26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Would not the Minister for Trade and Industry be better employed in devising proper protection for the Australian car industry than in indulging iti crude and undiplomatic attacks on our major trading partner to cover up the ineffectiveness of his own plans for the industry?
– The question is provocative, it is not factual and therefore I do not feel disposed to answer the first part of it. The history of the Minister for Trade and Industry in negotiating trade agreements for Australia is one of the success stories of modern times and I think we should deprecate any reference made to him in that manner.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen the statement by Dr Stevenson, of the Victorian Commission of Public Health, that Australia is loaded with infectious hepatitis of epidemic proportions and that the situation could get worse? Can the Minister say whether the Department of Health envisages any programme to alert the public to the dangers of this disease and whether it is undertaking any urgent research into methods of prevention as well as cure?
– I did see this comment reported in the Press this morning - I think it was in the Age’ - and I noted it with concern. The matter, of course, comes under the jurisdiction of State health officers, but 1 shall bring the points raised by the honourable senator to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service outline the compensation rights of victims of industrial mishaps at offshore gas rigs?
– Answering the question insofar as it is within my responsibility as representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, let me say, as I said yesterday, that in respect of the industrial laws applicable to this area persons have to rely upon the Victorian State law which is, by the offshore oil legislation, projected into this area. So, in respect of workers compensation that may be available to employed journalists, I would think that would be the source of compensation. But it is not without interest so far as our responsibility is concerned to remind ourselves that, as was noted particularly and specially in the second reading debate upon the legislation relating to petroleum exploration on submerged lands, we introduced in relation to persons engaged in offshore oil operations a special obligation on the part of employers to secure the safety, health and welfare of those persons. A defence to the defendant is provided only if he proves that all reasonable care in the circumstances has been exercised. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will recall the specific nature of that obligation, which is probably unique and pioneering in our legislation.
– My question, directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, refers to the matter which I raised at question time yesterday, namely, the intolerable position at ports in north western Tasmania. Yesterday the Minister asked me to place my question on the notice paper. In view of the urgency of this matter, which has been brought to the Minister’s attention, and the undoubted damage which will result to the economy of north-western Tasmania if the situation continues, can the Minister yet advise me what action is being taken to overcome the problem?
– As I said yesterday, this is a matter beyond my sphere of influence. This morning I informed the honourable senator that I understood the seriousness of the situation and would make representations direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport seeking a reply to the honourable senator’s question. When that reply is received I shall convey it to the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is it a fact, as reported, that the Government is considering closing Bonegilla migrant centre without making alternative arrangements for the reception of migrants in that general area? In reaching a decision on this matter will the Government consider carefully the importance of the Wodonga-Albury-Riverina area, the advantages of having a migrant centre in the area, and the objections of local bodies, notably the Murray Valley Development League?
– The Bonegilla centre was one of the Army and Air Force establishments taken over by the Government between 1947 and, I think, 1950 for immigration purposes. These centres were never meant to be permanent migrant establishments. They were designed to fill an important and urgent need. Their continued use as migrant centres has been reviewed from time to time. I understand that the Bonegilla centre, which was the second of twenty-three such centres established, is now the only centre still used for migrant purposes. Discontinuance of its use as a migrant centre has been considered.
I understand that the Public Accounts Committee inquired into this matter and recommended that Bonegilla should be closed but I am informed that no definite decision will be made about closing the centre until it is clear that it is no longer needed. So it is impossible to predict when the Bonegilla migrant centre might be closed. This matter is being examined carefully by the Minister for Immigration in the light of the need for accommodation of this kind in the area in question. I remind the honourable senator of a Press statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) concerning schemes to enable migrant families brought to Australia under Commonwealth nomination to go to country areas where they might be able to follow the occupation of their choice. When that statement was made in, I think, August last year it was recognised as a step forward in our immigration programme.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has his attention been drawn to reports that several large Japanese electrical firms intend to operate near Sydney assembling Japanese manufactured electrical, radio and television parts into appliances in competition with Australian manufacturers who are now using Australian produced parts? The report states that the firms will be wholly owned and controlled by Japanese. In view of the Government’s attempts to develop Australian capacity in electronic equipment for the defence forces and for general economic reasons, will the Minister investigate this matter and take whatever action is necessary to protect Australian manufacturing capacity and potential?
– I saw the report and, as I recall, it referred to an express intention to use an Australian content to a maximum degree. However, I shall have investigations made of the substance of the question asked by the honourable senator and supply an answer in due course.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. In respect of the Commonwealth Government’s financial assistance scheme announced in 1964 to provide science facilities in Australian public and independent schools and for technical colleges, can the Minister inform the Senate whether full advantage has been taken of the scheme in Tasmania? Is it known whether it has been decided to extend the scheme after the original plan is completed this year7
– I recall that as recently as last weekend the Minister for Education and Science made a statement to the effect that during the last 3 years $2.7m has been devoted by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose referred to by the honourable senator. I believe that $300,000 has been devoted to no less than nineteen State schools and that no less than $1 1/4m has been devoted to one technical college in Hobart. For the next triennium the amount of money that is available for the same purpose for public and independent schools is of the order of $2m.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science observed that the offence of stealing petrol from the tanks in motor vehicles is committed fairly frequently? ls he aware that persons who are convicted of the offence and who fail to pay fines imposed on them are sent to prison where they have to be maintained by the States concerned? Will he request the Standards Association Section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to investigate the practicability of making a lockable cap for all petrol tanks in motor vehicles in order to ensure that all such vehicles sold in Australia shall be securely protected from petrol thefts?
– lt has been my universal experience that one of the penalties that is imposed upon offenders convicted of an offence may, eliminating other alternatives, be imprisonment. Of course we desire to reduce that as much as possible and 1 have no doubt the honourable senator has that in mind when he suggests that the Standards Association should investigate this question of devising a lockable cap. 1 shall be pleased to ask the Minister for Education and Science to refer that suggestion to the Standards Association.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has agreement, been finalised between the Commonwealth and the various Stales on the installation and operation of incinerators to dispose of ships’ garbage at the various Australian ports?
– I. know that there were discussions on this matter. Some time ago I gave the honourable senator an answer concerning it. But I cannot tell him whether it has been finalised. I will obtain that information for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. As I have been informed that natural gas is being burnt as waste and not being stored underground at the Barrow Island oil well, I ask: What is the ratio of natural gas to oil being obtained from that well? How does that ratio compare with the normal gas to oil ratio for an efficient, established oil well operating with due regard to the maximum economic use of both of these valuable resources?
– It is a fact that gas is being produced and wasted at Barrow Island. The reason why it is of no commercial value is that no-one wants it at the moment. Barrow Island is producing in the vicinity of 25,000 or 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That is a commercial proposition. That is why the oil is being produced, whereas the gas is escaping. Should the honourable senator want any further information on this matter, if he places a question on the notice paper I will obtain an answer from the Minister for National Development.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry a question concerning shipping to and from South Australia. Exporters in that State are gravely concerned about suggestions that the K Line of ships, which operates under government subsidy to West Indies and South American ports, may not include Port Adelaide in its future ports of call. As a valuable and rising South Australian export trade in flour, processed grain, dried fruits, wine etc. to Caribbean and South American ports is in jeopardy and the reason given for the proposed deletion of Port Adelaide as a port of call is curtailment of the Commonwealth subsidy, will the Minister seek urgent consideration by the Minister for Trade and Industry of retention of the original subsidy in the interests of the South Australian export trade?
– The port of Adelaide has not’ been deleted as a port of call of the K Line service, but future calls at Adelaide will not be made automatically without regard to the inducements offering. After 5 years of subsidised operations to the South American area, commercial viability has not yet been achieved. An investigation shows that the main reason for that lies in the large number and range of loading and discharging ports which have been served each voyage. It is becoming apparent that if the service is to achieve viability the shipping company should be able to avoid calls for uneconomic loadings. It is hoped that exporters in ports such as Adelaide will be able to concentrate their shipments into a reduced number of sailings, thus contributing to the viability of the service. This objective is in the long term interests of the Australian export trade.
– J direct a question lo the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. I refer to the appointment of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs for Queensland as one of the three commissioners charged with the task of redistributing Federal electoral boundaries in Queensland. Without in any way attempting to reflect on the honesty or integrity of that official, I ask: Does the Minister believe that the official will be able to discharge his duties without embarrassment, having regard to the fact that the Minister in charge of his Department is a sitting Queensland member of the House of Representatives and naturally would be vitally concerned and interested in the findings of the commissioners?
– Commissioners to examine electoral boundaries are appointed by my colleague the Minister for the Interior, who is a member of the House of Representatives. A panel of names was supplied to him for that purpose and those names were submitted to Cabinet. 1 do not believe that there were any hokey-pokey tricks in the appointment of the Commissioner referred to by the honourable senator.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the serious shortage of school teachers in Tasmania, about which meetings have been held on the north west coast of Tasmania in the last week or two, resulting in communications with the Prime Minister, can the Minister indicate in what way the Commonwealth can act to alleviate the position?
Possibly the Commonwealth could move to attract migrants with qualifications as school teachers, or some other method might be adopted. Can the Minister inform the Senate what action the Commonwealth could take to attempt to ease the burden imposed by the lack of suitable school teachers, particularly in high schools?
– A question such as that asked without notice by the honourable senator prompts only an ad hoc reply. However, it immediately occurs to me that in the last 2 years the Government has made a policy announcement and is implementing it, which should be a very potent factor in increasing the rate of recruitment of teachers. I refer to Commonwealth assistance in the establishment of institutes for teacher training, a field that originally was thought to be an exclusive province of the States. The Commonwealth has been convinced by argument to accept the idea that we should assist in the establishment of institutes for teacher training. Once the institutes are functioning I should think they will increase very substantially the supply of teachers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that on the eve of the last Senate election a statement was made in the Senate regarding further Commonwealth assistance for the Ord River scheme, but that the matter remained in abeyance until last Friday, the eve of State elections in Western Australia, when another statement was made by the Federal authorities and the State Premier? As no other election is in sight for at least 18 months, can the Minister inform me whether action will be taken to get on with the job instead of merely making statements which, to say the least, are not very convincing when no action follows?
– It is a fact that statements were made in relation to the Ord River scheme prior to the last Senate election and the recent elections in Western Australia. It is also a fact that the Commonwealth Government refused to grant further financial assistance to the Western Australian Government on its application prior to the last House of Representatives election.
– I preface my question, which I address to the Minister for Repatriation, by reminding him that he indicated yesterday in this chamber that he would be meeting a deputation from exservicemen’s organisations. Can he now inform the Parliament whether he is prepared to make a recommendation to the Government for an immediate increase in repatriation pensions and other benefits? If he is nol: prepared to do that, can he indicate a possible date on which relief will be granted to those people who have served their country in two World Wars, in the Korean War and in the Vietnam conflict, and have suffered as a result of such service?
– Yesterday I met representatives of the Federated TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia. As to the other part of the honourable senator’s question. I will be making representations to the Government at the appropriate time; that is, when the Budget is being considered.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he will comment on or give his opinion about the description of our new Prime Minister contained in the United States Information Service publication Backgrounder’ of, 12th January 1968, as ‘as pro-American as they come - and as hawkish on Vietnam’. If the Minister does not agree that that is a correct description, could action be taken to correct it by contacting the American Embassy?
– Order! The honourable senator is asking for opinion and comment. The question is therefore out of order.
– In addressing my question to the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities I refer, as others did yesterday, to the pleasure South Australians felt at the Minister’s visit to the recent Festival of Arts in Adelaide. Did he have any opportunity to discuss the provision of assistance by the Commonwealth Government towards construction of the proposed festival hall in Adelaide? If so, has he any information to give to the Senate?
– 1 did not have an opportunity to discuss the provision of Commonwealth assistance towards the construction of the proposed festival hall in Adelaide but I did have great pleasure of seeing, in company with the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, the two sites that have been suggested for the hall. I was shown the sites simply as a matter of interest in the project. Any request for financial assistance by the Commonwealth Government would come to the Prime Minister via the Premier of South Australia.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories aware that the 1969 South Pacific Games will be held in Port Moresby? Does the Government believe that it has been fully alerted to the importance to Australia and the Territory of staging these games successfully. Will the Minister re-investigate the possibility, and indeed the importance, of offering immediate financial assistance to the Trust which has been established by the Administration in the Territory to control the financing of the Games?
– I could not forget that part of the honourable senator’s speech in the Address-in-Reply debate in which he brought this matter prominently before the chamber. I took a specific note of the honourable senator’s remarks and have already brought them to the attention of the Australian Tourist Commission. After the matter has been considered by the Commission, at the appropriate time I will indicate whether assistance can be made available. I was impressed particularly, if I may say so, by the picture that the honourable senator painted of the appeal which games have for the indigenes of the Territory and I visualise cavalcades of those people coming to this Mecca of games. I hope that the Government can assist.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In Canberra I have seen a delivery van, owned by a wellknown private enterprise carrier, bearing signs which state that the van undertaken the delivery and collection of TransAustralia Airlines air cargo and parcels. Does this indicate a possible takeover or is TAA vacating the on-the-ground delivery and collection of air cargo in Australia?
– This would indicate to me that we in Australia, under a private enterprise system, encourage people to start at the bottom, and one never knows where they may finish. I say to honourable senators that this could indicate also that a person starting at the bottom, with a truck, could finish up with an airline.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and follows questions asked of the Minister yesterday by Senator Branson and myself in regard to the Snowy Mountains Authority. Is the Minister aware that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority yesterday issued a bulletin headed ‘Special notice to all officers and temporary officers. Termination of employment due to insufficient work’7 Is the Minister aware that the bulletin goes on to say that it is necessary for the Authority to commence to terminate the services of a limited number of staff and that this process will continue progressively as and when further staff members become surplus? Can the Minister confirm or deny whether fifteen employees to date either have received retrenchment notices or will be receiving them during the course of the next few days?
– It is quite apparent, from the question asked by the honourable senator, that he is saying that he would like the Snowy Mountains Authority to keep on developing Snowy Mountains work when it has finished the job. We know full well that the work is to be completed within the next 5 years. We cannot keep 5,000 people employed on a job that will cut out. There will be in other parts of Australia ample work of the same type, for all the people employed.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, falls within the province of the Minister for Customs and Excise. No slight is intended on the Minister because the matter to which I refer deals with a report made by the Leader of the Government when he was Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to a Press statement made on 26th February last by Senator Anderson, who was Minister for Customs and Excise at that time, in which he disclosed that appropriate legal action would be commenced against a large number of companies which apparently had entered into collusion on a large scale to avoid duties and defeat the protection accorded to Australian manufacturers. In making the statement, the Minister said that the Government had decided that it would agree to requests from any of the companies involved for the cases to be heard under Part XV of the Customs Act, that proceedings taken would be open to the public, and that decisions made would be disclosed to the Parliament. My question is: Will suitable public announcements be made in the Press of the time and place of the hearings of these cases so that the public and the Press may know about them and may attend if they desire? I suggest that it would be in the public interest if notifications of hearings were made in the Press similar to notifications of Tariff Board inquiries.
– The procedures for hearings under Part XV of the Customs Act have been in operation for many years and are followed in all) cases. Notification is posted in the Customs House of the State in which the matter is to be heard. That notice sets out the parties to the dispute and the time and place of the proposed hearing. The same procedure will be followed in the cases referred by the honourable senator if the parties ask for a hearing under Part XV of the Customs Act, and all hearings will be open to the public and the Press.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government and to the Minister for Customs and Excise. It relates to the same matter as that raised by Senator Toohey. In his statement on 26th February, the Minister said the investigations were almost completed and that legal action would be instituted as speedily as possible. What action has been taken, and why is it that an ordinary citizen or company charged with an offence under the
Customs Act is prosecuted in court whereas large companies which commit many grave offences are not prosecuted but are dealt with by administrative action?
– There are certain parts of that question which I am no longer competent to answer. They relate to investigations into the dealings of particular companies. I will ask the Minister for Customs and Excise to obtain the required information on those points and supply it later. As to the balance of the question, it must be made abundantly clear that any company which has allegedly committed an offence against a Customs law has the right, under the Customs Act, to go to the court, which, incidentally, is the High Court. It has been suggested as an expeditious method that this matter could be dealt with under Part XV procedures. There is nothing unique about that. The point that I want to come back to is that if a company chooses to go to litigation in the High Court it is perfectly entitled to do so. On the other hand if the companies involved - and there are quite a number of them - want to have the matter dealt with under Part XV of the Act, which prescribes a more expeditious procedure, they can exercise that option. I have already pointed out to Senator Toohey that all hearings will be open to the public and the Press.
– Can the Leader of the Government inform the Senate whether in any previous instance of allegations by a Minister of widespread collusion and conspiracy on a grand scale by many companies to break the customs law, the Minister has, before legal proceedings have been instituted in a court, invited the companies to ask to be dealt with administratively rather than be prosecuted in the ordinary way?
– I recall that during the 3½ years for which I was Minister for Customs and Excise proceedings were taken constantly under Part XV of the Act in all States of the Commonwealth for alleged offences. There is nothing unique in that. I ask the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper so that I may get more information for him as to particular firms.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware that the maximum qualifying amount of adjusted family income for an award under the Services Canteens Trust Fund is only $900 where an ex-serviceman is in employment? In view of this fact, will the Minister advise whether the Government will initiate appropriate action to cause the sum to be increased because of present day inflation?
– The Services Canteens Trust Fund does not come under my portfolio.
(Question No. 10)
asked the Mini ster representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer:
The latest advices from the Department of Health are that, provided thesewage treatment works are adequately maintained to ensure no nuisance or stream pollution is caused thereby, the Department of Health would raise no objection to the continued use of the existing treatment works. The Department of Health considers, however, that, when the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board’s sewers are available to receive sewage by gravitation from the airport, the premises should be connected to such sewers.
It is the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation to connect the sewers within the airport to the Metropolitan Water. Sewerageand Drainage Board sewers when these are available to receive sewage by gravitation, and until thattime everything possible will be done to retain the effluent in a satisfactory degree of purification.
(Question No. 29)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
On what date and for what reason does the Government propose closing down the migrant hostel at Heathcote Road in New South Wales?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer:
Fewer migrant families entering Australia towards the end of last year required accommodation in migrant hostels. Consequently, in the interests of economic operation, a number of migrant hostel establishment’s were temporarily closed. The Heathcote Road hostel ceased to operate on 12th January 1968. Because of the increased number of migrant families expected to arrive during the coming months, this hostel will probably resume operations about June this year.
(Question No. 30)
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers:
– Yesterday Senator Toohey asked me a question relating to dress in the Senate. The style of dress in the Senate has been maintained at a most satisfactory level by the practice of leaving the choice of appropriate dress to the good judgment of honourable senators and their sense of the dignity of the House. I am confident that we may rely upon the continued good judgment of honourable senators in this matter.
– I have received the following letter from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Mauritius: Dear Mr President,
On behalf of the Parliament of Mauritius and on my own behalf I should like to convey our warmest thanks to you and, through you, to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia for the attractive gift which Your Parliament has presented to us on the occasion of the Independence of Mauritius. The gift was personally presented to me by the Senator Dame Annabella Rankin and the gesture was specially appreciated.
May I say how greatly pleased we all were that Australia was the only country whose delegation was headed by a lady. She made a great impression on us and I hope she enjoyed her stay in Mauritius. 1 have placed the inkstand on my table. This memento will be to our Members and to myself a constant reminder of the ties of friendship which unite our two Parliaments and countries. With kindest regards and best wishes,
Yours very sincerely,
– I lay on the table the report of the First Conference of Australian Presiding Officers and Clerks-at-the-Table This Conference took place in Canberra in January 1968 and was attended by Presiding Officers and Clerks from the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is proposed that similar conferences be held in the future.
Subjects discussed at the recent Conference included Question Time, the subjudice rule, financial procedures and the development of legislative research services in the Library of Parliament. It was a most interesting and worthwhile Conference, which continued for 3 days. The Presiding Officers and Clerks from the various Parliaments had a unique opportunity to compare procedures and to discuss matters of common interest. I commend the report to honourable senators for their reading.
– 1 present the following paper:
Report of the Delegation from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the Thirteenth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, in October and November 1967. and move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that this afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will be leaving Australia for a brief goodwill visit to New Zealand. He expects to return on 31st March. During his absence the Right Honourable John McEwen will be Acting Prime Minister.
– by leave - This statement is made on behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). Where the first person singular pronoun is used it refers to the Minister for External Affairs.
I wish to inform the Senate that Australia will be represented at the International Conference on Human Rights to be held in Teheran next month by a delegation led by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and including two members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The United Nations General Assembly decided on 20th December 1965 to hold an International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran from 22nd April to 13th May 1968. The General Assembly has also designated the year 1968 as International Year for Human Rights, lt is the 20th Anniversary of the adoption and the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The International Conference at Teheran will be one of the major international events associated with the International year for Human Rights. All member states of the United Nations and the Specialised Agencies have been invited to participate. Provision has also been made for representation of some of the non-governmental organisations, and of specialised agencies and other bodies. The aims of the Conference are: (i) To review the progress which has been made in the field of human rights since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (ii) To evaluate the effectiveness of the methods used by the United Nations in the field of human rights, especially with respect to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and the practice of the policy of apartheid; and (iii) To formulate and prepare a programme of further measures to be taken subsequent to the celebration of the International Year for Human Rights.
The Conference will deal with a wide range of subjects. It will be concerned with issues arising from various United Nations conventions, covenants, declarations and recommendations on human rights, and also subjects like apartheid, racial discrimination, self-determination, slavery and colonialism. The Australian Delegation will be: The Honourable N. H. Bowen, Q.C., M.P., Attorney-General- Leader of the delegation; Mr O. L. Davis, First Assistant Secretary, Department of External Affairs; Senator L. K. Murphy, Q.C.; Mr A. S. Peacock, M.P.; Mr H. A. Snelling, Q.C., Solicitor-General, for New South Wales; Mr J. A. Benson, Australian Mission to the United Nations, New York, Adviser; and Mrs Tenia Shand, United Nations Branch, Department of External Affairs, Adviser.
– by leave - 1 make this statement on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). Where I use the first person singular pronoun it refers to the Treasurer.
This is the second year in 4 in which very extensive areas of the Australian continent have ‘ been severely affected by drought. Indeed some areas have suffered continuous drought for 4 years. As the problems arising from drought conditions in several States are of deep concern to many honourable members, I think the House would find it helpful if I outlined what the Commonwealth is doing to help alleviate those problems.
