuss here the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), but let me point out that the Chinese themselves have some fears, which are feasible and realistic. When we were there the Chinese told us straight out that they were scared stiff of a union between the United States and Communist Russia. The Russians are supposed to be people whom we must not be friendly with, yet here is the United States drawing closer to Russia every day and becoming more and more friendly with Russia. I understand that the United States and Russia have daily consultations, in one of the satellite countries, in regard to Vietnam. So China’s fear is real. We read in the Press only last week about Russian troop movements and concentrations in Mongolia, so the Chinese fear is a feasible fear.
Admittedly the Chinese are paranoic and are very worried. They do not come out to meet us and we do not go out to meet them. They do not know really what is going on, and they believe that everyone is trying to trample on China. That is why I think we should get to know the Chinese better. We should send people there and we should invite the Chinese to come here to see our way of life. We should show them that in regard to social services we do things much the same as they do. I remember talking to one interpreter, who tried to convert me to his form of Communism. When I pointed out that we had a better medical service for the poor than the Chinese did, he would not believe me. When I told him that the surgeon who would operate on the Prime Minister or the Governor-General - they being the two biggest public figures I can think of - also operates on the poorest worker in the land, in his honourary capacity in a hospital, he would not believe it. But it is true. Our social services are better than those of Communist China in some respects.
If we can get the Chinese to come here and see things for themselves, and get rid of their paranoic fear of aggression against them by other nations, we will do some good. But they sit in their own little corner, listen to their own propaganda and are really worried that America and Russia are going to join up and attack them. That is why they feel that America wants Vietnam as a base. The idea might be quite erroneous, but you never know what is going on in America. You never know when Rusk has got his antenna out and you do not know whether what is told is true or not. The Chinese have this fear that we must dispel. We must admit that it is a fairly valid fear and that there is a possibility of an attack on China by America and Russia.
We are told that Communism has to be contained, but 1 have never yet found out what the containment of Communism is. When China attacked Tibet we did not lift a finger, and I do not think the United States lifted a finger. When the Chinese attacked India, did we try to contain Communism there? I do not think so.. We think that because the Chinese are Communists we are imperilled. All the way through Ministers’ speeches we hear that Communism must be repelled. Do not forget that the Japanese almost got here, and they were not Communists. My point is that it is not Communism which will attack us. It is world politics. Once a nation becomes powerful enough, it does not matter whether it is imperialistic or communistic. Today’s Press statement that China is imperialistic, will really stagger the Chinese when they read it.
– What the Minister said was not that Communism must be repelled, but Communist aggression.
– It is the same. The Japanese aggression almost got here.
– But it was repelled.
– You do not attack a nation because it is getting strong. Before it gets strong is the time to attack it.
– We did not attack Japan when it attacked China.
– Exactly. We let Japan do that. What we are saying, in effect, is that because Communist China is about to enlarge its sphere of influence this is international Communism and aggression and we must contain it. Let me point out again - 1 cannot be too forceful about this - that it is power that corrupts, and once a nation becomes powerful, no matter what its philosophy is, it will attack if it wants to. The British did not do a bad job in the last few centuries before this one, did they? If I remember my school map correctly, half of it was coloured red, showing that it was the British Empire. The Portuguese did not do too badly either. They were not Communists. Neither were the Spaniards. In other words, if a nation has power and believes that it can win a war, it will go to war if it wants something. That is the basis of all wars, not whether or not a nation has such and such a philosophy. That is one reason why I am not worried about Communism. Once a nation has power, it will attempt to use that power, irrespective of its philosophy.
Another point is that the Americans say that South East Asia is within their sphere of influence =nd not within that of the Chinese. I think all honorable senators will remember the Monroe Doctrine which existed before the Second World War and which held that the whole of the Americas came within the sphere of influence of the United States of America. If we accept world politics we must accept the fact that each power has a sphere of influence. So Australia has a sphere of influence that includes the Pacific Islands. China being contiguous to Vietnam, we certainly cannot say that the latter is not within the former’s sphere of influence. China being the most powerful Asiatic nation, I should say that any other Asiatic country is within its sphere of influence. Therefore, it has every right to have some say in the affairs of those other countries, just as the Americans say that they have every right to interfere in any dispute in any of the South American republics. I am not a believer in containing Communism, because if the whole of Thailand, the whole of Laos and even the whole of Indonesia become Communist I do not think that will affect Australia one iota.
– Nobody talks about containing Communism; we talk about containing aggression.
