26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Army seen a report in today’s ‘Australian’ that delegates to the 18th biennial conference of the Australian Blinded Soldiers Association stated that permanently disabled national servicemen were forced to remain in the Army until their two years service was completed? Will the Minister state whether this is true and give reasons for such useless and inhuman treatment?
– I did see in one of the newspapers, although I do not think it was the ‘Australian’, a statement to that effect. The situation with respect to national servicemen is that more than 8% have already been discharged for various reasons and no man is kept in the Army when he has suffered any injury or illness unless it is in his own interest to keep him there. No man is kept in the Army merely to complete his two years service. If the honourable senator believes that the position is different from what 1 have outlined I should be glad if he would bring names to my notice so that I can take up the cases with the Minister for the Army.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is it a fact that regional offices of the new Secondary Industry Operations Division of the Department of Trade and Industry have been set up in Sydney and Melbourne? Is it the intention of the Government to establish similar offices in the capital cities of the four other States?
– I am not aware of the administrative position of the Department of Trade and Industry. This is a matter for the Minister himself. If the honourable senator will put the question on the notice paper I shall get the information for her.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform the Senate of the financial arrangements that are being made for the presentation of the No case in the forthcoming referendum? 1 am quite aware that the Government is paying for the printed case to be sent to all electors. But is the Government mounting a campaign for the Yes case and, if so, who is paying for this and why should not an equal amount of money be made available for those supporting the No case?
– The honourable senator was good enough to give my staff notice of this question this morning and I endeavoured to get an answer for him. but as the Minister for the Interior is absent from Canberra at the moment I was unable to do so. Although I regret having to suggest this, if the honourable senator cares to put the question on the notice paper I shall get an answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Government introduced legislation at the request of wool grower organisations to reorganise the Australian Wool Bureau, as it was known then, and to set up the Australian Wool Industry Conference? Were these bodies set up to attend to promotion, research and the reform of wool marketing, and to give the industry a single policy making body? If this is so, would the proposed non-statutory body suggested by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia mean that the wool industry would again have a multiplicity of voices claiming to speak for it? Does the Government view this as a desirable innovation?
– The answer to the first part of the question would be yes. The second part of the question referred to a multiplicity of organisations representing the wool growers; I do not think that this would apply. In reply to the third part of the question: I do not know what the Government’s attitude is because so far as I know at the moment this matter has not been brought to the Government. If I might expand a little with regard to this proposition, apparently the suggestion - 1 understand that it has been under consideration for some time by the wool brokers - is that there should be a board of twelve men on which the wool growers would fill six places, including that of the chairman, who would have a casting vote. There would be five members from the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and there would be three each from the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers and the Australian Council of Wool Buyers.
At present the growers have no direct say in the conditions governing the sale of their wool. I understand that the proposed body could recommend an acquisition price to the industry and to the Government. Private buying outside the scheme would be permissible. The idea would be to eliminate the sale of one-bale, two-bale and three-bale lots, which of course have been a bone of contention in the industry for some time. I understand that Sir William Gunn has made the statement on behalf of the Australian Wool Board that this proposal is one of several that the Board is considering. My own feeling is that it is quite good to see these various suggestions coming forward. They are an indication, I feel, that many people, although they are not satisfied with present conditions, are endeavouring to improve those conditions by bringing in a different scheme which might be of greater value than the existing scheme.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government. Is there any truth in the report that the Federal Government will ask the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission not to grant a wage increase in the national basic wage case this year? Would not an instruction of this nature represent a denial of common justice, as the Commission is at present authorised to adjust wages in accordance with the cost of living at the time of hearing? As the Minister knows, the cost of living has risen considerably over the last twelve months. Will he, on behalf of the Government, issue a denial of any suggestion of Government interference in this matter, which deeply affects the wage and salary earners of Australia?
– The Government’s policy in arbitration matters has always been merely to state information for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission so that it will have the full facts before it. What is to be done this year 1 am not yet aware. I ask the honourable gentleman to put his question on the notice paper. If he does so, I shall see what information I can get for him.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that very strong racial prejudice exists on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean; that labourers are paid $A6 a week; that there is an acute housing shortage, with overcrowding in housing; that squalor prevails; that food - especially bread and meat - is not readily available; and that segregation in cinemas, hospitals, clubs and schools and at beaches is the order of the day? If so, what action, if any, has been taken or is likely to be taken to remedy these most unsatisfactory conditions experienced by the people of Christmas Island?
– I have no information indicating that what the honourable senator has suggested is a fact. It may be, but I do not know. I certainly have no information to support his suggestion. If he will put his question on notice the Minister for Territories will be able to give him a considered reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the constant bush fire danger that menaces the Australian continent, can the Minister advise the result of negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Canadian Aircraft Company concerning the purchase by Australia of five CL215 amphibious fire bombing aircraft?
– I cannot give the information sought. If the honourable senator will put his question on the notice paper 1 shall get the information for him.
– I crave your indulgence, Mr President, in determining the Minister to whom this question should be directed. It could perhaps be directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer or to the Minister representing the Minister for Air, but probably the responsibility for answering it would fall on the Leader of the Government, as it relates to a governmental activity.
– Order! If the honourable senator will ask his question we shall sort matters out.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government then. In relation to 34 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force no depreciation is applied. Is this one of the measures adopted to cover up the Government’s extravagance and misuse of aircraft? Depreciation has not been applied to this Squadron in the past. Apparently it will not be applied to the new aircraft estimated to cost between $llm and $13m that will be purchased for the special flight. Will the Minister inform me why normal business procedures relating to the depreciation of ordinary equipment and assets controlled by the Government are not being applied? Is the lack of these procedures designed to cover up the Government’s mismanagement of the assets and equipment of the flight?
– I did not hear clearly the beginning of the honourable senator’s question. He referred to a certain flight or squadron.
– I referred to 34 Squadron, which operates the VIP Flight.
– If the honourable senator had said that in the first place I would have known what he was talking about. This Squadron is part of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Prime Minister made a very comprehensive statement about the VIP Flight. I shall send the honourable senator a copy of it so that he will be better informed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will he inquire into serious allegations contained in the issue of the journal ‘Spotlight’ of 15th March, which stated that in defiance of the Postal Regulations the names of persons renting postal boxes in Melbourne had been disclosed to unauthorised persons on a number of occasions? If the allegations are correct, what action has been taken against those responsible?
– I accept the honourable senator’s offer to make available to me the information that he has on this matter. If he does that, I will then refer the question to the PostmasterGeneral for a reply.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform the Parliament whether the Government is prepared to take the necessary action to ensure that war widows are given exemption from the payment of licence fees for radio and television sets?
– This matter calls for collaboration between the PostmasterGeneral and me. In keeping with the policy of this Government of extending repatriation benefits and of providing some of the best repatriation benefits in the world, we certainly will have a look at this matter. 1 hope we will be able to satisfy the honourable senator in relation to it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Housing been drawn to recent statements by responsible building trade union officials to the effect that the Australian building industry today is in the worst situation it has been in since 1961? Has her attention also been drawn to a statement by the president of the Master Builders Association in New South Wales to the effect that there is now more office space in the capital cities than estate agents would be able to let in the next five years? Can she inform the Senate whether in fact there has been a steady decline in the number of people employed in the building industry? What steps does the Government intend to take to see that this decline is rectified and also to ensure that there is a proper balance between new constructions for dwelling purposes and new constructions for office accommodation?
– 1 think part of the honourable senator’s question would have been more correctly directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service because it relates very largely to the overall employment situation. I will reply in regard to the present housing situation. Housing figures are showing a continuing improvement. One State is causing concern; that is South Australia. I believe that the housing situation there is a reflection of the overall situation in that State at the moment. It is important to note that the number of new houses and flats approved in the three months ended February in this financial year was 26.045, compared with 22,293 in the same period of 1965-66 and 25,681 in the same period of 1964-65. So this year’s figures are the best of those three years. That in itself is an indication of the improvement in the housing situation which I believe is continuing and will bring the figures up to an even higher level.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. Has the Government any plan to introduce a land settlement scheme for servicemen who have served in Vietnam? If not, will it consider introducing such a scheme?
– This question relates to a matter of policy, which is not u proper subject for discussion at question time.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, refers to a matter in which I have sustained an interest, namely a comparison of the various fields of compensation for servicemen. Will the Minister let me have a list of the claims paid in respect of survivors and deceased personnel as a result of the collision between the ‘Melbourne’ and the ‘Voyager’, without specifying personal details, but giving simply the number of claims in certain categories so that they may be considered?
– 1 am not aware whether all the claims have yet been settled; they may have been. However I will direct the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for the Navy to see whether 1 can obtain an answer for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation: What are the reasons for the Government’s failure to make a full and frank statement of the findings of the committee investigating the causes of the Winton air crash? In view of current apprehensions which have been heightened by an absence of disclosures of the investigating committee’s deductions based on its examination of the available evidence, can the Minister give an assurance that a statement will be made at an early date, as many months have passed since the crash occurred?
– Amongst the voluminous papers I have, relying on my memory, I believe that there is a statement by the Minister for Civil Aviation on the matter referred to by the honourable senator. If that statement does not show up today, I am confident that it will do so tomorrow and will provide the answer sought by the honourable senator.
Sena or DITTMER - Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate furnish an answer to queries by myself and other honourable senators as to why the Government does not in an ordinary business way apply rates of depreciation to the assets and equipment of the Government?
– I still propose to send to the honourable senator a copy of the relevant statement made by the Prime Minister. I do not think he could get a better authority.
– -Can the Minister for Housing advise me of the number of housing loan insurance policies covered by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and the amount of money involved in those policies?
The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation since its inception has developed its business very rapidly. The total value of loans insured by it has now passed the $3lm mark.
– My question, which 1 direct to the Minister for Housing, relates to the Minister’s reply to Senator McClelland’s question and to her reference to the position of the building industry in South Australia. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Government has spent in the present year on public buildings in South Australia more money than has been spent by previous South Australian governments in any one year? Is she also aware that the unemployment in the building industry in South Australia is comparable wilh the situations in other States, including Queensland, and in the Australian Capital Territory? Is she prepared to assist the South Australian Government to apply pressure on the private sector to increase the number of homes built for private occupancy in South Australia?
– I think I understand the point that the honourable senator wishes to make. He refers to the building industry while I have referred to the housing position. 1 understand from honourable senators and from figures which I have received that the numbers of completions of houses are not as high as we would all wish and that there is some unemployment in the building industry. However I believe that this is a reflection of the whole picture in South Australia under the present circumstances.
– But it is common to every State.
– It is not. The picture overall, as I have already told the honourable senator, is a very good one for Australia. The honourable senator referred to Queensland and I think it might be advisable to tell the Senate that in that State the approvals, commencements and completions of new houses and flats were at record levels in 1966. That, of course, was a tremendously important year. Still further stimulus has been received in the early months of this year. Queensland, to which the honourable senator referred in respect of housing, has indeed had a record year.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration whether the Government has received from Mrs Ron Campbell, an Australian refugee worker in Vietnam, a request to permit migration to Australia of burnt and crippled Vietnamese children, victims of American bombing. The purpose of the migration is to give those children the benefit of medical treatment and plastic surgery available in Australia. If the Government has received such a request, what is its attitude to the proposal?
– I do not know whether my colleague the Minister for Immigration has received this information but I shall be pleased to bring the matter to his attention.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that young men who have to report for national service training are screened to ascertain whether they have any police record, however minor an offence might be? Is the screening done before ballotting or after they have received notice that they are the lucky ones?
– lt seems to me there are two parts in the question. The first is whether any screening process takes place when a youth is called up for national service and the second is whether a potential national serviceman is precluded from serving if he has a record of minor offences. I can say unequivocally that a police record of minor offences does not debar a man from serving as a national serviceman although no doubt there are some cases where a conviction for a more serious offence would mean that the man concerned would not be considered to be of the standard required of a national serviceman. I have no information on the other part of the question. The honourable senator could get the information from the Minister for Labour and National Service or I could get it for him.
– At the suggestion of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport I repeat a question 1 asked on 7th March regarding shipping to Tasmania. I briefly preface my question by pointing out that for some considerable time it has not been possible, with the available shipping to move cargo interstate from certain Tasmanian ports. Will the Minister draw the attention of his colleague to the fact that through an inadequacy of shipping services it is not possible to move cargo offering at a number of Tasmanian ports and that this is causing concern and embarrassment to sections of trade and industry in Tasmania? Will the Minister ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to call for a full report on this unsatisfactory position and cause steps to be taken to remedy it at the earliest possible date?
– When the honourable senator asked the question originally 1 promised that I would seek the information that he required. This has now been supplied to me by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. During the month of January the additional support vessels ‘Noongah’ and ‘Nilpena’ were maintained in the north Tasmanian trade to augment normal services provided by Bass Trader’ and ‘Princess of Tasmania’ in anticipation of increased cargo loadings. These did not eventuate and although available tonnage was by no means fully utilised the vessels were retained. However increased loadings beyond expectations eventuated rapidly and a backlog of cargo developed. The Australian National Line was unable to supply additional tonnage immediately but in the weekend of 11th- 12th March it arranged a special trip by Princess of Tasmania’ during the normal maintenance period to lift cargo only. At the same time efforts continued to charter additional tonnage and these have resulted in an additional vessel, ‘Lemana’, being available in the last few days to assist until the backlog of cargo has been cleared. Indications are that the tonnage now available will be adequate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Housing following the answer the Minister gave to a previous question in which she mentioned the housing situation in Queensland. I ask the Minister: What amount of money was made available to Queensland for use by the Queensland Housing Commission in the year ended 30th June 1966, not including the amount provided to co-operative build ing societies? How many houses were built? How many were for rental and how many for sale?
– I shall endeavour to get for the honourable senator information on the number of houses for rental built by the Queensland Housing Commission in the relevant period.
– How much money was available?
– f have not the information but I will obtain it for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Was a State Bill complementary to the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act rejected by the Liberal dominated Legislative Council in South Australia? Does this make the Commonwealth law inoperative? Will the Government take action to obtain agreement between members of the Liberal Party to make Commonwealth Government legislation effective?
- Mr President, I am not sure what the legal position is nor, indeed, what the particular Bill emanating from the Labor Government in South Australia to which Senator Cavanagh refers had in it. It may or may not have been strictly concerned with trade practices. It may or may not have just sufficient to put into practice the Commonwealth legislation. It may or may not have gone beyond it. Leaving out of the question the sort of political implication that Senator Cavanagh injected into the question, I can say only that the legal aspect of the question as to whether the passing of the South Australian Bill was necessary in order to make the Commonwealth legislation effective over the rest of Australia is something which I will find out for the honourable senator. But I will inquire into the legal aspects, not into the rather silly political aspects raised in the question.
– I wish to ask one more question of the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is not the relief from customs duty, amounting to SI. 5m, given to AnsettANA for the importation of their planes the equivalent of a gift to that firm?
– Yesterday in the absence of Senator Turnbull I thought I gave a full reply in answer to four or five questions in relation to the decision taken about by-law entry for aircraft. Therefore, J do not feel disposed to go beyond that reply. In any case, from the way the present question is framed, I do not think that it attracts an answer at all.
– Comparatively recently, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate would know, members of the Third Division of the Public Service received a rise which was substantial in the eyes of the Government but not adequate in relation to their rights. Will the Minister inform the Senate when members of the Fourth Division of the Public Service are likely to receive economic justice? I hope the Minister will not reply by saying that these officers received a small rise recently in an attenuated form of economic justice. Will the Minister also advise when the secretaries of distinguished senators and honourable members in another place will receive a substantial increase in salary? They, I understand, are members of the Fourth Division and they also received the attentuated form of economic justice to which I have referred a couple of weeks ago.
– I have not the details of the matter to which the honourable senator referred at my fingertips. I suggest that he put his question on the notice paper-
– It is on the notice paper.
– Well, he should not put it on a second time. I will obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– I ask the
Minister’ representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the question asked previously of him by Senator Turnbull. The Minister said in reply to Senator Turnbull that young nien are not necessarily rejected for national service if they have minor police convictions recorded against them. Might I ask the Minister what is meant by his. use of the word’ ‘minor’? Does it mean any offence for which a young man is found guilty by a magistrate? In any event, will the Minister agree that if a young man has a series of police convictions recorded against him, however minor they may be, he is regarded by the national service authorities as having an unsatisfactory civil record and therefore is not accepted for military service?
– I find it difficult to embark upon a semantic definition of exactly what is meant by the word ‘minor’. But in response to the honourable senator’s question, I would ask him what he means by a ‘series’?
RAILWAYS (Question No. 1)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
With reference to the recent six derailments on the North Australia Railway line resulting from the heavy iron ore traffic from Frances Creek, and criticisms by the Northern Territory Legislative Council and railway unions as to the condition of the line (a) is it a fact that Japanese shipping schedules have been postponed as a result of the derailments; (b) what action has been taken to re-lay this line, and (c) what action has b:en taken to ensure safe working conditions for railway operating staff in the meantime?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 28)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
(Question No. 47)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Did the Minister of Agriculture in Western Australia submit a case to the Commonwealth for the establishment of a quarantine checkpoint on the Eyre Highway in order to prevent the introduction of noxious weeds into that State?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 45)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Since the Minister’s reply on 1 1th October 1966 in connection with the protracted discussions between the Commonwealth and the States as to the future of the Silverton Tramway Company’s operations between Cockburn and Broken Hill, (a) have the issues which were then outstanding now been resolved, and (b) is an alternative route to be adopted?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 52)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Is the man named Nolan, who is a member of the Seamen’s Union of Australia and who a responsible for denying logistic support by sea to Australian forces, the same Mr Nolan who is a member of the Executive of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer:
I understand that Mr B. M. Nolan, who is the Secretary of the Melbourne Branch ofthe Seamen’s Union of Australia, is the same Mr Nolan who is a member of the Central Executive of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
(Question No. 53)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
With regard to the proposed new works estimated to cost $124,000 in the Civil Works Programme 1966-67 for broadcasting and television services in South Australia:
What is the nature of the works proposed?
When is it anticipated that the proposed work will be completed?
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answer:
The work involved is the erection of an outside broadcast garage at the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s television studios at Collinswood:
The construction of a two-storey brick and concrete framed building. The ground floor level will provide a garage to house nine vehicles, an electronic maintenance workshop and a scaffolding and lightingstore. The first floor will contain office accommodation and toilets.
September 1967. (Question No. 54)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
With regard to the proposed new works estimated to cost $1,371,000 in the Civil Works Programme 1966-67 for the Postmaster-General’s Department in South Australia:
In what precise location is each work being carried out?
What is the precise nature of the work proposed?
When is it anticipated that the respective works will be completed?
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 55)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
With regard to the estimate of $126,000 in the Civil Works Programme 1966-67 for the erection of stores buildings! for the Department of Works at Richmond, South Australia:
What is the nature of the building?
When are they expected to be ready for use?
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answer:
Erection of a steel framed building with galvanised iron and designed with a saw toothed roof. It will provide a main storage area for building materials, furniture and spare parts for plant and vehicles, with a separate area for bulk storage of stationery. An office, staff lunch room and toilets are included.
(i) June 1967.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice:
With respect to the estimate of $81,000 in the Civil Works Programme 1966-67 for the erection of two radar stations, one at Ceduna and the other at Oodnadatta, totalling $152,000-
what will the principal functions of such radar stations be;
what will their respective ranges be;
docs the figure of $152,000 include equipment and, if so, how much; and
will the buildings be air-conditioned?
– The Minister for Works has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 66)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
When such a terminal is constructed will it -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers:
Plans are now being prepared for a new terminal building adjacent to the present terminal building and the Department of Works anticipate that construction will commence during the last quarter of this year and that the building will be complete by the end of 1968. 2. (a) The terminal will be air conditioned,
The answers to questions 1 and 2 provide the answer to question 3.
(Question No. 68)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 77)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers:
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the texts of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature:
I also lay on the table for the information of honourable senators the text of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes, concluded at Vienna on 18th April 1961, to which Australia is considering becoming a party by accession.
Also, for the information of honourable senatorsI lay on the table the text- of the Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet forthe Temporary Admission of Goods, doneat Brussels on 6th December 1961, to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board on:
Air-cooled engines not exceeding 10 B.H.P. and parts.
Plastic corrugated plates, sheets or strip.