Drought of the severity that we have been experiencing takes a heavy toll in many ways and creates many problems. We cannot quantify its effects in precise terms because we do not know just what the position would have been in the absence of drought. Looking at current rural production alone, however, I venture to suggest thai, but for the drought, the gross value of rural production would probably have been upwards of §200m greater both in 1965-66 and in 1967-68. The losses due to recent drought, especially the losses of livestock, would undoubtedly have been considerably larger but for the action the Government has taken on a wide front to help alleviate the problems it has created for those who have had to face the brunt of it.
Traditionally, the provision of direct financial assistance and relief for those affected by natural disasters such as drought has been primarily the function of the State governments. They are, in any case, in the best position to assess conditions in their respective States and the needs of those affected by the disaster. Where, however, the disaster requires relatively large relief expenditures, the Commonwealth has usually assisted the State or States concerned by meeting half the cost of such expenditures.
With the development of severe drought in New South Wales and Queensland in 1965, the Commonwealth undertook to provide all the funds needed to finance whatever drought relief measures those States found necessary. Towards the end of October last it became clear that drought relief measures on a large scale would also be necessary in Victoria and South Australia. The Commonwealth therefore agreed to reimburse in full these two States also for whatever expenditure they might incur after 1st October on drought relief measures similar to those adopted in New South Wales and Queensland. It is estimated that, in the current financial year, these drought relief measures will involve Commonwealth expenditure amounting ro about $19m. For the 3-year period ending on 30th June, the cost of these measures is estimated at approximately $59m of which $25m will have been made available by way of loans and just on $34m by way of grants.
The relief measures being undertaken by the States under these arrangements have been agreed between the Commonwealth and the States concerned as being the most appropriate to help alleviate the effects of drought conditions on the rural sector of the economy. The basic approach of the Government has been that, as in the case of other forms of natural disaster relief, governmental assistance should be concentrated primarily on those who are in real need and who are unable to obtain assistance elsewhere. As a general rule, the general taxpayer should not bc asked to provide assistance to those who, though perhaps suffering financial losses, still have ample financial resources or are able to obtain sufficient finance through normal channels to see them through the drought.
Accordingly, it has been agreed with the States concerned that the carry-on and restocking loans should be restricted to farmers who cannot obtain credit through normal commercial channels. The Commonwealth is financing these loans on the basis that the States , repay them Over 10 years but without interest. Although interest is charged by the States, this is al a low rate - normally 3% - and is designed mainly to help meet administrative costs and losses on loans.
These loans are, of course, additional to the very considerable help which has been extended to drought affected primary producers through the banking system. Although recent figures are not available for actual loans made to the rural sector, the extent of this assistance is apparent from the considerable rise in new lending commitments by trading banks. Thus in 1967 total new lending commitments to rural businesses by trading banks were $357m, an increase of over 60% on the 1965 figure. This increase in rural lending has occurred with the full support of the Government. With the onset of severe drought conditions in New South Wales and Queensland in 1965, the Government requested the Reserve Bank to make special arrangements with the trading banks for them to undertake lending for carry-on purposes and for longer term projects for restocking and rehabilitation of drought affected properties. The Reserve Bank has maintained close contact with all trading banks operating in drought areas and is continuing to do so. The banks, for their part, have assured the Reserve Bank that they are treating with sympathetic consideration all applications for finance from drought affected primary producers and their continuing ability to do so is being closely watched by the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank is also taking action to bring about an increase of some $37m in the Farm Development Loan Funds. This increase will bring the total allocation to $87m and will ensure that resources are available to permit continuance of a steady rate of lending by the trading banks from the Funds. 1 should also mention at this point the special arrangements that have been made in regard to credit for purchases of wheat for use as fodder. In 1965, the Government arranged through the Australian Wheat Board for the provision of wheat to drought affected farmers on 12 months credit, where other credit was not avail able. Recently, the problem of drought feeding of breeding stock has been very acute in parts of Victoria which have perhaps the heaviest stocking rate of any farming areas in Australia. Because of this, the Government has made arrangements, similar to those that operated in New South Wales, for the sale of wheat on 12 months credit for use by farmers in drought areas in Victoria. This credit will be available to all farmers in drought declared areas in the State who wish to make use of it.
The Victorian Government has decided to provide also a special subsidy on purchases of wheat and oats by drought affected farmers. The cost of this measure, which is outside the ambit of the normal drought assistance arrangements between the Commonwealth and the State, will be met from the Victorian Budget. The Commonwealth recognises, however, that Victoria is faced wilh a special problem on this account and has offered to provide an amount of $lm which will help the State in meeting the cost of the subsidy. I shall refer to this special revenue assistance again later.
Assistance is also being provided under the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States in the form of subsidisation of the transport of fodder and water to drought affected areas and the transport of starving stock ou: of drought affected areas. The cost of these subsidies to the States is being fully reimbursed by way of grants from the Commonwealth, which will have amounted to about SI 2m in the 3 years to the end of the current financial year. The extent and importance of these subsidy arrangements is, perhaps, not fully appreciated. It would noi be practicable for me to spell out here all the details of the arrangements, which vary slightly from State to State. However, in broad terms it can be stated that a drought affected farmer who purchases fodder for his starving stock has to meet only 25% to 50% of the cost of the rail transport of the fodder. In many cases fodder is being brought to drought areas from another State. Victoria and South Australia have found it necessary to import oats from Western Australia and special arrangements have been agreed with the governments of those two States to subsidise the cost of the transportation.
Similar subsidies are being provided in the case of farmers who wish to send their starving stock out to agistment and, where rail transport is unavailable or impracticable, the subsidy arrangements extend to road transport also. Here again considerable numbers of stock are being sent interstate, particularly from Victoria to northern parts of New South Wales. It is indeed fortunate that, at a time when drought conditions are prevalent through southern New South Wales and Victoria, most of the northern half of New South Wales is experiencing an excellent season. In consequence, there is good agistment available and, through the freight subsidy arrangements, farmers in Victoria and southern New South Wales are able to take advantage of it.
In addition to measures designed to help individual farmers, considerable government expenditure on a variety of activities is being undertaken to alleviate conditions in drought areas. Here again the State Governments and their authorities are undertaking these activities and are being fully reimbursed by the Commonwealth. In this context, I would mention particularly the grants being made to local authorities to enable employment of persons who are either unemployed as a result of the drought or who are temporarily unable to work their farms for the same reason. Commonwealth grants to the States for this purpose will have amounted to about $21m in the 3 years to the end of the current financial year. Other State expenditure of this nature which is being met by the Commonwealth includes expenditure on running costs of additional cloud seeding operations and special measures designed to maintain water supplies in drought affected areas.
Finally, I would recall that in 1966-67 the Commonwealth provided $8m to New South Wales and $2. 75m to Queensland to help those States in meeting budgetary problems arising from the effects of drought on their revenues. A further $14m is to be provided this financial year. Of this amount, $13m is to be divided between the four affected States in proportion to the financial assistance grants that will be received by them this year. The other Sim is to be provided to Victoria in recognition of the special problems being faced by that State. On the basis of current estimates the distribution of the $14m would be as follows:
The Commonwealth has also provided financial relief to drought affected farmers through a number of taxation measures which have been specifically introduced with this aim. Thus, wool growers who, because of an advanced shearing due to drought, sell two wool clips in a year, may reduce their incomes by the amount of the net proceeds of the second clip and carry that amount forward to the next year. Concessions have also been made in relation to the taxation of proceeds of forced sales of livestock due to drought and in relation to the averaging of incomes for tax purposes. Losses by primary producers may now be carried forward indefinitely for taxation purposes. Apart from these concessions, drought affected primary producers in financial difficulties are receiving sympathetic consideration from the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to requests for extension of time to pay income tax. lt will be apparent to honourable senators that the Commonwealth Government has been undertaking, and is continuing to undertake, considerable expenditure over a wide front to help alleviate the effect’s of drought. Apart from the provision since 1965 of nearly $25m of special revenue assistance to the States, over the same period the reimbursement of State expenditure will have involved the Commonwealth in additional expenditure of about $59m by the end of the current financial year. Details of this expenditure are set out in the following tables. With the concurrence of honourable senators I will incorporate them in Hansard.
Despite recent rains, an important segment of Australia’s rural economy, one which contains perhaps one-third of Australia’s sheep population, is still facing a serious drought situation. The Government recognises this and it will continue to provide assistance and relief along the lines 1 have indicated so long as this is necessary. At the same time it should also be recognised that governmental action can dono more than alleviate the position. It is not possible, in practical terms, to avoid some adverse effects from drought, particularly if it continues for any length of time. We all hope for a quick return to better seasonal conditions in the areas where drought still persists.
-by leave - I propose to make to the Senate a statement on international affairs made last night in another place by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). Where the first person singular pronoun is used, it refers to the Minister for External Affairs. The statement is as follows:
As this is my first ministerial statement In the new session of Parliament I am going to open by stating very briefly the broad principles and objectives of Australian foreign policy. 1 shall not elaborate the various points, as they have all been developed in earlier statements.
The primary objective of Australian foreign policy is to protect and advance Australian interests. This is not interpreted narrowly, for our own welfare and security are bound up with that of others. We can not live prosperous and safe if a great part of the world is living in poverty without hope and is torn by war.
Second, and following from that, Australia works for a world order based on the principles and purposes of the United Nations. We want to see the great powers co-operating together to the greatest extent possible to prevent major wars, to ease tensions, and to help the economic development of the whole world. We are conscious of the great world issues of power and their interaction with issues of regional security. We recognise the special responsibilities of the great powers, as the Charter of the United Nations does, but we also insist on the proper role being accorded to the middle and small powers, which for their part have responsibilities to discharge and rights to be respected. Australia play’s its part in collective defence against aggression.
Third, Australia has a direct and special interest in the region of southern and eastern Asia, the western Pacific, and the Indian Ocean, for this is where we Jive. Australia seeks through its diplomatic missions and in other ways to understand each of the neighbouring countries and its interests and to help them to understand us. Australia participates actively and constructively in a number of regional bodies with many of its Asian neighbours. Australia welcomes the growing movement towards regional co-operation in Asia. This cooperation is an expression of national independence as well as a method of supporting that independence. Regional cooperation is proceeding in a variety of ways and, in addition to the other countries of the area, Australia, India, Indonesia, and Japan have special contributions to make in the common interest. The most difficult task of all - and it is a global as well as a regional task - is that of reaching the point where the mainland of China will fit into good international relations. There is no simple answer to that; the goal has to be sought over a period of time but we have seen it for many years past as one of the major international problems of our time.
Fourth, Australia co-operates closely and responsibly with the United States of America. Our relationship is formally expressed in ANZUS; in daily practice it finds expression in a constant exchange of views and in working together in many fields. The United States is our most powerful ally.
Fifth, Australia has special relationships with countries of the Commonwealth. With Britain we have deep historical ties and shared institutions and traditions. New Zealand is our neighbour and sister nation and on vital international issues we can speak as one. In addition to Australia and New Zealand, there are no fewer than six other Commonwealth countries in our region and vicinity - Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Malaysia, Singapore and Mauritius. There are also the smaller and emerging island territories in the South Pacific, most of them but not all in the Commonwealth, and Australia has a particular call to cooperate with them.
Sixth, as a part of all the foregoing, Australia gives special weight to the economic element in international affairs. As a country dependent still on its exports of food and raw materials, and on investment for development, Australia needs an expanding world economy and trade outlets and international monetary stability. Australia contributes economic assistance to other countries and will continue to do so. We take an active part in international economic affairs. We believe that continued international action in the economic field is essential in tackling world problems.
Finally, Australia observes basic human rights and fundamental freedoms at home and believes in the promotion and encouragement of respect for them in the rest of the world without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
Having thus set out in bare terms the main principles and present-day objectives of Australian foreign policy, I turn now to some current questions. I intend to confine this statement to three matters of immediate concern to Australia - Vietnam, the British withdrawal from Malaysia, and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons - in order that reasonable limits of time may not be exceeded.
The Republic of Vietnam and its allies face today a new and anxious situation, testing to the full our resolution. Violating their pledge to observe a Lunar New Year truce, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces on 30th and 31st January struck at nearly all the major cities and towns of the country and have continued to press military action against the population centres.
Five months ago 1 spoke to the House of the progress being made on all fronts - military, political and economic. The military situation was then moving steadily in our favour and there was a growing sense of assurance and security, lt is, of course, an elementary fact in warfare that if one side reaches the conclusion that the other’s tactics are failing, the same sort of assessment is likely to be gaining currency in the enemy’s capital. It is now known that a basic re-appraisal of policy was made in Hanoi during 1967 and Hanoi concluded that they should drastically change their overall strategy for the conduct of the war.
There were many grounds on which the enemy could feel serious frustration and lack of progress during 1967. Despite increasing expenditure of men and material in military action throughout the countryside they were being held militarily and the proportion of the population under their control was dropping. Threats and harassment, and the issue of a new version of the National Liberation Front’s political programme, had not prevented the successful conduct of local, presidential and National Assembly elections in South Vietnam. Despite efforts of destruction, the Vietnamese economy was beginning to move forward.
In this frustration, the enemy decided to take more risks than they had previously calculated to be acceptable. This is amply attested by evidence from enemy sources. So North Vietnam took the war into the cities in an attempt to recapture momentum, revitalise faith in victory, and reverse the military and political trends against them. The Communists were fighting for great stakes in the Tet offensive. They were prepared to take punishing losses.
The military assaults were designed to produce an overall state of demoralisation and collapse on the part of the Government of South Vietnam, a sense of defeatism and fragmentation in the South Vietnamese armed forces, and a display of popular support for Vietcong forces from the ordinary people in the cities and towns. Many enemy prisoners captured since the offensive opened have revealed that their instructions were to stay on in the towns and to await a ‘general uprising’ against the Government. Many had no withdrawal order - a fact that accounted in part for the huge casualty figures. Many appeals on Communist radio units were made to Government servants and soldiers to change their allegiance. Plans were prepared for the capture of key divisional commanders so that they could be coerced into bringing their troops over to the Vietcong.
In these objectives the enemy failed. In reality, very few officers and men did defect. No units changed sides, but men cut off from their units reported for duty with other units. The Vietnamese armed forces as a whole took the shock of the offensive and, although considerably under strength because of the Tet leave, threw the attackers out of most of the cities and towns. In the surprise and confusion, some ground was initially lost, but recovery was quick, and professional skill and courage were shown.
Captured documents make clear the enemy’s own disappointment at the failure to produce the popular reaction sought. In the cities and towns there were few defections, forced or voluntary, from the Government side or by private civilians. No doubt some of those who did join the Vietcong were sympathisers who had been planted to wait for such developments. In areas temporarily occupied by the Vietcong many Government officials wilh their families were kidnapped and killed as they continued their allegiance to. the South.
Both Houses in the National Assembly expressed their support for the Government during the crisis. Many prominent South Vietnamese leaders, including critics of the
Government, have subsequently ignored the Vietcong threat to their lives and publicly rallied to the support of the Republic. Among these are politicians, religious leaders ‘ and trade union officials. The Government itself has not been shaken. On the contrary, it has been active in mobilising its resources to meet the challenge and to cope with the great material problems that have been created.
One of the first matters to which the Government of South Vietnam has directed its attention has been the need to increase further the size of the Vietnamese armed forces. Among the measures being taken arc the postponement of discharges from the armed services, the recall of former soldiers who served for 5 years or less, the lowering of the conscription age from 20 to 18, and military training for civil servants under the age of 45 and students over the age of 17. These measures are expected to increase the strength of the armed forces by at least 65,000 by the middle of the year.
The human toll resulting from this enemy attack has been heavy both for the attackers and the defenders and for innocent civilians. As a result of the offensive, thousands of Vietnamese have been killed, captured or wounded, hundreds of thousands of others have been rendered homeless and made refugees, food supplies have been strained and essential services taxed.
A special task force was created to tackle the massive problems of food supply, health and sanitation, refugees and communications. Immunisation against disease is being administered, and normal public utilities have been restored. The immediate needs of over 600,000 new refugees and homeless, more than 120,000 of them in the Saigon area alone, are being met. President Thieu announced on 21st March that the recovery programme and the return of security to the cities and towns had already reduced the total to 405,000. Distribution problems are being overcome, prices of basic foodstuffs are beginning to return to pre-Tet levels, and roads are being re-opened.
While effective emergency work is going on, very serious long-term problems have been created by the Tet offensive. Even now, a comprehensive picture of the situation in the countryside is not available. The material and psychological damage to the Revolutionary Development Programme is expected to have been serious, and many Revolutionary Development teams have been diverted from long-term pacification activities to emergency relief work. Recovery of momentum under this programme in which confidence and continuity are essential elements, is receiving urgent attention. The Vietnamese economy has been seriously affected. Before the offensive, encouraging progress was evident in many sectors, but the enemy’s destructive efforts have set this back many months. Much of the industry has been damaged, bank credit tightened and commercial activity reduced. Merely restoring economic activity to its pre-Tet levels is the major priority task for the Government.
The Australian Government has already allocated $A300,000 towards the supply of urgently needed materials such as vaccines, and building materials. Through the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, many Australian voluntary organisations have also made significant contributions. The importance of continued Australian support for longer term programmes has very obviously not diminished. On behalf of the Government I express our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the Australian civil aid personnel in Vietnam who have continued their work through the difficult and dangerous times of the offensive. I might give special mention to the three surgical teams at Bien Hoa, Long Xuyen and Vung Tau, who coped so admirably with the increased physical problems as well as the large influx of victims of the offensive. I should likewise commend the personnel of the Embassy in Saigon, for the steady performance of their duties in conditions of danger and uncertainty.
The military offensive is only one, even if the most conspicuous, aspect of Hanoi’s new strategy. On 29th December 1967, the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister made his declaration that after the United States unconditionally ended the bombing and all other acts of war against North Vietnam, the leaders in Hanoi would talk to the United States. The United States immediately took diplomatic steps to test the bona fides of this declaration. On 14th February, when the results of these soundings had been carefully assessed, the Secretary of State, Mr Rusk, reported that the reaction of the North Vietnamese was entirely negative.
At the same time, the United States has made its own position on the opening of talks abundantly clear. In a speech at San Antonio on 29th September 1967, President Johnson said:
The United States is willing to stop all aerial and naval bombardment of North Vietnam when this will lead promptly to productive’ discussions. We, of course, assume that while discussions proceed North Vietnam would not take advantage of the bombing cessation or limitations.
Then, in testimony to the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate on 26th January 1968, the new Secretary of Defence, Mr Clark Clifford, explained in more detail: 1 do not expect them (the enemy) to stop their military activities . . . their military activity will continue in South Vietnam, 1 assume, until there is a cease fire agreed upon. I assume that they will continue to transport the normal amount of goods, men and munitions to South Vietnam. I assume that we will continue to maintain our forces and support our forces during that period.
Despite this clear public affirmation of a quite remarkably generous United States position, already privately known as well in Hanoi, the North Vietnamese reply was again rejection.
Now what does all this mean? The statement of the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister about readiness to talk was made not long before the Tet offensive and well after the review of strategy calling for an intensification of the war effort. It came when preparations by way of planning, infiltration of personnel, and stockpiling for the offensive must have been virtually complete. It is my view that in the period preceding the offensive Hanoi used its talk of discussion and negotiation for purposes of political and psychological warfare designed to weaken the will of the South Vietnamese and their allies to maintain their resistance and to provide a screen for its preparations to try to force a military solution.
As part of its political warfare Hanoi and the Vietcong now place growing emphasis on a ‘coalition government’ for the South. This emphasis has been designed to improve the National Liberation Front’s appeal both within South Vietnam and internationally. But what is their conception of a coalition government? As it is put in a recently captured document originating with the People’s Revolutionary
Party, the real power is intended to be gained by the National Liberation Front:
In regard to the coalition government our Party will exercise overall control over it . . . the coalition government may include a nonrevolutionary clement as President but he basically must follow the line of action of the Front’s political programme … the real power will bs in our hands and we will follow the Front’s political programme.
We should clearly understand that the coalition that the enemy envisages would be brought into being, not by negotiation and agreement with the present Saigon Government, but only after the present Government and National Assembly had been abolished and the whole State structure remoulded. The coalition would be one between the Front and individuals and new artificial organisations of its own creation. There were attempts during the Tet offensive to build up a picture of such organisations springing into existence. During the offensive the Vietcong’s Liberation Radio referred to the cities producing alliances of national and peace forces with whom the Front would form a government. A coalition of this kind would be a denial of the rights of the South Vietnamese people to choose their own way of life and their own form of government. The experiences of the past 6 weeks also make it clear, if any proof were needed, that this kind of coalition would involve outright sacrifices not only of key political figures but also of civil servants, police, soldiers and other persons or groups who have worked with the present Government. lt is quite clear from the available documentary material that North Vietnam and the Vietcong see talk of negotiations and even the mounting of talks themselves as weapons for helping to win control of the South. The talks would be with the United States, not the Saigon Government. The bombing of the North would stop but not the fighting in the South. Does anyone doubt that the full range of psychological and political effort would be used to portray the United States as seeking a way out and the Saigon Government as discredited? lt is the constant aim of North Vietnam and the Vietcong to drive a wedge between the United States and South Vietnam and to create among the people of South Vietnam a loss of confidence in the United States. They want the people of South Vietnam to lose heart and to see no other prospect than giving way to the Vietcong backed by the full might of Communist North Vietnam. The aim is to paralyse and ‘fragment the present structure of authority in the South and produce a sense of defeatism and hopelessness.
In considering our own approach to talks or negotiations we must surely have regard to this background. The Government, with its allies, is pledged to pursue any avenue which could lead to a secure and just peace. But we shall not reach that point by yielding before military and political offensives and calling for talks when the enemy is clearly bent on the use of force. The sad but inescapable conclusion to which a study of events and the evidence of North Vietnamese documents and pronouncements leads me is that for the’ time being North Vietnam still prefers to seek a military solution. If any ray of hope appears that they would be ready to discuss a peaceful solution the response on the part of ourselves and our Allies would be as ready as it always has been.
I want now to say something about the bombing of targets in North Vietnam and the appeals that are made from various quarters that the bombing should stop. The Australian Government has never seen bombing as a substitute for sustained military, political and economic effort in the South. But we believe that the bombing of targets in the North serves important military objectives. It is important for interdiction and for its cumulative effects. The intensity of the world-wide Communist campaign against bombing is evidence that it is hurting. North Vietnamese forces are fighting in the South. Large quantities of modern arms are passing through North Vietnam to South Vietnam. These include the mortar bombs and rockets which are now being launched on a large scale against the South Vietnamese cities and towns and installations. I ask the Senate: What impression of resolution and determination would the allies give to the embattled, war-torn people of South Vietnam if the controlled and selective bombing of North Vietnam were to be terminated - and at a time when the other side steps up the level of violence against the people of the South?