– When will Communism aggress? First of all, only China can do that. China is the only powerful nation in South East Asia. It has no navy, except for a few Russian submarines. It has no merchant fleet to convey its troops, lt has a very small air force. But it has a large and intensive army. How would it get that army to any other country apart from another Asiatic country?
How could China be aggressive towards us in the next 25 to 30 years? Whether or not these other Asian countries are Communist in the meanwhile is not important at all, because China cannot attack us and will not attack us for at least 25 to 30 years - at any rate, until it is strong enough to do so. If it is strong enough to do so and wants to do so, it will do so, just as every other nation that has started a war in the last few centuries has attacked other countries. It will not do so because it is Communist. Russia has been Communist for nearly 50 years, and apart from its satellites that it engulfed - we let it do that right from the beginning - so far I do not think it has attacked any other country. I am trying to think of one.
– What about Hungary?
– Russia obtained control of Hungary after the Second World War. I am not impressed by the statement that we have to be scared of China because it affects our security. This is the other reason that is given: That we have to protect the security of Australia. If it means that much to us, why have we not declared war?
– Because of the international implications.
– Yet one Prime Minister and, I think, a second one have said that we are at war. What do they mean? Are we at war or are we not at war? Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether we are at war? Will he tell me by interjection whether the present Prime Minister says that we are at war? I think he did say that in his statement, but I cannot find the place where he said it.
– I would never have expected the honorable senator to have read the statement.
– I will have another look at the statement.
– He did not say that.
– He did not say so, but the previous Prime Minister said so.
– He did not say so in the Parliament.
– He is a great believer in parliamentary authority. He told us that.
– He said so in London.
– It does not matter where he said so.
– If the honorable senator had read Mr. Holt’s statement he would have seen this outstanding sentence: “ The war in South Vietnam has many brutal aspects.”
– That is true; but 1 can quote to the honorable senator another part of the statement-
– Then the honorable senator does not understand what is meant by a “ declaration of war “.
– I bow to my legal colleague. He knows. Another part of the Prime Minister’s statement reads -
Communism in Asia is the politics of brutality, the politics of disruption, the politics of the exploitation of backwardness.
That is true; but instead of using the word “ Communism “ we could use the words “ the Vietnamese Government “, because that Government does not represent the people of Vietnam.
– Does the North Vietnamese Government?
– No. Even tonight we were told that we entered this war - I am sorry, it is not a war - this struggle at our own behest; that the United States never even dreamed of asking us; that the South Vietnamese. Government had never asked us; that we just went straight into it. We went into these hostilities, if that is a better word.
– We went there at the request of the South Vietnamese Government.
– Who asked us? Senator Wright. - The South Vietnamese Government.
– In the statement that the Minister for Works read tonight he said -
We are not in it at the behest of any nation or group of nations. We are in it by our own choice and our own decision . . .
– Yes, but just previously he said that we went there at the request of the South Vietnamese Government.
– Who said that?
– The Minister tonight, the present Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister.
– I am reading from the statement made tonight.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator may not read from that statement. He may read from the Prime Minister’s statement, but not from that statement.
– Very well. If we are not at war, if we are only engaged in hostilities and if the security of Australia is really dependent on the outcome of the Vietnamese struggle, why are we not at war? Why have we not declared war? It is because this Government is acting as the Menzies Government did in, I think, 1939, when the then Prime Minister came back to Australia and said “ business as usual “ and then was kicked out.
– We did not declare war in respect of Korea or Malaya.
– In those instances no-one ever said that we were at war; but in this instance a Prime Minister has said that we are at war.
– That is realism.
– All right. If we are at war, why are we not acting as if we are at war? Why are we sending conscripts. Why have we not called for volunteers?
– That is outdated.
– Volunteers are out of date, are they?
– In modern war, yes.
– That is something new. If the security of Australia is at stake, as is said repeatedly, then let me point out that every Australian who is patriotic should have volunteered. If honorable senators opposite support Australian participation in this war, then their sons should be among the first to volunteer. Our people will volunteer if they believe that there is a war and that Australia’s security is at stake. I do not say “ that Australia is being attacked “ because we are not being attacked. If we believe that our security is at stake we should be doing something about it. Our people would do so if they felt that way; but they do not. Very few people in Australia, apart from members of the Government, believe that Australians should be in Vietnam at all. I am one of those who believe that we should never have been there.