I also present the following report by the Tariff Board which does not call for any legislative action:
Men’s dressing gowns of terry towelling or man-made fibres (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
In addition I present, pursuant to Statute, the following Special Advisory Authority reports on:
– Senator Wright yes terday asked me whether I was in a position to inform him when legislation providing for financial assistance to Tasmania in respect of our recent tragic bush fires would be ready for presentation. I have obtained the information sought and I now inform him that it is hoped to introduce this legislation next week.
Motion (by Senator Henty) - by leave - agreed to:
That a Privileges Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Branson, Cant, Cormack, Drake-Brockman, Morris, Poke and Wheeldon.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[3.58] - I move:
This Bill will give effect to the announced reduction of the residential qualification, for citizenship, of non-British subjects who are permanent residents and are called up for national service. At the time of call-up, non-British subjects selected for service will be adults, and as the Nationality and Citizenship Act stands at present they would be entitled to no concessions by way of reduced residence for the purpose of acquiring Australian citizenship. As members of the forces they are liable for overseas service. The Government has decided that they should be eligible for citizenship after three months service regardless of their period of residence in Australia. A person who, before completing three months service, is discharged as medically unfit for further service and who, in the opinion of the Minister for Immigration, has become medically unfit by reason of his service, will likewise be eligible for citizenship. The grant of citizenship has always been discretionary and it is consistent with this that the Minister should determine whether or not the discharge was due to a disability caused by Army service.
Under the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966, Irish citizens are neither British subjects nor aliens. Irish citizens were not liable to call-up as British subjects but the decision to extend the call-up to non-British subjects rather than to aliens means that Irish citizens now become liable. Irish citizens may acquire Australian citizenship by registration in the same way as British subjects. Clause 3 (b) of the Bill is designed to ensure that British subjects and Irish citizens who are called up for national service, or who volunteer, or have volunteered, for service in the permanent forces, shall be residentially qualified for the grant of registration as Australian citizens under Section 12 of the Act after three months service - or after a shorter period if discharged as medically unfit by reason of their service.
Clause 4 (a) of the Bill makes similar changes in the conditions for the naturalisation of aliens to those made by Clause 3 (b) in respect of the requirements for the grant of citizenship to British subjects and Irish citizens. There are some consequential changes to which I should draw the attention of honourable senators. Section 12 (I) (f) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 specifies that an applicant for registration must intend ‘to continue to reside in Australia or New Guinea’. This pre-supposes that an applicant is resident in Australia at the time of application. In fact, it will be possible for a serviceman to be abroad at the time of application and it is necessary to provide for acceptance of an intention ‘to reside’ in Australia. Clause 3 (a) of the Bill achieves this.
Clause (4 (b) repeals the existing provisions of the Nationality and Citizenship Act in respect of persons who volunteer for service in the permanent forces. The Nationality and Citizenship Act now provides that alien volunteers in the permanent forces may count each four weeks of such service as equivalent to eight weeks residence for the purposes of acquiring Australian citizenship. It would be inappropriate to give to persons volunteering for service with the permanent forces less favourable treatment than is afforded to aliens called up for national service. The Bill therefore will amend the existing law and place volunteers in the permanent forces on the same footing as persons called up for national service.
In 1964 Parliament repealed Section 49 of the Defence Act which provided that members of the military forces were not required, unless they voluntarily agreed to do so. to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and certain of the Territories of the Commonwealth. Since then there has been no question of members of the permanent forces volunteering for overseas service. Clause 4 (c) therefore includes a consequential amendment of Section 15(2a)(c) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1966 by deleting the words ‘having volunteered to serve beyond the limits of Australia and the Territories’. Mr President, J know that all honourable senators will endorse the changes which this Bill contemplates and which are designed to ensure that no non-British serviceman will have to go overseas without first having had the opportunity of becoming an Australian citizen. I commend the Bill to all honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.
T4.31 - r move:
That a Select Committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into and report upon the following aspects of the container method of handling cargoes to and from Australia:
For some months the Government has been carefully considering the appointment of select committees of the Senate. It is now proposing the appointment of select committees on two subjects - the one with which we are now dealing and the metric system of weights and measures - which are not politically contentious and do not involve Government policy. I would like honourable senators to know that this is not a sudden move by the Government. We finished the Address-in-Reply debate only last night. I mention that because under the rules of the Senate it is not in order to enter upon discussion of proposals for the appointment of select committees before the Address-in-Reply is adopted. Now that the Address-in-Reply has been adopted, the Government is taking the first opportunity to move for the appointment of these two select committees. 1 believe that at this stage I should give some indication of what I regard as the role of the Senate in this field. Under the Constitution, the Senate is certainly not the governing House. Its function is not that of policy making but of reviewing, counselling and informing. Within that concept, regularly appointed ad hoc select committees can do much useful work during recesses of the Parliament in pursuing inquiries into certain affairs of government which cannot be examined fully during the busy periods of sitting.
I have said that the two subjects to be examined by select committees are not politically contentious or matters of government policy. However, I consider them matters of. national importance and matters having an effect on all of the States - some to a greater degree and some to a lesser degree. The entry of container shipping into the seaborne import and export trade poses many new problems for Australia. The Select Committee of the Senate whose appointment I am now moving will have an important and significant role to play in studying these many problems with the object of assisting in their solution.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the Department of Trade and Industry report of the conference on the subject of containerisation, which was held from 9th to 12th May 1966 and which was called at the instance of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) whose drive and interest in this subject are well known. This was a very important conference. During an address to it Mr McEwen said:
The potential benefits of the system-
That is the containerisation system - . . must be carefully assessed in the Australian context by shippers, shipowners, port authorities and all road and rail operators. Failure to do so will mean that attempts to introduce this system into Australia will be either grossly delayed or inflated by the unnecessary costs that an inadequate understanding of the facts always invites. Because of the inherent promise of a basic breakthrough which this system holds, I have convened this conference so that first steps can be taken to understand fully the advantages involved and to weigh offsetting factors. Correct understanding by all concerned is the prerequisite to balanced decision. If action should bc taken to better our position, then we cannot afford any avoidable delay.
He also said:
Neither the Australian Government, nor the Australian nation, nor any shipping group can afford wasteful duplication in the massive investment involved in container services. No-one can afford the inadequate use of those facilities during a lengthy introductory period.
The introduction of this system and its examination by a Select Committee of the Senate will be of tremendous interest. There is a wide field for this Committee to examine. I am confident that it can play a great part in providing a basic examination of and basic information on the many problems that will occur in the course of the introduction of this system.
I have mentioned some of the problems as I see them. No doubt there will be many more problems which the committee will find and will report upon. There is no question that some of the States will benefit by having major container ports. Some of the shipping companies propose that the three major container ports should be Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. I think it is essential in this system of transport that the number of container ports should be limited. This, of course, means that problems will arise for the States which do not have a major container port within their boundaries. Goods to be exported from South Australia in containers - a cheaper form of transport - will need to be sent to, say, Melbourne or Sydney; from Queensland to Sydney; and from Tasmania to Melbourne. Special problems will be involved for Tasmania because all the goods to be exported will be transported from Tasmania by sea. That is the only available means, whereas other States will have road and rail connections with the major container ports. From Tasmania, goods for export must be taken to the main container ports by sea.
One of the problems which has been brought to my attention is the endeavour to establish an international container to suit all transport services. O’ne of Australia’s problems is that the most economical container envisaged will not pass through some of the tunnels on our railway lines. Therefore cargoes in those containers may be precluded from carriage on some railway lines. Such problems will occur from time to time. I am sure that when the select committee starts investigating these problems it will find them of tremendous interest.
One of the main necessities is the setting up of marshalling yards at the ports. It is essential that the containers when unloaded from the ships should be removed as quickly as possible from the wharves. The essence of the container system is that shipping should be turned around - in and out of port - as quickly as possible. Containers must be marshalled together and for this purpose a marshalling yard must be available so that shipping is not held up. Ships will be able to make more trips and so will reduce capitalisation and running costs. More cargo will be carried on more frequent trips and it is hoped that the freight rates applicable to our import and export trade may be reduced.
These matters are of interest not only to private enterprise and to primary producers. They are of interest also to government agencies. The system will be of great interest to the Department of Customs and Excise. I am quite confident that that Department is closely watching developments so that the checking of goods can take place away from the wharves. In that way the ports may be freed. The Department of Customs and Excise will make its inspections in marshalling yards or at a place away from the wharves.
State railways will, be called upon to develop new methods” of handling containers. The flat top method is very successful and if a universal container can be designed this method will be of great assistance to the development of rail transport.
Road transport also will need special vehicles to move these containers interstate economically. Honourable senators will have noted that many of these problems are interstate problems. As such, I believe it is fitting that a Senate select committee - a committee of the States House - should be given an opportunity to study them and to advise this Parliament of its considered findings and recommendations. I commend to honourable senators the motion to set up the Select Committee.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) went to some pains to indicate that the Government had had in mind for some time a proposal to put forward motions to set up the two select committees to which he referred - one to consider containerisation and the other to consider the metric system of weights and measures. We welcome the suggestion that seems to be implicit, that the introduction of these motions is not intended to forestall the proposals of the Opposition to set up two Senate select committees, one on repatriation matters and one on the costs of medical and hospital care. It is to be assumed that the Government is acting in good faith and will not, after the select committees have been set up, then suggest that there is a shortage of staff or a lack of other facilities, or that there is some other reason why the committees which otherwise might have been set up cannot now be set up.
We welcome the proposal for the select committees because we have thought for some time that Parliament can do much of its best work through the committee system. It has not been availed of enough in the past. In some ways the committee system has fallen into disuse, perhaps because of the Government’s disregard of the very valuable reports presented by committees in the past. We trust that the efforts of honourable senators and other people expended through these committees will not be set at naught because of the failure of the Government to act upon future reports.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate referred to the role of the Senate. As I understood him he conceives the Senate not to be a policy making chamber but a chamber of review, and of counselling and informing. If Senator Henty
Intended by his reference to say that the Senate is not in existence to make administrative policy, I think we would all agree with him. But if he intended to say that it is not the Senate’s function to make legislative policy, I for one would disagree strongly with him. The Senate is a coordinate chamber with the House of Representatives. Its very function is to engage in legislative policy; we are here to make legislation.
Indeed, it is a tragedy of our modern times that of the two chambers the Senate is the only one capable of being a true legislative chamber. It follows from our responsible system of government, which extends throughout the British Commonwealth, that in the chamber which includes most of the members of the Government, the Government is dominant, except where the numbers are fairly evenly divided. As a consequence, that chamber is really incapable of making any amendments to legislation or of passing legislation contrary to the will of the Government. So that in fact if not in theory the House of Representatives has ceased to be a legislative chamber, lt is a rubber stamp for the legislation introduced by the Government.
The only legislative chamber in the Commonwealth Parliament is the Senate. Legislative policy is our business. We are not here to make administrative policy but we are here to supervise the Government in its administration and also to hold the Government accountable for its administration. These are functions of the Senate and nobody in this chamber or elsewhere should be misled into the view that in some way the Senate is not here to make policy on all matters of legislation and will not concern itself with the policy that is being administered by the Government. The proposal to set up a select committee of the Senate to inquire into containerisation shows clearly that the Senate does concern itself with legislative policy. The terms of reference state that the very first function of the committee is: to inquire into and report upon the following aspects of the container method of handling cargoes to and from Australia:
So it is quite clear that the committee rightly will be concerned with legislative policy. It will consider important questions: What is the legislation to be? What ought this Parliament do about the legislative provisions in relation to containerisation whether they are made by this Parliament or under the authority of this Parliament? Of course the select committee, if set up, will be acting in accordance with the legislative functions of the Parliament under tha Constitution. Section 51 of the Constitution, relating to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States and other provisions of the Constitution enable the Parliament to pass laws in respect of this matter and as a consequence entitle the Senate or the House of Representatives to engage in inquiries and report upon what legislative measures should be taken. Of course, in determining what the legislative provisions should be, one is concerned also with the administration of them so that the relevant laws will be efficient.
We are already in the midst of a maritime revolution just as we are perhaps in the midst of a smaller revolution in the Senate. The Government proposes to set up a select committee to inquire into containerisation. The first observation I have to make is that this move is already too late if we are to have effective pre-planning in respect of this new development. This should have been done some time ago. lt was obvious that much planning had to take place if containerisation was to be introduced efficiently. We will suffer from this delay. Hundreds or even thousands of millions of dollars may be lost through the failure of the Government to institute proper inquiries earlier.
Why have we sat back? There have been a few conferences and inquiries of a sort outside but there has been no real attempt to ascertain the effects of the containerisation revolution or to determine what steps should be taken by the Commonwealth, what co-ordination there should be between the Commonwealth and the States and local government, and what should be done by private persons. Many interests are affected by this development. The actions, the plans and the future of all those concerned depend upon what is done by the Commonwealth Government. It was clear that the Commonwealth Government should determine its role and its policies in relation- to this important matter at the earliest stage. Legislation should have been introduced as early as possible. Instead, here we are in April 1967 setting up a select committee - which 1 welcome - to report by the end of the year on a matter which is already in process of development.
This is typical of the Government’s attitude to great matters which affect the nation. During the debate on the Address-in-Reply we dealt with the failure of the Government to determine its role and its policies in relation to many other matters of great national concern. This is but one more instance of the Government’s failure and perhaps it will prove to be a grievous one.
The Leader of the Government touched upon some matters with which the select committee will concern itself and there are others of importance. There is the question of international co-operation. It has been proposed that an international convention be held in Geneva in the latter part of this year to establish standard measurements and standard methods of hooking container vans to facilitate international interchangeability. This will concern the Australian Standards Association. The Association will have heavy involvement in the matter and discussions will have to take place with the Department of Shipping and Transport and no doubt with other Commonwealth departments. There will be problems for the Department of Primary Industry. It will have to arrange for points of inspection in respect of fruit, meat and other primary products for export. It will also have to apply itself to such matters as the most suitable arrangements for hygienic storage and effective refrigeration.
Other Commonwealth departments will have greater or lesser responsibilities. Departments which obviously will be concerned include Health, Customs and Excise, Trade and Industry, Labour and National Service, Primary Industry and Shipping and Transport. It is difficult to see how any Commonwealth department can avoid some problems in relation to this great development. State departments will be affected also. The railways will be very much concerned because of the effect of containerisation upon their functions. The railways will be forced to undertake certain changes to fit in with this transport revolution.
Local government, too, will be affected. Already it is evident that there will be great problems for local government authorities in areas where there may be new ports or certainly new facilities. This has been shown already in Sydney and no doubt the problem will occur in other areas. Private corporations and persons will be affected. Shipping companies already anticipate that some 80% of cargo will be carried by the container method. This will mean a reduction of ships if it is considered on the basis of the existing cargo rates. This means problems of obsolescence for private corporations and persons.
The trade unions and their members also are facing many problems. There is bound to be a shrinkage of the work force. Redundancy will occur. Problems will arise in the retraining or displacement of workers. Perhaps some of these problems might be solved by the setting up of tribunals, similar to the workers compensation tribunals to which persons will be able to apply on the basis that they have been injured, not by accident, but by changes in industry; that they should be compensated; that they ought to be rehabilitated; and that they ought not to suffer by these changes which inevitably will affect and benefit the economy as a whole.
Mr Deputy President, we see the ramifications of these changes as being so great that, while we welcome the setting up of this committee, we think that the task with which the committee will be concerned is one that affects so many departments in the Federal sphere that the constitution of the committee ought to be extended, lt is the view of the Opposition that the committee that ought to inquire into this matter on this occasion ought not to be confined to members of the Senate. We believe that it ought to be a joint select committee of both Houses of the Parliament. It is well known that the generally held view is that in most matters of inquiry in which senators are concerned it is probably much more efficient and’ much better if select committees are composed of senators alone, and that the joint system of committees has some drawbacks so far as efficiency and the relations between the two houses of Parliament are concerned. My personal view is certainly that, for the most part, the system of the Senate select committee is to be much preferred to that of the joint select committee.
In this instance, however, the field to be inquired into is an extremely extensive one.
If the inquiry is to be conducted properly, one should anticipate that it will be necessary for sub-committees to be set up. This means that the committee ought to have a larger membership than is proposed by the Government. As this inquiry will involve a number of specialities, some of whichI have mentioned; as Departments whose Ministers are in the other House are concerned; as a number of persons in the other House are intimately concerned also with the questions which are raised; because of their intimate acquaintance with the subject matters; and also because of their intimate acquaintance with some of the areas where it is likely that container ports will be set up, it is our proposal that the constitution of the committee be extended so as to include members of the House of Representatives on an equal basis with members of the Senate. Therefore to the motion moved by the Minister for Supply for the appointment of these committees, I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert- a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the following aspects of the container method of handling cargoes to and from Australia:
All Acts and regulations, Federal State or Local Government, which relate to the movement of such containers, or the handling of the cargoes which could normally be expected to be carried in such containers;
The adequacy and efficiency of facilities in Australia in relation to the proposed introduction of containers, with regards to ports, consolidation areas and traffic movement between ports and consolidation areas.
That the Committee recommend amendments to such Acts and regulations as are described in (l)(a) above which, in the opinion of the Committee, ought to be made.
Thatthe Committee recommend ways and means of ensuring that such facilities as described in (l)(b) above are adequate in relation to Australia’s future export and import container trade.
That the Committee consist of four Senators appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and three Senators appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and four Members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Prime Minister and three Members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Leader of the Opposition.
That every appointment of a member of the Committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any matter which the Committee is empowered to examine.
That the Committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report
That six members of the Committee, including the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, constitute a quorum of the Committee, and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the sub-committee.
That, in matters of procedure, the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman, when acting as Chairman, have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, having a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman have a deliberative vote only.
That the Committee report to the Parliament not later than 31 December 1967.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That a Message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.’
We support in principle the proposal of the Government that an inquiry be commenced into this important matter, even at this late stage, and that a report be made to the Parliament on it. We do propose, however, that the constitution of the committee be extended to include members of the House of Representatives so that the increased numbers may be availed of and so that the talents that undoubtedly exist in that House may be made available for the benefit of the committee and the nation. We move this amendment so that the various aspects of this matter may be conveniently inquired into by sub-committees of the committee. I ask that the Senate support the Government’s proposal as amended by the motion I have moved.
– Mr Deputy President, the Government would ask the Senate not to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). That amendment is not the proposal of the Government, as might have been gathered from the last remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition, but is a proposal emanating from the Leader of the Opposition. It is quite different from the proposal emanating from the Government. The Government asks the Senate not to accept this amendment for a number of reasons. Perhaps the simplest reason is that it would appear to rae - and I trust that it would appear to most honourable senators - that no case whatsoever has been made out as to why this inquiry should be taken out of the hands of the Senate and out of the hands of the proposed Senate select committee. I listened with considerable interest to what the Leader of the Opposition had to say. I wish to comment on some of the matters that he raised. The first point I wish to comment on is that at the beginning of his speech the Leader of the Opposition indicated that he had made a number of assumptions. I want to make it perfectly clear that if he has made a number of assumptions they have no more validity than that they are assumptions that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition.
The second point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that he welcomed the setting up of this committee, but he then spent some time indicating that it was being set up too late to do any good. I find it very difficult to understand how he can welcome the setting up of a committee if he thinks it has been set up too late to do any good or how, if he thinks it has been set: up too late to do any good, he can welcome its formation. All this seems to indicate a lukewarm approach to the committee and little expectation of anything significant coming out of its deliberations.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to cover at some length the ground which the committee itself, I would have thought, would cover. He indicated how he thought the committee should work, the people and departments the committee should interview and the questions the committee should ask. Well, that is fair enough. That is his view of how the committee should work but it should not be taken by any means as a definitive view or a view which would affect in any way the deliberations of the committee. Should the committee be set up by the Senate it will make its own decision as to whom it will interview, what questions it will ask and what fields it will cover. However, at the conclusion of that passage of his speech the honourable senator indicated that, far from having been set up too late to do any good, clearly some results could well be expected to flow from the committee’s deliberations. He mentioned the number of departments which could be interested and the number of aspects which could be covered. So, at that point in his speech, he reached the stage of contradicting a view he had expressed earlier and at least admitting that benefits could flow from the activities of the committee.
Then the proposition was advanced that the inquiry should be taken out of the hands of the Senate and given to a joint committee. Why? The only reasons advanced for that proposition were that the inquiry would cover a wide field and that quite a number of departments, which the committee would need to question if it were to come to proper conclusions in its deliberations, would have an interest. But if that is sufficient reason for taking an inquiry out of the hands of a Senate select committee what are we to conclude? Are we to conclude that the only proper area for inquiry by a Senate select committee is one in which only one or two departments are interested or which is not so wide or so significant nationally? I do not believe most honourable senators would accept that proposition but that is the logical result of the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. He said, in effect: Take this inquiry out of the hands of the Senate select committee because it covers a wide area, because a lot of Government departments will be interested in it and because there is a great deal of significance in the work the committee can do’.