In my view there is all too much misleading public talk that the Vietnamese are subordinate or secondary in the war in Vietnam. Hanoi’s target is the Government of
South Vietnam and the social, economic and administrative fabric of the country. Its aims are to weaken them through intensified terrorism, military pressure, and harassment of cities and installations, all to bring about a deep sense of insecurity and hopelessness. It seeks, also, economic dislocation and strangulation, and social dislocation through refugee movements. It is this total picture we must keep before us. We cannot judge what is going on only in terms of the daily reports of war drama. Nor can we allow our will to sway and falter with reverses or variations in the course of the fighting. Fluctuating fortunes do not affect the moral and political basis of our commitment.
Nor can we allow our basic thinking to be governed by what we, in our secure and stable national environment, see as weak spots and disappointing performances in South Vietnam. Such things as factionalism, loyalty to family and groups, and even corruption have not been unknown in many countries emerging from war and colonialism. They were far more prevalent when the threat to South Vietnam developed and the allied countries took their basic decisions to come to the aid of South Vietnam than they are today. The first years after the fall of the Diem regime were marked by great confusion and divisions. But the steady trend has been to political stability, national solidarity and a sense of genuine independence. These are the goals that have been set. The North Vietnamese and the Vietcong have been unable to enlist support in the population centres, overthrow the Government, destroy the Administration or cause the collapse of the Armed Forces. The political progress achieved in the last 2 years has not been effaced by the attacks on the towns and the cities.
The Speech by the Governor-General stated the Australian Government’s determination to maintain its support and assistance for the United States and the Government of South Vietnam. We are engaged in close discussion at political, diplomatic and military levels with these Governments concerning our combined efforts for resisting and overcoming the military challenge and for strengthening the social, economic and governmental fabric of South Vietnam. We have a vigorous part to play in assisting with our resources and with our advice.
The aggression against the Republic of Vietnam is contrary to the whole march of human history in the direction of respect for international order, respect for the principles of non-interference in the affairs of other countries, and respect for the principle of territorial integrity. These are the principles in the Charter of the United Nations and these are surely the principles on which any kind of peaceful world community can be built. These are the principles we have to keep before us when we look hopefully for a path towards negotiation.
The second major topic of this speech concerns the further changes in British defence policy and foreign policy in the Far East. I recall to the House what I. said on this subject in my speech of last August and ask honourable members to link what I said then with what I am about to say now.
In January the United Kingdom Government announced decisions it had taken to hasten the withdrawal of its forces cast of Suez. The adjustments we had already made in our own thinking had to be subjected to further adjustments. The assumptions we had made for planning purposes about the run-down of British forces had to be revised still further. There has been close study of the issues by Cabinet, a special visit was paid by me to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in February; a technical mission drawn from the Australian and New Zealand defence and service establishments has been working on the whole range of technical and service problems that arise, and it is expected that at the end of May or early in June a ministerial conference representative of the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia - the so-called five-power meeting - will be held to explore outstanding matters.
As stated in the Governor-General’s Speech at the official opening of Parliament, the Government will take part in these fivepower consultations and will be prepared to discuss the size and role of an Australian contribution to combined defence arrangements which embrace a joint SingaporeMalaysia defence effort. It is not for me to anticipate the kind of discussions that will take place at the five-power conference.
The Government attaches a good deal of importance to these talks and hopes that they will lay the foundation for continuing close association of the five Commonwealth countries. lt is too early to give the results of the work of our special missions and indeed some of the subject matter belongs more properly to my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). Honourable members will recognise that there are a number of particular problems engaging our attention. For example, the large British defence complex in Malaysia and Singapore has hitherto been available to Malaysian and Singapore forces, as well as our own. What facilities will be needed in the future to support the forces that remain in the area? What installations and facilities should be retained, and on what terms? As another example, statements have been made about Britain’s future role. What precisely will it be? In what stages will the withdrawal take place? What provision will be made in the longer term for training, joint exercises in the area and for deployment of forces? I give these simply as examples of some of the matters under examination.
Beyond such particular questions lies the yet unresolved question of what is the best form of co-operation that Australia itself can give in the longer term to her neighbours and allies in order to contribute to our own security by helping to maintain a common security. Our advisers are also working at this problem and it is obvious that the answer we shape for the longerterm problem will also have a bearing on the answer we give to the more immediate problem of ensuring that Malaysia and Singapore are not (eft vulnerable to any prospective threat that may arise during the period of the British run-down, the improvement of their own capacity for self-defence and the working out of the new system of security to replace the old. The decisions on the most effective contribution we can make in the longer term to the security of Malaysia and Singapore cannot of course be taken in isolation from other problems concerning security of the whole region, the varying threats that may have to be faced, co-operation with allies and our own defence capacity. In the defence field, Australia wants to see Malaysia and Singapore working very closely together, partly because this in itself is a contribution to regional security and partly because the effective defence of each is dependent on the co-operation of the other. We welcome the meetings now being held regularly between the Defence Ministers of the two countries and their declaration that the defence of Singapore and the defence of Malaysia are inseparable.
The Australian Government considers that regional security has to be sought through co-operation between the free and independent countries of the region. Our neighbours are showing growing capacity to safeguard the region through their own cooperative efforts and through joint and several constructive endeavour. We welcome the growth of purpose and confidence among our neighbouring countries in respect of these matters and their intentions to do more through mutual effort and regional association. There is now awareness among the countries of the region of one another’s basic security interests and that what each is doing in the security field is important to its neighbour and to the stability of the area as a whole.
For various reasons which it would be diplomatic to leave unstated, I do not think that at this time we can talk realistically of one big defence pact covering all the countries of the region. We can readily envisage, however, a variety of arrangements, some multilateral, some bilateral, some specific and some less clearly defined, all of which will contribute to regional security. They can range from the exchange of security information to actual military co-operation. Regional security can be promoted in a whole variety of ways, including developing economic and diplomatic cooperation and such things as joint technical projects which bring added strength to the participating countries. We are working to make the best use of all such opportunities.
Because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has made statements about a defence pact with Indonesia I should say something about our relations with our nearest neighbour. In my visit to Malaysia and Singapore in February, I also visited Djakarta. I was received by General Soeharto and also had talks with the Foreign Minister, Dr Malik, and some other leading figures in the Foreign Office and armed forces. The purpose of my visit was to inform the
Indonesian Government of the trend of Australian thinking and to exchange views freely on the range of matters of mutual interest. On an earlier occasion in this House, on 26th August last year, I indicated the importance that Australia attached to Indonesia and to our relations with Indonesia, and my visit was part of the process whereby our two countries maintain contact with one another. It was my third visit to Indonesia in the last eighteen months, and Dr Malik, who represented his country last. December at the memorial service for Mr Holt in Melbourne, is planning to visit Australia later next month.
I did not propose any military pact with Indonesia, nor did I advocate any formal military arrangements involving the countries of the region. The Government of Indonesia has made its position known both publicly and in private and we respect that position. Indonesia has said that it will not join military pacts. It has adopted the view that ‘tying itself to any world bloc or becoming involved in military pacts’ would be prejudicial to ‘a free and active foreign policy’. 1 am quoting from the basic resolution on Indonesian foreign policy which was adopted by the highest body, the Consultative Council, in 1966 and reaffirmed on a number of occasions subsequently. That is, I say, a view which we respect, just as we respect other expressions of policies of non-alignment.
At the same time, the Indonesian Government is co-operating in practical ways wilh neighbouring countries for mutual security and has indicated that military cooperation with neighbouring countries can develop. We should recognise that our neighbours, like ourselves, face the dilemma that they want to concentrate their national efforts on economic progress and national development but they are deeply conscious that their goals of security and an independent future can be threatened. They take the view, which is in accord with our own, that economic and social progress in the region is dependent on political stability and on security from the disruptive effects of subversion, insurrection and infiltration. In all our neighbouring countries there are able and dedicated governments who see constructive national development as a major responsibility and who are deeply concerned to bring into balance the requirements of defence and security with the pre sent burdens of economic progress. It is to the interest of Australia to work wilh them and one of the main aims of our diplomatic activity is to build that foundation of trust and friendship and ‘to achieve that close understanding of each other that are essential if we are to find peace and prosperity together.
While we see the need and the value for the future of regional co-operation for security we also have to recognise the reality that the strength of non-regional powers is also needed both to meet regional threats and to maintain global security. At present the guaranteed security provided by the United States of America to a number of Asian States under a range of bilateral treaties and the guaranteed security we and New Zealand enjoy under the ANZUS Pact do more than any other single factor to give a sense of security in the East. Our alliance with the United States of America is the foundation of our own present security and, in one sense, it provides the base from which we ourselves can plan our own contributions to regional security, both as a member of SEATO and through any other opportunities that may be made in the future. Hence our consultation with the United States is also close and constant on broader problems of security as well as on the conduct of the war in Vietnam.
Because of our basic belief in the interaction of global and regional security problems we also value the special entrance we have as a member of the Commonwealth to discussions with the United Kingdom Government. Plainly as we have spoken to the Wilson Government about its policy east of Suez we still respect Britain’s place in the world, the role that Britain still has to play and the importance to mankind today of Anglo-American understanding and co-operation. The Britain that was the bulwark of freedom in two world wars does not change its essential character just because it faces difficulty.
Next week in Wellington at the ministerial meetings of SEATO, and associated talks, I will have again the opportunity of discussion both of regional and world problems with the United States Secretary of State, Mr Dean Rusk, and the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Mr George Thomson, as well as with representatives of neighbouring countries. These discussions with other govern- ments are not isolated exercises but form a careful pattern. It is in the nature of decision-making by the Australian Government on defence and security matters, that careful and lengthy consultations take place with other interested governments. Our external obligations and commitments are not confined to one easily identified strategic situation but involve a variety of possible situations, all of which could be critically important to us. Our obligations and commitments find formal expression in our membership of SEATO and ANZUS, in our association with the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement, and in our declared responsibilities for the defence of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We cannot afford over-commitment in any one direction and we must make a balanced contribution to regional stability and defence.
When we are thinking ahead, whether in terms of the undertakings into which we can enter with other countries or whether in terms of the size and composition of forces for which we must plan, we necessarily take into account the intentions and the thinking of the governments with whom we are working in our various partnerships. The role Australia can play must be related to the role that other countries are able and willing to play. For a country of our size and resources our commitments are considerable, lt is not easy to think of another country of comparable size which is similarly placed. We see our various associations, differently framed as they may be and in some cases with different partners, as complementary and mutually reinforcing.
Australia’s position is well understood by the countries interested in security and stability in the region, both the countries in the region and those participating from outside the region. They accept that. Australia’s military contributions in the various theatres must be carefully measured, shaped, and allocated according to the changing priorities. We have established a record for having a realistic, positive, and responsible attitude to the security problems of the Asian region. One of the most important contributions Australia has to make to the Asian and the Pacific region is Australia’s own strength and stability. In the years ahead it can become a source of assurance to our neighbours that we are here, that we are stable, and that we are following an assured and rational course. We are proceeding strongly with our own development and must continue to do so. The more we develop, the stronger we grow; and consequently the greater will be the contribution we can make and the more will be resources we shall be able to deploy, both for national and regional security.
We have to recognise, of course, that so long as the situation in Vietnam is unresolved the future of South East Asia as a whole is uncertain. Until an eventual settlement in Vietnam is worked out, the overall regional security position is fluid and not finally defined. These considerations are necessarily in the mind of the Government when determining the part Australia can play now and in the developing circumstances in the South East Asian region.
As well as the war in Vietnam and the security of the Malaysia-Singapore area, there are other critical areas, such as Laos and Korea. We are closely interested in the situation in those areas for regional security has to be effective on an extended front and not only in individual places. Moreover, Australian defence and security policies are not merely a response to particular emergencies but have to be forward looking, taking into account not only the present crises but the dangers and opportunities of the future.
The Government has frequently declared that it is in the Asian and Pacific region that the risks to world peace are the greatest. Any military conflict in the modern world carries with it wider risks. With our allies we must remain prepared to use military power in the defence of free and independent countries but we must do so in the awareness that recourse to military force, with the prospects of deepening confrontation of the great powers carries with it the ultimate danger of global nuclear confrontation. Today’s problems are too grave to permit prejudice or dogmatism. They require the greatest clarity of thought, exact analysis and steadiness of purpose to serve our interests.
We also have to be ready to detect and make what we can of the new opportunities of a changing international environment. In this regard, I turn now to a matter of great importance to Australia and to the future of the world - the draft treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee, which has been meeting in Geneva and considering this matter for a long time, finally agreed on 14th March to transmit the text of a draft treaty for consideration by the resumed session of the United Nations General Assembly next month. If the General Assembly approves a text, which may or may not be identical with that discussed in Geneva, the draft treaty will then be open for signature and subsequent ratification.
It is a considerable achievement for a text to have been agreed on by the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately the two other countries with nuclear weapons, France and Communist China, have not shown any sign of being prepared to accept it.
The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union have agreed on a draft resolution for submission to the Security Council, indicating that they will support immediate action by the United Nations in accordance with the procedures of the Security Council to give assistance to any non-nuclear power in the event of attack or the threat of attack by nuclear weapons. What it means in practical terms, and the extent to which it provides protection for non-nuclear nations, will require considerable study. The three nuclear powers who are joining in the Security Council resolution have said that they will make supporting declarations in the Council when the resolution is considered, and I do not want to commit myself further just now or to prejudice developments before explorations and elaborations can be attempted.
The Australian Government has consistently seen the dangers inherent in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in the increase in the number of nations possessing such weapons. We therefore fully share the hope that effective measures will be found to prevent such further spread of nuclear weapons. We also share the hope that this proposed treaty may become such an effective measure.
However, the draft treaty has many implications for Australia and has to be examined very carefully. The broad principles and some particular aspects have of course been under consideration within the Government for a long while. When a text emerged this month from the EighteenNation Disarmament Committee, it became necessary for further special and intensive study on the basis of this text to be undertaken in the Defence Committee and in other parts of the Government so that Australia’s position can be settled by the time the General Assembly meets next month. This discussion is still going on.
I shall refer briefly to some aspects which will indicate to the House why it is necessary to examine the text of the draft treaty very carefully before taking a final and detailed position. As I said, the basic approach of the Australian Government is that we want an effective and equitable treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, provided that it does not endanger our future national security and development, and we therefore want the nations of the world to arrive at a text of an effective treaty which we can support and adhere to.
As its title indicates, the draft treaty is directed primarily to arms and to matters of military security. Australia’s strategic and tactical requirements, now and for the future, are therefore directly involved, and the latest text is being scrutinised by the Government and its advisers in that light. One has to remember that, while restrictions would bc imposed on Australia, they would also be imposed on other countries that became parties to the treaty. It has to be examined whether those restrictions would apply with equal weight and effectiveness on all potential nuclear powers, including particularly those which have already gone some considerable way towards being able to manufacture nuclear weapons of their own and on their own. In an examination of the relevant capacities of different countries, such factors as the availability of means of delivery have to be taken into account, and also whether the economic and financial burden can be borne. The treaty may also have considerable effects on the future development of Australia.
But while the draft treaty covers the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, it also has very important implications for nuclear activity in the non-military field. Some of the controls over nuclear activity for military purposes could apply so as to prevent activity by Australia for non- military purposes because it could also have military applications. For example, would the treaty prevent the development and production in Australia of nuclear fuels and methods of nuclear propulsion which could be of great civil use but which could also bc of military use or a step towards production of nuclear weapons? Would research and development be prevented in certain directions which show great promise for future technological development for civilian uses? Those are some of the matters which are receiving examination and require further consultations with other governments with a view to ascertaining and reaching agreement on interpretations of the treaty or perhaps modifications of the present draft. Some of the consultations will probably have to be pursued with other delegations when the United Nations General Assembly meets hi New York. In brief, what is needed by Australia and countries in a similar position is some assurance that the draft treaty would not freeze for all time the present relative positions of the various countries in respect of their level of technological development in the nuclear field, with all that that would imply for future economic and scientific progress.
Other matters also need attention, such as the impact on Australia of an effective and pervasive inspection system, and the degree to which Australia would be bound by future international decisions under the draft treaty in regard to inspection or other controls. If a number of countries with significant nuclear potential do not adhere to the draft treaty when its terms have been finally settled, then its value and effectiveness would not be great and every other country would have to weigh carefully whether it could afford to come in.
I have said enough to indicate to the House the spirit in which the Australian Government is approaching this important question and the reason why, in Australia’s own interests, a final and detailed position cannot be stated until there has been much further examination. I lay on the table of the House the draft treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, which will be submitted to the resumed session of the United Nations General Assembly next month, and the draft resolution which the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union will propose for adoption by the Security Council.
I present the following paper:
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 27 March 1968- and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
The statement which the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson) has just read should have been incorporated in Hansard because however important it may be, it was in fact read to the House of Representatives yesterday and is available to everybody in the Hansard report of the proceedings of that chamber. It seems unnecessary to repeat the performance here. The Senate will not be sitting for very long. The time of the Senate is precious. I urge that in future when a statement has previously been read in another place - certainly on the preceding day - the sensible course be followed of simply incorporating it in Hansard so that we might get on with our business and debate the statement in due course.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 March (vide page 327), on motion by Senator Laucke:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May rr please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– When the debate was interrupted last night 1 was referring to the tragic death of our former leader, Mr Harold Holt, and to the number of important people who attended his memorial service in Melbourne. Among those present were the Prince of Wales, representing Her Majesty the Queen; the President of the United States of America, Mr Johnson; the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Wilson; and Heads of State and Leaders of Governments of many nations. All came to pay their respects to a great Australian Prime Minister.
Following the death of Mr Holt, Mr Gorton was elected by his party as Prime Minister. This was the first time in Australia’s history that a Senator has been elected to occupy the important office of Prime Minister of Australia. Notwithstanding the remarks made by some honourable senators, Mr Gorton, as he now is, will go down in history as one of the great Prime Ministers of Australia.
– Give him a chance; he has only been there a week.
– 1 am making a forecast. Today we have heard a statement on Vietnam. Some ‘members of the Opposition have suggested that Australia should pull out of Vietnam and this is a feeling that exists among some prominent members of the Opposition. I remind honourable senators opposite that this is a time when the South Vietnamese need help. They are being attacked by the North Vietnamese who are overrunning towns in the adjacent country of Laos. They are forcibly conscripting help from Laos and are bringing Laos into this military situation. For the South Vietnamese the situation is very difficult. The Australian Government, with other governments, is anxious that peace should be restored. But until such time as the North Vietnamese are prepared to come to the conference table it is evident that peace cannot be achieved.
We have heard accusations from honourable senators opposite that the Government has no policy in relation to Malaysia and Singapore for the time when the British Government withdraws its forces from that area. I remind the Senate that the British
Government informed us recently that it intends to pull out of that area much earlier than was originally expected. Instead of phasing the withdrawal of its troops until 1975, it proposes to end the phasing out period in 1971. The Australian Government is very conscious of this situation and believes that the answer to the problem will be found in multilateral and bilateral agreements reached with countries in that area. In this way a continuation of peace can be maintained. The Australian Government wants also to keep in force the SEATO and ANZUS treaties so that both can assist us in this area. It is of vital importance to Australia that these treaties be continued.
Honourable senators opposite would know thai until last year there was a feeling in Australia that Indonesia, one of the countries to our near north, was about to be overrun by the Communists, but this move was forestalled because of an uprising at Djakarta, its capital. That country now has a government which, to say the least, is not very friendly with the Communists, lt is our duty to arrange treaties and to live in peace with the densely populated area directly to our north. Our Government will endeavour to achieve this end. In the Governor-General’s Speech it will be seen that Australia this year is doubling her aid to Indonesia to help that country to overcome some of its economic problems. This answers any criticism that we as a Government are doing nothing about the withdrawal of British forces from Malaysia and Singapore. It is vital to the defence of Australia that Malaysia, Singapore and other countries in this region should be friendly with Australia. I think all honourable senators will agree with this because in this way only can we achieve regional security.
There have been many interesting speeches in this debate and many interesting points have been raised: Several Opposition senators have criticised the Government for not taking specific action on specific matters. They should be reminded that it is important that our nation should have a balanced programme of development. If I may explain what I mean by that remark, as a nation we are at this moment spending in the vicinity of $1,1 00m or $.1. ,200m per year on defence. If our expenditure on defence exceeds this figure a dangerous situation will arise because we will have to curtail development programmes which are being carried on from one end of Australia to the other. 1 mention in passing that we arc now finding large sums for the development of Australian resources and to meet educational needs within this country. If in order to defend ourselves it becomes necessary to find more money for defence then we as a nation will not be able to continue our development at a rale that we have known in the past. A close examination of the gigantic development programmes under way throughout Australia reveals that wc are rapidly becoming one of the world’s greatest industrial powers. I invite honourable senators to consider what was happening in Australia in the 1949-50 era when this Government assumed office. 1 hasten to assure the Opposition that I do not intend to criticise the Labor Party. When we took office most of our requirements in motor vehicles, refrigerators and radios were being imported, but within a decade we had become a manufacturing country, lt is true to say that today we are in a position to manufacture 90% of our motor vehicles, or a percentage which is rapidly approaching that level. Production of these commodities has brought a considerable amount of wealth to Australia.
We have become a highly industrialised nation and we now find that, through the policies of this Government, we have rapidly become a producer of great mineral wealth. Compared wilh any other country our production of minerals is great. How does a government encourage mineral, oil and agricultural development to take place in a country in which prior to its coming to office very little was being done in those fields? Surely it encourages such development, firstly, by encouraging overseas firms to come to the country with the necessary capital to exploit the mineral wealth of the country. The encouragement that this Government gave was to say to overseas firms: ‘If you come to Australia we will give you certain concessions.’ The Senate may remember that the Government brought down special taxation legislation to encourage Australian companies as well as overseas companies registered in Australia to explore for oil and other minerals in Australia. The first concession that, was granted in respect of the search for oil was a drilling subsidy that was given to companies drilling for oil on approved sites. Initially that subsidy was 50% of the total cost of the drilling operation. That encouraged drilling companies to search for oil in Australia. Later the subsidy was extended to seismographic and other activities in relation to the industry. The Government having granted that concession, a large amount of capital came into Australia for the search for oil.
That is quite different from the policies that were adopted by members of the Labor Party. They are Socialists, and as such they say: ‘We will not have capital from overseas coming into Australia to exploit our wealth. We will find oil in Australia ourselves’.
– I do not think that is right.