When one goes to the United States one finds a similar feeling everywhere. In our newspapers in Australia we read the propaganda that the American people are with the President. But if we talk to the American people we find that they are not with the President at all. Even his own party is not with him. We also have headlines in our newspapers to the effect that the Congress overwhelmingly supports President Johnson. The reason for that - if one goes to the United States one hears this everywhere - is that it is unpatriotic not to do so. An American has to support the President. The attitude is: “He has got us into this mess and we have to support him. But for God’s sake let us find a way out of the mess.” The way was shown and a ray of sunshine lame into the midst of the torrents of words that are pouring down in the United States. That way was shown by Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy came out with a statement. Let me point out that this is not just my view. The “ New York Times “, which is a conservative newspaper, has attacked the Johnson policy on Vietnam all along. It is not a left wing paper. It is one of the most conservative papers in the United States.
– It is isolationist.
– It may well be, but this newspaper confirms, as do other newspapers, that a lot of people support Kennedy because here is a chance to do something to obtain a peace conference. We have heard that the Americans stopped bombing for 30 days, or whatever the period was, and no peace came. But we forget to mention that when an offer of a peace conference did come, the antennas were not pointing in the direction of Mr. Rusk’s ears and so he denied the efforts of the Hanoi Government to have a peace conference.
– Explain the efforts and the conditions laid down.
– The five points which were laid down by the North Vietnamese people and the 14 points which were laid down by Johnson are not incompatible if we want to get a peace conference, except for the fact that the North Vietnamese want the Vietcong there. The Vietcong represent a considerable number of the people in Vietnam and they have every right to be at a conference. If a conference is held, there will be free elections. The elections should have been held in 1956, two years after the Geneva Agreement, and not 18 months after as was mentioned by an honorable senator. The Agreement itself states that the elections shall be held within two years. They were not held, of course, because the Diem Government knew it would lose the elections.
There have been 10 corrupt governments in South Vietnam. How do they stay there? They stay there at the will of the United States. I like America. I am fond of the Americans. I enjoy their way of life. But that does not mean to say that we have to be subservient to them, agree that they are always right and do everything they say. They were wrong in Vietnam, and the American people believe that they are wrong.
– The gall up polls do not show that.
– What do the gallup polls show in Australia? Does the honorable senator have any faith in them?
There is a second question which the gallup polls, especially in Australia, do not ask, and that is: Why should we be there? It is because we have to be subservient to America. That is the reason. We do nothing for our own defence. We do nothing to try to make sure that this country can defend itself. We rely on American aid to such an extent that we are prepared to horse trade with the Americans.
– The honorable senator says that only volunteers should defend this country.
– I do, and I say that the Government is horse trading with the Americans. It is prepared to send boys to Vietnam so that the American Government will purchase a few more Australian goods. Honorable senators opposite ought to be ashamed of themselves for supporting that.
– The honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself for saying that.
– There is no need for mc to be ashamed. According to the Minister’s statement, we are fighting in Vietnam at the behest of no-one.
– Read the statement properly.
– The President said that I am not allowed to refer to the Minister’s statement.
– Order! The honorable senator may refer to the statement which was made by the Prime Minister, but he cannot refer to the statement which was made by the Minister for External Affairs.
– I shall return to the question to which I was referring. The Americans are as scared of losing face as are the Chinese. To get them to come to a peace conference, we have to accept the condition that the Vietcong will be present. Honorable senators opposite speak about Chinese aggression, Communist aggression and other forms of aggression. They have pointed out that there are 220,000 North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops and 220,000 American troops in Vietnam. I ask: Who is the aggressor? Honorable senators say that both do not belong in Vietnam, but they are both there. There is only one aggressor, as far as the Asiatics are concerned, lt: one speaks to them one finds that they say that the Americans are the aggressors. Until recently - and the Americans have supported this statement - there has not been one Chinese force, or even a Chinese soldier, in Vietnam. I plead with the Government to support an attempt to convene a peace conference. 1 know it is difficult.
– We have tried.
– We have tried, but let us try a little harder. We have to accept the Vietcong. It does not matter what we call them. They are South Vietnamese and they are Communists, but they are also one of the major forces in the country. In the last few days we have seen reports that even the present Government in South Vietnam may topple. Why? It is partly because of religious reasons and partly because it did nothing until the Honolulu Declaration, which was another bright element in this rather dark situation.
– Does not the honorable senator remember that in the statement we are discussing the Prime Minister said: “… and at the request of the Government of South Vietnam, the Government has decided that the battalion will be replaced by . . . some 4,500 men.”?
– This was at the request of the South Vietnamese Government, but the Minister for Externa] Affairs says that no-one made a request. Somebody is wrong. It is there in black and white, so the honorable senator can take it whichever way he wishes.