I believe this is a field ideally suited for inquiry by a Senate select committee. It is a field in which not only various departments but also various States have an interest, and it is a field in which advice can be tendered which does not strike at” the formation of governmental administrative policy. It is a field in relation to which a committee can submit a report which examines the present legal situation and which answers questions the committee itself has seen arise as a result of its inquiries. The report would be presented to this House for debate.
To accept the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition - ‘Let us take this inquiry out of the hands of the Senate because it covers a wide and important field and many departments are interested in it’ - would be to deal a significant blow at the presitge and authority of this Senate. Therefore 1 hope that honourable senators will not accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Senator Gorton said that Senator Murphy had made a number of assumptions when he proposed his amendment and that, therefore, his remarks could only be regarded as assumptions. But in dealing wilh a matter of this nature - a proposal lo establish a select committee to inquire into and report upon the vast complex problem of containerisation - surely one must make many assumptions. One would need to be very stupid indeed not to assume that the containerisation of cargoes will not affect a large number of people, a large number of industries and, therefore, a great number of matters receiving the attention of this Parliament.
Senator Gorton also claimed that Senator Murphy had said that the committee was being set up too late lo do any good. Senator Murphy did say that the committee was being set up too late but not that it would not do any good. Containerisation of cargoes commenced in this country as long ago as 1950. We believe that a lot of good can come out of an inquiry of the nature suggested but, as Senator Murphy rightly said, we believe that instead of starting to plan now to rectify the problems and difficulties which have been encountered, a committee of this nature should have been established many years ago to investigate the problems before they arose. I agree with Senator Murphy that the committee is being set up long after the problems have commenced to emerge. Indeed it would appear to be a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted.
I should like to say one or two things in justification of our amendment seeking an extension of the proposed Senate committee to a joint committee of both Houses. Already a number of inquiries into containerisation have been conducted by various people and departments. First of all the Department of Trade and Industry conducted a survey last year and, according to the ‘Australian’ of 9th May 1966, the results of that survey showed that 44% of the total round voyage time was spent in port; that 52% of the total round voyage lime was spent in Australian ports; that 32% of estimated total round voyage costs was taken up by stevedoring operations; that 20% of estimated total round voyage costs was taken up by Australian stevedoring operations, and that 3% of the estimated total round voyage costs was taken up by Australian port charges. The newspaper report went on to say:
Trade Department experts believe that all concerned with cargo presentation and movement must begin now-
That was in May 1966, twelve months ago - to research the best methods to move that cargo and ensure that the construction and modernisation of existing wharves and facilities match the prc-determined techniques.
We understand that conferences have already been held and that plans have been made for container wharfing facilities to be constructed at Balmain in Sydney and, as the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) has mentioned, in Melbourne. In addition to the ports which he mentioned, there is also the great industrial port of Newcastle in New South Wales.
In addition to the departmental inquiries that have been held, not only on containerisation but on problems relating lo the handling of cargo generally and on shipping, there was also the stevedoring industry inquiry which was established in June 1965. It was conducted by Mr A. E. Woodward, QC. The terms of reference of that inquiry were to investigate and report upon measures which might be taken to improve efficiency in the stevedoring industry, to increase the throughput of cargoes and to minimise work stoppages. As I have said, that was as long ago as June 1965. On 22nd June 1965, when the inquiry was first announced, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr McMahon, said:
Mr Woodward’s aim will be to complete the investigation in about three months.
He then went on to say that the inquiry would not be of the far ranging character of the Tait Committee in 1954, which took two years to complete.
This is April 1967, which is nearly two years after the Woodward inquiry was first established. The inquiry was to be one of a short duration. It was to take a period of only three months. Now the Senate is being asked by the Government to set up a select committee to inquire into this very vast and complex problem of containerisation and to report to the Parliament by 31st December next. In other words, the committee will have time to sit only during parliamentary recesses; it will have to take evidence, make tours of inspection, study the problem at first hand and then sit down and compile a report and present it to the Parliament by 31st December next. As Mr Woodward by himself has taken two years to make his investigation, which is still incomplete, on the stevedoring industry, 1 would suggest it is very important indeed that the select committee of the type envisaged by the Government should be enlarged, as was suggested by the Opposition, to include members of both Houses of the Parliament. That is why in paragraph 6 of our amendment we state:
That the Committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any matter which the Committee is empowered to examine.
Mr Deputy President, Senator Murphy has already said that this proposal is being introduced at a very late hour. Of course, containerisation simply means that goods are placed in a container at the point of manufacture and that those goods are not handled again until they arrive at the point of destination. It is axiomatic that such a concept literally destroys the employment of people all along the line.
– It means their displacement.
– It involves their displacement and their redundancy. It also involves the retraining of the men so that they can take their place in industry generally. It must destroy the employment of people all along the line - between the point of manufacture where the goods are packed into the container, to the actual point of distribution by the wholesaler. As I have said, this process was commenced to some limited extent in Australia some seventeen years ago.
The Opposition believes that because all the skills and talents of this Parliament must be harnessed and brought into play on a matter of this nature, it being a very complex and responsible one, the committee as suggested by the Government should be enlarged to include members of both Houses of the Parliament. Containerisation will affect people connected with shipping and people connected with transport. It will affect the planning of cities, lt also will affect primary producers. The New South Wales Minister for Transport recently made a statement in which he said that, to halt the choking effect of traffic congestion that is taking place in Sydney today, his Government would need, I think, $50m a year for the next three years. We believe that a committee of the type envisaged by the Opposition should utilise all the skills and talents of members of both Houses of the Parliament. Much can come from the appointment of a committee of this nature, late though it be. For the reasons that have been advanced by Senator Murphy and myself, we suggest that this chamber should give serious consideration to carrying the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– 1 support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty). I welcome the decision to establish a select committee to inquire into this question of containerisation. I believe that the committee should comprise members of the Senate only and not members of both Houses as is suggested in the Opposition’s amendment. Almost the whole of Australia’s overseas trade is seaborne, owing to our insular position. The containerisation set-up must affect our future trade, inward and outward. It must affect the way of life of many people engaged in that trade. I believe that container ships must of necessity call at only one port. If container ships call at a series of ports to pick up and set down containers, then it defeats the very object of containerisation and specialist ships.
We have seen big changes taking place in the shipping world. We have seen the introduction of many types of bulk cargo ships which carry grain, oil, ores, coal, and other cargoes. Now we are seeing the introduction of containers. I hope that this committee, if and when it is appointed, will give full consideration to Queensland’s position.
As I understand the position at the moment, the plans seem to provide for three container ports at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. Queensland is a developing State. If it does not have at least one container port it will be seriously affected and its development will be retarded. Queensland’s position is slightly different from that of some of the other States. Queensland is a rapidly expanding and developing State. If we introduce the plan as proposed and have only three container ports at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle, are we going to forget about the development of the whole of the northern part of our continent? I think that once we build these container terminals and the business is geared to run to them, it will be very difficult to change at a later date and to build new terminals. I hope that the committee, if it is appointed, will look into all these points.
I want to mention Queensland’s position particularly. Apart from its capital, there are 330,000 people living more than 400 miles from Brisbane. That number of people is almost equal to the population of Tasmania. We must think of all the other parts of the north and what will happen there. The establishment of at least one container port in Queensland warrants consideration by the committee. I believe that costs will be loaded very much to the detriment of those States which do not have terminals because of the extra handling required and because of delay in moving goods. While the goods are in transit they cannot be turned into money.
– Order! Two hours having elapsed from the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, orders of the day will be called upon pursuant to Standing Order 127.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to:
That consideration of orders of the day be postponed until after the disposal of notices of motion Nos. 1 and 2.
– I can see many problems which the committee will have to consider, for example, with regard to customs. If a company in a town away from the seaboard indents a container load of goods there will be added cost if the container must be opened by customs at the port of inspection. The committee will have to consider that question. Perhaps that is a problem which can be overcome. Also there will be problems of quarantine. The health authorities already are very vigilant in this respect, but the advantages of containerisation will be lost if containers must be opened at the seaboard terminals for quarantine purposes. It is very hard to see how that problem can be overcome, but no doubt the committee will investigate all those matters. I hope that the committee will investigate all features of container ports as they will affect the future development of Australia, and I hope it will consider Queensland’s situation and plan not only rollie present but also for the future. I support the resolution as moved by the Leader of the Government.
– I, too, welcome the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Government today. Although it could be said to be belated, nevertheless 1 feel that it is not too late for a select committee of the Senate to investigate this modern method of handling cargoes and so rectify any wrong steps which have already been taken. Nor is it too late to examine the new system and endeavour to put it on successful lines if necessary. We all concede that transport plays a vital part in the economic, commercial and industrial life of Australia as well as of any other country. Out of date methods of transport have indisputably added to the cost of commodities in this country and 1 feel that a container method of handling cargoes is merely an inevitable development which has taken place because of the great increase in costs which have occurred. This development is brought about because of the antiquated methods adopted for so long in handling cargoes and in the transport of goods by ship, road and rail. Unfortunately our record on the waterfront has not been one that has given us much pleasure; indeed, incidents on the waterfront have delayed the transport of goods and have added to the cost of commodities to a great extent. It is to be hoped that that is something of the past and that we will find on the waterfront a better result and a better record of service in the handling of goods.
There is no doubt that an inquiry as suggested by a select committee of the Senate into a matter of this kind will be no small job. We are grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for having explained to us in such great detail the many facets with which the inquiry would have to deal. I feel that this subject can best be dealt with by a reasonable select committee. Firstly, let me say that I am pleased that Senator Murphy and I are in “accord on the point that generally a Senate select committee is preferable to a joint select committee. But we are not in accord when he says that in this instance it is much preferable to have a joint select committee. I cannot see any reason for or merit in the point he made that in this instance it is for us in the Senate to invite members of another place to assist us in dealing with and inquiring into this very important question. I might go so far as to say that the customary select committee of seven, composed of four from the Government side and three from the Opposition, might be added to, but not to the extent of adding another seven members. I believe it is the experience of us all who have known committee work that the smaller the committee the better the results. A large committee becomes unwieldy and unvariably such committees have not succeeded in getting to the gravamen of the matter. 1 am satisfied that in this instance the Government’s proposal to have a Senate select committee is much preferable to one for a joint committee for the reason that a select committee of the Senate would be quite qualified and competent to handle the matter. Secondly, I would be opposed to a joint committee as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition because I believe it would be too large and unwieldy. On this occasion we must decide whether we should have a select committee of the Senate or a joint select committee, and honourable senators will have the opportunity to say which they prefer. I believe that much good can come from the committee. The task will not be easy for those who will be appointed to it. It will call for much extra service and assiduous application to the task which will be theirs. Nevertheless. I am hopeful that the result will be good because it is important that our transport system be streamlined and brought up to date. We could benefit greatly from examples from other countries in the transport of goods and the shipping of material from one point to another. Let us get away from the horse and buggy stage. Australia is growing up and we must do things in a modern manner. We cannot be satisfied with this attitude of ‘This will do’. It will not do. Only the very best is good enough for Australia and its people if we are to maintain our standard of living and if we are to give the people the efficient service to which they are entitled. I trust that the Senate will accept the Government’s genuine desire to examine this very important matter and will endorse its proposal for a Senate select committee to give the matter urgent consideration and attention and to report back by the end of the current year.
- l rise to give my cordial support to the motion that has been proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) for the appointment of a select committee of this Senate to inquire into the shipping problem or practice of containerisation. That affects trade and commerce among the Stales and with other countries, a subject matter which by the Constitution is essentially federal. As Senator Henty pointed out, it is likely to affect the interests of some States inter se and is therefore a peculiarly appropriate subject matter for inquiry by the Senate which still has. I believe, a function to represent States as States, ft is also, I believe, a matter of great confidence to this chamber to have such a subject matter submitted. I pass by all references that 1 have seen to the suggestion that the Senate is not a house of government and has not a function with regard to some fields of legislation. It is more appropriate to debate those matters when they come to issue.
The actual proposition before us is that a committee of our House should inquire into a subject of high national importance and of current interest and challenge. As Senator Gair says, this will by reason of its complexity demand a great deal of skill and ability on the part of those who will be good enough to accept the responsibility of membership of the committee. Surely this chamber would have contributed to what it deserves in this country if all sections of it could have found themselves in a position to give support to a positive proposition of this sort, .that a committee of senators, not as nominees of government but as a section - and a significant section - of the Parliament, should collect evidence from the people and form a judgment. We have heard this idle chatter of Senator McClelland’s that other committees have sal on this matter. Of course they have. My colleague, Senator Marriott, has drawn om attention from time to time to the active work that has taken place within the trade itself, which has devoted its experience to a consideration of the matter. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has called a conference on this subject. The argument of Senator McClelland thai because certain committees have sat a Senate select committee is unessential-
– That was nol my argument at nil.
– lt was implied. We have the responsibility of formulating legislation appropriate to any change in shipping practice or policy and the proposition is submitted so that a committee of our House will be directly and intimately informed and will report to us so that our knowledge will be broad based and complete. Then we will have a base upon which to give effect to the desires that experience within the shipping trade will suggest from a practical point of view, and legislation will therefore be better moulded accordingly.
It follows from what 1 have said that 1 feel it is a matter to be deplored that the Opposition should think that its role exists in foiling action by the Government when Government action. is positive and purposeful. To say that because the proposal comes in at this date it is too late is, 1 think, a detraction from the viewpoint of setting up a committee. This committee will be judged by the work that it does and this proposal should be judged upon the merits of the subject matter. Both sides of the House should have no reason whatever to foil each other simply for political tactics. The Opposition has moved an amendment to a significant motion introduced by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, assigning to the Senate a special and exclusive role of inquiry and report. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) attempts to trump that by an amendment that it should become a joint select committee, that instead of consisting of seven senators it should consist of seven senators plus seven members of the House of Representatives. Nothing that I say will in the slightest degree permit honourable senators to under stand that I am in disparagement of members of another place, but I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Gair when he says that the smaller committee is the more effective. In this instance a special committee of this House will have more cohesion and be able to work in coordination with the activities of the Senate alone and. while the Senate is adjourned, it will be able to proceed immediately without having to accommodate itself to -the exigencies of the other - I think overnumbered - chamber, which has so many members that they do not get enough time in which to speak. However, not wishing to spoil a speech of purpose and forward outlook, I say that nobody can rob me of the pleasure of cordial support for the Government’s motion and a very dismal rejection of the idea that the Senate should not proceed with its special role but should on this occasion be submerged in a joint committee.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) 5.I8]I agree in principle with the proposition that a committee be set up to investigate all aspects of this most important matter that confronts Australia today - the use of containers in our stevedoring industry and in our transport system generally. The proposition that has been put forward is full of merit. The only difference that exists between the Government’s proposition and that of the Opposition is that we believe this is an opportunity for an inquiry into a most important subject to carry the full status, prestige and authority of the Federal Parliament as a whole. It cannot be stressed too strongly that containerisation will bring about a revolution in the transport of goods. The situation has been discussed in various places. A committee has been established in my own State of Tasmania, where the State Government, in collaboration with bodies that are interested in transport, is investigating mailers similar to those proposed for examination in the motion before the Senate. I am quite certain that in relation to the problems of Tasmania that committee will be able to produce a report that will be of great value.
As I have said, the only difference between the Government’s view and that of the Opposition is that’ we on this side of the chamber believe that containerisation is of such great national importance as to warrant an inquiry by a committee carrying the full status and authority of the entire Parliament, the committee being a joint one representative of both Houses. Senator Wright suggested that a small committee is more valuable than a larger one. But he overlooked the fact that a joint committee by subdivision into sub-committees, could accelerate the work, lt could form subcommittees of three or four members who understood particularly well various aspects of the problem. Such sub-committees could be formed of persons closely associated with road transport, stevedoring, warehousing, packaging and other aspects of the overall subject and the sub-committees could deal with these various aspects singly, collate information and report to the general committee. This would make for a much speedier inquiry than perhaps could be undertaken by a single group travelling from place to place and examining witnesses. So we on this side of the House suggest that there is a case for an inquiry into a matter of such great importance being undertaken by a joint committee of both Houses rather than by a select committee of one House.
No-one believes more firmly than I do that the work of Senate committees is of great value. I believe that the Senate should have been investigating many matters over the years, and it is very pleasing to see that aspect of the Senate’s work being revived by the appointment of select committees to inquire into various subjects. I hope that this trend will continue, for it is in this way that the Senate can perform one of its most valuable functions - that of being the watchdog of the Executive and of the Parliament. By undertaking this kind of work the Senate maintains the prestige that it should truly have.
I would like to make a few general comments on the importance of containerisation in transport. Over the years we in Tasmania have had experience of a form of containerisation, and that experience indicates what can happen in the stevedoring industry. I have before me figures showing the effect on waterfront employment of the introduction of the services provided by the Empress of Australia’ and the ‘Princess of Tasmania’, which involved not complete containerisation but a limited degree of it. These figures indicate the changes that were evident after the introduction of the
Empress of Australia’ into service in January 1965. In the January to March quarter of 1964 there were 715 watersiders on the Hobart register. In the same quarter of 1965 the number had declined to 595. The number of men employed daily fell from 488 to 299. The number of men receiving attendance money rose from 144 to 197. The number of hours worked weekly declined from 30.1 to 20.7. Average weekly wages fell from £23 3s to £16 3s, which, as I am sure honourable senators will agree, is an inadequate wage. 1 have cited these figures because the whole of the stevedoring industry is in the process of undergoing a revolutionary change. We must face up to this and make sure that we understand the problems completely.
Senator Gorton said that the establishment of a joint committee on containerisation would be a blow at the authority and prestige of the Senate. I disagree with that view. The prestige and authority of this House would not be diminished and advantages would be gained from the establishment of a joint committee in this instance. Our great need is for sufficient information based on facts. I hope that the report of the proposed committee will bring forward sufficient factual information to allay the fears that at present exist in the minds of many people who are afraid of the consequences of containerisation. As I have pointed out, the unplanned introduction of changes of this kind will result in fewer waterside workers being required. Containerisation could cause unemployment and could disrupt the home and family life of those engaged in forms of transporation on which containerisation would have significant effects. The problems of redundancy and of retraining will have to be met. These aspects of the introduction of containerisation build up fears in the minds of persons who could be affected. I suggest that the proposed committee will have an opportunity to make firm recommendations and to bring to light information that will remove the confusion that now exists in the stevedoring industry. At present numerous stevedoring companies operate at will without any co-ordination, with the result that the cost of transporting goods from producers to consumers’ is increased.
The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States, in the phase of transition from the older forms of transport to the new development of containerised services, has an opportunity to take over the stevedoring industry throughout Australia. The modernisation of wharf facilities and of marshalling yards, which were mentioned by Senator Henty, will entail enormous expenditure. Generally speaking this will be beyond the resources of many of the marine boards and local authorities, which already are having difficulty in coping with the ever increasing problems of modernising their facilities. I would like the report of the proposed committee to set out the requirements of a far-seeing scheme that would bring the Commonwealth and the States together in taking over the entire stevedoring industry so that we could adopt the most modern methods for the handling of containers as containerisation develops not only in interstate transport but also in international services.
Another point that I wish to make, Mr President, is that the railway systems of Australia also will have to be reorganised if we are to take full advantage of container services. The railways already carry a huge burden of debt dating back to their construction. The magnitude of this burden has been increasing over the years, with rising interest rates and the like. All the State railway systems will have to play their part in the containerisation revolution. We shall have to provide for the manufacture of containers and their transfer from the railways to ships. We shall have to see that we have sufficient cranes large enough to handle containers weighing 20 tons, 30 tons or more and to load and unload a ship in a few hours instead of relying on manual labour which takes several days to load and unload a vessel.
The proposed committee will have to report on all these matters. Wc must be fully seised of the importance of containerisation and completely conversant with the problems that will be encountered and ils immediate and long term impact on the future of this country. These problems demand the attention and the best efforts of the Commonwealth Parliament as a whole. A joint committee representative of both Houses would be able to present a report that not only would enlighten members of the Parliament but also could be made available to the general public. A report by such a committee would do much to educate the people of Australia generally and to make them aware of the nature of the problems involved in containerisation. In this respect, a joint committee would have considerable advantages over a select committee confined to members of this House. There is no doubt that, although there is talent of a high order in this chamber, members of another place, if they were included in a joint committee, could contribute very greatly to the prestige and standing of the report that was presented.