– The honourable senator says that, he does not think it is right.
– I do not think that is our policy. I know it is not.
– The facts of the matter are that when the Labor Party was in office it decided to find oil in Australia. And what did it do? Did it encourage overseas capital or did it buy a drilling rig of its own? It bought a rig of its own. Did it have that rig in greaseproof paper for 3 years from 1947 to 1950? Did this Government, when it came to office, sell that rig? Did that rig find oil in Australia? The answer to all of those questions is yes, and Senator Ormonde knows that.
The Government having encouraged overseas companies to look for oil in Australia, we now find that by 1971 the companies producing oil will be producing almost 60% of our requirements. Some of those companies are partially owned by Australians. For example, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has a 50% interest in the Barracouta oilfield and the other oilfields on the Gippsland shelf. By 1971 oil will be coming from the Gippsland shelf south of Victoria, Barrow Island in Western Australia and Moonie in Queensland. Oil to meet 60% of our requirements has already been found; it only needs to be exploited.
Only a pessimist would say that by 1974 or 1975 we will not be producing our total requirements. By that time we will require about $300m worth of crude oil per annum. At the moment the figure is a little more than $200m. That production will be achieved. Nol only will we have sufficient oil for our own requirements by that time; we will be exporters of oil. This is a great achievement. I mention these facts only because Australia’s position of being self-sufficient in oil in the fairly near future - as we all agree will be the position - has been brought about largely by the Government’s policy over the last decade or so of encouraging large amounts of overseas capital and Australian capital to continue the search for oil in this country.
I turn now to minerals generally. The activity that has taken place in Australia in this field has been similar to that in the field of oil. The Government changed the taxation legislation to encourage capital to enter the mining industries. It granted a complete taxation concession or write-off to people investing capital by way of application, allotment and call moneys in mining companies operating in Australia. That concession simply means that a person who invests money in a mining company can claim in the year of that investment a taxation deduction to the extent of that investment. Tn some cases the concession would amount to more than 10s in the £1. We believe that this concession has encouraged capital to enter the mining industries of Australia.
What has been the result? We now know that Australia has the largest deposits of bauxite in the world. With recent discoveries of phosphate near Cloncurry in Queensland, of about 18,000 million tons of iron ore and of nickel near Kalgoorlie, Australia is becoming one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral wealth. All of this is the result of the policy of this Government in encouraging capital - call it venture capital if you like - to come to Australia for the search for these important minerals; I have given the Senate a picture of what is happening in the mining industries.
– Some of the deposits were discovered by Australians without any capital.
– That is so. I am not suggesting that they were not. But the development of them requires a considerable amount of capital. The Government having given the taxation concessions 1 have mentioned, the money required has been forthcoming. Honourable senators will remember that in 1949-50 the Government decided to grant a discovery award to people finding uranium. Mr White at Rum Jungle received £50,000 as the first recipient of that award. But that is another story and I will not proceed with it in the limited time available to me.
In dealing with development I turn now to agriculture. The Government has granted taxation concessions to farmers in respect of land clearance and water conservation to encourage them to develop their properties. The result has been that more than 2 million acres is being cleared a year and used for pasture or crops. It is recognised in Australia that the tremendous agricultural development that has taken place is largely due to the initiative of individuals who have been granted concessions by a sympathetic Government. That is the key to agricultural development.
I believe that we have more or less a balanced economy. At present the Government must find annually about $l,100m for defence, a sum greater than the annual expenditure on defence during World War II. In addition to meet defence commitments the Government is proceeding with a programme of national development, as I have mentioned. As the nation is developed it becomes more prosperous and more money is available for education, repatriation benefits and social services. For example, the age pension has been increased in almost every Budget brought down by this Government. I do not have the exact figures at hand but I am sure that 12 months ago not only was the age pension greater per capita than 10 or 15 years ago, but also its purchasing power had increased.
The way to develop a nation is the way that this Government is adopting. As we become more affluent we can spend more money on the needy within Australia. Members of the Labor Party have said that they would do away with the means test and would increase pensions far more than the Government has done. They have said that they would give more social benefits through the national health service. All I say to these critics is that the money must be made before it can be given. The Labor Party would give the money away before it is made. It is one of its catch cries during election campaigns. The Labor Party would give away the world providing the people of Australia would vote first for the Labor Party. But because of the Government’s education policies the Australian people are awake to the promises. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has said: ‘When we come to another election we do not want to make fifty or sixty promises. We want to do what Sir Robert did and just make two promises and stick to them.’ He said that would be a clever move. This is an important matter. As a nation we must develop our resources so that more benefits can be provided for our needy. A Government which gives away as social services more than it has will cause the economy to crash. We have seen what has happened in other countries which have adopted such r dangerous policy.
In the United Kingdom the Labour Government is faced with terrific problems. lt has proceeded with its socialistic policies and has said: ‘We will increase pensions and grant free medicine and free dental treatment. Just vote for us’. The people of the United Kingdom did vote for the Labour Party and now the going is getting tougher and tougher because there is insufficient cake to go around. I will conclude by congratulating Senator Laucke, the mover of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and Senator Lawrie, who seconded the motion.
– I wish to compliment Senator Laucke and Senator Greenwood upon their maiden speeches in the Senate. I was very pleased by the contributions they made, particularly by that of Senator Laucke of South Australia who referred to the burning question of the Chowilla Dam. I will have something to say about that later. Firstly I wish to comment on the speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott). Whenever he refers to the attitude of the Labor Party to overseas investment in Australia he produces the old and futile argument about an oil rig that was brought into Australia in 1948 by the Chifley Government.
– It is a hardy annual.
– That is so. I am sure that the argument makes no impact at all upon the Australian people or the Australian Labor Party. His interpretation of Labor’s policy on overseas investment in Australia is quite incorrect. We are not opposed to overseas investment in Australia. We have made our position quite clear. I suggest that it is much the same as that of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) in another place who has pointed out that Australia does not want to finish with only holes in the ground as a result of development of our mineral resources. That is the point on which we have been most critical about overseas investment. Obviously some overseas capital has been necessary in the past and will be necessary in the future. We have to apply overseas funds and knowhow to the fields in which they are necessary.
Not only the Australian Labor Party has been critical on this matter. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has drawn attention to overseas investment in Australia to take over enterprises which are already running efficiently. I refer to services, the food trades and similar examples. Labor opposes such investment. We appreciate the extent to which overseas knowledge and capital can increase Australia’s wealth and can educate Australians in important techniques about which we may not know enough. The oil industry may be such a case. I have stated broadly our attitude to overseas investment. Our arguments against it have never been properly answered. It is well known today that within the ranks of the Government there are very strong conflicts about the trend of overseas investment. The differing opinions should be ventilated in the Parliament.
I refer to the most recent report on the mining industry issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics to which the Minister for Customs and Excise has just adverted. The part to which I wish to refer appeared, by coincidence, in today’s Press. The report states:
Direct overseas ownership of the Australian mining industry grew from 26.7% in 1963 M 33.7% in 196S, measured by value of production.
These are the most recent figures available and I point out that the investigation covers a period to the end of 1965 - a fairly long time ago. There is no question that if an up to date investigation were made this development would be more noticeable. The report goes on to deal with overseas fuel mining ownership in this way:
This overseas fuel mining ownership concentrated in fewer hands - down from 189 to 170 companies or establishments.
It sets out a definite trend which, as we know, appears in most of our important industrial sectors, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Earlier today I mentioned the threat to Australian industry posed by Japanese electrical organisations. We know the threat that already exists to our motor vehicle industry. We have developed a very efficient and important motor vehicle industry in Australia, some units of which are located in South Australia. The Japanese arc now talking about setting up electrical companies into Australia. The companies will use transistorised equipment wholly manufactured in Japan to make components and appliances which will compete with the products of well established and efficient Australian enterprises now using almost all Australian made parts. Surely the Government does not want, such a situation to arise.
Some time ago 1 raised the question of the capacity of Australian manufacturing industry to supply electronic equipment for our Services. We all know the dependence of our Services upon imported goods. In the old days the Labor Party argued that many mechanical appliances and transport systems for our defence forces should be made in Australia. We mentioned that graders, tractors and low loaders were being purchased overseas although they could have been manufactured in Australia. We are pleased to see that a lol of this equipment is now being produced in Australia. However, in this more technical and sophisticated era of warfare we have become increasingly dependent upon overseas suppliers for the equipment now in use. Admittedly, the Government became so concerned about this that it decided to give encouragement, where necessary by way of subsidy, to companies producing such devices.
If the Australian Government acknowledges the kind of conflicts that now exist in the economy and agrees that we are too dependent on overseas suppliers how can it then argue that we must permit an unrestricted flow of overseas investment into Australia? As the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has said, we will finish up with holes in the ground and desolate towns. The position is becoming well known. I have already mentioned the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Many other organisations and people are conscious of the position and afraid of it. This trend is very strong in the manufacturing indus tries although in the motor vehicle industry most of our plants can now do things as well as, if not better than, overseas plants can do them. We should stop the rot.
I refer now to the Chowilla Dam in South Australia and support Senator Toohey who last night again mentioned the conflict within the Government and outside it about the Chowilla project, lt will be remembered that last year the Labor Party moved an urgency motion about this matter and challenged the right of the Government to suspend the Chowilla project simply because of escalating costs. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is Chairman of the River Murray Commission. When the Government decided to suspend the project the Minister said that it was being deferred for technical reasons, not because the cost had increased from about S30m to $70m. The Government disagreed with us last year when we said it was obvious to us that the project had been stopped because of escalating costs. But now. in 1968, the Minister for National Development agrees that escalating costs is the main reason why the project has been deferred. He also referred to technical reasons.
If honourable senators take the trouble to read the Hansard report of the Minister’s speech when introducing the legislation in 1961 they will see how the Commonwealth Government applauded the concept of the Chowilla Dam. Let me refer to what was said by Senator Spooner, who was then the very capable Minister for National Development, when he presented the report of the River Murray Commission to which Senator Laught, a South Australian, referred recently. The agreements mentioned in the report were not consummated until 1963. On 17th October 1961 Senator Spooner said that there had been a most complete and careful investigation and all the relevant State departments participated. Referring to the River Murray Commission, Senator Spooner had this to say: lt is a unique organisation composed of leading irrigation engineers from South Australia. Victoria and New South Wales with a Commonwealth Minister as president.
He referred to his own occupancy of the chair since 1950 - a record time. When Senator Spooner retired from the Parliament the honourable Mr Fairbairn became the Minister for National Development and, of course, Chairman of the Commission. In view of the confusion that exists as a result of the disparity between the statements that were made in 1961 and the statements that are being made now, one is prompted to ask: Were the people who conducted the investigations specialists or fools? We had the Minister ot the day applauding these engineers and their investigations and today we have the Government telling us that new factors are involved, particularly the escalation of costs. Let me read a statement made by Mr Fairbairn on 23rd October 1963 which is the opposite of what he is saying now. In another place he said:
The Commission tarried out a comprehensive and complex investigation which 1 do not propose to describe here. . . .
The Commission examined possibilities of other storages and a number of ways iti which the water might be shared.
Today the Minister is telling us that an investigation of other storages will be made; in 1963 he said that such an investigation had been made. He went on: lt came to the conclusion that a major storage at Chowilla constructed and operated as a River Murray Commission work was the best solution.
The Commonwealth after considering the Commission’s report convened a meeting of the four Governments. Little difficulty was experienced in obtaining agreement in principle to the provision of a reservoir at Chowilla. . . . The construction of Chowilla reservoir will be a major undertaking which will be of very great importance to millions of Australians in the future.
The Commonwealth Government lakes some pride in the part it has played in attaining a satisfactory agreement with the three Governments concerned.
Both Senator Spooner and Mr Fairbairn, having examined the reports, were very pleased with the project and when the agreements were consumated said that the Commonwealth Government took a great deal of pride in the progress which had been made. But what happened then? Last year the cost escalated. We obtained information that the Commissioner had found that the estimated cost had risen from $28m to a possible $78m. But the Commissioner pointed out that it might be possible to prune the contract price by $10m. In this chamber we argued that this was not an extraordinary position because everybody who looked at main construction jobs would notice that over the years costs had escalated. There had been great advances in ordinary charges, particularly for engineering works. When we raised the matter in the Senate we were told that we were indulging in political stunting.
In October 1967 the Minister said: ft is obviously important at this critical stage in the development of the River Murray that any measure adopted over the next few years should be planned with duc consideration for subsequent development that can be. expected in Iiic foreseeable future.
He applauded and commented upon the very satisfactory experts who had approved the dam site. The Minister now goes into reverse gear. I quote the following statement made by the Minister, as reported in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of last Friday or Saturday:
The Chowilla Dam project was ‘over-designed and uneconomical’, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said in Adelaide yesterday. He said that in his opinion the SA site did nol have the highest priority for the River Murray Commission’s new major water storage area, as sites higher up the river were preferable.
Yesterday, in answering a question in another place, the Minister stated that by 24th April the Commission ought to be able to name the other sites and to put a practical proposition to the meeting of the State Premiers. The Minister has already determined the position; he has made up his own mind, although in 1963 he look an exactly different view. The Minister is also quoted as saying:
We have found there are very much better sites for which you get a cheaper amount of water
These conflicts on the Chowilla project have worried greatly the people of South Australia. We believe that the Government has not used all the influence that it could have used in order to meet the request of the South Australian Premier. It is my intention to put to the Government that there ought to be an immediate special conference of State Premiers involved in the project, along with the representatives of the States oh the River Murray Commission and the technical experts who have made the more recent investigations. We have been told that the old fashioned investigations, which were made in the early days and were the subject of succeeding River Murray Commission reports over the years, can be improved upon by some computer process.
As everybody knows, in the South Australian Parliament last year and during the election campaign there this year, a great deal of controversy centred upon the question of Chowilla. We know that Mr Dunstan asked the Minister for National Development and the then Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to call the meeting to which I have referred. I still say that that is the best way to approach and solve the urgent question of Chowilla. Mr Dunstan was told, as we in this Parliament were told, that he should wait until the investigations had been made. The Prime Minister, in a written reply given to me in this chamber, said that he expected that such information would be available before the end of the year. When the State Premier called for the conference he was not given any facilities at all. The Minister for National Development, who is the Chairman of the River Murray Commission, refused to convene a meeting of people who might discuss the matter and the Premier was obliged to initiate discussions with the other State Premiers concerned. The Premier came to Canberra to meet the Minister. I understand, without any formal invitation, he waited upon the Minister and obtained some answers from the particular officials concerned. Senator Toohey today referred to certain documents and certain issues. We urge the Commonwealth Parliament to approve the project as the leading irrigation engineers have supported it.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I had made the point that in 196! and 1963 Senator Spooner and the present Minister for National Development had argued that the Chowilla project was fully justified and had given the Senate a detailed report of investigations which had been made into technical aspects of the project and into the question of alternative sites. Both Ministers said that in fact the Chowilla Dam was a project which the Commonwealth Government endorsed, that the Commonwealth was proud to support this sort of undertaking and to take part in the arranging of an agreement between the Premiers to bring the project to fruition. Later I proved, by quoting the present Minister for National Development, that he had changed his mind about the project and had decided that there were now good reasons why a reservoir should not be constructed on this site.
When the Labor Opposition first raised the matter in the Senate by way 0t an urgency motion, the Government claimed that cost was not the main reason for deferring the project, but that evaporation and other technical problems were the guiding factors. This was stated in August 1967. But the Minister has since admitted that the increase in estimated cost from $28m to $70m is a prime factor in the decision to have another look at the project. I point out that the experts who made the original investigations were recommended by Senator Spooner, the former Minister for National Development, and by Mr Fairbairn, the present Minister for National Development and Chairman of the River Murray Commission. Both these Ministers claimed that the investigations were reliable, comprehensive and satisfactory and that, because of this, the Chowilla project should go ahead. I repeat that Senator Spooner’s concluding statement was that the Commonwealth Government was proud to be associated with the project.
Now, after all these years, for some strange reason the man who is now the responsible Minister as well as Chairman of the River Murray Commission has changed his mind and decided, even before the River Murray Commission makes its determination on 24th April of this year, that a certain course of events should be followed. Both he and the Prime Minister refused the request made by the Premier of South Australia in August of last year for a conference of the Premiers with the Minister for National Development to discuss reasons why the Chowilla project should be deferred. The reason given for refusing the request was that by the end of the year it might be possible to collate the whole of the technical details which the experts had canvassed and then a decision could be made as to what could be done.
I emphasise that all the investigations were carried out by experts in the field. Mr Dridan who was then the South Australian representative, is an acknowledged irrigation expert. He has discussed water supply and irrigation problems at various international gatherings. He has been replaced by Mr Beaney, an equally competent officer of the South Australian Government. Mr Beaney disagrees with the present Minister for National Development. He says that no case can be made for a substitute site. In fact, he believes that a substitute site would probably be more unsatisfactory and would not lead to the results claimed by the Minister.
Without any firm resolution by any committee whatsoever, the Minister has said that a dam on a site higher up on the Murray would be more satisfactory and cheaper. I put it to the Senate that there are no grounds whatever for this assertion, but there are very firm grounds for saying that what has been recommended by experts in the field should be carried out. I have quoted what Senator Spooner said in 1961. I have reminded the Senate that in 1963 the present Minister said that the Chowilla project was a positive, firm and prudent undertaking. Further, anyone who takes the trouble to read the annual reports of the River Murray Commission will discover that it was completely satisfied, after considering the investigations that had been made, that the project should be undertaken. On no occasion in all the years since then has any Minister of this Government, either in the Senate or in another place, questioned the findings of the experts. To me, this confirms our view that the project is a sound one and that the real reason why it is now being deferred is cost.
When wo of the Opposition canvassed this matter in the Senate by way of urgency motion last year, we were accused of political stunting. Senator Henty, who was then the responsible Minister, said that no case could be made for proceeding with the project then. He argued that we must wait until all the facts and figures were available. I suggest that now that we have the present Minister’s admission of a greatly escalated cost we can be sure that this is the real reason why the Government has gone cold on the project
In view of all this background, what could have been done? I suggest that in August of last year the Government could have convened a conference of the Premiers. The Minister for National Development could easily have said to Mr Dunstan: ‘Yes, we will have the meeting you want. In addition, we will have the specialists from the River Murray Commission and we will see what is to be done with the project. Instead, we have watted all this time for a decision to be made. It is true that the cost has risen from $28m to $70m, although this could be pruned by $10 according to a representative of the Commission. But immediately before the Senate election last year the Minister announced that special provision would be made for dam projects in two other States. What surprised everybody, including the senators from Queensland and Western Australia was the announcement that $48m would be provided to complete the Ord Dam and that $20m would be made available by way of non-repayable grant to Queensland for the Emerald dam.
– It was not given to Western Australia.
– Part of it was given to Western Australia. Provision was made for S48m to be made available to Western Australia. Of that sum, $21m was to be provided by way of non-repayable grant for the completion of the Ord dam. At the same time as South Australia was asking for the completion of a project which had been approved and applauded by this Government, the Commonwealth Government was giving Western Australia S21m for the completion of the Ord dam and a further $27m for certain irrigation works. More recently still, it granted Western Australia a 10 years breathing space to meet its obligations with respect to the loan of $27. 5m. I emphasise here that these projects had never been canvassed in the Senate. They had never been the subject of representations by senators from Western Australia and Queensland.
– Yes, they had.
– No. I put it to the honourable senator these projects had never been canvassed by way of urgency motions whereas the Labor Opposition in the Senate had canvassed the need to complete the Chowilla Dam. That motion had the support of at least one Liberal senator. While we urgently asked without success that something be done about the Chowilla Dam, Queensland and Western Australia received this favourable treatment without making any request for it. In relation to Queensland and Western Australia the Government decided to make these amounts of money available but in relation to South Australia it decided that the Chowilla project should be put on the stocks.
– Queensland had been after help for that purpose for years.
– That might be so. I am not complaining about the grants to Queensland or Western Australia. What I am putting to the Senate is that the South Australian project was decided upon in 1961 by a very competent Commonwealth Minister, Senator Sir William Spooner. 1 am an Opposition senator but I know that he was dedicated to the aims of national development. In the Senate he said that he applauded the Chowilla project. In 1963 he told the Senate: ‘lt has all been signed and we as a Government are proud to be associated with the project’. In the other place the new Minister for National Development, who is chairman of the Commission, said the same thing. He said also that Mr Dridan and the experts in the other States were the foremost in Australia and they had recommended the Chowilla project. But all of a sudden the cost rose from $28m to S70m. Everybody went into reverse gear and found technical reasons, such as salinity and evaporation rate, why the Chowilla project should be stopped; and it was stopped. When we said that the reason for stopping the project was the rise in cost the Government said that it was not and that the reasons were technical. However, in August last year when we proposed a motion on the matter the Minister representing the Minister for National Development in this place agreed that the question was one of cost. 1 put it to the Senate that the Chowilla Dam is still a project which the South Australian Government and the South Australian Opposition want. We want, to know why the Minister has changed his mind. When 1 commenced my address I suggested that an urgent meeting of the State Premiers involved, with the Commonwealth Minister as chairman, should be called, as requested by the South Australian Parliament, and Premier Dunstan, if necessary this meeting should co-opt the services of specialists. It could consult the irrigation experts referred to by Sir William Spooner and Mr Fairbairn. This is the way in which the project should proceed. It is an urgent matter which concerns South Australia particularly but which concerns also the other two States. 1 put it to the Government that what ought to be done now is not to wait until, possibly, some report is made on 24th April. The Minister should say: ‘We agree to what Premier Dunstan asked in August last year. We shall convene a special conference and co-opt the specialists to make sure that the project can be tested in a proper way.’ That is what we seek at the present time.
I am quite sure that this proposition is supported basically by most of the Government senators from South Australia. Not all of them have spoken about it. I know that some of them, as I mentioned earlier, regard the matter as urgent. When the Labor Opposition has talked about the needs of South Australia it has been said that we were politically stunting. When we first talked about Chowilla it was said that we were stunting but since that time it has become obvious that the requests we made were reasonable. These have been supported since by Government senators including Senators Laucke, Laught and Mattner. We have also argued in the past that the amount of Commonwealth works performed in South Australia ought to be greater. When we complained about this it was said that we were politically stunting. Let me refer to something that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), as reported in the ‘Advertiser’, said in Adelaide which seems to support what the Labor Opposition in this chamber has argued for a long time, that: is, that South Australia has been forgotten, that we have been the Cinderella State and that we ought to be favourably considered in respect not only of Chowilla but. also of Commonwealth works. Senator Wright is reported to have said:
With the important exception of the Reserve Bank, the relative proportion of Commonwealth works built in Adelaide has not been encouraging.