– The honorable senator is so childish.
– 1 may be childish, but I will stick to my point. If we are at war, if we are in a state of hostilities with a country, we should appeal for volunteers to go and fight rather than send boys who do not even have a vote. I am a great believer in national service, but I am not a believer in sending these young boys to Vietnam. There are wars and wars, and this is a pretty dirty war. I know that if my son was in that age group I would be pretty hostile. People all over this country whose sons are reaching the age of 19 and 20 years are also hostile in this regard.
It is a striking fact that we say so much about security. I will repeat it again. There are honorable senators who believe we should be there, but their sons are not there. If honorable senators believe that we should be there and that we should defend Australia in Vietnam, they should be the first to volunteer and go there. I am not pointing to anyone in particular because I do not know whether any honorable senators opposite have sons of that age. Some of them must have sons. They have not volunteered to go. To say that volunteers are a thing of the past is a ridiculous statement because if we were at war we would not have to call for volunteers - they would be there.
– lt is like the honorable senator’s shabby impertinence to say what our sons should do. They are doing what is proper.
– I am not quite certain what the honorable senator is referring to.
– The honorable senator should keep to the forms of parliamentary debate.
– If the honorable senator is taking my remark as personally offensive, he can ask for its withdrawal. But 1 do not even know that he has a son of that age. I made the general statement that if we believe that Australia should be defended in Vietnam, then the first people to go there are the people who believe it. If they cannot go, surely their families should go. I do not believe for one moment that the mass of people in Australia believe that the war will be won in Vietnam.
I could not care less if the whole of the South East Asian continent became Communistic. The Minister for External Affairs said in another place that China has not been very successful in the African and other countries where Communism has been involved. Lots of Communist countries, with a bit of assistance from us, would swing our way or be our supporters rather than support China. There is no guarantee that just because they are Communist countries they are going to support China. We see America and Russia as friendly as can be, but we say, on the other hand, that the Chinese cannot be friendly because they are Communists. The only answer is to plead with the Minister to take up with the Government the suggestion that we invite the Chinese to come here and that we send a parliamentary delegation to China to see for ourselves what is going on there. Unless we have this sort of knowledge of each other, we will always be fighting against each other.
I want to add one final thing. If we are depending for the defence and security of Australia on our activities in Vietnam, could not the Government stop sending materials to Hong Kong? If the honorable senator really thinks that anything that goes to Hong Kong stays in Hong Kong, he should go and see for himself the flow of trade across the border.
– What war material goes to Hong Kong?
– I understand some iron and steel and I believe some minerals.
– The honorable senator believes?
– I have not the resources of a Party to find out these things but the honorable senator could find out for me. Let us ask the Minister to tell us what exports go to Hong Kong.
– That is an interesting remark about the steel. Does the honorable senator know the purpose for which the steel goes there?
– Yes, but it does not matter. One could send steel to any country and have no knowledge of what happens to it once it gets there. That applies to any item. Let us get the Minister for Trade and Industry to tell us the total amount of material which could be used for the purposes of war which is imported into Hong Kong, and then we can decide whether any is being sent to China. There is no doubt that there is a two way traffic. A lot of Americans delude themselves by buying things from non Communist China, as they call it, but those articles are made in China. The Chinese have a wonderful organisation. It can be seen in operation in Hong Kong. A person can order anything he likes and it will be sent to him.
– That is what the honorable senator advocates - goodwill amongst everyone.
– That is what 1 am saying. I am not advocating it. These are the facts. The articles are available and they can be bought.
Although I disapprove entirely of the sending of conscripts to Vietnam, I want to make it clear that I do not agree entirely with all of the Opposition’s proposed amendment. I do not have a copy of it with me at the moment but I know that the Opposition unfortunately has ruined the amendment by including in it abuse of the Government about other matters not connected with Vietnam. For that reason I can agree with only part of it. I want to make that clear when people ask me why I am not voting for the proposed amendment. If the Opposition wiped out one-half of it I would be prepared to support it.
– I welcome the composite statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). I support the motion before the Senate and 1 oppose the Australian Labour Party’s proposed amendment. Although Senator Gair attempted to propose an amendment on hehalf of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, the amendment has not yet been placed officially before the Senate. However, he discussed it and I state now that I oppose it.