As I said when I commenced my remarks, I agree that the proposal to appoint a committee to investigate containerisation is a good one. We support that proposal. The only difference between the Government’s proposal and ours - it is not a very difficult one to overcome - is that we want a joint committee rather than a Senate select committee. Therefore, I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I hope that honourable senators will see that there are advantages in widening the scope of the committee to include members of another place. By so doing, instead of, as Senator Gorton said, delivering a blow at the prestige and authority of the Senate we would enhance and increase the prestige and authority of the Parliament.
– I will be voting against the amendment because I strongly believe that this committee work is the type of work that the Senate should be doing. I believe that it is wrong to suggest there should be a joint committee. There is no doubt that the Senate has men and women who have the capacity to deal with a subject such as this in a thorough and workmanlike way. The less we have to do with joint committees, the better it will be from the point of view of the Senate. I strongly believe that it is right for the Senate to embark on a committee of investigation such as is proposed and to carry the investigation through to the end. This is a very important field of work for the Senate which is an ideal chamber for doing this type of investigation.
I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) for his work in bringing about this development of Senate select committees. I hope that now that he has started the Senate on this course other select committees will be set up. I believe that he has brought this proposal forward in a true spirit of providing work for the Senate. I hope that not only the Government but also the Opposition will suggest matters the investigation of which would be of real worth, not only from the point of view of the Senate, but also in their value to the country. I pay that tribute to Senator Henty because I know that he has a deep interest in this matter. He has spoken to me about other possible subjects for investigation. I believe that he will leave an imprint on the Senate when he launches it into this field in a very definite way. Knowing the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), 1 believe that he will look upon this type of work as something for the Senate to do. I am sorry that on this occasion he has apparently received instructions from his Party to try to bring about the appointment of a joint committee. I am strongly opposed to such a committee. If the Senate wants to do a real job of work and to leave its imprint on that work, the way to do it is through a select committee of the Senate.
I have not gone into the subject of containerisation very deeply. Senator Gair has brought forward certain aspects of it in which Queensland has a very real interest. Speaking offhand and without going into the matter in detail, I would say that my State probably has more ports than has any other State. Therefore, containerisation will be of very real importance to Queensland. This is one of the necessary trends which will be taking place in the economic working and speedy handling of cargoes and which can be of very great value. My own city of Mackay was the first port in Australia to have bulk sugar loading facilities.
– I had the pleasure of opening them.
– That is so. Looking back on what has been achieved in this regard, we see that there has been a transformation in the handling of sugar.
– Bulk loading eliminated 400 waterside workers in Mackay without rehabilitating them.
– In reply to Senator Dittmer 1 point out that throughout the centuries mechanisation in industry, such as the cotton spinning mills that replaced hand spinning, has displaced labour but then created other opportunities for labour. The bulk loading facilities have meant cheaper transportation for the sugar industry. The economics of an industry are particularly important. In my own city and in other ports along the Queensland coast, ships that used to take three weeks to load now load in one day. Not only is there speedy loading, but the ships are able to make an extra trip or two in transporting sugar from Australia to other countries.
– As Senator Wood knows, bulk loading was essential. But was there any reason why the 400 waterside workers could not have been rehabilitated?
– Senator Dittmer is off the point.
– I am not off the point at all. I am always on the point and 1 am always courteous, too.
– I am illustrating the necessity for achieving the best economic operation of an industry. Containerisation follows bulk loading. Therefore, it will certainly be a very important matter for Australia. Now that the Senator has decided to embark on the appointment of this committee, it should” be a select committee only of the Senate which has a real job of work to do in this respect. The Leader of the Government has led the Senate to this type of work which it is well equipped to do. I commend him for that. I hope that he will ensure that the Senate pursues this course in other fields. I hope that the proposal for an investigation by a select committee of the Senate is carried, not the proposal for a joint committee.
– I regret the opposition to our amendment which has been moved virtually, in support of the motion. I listened to Senator Wright, in his usual form, trying to decry members of another place. He and I spent very many happy months as members of a committee that produced a very good report. Of course, he presented a minority report on certain items. That committee, which consisted of members of both Houses of the Parliament, did a good job, at least in my opinion, and also in the opinion of Senator Wright apart from on a few points that he raised.
Another point that ought to be considered is that members of the House of Representatives who represent electorates in which ports are located have a much more intimate knowledge of the workings of ports, which they could bring to a committee such as that proposed, than has the average senator, with great respect. Forty or more years ago I had experience on the waterfront. I was a very young person then and the waterfront was a handy place to earn sufficient money to pay my board.
I cannot understand why there is opposition to the proposed amendment. I gathered from Senator Wright’s remarks that he believes that if the amendment was carried it would degrade the Senate, or lower the prestige of the Senate. I do not agree. I think the Government is entitled to congratulations for suggesting the formation of a select committee. Quite candidly, I believe that it came about because the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Cohen) have been responsible for one or two such notices of motion. In case I am considered to be petty, I will even withdraw that suggestion and say without reservation that I congratulate the Government. Containerisation is a most important question. Mechanisation and automation are entering all industries.
– That is inevitable.
– That is so, and we have to face the facts. Like other people, in years gone by I gained some knowledge of the waterfront. I deplored certain developments there - not all, by any means - but I am pleased to say that in the last year or two there has been a different approach to the waterfront. I hope that trend continues as it is moving at present. The problem concerns the lives of men. It is a bigger question than just shipping company operations or the fact that it is quicker to load cargo in containers into the holds of ships, and to take it out to bo loaded on trucks and whisked away. The question involves the lives of men.
It is true that today the unemployment figure is not large. In the days when I worked on the Melbourne waterfront an unemployment figure of 8% was considered to be normal. If a young fellow busied himself he could always earn £1 or 30s a week. Today we are dealing with men who have spent their lives on the waterfront and it is important to consider how they will fare. In recent years the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation has fallen. No doubt, as containerisation develops more people will be employed on the waterfront. I was surprised that honourable senators opposite were not more sympathetic to the proposed amendment.
I do not wish to decry the prowess of honourable senators but I think that it would help the committee a great deal if it included men who represent the waterfront and who are familiar with it. They would be able to bring their points of view to the committee. I am pleased that the motion has been proposed, but I ask honourable senators opposite not to vote against the amendment out of hand. I believe that the prime thought in our minds is - or should be - to get the best possible report from the committee. I say to the Minister with great respect that the committee cannot do an adequate job in the time set down. I ask him to allow it a little more time.
– It could furnish an interim report.
– That is so. It will take time to visit the ports and to do all the things that the committee should do before it can bring down a report of which its members can be proud. I do not believe that could be done in nine months, particularly when part of that time is absorbed by the sitting of the House. I am pleased that the motion has been proposed. I ask honourable senators opposite not to discard the proposed amendment out of hand because I believe that if it was adopted a better committee would result.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– In closing this debate I must say first that the Government cannot accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). The motion sponsored by the Government is for the appointment of a select committee of the Senate to inquire into and report on the container method of handling cargoes. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is designed to turn the proposed committee into a joint select committee of both Houses. I was interested to note the arguments used in this debate and particularly those of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the appointment of the proposed committee was too late.
– For effective preplanning.
– The Leader of the Opposition wants to add the words ‘for effective pre-planning’ but that does not make the slightest difference. The fact is that having said that the committee was too late, he then proposed further delay by seeking the appointment of a committee of both Houses instead of a Senate select committee. The formation of such a committee could only mean further delay but apparently the time would still not be too late in the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition. I find a lack of logic in the honourable senator’s argument. During the short time Senator Murphy has been Leader of the Opposition and indeed a member of the Senate he has appeared to be a genuine champion of the Senate. But when he has the opportunity to support the formation of a select committee of the Senate, a move which has the general support of honourable senators, he proposes that we desert the Senate and have a joint select committee.
– The Leader of the Opposition wants a better committee.
– I cannot understand him and I think some hidden influence must have persuaded him to change his mind. While he was speaking I felt that some pressure was being put upon him to make him sponsor the amendment. I was puzzled at first. I had given some thought to what the reaction of the Opposition might be but I did not expect that the Opposition would want to turn a Senate select committee, appointed to inquire into a very important subject, into a committee of both Houses. Then I realised of course that today is Wednesday and that the Labor caucus meets on Wednesday mornings. I understood then why the Leader of the Opposition was attempting to support something when his heart obviously was not in it.
– Are not caucus proceedings secret?
– I merely said thatI had a hunch. I have no first hand information.
– The Minister bad some anxious moments on IPEC days.
– No anxious moments at all. From the moment I learned that the Opposition was going to forsake the Senate and try to turn a Senate committee into a committee of two Houses I had no worry about what other honourable senators would do. I knew they would throw out the amendment and, quite rightly, they have so indicated. I appreciate what many honourable senators have said about the value of the proposed select committee and the work it will have before it. Those who accept the responsibility of serving on the committee will have work of real value to do and certainly it will be hard work because it will involve an immense programme. Handling of cargoes in containers is a revolution in the shipping field which has begun to take shape. Now is the crucial time for the Senate to have an inquiry into this new system because I believe the extent of the alterations in methods is only just becoming apparent. The work of the committee will be of great value and I thank the Senate for accepting the Government’s proposal. Although we have not yet taken a vote I have a feeling that the amendment will be defeated and the motion carried.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr President, I move:
The Senate has just passed a resolution appointing a Senate Committee to inquire into a matter of considerable concern to the future of Australia relating to, if I may use that horrible word, containerisation.
– What is wrong with it?
– I believe that this is–
– What does not the Minister like about it?
– If the honourable senator does not know what is wrong with the word, I cannot explain it to him. I will just say that I think ‘containerisation’ is a horrible word. If the honourable senator likes it, he can have it. I give it to him. He can keep it. I think that the present resolution is at least of equal significance to the one which has just been accepted by the Senate. In the long term, it could have just as much effect on the prosperity and industries of Australia as the previous resolution will have. The constitutional authority that this Parliament has over weights and measures appears in section 51 placitum (xv) of the Constitution. There is no question but that this is a power that this Commonwealth Parliament has.
There are held by the National Standards Commission at present, asI understand it, metric measurements which are the standards of measurement throughout Australia in which the use of the metric system of weights and measures is legal already. We have already used the metric system in connection with some products, particularly pharmaceutical products. Of course, in the vast bulk of our normal commercial and other practice we use the imperial system rather than the metric system of weights and measures. Yet, throughout the world today, the metric system is the system that is mostly used. It is the system that is in operation throughout northern Europe and most of southern Europe. The metric system is used in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is the system that is being adopted now in Greece. India has just completed the adoption of this system. Japan is moving towards the adoption of the metric system which is just beginning to come into operation in many South East Asian countries. It is the system that is in usein Central and Southern America. It is the system of weights and measures to which Great Britain itself is moving and which in a period of time that country hopes to obtain. In fact, the only countries that really retain the imperial system of weights and measures or some variation of the imperial system of weights and measures are the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
If this is so, then throughout the greater part of the world the metric system of weights and measures is the system adopted. This clearly has an effect on the international trade of Australia. The decision as to whether this system should or should not be adopted and when it should or should not be adopted could be of the utmost significance to our international trade. I wish to read to the Senate a statement made by the British President of the Board of Trade on this matter. Some aspects of it are equally applicable to the situation in Australia. The statement reads:
The Government are impressed with the case which has been put to them by the representatives of industry for the wider use in British industry of the metric system of weights and measures. Countries using that system now take more than one-half of our exports; and the total proportion of world trade conducted in terms of metric units will no doubt continue to increase. Against that background the Government consider it desirable that British industries on a broadening front should adopt metric units, sector by sector, until that system can become in time the primary system of weights and measures for the country as a whole.
If against that background of world use of the metric system of weights and measures the British Government feels that its world trade is affected, there must be, prima facie, a case that, against that background of world trade, the development of exports to Australia could be equally affected. The statement continues:
We shall also encourage the change to the metric system as and when this becomes practicable for particular industries, by seeking to arrange that tenders for procurement by the Government and other public authorities shall be in terms of metric specifications.
The British Government realises it will take some time for this to be brought into operation in England generally, but expects and hopes that over a period of ten years the alteration will take place. I point out to honourable senators that if a recommendation is made to the Parliament, supported by evidence adduced by the Committee, such a recommendation, if put into effect, could have an immense effect on Australia. Obviously, we would be able to compete better in the export field in those countries which use the metric system if we were able to quote weights and measures in that system. Equally, we would be able to obtain the best quotations for our imports if the measures used by the countries from which we import were the same as the measures used in this country. The effect it could have on industry in general, on commerce, on the services and on all other aspects of life in Australia is very nearly incalculable. It could in effect eventually be worth tens of millions of dollars on the volume of Australia’s trade and on Australia’s place in the world trading community.
But as this is so, it is equally so that there are enormous problems to be overcome in the introduction of such a system of weights and measures. The needs which would have to be fulfilled in altering every set of scales in every grocer’s shop in Australia would be enormous. The problems involved in altering petrol bowsers to measure in litres instead of gallons would also be enormous. Those are only examples of the kind of problems which would need to be overcome if this system were to be introduced into Australia. But great as those problems are at the moment it must be clear to every member of this Senate that the problems will increase in magnitude as time goes on unless the alteration is made. As the country develops and its population increases, as more and more people use the existing methods of measuring and of weighing, so will the problems eventually to be overcome increase.
I believe that a Senate committee looking into this matter must take evidence from a variety of departments and organisations - I hope this will not lead to a suggested amendment to the proposal - such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the National Standards Association, the chambers of manufactures, the chambers of commerce and from many other interests in Australia and, I believe, overseas. The committee will be able, firstly, to highlight the advantages which can be expected to flow from such a change and, secondly, to present in sober perspective the problems which will have to be overcome before these advantages can flow.
I would expect that such a committee, taking this evidence and presenting its report, would be able to give some guidance on how the introduction of the new system could be phased in should it be decided to make the changeover. Perhaps it would be easier to deal first with, say, weights only so that we would use kilogrammes and grammes instead of pounds and ounces. Perhaps it would be felt that both weights and liquid measures should be phased in first, learning what would possibly turn out to be a more difficult problem - changing linear and area measurements - to some later stage. I do not know. I do not seek to predetermine what the committee should do or the problems it should consider.
I have drawn broadly and sketchily for the Senate the kind of things to which such a committee could with advantage direct its attention and on which it could with advantage report to this House.I really believe that such a report could have a very great influence on what happens in the future in Australia in relation to its international trade, in relation to the ease of education, if you like, and indeed in many other ways. Although evidence will have to be gathered over a wide field involving not only internal but also external trade, I believe that the Senate can appoint a committee which will be able to cope with whatever problems arise. I trust that the Senate will accept that proposition and that we will not hear any suggestion that the inquiry be taken out of the hands of this House as we heard in the case of the previous resolution.
With those few introductory remarks, which I am sure every member of this House could expand possibly better than I could,I commend this resolution to the Senate as one which has a very real purpose and can have a very real effect in this country to which we all belong.
– We of the Opposition will support the motion proposed by the Government. We believe that a select committee of the Senate such as is proposed will be able to do a valuable job in inquiring into and determining the practicability of the early adoption by Australia of the metric system of weights and measures. Indeed the notion occurred to us some time ago that perhaps attention should have been paid to this matter long before this. I know that Senator Toohey asked a number of questions in relation to it and I, as long ago as 10th September 1963, asked the following question upon notice of the Minister representing the Prime Minister:
The answer given at that time by the late Senator Sir William Spooner on behalf of the Prime Minister was in these terms:
The Commonwealth Weights and Measures (National Standards) Regulations make provision for the use of the metric system of measurement for each of the physical quantities mentioned. The actual commercial use of the metric system of measurement is a matter for State governments. It is already legal to use the metric system in Victoria and Queensland, and discussions on the legalising of its use in the other States arc continuing. Nevertheless, so far as the general introduction of the metric system is concerned, much further investigation would be needed. A changeover to the metric system would be a far more costly and a slower process than the change to decimal currency.
It was noticeable that at that time the then Prime Minister considered the actual commercial use of this system was a matter primarily for the State governments. Of course we know, as the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) indicated, that this is a matter which under the Constitution is vested in the Commonwealth. The legislative responsibility for the weights and measures to be used throughout this Commonwealth is clearly one for the Parliament of the Commonwealth. This proposed committee is to pursue inquiries and to report upon matters so that the Commonwealth may, through its legislative and administrative powers, exercise its proper responsibility. We welcome the proposal for that reason.
We do not suggest that there should be any departure from what has been proposed by the Government in this instance. We do not propose that there should be a joint committee. In view of certain remarks which have been made perhaps I should say that we of the Opposition are rather surprised that the Government apparently has made, or claims to have made, the exciting discovery that the Opposition meets in its Party room on Wednesdays and makes decisions. Of course, everybody knows this. All parties meet. They consider the legislation which has been introduced and motions such as this and they make decisions upon them. It is nonsense to suggest other than that every person who has the slightest acquaintance with politics knows that as Leader of the Opposition I come here and I put the matters which our Party has determined upon in a democratic manner. It would be better if the Government Parties were to introduce a little more democracy into their procedures and their selection of Ministers instead of observing the dictatorial processes which they follow. We are democratic. Except insofar as I might expressly voice my own personal opinion, I put forward the viewpoint of the Party which I represent, as is my duty to do and as the public of Australia expects will be done. So much for that.
We are concerned here with an extremely important subject matter, because in every aspect of life one is concerned with weights and measures. When we deal with weights and measures we deal with one of the rudimentary and fundamental mental tools which man has developed. We are dealing primarily with the change which is to be made from the base system of twelve to ten. Early in the unrecorded history of mankind a great advance was made. Man discovered that he could count and work upon a basis of measurement other than ten. As man emerged from a primitive state he apparently decided upon the use of ten because he had tcn fingers and ten toes. One finds in some systems a base of twenty. Ten is a very inconvenient number because it is divisible only by two and five. It is a tragedy that we still have it as the base of our numerical system. Man made an advance when he decided that twelve was a much more convenient way to measure things. That was decided upon because twelve was divisible by two, three, four and six. It was much more convenient. If man has to divide ten by three he gets into difficulties. If he has to divide ten by four he gets into difficulties. This is the reason for the persistence over a long time of the twelve system, despite the existence of the ten system which is the basis of our numbering.
Another tremendous advance was made in the mental progress of mankind when man hit upon the zero and was able to have a decimal system. He was able to move the zero and to do all sorts of things with numbers which had not been done before. The tragedy was that this zero was introduced into the system which had ten as a base. Had it been introduced into a numerical system that had twelve as a base we would have had something close to perfection. A great advance was made in using twelve, to produce dozens, grosses and so on. As I have said the advance made in the ten system was the introduction of the zero. Thus we had a decimal system.
We are faced with these two competing systems. There is no doubt that the decimal system has tremendous superiorities over a system which does not have a zero. If we wish to achieve the optimum we could preserve our decimal system and introduce another couple of digits into it. Then we would have perfection. But that change would be so drastic and revolutionary that one cannot conceive that it would take place in the foreseeable future. Indeed it will be difficult enough to abandon the twelve system which we are presently operating on for many measures and to use the ten base in weights and measures. The difficulties in achieving any such change were adverted to by the famous John Quincy Adams in 1821 when he said:
The power of the legislator is limited over the will and actions of his subjects. His conflict with them is desperate, when he counteracts their settled habits, their established usages, their domestic and individual economy, their ignorance, their prejudices, and their wants; all which is unavoidable in the attempt to change, or to originate a totally new system of, weights and measures.
This is the task with which we are confronted. We propose to push ahead and use the base of ten in our weights and measures because of the obvious convenience in the parallel with decimal currency and the rest of our numbering system. Obviously we will get resistance because there will be problems in dividing ten. It is not as convenient to divide ten as it is to divide twelve. There will be difficulties in purchasing all sorts of things. There will be difficulties in packaging. In many ways there will be resistance from the top to the bottom in introducing this ten system into weights and measures. That is essentially what the metric system is. It means the abandonment of the twelve or other such systems which were based upon some unit other than ten and the substitution of the ten. It will not be easy. It is obvious that the process of such introduction will be long and costly. There will be many problems such as occurred in the conversion of machines for decimal currency. There will be problems involved in alteration not only of legislation but of deeds. There will be resistance because various manufacturers are committed to the use of the present system. As the changeover occurs it will be beneficial to certain trading nations and detrimental to others. It will not be easy.