The Minister himself may explain this. He is well able to do it. To me it conveys that in his opinion the extent of Commonwealth works undertaken in Adelaide over recent years has not been as great as it might have been. We want to see Adelaide and South Australia getting their share of works, irrespective of whether a Labor Government or a Liberal Government is in office in the State.
– I have pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I, too, would like to tender congratulations to the mover of the motion, Senator Laucke, and also to Senator Greenwood on his maiden speech. It is quite obvious that these two newcomers to the Senate will add considerable strength and will be acquisitions to the Government forces in this place. I propose to devote my remarks tonight to the drought, to a reply to criticisms that have been made regarding repatriation facilities in Townsville, and to Vietnam. 1 am quite sure that all of us were pleased today to hear the statement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) on the relief measures upon which the Government has decided to assist people suffering as a result of drought in New South Wales and Victoria. I shall not have an opportunity to go into detail regarding those measures. It is sufficient to give some indication of their importance for mc to say that, an amount of S19m will be provided by the Commonwealth to assist the States this year. Since 1965 special revenue assistance to the States for this purpose has amounted to nearly $25m. By the end of the current financial year reimbursement of State expenditure will have involved the Commonwealth in an additional amount of about $59m. This is certainly assistance on a scale that would have been undreamt of a few years ago, even. if it had been needed.
I want to make reference to the allegation that New South Wales primary producers have not reciprocated the assistance given to them by Victorian growers when large portions of New South Wales - mostly different areas from those which are suffering now - were suffering very badly from drought. At that time, of course, Victoria had noi been affected by drought and Victorian primary producers were able to give very generous assistance in the form of gifts of fodder and the like to New South Wales. I was very surprised a few nights ago to hear the very ill-informed criticism that New South Wales had not reciprocated. The railway authorities have informed me that approximately 2,000 truck loads of fodder for this purpose have been sent to Victoria. So much for this ill-informed criticism.
Criticism was voiced by Senator Keeffe of repatriation services in the city of Townsville. Briefly, the criticism was to the effect that the Repatriation Department should have a permanent officer in that city.
– A regional officer.
– A regional officer; he would be a permanent officer. Senator Keeffe made this criticism on 13th March. He suggested that correspondence from me on the matter showed a lack of regard for the needs of ex-servicemen in the area. He said that on one occasion an officer who visited Townsville at regular intervals did not see one-third of the cases that he had to see. I asked for the facts regarding this position and they are as follows: There is not a case for the stationing of a full time officer at Townsville. Present arrangements provide for a visit to Townsville by a repatriation officer every 2 months, that is to say, six limes each year, and these visits provide the occasion for ex-servicemen who wish to have a personal interview to obtain details as to their rights from the visiting officer, who also provides assistance in completing claims and in other ways. If a particular inquiry cannot be dealt with on the spot the officer sees to it that on his return to the branch office at Brisbane appropriate advice is sent to the inquirer. It. is of interest to note that whereas 2 years ago the average number of interviews conducted was between 50 and 65, the number conducted on the last four occasions in 1967 was 25, 41, 58 and 44 respectively. Those interviews compare with 29 interviews and an unrecorded number of telephone discussions during the February visit this year, which is the visit about which Senator Keeffe has complained. Having had his interviewing time substantially reduced because of travel problems brought about by flooding at Ayr, from where he went to Townsville, and at Townsville itself, the repatriation officer dealt effectively with a substantial number of inquiries. On the day he arrived in Townsville the officer interviewed throughout the afternoon and into the evening until he had dealt with all people presenting themselves for interview. After closing the day’s business the officer discovered that there was one person who had not made his presence known earlier. Despite an offer of on the spot advice from the officer, that person elected to see the officer on the following morning. On that second day there were further difficulties because of the floods and the officer was obliged to confine his activities to answering telephone inquiries.
Senator Keeffe expressed concern at the character of correspondence about this matter, although he quoted only selectively from it. That correspondence, both with him and with Mr Harding, the former honourable member for Herbert, shows a proper concern for both the needs of ex-servicemen and administrative efficiency. 1 am prepared to make the correspondence available if anybody would like to see it.
To summarise, the case for a full time repatriation officer to be stationed at Townsville is not enhanced by the unusual difficulties associated with flooding on a particular occasion, and we are not suggesting that flooding occurs frequently. Moreover, the initiative and concern shown by the repatriation officer for clients on that occasion are certainly not matters for censure, nor do they suggest any lack of interest by the Department. The correspondence to which Senator Keeffe has referred, far from showing a lack of concern, in fact shows that both the Department and I are anxious to ensure adequate services for exservicemen in the Townsville area, lt may be of interest to honourable senators to know that the next visit to Townsville has been arranged for the week commencing 8th April, when the officer will be available for 2 full days.
I turn now to a discussion of the war in Vietnam. If I have heard Senator Fitzgerald say it once I have heard him say a dozen times that this is an unwinnable war. I think he is echoing the statement of Mr Calwell, who was the first to make it.
– lt is a filthy, dirty, unwinnable war.
– I thought I dealt with Senator O’Byrne a night or two ago. Certainly the war in Vietnam presents great difficulties for the United States, Australia and their allies but. statements such as the one to which I have just referred - that it is an unwinnable war - are very discouraging to the people who, in the interests of Australia, are trying to bring about an early determination of the war.
– It can be done by talking.
– If we had in Vietnam geniuses such as Senator Poyser, the war would never be won. Surely the time has arrived when the men in Vietnam who are fighting our battles should be given some encouragement by members of this Parliament. But I am sorry to say that they are not given any encouragement whatever by certain members of the Opposition. 1 would like to see a change of attitude on the part of members of the Opposition. Senator Keeffe referred in his speech to a newspaper photograph depicting a South Vietnamese general holding a revolver to the head of a Vietcong or alleged Vietcong. The honourable senator claimed that 1 had attempted to evade a question about this incident. I will deal with that claim later.
On Tuesday of last week, as 1 told the Senate last Wednesday, I saw three Australian soldiers who had returned from Vietnam. As I told the Senate, those fellows commented on newspaper reports that were reaching them in Vietnam. They told me how discouraging some Australian newspaper reports were. I heard the same thing during my two visits to Vietnam. Yesterday I again saw at the airport in Sydney three soldiers who had returned from Vietnam. One was a captain. They told me exactly what I had been told by the other soldiers last week, namely that the newspaper articles which they read are very discouraging.
– Bring them back and it will not happen.
– This is the theme song of the Labor Party. I support wholeheartedly the complaints of these boys, lt is deplorable that every Australian is not solidly behind our troops in Vietnam. Notwithstanding one’s views on whether they should be there, the fact is that they are there and they are offering their lives in defence of this country.
– They are not.
– They are, and this is why the Labor Party should support them rather than criticise them. All that honourable senators opposite are doing is giving assistance to the Vietcong.
– All you are doing is killing women and children.
– -The Opposition is assisting the Vietcong. This is what it is doing by adopting its present attitude of criticising the activities of Australian soldiers in Vietnam. For heaven’s sake wake up. I exhort all members of the Opposition to get behind our men in Vietnam. I ask those members of the
Opposition who fought in the First World War or the Second World War to cast their minds back and think how they would have felt if criticisms of the kind reaching our troops in Vietnam today had reached Australian forces during those two world wars.
I want to give the Senate yet another example of the kind of newspaper report that is getting under the skin of our fighting men. I refer to an article of a more responsible nature which appeared in ‘Time’ magazine of 1st March. It read:
The American. Press is contributing to the confusion and frustration now damaging the nation’s spirit’.
Just as the Opposition is doing here. The article continued:
The charge comes not from a partisan politician or a bitter New Radical, but from a usually liberal journalist disillusioned with his profession. Columnist and ABC-TV Commentator Howard K.. Smith last week gave up his two-year-old column because in past years ‘1 had the exhilarating feeling of being a tiny part in a great age of journalism. 1 miss that feeling now.’
The article is too long to read in full, but I will quote some extracts. The article read:
The President, says Smith, has to make judgments on facts that may be only partially known. Yet we tend to call it calculated deception if he docs not instantly provide conclusive facts and admit failure. If he does not keep a frozen consistency, he is held to be lying. No government ever has been run that way and none ever will.’
Vietnam coverage, writes Smith, is full of onesided journalism, such as the widely printed photo of the South Vietnamese police chief’s execution of a Vietcong. ‘Not even a perfunctory acknowledgement was made of the fact that such executions, en masse, are the Vietcong way of war.’
We never hear anything about these things from the Opposition. The article continues:
Smith reports that his own son Jack, left for dead by the Communists in the battle of la Drang, witnessed the execution by the enemy of a dozen US soldiers who were in uniform.
They were not spies; they were soldiers in uniform. What did Smith do? He decided to report the facts to the British commentator named Levin. Levin was looked upon as a bitter critic on more than one subject. Levin said:
The Opposition would leave it to its fate - then what will follow, as surely as Austria followed the Rhineland, and Czechoslovakia followed Aus tria, and Poland followed Czechoslovakia and 6 years of world war followed Poland, is a nuclear confrontation on a global scale between the forces at present engaged in one tiny corner of the globe.’
When he wrote this article, he said, he sat back and braced himself for a flood of criticism. However, he received more mail on the column than on anything else he had written in his 11 years in journalism and he found the 450 letters he received running 3 to 1 in support of his position.
– All the Nazis wrote to him.
– The honourable senator would probably be a judge of that. The article continues:
Last week he mused over the reaction in a column for the ‘International Herald Tribune’. ‘We can now firmly discount the myth that practically nobody in Britain understands and supports the American stand over Vietnam,’ he wrote.
Most of his Press colleagues still disagree with Levin. ‘Evening News’ columnist Kenneth Allsop suggested that ‘this fire-eating warrior’ of the Press ought to volunteer for a suicide squad and parachute into Vietnam.’ But one barometer of popular opinion, the ‘Daily Mirror’, which heretofore had had almost nothing kind to say about the US in Vietnam, last week paid tribute in a frontpage editorial to the courage of US troops.
I think that those honourable senators opposite who are so vociferous in their criticism of the United States and our own Australian troops should get food for thought from that statement.
– That is an awful exaggeration.
– lt is an exaggeration when it docs not suit the Opposition, but it is not an exaggeration when it does suit the Opposition. From what I saw of our troops and not only from what I saw but also from the information I had about American troops I am able to say that they are very brave fighters. The United States troops that I saw were jolly good examples of young American manhood. They are not in Vietnam because they like fighting a war, any more than we want our men to be there. We all hate war.
– They have no right to be there.
– That is all right.
– The Minister hates war so much that he will fight to the last drop of somebody else’s blood.
– All this criticism which is coming from the Opposition is part of a pattern that we have seen over the years. How long is it since we had a debate in this chamber and in another place about the establishment of the North West Cape Naval Communications Station? What happened then? It has been demonstrated over and over again that this signal centre at North West Cape is an important link in the defence of Australia. Honourable senators opposite were either too blind or they refused to see the importance of it and they opposed it.
– lt was only a communications station.
– I have charged the Opposition many times with placing obstacles in the path of the defence of this country. Honourable senators opposite are now placing another obstacle in the way of our defence effort by criticising the men who are fighting for Australia. I suggest once again that instead of uttering all these criticisms and voicing complaints over every furphy that they hear concerning brutalities committed by Americans they should be encouraging our forces. Senator O’Byrne spoke about civilians being killed. Civilians have been killed in every war. This is what makes war so horrible. Civilians have been killed and we all regret it, but this has always happened in war and it always will happen.
– Does the Minister approve of it?
– That is all right. I suggest that instead of criticising, for once the Opposition should get behind our fellows and give them the encouragement that they need. I should like to refer now to rest and recreation leave, a system which has been operating so successfully in New South Wales and in that area of Queensland known as the Gold Coast. Honourable senators who have not had an opportunity to see the scheme operating probably do not know as much about it as those who have seen it. So far the scheme has worked without a hitch. These men on leave - I refer particularly to the Americans because they are coming here in fairly large numbers - are a credit to their country and are good ambassadors for their country. They leave Australia with a feeling of goodwill. Many have expressed the desire to return and, if possible, to live in Australia. Many of those on leave go out into country areas. I suppose that most of these lads would be from country areas in America, although I cannot say that this is so. I believe that one of the reasons for the success of the scheme has been the fact that they are put into civilian clothes as soon as they arrive in Australia. This has prevented them from being exploited as might otherwise have happened.
This scheme has worked well also for Australians who have come home under this scheme. One of three servicemen whom I saw yesterday was on R and R leave. I feel that the Government should be commended on bringing this scheme about. On some occasions we have heard criticism of the operation of the scheme. We have been asked why more of our men are not given this leave. The Americans provide the transport, for this scheme and some transport facilities are allotted to Australians. However, if transport is not available for the number entitled to leave it becomes necessary to ballot for the available seats. By and large no man will receive R and R leave unless he has been in Vietnam for 6 months or longer. Further, if he is due to return to Australia within a couple of months he does not get R and R leave to Australia. Nevertheless, the scheme has worked out very well.
As I have a few more moments left f. should like to say something as a complete outsider, if I may use that term, on the very vexed question of the Chowilla Dam in South Australia. This matter was raised by Senator Bishop. It has been made very clear to all honourable senators that the reason for the delay in going on with the work on this dam has been the very grave doubts expressed regarding the salinity of the water should the dam be finished. Surely to goodness we will not be doing a service to South Australia or to anybody who will want to use the waters of the dam if, when the dam is completed, the water is unusable. Surely it is far better to halt the progress of the dam, important and urgent as the need is for additional water. Surely if this project were being carried out by any one of us as a private individual we would ensure that we were not proceeding with a project which would be of doubtful value when completed. The wise thing is to see whether the fears which have been expressed about the salinity of water in the dam should it be completed can be dispelled before its completion. I believe that an alternative site which allows for the storage of deeper water, thereby preventing the possibility of salinity, is a commendable suggestion. I realise that it is all very well for one who is not living in South Australia to preach patience to those living in that State who are anxious to see water stored. Nevertheless, I think the course adopted is the wise one and I commend this thought to honourable senators. I do not propose to say more on the subject. I hope that what I have said about our men in Vietnam will be taken to heart. I hope that we shall see a cessation among honourable senators opposite of the criticism of Australian troops and I hope that in future we will see from the Opposition the encouragement that these fellows deserve.
– In rising to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I express, first of all, my very great regret at the death of the former Prime Minister who was a personal friend of mine and with whom I had a good deal in common over the years that he and f were in this Parliament. Secondly. I congratulate the mover and seconder of. this motion. Senator Laucke and Senator Lawrie respectively. I trust that their time in the Senate will be as happy as mine has been. lt is appropriate that 1 should support this motion tonight because 25 years ago I had the very great privilege and honour of moving the motion for the adoption for the Address-in-Reply. That was at a time when the affairs of this nation were on a very different plane from that on which they are at present. We were in the depths of a great worldwide conflict. More than a million of our men and women were in uniform. The whole of our civilian effort was geared to the production of armaments, goods for our armed Services and food for members of our own and other Allied Services. All the resources of this nation, whether on the home front or overseas, were geared to the one objective - the successful prosecution of the war until a fair and lasting peace was won. There was a great urge not only that the war should be won but also that the peace that was to follow it should be won so that, the people who had offered their lives for their country would return to a land that was much better than the one they had left and much more worthy of the sacrifice they had been prepared to make for it.
Let me say in passing that I have served in this Parliament under six Prime Ministers and seven Governors-General. Until [ entered the Senate the Labour Government did not have a majority in either House of the Parliament. I have newspaper articles to prove that at that time I was regarded as the Labour Government’s slender majority. Quite a lot of the legislation that was envisaged in the Governor-General’s Speech of that day has now become reality. Looking back over the years, I realise that I have been very privileged. I am very grateful for the privileges and honours that have been bestowed upon me as a result of being Australia’s first woman senator. From the day I first came to this Parliament I have received the utmost respect and the utmost co-operation from all members of this chamber and another place and from everyone who has anything whatever to do with the Parliament. I owe them all a great debt of gratitude for the help that they have been to me over the years. 1 am not unmindful of the fact that anything that I have been able to do during my time here has been due in great measure to the wonderful co-operation that I have received from all members of all political parties and every member of the staff of this Parliament.
Of course, 1. am very sorry that my time as a senator is coming to an end. But at least T have the satisfaction of knowing that many of the things for which T have fought and striven over the years have become accomplished facts. Looking at the speech that I made in 1943, I see that the things for which had worked during all the years before f entered the Parliament - such as achieving government responsibility for, and building up a public consciousness of the need for, adequate social services, Commonwealth assistance in education, recognition of the rights of ex-service men and women and recognition of the position of deserted wives, civilian widows and war widows - are now accomplished.
The day before I was sworn in as a senator I was elected to the Joint Committee on Social Security. T believe it is something to be able to say that every recommendation made by that Committee is now law.
That is an accomplishment, lt is not my accomplishment; it is the result of the work of the Committee on which I had the honour and privilege to serve. At that time very few social services were on the statute book. 1 am very pleased to see the complete revolution in the thinking of members of the present Government parties on the matter of social services. In the mid 1940s we had to fight every inch of the way to have some of our proposed reforms accepted by this Parliament. This Government has taken up from where we left off and has added to many of the social services in such a way that it receives our approval and our gratitude. But at the time of which 1 am speaking there were very few social services.
One of the appeals that I made in my first speech in this chamber was for adequate remuneration for widows with children and recognition of their right, if they wished, to go to work so that they could bring up their children decently instead of the children being regarded as second class citizens and having to be content with other people’s cast off clothes. Nothing is worse than for a child to feel that it is inadequate in such respects; that it is inferior to its fellows because of a lack of money in the home.
During (he years that I have been in this place 1 have seen the great battle that has been fought in this country against tuberculosis. In the first speech that I made in this chamber I vowed that I would do my utmost in the fight against this disease because I had seen so many of the children whom 1 had taught during the depression years wasting out the last years of their lives in sanitoria for sufferers from tuberculosis, which at that time was regarded as the great white death. Being taken to a tuberculosis sanitorium was regarded as taking one’s first step to the grave. Many of the young men and women who languished in tuberculosis sanitoria at that time were children for whose fathers no work could be found during the depression years and who had been reared in makeshift camps along the river banks or elsewhere, without adequate food, accommodation or clothing.
Today, thanks to the measures which were introduced initially by Senator McKenna when he was Minister for Health and subsequently by Dr Page after the change of government, the worst features of this disease have been practically eliminated and people who are unfortunate enough to be victims of it no longer have to suffer the fear of economic misery while they are recovering from it. Those measures were taken as a direct result of the work of the Joint Committee on Social Security. I am pleased to see in this year’s GovernorGeneral’s Speech that there is some talk of setting up a committee on practically the same lines as those on which the Joint Committee worked in the mid 1940s.
I refer now to the matter of mental health. In 1945 I drew up a report on the attitude of the community to mental health. I. said that people should regard mental illhealth as an illness and not as a crime, as it was then regarded. Patients in mental hospitals were treated much worse than the prisoners in our gaols. At that time there was a need for a new look at and a new approach to the whole problem of mental health. Fortunately the attitude that I suggested is the one that is being adopted by the community as a whole today. I have referred to a couple of matters with which I am quite familiar and which, I am happy to say, are now part and parcel of the community’s attitude.
Another matter was hospital benefits. For many years it irked me as a citizen of Western Australia to see on walking down the main street of Perth on the wall of the public hospital a big notice which stated: ‘For the indigent sick’. For the benefit of people who did not know the meaning of ‘indigent’, a smaller notice underneath stated: ‘For the sick poor’. The notice has now gone -because we were able to bring down in Parliament legislation for a medical and pharmaceutical benefits scheme and a free hospitalisation scheme. I do not think any government would want to revert to the old order. Two sections of the community had the right to the best attention that medical science could offer. The very poor received it as charity in the public hospitals. The very rich could afford to pay for it out of their wealth. The vast majority of the middle class group in the community were left in a very sorry position if faced with a long illness. Now on the statute book of this country are various schemes to help people who are sick or unemployed. 1 have very vivid recollections of the days of the depression when many men were unemployed. They were regarded as being worth one shilling a day or seven shillings a week because they could not find jobs although they were willing to work. There was great misery in the community because of the lack of economic security. So we brought down in Parliament legislation to authorise payment of an unemployment benefit. I remember quite well that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate at that time, who sat in the place I now occupy, said that the payment of an unemployment benefit would encourage idleness among the workers. As if any man who was able to get a job and keep his family in a standard of comfort would be content to keep his wife and children on a shilling a day. Although it was stated at the time that with a change of government such legislation would be repealed, that fortunately did not happen and the unemployment benefit is still payable. It is not intended to take the place of real wages but only to guarantee that never again will there be such abject misery and poverty in unfortunate times of unemployment.
The years from 1943 to 1946 were the golden years for social services in this country, even though at that time Australia was engaged in total war. It shows what can be done if the will to dp it is there. Only the other day I asked a question in the Senate which many people thought was facetious. I asked whether Australia is at war. I. asked the question for this reason: Only two groups of people are directly affected by the war in Vietnam in which some of our lads are engaged at present. First and foremost are the young men who are called upon to serve in Vietnam. They know that Australia is at war. There are also the people for whom last year the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was unable to find any money to increase their social service payments, because of our war commitments. So the two elements in the community who are least able to bear the weight and responsibility of the war are forced to carry that responsibility. That is where the present situation differs from that of World War II, which was raging when I entered the Senate. At that time everybody had to bear a portion of the responsibility and to pay in some way for the war in which we were engaged.
Quite recently I was visited by a young lad who had been called up for national service training. He did very well and became an officer. His conscience was troubling him because other lads were sent to Vietnam while he was not. At the conclusion of his period of national service he volunteered to join the Army and to go to Vietnam. He was accepted into the Army but was not told specifically that he would be sent to Vietnam. He then went to interview his employers at the Commonwealth Bank to ask whether his job would be open to him at the end of his 2 years service. He was told: ‘No, you will have to resign. You have taken another job. There is no war on.’ That happened only a few weeks ago and that is what prompted me to ask in this chamber whether Australia is at war. Although as a national serviceman the young man of whom I speak had his job kept open for him, once his national service training ended and he joined the Army voluntarily there was no guarantee of his job being there for him on his return. I think the Government should ensure that volunteers for the Services - particularly employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentalities - regain their positions after the war is over, if they are fortunate enough to come out of it unscathed.