I turn to the speech just delivered by Senator Turnbull. It was most difficult to follow him up and down the various highways and byways that he traversed, but let me say that I totally disapprove of some of his statements. In particular I think that his statement that the United States Government is purchasing Australian goods in return for Australian boys being sent to Vietnam was despicable. It was a statement entirely unworthy of any honorable senator. I deprecate it and direct the attention of the Senate to it.
In line with his general thesis, in a careless and irresponsible speech, he said that he could not care if South Asia became Communist or if the Chinese came right through the whole length of Asia and into Indonesia. To my way of thinking, that is one of the most foolish statements made in this debate. From my experiences in moving through South East Asia, I think that every country in the area has its eye cocked with fear on Communist China. For instance, the Indians have had experience of Chinese aggression on their northern boundary. In Burma the military government, although it is a revolutionary government, is fearful of China. The fact that China may wish to drive through Burma on its way to Africa has every responsible Burmese seriously studying the situation. A group of us was in north east Thailand three years ago. The Thai Government told us that there was infiltration of Chinese Communists through Laos. There is at present at a place called Ubon in north east Thailand a section of the Royal Australian Air Force which is keeping watch day and night on the Chinese in Laos who may possibly come south to north east Thailand.
It is well known to all honorable senators that during the past IS years Australian, New Zealand and British troops in a composite Commonwealth force were fighting Chinese Communist terrorists in the Malay peninsula. The economy of the Malay peninsula virtually stood still for some years. These Communist terrorists would not allow the farmers to harvest their crops of rice, would not allow the tin miners to continue mining tin and would not allow the harvesting of the rubber from the rubber trees. That is only one example of what the Chinese Communists have done in the last 10 or 15 years to destroy the normal peaceful life of a number of countries in Asia. So I oppose Senator Turnbull’s statement that it would not matter if the Chinese were to pass right through southern Asia, including Indonesia. From what I have seen of the activities of Chinese Communists in southern Asia, this would be one of the most dreadful things that could happen.
Now let me return to the Prime Minister’s statement. I think the statement was put together very well. The first part dealt with defence and foreign policy and the second part dealt with the state of the economy. In this fast moving world, one has to study one’s defence policy and foreign policy almost continuously. The governments of certain states are changing and realigning their allegiances so frequently that one has to look at the world position almost continuously. I am glad that within six weeks of taking office the new Government led by Mr. Holt has caused this statement to be debated in the Parliament. The statement is important because it examines Australia’s position in the world as influenced by three notable visits - the visit of Mr. Healey of the United Kingdom, the visit of Vice-President Humphrey of the United States and the visit of the Prime Minister of Thailand.
That brings me to the next question - our involvement in three important pacts, namely the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, the S.E.A.T.O. Pact and the A.N.Z.A.M. Pact. We are signatories to these important treaties. The A.N.Z.U.S. Pact is a treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Like every treaty, this one involves mutual obligations. The S.E.A.T.O. pact is also a treaty involving obligations between a number of nations - the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Such a pact as the S.E.A.T.O. pact involves mutual obligations, responsibilities and privileges. The other pact relates to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
– Does the honorable senators say that we are in Vietnam because of any of these pacts?
– We are in Vietnam because of the protocol sections of the S.E.A.T.O. pact, at the invitation of the Government of South Vietnam.
– Why are not the other parties to S.E.A.T.O. involved?
– They could well be involved.
– But they are not.
– That is a matter for the parties concerned. I understand that the Philippines are about to become engaged in South Vietnam. The Pakistanis have not shown any interest, nor have the French, but it is still a valid pact.
– It can be either individual or collective in the terms of the treaty.
– As Senator Wright reminds us, it does not mean that every country has to be involved in every operation, but it is a very important pact as far as Australia is concerned. We were invited to South Vietnam by the Government of South Vietnam, we were in discussions with the United States of America and our military operations and its military operations were somewhat geared together. We have the same sort of equipment and I under stand that the military strategy that Australia and the United States observe in war is very similar. Consequently, we are in Vietnam under those auspices.
Mr. Healey explained to this country that the United Kingdom was continuing its global role. He explained that it hoped to keep substantial forces in South East Asia and would do so as long as it was able to remain militarily operative in Singapore with the bases that it has built there over the years. However, the visit of Mr. Healey, as I detected, caused us all to consider what might happen if the British were obliged to leave Singapore or Malaysia through various transitional activities in those countries. I am glad that studies are going on concerning the probability that if the United Kingdom forces had to leave parts of Malaysia or Singapore they would operate from Australia. The British presence on the mainland of Asia is of tremendous importance to us here in Australia. It has a stabilising and moderating effect and I consider that it is a great aid to the morale of the countries of South East Asia.
