26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Iiic PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair al 1 1 a.m., and rend prayers.
Senator MURPHY - My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Is il not a fact that the real cost of the twentyfour FI 11C aircraft that Australia has ordered, with all ancillary equipment and spare parts, is now $400m and not $300m, which is the figure that has been floated about? Is the Government considering cancelling the order for some of the aircraft or ancillary equipment in order to bring the cost down to $300m? Further, is it not true that our order is for FI 1 1C aircraft, modified to incorporate parts which were part of the specification of the FI MB aircraft which were ordered for the United States Navy? Now that the United States Navy has cancelled the order for the FI 1 IB and the United States Senate has voted funds to find an alternative, how do we get on for features such as wing tips, which are an integral part of our order but were on the production line only for the cancelled FI 1 IB and not for the United States F111c?
Senator ANDERSON- The Leader of the Opposition has directed to me as Minister for Supply a series of questions which are for the most part of a technical nature but the matter is, in truth, the direct responsibility of the Minister for Defence. I can only say to him that the Minister for Defence in another place has indicated that he is proposing to make a comprehensive statement in relation to Australia’s acquisition of the Fill. The series of questions that the Leader now poses will be answered, I have no doubt, in that statement. There is no suggestion that Australia- should cancel its order for this aircraft.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, by saying that I am getting a little tired of the Senate being misled when questions are asked in connection with the dispute with Trans-Australia Airlines on the manning of
DC9 aircraft. The Minister has stated that this case is sub judice. 1 ask him whether he has received thai information from the Minister representing the Attorney-General in this place. If not, just where did he receive the information, because the only case before the court at the moment is the Qantas Airways Ltd case, which has nothing to do with TAA or the DC9 dispute?
– The answer was given on my own judgment and it is not customary for a Minister to reveal from where he obtains his information.
– My question Is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Some weeks ago the Minister for Defence intimated that he would make a statement on F111C aircraft. Does the Minister’s evasion of the fulfilment of his promise to make a statement indicate confusion in the Cabinet over the whole subject of the astronomical and still rising cost of the F111c aircraft?
– 1 suggest that that is not a proper question to ask. The Minister for Defence has stated that he will make a statement and 1 do not think the honourable senator should suggest that he will not do so. When the Minister for Defence says that he will do something he does it, and his reputation in the political life of Australia gives the lie to the implication in the honourable senator’s question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. What information has the Government for the Senate on this morning’s report that Hanoi has announced its willingness to negotiate with the United States?
– 1 am sure that everybody who heard the early morning news today would be quite excited about the possibility of a representative of Hanoi coming to the conference table. T am not in a position to make a statement at this particular time. If during the day it is possible for me to give any further information, I shall certanly seek leave to make a statement.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to a report in today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ that about 5,000 meat workers have lost their jobs because of the drought? Will the Minister take steps to see that financial assistance from drought relief funds is granted to those who lose their employment because of the drought to supplement the meagre unemployment benefits that are available through the normal social service channels?
– I did not sec the statement. As to the particularity of the question, I shall certainly refer it to the Treasurer and as soon as an answer is supplied I will make it available to the Senate and in particular Senator Poyser.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read the report in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of remarks made by the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr Tom Lewis, in which he indicated that his Government regards the terms of the Commonwealth Government’s multi-million dollar dairy industry resuscitation plan as being quite unacceptable? Does he regard this statement as being a mortal blow to the Commonwealth Government’s plans for the dairy industry?
– I have seen a reference to the statement mentioned by the honourable senator. In reply to a question about this matter asked, I think, last week I said that some consultations had taken place between the Minister for Primary Industry and the State Ministers for Agriculture. My understanding - I think I said this in my answer at the time - was that further consultations would take place. The Minister for Primary Industry answered a similar question to this in another place this morning. I suggest that the honourable senator should obtain a copy of that answer or, if he likes I will get it for him.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to a news item in today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ wherein it appears that Australia is negotiating an unusual orange marketing scheme with Israel? It seems that as an experiment oranges will be marketed to Israel’s permanent customers for one year. This means that Israel will be able to supply its European customers as well during the off season and at the same time benefit Australian exporters. Has the Minister any further details of this scheme for the Senate? If not, will he procure them? Is the possibility of using a similar technique in the case of other primary exports being explored by the Department of Trade and Industry?