There is the greatest difference in the world between the war in which this nation was engaged at the time I entered the Senate and the war in which we are engaged today. I do not think there is a person in the community whose heart and soul are not with our lads in Vietnam. Any criticism that members of the Opposition offer is not against those boys fighting in Vietnam. It is criticism of the powers-that-be who have involved them in this dilemma and have sent them to take part as conscripts in the war in Vietnam. As long as our boys are there we will use every endeavour to see that they are supplied with equipment and that their morale is kept as high as possible. I do not agree with their being there and I regret that so many people in the community have been made to realise only loo sadly that Australia is at war, or .-t least that some Australians are at war.
I turn now to other happenings over the past 25 years. Another great milestone in the history of this Parliament was the setting up of the Australian National University. One thing I shall miss very much when I leave here is the work I have been able to do as a member of the Council of the Australian National University, a position I have held since 1951. In 1947 the idea of a national university was born in this Parliament. One Opposition senator of that time referred to the Australian National University as being a mere collection of wooden huts in a paddock. It has grown a great deal since that time and has established a world wide reputation for scholarship and learning. Many research workers who are universally acknowledged as leaders and specialists in their fields are on the staff of the ANU. Since World War II the Commonwealth Government has taken an interest in education, a development I advocated in my first speech in the Senate. However we have not yet done as much in that field as I would like to see done.
The Commonwealth Government has been a little too prone to interest itself only it. the scientific aspects of education. Over the years we have given workers in industry and elsewhere more leisure but we have not yet educated them appropriately to deal with the problems of leisure. We have not appreciated fully that this is just as important a phase of education as is its scientific side. I am pleased that now, after I have raised this matter many times, the Government is to grant subsidies for school libraries. But I would like to see more done to finance education for leisure. I am afraid that in the past few years the moral standards of some of our young people have deteriorated because they have not been sufficiently well educated to take the best advantage of leisure. Unfortunately, a small minority of people can attract a great deal of notoriety and can perhaps bring about a great deal of unearned contempt for the majority of young people who are good and decent citizens.
Day after day the Press carries reports of packs of young hoodlums who have raped young women and have committed other crimes of violence which were practically unknown in the community a few years ago. There must be a reason why such crimes are occurring in regular outbursts in all our capital cities. A great deal of responsibility rests not only on parents but on the types of education that are being given to the children in the community.
They are not being given a sufficiently high standard of moral values and are not being educated better to deal with their leisure time than to hunt in packs.
Another matter 1 have mentioned previously in the Senate and which I regard as a problem to which we should turn our minds is the increase in prostitution, social diseases and so on that occurred during the war. We were told then that those things were only the result of the war. The war was blamed for all sorts of things. Unfortunately there has been a resurgence of those evils and we must search our consciences to find the cause. If this is happening now, what will happen to the community in the future? We cannot just close our eyes to these things because they are not pleasant to think upon. If we in this place had only pleasant things to think about there would not be much point in our being here.
I hope that the new Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will pay some regard to the necessity for the adequate moral education of our young people. 1 hope that his Department will support, by means of subsidy or in any other way, the churches and similar bodies which are trying to lift the moral standards that exist in our educational system and that it will help in providing adequate education for leisure.
As I have said on many occasions, no matter how long one remains here some tasks must be left unfinished. I am sorry that is the case because for the last 15 years I have been working consistently, as all honourable senators know, to have a naval base established on the west coast of Western Australia. The bundle of papers I have in my hand now represents the results of my endeavours over those years. Each one is a question that I asked. One answer I received was very enlightening because it was given by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who was then the Minister for the Navy. He has since told me that I used to haunt him in those days with my request for a naval base on the Western Australian coast. In 1961 I asked him what would happen if the naval base at Singapore became unavailable to us in the event of an emergency. The Minister’s reply, in part, was in these terms:
The base is a British base and anything that may happen to it in the future is a matter for Britain and the country in which it is situated. Nothing has happened yet.
I think that is the most fatuous reply I have ever received to any question I have asked in my 25 years in the Senate - ‘nothing has happened yet’. But it is about to happen now and still no adequate preparation has been made, not only for the defence of our western coast but also for the protection of the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. We have the facilities in Western Australia for a base. I have to laugh when the Government talks about making a survey of Cockburn Sound. A survey was made 54 years ago. The government, of the day decided 54 years ago that Cockburn Sound was a suitable place for a naval base, but now this Government is doing the whole thing all over again just to see whether the old chaps were wrong.
– To see whether the base is required.
– It is still required; in fact even more so now than then. If a feasibility survey of Cockburn Sound does not support my request and the Government thinks the base should not be located there, there are plenty of other places on the coast of Western Australia where it could be established because that one-third of the continent is most vulnerable. According to the people who know, Western Australia is now the State on the move. It is becoming a very important part of the Australian economy. I hope that I receive a definite reply before 30th June next to the very many questions I have asked on this matter over the past 17 or 18 years. I think I have killed off four Ministers in charge of Service departments in the process of trying to get an answer to my questions and still I have not been able to make any headway in my move for the establishment of the naval base.
– Does the honourable senator think she contributed to their demise?
– I definitely do because they became all hot and bothered about it. Another matter to which I have directed a great deal of attention for many years is the need for a national disaster fund from which money would be allocated not only for the alleviation of distress caused by national disasters, but also to enable a research unit to investigate the reason for these disasters and to try to devise ways of preventing them. The first time 1 mentioned this matter in the Senate I referred to what had happened in the north west portion of Western Australia which had been struck by a cock-eyed bob. The President of the Senate became hot and bothered because he thought I was referring to a gentleman in another place. He did not reaslise that I, not being prone to the use of nicknames, was referring to a localised storm which had struck our north west coast and had caused a great deal of destruction in a very short time. Even then I was trying to have a national disaster fund set up. It was the same old story - nothing has happened yet. But something has happened in every State of the Commonwealth since that time. Not one part of this vast nation has escaped the effects of national disasters against which ordinary small people in industry, on the farms and so on cannot make adequate provision. I hope those who follow me in this chamber will continue the fight I have begun for the establishment of a national disaster fund which will give the people in remote areas a little more security in the national work they are undertaking.
I should like to refer to many more things but time does not permit. I am not ending my term tonight but the AddressinReply debate enables us to range over various subjects. For that reason I have taken this opportunity to raise these matters and to express once again to all honourable senators, to all members in another place and to all staffs in Parliament House my gratitude for what they have done for me over the years. I thank the people of Western Australia who have done much more for me than I have been able to do for them. I hope that those of you who will be serving here after June will have as happy and as prosperous a time in this chamber as I have had. May God bless you all and the work that you do.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [9.8] - I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, Lord Casey. I congratulate Senator Laucke, the mover of the motion, and Senator Lawrie, the seconder, on their excellent contributions to the debate. I congratulate also Senator Greenwood on his appointment by the Victorian Parliament to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Senator Gorton. I have known Senator Greenwood for many years and I believe he will be a great asset to the Senate. His well reasoned and logical maiden speech last week was very impressive and I feel that his debating ability will prove of benefit not only to his Party but also to the Senate as a whole.
His Excellency outlined the events that followed the tragic death of the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Harold Holt, and culminated in the swearing-in of the Right Honourable John Gorton as Prime Minister of Australia. The world mourned the loss of Harold Holt and admired the courage and dignity ‘ of his widow, Mrs Zara Holt. Tonight I offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and wish him a long and successful term of office.
A number of items relating to Government policy are mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but I wish to direct my attention to what I believe is a most important statement in the Speech. His Excellency said:
My Government will introduce proposals to remove from the minds of Australians the fear of the economic consequences of long continued illness. lt will review the operations of (he hospital and medical benefit schemes operated under the National Health Act. lt is proposed to arrange for an independent inquiry to be held into the operations of the hospital and medical insurance funds which provide benefits under the scheme. After this inquiry has been held the Government will consider whether any further measures should bc taken to improve the operation of the scheme whilst at the same time preserving the concept of freedom of choice on which it is based. lt is very reassuring to learn that the Government recognises that fear does exist of the ruinous consequences of chronic illness, that this fear exists in the minds of many Australians of all ages. The deficiences of the existing health scheme have been apparent for some time and there is evidence that mounting medical and hospital costs are undermining public confidence in the voluntary insurance scheme. Some States are even mentioning compulsory insurance. Contributors to the present scheme are becoming restive because they consider that they are being called upon to meet a larger proportion of the cost of hospitalisation and medical treatment than was anticipated at the commencement or during the development of the scheme.
Hospital deficits are alarming and boards of management are at their wits end to contain costs and at the same time give the necessary care to the sick. Non-payment of accounts is a serious problem and their collection at times is almost impossible. Some patients, as I know from experience, worry themselves to the point of distraction because of the liabilities that they are incurring as a result of illness of long duration. As many honourable senators are aware, I have had a long association with hospital board management. Innumerable cases could be cited of people being obliged to divest themselves of their lifetime savings. Many limitations are placed on the payment of benefits. A step in the right direction was the recent liberalisation by some benefit organisations of time limits, but even so there are many patients requiring a long period of hospitalisation who will not be compensated adequately, and chronic cases will be in much the same position as they always have been. There is also great confusion and much dissatisfaction regarding hospitals that attract government and fund benefits and those that do not. 1 refer to one case known to me. A man, who suffered a cerebral accident, was admitted to a major Melbourne hospital at about 4.30 one morning. Five days later, because of a shortage of beds, his doctor recommended his removal to a private hospital. The patient was placed in a hospital, which I am assured had outside a notice containing the words ‘registered private hospital’. The hospital charged $84 a week, less $14 Commonwealth hospital benefit. Unfortunately the man died. The widow, who had paid more than $1,000, lodged a claim for hospital benefits but was told that the Commonwealth Department of Health would not permit the payment of a fund benefit because this very expensive hospital was a nursing home only. Needless to say this family is very upset. Here was a case of a man who had carried insurance, with contributions at the highest rate, and his widow, acting in good faith, on the advice of the doctor, had placed her husband in what she understood was a private hospital and then found that she was left without the insurance cover that she and her late husband believed they had paid for over many years. I ask: How many people could afford to keep a patient in a nursing home and pay $84 a week for that person’s maintenance without any treatment whatsoever?
There appears to me to be a great need for some examination of the services supplied in these nursing homes and some limitation on the fees charged where no fund benefit is available. Therefore I welcome the inquiry, promised by the Prime Minister, into the hospital and medical benefits schemes which provide benefits under the health scheme. To put the question of health services into true perspective, I believe the inquiry should include also a review of the actuarial principles on which the present scheme is based and also a review of the subsidies paid by the Commonwealth Government in respect of medical and hospital services. The national health scheme is subsidised out of general taxation and one criticism frequently expressed is that the Commonwealth hospital benefit has not increased since 1958, 10 years ago. In many quarters it is said that pegging of the Commonwealth benefit during a time of dramatically increasing costs and the effect of the liberalisation of the means test, with consequent demands for more free beds in public hospitals, has placed an intolerable strain upon the available resources of those hospitals.
On the other hand the Voluntary Health Insurance Council of Australia claims that the average daily benefit paid by hospital funds has risen, over the last decade, by 150% whilst the Commonwealth subsidy remains the same. Over that period, as we all know, contributions have increased considerably. Many people believe that conclusive decisions depend upon an examination of both Commonwealth and fund benefits and the conditions under which they are available to contributors to benefit organisations.
I refer now to another subsidy that is paid under the Home Nursing Subsidy Act 1956, which became effective on 1st January 1957. The Act provides that subject to regulations a subsidy may be granted upon such terms and conditions as the Minister determines. The regulations provide that in the case of an existing nursing service - that is, one in existence before 1956 - the subsidy would be paid for each additional nurse engaged after 1956. The number of nurses at that time is known as the base number. For the purpose of payment of the subsidy to new organisations, that is for services set up after 1956, it was decided that those organisations would receive a subsidy for all nurses employed but that the subsidy would be at a lower rate than that paid to pre-existing services for additional nurses after 1956.
I should like now to refer to the increasing dependence of people on domiciliary nursing and the psychological and economic value of this service. I am confirmed in my opinion that home or domiciliary nursing should be an integral part of any comprehensive national health scheme. As honourable senators know, I am interested in the work of the Royal District Nursing Service in Victoria. This service, which was formerly known as the Melbourne District Nursing Service, was founded in 1885 and so has operated for 83 years.
The expansion of the service is best illustrated by statistics. Therefore I have pleasure in telling the Senate that in 1953 the fully trained staff of the Melbourne District Nursing Service, as it was then known, numbered 26 nurses. In 1954, that number was increased to 27 while the number of patients attended was 5,784 and the visits made totalled 129,695. In 1954, an approach was made to the Commonwealth Minister for Health for benefits for patients nursed in their own homes. At that time, the Committee of Management of the Service, being aware of the increasing number of pathetic bedridden persons who were living in sub-standard rooms and houses, and of the long waiting lists for admission to benevolent homes, made an approach to the Commonwealth Minister for Health. The suggestions it made were not favourably received, but in 1955, which happened to be a year of great need for these special services in the State of Victoria, the fully trained staff was increased to 43 nurses while 8.079 patients were attended and 209,694 visits were made.
Tn 1956 another appeal was made. By this time, Dr Donald Cameron was Commonwealth Minister for Health. Tt was pointed out to him - T had the opportunity of talking to him myself - that nursing in the home prevented patients from becoming a direct charge on the Commonwealth Government. We stressed the fact that, quite apart from the need of patients for this special care and attention the Commonwealth Government was relieved of its obligation to pay a hospital subsidy of 8s a day for each patient. As a result of the great pressure exerted on the Minister, a Bill was introduced into the Parliament in .late 1956 and became the Home Nursing Subsidy Act 1956. It is true that the subsidy has assisted the home nursing services to an extent, and all those who are interested in the work are very grateful for this help, but the time has come when the services are being forced to cut back because of insufficient funds. The published report of the Royal District Nursing Service dated 30th June 1967 lists the fully trained staff as 149 as at that date. The number of patients attended in the preceding year was 14,653 and a total of 324,288 visits was made. The nurses of that one service alone travelled 823,948 miles in one year.
Honourable senators might well ask how the services have been cut back and I am sorry that I have to tell them just what has happened. The Royal District Nursing Service has ceased to provide residential accommodation for nurses. This is a retrograde step. It has cut back the hours of service from 10 to 8 a day. This is a serious deprivation so far as the sick are concerned. 1 see Senator Dittmer looking at me across the chamber. I know that he will admit that the ideal nursing service is a 24 hour one because it is usually in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning that sick people need the most skilled attention and care.
The Royal District Nursing Service has also been forced to refuse requests for further expansion. Over the years, repeated efforts have been made to interest benefit organisations in giving some home nursing benefit, and the possibility of the introduction of a nursing benefit scheme has been explored on a number of occasions. In a period of steadily increasing costs it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide domiciliary nursing and medical services. The salaries of nurses have approximately doubled over the last 10 years and nursing work has changed considerably over that same period. Advances in medical science and the rehabilitation of patients have made domiciliary nursing more costly and patient care more exacting and time consuming. This rehabilitation work includes intensive care and the number of people requiring it as the result of motor accidents is increasing. Many of them are very young and some are completely paralysed. I believe that home nursing services must be provided from birth to old age. Patients are happier when in their own homes and it is not always possible to find beds for them in hospitals. Home nursing reduces the capital and maintenance costs of hospitals. It assists in the early discharge of patients thus releasing beds for more acute cases. Bearing all these things in mind, I suggest that the expansion of domiciliary nursing is a national necessity and must be regarded as such.
– It is a national responsibility.
– I am coming to that. I was about to pose this question to the Senate: What, then, is the role of the Commonwealth Government so far as home nursing is concerned?
– We know it is much cheaper to look after patients through the domiciliary service than to care for them in hospitals.
– It is much cheaper. I believe the Commonwealth Government could assist the expansion of home nursing services by increasing the subsidy for all nurses employed by approved organisations or, by relieving the services of some of their maintenance costs. Cars are essential in a home nursing service but very often the need to purchase an extra car precludes a service from engaging an additional nurse. In many cases now nurses own their own cars and the services use these.
Very importantly, I believe, the Government could examine again in the light of the value of the service, which is admitted by everybody, whether some form of benefit scheme to provide for nursing help could be embodied in the health scheme. No words of mine or of anyone else could express adequately the debt that the community owes to the nurses engaged in this service. Forsaking the brightness, the excitement and the glamour of a large public hospital, or the quiet charm of a good private hospital or of nursing a patient in a fine home, these women take comfort and care often to the lonely poor and the very sick. It requires a great sense of dedication to do this work, just as it requires dedication on the part of the staff and of the voluntary organisations which give support with time, effort and money. I believe that if the Prime Minister’s promise to remove from the minds of Australians the fear of long continued illness is to be carried into effect, domiciliary nursing services should find a place in any proposals that are placed before this Parliament.
– They must be expanded.
That is right. 1 have tried to prove with the figures 1 have submitted the growing dependence of people on the services and the need for them both psychologically and economically, lt is the best and the cheapest way to look after sick people. We should be aiming to get the widest cover that we possibly can. For too long we have allowed these services and the people who run them to work themselves almost into the ground, when we should be providing them with all of the essentials to carry out a 24-hour service.
Before I resume my seat may I say how much I regret that Senator Tangney is to leave (he Senate in June. She has been a great supporter of the Australian Labor Party and a hard worker for every just and humane cause. She was, as she said tonight, the first woman to enter the Senate. I am sure that I speak for the women of all political parties, the women of ali organisations and, indeed, the women working in the homes who turn on their radios sometimes and hear our voices come across the air, when I say that we regret that Senator Tangney’s political work is over and we wish her very many happy and satisfying years ahead. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia [9.35] - I feel that it is only proper for me on this occasion first of all to congratulate those senators who have made their maiden speeches during the course of this debate on the Address-in-Reply. Also, I feel that 1 should in passing pay tribute to Senator Tangney who this evening has spoken quite likely for the last time in a debate on an Address-in-Reply. Her services to the Australian Labor Party, to the State of Western Australia and to the
Australian people will be greatly missed by all of us.
The Governor-General’s Speech which we are at present debating was delivered in unusual circumstances. There was first the tragedy of the death of the former Prime Minister which brought about the elevation to that office of a new Prime Minister and the various changes in the Ministry which followed upon the elevation of Mr Gorton to the Prime Ministership. However, there was no constitutional necessity for the Governor-General to deliver a Speech upon this occasion. Therefore I think all of us would have been entitled to expect that owing to this unusual procedure being adopted some very new and original propositions would be put forward to the Australian people in the Speech delivered by His Excellency. We were all entitled to anticipate that on this occasion we would be hearing a statement of the position in which, in the eyes of the Government, Australia now stands after 18 years of conservative government and of the Government’s hopes and intentions for future years. I do not believe that we have received that. We have received some rather insipid statements of the Government’s position, of which I think all of us were perfectly well aware and had been aware for quite some time. Apart from some individual matters, important in their own right, there has been no revolutionary statement of the attitude of the Government to the very important problems which are facing Australia at the present time.
In accordance with its seriousness and its importance the question of the part which Australia is taking in the war in Vietnam was the first subject to be referred to at any length in the Governor-General’s Speech. It and the other related matters of military commitments and defence in South East Asia received more attention in the Governor-General’s Speech than did any other individual matter. It is rather surprising on this occasion, however, that the justifications which are normally put forward for this country’s participation in the war were not to be found -in the same detail as one usually finds in statements of this nature. In fact, the only justification which is given on this occasion for Australia’s participation in the war is, according to the Speech, that we are engaged ‘in an endeavour to ensure that aggression by force of arms, terrorism and subversion is not successful in subjecting the people of South Vietnam to rule by an aggressor.’
– That is sufficient.
– This statement apparently is sufficient for Senator Sim but in the past I do not think it has been sufficient for the Government. It is a highly questionable statement in its own right. It completely ignores the texts of the Geneva Conventions and the obligations which all of us have towards the demarcation within Vietnam as a result of the Geneva Accords of 1954. However, these matters all have been substantially dealt with in the past. If Senator Sim still has some doubts about them I will be happy to see him later and clarify any problems that he may have.
The matter to which I am referring at the moment is the absence in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of any reference to the American alliance and treaty obligations which are alleged to have brought about Australia’s participation in this sad war. As we have repeatedly asked in the Parliament: Which treaty is responsible for our participation in this war? So far we have not received a satisfactory answer. I believe that the deletion from the arguments in support of our participation in the war of reference to the American alliance is a wise manoeuvre on the part of this Government because it would now seem that if certain developments at present taking place in America continue along the lines they have been following, there will be much more sense in the proposition that it would be in accordance with the American alliance to get out of Vietnam rather than to stay. Senator Sim thinks that it is the Communist Party that is responsible for this trend. I suppose he has in mind those well known Communists Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy.
– What do the trade unions say about them?
– I do not know which trade unions the honourable senator has in mind, but shortly I will refer to comments by some American trade unions. If the honourable senator can contain his enthusiasm I will be able to tell him what they have said. I am distressed to learn that Senator Sim has now reached the stage of believing that the brother of the late President of the United States is a Communist, as is Senator Eugene McCarthy, who is one of America’s leading Catholic laymen. One of those men will possibly obtain Democratic Party nomination for the Presidency and may become President of the United States,It is a serious state of affairs when not only are China and the Soviet Union Communist countries but also the United States. Before long we will have nowhere to turn but Nauru for comfort in our present political philosophy.
In dealing with the subject of the American alliance it is fruitless for me to try to anticipate who will win the United States Presidential election. This is beyond the capability of anybody at this time but it certainly may be said with the utmost confidence that no longer can one point to the United States and say that here is a monolithic society in support of the war - a society in which all elements or even all respectable elements support the war in Vietnam. Not only have Senator McCarthy and Senator Kennedy spoken strongly in opposition to America’s participation in the war but also a great many other eminent Americans have expressed precisely the same point of view. One American has said:
I believe that if we would keep our dirty bloody dollar crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own.
Senator Sim has a look of incredulity on his face. I am sure that he thinks that remark was made by a left wing American of most disreputable background. In fact it was made by General David M. Shoup, recently retired Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, holder of the Congressional Medal of Honour and the Distinguished Service Cross, and regarded as one of the heroes of the United States Marines. Senator Sim thinks he is a fool. This may be so. but I have more faith in the United States than has Senator Sim and I do not think that a former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps would be a fool. I am confident that no man who has attained such a position could be a fool.
General Matthew B. Ridgway, no doubt in Senator Sim’s elevated judgment another fool, said:
With no clear limit to our immediate military objective and no precise and pragmatic definition of our immediate and long range political objectives, we commit ourselves to an upward spiralling course that may approach annihilation.