Three years ago I was in Malaysia with a parliamentary party and was most impressed with the Commonwealth force in or near Malacca. It consisted of Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom troops, who were doing very great work. Apart from their activities against terrorists in the north of the Malay Peninsula, they were doing great work of a morale building kind for the people of the Peninsula who had, only a year or two previously, been beset by terrorists. The security of this area was greatly strengthened by what I would call the British Commonwealth presence, and the tin mining, rice growing and rubber producing activities were getting into high gear. Afforestation was being carried out and agriculture was developing in every way. Education was going ahead with such enthusiasm that the schools were used twice a day. In the early morning at 7 o’clock one lot of children came and stayed until about 1 o’clock. Then, at 2 o’clock, another lot came to stay until about 6 or 7 o’clock. University activity in Malaysia was growing at a great pace. AH of this was due to the stabilising and moderating effect of security. I think that the British presence in Malaysia has really caused it to be the country with the highest standard of living in the whole of Asia.
T hope and expect that the British will remain, because as I detected in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, there was a great respect for what the British had done for that area. So I was very glad when Mr. Healey gave us the firm impression that the United Kingdom Labour Government was fully aware of its responsibility to continue this British presence, creating a stabilising effect that was expanding in those countries. If the British have to leave Singapore and Malaysia, they will have to find alternative bases. They are considering, as I said before, bases here in Australia. I understand that they are also considering bases in the Seychelles Islands and some of the dependencies of the British colony of Mauritius. So the British presence will be with us, I feel sure, for a long time. Mr. Healey spoke in terms of 1970, 1980 and even J 990 in connection with the activities of the British in this area.
I should like to pay tribute also to some of the statements that Mr. Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has been making on this question of Vietnam. The British, as we realise, are not engaged in a military fashion in Vietnam. They have done a tremendous amount of negotiation. One honorable gentleman, Mr. Davies, who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, went to Hanoi last year in an effort to make some feelers there, to see whether it was possible to get the parties round a conference table, but, valiant and all as he was in making the trip, he was unsuccessful. Mr. Wilson, when reporting this visit, said -
My honorable friend had to struggle against the evident conviction on the part of his North Vietnamese hearers that their prospects of victory were too imminent for it to be worth their while to forsake the battlefield for the conference table. In such an atmosphere it was scarcely surprising that he was unable to bring back any kind of encouragement.
So at that time, in July of last year, the North Vietnamese were extremely confident and turned a deaf ear to Mr. Davies. Mr. Wilson has made some other very important statements in the British Parliament. One, reported on page 17 of “Selected Documents on International Affairs, No. 7, Vietnam, June 1965 to February 1966 “, reads -
The American position, which we support, is this: that when conditions have been created in which the people of South Vietnam can determine their own future free from external interference, the United States will be eager and ready to withdraw her forces from South Vietnam.
Mr. Harold Wilson summarised his seven points with these words -
We agree with that statement, but there has to be a fair cessation of military exercises before there can be such a peace. I pay tribute therefore to the United Kingdom for its understanding of the efforts to that end by the Americans. I pay tribute also to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his Cabinet Ministers for what they have done. There is no civil war in Vietnam in the terms that the Opposition would suggest. It is a war directed from Hanoi. As Mr. Wilson and others have indicated, the terms of negotiation of any peace will have to include Hanoi as the point from which the war is being directed. This is part of a Chinese onslaught to divide the territory lying between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
I have referred before to infiltration by Chinese Communists in Thailand. The Australian Government has taken a great interest in Thailand. Apart from a Royal Australian Air Force base at Ubon it has a team of road engineers from the Snowy Mountains Authority in Thailand. They are there to build feeder roads and help the Thai road builders with heavy earth moving equipment. The idea is to make communications possible at a time of the year when the monsoonal floods cover the land. Normally the existing roads would not be adequate for communications and the legitimate Government of Thailand is not able to govern the country effectively when it is under water. The Australian Government has spent £2 million in providing earth moving equipment and supplies and in keeping about 20 Australian engineers with their wives and families in North East Thailand. This is being done to enable the Thai Government to govern despite the efforts of infiltrating Chinese Communists.
There is evidence of this onslaught by China in other parts of South East Asia and indeed there is evidence of disruptive tactics by Communist Chinese as far away as Africa. I understand that when Tanzania got its independence about two years ago, within a fortnight of it becoming independent of the United Kingdom there was a revolution in Zanzibar organised and promoted by Chinese Communists. There is evidence in Indonesia now that the former Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, was in close communication with Communist China to cause trouble in Indonesia. In India and Burma there is evidence of efforts by Communist Chinese to cause disruption.