It is a fit matter to engage the attention of the Senate because whatever the difficulties and however long it will take, the sooner we embark upon it the better. It is proposed that the committee report before 30th June 1968. I think that it will require great expedition on the part of the committee to cope with the problems concerned with the introduction of this metric system by that time. I think that the United States of America has been engaged in the task of such a changeover for 175 years, because of various ups and downs.
– The committee could report what progress it had made and what difficulties it had experienced.
– Yes. I have no doubt that this work would be very valuable and the Opposition is entirely in accordance with the setting up of the committee. It is a tribute to the pressure which has been brought to bear from both sides of this chamber for the establishment of such committees. I have no doubt that the report of the committee will be valuable, even if it is only a gathering together of the experiences of other countries. 1 noted that Senator Gorton said that Japan was still to make this changeover. My understanding is somewhat different from that. My understanding is that in 1951 a law was made establishing the metric system as the sole legal system of measurement after 31st December 1958. That was achieved after a long struggle which had commenced in 1891 when the use of the metric system was first legalised. It was used then as an addition to the traditional system of measurement.
– I do not think the changeover has been completed yet. My information is that they are enforcing the change.
– If it is of help to Senator Gorton, I believe he did refer to what the Board of Trade had said about the matter. No doubt what he said was taken from the Hansards of the United Kingdom. I believe there is information also in the United States Congressional Record which shows a separation of the various countries into those operating under the metric system and those under a non-metric system. Japan has advanced sufficiently for it to be shown as being under the metric system. The other material that I have shows that the changeover in Japan is virtually complete, not only as a legislative and administrative measure but also in actual practice. Even for Japan the change took a long time; it became the sole legal measurement system about seventy years after its introduction as a permissible alternative. We know that in Australia we have gone some part of the way in the directions mentioned by the Minister. We trust that the work of the committee will enable Australia to advance along this path expeditiously and economically and by the optimum methods. Consequently, we welcome very much the proposal to set up this committee and we will support the motion.
– I support the motion. I compliment the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) on his excellent speech when introducing the motion and I compliment also the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) on his contribution. My view is that the time has arrived for Australia to begin expressing its values in the metric system rather than the old method of expression in the imperial system. The British system is. many centuries old. I believe that the metric system began at about the time of the French Revolution and has extended enormously over Europe and most of the world since then. Most countries have adopted the metric system, the exception being the British Commonwealth, other than India, and the United States of America. It is interesting to know that in 1963 66% of the world’s imports were by countries using the metric system and only 33% of the imports were by countries using a non-metric system. Approximately the same percentage of exports were by countries using the metric and nonmetric systems respectively.
It is interesting to note also the value of trade of some of the countries with which Australia trades most extensively, such as Japan. Expressed in American dollars, Japan’s annual trade is valued at $12,000m, Western Europe’s trade is valued at $1 10,000m and Eastern Europe has trade valued at $37,000m. The greatest trading segment of the non-metric countries, the United States of America, has a trade of $39,000m, the United Kingdom S24,000m and Canada S 12,000m. It can be seen from those trading figures that the countries using the metric system by far exceed those not using the metric system. It is interesting to see the way in which countries using the metric system have increased their percentage of world trade. In 1948 those using the metric system had 55% of world trade and non-metric countries had 44%, but in 1963 the percentage using the metric system had risen from 55% to 66% and the non-metric countries had dropped from 44% to 33%. That is the progression which is going on year by year. More trade is being done in the metric system and less is being done in the non-metric system. As Senator Gorton pointed out, we will be following the trend of world affairs and world trade if we convert to the metric system.
I should like also to supplement what Senator Gorton said with regard to education. When the decimal currency system was introduced into Australia I read the report of the committee which said that it would be of great advantage to the children of Australia if the decimal system of currency were introduced because they would not have to spend so much time in their education in counting ‘twelve pence equal one shilling’ and ‘twenty shillings equal one pound’. They would learn monetary counting much quicker in a decimal currency system. I submit also that if the metric systems of measurement and weight were used many hours of time would be saved in teaching children measurements and weights. I should think that the education of children would generally progress quicker if so much less time were spent in that section of their education. I believe also that as Australia is developing in the military sense and using weapons of the type used by SEATO units and the United States, the adoption of the metric system would help in our defence. Sir Robert Menzies in replying to the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in the other place on 29th September 1965 said:
There is some defence use of the metric system. In 1961, the Government approved a proposal for the Australian Army to adopt mils and metres instead of degrees and yards for most military purposes in the field. This action is bringing the Australian Army into line with the armies of the United States, Britain, Canada, and SEATO countries. The conversion of Australian Army equipment is expected to be completed by the end of next year. lt can be seen that from the military point of view there is an advantage in using the metric system. I would like to see the proposed committee working soon because I contend that the cost of conversion will be greater the longer it is left. I am supported in this by a statement made by Mr A. F. A. Harper, Secretary of the National Standards Commission. 1 understand that he was speaking as an individual and not as a government official when he said that last year the cost of introducing the system in Australia over a fifteen year period would be $60m and that the cost was increasing at the rate of 8% each year. So I would think that there would be great advantage in the Senate select committee getting to work quickly and, as Senator Gorton said, bringing in its report stage by stage. Maybe the Government would be persuaded to adopt part of the report as such part is finalised. I think there is every advantage to the nation in conversion to the metric system of weights and measures being undertaken without delay. as delay would increase the cost of the final conversion. Conversion is surely coming to Australia as it is commit to the rest of the world. I am very glad that the Senate appears tn he united in its effort to set up this committee and Get on with this very important national work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 February (vide page 155), on motion by Senator Gorton:
That the Senate take note of the following paper: Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 28th February 1967.
– The statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) which the Senate is debating tonight deals at considerable length with a variety of recent international events and discusses current Australian policies and attitudes in relation to international affairs. The statement, as the Minister acknowledges, ranges over a wide field. There are references to matters affecting Great Britain, Europe and the North Atlantic. There is a short excursus on what the Minister calls the changing ways of thought and behaviour inside the Soviet Union and the effect of such changes of Soviet policies on the cold war which, as he says, is now not so cold. There is a brief section on Indonesia covering the position following the recent political changes in that country. There is a further section on Malaysia and Singapore and their situation following upon the ending of confrontation. The statement also mentions relations with a number of Asian countries and, finally, it refers to ‘ thi United Nations and to Australia’s participation in the work of that body. But the major part of the Minister’s statement deals with problems related to Communist China and Vietnam, with the broad challenge of China in the modern age, and with the tragic events in Vietnam. 1 do not propose to cover all of the problems that the Minister has dealt with in his statement.
– Is the honourable senator’s party behind him in this?
– My party is behind me in this. I do not propose to deal wilh all of these problems. It is tempting, of course, to pause here and there to reply to matters that are referred to in the- statement, among them the Minister’s mild lecture to the Europeans, telling them where their duty lies in Asia. But I want to concentrate on some of the central problems raised by the Minister’s statement.
The first thing that I want to say about it is that in my opinion it lacks depth. It abounds in assertions of controversial positions which it treats as though they were ultimate and unassailable truths. My complaint is that, however high minded some of the sentiments may be, the statement betrays a stubborn intransigence where changing circumstances call for some flexibility in policy. It betrays little awareness of the great social movements that are astir in Asia, ft gives little recognition to the great upsurge of nationalism in so many countries in our part of the world. It does not, in other words, deal with movements and change within these countries and in this area, but treats those forces with which we have to deal as though they were static and fixed concepts and we are supposed to be either with them or against them. The contrary is the position. The reality is that the whole situation in our part of the world is immensely complex. We live in a part of the world where two out of three people go to bed hungry every night. We live on the outpost of Asia, where there is the problem of the teeming millions and the problem of feeding those millions, the population explosion which involves the startling proposition that by the end of this century - and that is only thirty-odd years off - the world population will double from 3,000 million to 6,000 million. And we are right in that part of the world where the greatest expansion is taking place. It is important I think, that the Australian Government and the Minister for External Affairs dealing with these problems should be alive to the movements - the movements under the surface as well as those on the surface. The Minister’s statement betrays little awareness of those great problems.
The next thing I should like to say about the Minister’s statement is that it reveals a number of inconsistent and mutually contradictory positions taken by the Government, especially on matters such as the problem of our relations with China. As I say, the broad position with the Minister is that he regards China as a grave threat to Australia and to the world. Indeed, the central point of our policy in relation lo the countries of Asia and South East Asia seems to be the problem of containing China. But at the same time as we make China the arch villain of the piece in our part of the world, we make China one of our foremost trading partners. There is not a single reference to that phenomenon in the Minister’s statement and there is no attempt to tease out the implications of what is, on the face of it, a startling contradiction. We do not recognise China internationally. Indeed, the Australian Government goes so far as to choose 1967 as an appropriate time., to establish a diplomatic mission in Formosa. We rejected an Italian resolution submitted to the last session of the United Nations General Assembly and supported even by the United States of America for the appointment of a committee to study the question of China’s admission to the United Nations and to suggest a solution. lt is only necessary to recite that series of propositions to realise how confused under the surface the Government’s policy on these matters is. There are half a dozen conflicting propositions under the surface. The Minister’s statement on the face of it seems to proceed upon the basis that the Government is in control of things and that there are grounds for solid satisfaction with the way in which our international relations are being conducted. But when one scratches a little below the surface, the Government is in fact in this statement telling us nothing. Scratch away and we find confusion worse confounded, as I have indicated by this brief summary of its assorted positions in relation to China policy, where one thought seems to cancel out the other. To bring the matter right up to date, only this week in Tokyo the Minister made a modern statement - the most realistic statement he has made in relation to China - that Communist China could not be conquered and could not be bottled up, and that China has to come into world affairs, into the life of a world in which it ceases to be a cause of fear to its neighbours. That, for the first time seemed to be to some extent breaking new ground. The Minister apparently recognised that China was a complex force to be grappled with and that the problem of China could not be solved by adopting a completely rigid military stance in opposition to her, coupled with this rather unloving embrace in which we sell a great deal of our wheat to China - for money, and apparently for no other reason. 1 have mentioned China because it seems to illustrate the fact that the Government really has no coherent policy on China. It has not yet adjusted itself to the need in the long run to come to terms with this great nation which at present is passing through what seems to the outsider to be a period of great instability. The Minister’s statement referred to the great conflicts that are going on in China. Nobody, I suppose, could predict with any confidence exactly what will come out of those conflicts. One thing, however, is certain. That is that ultimately some kind of accommodation has to be reached in our part of the world between China and other nations, including the United States of America, in just the same way as the essentials of an understanding or accommodation has now been reached in Europe between the countries of Western Europe on the one hand and the Soviet Union and other countries that are in her orbit on the other hand. I am not saying that difficulties and problems do not exist there. However, I believe we all recognise, as the Minister, by his observations in relation to the Soviet Union, acknowledges, that a position of relative equilibrium has been reached.
The second problem that 1 want to discuss is that of Vietnam. The more one reads, sees and understands of this problem the worse it becomes. As I have watched the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Minister for External Affairs and other Government spokesmen trying to explain the Government’s policy on China and Vietnam, I have often thought that it would not be a bad thing if we had something like the United States congressional system of committees, cross-examining Ministers and leading officials iri public on aspects of policy. 1 think we all from time to time would love to have before a Senate committee the Minister for External Affairs, the Prime Minister and senior officials of departments so that we might question them closely about what our policy really is. I believe that there are so many questions to be asked that numerous sessions of such a committee could be held for this purpose. [ have indicated all the confusions and inconsistencies in relation to policy on China. On the critical questions of Vietnam we have yet to learn from our Government what it really stands for and what its aims are. If any one of us had the Minister or one of his senior officers here we would want to ask a series of questions, Mr Deputy President. Amid the high sounding phrases and the considerable dignity of the statement which we are discussing this evening, the first question that I would ask would be: ls Australia in favour of negotiations now? If so, with whom and about what?
– And how?
– And how? I could add that, too. What I want to know is: Where do we stand on this issue? What is it that we seek to get? The second question that I would ask would be: What would be the purpose of such negotiations? Would the purpose be to reach an acceptable political settlement or would it be to impose the terms of the other side’s defeat? In other words, what is it that we really say when we talk about negotiations and the other side’s readiness to negotiate? Are we thinking of readiness to accept military defeat or of readiness to reach some kind of political solution acceptable to both sides? The next question that I would ask would be: What sort of solution would it be if one were reached? What sort of political settlement would those on our side of the fence regard as acceptable? Unless we have some kind of notion of what we want it is very difficult to come to terms or to criticise what the other side wants.
I asked some questions, and received an answer from the Prime Minister yesterday, about where Australia stands on what has developed into the essential point of discussion at this stage of the war in Vietnam. That is the critical question of whether or not the United States should cease the bombing of North Vietnam. To bomb, or not to bomb; that is the question. This is one of the most agonising challenges of our age because we have now reached something of a stalemate over negotiations. Either one side will have to make a concession without extracting a matching concession from the other side, or we shall move into a phase of greater escalation of a conflict that is, I think, growing more dangerous every day. The matter was well put the other day by Mr Bruce Grant, distinguished correspondent of the Melbourne Age’, in these words: the grim prospect is that unless the Americans are prepared to stop the bombing, without requiring a response from Hanoi, talks will not bc held and,’ in fact, the war will intensify.
The military experts differ about the effect of the bombing in restricting the flow of men and material to the South. But, after two years, the bombing has clearly not brought Hanoi any closer to the conference table.
I do not want to propose one-sided solutions in this matter. But we are at a point where many distinguished humanitarians and many notable figures of solid substance in international affairs believe that there is on the United States command a heavy responsibility for taking the initiative and making the first move. The problem is that apparently we shall not get anywhere with the other side until the Americans are prepared to stop the bombing of North Vietnam. U Thant has tried half a dozen solutions. He made at one time proposals that seemed to favour the other side and at another time proposals that seemed to favour the American position. He has threshed about for something that will be acceptable and he has now returned to his original proposition that there can be no progress while the bombing lasts, but that talks would be possible when the bombing stopped.
– What happened when the Americans stopped the bombing before?
– What happened when they stopped the bombing before is a very long story. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that there were put out from the other side feelers that were ignored. I propose later to quote the views of one of the men who were intermediaries. I appeal to the Minister not to keep on talking like the Minister for External Affairs, whose statement I am discussing. It is not of much use talking in these simplicities and asking: ‘What about this and what about that?’ As members of the National Parliament we have very serious responsibilities and we should be given credit for talking sincerely about these matters. I am not seeking to score cheap debating points this evening. 1 am trying to search for the substance of a peace if it can be arranged. I am trying to put this responsibility on the Australian Government. I do not think it has really taken any independent initiative in this matter. I do not think it is capable of taking any independent initiative. Let me get back to where I was when I was interrupted. I would not have said that until a good deal later in my speech had the Minister who is now in charge of the Senate not interrupted me.
I do not think the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsey, is one of the most radical gentlemen to occupy that very distinguished office, but he is a man of great integrity and a man whose reputation is worldwide and who speaks for a long established institution. Within the last week he has pleaded with the United States to take the initiative in Vietnam and to stop bombing. His words are worth quoting. They are dignified words. They are not words to be brushed aside as coming from somebody who has a political axe to grind. I quote the following from a report of a statement by him which was published on 31st March 1967 - only five days ago:
He said: ‘We deplore the bombing. We also deplore the cruel things done on the other side, but there has to be an initiative, there has to be a breakthrough.
I join those who long to see America take the initiative by stopping the bombing.’
He said there had been occasions when war had been justified, when the motive had been justice, and when there had been a chance of a just settlement.
But in this case it did not seem either side was winning, lt did not seem justice was on its way to the top. The ardent desire was to bring the conflict to an end.
Referring to American objections to a halt in the bombing because they felt the North Vietnamese would take advantage of the situation by bringing in more mcn and more supplies, Dr Ramsey said: ‘From accounts that we have from the north, the flow goes on to the south irrespective of the bombing.
Risk an initiative. It really would be a good thing to make and the Americans can make it’
I commend that kind of approach to the Senate because it reaches into the tough elements of this problem. It indicates that, if somebody does not take the initiative to stop the fighting, carnage, destruction and great cruelty will continue. Anybody who tries to assert that there has not been a substantial escalation of this war in recent months is either simple minded or disingenuous. Whilst the hawks may want it tougher, one does not have to be a dove to see that the war has escalated greatly in recent months and that the threat of a wider war is growing and not receding. The consequences of continuing this war indefinitely are becoming more and more unspeakable. We have to look at the genuine opinions that are being expressed and sec whether we know what it is that we are doing in participating as we are in this war.
The position of the Australian Labor Party with respect to our military involvement in Vietnam is clear and well known. We oppose that commitment and that involvement forcefully and frontally. We are in basic disagreement with the Government and we will continue to be so. We want to stop the fighting. That is what George Brown, the British Foreign Secretary, says when he is asked: ‘What do you want to do in Vietnam?’. We want Australia to play a positive role in the search for peace. The suggestion that I have made and continue to make is that what is missing in the Australian Government’s position is a real understanding of where it is all heading. It is one thing to say: There are loyalties and alliances with the United States.’ It is quite another thing to say that Australia is bound willy nilly to follow wherever the path leads.
I was a little surprised yesterday, although I should not have been, to read that all that the Australian Prime Minister, who is now visiting the Far East, had to say when he was questioned about the Australian attitude to bombing and to negotiations was: ‘I have said it before and I say it again: “I am all the way with LBJ”.’ We would not have thought any less of him if he had mentioned how difficult and intractable these problems are and if he had said: ‘Australia wants to see the fighting stopped at the earliest possible moment.’ That is what we are all missing. But all we see on the faces of the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs or other spokesmen for this Government is an anxious worried look any time anybody mentions the possibility of negotiations. They say that the other side is not interested. I believe that that is an oversimplification of the position.
Professor Philippe Devillers is a distinguished man in the world of scholarship in international affairs. He is Director of the South East Asia Division of the Centre for Study of International Relations in the University of Paris. For many years he was a correspondent for European newspapers in the Far East. In 1966 he was Visiting Professor in the South East Asia Programme at Cornell University. In March 1967 he published an article that he entitled ‘Report from an Intermediary’. In that article he described in some detail - I have not time to go into every aspect of it - meetings that he had with Mr Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State in the United States, and correspondence that passed between him and Ho Chi Minh and various other formal and informal representatives of what we call the ‘other side’. He expressed the view that there had been moments in the last two years when talks would have been possible if there had been a meeting of minds. He did not dismiss the possibility of further efforts to get the parties together being more successful.
I will take the opportunity to read a passage from this very closely reasoned article because it indicates that if one is really probing for opportunity one will try to set down some proposals that will meet the realities of the situation. One of the realities to which I want to refer shortly is the fact that in South Vietnam there is a movement called the ‘Vietcong’ which is the military arm of a political organisation known as the ‘National Liberation Front’. Putting this position very moderately and conservatively - one could be very outspoken about this - I say that there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is a genuine nationalist movement in the south of Vietnam and that it is concerned with the welfare of the people of South Vietnam.
– That is not right.
– I will tell the honourable senator who my authority for that statement is. It is Lord Avon, the former Sir Anthony Eden. He made a speech on this matter the other day.
– About three days ago. which is a little more recent than the honourable senator’s reading. Let me read it to the Senate-
– In what journal was it reported?
– It was reported in the Australian’ newspaper of Thursday, 30th March 1967.
– He spoke on a British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast, too.
– I did not hear that broadcast. This is how his speech was reported:
The former British Prime Minister, Lord Avon, said tonight it would be a mistake to underrate the urge for independence among the smaller nations of South East Asia.
Nationalism is as strong there as elsewhere, too strong, if you like’, he said in the second annual Adlai Stevenson lecture on international affairs at Illinois State University. ‘It has always been safe to assume that North Vietnam has no wish to be the southern outpost of any Chinese empire,’ he said, ‘lt may be that we can now go farther, lt may be that we shall find that the Vietcong is an entity with some independence from the North and may prefer to work out its own destiny in that spirit
They are important words from a man with a great record in international conciliation - Lord Avon, or Sir Anthony Eden, as we knew him in his days as a leading political figure. He has said that we have to come to grips with that part of the reality of the picture; that if you ignore the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam, you are ignoring something that may with your assistance come to have an independent existence for the welfare of the people of South Vietnam. 1 suggest to Senator Mattner that he should take heed of those words. He should not be so dogmatic as to wipe off or to rubbish any suggestion that there may be a desire to conciliate on the part of the other side. We have our hawks and our doves, and no doubt so has the other side. Any discussion of the war in Vietnam which does not recognise that reality is dangerously inadequate.