General Ridgway is probably one of America’s most eminent military authoritities. But Senator Sim does not think so. I am afraid that it is too late to convince Senator Sim that Genera] Ridgway is an eminent military authority but to those of us who do not move in such exalted circles as my friend from Western Australia, General Ridgway is regarded as having sufficient knowledge of military matters to be entitled to express an opinion on the subject.
– General Eisenhower disagrees.
-I am aware of this. 1 have not said that there is unanimous opinion in the United States in opposition to the war in Vietnam. What I have said is that there is substantial division within the United States with regard to the war. Obviously a great many eminent Americans support the war. There would be no point in denying this, because America is involved. Clearly a number of eminent Americans support America’s participation. What I point out is that a number of equally eminent Americans - people who by their record and their history could not be regarded as subversives or traitors or in any way disloyal or even mild left wingers - are opposed to America’s participation in the war. Not by the widest stretching of the term could they be regarded as left wingers, even within the context of the American Republican Party.
Professor Galbraith, one of the leading economists of the decade and a most trusted advisor to the late President Kennedy has said:
We went into Vietnam in accordance with the conservative conviction that people of all other countries will support any government, however corrupt, whatever its rascality, however little it does for the people, if it sufficiently avows its antiCommunist passion. We have long ago learned in the United States that being anti-Communist is not sufficient to get popular support. We have never fully learned that lesson in our foreign policy. This has been one of the great tragedies of our foreign policy in the last 20 years.
This same point is taken up by another distinguished American soldier, Brigadier General William Wallace Ford, who said:
By that statement it is clearly implied that there has been a breach of the Agreements. General Ford said:
I have no doubt they would go Communist, but our own political morality demands that we abide by the results of free elections.
That proposition has been advanced by many other people. It is that no matter whether we or someone else likes or dislikes the Communist parties of various Asian and other countries, if the people of those countries for some reason desire to have Communist governments, neither the United States nor any other Western country has the right to interfere in the internal domestic affairs of those countries and impose on them a form of Government which they do not want. That is the view advanced by General Ford. It is a view to which I subscribe. It is a view held by many eminent people in the United States.
The same allegations have been made against many Americans as have been made against many Australians when they have dared to criticise the policies which their country has been following in Vietnam.
– What Communist countries have made allegations?
– I will deal with Senator Sim’s contributions later. I am sure that he would be able to take this matter up with General Ridgway and General Shoup and clear their minds for them. The same accusations have been made against Americans who have been opposed to American participation in the war as have been made against Australians who are opposed to Australian participation. By some, opposition to one’s country’s participation in the war is apparently taken as betokening lack of patriotism, some subversive quality, some desire to undermine one’s own country. In November of last year a number of the leading trade unions in the United States held a convention in Chicago. It was called in opposition to the war in Vietnam. One of the unions which took part in that great convention was the United Automobile Workers Union, which was the largest union affiliated with the AFL-CIO and which has subsequently disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO. When one sees the statements that were made, as were reported today, of the AFL-CIO endorsing President Johnson’s policy, I think it has to be borne in mind that the two biggest unions in the United States of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Automobile Workers Union, were absent from those conferences because neither of them, like a great many other important American unions, is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. But at the conference held in Chicago in November, a statement was made by Mr Emil Mazey He is certainly no Communist. I am not here to canvass the merits of attacking or supporting Communism, but certainly Mr Emil Mazey has a record of antiCommunism inside the American trade union movement as docs the entire leadership of the United Automobile Workers Union. Walter Reuther, Victor Reuther and Emil Mazey have been outstanding, for good or for bad, in opposition to Communists inside their own union and the Communist trade unions. They were the people who led the establishment of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and led the American and other western unions out of the World Federation of Trade Unions in the late 1940s. Mr Mazey said:
The greatest patriots of our country are not those who meekly and blindly follow the President’s conduct of foreign affairs even when they think he is wrong.
J believe the greatest patriots of our country are those who have the courage to speak out - are those who are willing to express what, at a given moment, may be an unpopular point of view in their search for the right policies and for correct policies in our foreign and domestic affairs.
I believe that the best way to help the President of the United States and to help our country is to try to change the course of our nation and the President’s actions when we think that the actions are wrong.
There are many millions of American citizens who think it is improper to criticise our government during times of war. Many buy the old slogan ‘our country right or wrong’. 1 prefer the slogan of Carl Schurz, a statesman and journalist who lived between 1829 and 1906, who at an Anti-imperialistic Conference held in the City of Chicago on. October 17th, 1899, said: ‘Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’
The purpose of dissent is not the disagree or to become disagreeable. The purpose of dissent must be to change existing policies that we believe to be wrong.
That is the purpose of those Australians who are opposed to the present tragic policies of Australia in the war in Vietnam, and that is the purpose of those Americans who are opposed to the even more tragic policies of the United States of America in that war. In the course of His Excellency’s Speech he went on to say:
It is, of course, clear that Australia cannot, if it is to discharge its other responsibilities at home and abroad, fill the vacuum created by the British withdrawal.
It is well known that Britain is in the process of withdrawing the bulk of its armed forces from the South East Asian area. Clearly, there is a lesson to be learned from this, with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom forces in South East Asia and with the possibility of an American withdrawal. That is at least a distinct possibility. I think everyone must concede this. Apart from the Democratic Party potential candidates in opposition to’ President Johnson, we have even Mr Nixon of the Republican Party in the last few days making sounds which sound remarkably like the cooing of a dove. We have his accusation that one of the failures of the present Administration has been its inability to be able to talk with the Soviet Union ,to bring about peace in Vietnam. That is the criticism coming from the supposedly very conservative Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States. It may well be that even under the Republican Party with Mr Nixon as the President of the United States we would find that the United States would withdraw from South East Asia. If that is to be done and they are to withdraw, following Britain’s withdrawal - the French have already gone and the Dutch have gone - and if we are going to live in peace and security in this part of the world, we will have to have much more friendly relations with all countries of South East Asia. Tt is no use relying on a few puppet governments in South Vietnam-
– North Vietnam.
– Shaky governments in Thailand and the Philippines. We must look for peaceful relations with the whole of South East Asia. I include North Vietnam and include also China, India and Indonesia.
– Yes. Whether Communist or non-Communist, wc must have friendly relations with all of them - whether puppets or not and whether Communist or non-Communist. I look in vain in the Governor-General’s Speech to see any statement of the Government’s future position in this regard. Some reference is made to the aid which we are giving to certain Asian countries. I do not wish to decry this. I believe that it is important to give this aid. But in the Speech there is no analysis of the sort of situation which may develop in Asia if the other Western powers withdraw and if we and New Zealand are left virtually alone in this area wilh a number of countries which may or may not be friendly and which certainly have much greater populations and much greater resources than we have at the present time. There are other very serious matters which certainly require some attention from the Government and a great deal more attention than I believe was given in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. His Excellency said:
My Government will continue the policies of economic development of the previous government.
I must confess that I, for one, am rather mystified as to what these policies are. There seems to be a sort of laissez faire policy that if you discover some minerals in the ground you sell them to whoever is prepared to take them with the least inconvenience to everybody, with no safeguard preserved for the future of Australia’s stake in this vast investment. In this regard we find quite grotesque contradictions taking place. We find that the major investors and the major owners of Australian assets at the present time are companies from Japan. Yet at the same time we find the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen), in happy alliance with his friends of the Liberal Party, denouncing the trade policies of Japan and, not only doing that but also denouncing a journalist for being a paid agent of the Japanese. This I am completely unable to follow. I should have thought that if these vast sales of our resources to the Japanese are so desirable, if so much benefit is being obtained for the Australian people from the sales of our resources to the Japanese, he would have welcomed as many paid agents of the Japanese into this country as he could have got because the purpose of the paid agent of the Japanese would be to sponsor trade between Australia and Japan. As I understand it, trade is desirable and investment in Australia is desirable. So why the Minister for Trade and Industry should attack the very man who ultimately may be responsible for colossal Japanese invest ment in Australia, on the ground that he is a paid agent of the Japanese, remains to me a complete mystery which I hope Senator Sim or somebody else with friendly relations with the Country Party will be able to clarify for me later in the debate. We have a number of important problems facing this country. We have the problems not only of the ownership of Australia’s assets, and there are very many problems of the greatest importance attached to this. My colleague in the House of Representatives, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters), has already set out in some detail the extent of foreign investment in Australia’s national assets.
– Are you opposed to this?
– I am not saying whether I am opposed to it; I am saying that we cannot have a policy which completely surrenders the national assets of any country to overseas investors. At the time of the discovery of the Anaconda copper mines, the Chilean people thought they were doing very well when they were able to establish huge American copper companies inside Chile. They have now found that they were not doing so well, yet the royalties charged by the Chileans are at least as high as the royalties charged by this country. Control over foreign investment by the Chilean Government is at least as great as the control exercised by the Government of our country.
– Are you serious?
– Yes, I am completely serious. I realise that Senator Sim has a deep knowledge of Latin American history, but if he disagrees with me I would refer him to any recognised text books on Latin America. Precisely the same situation is occurring at the present time in Canada where the Government, despite the fact that it supports a capitalist economic system, is finding it necessary to take up a position of opposition to the overwhelming American investment in the country.
I am not objecting because these people are Americans. I am not objecting because they are foreigners. I have no objection to foreigners of any sort acting within Australia on a basis of complete equality with Australians. But I believe that any Australian is entitled to be anxious when he sees the important assets of his country becoming the property of overseas people whose interests are not those of the Australian people. Mr McEwen referred to this problem when he said that the present economic situation in Australia reminded him of somebody selling a bit of the farm each year.
It is often said that we live in an affluent society. I do not think the people who use that expression as a term of praise have read the text of the man who coined it, Professor Galbraith. When he wrote his book ‘The Affluent Society’ he meant the expression to be a term of criticism, not of commendation. His definition of an affluent society was one in which there was private affluence amid public squalor. That is what we are finding increasingly inside Australia. We are finding that people who arc able to work - particularly people in a family in which both husband and wife are able to work - have a certain measure of artificial affluence. But important social services such as health, repatriation and social security are being sadly neglected while this alleged state of private affluence continues. These are collective responsibilities.
To refer to Australia as an affluent society does not solve the problems of the people who are suffering from the inadequacies in the public sector of our economy and in our social services framework. Nor does it solve the problems of the trade unions which, having agreed to accept a system of compulsory arbitration, now find that they have to wait unconscionably long for the hearing of the claims that they bring before the arbitration tribunals. Nor does it satisfy any of the people in Australia who are not receiving what could even remotely be described as a fair share of the wealth of this country.
At the present time we are involved in a war overseas which could lead to the destruction of the whole of our society. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has told us that he will leave only 8,000 troops in Vietnam; that he will not increase that number. Of course, that causes one to say: If there is a war in South Vietnam and if the defence of whatever it is that we are defending there is essential, then clearly no such limit as 8,000 should be placed on the number of troops taking part in the conflict. If it is not a serious war and if it is not a war that we should be making an all-out effort to win, then there is no justification for having any troops - 8,000 or any other number - there at all.
My own belief is that the Prime Minister, like so many other people, has inherited a policy. At the present time he finds it too difficult to withdraw from the war completely, so he is happy to take what could be the line of least resistance by leaving the 8,000 troops there but not increasing the number. It seems to me that that is the most unsatisfactory of all positions because it acknowledges the existence of a war without accepting the burden that one would have to carry if in fact a war were taking place. We cannot solve the problems of our defence by having 8,000 troops in this forlorn conflict in Vietnam and having no overall policy for relations with the other South East Asian countries in the event of the withdrawal of the major Western powers. We cannot hope for Australia to continue to be prosperous merely by selling up the country, not even to the highest bidder but to the first bidder who comes along. These are the great problems that now face our country. These are the problems in respect of which the people were looking for an answer in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that we are now debating. These are the problems to which we did not receive an answer in that Speech.
– The members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party desire to be associated with the motion now before the Senate which expresses our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and our thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General for the Speech that he was pleased to. address to this Parliament. To enable the Government to introduce a Bill, I now ask for leave to continue my speech later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make some formal amendments to the principal Act of the off-shore petroleum legislation which was passed by the Parliament in November 1967. The amendment is necessary by reason of the abolition of the former Department of Territories and the allocation of administrative responsibility for the Northern Territory to the Department of the Interior, and for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea to the new Department of External Territories.
Section 16 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 provided for the Designated Authority in respect of an adjacent area of any of Australia’s Territories to be the Minister of State for Territories. The Act specified separate adjacent areas for the Northern Territory, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. The effect of clause 3 of the amending Bill now presented to the Senate will be that in respect of the Northern Territory and the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands the Designated Authority will be the Minister of State for the Interior. In respect of the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea, the Designated Authority will be the Minister of State for External Territories. The same powers and functions which were formerly to have been exercised by the Minister of State for Territories as Designated Authority in respect of the adjacent area of a Territory will now be exercised by the two Ministers to whom I have just referred in respect of the Territories for which they are responsible. Apart from the foregoing, clause 3 of the amending Bill in no way affects the principles which were enacted in 1 967.
Clause 4 of the Bill corrects a reference in Section 146 of the principal Act of 1967. This section provides for the transitioning of the Barracouta and Martin fields production licences and in sub-section (2.) refers to a licence granted under Section 43 of the Act. This should have read Section 44’ which is the section under which grants of production licences may be made. The Senate will recall that the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which underlies the joint off-shore petroleum legislation provides for consultation between the Commonwealth and the Slates prior to the introduction of any amending Bill. However, the relevant clause of the Agreement, clause 6, specifically excludes from this requirement any Bill insofar as the effect of its provisions would be formal or transitional. The Government regards the Bill now before the Senate as involving formal amendments only. However, the Minister for National Development has been in touch with his State colleagues and has advised them of the intention of the Government to introduce this Bill.
I should mention that following discussions between the Commonwealth and the States action is in hand to proclaim the off-shore legislation with effect from 1st April. It is therefore the wish of the Government that this legislation be given speedy passage so that the off-shore legislation may become operative over the whole continental shelf of Australia and its Territories. I commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 378).
I was about to say at the time my speech was interrupted that I had listened with great interest to the speeches of Senator Laucke who moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and the other new senator, Senator Greenwood. I appreciate that it is customary to be laudatory when referring to the speech of the mover of such a motion, irrespective of whether it was a good speech. That is the custom in parliamentary spheres but in this case I believe that both Senator Laucke and Senator Greenwood made speeches which should encourage us to say that the Liberal Party has had a very valuable and helpful injection of new blood. I do not say that it is overdue, but I think it is very timely.
Both new senators - one from South Australia and the other from Victoria - should prove to be assets to the Liberal Party which occupes the Government benches of the Senate. They are men of more than average capacity and ability. Senator Laucke has had experience in the South Australian Parliament which should stand him in very good stead here, even though there are people in the Federal sphere of politics who believe that State Parliaments are political kindergartens. I say very definitely with all the modesty 1 possess - which is very natural of me - that I do not take second place to very many people in political matters. The people with whom I have come in contact in the Federal sphere who say that the State political sphere is merely a kindergarten do not understand the responsibilities of governments. They do not understand the value of experience to be gained in the State political sphere. 1 am very happy that the new senators are of such calibre. 1 am confident that they will make good contributions to this Parliament.
Since the last sessional period many things have happened - some tragic, some revolutionary in a few respects and some that could have an indelible effect on the political history of this country. Honourable senators have already referred to the tragic death of our former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. We have paid our tributes to him and to his memory. As I was influenced by the fact that never before in the history of this Parliament has a senator been selected as leader of the majority party and subsequently sworn in as Prime Minister, I did not expect that following the death of Mr Holt, Senator John Gorton whom we knew so well in this chamber would decide to resign from the Senate and contest the vacancy caused by the death of Mr Holt. That he subsequently became Prime Minister could be for the good of this country and I trust it will be because my paramount consideration is the welfare of Australia and its people. Whatever Government is in power, I want to see it doing a job of work that will ensure steady progress for Australia and will improve the standards of our people. It is my sincere desire to see the present Government succeed. 1 believe that our new Prime Minister has a good deal to commend him. He is a man of qualifications and education, not that 1 believe for a moment that his Master of Arts degree in history gained at Oxford University, or his knowledge of Aristotle, Cicero or anybody else will help him to solve our problems in 1968. I do not think that for a moment. But I believe that he as an Australian, with an understanding of
Australia’s difficulties and problems, has sufficient character to measure up to them. However, he is merely serving his apprenticeship at the moment.
– Does the honourable senator not think that service in the Senate is a good apprenticeship for that office?
– It is true that it is a training ground but it is not until the mantle of responsibility rests upon a man and he is required to make decisions, often without very much time to consider the issues, that he finds whether he measures up to the requirements of office. Many leaders have failed because of their impetuosity in decision making and because of their feeling that they must always be making statements. Invariably men in public life find that they must account for every statement they make. Already the new Prime Minister has made one or two statements on which he had been required to back pedal. I challenged him publicly on one of them and subsequently wrote to him about it. That was his statement that no additional troops would be sent to Vietnam. That did not concern me so much. What did concern me was that he went on to say: This is permanent.’
From my experience I say definitely that no Prime Minister or Premier can make permanent a statement on a matter of that magnitude because neither he nor anyone else knows what changed circumstances will cause him and his Government to alter their minds and their policies. He was not in a position to make a permanent statement or, in effect, tie his own hands, because at that time he did not know, any more than anyone else did, that our troops in Vietnam would not, within a week or less, call for additional aid. No Australian Government and no member of the Australian public would be slow to answer the call. A statement such as the Prime Minister made shows the difference between the training one may get in this place and the requirements for leadership in government, particularly in a national government. That is why it is important that men charged with leadership as Prime Minister and Ministers should be men of some experience as well as ability and capacity.
– Did the honourable senator’s letter convey that advice to the Prime Minister?
– It did. I was a member of a large family which had a Scottish father. He would always draw our attention to a picture of a fish and say to us: ‘Boys, remember that that fish would never have been caught had it not opened its big mouth’. Another thing he would say to us was: ‘Always remember that your tongue lives in a wet place and is prone to slip. Therefore take good control of it’. That was very good advice. 1 take the opportunity to congratulate John Gorton, a former senator, on his elevation to the highest position in the land - that of Prime Minister of his native country, lt is my sincere good wish that he will be a success as Prime Minister. I say that for the good of Australia and its people. 1 congratulate those in the Senate who have been elevated to the very important position of Minister of the Crown. Particularly do I congratulate Senator Wright about whom one could have got 100 to 1. But he was not 100 to 1 in my book because 1 believed that a realistic Prime Minister and one who did not carry prejudice in his heart could not fail to recognise Senator Wright’s unquestionable ability. I am glad that he is out of the chamber at this moment because I feel greater ease in speaking of him as I do. I am not given to flattery. I think flattery is vulgar, but I believe Senator Wright has unquestionable ability, unlimited industry and the other qualifications necessary to fill the position of Minister in the Government of this country, particularly after being so many years in the Senate. I have the utmost confidence in him and believe that he will do a good job. I hope I will never have to retract those statements.
As Minister for Works I do not know that he has very much to do except to carry out the requisitions of Ministers of other departments. If I thought that he bad the right to determine what works should be undertaken I would say: ‘Get on with the building of a new post office in Brisbane’. A new post office was promised before the Second World War and in the immediate post war years. But the Minister for Works is required only to carry out the requisitions of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme).
– There is a Queenslander in the Cabinet as PostmasterGeneral.
– That is true, but one has only to look at our needs to see how unparochial our Ministers are. They seem to get more pleasure out of doing things in other States than in doing them in Queensland. However, let me observe in passing that a group of private people built an exceptionally large building in Creek Street, Brisbane - a lovely modern building with all the glass that is part of today’s architecture. As soon as the building was completed the Commonwealth Government took it over on a rental basis until the end of time. That building will never become the property of the Commonwealth Government. Why the Commonwealth did not erect its own building Instead of taking over another and paying an exorbitant rent, I do not. know.
– What rent is being paid?
– I do not have the amount at the moment.
– lt is $400,000 a year.
– Senator Dittmer tells me that it is $400,000 a year. The Government will continue paying that rent for all time. In fact, it will pay off the building and those responsible for its construction will have it free of cost. I do not approve that kind of thing and I hope Senator Wright will correct it in due time.
I was disappointed with the Prime Minister’s decisions in relation to his Cabinet and his Ministry. Some people may ask: ‘What business is it of yours? After all, that is a matter for the Liberal Party and the Country Party which comprise the coalition Government.’ I do not accept that view. I say that it has a lot to do with me just as it has with every citizen in this country because we are expected-
– According to one Press statement, the honourable senator was for John McEwen for the Prime Ministership.
– Indeed I was not. 1 did not express a preference for anyone.
– The honourable senator did for Senator Wright.
– I expressed a preference for Senator Wright as a Minister but I am speaking now about the Prime Minister. I was saying that it is the concern of myself and of every citizen of Australia that the Prime Minister of the coalition Government, who has the jurisdiction, the prerogative and the authority to select a Cabinet, should select the best material from that available to him without any regard for personalities or even for the boundaries of the States from which the material has come. The task of government is arduous enough and our problems are numerous enough to demand that a government should comprise the best material available to the Prime Minister in this Parliament
– That is not always possible; the Government cannot do it.
– My friend, Senator Ormonde, says that is not possible. It is possible within the limits of human assessment and judgment.
– The Country Party Ministers are thrust upon the Prime Minister.
-Alt is a joint responsibility and obligation; it is a coalition government and what I say about the Liberals applies equally to the other section of the coalition. However I believe, as I did at the time, that the new Prime Minister failed to provide Australia with the best possible Ministry. I. make no apologies for my criticism in this connection because, as a citizen and as a political observer, I have my rights. I believe that I have been here long enough to make my own assessments. I thought that the Prime Minister would have taken the opportunity, since he was leading a new Government, to get rid of some of the dead wood which unquestionably is associated with the Government of the country today.
– Could the honourable senator list that dead wood?
– Yes, 1 will do that, too, if I am so required.
– lt would not be hard to list the dead wood.
– I do not have very much time. I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have taken the opportunity to give the Ministry some new blood. I have already made my references to those honourable senators who were elevated to the Ministry. I thought that the selection of Mr Wentworth as Minister for Social
Services could prove of some advantage to the country. I could have said, when referring to Senator Wright, that whilst I believed at all times that he was qualified for elevation I received the announcement of his elevation with mixed feelings; I was glad that he was recognised at last, but I believed that we would cease to know the Reggie Wright we have known for so long. The honourable senator will not mind my mentioning this, but I sent him a telegram which read: ‘Be prepared for the muzzle and the chains’.
– Coming from a former State Premier, that is good.