The war in South Vietnam is directed from Hanoi. There is evidence that much of the equipment used by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong and what is called the Army of Liberation is supplied from China. The military genius of China is directing operations. The United States of America and Australia are not in South Vietnam to win a small conflict. They are there to oppose Communist aggression before it takes on the shape of a major struggle, perhaps a world war, in which millions could be sacrificed. If South Vietnam were abandoned to Peking and Hanoi the whole lesson of our lifetime and two world wars is that we would still have to fight a larger conflict nearer our own shores.
What is the attitude of the Opposition? In effect it is: “ Let us retreat to Australia, abandon the fight against a type of aggression devised by Communist China and wait until the whole world explodes “. This idea of withdrawing to Australia and letting the onslaught go on, as suggested by Senator Turnbull and some members of the Opposition, would be calamitous. In 1938 there was an incident in Europe. We in Australia and the people in the United Kingdom did not take full account of it. In 1939, one year afterwards, it started a war. In 1940 those of us who enlisted were at the war. It all occurred as quickly as that. This trouble in North Vietnam and South Vietnam has to be met where it is occurring. We must not let it move forward. We must not let it get to Indonesia where there was, and might still be, fertile ground for it to breed and spread. 1 think we have adopted the correct attitude in standing by the United States, New Zealand, South Vietnam and South Korea. The next question is how we go about this with our own forces. Obviously the better type of force would be one comprised of volunteers if that were possible. Despite great increases in pay and improvements in housing and other provisions for the troops we have been unable to raise our Army lo the numbers the experts consider necessary - that is 37,000 - by normal enlistment processes.
– Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to detain the Senate for only a few moments. I desire to raise a matter that I think is of some importance and which relates to the Government’s immigration policy. I do not intend to be critical of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) personally. In the short time that I have been a member of the Senate I have found him to be very helpful in relation to the few matters about which I have had to approach him. My criticism will be directed against the immigration policy of the Government.
The particular matter to which I draw the attention of the Senate relates to the present position of the Anglo-Burmese population in Burma. In November last T was approached by one of the members of the Western Australian Parliament on behalf of two of his constituents who are Anglo-Burmese who have settled in Australia. They wish to sponsor a brotherinlaw who is at present living in Burma and who wants to migrate to Australia. This man had applied to the Australian Department of Immigration for a permit to enter Australia. This application had been rejected but, as is usually the case, no reason had been given to him for the rejection of the application. I wrote to the Minister on 24th November last asking whether he would reconsider the matter. I enclosed a photostat copy of the original application in which it was pointed out that the man in question was in his early 40’s, that his wife was of approximately the same age, that they had two children one of whom was a daughter aged 16 years and the other a son aged three years, that they spoke fluent English, and that they were AngloBurmese both of them being of approximately 50 per cent. European extraction. The Minister subsequently replied saying that the matter had been reconsidered but, to use his own words, that the application had been rejected “ as the family do not comply with the normal requirements for admission to Australia”. No further explanation was given.
At the request of the family living in Western Australia T wrote to the Minister again, setting out some further details about this particular man. I do not want to say a great deal about the man. As he is still living in Burma, I understand that it could be rather embarrassing to him if I were to refer to him in great detail and in a way which would identify him. This man was born in Burma. He comes from an English-speaking family. He and his wife and children are members of the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout the Second World War he served with the British forces. He escaped with the British forces from Burma to India and worked in senior and confidential positions with the British Administration in India. Subsequently, after the Japanese had -been defeated, he returned to Burma and took up an important civil service position with the Burmese Government. Since then, of course, there have been substantial changes in the Administration in Burma. It is not my purpose to criticise the Burmese Government for what it has done; no doubt that is its business.
According to the information which 1 have and which I think is fairly widely known, quite recently in Burma there has been considerable discrimination against non-Buddhists, foreign missions and nonBuddhist schools have been forced to close, and foreign clergymen, priests and nuns have been expelled. Indeed, at the present time it is impossible .for the children of Christians to have a Christian education of any sort inside Burma. In addition, because of the compulsory teaching of Burmese, very great difficulties have been placed in the way of people who do not speak that language. According to the information that has been provided, the family in question has some knowledge of Burmese. I think their position is very similar to that of other
Anglo-Burmese. Their first language is English; the language that they speak inside their homes is English.