I want now to return to my argument. I was about to quote from an article by Professor Devillers that 1 should like to introduce to the Senate. He has a suggestion to make, lt may not be the only possible suggestion or a perfect suggestion, lt may have flaws in it that Senator Mattner or Hanoi can find, but it is the kind of approach that I would suggest serious students of the Vietnam war have to reckon with. Professor Devillers said: 1 therefore think that the only way to end this war is to enter a gradual process of de-escalation, to proceed by stages: First an indefinite and unconditional halt in th; bombing of the North, and in the South a ‘fading’ of offensive operations on both sides. Second, n civilian, provisional but broadly representative government in Saigon. Third, a cease-fire, discreetly negotiated with the National Liberation Front, including serious, mutual political and military guarantees, followed by an international agreement guaranteeing the neutrality of South Vietnam. At this point, the withdrawal of the US forces, at the request of the Saigon government, would take place in stages; first to some enclaves, then for home. In a free South Vietnam, left at last alone, there would be then a Presidential election, possibly controlled by an International Control Commission.
That is just a formula. It is not the only possible formula, but it is the kind of proposition that would be expected from a person seriously interested in de-escalation. Professor Devillers draws this conclusion from his proposition:
There are only tentative suggestions, but they show that there are still obviously viable alternatives to military escalation. The trouble rs that, for the time being, there is not much to negotiate between Washington and Hanoi. It is obvious, from the exploratory talks I had in the United States in 1965, that the only thing the Americans want from Hanoi is the withdrawal of their troops from the south and a cessation of aid to :h National Liberation Front. And Hanoi’s leaders understandably have made clear that they will not cease to help their brothers in the South as long as the Americans support the puppet regime in Saigon,
However, the negotiations that could lead to peace are not those between Washington and Hanoi but among the various groups in South Vietnam which could combine to form a truly representative government. The easiest, the cheapest way of peace is to act decisively in Saigon. Moscow and Peking will never jointly ask Hanoi to yield, and Hanoi will never ask the National Liberation Front to surrender or to yield. But if a way is opened in the South for discussions with the Front and if those .culminate in a settlement acceptable to the Front, then events could move quickly. What the Front will find acceptable, Hanoi will also accept, and what Hanoi will accept, willy-nilly, Moscow and Peking will have to accept. So the door to peace lies in Saigon. All Washington has to do is furnish the key. 1 commend that type of thinking to the attention of honourable senators. In recent times a great deal of material has suggested that the bombing of North Vietnam, whilst it is obviously inflicting great damage and whilst the United States and Australian Governments may attempt to justify it by reason of the price that it is thought it will exact from the other side, is not in fact stopping the flow of men and materials to the South. It does not appear to be weakening the will of the North Vietnamese people to resist, any more than the bombing of Britain or of other places in time of war has influenced people fighting in their own land to surrender.
Harrison Salisbury is a very experienced senior correspondent of the ‘New York Times’. A couple of months ago he was able to go to Hanoi and he wrote what seemed to me to be an objective series of articles indicating what he saw in North Vietnam. He wrote of the destruction of non-military targets as well as military targets, and that included people as well as material things. It was quite obvious that there was destruction on a vast scale in
North Vietnam. Nevertheless, it was not bringing Hanoi to the conference table, nor was it coming to grips with the problem that ultimately has to be solved - a problem which is not in North Vietnam but in South Vietnam. Even the Holt Government has conceded that it will not attempt to oust the Government of North Vietnam. It will accept that regime. It is concerned merely with what is happening in South Vietnam, where Australian soldiers are fighting. It is in that part of the conflict that we ought to be able as an Australian Government, as an Australian component for the moment of a task force, to exert pressures. The Australian Government seems to have been conspicuously unable and indeed unwilling to indicate what it feels about these things;, not what the United States Government feels about these things, but what our elected Australian Government feels about how the problem ultimately is to be worked out and what it wants to see happen.
So far as 1 can see, we have not even reached the threshold. Whilst there is a great deal of talk about the unwillingness of the other side to negotiate, I have not yet heard it stated by our Government with whom it will negotiate, if indeed we get a seat at the conference table. We have not yet come to grips with the reality of the situation of the National Liberation Front. We are talking about the Hanoi Government as though it were the only party to consider. The Australian Labor Party has always felt that any cease fire or any negotiations should be conducted with the recognition of the reality that the National Liberation Front would have to be treated as one of the principal parties. 1 am not saying that it should be the only other party there, but at least it would have to be right in the forefront of the discussions. It is not to the point to keep on talking as though there were no prospect of negotiating with an unwilling adversary when our own objectives are not clarified, when we are not clear about who the parties to the negotiations would be or about the propositions in which we would want to join. Australia does not have to make all the propositions but it must have an independent say in what it wants to achieve.
– The honourable senator would like the Australian Government to take up proposals with U Thant?
– i do not mind. I would say we have given U Thant precious little backing in his very difficult job. One of the things thai is cruelly disappointing to me and my colleagues and ought to be disappointing to those on the Government side is that again and again this distinguished man, U Thant, speaking for the world’s conscience, speaking for the United Nations and trying to assert the supreme authority of the international organisation, has been met with a deafening silence from this Government every time he has had something positive to say. 1 would not want to plead that everything U Thant has said is undiluted, unchallengeable wisdom. It could not be But when he speaks he attempts to speak not in a national interest or in an ideological interest but, just as the Pope has spoken so many times on this issue of Vietnam, above the immediate battle of emotions and polemics. The Australian Government has never been prepared to accept his challenges. It has never been ready to say: ‘Whatever the United States Government or anybody else thinks about this proposal, we would like to see U Thant’s suggestion taken up’. Instead, whenever honourable senators on this side have asked Ministers questions about this or that statement, we have been met with a pretty dry eye. We are virtually frozen out. We are told that U Thant is a distinguished man and is entitled to his opinion but the Government does not have to do exactly what U Thant says. Of course the Government does not have to do that, but it should occasionally lift its eyes to the stars and see what is possible and what is desirable.
The Australian Government appears to suffer the United Nal ions Organisation rather than to show any enthusiasm for it. As one of the combatants in the war in Vietnam we have never sought an opportunity to raise this matter at the United Nations. It does not matter that the USA or Russia or Great Britain or any other great power has never seen fit to take this matter to the United Nations. It has always been said that there are reasons why this matter is inappropriate to the United Nations.
Only the other day the response from Hanoi was that this conflict had nothing to do with the United Nations. But that does not necessarily have to satisfy us. Wo should try to see whether the United Nations can really be made to work and assert its authority in this situation. But that cannot be done while China is treated as a pariah and while the Government tries to portray the situation as a game of cowboys and indians or goodies and baddies. A government that takes that approach should not be anywhere near a discussion on international politics.
– There is no merit in a one sided truce.
– I am not calling :t a one sided truce. I think the objectives would have to be announced. U Thant thinks so. Dr Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, thinks so. Nothing else has worked, so is it not possible to give it a trial? Why cannot the Australian Government say thai it would like to see something like that tried? I am not saying that there is only one solution to this problem but I do say that unless we and those who are either with us or against us in this great, terrible, cruel dirty war can find a way to stop the fighting, inevitably it will escalate. There are now 500,000 United States soldiers in Vietnam when two years ago there were only about 30,000. We have only to think about that - the casualties each week and the number of aeroplanes shot down - to see that this is getting to be a pretty big war. if it gets much bigger it will have all the possibilities of widening and involving other countries. Not inconceivably it could end in the use of nuclear weapons.
I do not want to predict exactly what is going to happen. I say that the statement of the Minister for External Affairs is disappointing because it shows a reluctance to be associated with the search for peace. We on the Opposition side are not sold upon any formula. All we want to do is to encourage initiatives for peace and to ensure that when Australia speaks in the world of today what we have said will be remembered in the world of tomorrow in our favour. We have the years and the centuries to live out in our part of the world and when we look back on what we did on this particular occasion or in this particular conflict or meeting of forces, we want to do so with pride and to believe that we did the right thing. We on the Opposition side are still looking for evidence that this Government is prepared to do the right thing.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, 1 was contemplating some notes and when I looked up I was delighted to see a senator of your distinction in the chair in charge of the debate. It is perhaps fortunate that we have an Acting Deputy President in the chair because I propose to say some pretty rough things about Senator Cohen, who has just spoken. It is characteristic of some lawyers, as Senator. Cohen has demonstrated in his speech, that they quote only authorities favourable to the case they are presenting. Senator Cohen has hunted up a flock of authorities to quote in support of his case, but it has no validity at all.
– They are leading authorities.
– I shall deal with these leading authorities in a moment. Having read through the speech of the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party in another place on the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) 1 discovered it to be nothing more or less than a diatribe of about eighteen minutes criticising the officers of the Department of External Affairs, condemning the Minister and claiming that Australia has no foreign policy. It ended up with a curious sort of statement which must have crept into the speaker’s brief from his staff because it contains a particular word that is unusual in a speech of this nature. The Labor spokesman said:
The Minister’s speech tonight has taken us around the world; it has not charted a path towards the correct and urgent objectives of Australia’s foreign policy in our part of the world.
This is a word from pure Marxist dialectics. I refer to the word ‘correct’. What Senator Cohen has been demonstrating tonight is that, as far as I have been able to discern, he has no concept as to the correct way in which Australia should conduct its foreign policy. In the absence of at least same contrary facts to this view, I say that Senator Cohen made a series of allegations which were not true.
I have two authorities that I wish to use in rebuttal of the remarks that Senator
Cohen has been making about the situation in South Vietnam. First of all, I wish to quote the remarks of U Thant himself made as recently as 20th March. Under the Washington dateline of 20th March, there is a report that U Thant announced that he had three proposals by means of which there could be a ceasefire in South Vietnam. I quote these three proposals from the cable news appearing in the ‘Australian’ of Thursday, 30th March 1967. This report has not been denied. The report reads:
His three-step plan, the substance of which was made known by UN sources about a week ago, was:
A general, comprehensive but unsupervised stand-still truce during which all military action would halt in North and South Vietnam.
Preliminary talks to work out the machinery for reconvening the .1954 Geneva conference which ended the Indo-China war and partitioned the former French territory.
The negotiations would be carried on directly between the United States and North Vietnam, but also could include Britain and the Soviet Union, as co-chairmen of the Geneva conference, and/or Canada, India and Poland, as members of the International Control Commission established by the Geneva conference.
The US Ambassador to the United Nation, Mr Goldberg, immediately released the text of two US replies, one the day after U Thant issued the proposal in writing, the second on March 18th, four days later. In the second message the US accepted in principle but insisted on negotiating the terms of the ceasefire to make it effective.
That is the only qualification that the United States Government put on the three steps proposals made by U Thant. I have here also an editorial that appeared in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 30th March 1967 which begins:
Everybody it seems has agreed to the U Thant proposal for ending the Vietnam war except the men in Hanoi.
Of course, that is only the epitomy of what I have quoted from the ‘Australian’ of 30th March 1967 under a New York cable dateline. That quotation illustrates that a proposal for a ceasefire in concrete and definite terms has been made by U Thant and accepted by the United States of America with the proviso that the ceasefire should be policed and made effective but that the proposal has been rejected by North Vietnam. Therefore it is obvious that the claim by Senator Cohen that these people are warmongers who are pursuing the war to its bitter end for the sake of war alone is not true. All the attempts that have been made to bring a rational end to this war have been rejected.
The co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference are the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. If Senator Cohen had taken the care to read an authority that was available to him he would have understood the situation better. This authority was issued to every member of this Parliament, senators and members in another place. It is a Press release issued by the Information Service of the British High Commission in Australia under the dateline of 17th February 1967. This Press release contains a statement by Mr Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in the House of Commons in relation to the problem of South Vietnam and his discussion with Mr Kosygin, the Premier of the USSR. On page 2 of this statement Mr Wilson is reported as having said while addressing the House of Commons: ( do not under-rate the renewed dangers that accompany the resumption of [he fighting, and we must all deeply regret that the truce period of the Vietnamese New Year, was not utilised to create the conditions that were needed for a move to the conference table.
In particular, the massive southward movement of troops and supplies in the North, on a scale far greater than in the Christmas, or indeed in any previous ceasefire, threatened to create a severe military unbalance. It also made it harder for the Americans to believe that the North Vietnamese leaders wished to use the truce for an effort for peace rather than for a further effort in war.
Those are the words of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. When it comes to an examination of these matters I prefer to accept the authority of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom rather than the authority of Senator Cohen and his gaggle of informants.
– Does the honourable senator refer to the Archbishop of Canterbury in that context?
– This is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom talking in the House of Commons as reported in a Press release dated 17th February. The information is on Senator Cohen’s desk as he will find if he cares to take it out of its envelope. If the honourable senator has taken it out of its envelope, I suggest that it was not suitable for the argument that he intended to adduce tonight.
– I will give the honourable senator my copy if he likes. I am willing to produce to the Senate the statement made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom over the BBC and on television as reported in this Press release of 17th February 1967. Addressing the electorate of the United Kingdom the Prime Minister, according to this Press release which is issued by the Information Service of the British High Commission in Australia, had this to say under the heading ‘Suspicion on both sides’:
It is true that the gesture by North Vietnam which would have cost them nothing in terms of security or even faith could have set in motion events which could have led to peace: and it’s true that during the ceasefire itself there were massive military movement by North Vietnam aimed at securing a military advantage.
And, of course, this action intensified American suspicions . . .
That statement appears on page 4 of this Press release. Earlier, at page 3, referring to his discussions with Mr Kosygin, Mr Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is reported as having said:
But, above all, informal sessions at Downing Street, in long private talks right through the evening lasting far into the night, we discussed the problem of Vietnam.
Throughout our meetings last week, we couldn’t for a moment forget that the brief ceasefire for the period last week, when the Vietnamese were celebrating their New Year, presented an opportunity for restoring Vietnam now to a peace that she hasn’t known for a generation.
On his subsequent statement in the House of Commons, Mr Wilson was crossexamined by most members of that House, particularly by his own supporters. Mr Wilson rejected in the most categorical way the suggestion that any blame could be attached to the United States of America in relation to these peace feelers and the course that had been followed in order to obtain peace in Vietnam. It is in this context that Australia has operated. Australia uses the access that we have to the United Nations and the close association with America that enables us to present our opinions to the heart of authority in Washington. Then there is our ability to approach the United Kingdom Government through our external liaison mission in London. It is in these three areas, which are pretty important, I suggest, that the Australian effort has been constantly made over the period in which we have “been involved in South Vietnam.
Having made these statements - and I will continue to make them - I am led to the melancholy conclusion that many statements of the nature of Senator Cohen’s are made both here and in another place from a basis of ignorance. They are made from a basis of ignorance, in part I suggest, because of the refusal of the Australian Labor Party to identify itself with the facilities that are available in this Parliament by attending the meetings of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. If the Opposition did this, it could inform itself on the facts.
– Senator Cohen quoted world authorities.
– I am not interested in the world authorities that Senator Cohen has quoted. He condemned the Australian Government. He condemned the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). His leader condemned the Department of External Affairs. He said that he would like to have these people in front of him so that he could cross-examine them. But he has the opportunity to cross-examine them. The members of the ^Australian Labor Party have the opportunity to cross-examine these people from the Department of External Affairs. The ALP could do this if its members joined the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. That is where the opportunity for cross examination exists.
– That just muzzles them.
– The parliamentary opportunity exists for members of the Opposition to inform their minds on this matter. But they do not take this opportunity. Members of the Opposition obtain opinions of one sort and another which, at least to my mind, have very little validity. How can a professor from some place or other who has been quoted as a substantial authority by Senator Cohen have an intimate knowledge of what is happening in South Vietnam and know where these alleged peace feelers have come from? It is easy for Senator Cohen to say: T have reason to believe that peace feelers were put out by North Vietnam during the ceasefire and these peace feelers were rejected.’ He has no authority for the allegation.
– This was conceded by Mr Rusk.
– Of course peace feelers have been put out. They have been put out by U Thant. He has sought to produce the modus vivendi by which a ceasefire can take place and it has been rejected.
Having demonstrated, at least in a short way, that the spokesman for the Australian Labor Party in the Senate tonight is speaking from a basis of at least imprecise and imperfect knowledge, I think it is fair that I should attempt to explain to the honourable senator just what is or should be the basis of a foreign policy. During the dinner adjournment I set out for myself what I consider should be the basis of a foreign policy because it was quite clear from the speeches made in another place that there exists in the Australian Labor Party no basis on which it can determine a reasonable foreign policy.
The emotive days of the immediate post war period are over. Those were the days when Dr Evatt could lean against pillar No. 156 at Lake Success on Long Island and, with a bevy of young and enthusiastic people around him, behave like a general in a J 6th century battle with aides-de-camp galloping around and proffering suggestions to one country or another. That was an exciting period but today the affairs of the United Nations are conducted on an entirely different basis. I spent six months there and I still do not know how the organisation conducts its affairs but on a subsequent occasion I will take some time off to explain to the Senate just what kind of a whited wall the United Nations is.
The first premise I have set down for myself in relation to the conduct of a foreign policy is the acceptance of the fact that we live in a world of nation states. I do not believe in a world society as some great amorphous mass embedded in the United Nations. I believe this is a world of nation states. The Commonwealth of Australia is a nation and the first and fundamental function of a foreign policy is to protect the integrity of the nation.
– Of your own nation.
– Of your own nation, no-one else’s nation. The function of a foreign policy is to protect the needs of your own nation. To do this two components are charged with the overseeing of the vital interests of the nation. One is the Department of External Affairs which, in its posts, embassies and ministries abroad, is charged with the totality of the nation’s interests. The second reserve power is the power of the defence structure which is the last power to be used. Believing that the interests of the Australian nation are the prime and paramount interests and that the resources and capacity of the Department of External Affairs and its ministries are directed towards the maintenance of the national interest, I set down for myself, and 1 hope for the enlargement of Senator Cohen’s knowledge, some of the principles which should be observed in the maintenance of the national interest and the conduct of the nation’s foreign affairs.
The first point is the selection of the aim of the policy. The second point for consideration, 1 suggest, is the maintenance of the national morale involved in the national interest. The third point is the constant pursuit of the national aim. There must be no weakening of the national aim. The fourth point is the physical protection of the nation and the fifth is the concentration of the nation’s resources in the maintenance of the national aim. The sixth point relates ‘to economy of effort within the ‘ national capacity. There must be no wilful waste of money. If certain persons in Australia had the right to give away our resources in the pursuit of what they conceive to be the national aim there would be little of the Commonwealth’s revenues left. For that reason I have listed economy of effort. The seventh point I set down for my further guidance, and I hope for the guidance of Senator Cohen, is flexibility of effort in the pursuit of the national aim. The eighth point is co-operation with nations which have the same aim as we have.
Had Senator Cohen and his colleagues identified a national aim and clearly demonstrated how to sustain it, they would then be entitled to criticise the present Government and its conduct of Australian foreign policy.
– The honourable senator has talked about it but he has not identified the national aim.
– In the last few years 1 have never heard a single admission from any member of the Opposition in the Senate that the conduct of foreign policy is directed towards the preservation of the national entity of Australia - not the preservation of Hanoi, Burma or India but the preservation of Australia. In the final analysis we are involved in our foreign affairs in the preservation of Australia’s national integrity and the aims which I submit have been pursued successfully for the past fifteen years.
I suppose the French are regarded as a cynical people but I consider them to be a logical people. When I was in Washington a few years ago I dined one night with a group of people, amongst whom was one of the most distinguished men in the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Office. He was interested to meet a senator from Australia because as far as he was concerned, and as far as French foreign policy was concerned, a nation was assessed in terms of its capacity to contribute to the comity of nations. We were discussing foreign affairs and he said to me: ‘I consider there are twelve important nations which contribute to the comity of nations’. I am pleased to be able to say that with no intention of flattering me he said that the Commonwealth of Australia was among the twelve. Surely the test of the conduct of a foreign policy is the way in which a country is regarded by other countries.
– He had dined too well.
– This occurred before he had dined too well. I may say that the French will never drink too well but they may dine too well. Flippant comments have been made about the conduct of our foreign policy and an attempt has been made to demonstrate that we have failed in our foreign policy because we have an incompetent Department of External Affairs. With the aid of the Commonwealth Parliament I have had the honour, pleasure and great good fortune to travel abroad. I have met members of the Department of External Affairs in many capitals of the world. The year before last I spent some months in New York at the United Nations with Senator Ridley. I am sure he will agree with me that of all the young secretaries we discovered at the
United Nations the Australian first, second and third secretaries were the most competent.