– No. That could never be said of me as a Premier.
– The honourable senator said it.
– I am speaking of the position that obtained here, the position that had kept Senator Wright out of the Ministry for so long. He has independence of thought and speech, and he exercises that independence. I know that this is his character. As a Minister he is charged with responsibility and I know that he will have his say in the spheres in which he is permitted to speak.
I felt so keenly about this matter of the new Ministry that I made a Press statement which received some measure of publicity. I believe it is worth repeating. I said:
In my opinion the changes in the Commonealth Ministry announced by the Prime Minister do not go far enough.
Mr Gorton should have been more realistic in the selection of his new Ministerial team, instead of bowing to those pressures - personal and other - which forced him to retain some Ministers whose parliamentary ability and alertness are open to serious questioning.
Some of those who remain in the Ministry have not successfully discharged their ministerial duties. This is not only my opinion, it is the opinion of many other persons, including members of the Government Parties.
I find it difficult to understand why Mr Lynch from Victoria has been chosen as a new Minister. There are others with more ability, promise and experience than he. He has scarcely been long enough in Parliament to know his way about the building without a guide.
– Does the honourable senator think Senator Cormack and Senator Cotton should have been in the Ministry?
– Yes, decidedly so.
– What about Senator Webster?
– I am making this speech. I went on to say:
In the 14 months that he has been there he has not said or done anything that would merit his preference over others with more experience and at least equal ability.
– How would the honourable senator know?
– How would I know. I read Hansard. I do not go about with my eyes and ears closed. What an innocuous, infantile interjection. One would expect better from an honourable senator who has been here for a period of time that Senator Marriott has been here.
– Senator Marriott just missed the Ministry.
– That does not surprise me one bit. He was a hot tip. My statement continued:
I believe that the times in which we live and the problems facing the Federal Government, especially the important Vietnam conflict, are too great and numerous to be entrusted to political tyros.
In his own interests it would have been wise for the Prime Minister to select the best possible material available to him, irrespective of what States certain members come from. There are some Ministers who have been retained who should have been given a rest and retired, to make way for better men.
The retirement of Mr Howson is fully justified.
That was patent. His resignation should have been accepted by the late Harold Holt. I continued:
But I wonder about the dismissal of Mr Chipp, who appeared to bc doing a good job in the short time he has been in the Ministry.
Were there other reasons behind Mr Chipp’s dismissal and are these associated with his support for Mr Snedden in the leadership contest following Mr Holt’s death?
If that is the real reason for Mr Chipp’s dismissal then it is evidence of a petty and smallminded approach.
I atn disappointed that the Prime Minister did not take the opportunity of reducing the number of Ministers and Departments, through long-overdue amalgamations. The retention of Health and Repatriation as separate Departments with separate Ministers cannot be justified and their functions should have been incorporated under Social Services. I believe the Services Departments could also be amalgamated with advantages. It has been done elsewhere.
– What portfolio would Senator McKellar have if that were done?
– 1 am not concerned about individuals; I am concerned about the amalgamation of departments. I went on to say:
The Senate has fared badly in Mr Gorton’s socalled reshuffle. There is now only one senator in the 12-man Cabinet and only five senators in the 26-man Ministry, even though the Senate makes up one-third of the total members of the National Parliament. As welt, the portfolios held by these senators are nol very important - Supply, Repatriation, Housing, Customs and Works.
On the other hand, there is not much talent in the Government ranks in the Senate and possibly this did not leave much room for Mr Gorton to manoeuvre.
I am sure no-one would seriously dispute that. My Press statement continued:
It is as though Mr Gorton has pruned the ministerial tree of some deadwood but has left untouched other parts which later will threaten the life of the entire u-ee.
That was my statement at the time. However, I do hope that, with the election of a former senator to the onerous and responsible position of Prime Minister, and with the elevation of Senator Wright in particular to the Ministry, we will have in the future a greater, more effective and stronger liaison between the House of Representatives and the Senate, and that we will not again see the deplorable absence of liaison between the two Houses that we experienced in the last Parliament. It is almost inconceivable, really, that in any Parliament there could develop a position such as that which obtained on 1st November 1967. In answer to a question by Senator Tangney about the Ord River scheme Senator Henty, who was then Minister representing the Minister, for National Development, said:
Senator Tangney has always evinced a great interest in the Ord River project: I understand that facts and figures on the progress of the project are given to the Minister for National Development. I do not know what the present position is, but if she puts her question on- the notice paper I will see what the Minister for National Development can tell me about the stage that has been reached in the Government’s consideration of the second phase of the project.
Not a week later, not a fortnight later, not a month later, but on that very same day and almost at the same time, Mr Fair- bairn, the Minister for National Development in another place, announced:
The Government has therefore decided to make available financial assistance of approximately $48m to the Stale of Western Australia to proceed with stage two of the Ord irrigation project.
I emphasise that on the very day when that statement was made Senator Henty, a senior member of the Government in this place, was unable to supply an up to date reply to a question about this important project.
– Is the honourable senator suggesting that he should have made the announcement?
– No, I am not. I am suggesting that Senator Henty should have been informed of the decision at a meeting of Cabinet.
– He could not announce the decision before the Minister for National Development made his statement.
– In that case he should have said: ‘It is expected that the Minister for National Development will be making a statement on this project.’ He was not up with the play, and this showed a deplorable lack of liaison between the Houses.
– That is unfair.
– It is not unfair. I do not engage in unfair tactics. That was a deplorable state of affairs. On 24th October Senator Turnbull asked a question about the VIP flight, and I never felt more sorry for anyone than I did for Senator McKellar on that day. 1 am quite sincere in saying that because he rose and answered the question to the best of his ability. He said:
The answer I have refers also to questions Nos 93, 143, 174 and 222. I should like to explain to the Senate that, in the main, the questions were very similar. The only difference is in the dates to which they refer. The reply covers all the periods mentioned.
As I say, that was on 24th October. On 25th October, Senator Gorton came in here, very dramatically produced ledgers, threw them on the table and said:
I table the following papers which I think will be of interest to the Senate:
Royal Australian Air Force No. 34 Squadron - Flight Authorisation Books (3)
Passenger Manifests (13)
Will anyone tell me that Senator Gorton did not know that this material was available to him at the same time as his colleague rose here and conscientiously answered a question, believing that what he said was correct?
– That is true. Senator Gorton did not know.
– He found out overnight?
– With all due respect to the Minister for Repatriation - andI have some regard for him -I cannot accept his statement because 1 am in possession of information that Senator Gorton knew of the existence of the books for some time and endeavoured to convince those higher in the Cabinet than himself of the necessity to make a proper disclosure. That is no reflection on the Minister for Repatriation and I say in all sincerity that I felt sorry for him. He was a compulsory Ananias. He was put into a false position and that is something that should never be done.
– He did not know what was happening overnight.
– The trouble that I discern in the Government of this country is lack of liaison and lack of co-operation.
– Well, why not help to change the Government?
– Because there are too many handicaps in the Australian Labor Party here on my right. Let me presume to offer this advice: Until a government works as a team it can never hope to enjoy the measure of success that should be its aim and goal. WhenI speak of working as a team I mean that the members of the Cabinet should not closet themselves away, that they should not exclude themselves from the rest of their Party, which they have an obvious tendency to do. Some men in the Government parties who have been here for at least as long as I have tell me they have never had a conversation with some Ministers. If that is the case - and I have not any reason to doubt the statements of the persons who have spoken to me - it is a very unhealthy state of affairs and one which does not tend to the best working of political parties which are charged with the responsibility to govern this country, and that is the crux of the position.
– Perhaps they do not like swimming.
– This matter is far too serious for us to be flippant about it. Those honourable senators who support the Government should not believe for one moment that its stocks are really high, because they are not. For a long time the Government has been winning elections not so much on its merit as on a lack of confidence of the public in its opposition.
– And the indiscretions of the honourable senator’s Party.
– If the honourable senator wants to engage in argument with me I shall stage the argument at a period when I am not disadvantaged by a limitation as to time.
– The honourable senator is not limited as to time.
– Yes, I am.
– The honourable senator has another 20 minutes.
– I shall determine whether or not it is sufficient, and 1 will not follow the honourable senator’s advice. I never found it of very much aid to me in the past and I am sure he has not improved wilh the passing of the years.
– His medical advice is good, though.
– No, not even that. Since Mr Wentworth has become Minister for Social Services he has made some progressive comments about the birth rate and family allowances, but I can assure him that what the voters want most of all is some concrete action in the field of social services, not just pleasant words. There is a big want, a big need, for the dispensation of a greater measure of justice to recipients of social service benefits. They have been neglected for too long and something substantial has to be done to rectify the anomaly that exists in a society that is unquestionably affluent, when most people are receiving increases in salaries and wages and even parliamentarians have the audacity to send out the message that they need an increase of $2,000 a year.
– Not on this side.
– Well, I am not always a great believer in what I read in the newspapers; I will concede that.
– Would the honourable senator support it?
– No, at least not until justice has been dispensed to the more needy of our community - the pensioners, the widows and others.
– Would the honourable senator take it?
– I have never worked under an award rale in my life and 1 believe 1 could take it with a greater measure of justification than the honourable senator could, because I would merit it more than he would.
– That is only the honourable senator’s opinion.
– Of course, the honourable senator’s vast experience would stand to him.
– The honourable senator’s experience does not stand him in much stead.
– My record is an honourable one. I did not sell out as the honourable senator did. I am sorry if the question of a raid on the Treasury that is to be made while the pensioners do without, is disturbing certain people. After all, I would like to see a showdown on this. I hope the new Minister for Social Services will give effect to a lot of the things that he has been saying. This is specially demanded by the pensioners and those deprived of pensions by the operation of the means test, which in many cases acts as a penalty on thrift. The undeniable increase in the cost of living, the increase in the purchase price of land and building materials, and increases in education and hospital fees and medical expenses, are all placing a strain on the budget of the family man. We repeatedly receive circulars from home building societies seeking a continuance of, if not an increase in, the availability of money for home building.
I am all for the improvement of facilities for home building but I wonder whether we have not left it too late and whether the Government has not a responsibility to check on land values and the cost of construction of homes by particular organisations which build homes for people who take advantage of the money made available by the Commonwealth. Land prices in all of the capital cities in Australia are undeniably excessive and exorbitant. They have been allowed to go up and up without any check at all. The subdivider buys a block of land and after a bit of improvement in the way of footpaths and water tabling he cuts it up into building blocks. There is no-one to say whether the prices he asks are right or wrong. To a great extent the building of homes is in much the same position. I was reliably informed recently that a man associated with a small building society group had said that if he could not get the value of a Holden car out of every home that he built there was something wrong. If he can get a profit equal to the value of a Holden car on a home costing $5,500, to my way of thinking - I may be wrong or out of date - he is getting more than a fair share for what he is doing.
I believe that the Government has a responsibility to examine land values and home building costs. I can understand why homes cost so much, particularly where the price of the home is guaranteed. There is a lack of supervision in many cases. Twelve months or more ago I was travelling on a tram on the south side of the Brisbane River. There was a man sitting opposite me. Another fellow whom he knew got on the tram and inquired what the first man was doing. He replied: T am still at the same old trade. You know - the saw doctor business.’ The second man said: ‘Who are you working for?’ The first man named his employer and when asked where he was working at that time he said: ‘We are building a home for a tram mie in such-and-such a suburb. He is the best boss I have ever had. It is a good job. I do not have to get to work till about 9 a.m. Every afternoon with few exceptions I am home at half-past four. He never worries very much about the time.’
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to raise a matter which in my view and in the view of many other people is very important. It concerns civil liberties and the freedom of the individual, as well as the Australian content of television programmes on a certain channel. I refer to the case of Reverend Haydn Sargent, who was dismissed from Channel 0 in Brisbane yesterday. The significance of this case is that on Monday, 25th March, Mr Haydn Sargent was endorsed as Australian Labor Party candidate to contest the State seat of Ashgrove at the expected State elections in 1969. He was told by his employers that his programme would go off the air on 19th April. He is producer-director of a programme known as ‘Look’.
Firstly it is pertinent to look at the character of this man to see whether there is anything that could have led to this action on the part of his employer. He is 32 years of age, a married man and the father of four children. He is a minister of the Church of Christ and still ministers to his flock, particularly at weekends. Some time ago he was very well known in the Brisbane area as one who would take up the case of those unfortunate people who became addicted to drugs. He has spoken out on many occasions for the much maligned juveniles of the city. Generally he is a person who could be described only as a very good citizen trying to do his best for his God and his country.
There are two aspects to this case. One is the denial of democratic rights because this man was endorsed as an Australian Labor Party candidate. The other is the programme of which he has been producerdirector since about June 1967. The programme is telecast 10 times weekly - 5 times during daylight hours and 5 times at night. The station comes very close to the requirements of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the Australian content of its programmes. If this show disappears it is likely to be replaced by cheap overseas film. I suggest that it is the responsibility of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) to keep a close watch on the situation to see that this does not happen.
Let me enlighten the Senate as to the background to this situation. Honourable senators will recall that some years ago the Government stated that it would grant additional television licences in certain capital cities. A number of companies and groups of people became interested in applying for the licence for the additional station in Brisbane. Companies were formed representing the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Returned Services League and other groups. The Labor Party’s application for the licence was unsuccessful. The licence was awarded ultimately to a local company which claimed- that it was locally controlled, that its capital was in Queensland and that its directors lived in the State. Subsequently a gentleman named Mr R. M. Ansett had people acting on his behalf buy up on the stock exchange shares in the company even before the station was built. As a result of this, today one of the largest shareholdings is owned by a particular individual or through his representative. I understand that the next largest shareholding is owned by the Brisbane Permanent Bank. So that, knowing that the first mentioned character in particular has no love for members of the Australian Labor Party, a fact to which my colleague Senator Kennelly made some reference last night, perhaps we could expect this sort of thing to happen when one of his employees is endorsed to contest a seat on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. When the nominations were first called for and Mr Sargent indicated he was going to nominate, he was told on 27th February by Mr Carlyon, the then general manager of the station, that he would be given one month to withdraw his application. Afterwards an agreement was reached with the Chairman of Directors, Mr Savage, that the show would be re-vamped and retained but that the political content would be removed. I further emphasise what I believe is the political content in the action that has been taken. I want to quote three or four paragraphs from page 2 of an editorial in the Sydney ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of 24th March. I think it is significant that this particular individual is operating not only in the field of television to the detriment of democracy in Australia but’ he is doing it elsewhere.
– What particular individual is this?
– 1 will name the person. It is Mr Reg Ansett. If he is a friend of the honourable senator then I am sorry for him. The statement in the Sydney ‘Telegraph’ reads, in part:
Ansett-ANA did this, as a spokesman piously explained, for the sake of industrial peace and the travelling public ‘until the legal processes were finalised’. However, there was also a snug profit to be made at the expense of TAA.
Having kidded its rival into a decision which put all its DC9 jets out of action, Ansett-ANA then proceeded to sit back and make money by keeping its own DC9s flying. It is estimated that, as a result of the dispute, Ansett-ANA has been making at least $40,000 a week extra profit - and TAA has been losing more than $40,000 a week. For TAA, therefore, the three-men crew dispute has been a disaster. But for Ansett-ANA it has been a small gold mine.
Since all of Ansett’s revenue from air-transport, road-transport, motels, and . television alike, is lumped indistinguishably into a common account, a proportion of this profit at TAAs expense has no doubt helped to pay for some of the highly unprofitable Ansett television enterprises.
Isn’t it about time the Federal Government compelled Mr Ansett to separate his books and show the public just how much is made by his airline and how much is lost by his TV?
– What is the core of the honourable senator’s subject?
– I am pointing out that not only is the leader of this company dishonest in these activities, but he is undemocratic - or his agents are - in other activities. I think this is a fair submission. I have quoted the editorial in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’. I have already told the Senate that the then General Manager on 27th February said to Mr Haydn Sargent that he had 1 month to withdraw his nomination. The excuse given by Mr Pennell, the Operations Manager of TVQ Channel 0, and reported in today’s. Brisbane Press was: . . we are just reprogramming. Haydn Sargent has done a damn good job for us. He has been a good employee. The programme is going because it does not rate. If it was rating we would be absolutely crazy to take it off.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the show will terminate on 19th April and Mr Sargent’s position with the company will terminate on this date also. Now we find that whilst this particular show does not have a high rating, similar shows such as those involving Dita Cobb and Hazel Phillips apparently have similar ratings. There is no suggestion that they are lo be taken off the air.
I shall quote some other statements made in relation to this dismissal for the information of the Senate. The assistant secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labor Party, Mr B. R. Lourigan, described the dismissal last night as blatant political discrimination and as nothing less than a denial of the normal rights that any citizen should be able to expect. Today the Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland, Mr Houston, asked the Premier if he was aware that Mr Sargent had been sacked because he was standing for Parliament as an Australian Labor Party candidate. Mr Houston’s question continued: ls it not a cherished right of every citizen to seek election to Parliament? Will the Premier deplore publicly the attempt by this company to interfere wilh the basic democratic rights of this Queenslander?
Mr Houston, also asked the Minister for Labour and Tourism, Mr Herbert: is there any action industrial commissioners can take to prevent a company victimising an employee seeking election to Parliament as instanced in the Sargent sacking? If so, will he see that it is invoked immediately against this company?
Mr Thackeray, the State member for Rockhampton North, asked the Premier, Mr Pizzey, somewhat facetiously whether he would study the implications of the sacking of Mr Sargent as his only industrial crime appeared to be that he wanted to remove a Tooth. Perhaps I should explain that Mr Tooth is Minister for Health and is the Liberal Party holder of the State seat of Ashgrove for which Mr Sargent has nominated.
When Mr Sargent joined the company in June 1967 he was employed as a freelance producer director at a salary of $160 per week. Later he was propositioned by the management of the company to join the staff at a reduced weekly salary of $125. At the same time it was made clear to him that if he took this course of action and the programme on which he was engaged was taken off he would still have a permanent job with the company. At about Christmas last year Mr Sargent was sent to Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia to obtain material for his programme. So it was apparent in December 1967, when the company was prepared to spend money to send him overseas, that it intended to continue to employ him for an indefinite period. However, on 27th February when it was known that Mr Sargent was interested in nominating for ALP preselection he was told that he would have 1 month in which to withdraw his nomination. Last Monday, 25th March, a few hours after it was known that he had been endorsed as the ALP candidate, he was deprived of his livelihood. Such is the hallmark of democracy as supported by the management of this station and by the man who stands behind the station.
I told the Senate earlier that the Australian content of programmes telecast by the station is not very great. Mr Sargent’s programme was shown .10 times a week. Why was this action taken by the station in such a hurried manner when the election is still approximately 12 to 14 months away? Mr Sargent will find it extremely difficult to get similar work in the Brisbane metropolitan area because Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd own Channel 7, . the Sydney Morning Herald’ is a major shareholder in Channel 9 and the Australian Broadcasting Commission controls the only other channel. Having in mind what the Government did with Dr Patterson when he decided to seek ALP endorsement. I suggest that it would not allow the ABC to employ Mr Sargent in any capacity. I know that Government supporters say that the ABC is not politically controlled, but I suggest that it is politically fiddled with.
– What about DLP union secretaries?
– When a Labor Government was in office it did not interfere to the extent that Senator Sim’s Government has interfered over a long period of years. I think that is sufficient answer to a very puerile, silly interjection. When Mrs Gabby Horan, Mr Greg O’Dwyer and Mr Brian Cahill, three people employed on Brisbane radio and television, sought pre-selection for the Liberal Party, they were not penalised. Yet now we have one person in a prominent position whose job does not last 3 hours after he receives ALP endorsement.
I suggest that this matter deserves the attention of this Government because it involves a breach of civil liberties. It carries the implication that a person cannot nominatefor a seat in Parliament and be endorsed by a political party with which this Government does not agree. I also think that the matter deserves close scrutiny by the Postmaster-General because 1 submit that in these circumstances the manager of the station concerned would not be complying with the requirements of the Act.
– I rise more or less for the purpose of making a personal explanation, because it appears to me that I have been misrepresented in a statement made by an Opposition senator in this chamber on 20th March 1968. 1 quote from page 230 of Hansard, where part of a speech by Senator Lacey is recorded. Senator Lacey said:
I do not say this in any derogatory way about Senator Heatley, but when he was making a contribution to a debate in this chamber I got a bit annoyed and I interjected. 1 asked him what he knew about the start of the war in Vietnam and our participation in it. He said: ‘1 must confess that 1 know verylittle about it’,I then asked: Do you think that we should be informed fully so that we can inform our constituents when they ask questions?’ Senator Heatley said: ‘Perhaps some of us should be fully informed; not all of us’. So we can see the confusion that reigns on the Government side of the chamber.
I say here and now, and I said then, that confusion did not and does not reign on the Government side of the chamber. Let me now quote what I did say. This is the passage to which Senator Lacey was refer ring. It appears at page 219 of Hansard of 1st March 1967. I was speaking on the Address-in-Reply debate and this is the report in Hansard:
Regarding our present commitment in Vietnam and current talk of escalation, as a returned soldierI would like to say that the bombing and shelling of lines of communication and rear echelons is one of the simple tactics that have been adopted, I would say, over the last fifty years of warfare. The principle always has been that if we could prevent the enemy from getting supplies or troops to the front then we would have so much greater advantage. I think that the United States advisers, the Australian advisers on the spot, and the advisers of other countries implicated in the Vietnam war - let us call it a war - have decided to adopt this principle, and I feel that they are the only ones who can tell us what action should be taken in this regard. I will abide by what they decide.
– We are entitled to some explanation though.
-Ithink the explanation should come to us confidentially. I do not think the explanation should come to us by way of statements in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, to be made public to those whom we could call our enemies. I think such an explanation should be made confidentially, in a party room, and no more.
– Should not the people be informed of why we are at war? We have asked questions in this chamber of the Government and have not had an answer.
– At the moment I am discussing luetics of war and nothing else.
Those are my remarks as recorded in Hansard. 1 have not altered my opinion about’ what advice we should abide by, and I have no intention of doing so. The remarks of Senator Lacey implied that I was not interested in how the war in Vietnam started nor in the reasons for our participation in it. As J said, I rose more or less to make a personal explanation. The statement made by Senator Lacey as recorded in Hansard gives a completely false picture of my views, my beliefs and my statements.
– Senator Heatley displayed a most manly attitude in informing me that he intended to raise this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate-. All I wish to say is thatI quoted from my memory of an incident that occurred here about 12 months ago. If I misinterpreted what he intended to say, or what he said on that occasion, I express my regrets and offer my apologies to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680327_senate_26_s37/>.