I do not want to belabour the point. I point out, however, that these people clearly have a European way of life and a European outlook. They are placed in an invidious position. Because of their active identification with the former British imperial authorities in Burma, many of them are subject to a ‘great deal of prejudice and discrimination. Because of this prejudice and discrimination, because of their previous associations, because of their racial origin, because of their inability to participate fully in the national life of the country and to speak the language, and because of their religion, very many of these people wish to leave Burma. Apparently there are approximately 2,000 families of Anglo-Burmese origin at present living in Burma who would be eager to settle in Australia. A number of these people - certainly those on behalf of whom I am speaking - have sponsors or are in touch with people in Australia who would be prepared to act as sponsors. Many of these people - certainly those on whose behalf I have made representations to the Minister - are of some capacity, have good records and would be able to hold down quite responsible jobs in Australia. Very many of these people were civil servants, having been employees of the British Government in Burma. The position is made all the worse for them because pensions payable to former members of the Burmese civil service are not payable outside Burma. So if these people leave the country they have to go where they can earn an adequate living.
There may be some facts relating to this particular case which would preclude the entry of these people to Australia, but certainly there is nothing in the correspondence from the Minister to indicate that. In both of his letters, the Minister has merely said that the family does not comply with the requirements for admission to Australia. I do not think there is any doubt about what those requirements are or that this is an application of the white Australia policy. Fortunately Australia is showing some indications of moving away from that policy. I understand that all the major political parties in Australia accept the fact that our immigration policy is not a racial policy but that the criterion is the absorbability of the potential migrant into the Australian way of life. Clearly these Anglo-Burmese people have a background which is not greatly dissimilar from that of the Australian people. 1 do not think there would be too many supporters of the Australian Labour Party amongst them. 1 should think that most of them would be very conservative people and would behave in a very conservative manner if they did settle in Australia. I should be happy to hear to the contrary, but it seems to me that the refusal of their admission to Australia is based solely on racial discrimination. This is a very serious matter. Although we say we are excluding migrants only on the ground of absorbability, if at the same time in a case such as this, where there is no great difference in background and attitude, we refuse admission then clearly we are adopting a racialist policy.
These Anglo-Burmese are an unfortunate people who should be assisted. A number of other people in Asia of similar origin are in the same position. There are many people in India, Ceylon, Indonesia, Burma, and possibly elsewhere, who are the unfortunate victims of the doubtless desirable attainment of national independence in those parts of the world. They have common origins from both the former colonial power and the former colony. Although they have lived within a former colony, in their way of life they have been much closer to what they regard as being their homeland. They are now being discriminated against. I am not saying that this applies to India or to any other particular country, although it does seem that it certainly is so in Burma. However, such people are being discriminated against by the new governments in the countries in which they live. T believe that Australia would be doing a very humane and decent thing if it were to provide some refuge for them inside this country.
– I do not know the circumstances of the case referred to by Senator Wheeldon, but I support strongly any suggestion that in the proposed changes in our immigration laws special provision be made for people of this kind. The problem does not exist only in Burma. There are people of mixed European and Asian origin in Ceylon, India and a number of other countries.
They are suffering discrimination at (he present time not merely because they are part European in origin but also because many of them were highly educated and formed the administrative class, or a big section of the administrative class, under British rule. Now that those countries have obtained independence, these people of mixed European and Asian origin are regarded by the native people in many cases as what we might term the stooges of the British during the colonial period. lt is quite clear to them that they are not welcome and that there is not a very promising future for them there.
Australia has been good to quite a number of these people. One must admit that under the administration of our Ministers for Immigration quite a number of them have come to this country. I have found them to be very good citizens indeed. They are particularly fine types of people. They have strong feelings of loyalty to the British Commonwealth and nearly all of them are Christians. The barrier - let us be frank about it - to the admission of a number of these people has been the fact that they resemble their Asian ancestor more than their European ancestor, lt is somewhat difficult to understand how at times one member of a family can be admitted to Australia because he favours his European ancestor while a brother or sister can be kept out because he or she favours the Asian ancestor. The Government and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) are promising a new era in this respect immediately. I congratulate the Government on the action that it proposes to take. In my opinion, it would be a graceful gesture if the Government could make special provision for these people who are suffering in many cases because of the service that they gave to the British Government in years gone by.
[10.42]. Mr. President, I have listened with much interest, to both honorable senators who have spoken on matters concerning immigration. I assure them that I will approach the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) and bring to his attention the comments that they have made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660322_senate_25_s31/>.