I had the benefit of travelling with you, Mr President, through South East Asia. I think you will agree with me - I hope I am not putting words in your mouth - that wherever we have visited an Australian post we have seen some of the most competent professionals in the conduct of foreign affairs one could find anywhere in the world. It is patently untrue or mischievous - I believe it is mischievous - for a claim to be made that there is great unrest in the Department of External Affairs. Since the Department was established in the post war period under the aegis of Dr Evatt it has grown with great speed and has had to assume increasing responsibilities each year as it has been growing. It has had to meet the same kind of problems as confront any other government department, State or Federal, or any sector of industry.
It has been very difficult to get the type of individual that we want. Yet notwithstanding this, I consider that the Department of External Affairs has gathered around it a group of highly educated young people. Some have reached middle age. At all events, I suppose some are in their thirties. Of course, one of the characteristics of young people is that they believe that they know everything and that they have the answer to everything. I know this to be true because I was once young myself. As a young soldier I always felt that the general did not know half enough. It was only as I grew older and more experienced that I realised I knew less than enough when I was a young soldier.
This tends to be the situation inside the Department of External Affairs from time to time. A youngish man will become preoccupied with one aspect of foreign policy in relation to one area and he will believe - and quite rightly believe because he is working hard and he is enthusiastic - that his solution is the solution to the whole of the problem that is engaging the interest of the country. Undoubtedly from time to time there are feelings, not of resentment, but that they are caught up in a great machine. As has been pointed out, there have been only two resignations from the Department of External Affairs in the last six or seven years. I do not know whether the Department regrets them. 1 have not asked it. But I would offer this suggestion: Perhaps a good case could be made out that the officers of the Department of External Affairs should have their own Act in the same way as the public law of the United States of America made the State Department a separate service so that it would not be subject to the surveillance of Public Service commissioners. In the same way, members of the Foreign Office staff in the United Kingdom do not come under the general Public Service legislation.
– The Attorney-General has a separate Act.
– Yes. 1 think perhaps a good case could be made out that the officers of the Department of External Affairs should be under a separate Act. The analogy that comes to my mind as I speak of this is that if it is argued that the Department of External Affairs should come under the Public Service Act then so should the defence forces. The Department of External Affairs is an echelon of greater importance than the defence forces where men have to be trained to a very high level and have an esprit de corps which you do not expect to obtain from the rest of the Public Service.
Finally, I want to deal with another matter that has been raised in another place in relation to criticism of the Department of External Affairs. This sounds to be minor but I think it is of great importance. It is said that the Department of External Affairs fails because its officers do not have any capacity in terms of foreign languages. This is an interesting matter so I had a look at it. I do not want to weary the Senate very much with it, but it is interesting to illustrate how the allegations that were made by the Leader of the Opposition in another place do not bear the test of reasonable scrutiny. 1 just jotted these down. It is interesting to realise that what might be described as incentive pay’ for language capacity in the Department of External Affairs is based on the United Kingdom Foreign Office system which grades the languages of the world into three wide categories. Grade A consists of the Japanese and Chinese group of languages. Grade B consists of Arabic and Korean groups. These are outside such languages as Russian, Spanish and French.
Grade C consists of Annamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Laotian, Malaysian, Thai, Swahili, Urdu and so on.
The language capacity inside the Department of External Affairs at the present moment depends on people who might not meet the Grade A category of the British Foreign Office which in Chinese demands an ability to read Mandarin at the approximate Saxon time of Chaucer. However, in the Department of External Affairs there are available speakers who speak foreign languages apart from the five basic languages that are common in diplomatic practice, including French and Spanish. The Department has six Afrikaan speakers, three Cambodian speakers, two Hindi speakers, forty Indonesian speakers, three Korean speakers, six Swahili speakers - that is an East African language. There are six speakers of Urdu, an Indian language, one speaker of Tagalog, a Philippines language, one Laotian speaker, fifteen Dutch speakers, twenty-nine Russian speakers, twenty Japanese speakers, fifteen Chinese speakers and five Thai speakers. I dare say there are far more people who can talk fluently in languages than I have described.
The origin of this canard came from Mr Clark, an officer of the Department of External Affairs who resigned. His is an interesting story. At great cost to the public revenue of this country he was trained as a Grade A British Foreign Office standard speaker of Chinese. I do not know what it cost to train him in Chinese. Perhaps it was $10,000 or $20,000. Having mastered this rather difficult language he resigned and now sits in comfort and ease at the Australian National University. I revert to my original thesis: if the members of the Australian Labor Party wish to condemn the Government for its conduct of external affairs, at least they should inform themselves as to how the foreign policy of this country should be sustained. It would do them no harm at the very least if they exposed themselves to having their minds filled with factual knowledge that relates to events which are taking place and did not rely upon intermittent statements by people who have never been heard of before and probably never will never be heard of again.
– I rise to support the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition (Senator Cohen) who I believe put a very good case for the Australian Labor Party in criticism of the statement on international affairs. He made what I thought and what I believe most other people thought were worthwhile suggestions for world peace. I feel that I must take Senator Cormack to task. Perhaps I might refer to him as one of the old war hawks. He is prepared to make all sorts of wild statements which do not have very much foundation. We heard his presentation of his case. He said: ‘I made little notes. 1 just jotted these down. I compiled them during the dinner recess.’ Senator Cormack had the temerity to tell us that our case was not well presented, that our knowledge of foreign policy is weak and that we have no foreign policy. He criticised Senator Cohen by claiming that he was using wrong authorities. But it was significant to note that Senator Cormack had his little brown bag beside him. He reached into it frequently and took a paper out and then threw it away. When he had finished all that he had left in the bottom of the bag was three grenades.
He wrongly criticised Senator Cohen. He said the honourable senator criticised the Department of External Affairs. Senator Cohen did not criticise the Department at any time, but he was critical of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). As I develop my argument I propose to be critical, too. Senator Cormack criticised the authorities to which Senator Cohen referred. Senator Cohen quoted world wide independent authorities. In support of Senator Cohen’s case 1 also will be quoting world authorities.
It is significant to note that the first authority that Senator Cormack quoted was Karl Marx. Then he quoted an editorial in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’. I do not know whether Senator Cormack saw an article in one of the newspapers yesterday which stated that the chief man associated with the ‘Daily Telegraph’ had a reverse television set so that his yacht always appears to be in front. Senator Cormack said that the Australian Labor Party is illinformed and he advised us that if we are to become educated in foreign affairs we should join the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. So much for Senator Cormack.
I might if I were really charitable say that the paper that was presented by Senator Gorton in the Senate on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs read like a Cook’s travel tour. May I respectfully suggest that if Senator Gorton and the Minister ever decide to go into partnership as a travel and tourist agency they will probably do very well. Let us look at what the document itself says under the various headings. I have taken sentences from various places in the document. They can be checked by anybody who wants to check them. In relation to the Soviet Union the Minister said:
Since my own visit to Moscow in November 1964, when I had the honour to be the first Foreign Minister to be received by the new Prime Minister Mr Kosygin . . .
He did not miss a social point. Then, in reference to Great Britain, the Minister said:
Australia also has a traditional and continuing interest of a special kind wilh the United Kingdom.
The activities of this Government do not indicate that it is taking any positive steps apart from criticism of the United Kingdom Government generally because it happens to be a Labor Government. It is significant that this Government over a long period of time - although references are made to this in presentations by Ministers - has made no worthwhile move towards establishing markets or preparing in any other way for the possibility of Britain entering the European Common Market. When the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) returned from the last Prime Ministers Conference, he said in almost as many words: ‘I think we ought to get out because there is no real value in it’. That is the loyalty of the Government and of its members to Britain.
Then, referring to Asia, the Minister for External Affairs said:
As a preliminary observation may I suggest that we need to be careful in talking about Asia to avoid confusion over the meaning of the word.
It is not so very long ago that members of this Government denied that they were associated with Asians at all. They wanted to keep their nice clean white skins and not get involved in anything where people might be of coloured origin. It is true that from time to time we of the Opposition have criticised things that have been done in this particular sphere. Our policy had been criticised by the Government. Let me refer in particular to the Colombo Plan. Government supporters have said that we of the Australian Labor Party do not support it. Let me read what is said on this particular aspect of policy in our own constitution:
The Colombo Plan is deficient in that is has no power to mobilise available resources for the meeting of urgent priorities. The extent to which aid is given and the recipients are determined by the donors.
In consequence, aid is given after the assessment is made, countries are chosen for the Government’s own purposes and the most urgent needs are not necessarily met. Then we go on to say in the next paragraph:
Australia should contribute 1% of her national income to less developed nations and should encourage and match increasing contributions by other more developed nations.
I now come to the Minister’s reference to China. Senator Cohen was right on the ball when he referred to this matter. The Minister said:
The Australian Government hopes that over a period of time the mainland of China will be accommodated within the international community.
Every time that the Australian Labor Party and progressive parties in other countries have suggested that mainland China ought to be admitted to the United Nations Government supporters have thrown up their hands in horror. There was a time when it was not socially acceptable to trade with mainland China but today the power of the dollar reaches as far as this and now at least we do trade with mainland China. Coming to Vietnam, the Minister said:
There has been gradual but steady improvement in the military situation in South Vietnam.
I propose to deal at length with Vietnam at the end of my contribution to this debate. Then, in relation to Indonesia the Minister said:
In my discussions in Djakarta, I found that Australia’s name stands high with those who are currently shaping Indonesia’s political and economic destinies.
On a trip to America last year - I have cited this statement before and I shall do so again - the Prime Minister said that there had been a change of political thinking in Indonesia since 500,000 persons had been bumped off. I might say that people are still being bumped off in some parts of Indonesia. Did we hear this Government raise a protest a few days ago when 1,000
West Irianese were shot because they asked for food and clothes? Of course we did not hear any protest, because this is the type of treatment that members of the Government approve, as a government and as individuals. In relation to Malaysia, the Minister said:
The security situation has improved markedly since the ending of confrontation.
The Minister also said that high priority was being given to the development of Malaysia’s own armed forces. I point out that throughout the Minister’s statements are frequent references to the armed forces of various countries. Apparently it provides a degree of respectability if an underdeveloped country builds up its armed forces but forgets about feeding its people. This, in the eyes of a conservative government, is the way to get on with the world. In its eyes, this is respectability.
In relation to Singapore the Minister said that twenty-four trade instructors were being trained in Australia for a vocational institute for the training of skilled tradesmen at Jurong. Why is this number not 124? Also, 100 students who come from Singapore are being trained in Australian universities. Why is the number not 200? Why are we not helping these people in every possible way by teaching trades, technical subjects and other things that will enable their countries to develop to a stage where they can look after themselves? In relation to Cambodia the Minister said:
Earlier this month Mr Son Sann visited Australia as a special representative of His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
The only real tie between Cambodia and Australia is that senior Ministers and the Prime Minister can rub shoulders with royalty. They know that some of the thinking in Cambodia is not in line with the thinking of this Government, but while there is royalty there they will rub shoulders with these people. In relation to Laos the Minister said:
New elections have been held successfully.
Why was there no elaboration of this statement? What was wrong with the elections in Laos? I leave that matter with a query. The Minister said that Japan:
Japan should be friendly, as it receives Australian minerals at bargain basement prices and sugar by a secret agreement at a price suitable to Japan but not to us. As a result of the Minister’s present visit to Japan one of yesterday afternoon’s newspapers carried the headline ‘Japan sees Great Future in Australia’. Why should it not see a great future in Australia? Japan is milking us dry.
The Minister said that Thailand also continues to make steady progress. According to a Press report of 8th March, the United States and Thailand admitted officially for the first time that American planes were using Thai bases to bomb North Vietnam. It was also revealed that more than 80% of the bombing raids were being carried out from these bases. The statement went on to say that this had been more or less an open secret for the past three years but officially it had been maintained that all the bombing raids on North Vietnam had been carried out from United States aircraft carriers cruising in the China Sea or from bases in South Vietnam. This Government saw fit to join in a lie to the Australian people to the effect that there were no bases in Thailand. In relation to India the Minister said:
The Australian Government has made several contributions in food to India’s needs.
How magnificent! Milk has been lying in garages and other storage places in Melbourne because the Government would not pay freight on it to India. Last year at a time of great famine in India the Government dickered around for weeks and months before making a gift of wheat or doing anything about shipping supplies, while other countries were trying to help out the Indian people.
According to a Press report of 22nd March charges were laid in the Indian Parliament that the United States Embassy in New Delhi had no fewer than seventyseven officers listed as attaches who were really Central Intelligence Agency spies. This no doubt is approved by this Government. Allegations were made also that the CIA had interfered in the Indian general election to defeat forty-four ‘progressive’ candidates. As 1 mentioned earlier, last year was a time of great famine in India. This Government was not interested then, when it should have been, in what happened in India. Article 11 of the Declaration of Peace and Progress in Asia and the Pacific, which was made at the Manila Summit Conference in October 1966, declares:
We must break the bonds of poverty, illiteracy and disease.
The Declaration recognised that hopelessness and despair are the roots of violence and war. The Prime Minister of this country signed that Declaration on behalf of Australia. This represents hypocrisy and nothing more than lip service, because this Government does not intend to help anone. I would like to read to you, Sir, a letter from a Catholic bishop in India. It is symbolic of the conditions that appertain in most paris of the country. The letter, which describes the work of a local religious order, is in these terms: 1 am writing to you from Assam, the far north eastern province of India, just at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains . . .
Since 1922 the Salesians of St John Bosco have been working in this promising land among the many tribes who inhabit its mountains and valleys, and their work of charity and civilisation is much appreciated by both the Government authorities and the people.
In the hill regions of Assam, amongst those who belong to the Garo tribe, there are many poor lepers. I was recently in the Leper Colony of Tura, where the Sisters have dedicated their lives to the alleviation of the sufferings of the unfortunate ones stricken by the disease. The charity of these heroic Sisters and their spirit .of sacrifice are beyond all praise. Human nature shrinks even from the sight of the havoc leprosy works in the body of its victims, and the hardest heart is touched with sympathy.
When those poor lepers gathered about me, I read pleading in their eyes, and heard in my heart that cry those lepers of old addressed to the Divine Healer of Galilee: ‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean . . .’ and turning to the Sisters, I said: Yes! We must heal those who can still be healed: and for others we must think of a more decent abode for them, better food, more clothing, and more efficacious medicines.
These are the things with which we can help them. We can assist in overcoming disease, famine and poverty in countries like India. But we are not doing so.
I now go on to other parts of the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs. He took us on a fleeting visit to Pakistan, Ceylon, Nepal, Burma and Afghanistan. Finally, we were taken to the United Nations. Senator Cormack this evening blatantly said: ‘Down with the United Nations’. That was the sum total of his contribution to the debate. It is significant, too, that the Minister did not have many kind words to say about the United Nations, though he did have something kind to say about the problems of South Africa and Rhodesia. At some other time perhaps he will encourage us to look at our South Pacific neighbours. Let us remember that Asia is not the only area in which Australia ought to be involved and undertaking good works. Recently an Anglican priest, the Venerable Charles W. Whonsbon-Aston, who retired not long ago from a post of responsibility over an area of 11 million square miles in the South Pacific, said that Australia would do well to pay as much attention to her South Pacific neighbours, who were starting to show signs of nationalistic stirring, as she did to her Asian neighbours. Do honourable senators really think that this Government will worry about our neighbours in the South Pacific? I certainly do not think it will.
Let us now return to Vietnam, Mr Acting Deputy President. The Paris newspaper ‘Le Monde’, in its issue of 5th July 1965, reported the following statement by Air Vice-Marshal Ky:
I have only one hero - Hitler.
He was reported later as having said that what Vietnam needed was five Hitlers. This is the man that the Government feted. This is the man for whom it gave official dinners. This is the man whom it protected with police guards. The Australian Labor Party was condemned by the Government because it objected to this man coming to Australia. It is significant that although he has been talking about visiting the United States of America he does not seem to have actually received an invitation to do so. Before the last Federal general election, members of the Labor Party said that the Government was merely marking time and that it was dishonest because it would not tell the Australian people that it intended to commit additional troops to the Vietnam conflict if it were successful at the election. Unfortunately it was successful. And only two or three weeks later 2,000 more young Australians were committed to this unwinnable war. Government supporters have said on numerous occasions that democracy is now in South Vietnam. It does not exist there. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to show that it has nol arrived there yet, and we are doubtful whether it ever will arrive under the present leadership of that country.
I now cite an example of the kind of trial that takes places there. This description is based on very good authority. A Catholic officer, Major Matthew Dang Sy, was in charge of security in Hue in May 1963 and was forced to use MK3 concussion grenades while protecting a radio station. Apparently there was some incident involving demonstrators and the concussion grenades were used on the fringes of a crowd. Eight persons were killed and Dang Sy was caught up in the witch hunt that followed the overthrow of the Diem Government. Seven months later he was found guilty of murdering eight persons. The revolutionary tribunal that tried him did not carry out any of the normal practices that are adopted when justice not only is done but also appears to be done. This is the sort of rigged trial that continues in South Vietnam. This person will remain in gaol until February 1970 in spite of the fact that his sentence was recently reduced. It is obvious that the regime at present in power in that country believes in this sort of rigged trial.
The call for peace is world wide. It is not restricted to members of the Australian Labor Party. Nor is it restricted to the so-called fringe groups about which Government supporters utter so many nasty words - groups that are scattered about this country and other countries. As Senator Cohen did, I have quoted authorities of some standing in the community, in sharp contrast to those that were quoted by honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. Cardinal Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Workers, said recently:
I am for peace in Vietnam. Also, following the teachings of Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, I think that war must be firmly condemned without any hesitation.
I now want to quote a few paragraphs from a report prepared by Ron Saw, a columnist for the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’, who is visiting Vietnam and sending back to this country dispatches that some people probably will not like. This report gives an account of an interview with a seaman named Bill Flint, who, as Ron Saw says for the record, is not a Communist. The report states:
In November last year he volunteered to go to Vietnam in the ‘Jeparit*.
I wanted,’ he says, ‘to have a look, to see what was going on. What I saw I didn’t like.
The first time I went ashore at Vung Tau I saw people begging in the streets. I saw a kid of about six handcuffed in an American jeep. He was supposed to be a Vietcong. And 1 saw Yanks arresting any Vietnamese who had American script money.
The theory was that anyone who had it must have killed an American to get it - but the Yanks were paying it to the local girls for services rendered.
They had these villages they called strategic hamlets, lt just meant that a village was surrounded by barbed wire, then land-mines, then more barbed wire. Not even the kids were allowed out. 1 looked at those kids and saw terror in their faces.
There was a lot more about it I didn’t like either. But I got to thinking and 1 knew after a while that there must be a better way of solving the problem than bombing women and kiri.-..
And I felt glad that the only stuff we were carrying was amenities and comforts and agricultural machinery and so on. Or so we thought “We used lo have a lot of contact with the army blokes. They’d come aboard for a few grogs and a sleep in the air-conditioning. Anyway, one day we were having a barbecue on the beach with the army and one bloke asked me if we were bringing any ammo next trip. told him we never carried ammo and he laughed at me.
He said: “ Listen, you’ve been carrying ammo, mate. You know those boxes marked Readers’ Digest and Science Books and Tomato Sauce? Well, they’re small-arms ammo, mate.”
That is the sort of hypocrisy that is being practised in this matter. The Americans say that the war is not being hotted up. I quote the following semi-humourous paragraph, which is not original:
A week or two ago the Americans were not shelling North Vietnam from the land, they were not shelling it from the water and they were not mining its rivers. Now they are doing all three. Yet a State Department official denied that these new activities represented any honing up of the war. It seems that central heating has gone so far in America that people can no longer tell the difference between hot and cold.
A couple of days ago the death at the age of twenty-two years of private William Ashton, who was a conscript, brought the number of conscripts who have been killed in Vietnam to thirty-three. The total number of Australians killed in action is 1 1 0. Yesterday we saw the sorry spectacle of a responsible Minister of this Government running around and saying that the apparent ratio of conscripts to regular soldiers being killed was untrue. One has only to sit down and analyse the figures to see that more conscripts than regular soldiers are being killed. In addition to the 110 men, including 33 conscripts, who have been killed in action, 493 men have been wounded. Why is that so? Is it because the conscripts are not receiving the training that they should be receiving? Is it because they are being given all the dirty and dangerous jobs? Is it because the Government does not care how many are killed because they are expendable? As the Prime Minister flew over South Vietnam a couple of days ago, he sent a very happy message through the American command post at Da Nang. It was to this effect: give my best wishes to the Australian boys. He sent that message from a height of about 35,000 feet. So he was quite safe.
The war in Vietnam is being pursued because of the activities of the war hawks in this Government, this community, America and South Vietnam. They want to see the war continued. Again - this seems to he becoming a habit - I have to be very critical of Senator McKellar who in this chamber quite recently made a statement in which he took me to task over various matters. In particular he indicated an all time alliance with a group opposed to peace organisations of any sort. He seems to be down on the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament in particular. Would it shock him to know that in one of our capital cities a few nights ago one of his Liberal Party colleagues met a* member of the Communist Party in a public debate at a meeting organised by members of that Association? The big problem, of course, is that not only Senator McKellar but also other Ministers have not been prepared to take a lead. Senator Hannaford decided that in conscience he could no longer support this Government on its policy on Vietnam. A number of members of the Government parties have taken the opportunity to personally persecute him because of his views.
Recently - I think it was yesterday - we heard weak excuses for using Hercules aircraft to carry wounded back from Vietnam. The Government has put our troops into that country. At least they are entitled to decent treatment while they are there. They are sent there in jet aircraft to ensure that they get to the front; but when their fighting days are finished and they have to be brought home any old aircraft will do, no matter how badly wounded they are or how uncomfortable they are. The Opposition fought for months before the Government would agree to bring home the bodies of the dead. The Government’s attitude is so callous that it does not care what happens.
A few days ago there was great publicity when the son of a very brave man accepted, on behalf of his deceased father, the Victoria Cross, the highest award that can be made in this country for bravery in action. What does the Government propose to do for the family of this hero? It will give his widow a paltry pension on which she will have to struggle for the rest of her life and bring up her family. It has made no provision at all for any sort of land settlement scheme for men returning from Vietnam. It will give them a measly $7,000, if they qualify, ,to build a war service home. Honourable senators would know, as my colleague Senator Willesee said last night, that a block of land costs at least $7,000 in some places.
– That money is lent to them; it is not a gift.
– That is so. That is all the Government intends to give them. It will make available re-establishment loans which do not meet the financial requirements of today. Those who are lucky enough to survive the war with wounds will receive a measly pension.
It is very significant that Senator McKellar adopts the attitude: ‘I am right. What right have you to question me or the Government of which I am a member?’. When troops are to be sent overseas he is always to the forefront in praising the Government for sending more kids to be killed. As I said before, he is one of the war hawks in this Government. I challenge him to go to Vietnam if he is fair dinkum in his attitude. I know that his cry will be: ‘I am too old*. But there are plenty of jobs that he could do there. I suggest that if he and those who think as he does are fair dinkum in their attitude they should be in Vietnam and not here sending twenty year old kids overseas to fight their battles for them.
– It would be almost impossible to follow the almost incoherent, random criticisms that we have just heard from Senator Keeffe. Most of them were unworthy of a reply at all. He criticised anything and everything in a most irresponsible way. There was not one constructive criticism in his whole speech.
– It must have hurt; otherwise the honourable senator would not be answering it.
– I could not answer it because it would take so much deciphering in order to get it into some coherent, sensible form to enable a reply to be made to it. I must say that I agree with the statement that Senator Cohen made at the outset of his speech. He said that we live in a dangerous part of the world inasmuch as about half of the world’s population is to the north of us and, according to the demographers, about two-thirds of them are either under-nourished or in a state of semistarvation. It is a tragedy that it is in that area and amongst those people that the population explosion is taking place.
I heard it said quite rightly not so long ago that in India, which has received considerable aid from the United States and the countries associated with the Colombo Plan and in which production was increased greatly, the increase in population more than offset that increase in production. In fact, the speaker, who is a member of the British Government, claimed that at the end of each period the country, because of the population explosion and in spite of the advancement that had been made in productivity, was in a worse position than it was at the beginning of each period. On the other hand, in Japan the application of birth control methods has stabilised the population growth and the increase is now very small indeed; certainly it is not dangerous. In looking at this area of the world I think a tribute should be paid to the mighty assistance rendered by the United States of America. That assistance will be continued in the near future. Assistance is also being given by the countries associated with the Colombo Plan. One of the problems bedevilling the world today is the rate of population growth in the undeveloped countries to the north of us. The rate of increase is so great that it calls for world wide remedial action if the position is not to become more dangerous than it is at present.
Senator Cohen referred to Red China. He said that Red China is the great threat to
Australia, or that the Government regarded it as such. He spoke along the line that we had an all embracing fear of the people of Red China. He went on to say that that was contradictory because we had made Red China one of our great trading partners. I believe that the Minister’s statement as reported in Hansard is reasoned, moderate and unprovocative in describing the situation in Red China today.
– To which statement is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to the statement we are debating. Red China today is in a state of flux. It is impossible to form any definite conclusions as to what may happen there in the future. However, that has little to do with the fact that Red China purchases a lot of Australian wheat. Whether that is right or wrong, it is a fact. John Foster Dulles once said that Communist countries - and it may be true of any country - buy where it is profitable for them to buy irrespective of whether their governments are recognised by the selling country. By the same token, nations sell where it is profitable for them to sell. In my view there is little connection with the theme advanced by Senator Cohen.
Right throughout Senator Cohen’s speech he reiterated that negotiations should taka place between the Government of North Vietnam, the United States Government, the Australian Government and all parties involved in Vietnam. He said that willynilly, by hook or by crook, an attempt should be made to bring North Vietnam to the conference table. Two years ago I watched Senator Cohen on a television programme. He was discussing with three other people the position in Vietnam and he kept repeating again and again that negotiations should be conducted to bring about peace. He was reminded then that up to that time seventeen attempts had been made to bring the Vietcong to the conference table. But that did not matter. He kept on woodenly repeating that negotiations should be conducted. So they should be, but the other side has to agree to enter into negotiations. Prime Minister Wilson of Great Britain attempted to bring about negotiations and was called a nitwit for his pains. Another man whose name I have forgotten was called a hypocrite for his pains in attempting to bring about peace negotiations.
I have here copies of broadcasts made by the New China News Agency, which has said that the position in Vietnam will never be negotiated upon. When it is so apparent that these people are not prepared to negotiate and they rebuff every effort to do so, of what use is it to keep on talking about negotiations? Only a week or two ago the President of the United States of America attempted through Warsaw to bring the North Vietnamese to the conference table. Attempt after attempt has been made in that direction. Now Senator Cohen has said that an attempt should be made to bring about negotiations by ceasing the bombing of North Vietnam. That has been tried before and without doubt the respite was used by the North Vietnamese to build up their forces. North Vietnam took advantage of the position and nothing was achieved towards peace. In my view if the bombing of North Vietnam were again to stop, again nothing would be achieved. The enemy in South East Asia is dead set on conquest and it has shown so conclusively. It is not open to negotiation and has refused to negotiate except on terms of downright capitulation and withdrawal altogether of the United States forces. The other side has demanded not only cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam but also what amounts to downright capitulation by the United States and the other countries committed in Vietnam. Only agreement to those conditions would bring North Vietnam to the conference table, and those conditions amount to downright capitulation by the United States.
Not long ago I read a book titled ‘The Rise of the Third Reich’ written by a man who was attached to the United States Embassy in Berlin for a period from some years before 1939 until the entry of the United States into World War II. He based his book on documents captured intact from the German Foreign Office. There were tons of them. An army of people sorted them out into various categories. He based his book on material that came into his hands because he thought the opportunity was too good to miss. When I read that book it made me weep to think of the downright suicidal foolishness of the Western powers prior to 1939 in refusing to recognise the threat of Hitler.
The author of the book, with all the best material at hand, said that the occupation of the Rhineland, or the Ruhr as it was called by Hitler, could have been prevented by what he called police action because the French had 100 divisions over the Rhine and Hitler on his own admission sent only three battalions. The great apostles of peace at any price - very often they are the greatest warmongers in the world - simply waved their placards as they have done in this country and spouted about peace. They contributed to the decision by Great Britain and France and others to take no action whatever. The author went on to say that this refusal to take action at that time made the blood bath of 1939-45 inevitable.
The author claimed that the documents he obtained contained the plan for the treatment of Great Britain after the German invasion had been successful. It was not a gentle plan. All men aged between seventeen and forty-five years were to be conscripted for labour all over Europe. All essential material and foodstuffs were to be confiscated. I do not doubt that if that programme had been put into effect it would have meant the genocide of the British people. Hitler did attempt the invasion. But what intrigues me is that this crack-pot pacifist Bertrand Russell said that he would welcome Hitler as a tourist. Nearly all honourable senators have been circulated with material from the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. I get a lot of it; it comes from New Zealand. This material sets out to prove in some weird way that aggression is not aggression; that Red China has never been guilty of aggression in Tibet or India - in short, to prove that black is white. The people who disseminate this kind of propaganda are, consciously or unconsciously, the greatest warmongers of all.
Horrible as this war in Vietnam is, we have either to embark on the policy we have adopted or to bow our heads and submit. In fact, those are the conditions under which the Vietcong would negotiate. We should not forget that since the end of the Second World War in 1945 a thousand million people have come under the domination of this awful ism from which there is no foreseeable resurrection.
Every person would like to see the end of the terrible conflict in South East Asia, including the bombing of North Vietnam. Not long ago I saw statistics of the murders, atrocities and mutilations caused by the Vietcong in South Vietnam day after day. They run into many thousands. This has been going on for years. But when the United States kills a few civilians in North Vietnam, which started this conflict, in an attempt to bomb the oil depots that supply the trucks that feed the Vietcong in South Vietnam, the British Government dissociates itself from such a nefarious action.
– You would not, Senator?
– No, I would not, in these conditions. I was never more disgusted in my life than I was when that happened. I want to turn to another subject that is mentioned in the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), which I repeat is a temperate, factual document and with which I agree except as it relates to Rhodesia. The Minister said that Great Britain would not give independence to Rhodesia until there was majority rule there. He said that that is the attitude of the British Government. He added that the Australian Government feels a transitional period will be necessary. For a person who has never been to Africa to speak about African affairs is, I think, somewhat presumptuous, although many people do this with much authority. I would say that there should certainly be a transitional period, and probably a very long one. With the chaos and anything but the rule of law that is present throughout Africa, apart from Rhodesia and South Africa, I have always thought that to hurry majority rule in Rhodesia would, as Douglas Reed said in the book he circulated to honourable senators in the past few days, bring murder and chaos south of the Zambezi River. There seems to be a lot of truth in that statement. It comes from a man who says he has lived in Africa for many years. I think that, to embark upon sanctions as the British Government has done-
– And this Government too.
– And this Government. I do not agree with imposing sanctions on people who are struggling.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Mr President, I wish to raise a matter regarding our national service trainees that seems rather incredible. Today, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service” (Mr Bury) - that is, the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) - a question regarding the fact that those youths who are called up for national service and who have a police record are allowed to escape their duty under the National Service Act. This fact seems completely incredible to me. Admittedly, the Minister could not answer for the Minister for Labour and National Service who runs the Department of Labour and National Service. He was not sure what a minor civil offence was and what degree of severity of offences permitted the freeing from national service training of a youth who had a police record.
Surely this goes against the grain, especially when we consider those citizens of the country who have acted normally, who are called up for national service, and who have to do their national service and face the possibility of being sent to Vietnam and being killed or maimed there. But if the person called up happens to have a police record or if his name is on file at a police station he is exempt from national service. I just did not believe this. But I was told that if was true and that the police in the district from which a person is called up for national service are asked to give a report as to whether or not the person called up has a record. Now, we do not know what the severity of the record may be. To me it does not matter what the severity of the record is. Surely the best thing that could happen to these people who are youthful delinquents is that they enter the Army. Surely the Army is not so feminine that if cannot impose discipline on these boys and teach them to be men.
Some of these boys are involved in a particular type of escapade that, brings them to the attention of the police. Surely, such a nature in these boys would make them extremely good fighters. Yet, because they have a police record the Government says to them: ‘You are no longer required for national service’.
I still have not found out from the Minister - he could not obtain the information - whether this is done before balloting or after balloting. Nevertheless, it is done. It seems to me quite improper and quite wrong that people who have a police record should be exempted from national service.
– What if they were sex deviates or something like that? Would the honourable senator still call them up?
– Why not?
– The American Army segregates them from the other soldiers.
– I do not care whether they are segregated or not. What does the honourable senator mean by ‘sex deviates’? Does he mean homosexuals?
– If they are homosexuals, being called up gives them a great opportunity, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, if it is a question of heterosexual activities, those called up have less chance. Then, of course, when the Government sends these youths to Vietnam, I think they have greater possibilities in this field. But I could not care less whether or not those called up are homosexuals. Army discipline would be the best thing for them. Why should homosexuals be allowed to escape because they happen to have a disease of the mind?
– They could commit offences on their fellow soldiers.
– They may commit their offences on the Vietnamese. That might surprise the Vietnamese. I do not leave aside the question of homosexuality among the Vietnamese. They might commit their offences on the Vietcong, as an honourable senator interjects. But let us leave aside the question of homosexuality because this is not a reason why young men are not allowed to serve Australia. It seems, to me that if a youth wants to get out of national service, all he has to do is illegally use a motor car. Then he will have a police record. Therefore he will be exempt from national service. This state of affairs is incredible. It is wrong. I do hope that the Minister for Education and Science will take this question up with the Minister for Labour and National Service. Many of the boys who are involved in youthful escapades, as we call them, while they may be criminals are, nevertheless, youthful criminals. These young men are probably better fighters than the national serviceman that we send to Vietnam who may have no warlike initiative or any other initiative, whether it be homosexual or not.
– Senator Turnbull can say that, but he has never served in the Army.
– I have, and I happen to be a medical man as well. If Army discipline cannot do something for these boys it is a pretty poor show. Why should it be an excuse for them to escape their duty? I do not believe for one moment that this should be allowed. I raise the question on the adjournment to ask the Minister for Education and Science to take it up with the responsible Minister and to see whether we cannot have some rectification of the situation.
– When a matter is raised in this chamber by an honourable senator and it is the responsibility of a Minister whom I represent here I will endeavour to bring it to the attention of that Minister. However, I hope that in this case I will be permitted to give a persona] opinion on the views expressed by Senator Turnbull. This will not prevent me from bringing his views to the attention of the responsible Minister. If I understand the proposition that the honourable senator has put before this chamber it is that no matter what the police record of a man may be he should be permitted to wear the uniform of this country and serve this country overseas, whether as a national serviceman or, following logically along the honourable senator’s train of thought, as a member of the regular forces.
The suggestion is that it does not matter whether he has been convicted, as somebody suggested, of homosexuality; it does not matter whether he has been convicted once or more than once of robbery in concert or of bashing citizens going about their lawful business; it does not matter whether he has been convicted, for example, of a gang rape; it does not matter whether he has been convicted of breaking and entering. Whatever the record may be, these things do not matter. The people concerned should nevertheless be admitted to the distinction of serving in the regular armed forces of this country and also of serving abroad where, possibly, they may commit in the uniform of this country the same sort of crimes, lt is suggested that .the fact that this is sought to be guarded against is wrong.
In my own opinion it is not only right but utterly necessary that some restriction should in fact be applied. There can be room, of course, for argument and discussion as to what constitutes a minor crime and what constitutes a major crime. I was asked about this by an honourable senator today, but I cannot give a legal definition or a semantic definition of just what is a minor crime and what is a major crime. However, I know that in the mind of every honourable senator there is undoubtedly a conception of a number of crimes which people would say unquestionably were major crimes. I do not believe that people who have been convicted of such crimes should serve in the armed forces of this country with other people who have not been convicted’ of crimes.
I do not think that in our Services, particularly the Navy where people have to live closely together, or in the Army on active service, we should have persons who have been convicted of theft, because this spreads as a cancer through a unit or a ship. I do not refer to the commission of some minor offence - and I again use this term in the sense in which I think most honourable senators would use it - such as possibly the illegal use of a vehicle on one occasion. That is an entirely different matter. However if the proposition is, as I understand it to be, that no matter what crime has been committed and no matter how often crimes have been committed, a man should be admitted to the regular forces or should be called up for national service, then frankly I cannot go along with the honourable senator, but as I have said,
I will bring his views to the attention of the responsible Minister.
– I take some little time to raise details of a question 1 placed on the notice paper on 23rd February, the answer to which I received only yesterday from Senator Gorton, the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. The question relates to an arbitration proceeding before the Public Service Arbitrator on behalf of officers in the television section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who are members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association. According to the answer provided to me yesterday, as at 2nd March this year some 1,238 people are covered by the determination. The time lag between the hearing of the application and the handing down of the determination was very lengthy. Despite the complexity of the work undertaken by the people in this industry and the complicated nature of their responsibilities, something must be wrong with the present system of proceeding before the Public Service Arbitrator. I can come to no other conclusion on the facts presented to the Parliament yesterday in the Minister’s reply.
The memorial was filed by the Association on 30th June 1959 and it was not until 3rd May 1960, some eleven months later, that the actual hearing of the log of claims commenced. The determination was not handed down until 12th January 1966. In other words, eleven months elapsed between the time the log of claims was filed and the time the hearing commenced, and a further six and a half years elapsed before a determination was handed down. In the six and a half years 254 hearing days were involved. The transcript ran into 12,054 pages and the cost of a single copy was $3,886- this for a staff of 1,238. If the facts are as stated to me in the Minister’s reply, surely all responsible people in Australia must be concerned.
This industry was probably a new one for the Public Service Arbitrator. Although it is a Public Service instrumentality it does not come fully within normal Public Service activities. Television did not commence in Australia until about November 1956. Not quite two and a half years afterwards - in June 1959 - the memorial was filed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association. Obviously many public servants are concerned with arbitration at the present time and I hope that the Minister will look into this matter to see whether something can be done not only to speed up the hearing of claims but also to make applications to the Arbitrator less expensive. 1 do not criticise the Public Service Arbitrator or his Assistant. Having regard to all the circumstances, 1 think they are doing an excellent job. But delays of this nature and the expenditure involved certainly cannot be tolerated if the arbitration system as we know it is to remain in existence. If a solution cannot be effected between the employer and the employees - on this occasion the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association - certainly arbitration must be speedy and reasonable. One inclines to the view on the evidence that arbitration in this sphere is becoming a habit. As I have said, 1 believe the facts warrant an investigation as to whether the present procedures can be speeded up. I urge the Government to look at the matter, to prevent any further inordinate delays that might be taking place in regard to other memorials filed by other Public Service associations, and to eliminate delays, which could cause embarrassment and industrial unrest. I ask the Minister to inquire into the matter and to see whether more speedy and less costly proceedings can bc availed of in the future.
Senator GORTON (Victoria - Minister for Education and Science) - by leave - The honourable senator is basing his statement on an answer to a question provided to him by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). I think he has distorted the answer given to him as it appears in yesterday’s Hansard. He referred to six-and-a-half years, but he may have been slightly incorrect mathematically in this respect, because from 3rd May 1960 to 12th January 1966 is not six-and-a-half but five-and-a-half years.
– 1 am talking about the time from when the memorial was filed.
– That is not relevant. The relevant time is the time when the first and subsequent determinations were handed down. As the answer so clearly indicated, the first determination was handed down in October 1964, and two subsequent determinations also were handed down in that year. Merely as an exercise in getting the facts right without at the moment discussing whether the facts indicate that something more should or should not be done, I say that it is clear from the answer given by the Minister that the hearing began on 3rd May 1960 and the first determination was handed down on 15th October 1964, that being followed by two other determinations in 1964, four in 1965 and three in 1966.
– That is a period of about four-and-a-half years.
– It would appear from the answer to the question that so far no less than ten determinations have been handed down. That may well be the reason for the four-years delay between the opening of the hearing and the handing down of the first determination. I do not want to canvass that particular question, however, because the honourable senator did not ask me why this gap of approximately four years between the beginning of the hearing and the first of the determinations took place. Not having been asked, I have not found this out from the responsible Minister. I imagine that the honourable senator, as a result of his experience in industrial relations, would understand that there might be quite a number of reasons for the delay, including adjournments asked for by one or both of the parties. However, if he cares to ask a question about the four-year delay, I will do my best to find out the reasons from. the Minister concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670405_senate_26_s33/>.