– My attention was drawn to a Press report this morning and I sought from the Minister for Trade and Industry information which would enable me to answer a question such as that asked by the honourable senator. I am aware that the Sunraysia Districts Citrus Growers’ Cooperative Society Ltd has been having discussions with the Citrus Marketing Board of Israel. Those discussions concern the possibility of the Israeli Board acting as Sunraysia’s agent for the sale of Australian citrus fruits under the ‘Riverland’ label during the northern hemisphere off-season. These negotiations are not yet final. The Australian Government has not been involved but it is very interestedin any commercial enterprise and initiative directed towards increasing the sale of Australian export products in overseas markets. If further information becomes available to me I will see that it is directed to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works in his capacity as Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. In view of the fact that officers of Australian trade missions overseas are agents or representatives of the Australian Tourist Commission and are endeavouring to attract increasing numbers of tourists to Australia, are they requested to co-operate fully with intending tourists in arranging alternative flights to this country during the not infrequent strikes affecting our overseas airline, Qantas?
-I am unableto say that this specific matter is within my knowledge. I would think that the recent strike in the Qantas organisation has been so sudden that the Australian Tourist Commission, notwithstanding that it met in Canberra yesterday, has nol been able to list the matter for discussion. I am thankful to the honourable senator for raising this matter. I will bring it to- the notice of the Commission.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, ls it a fact that under existing provisions of the National Service Aci it is not possible for national servicemen who volunteer for further service under section 27 to bc discharged on compassionate grounds, even where strong grounds exist for a discharge? If so, are adequate precautions taken when national servicemen contemplate reenl istment to acquaint them with this fact before accepting their applications to undertake further service? Are any proposals in contemplation to correct the existing situation?
– 1 am unable lo say whether volunteering after a period of compulsory service by a national serviceman precludes the opportunity of his being granted compassionate leave. This question has arisen in relation to re-establishment benefits. The matter is the subject of current consideration by the Government and it can bc expected that an early announcement will be made to remedy the situation.
– 1 preface a question addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise by reminding him that Press reports earlier this year indicated that customs duty was being evaded in a conspiracy between Australian importers and Japanese exporters. Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether legal or departmental action has been or will be taken against those firms which allegedly imported goods from Japan and evaded the payment of all or part of the customs duty payable on such goods? Can the Minister name the firms, both Japanese and Australian’, allegedly involved in the transactions?
– Immediately after question time I shall be making a statement covering the subject matter to which the honourable senator refers.
– Is the Minister lor Housing aware of the ever increasing price of land- in all States and the consequent financial difficulties of young people seeking to build their own homes? Has any survey been made of the proportion of the cost of land to . the total cost- of the erected dwelling? ls any assistance given to enable people to obtain land more readily so that they can proceed with the building of a home while they are still young enough to bring up their children in decent surroundings? In conjunction with State Ministers for Housing, will the Minister try to find some way to prevent land prices rising to prohibitive levels so that home ownership may be facilitated among average and low income earners?
– I am aware that the price of land, particularly in some States, is relatively high. But T think I. should remind the honourable senator that, through two pieces of legislation, this Government has endeavoured to assist and, indeed, has assisted young people to obtain their own homes. The grants made under the homes savings grants scheme have helped many young couples to establish their first matrimonial home. Further, the operations of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation have done much to assist young people to obtain their own homes, as was disclosed by the figures which 1 gave the Senate only recently. 1 have noted the points raised by the honourable senator concerning the price of land in the States.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that abruptly caused non-flying periods of international airline companies such as Qantas Airways Ltd cause inconvenience to many people? Has the Minister considered converting the status of Qantas to one under which its administration and functions will be directly controlled by a Minister and the Parliament? Alternatively, will the Minister examine the prospect of selling Qantas to local interests?
– This is the first occasion for a long time on which I have heard a member of the Opposition advising that a socialised instrumentality should be sold to private enterprise. 1 am very interested in the subject which the honourable senator has raised. As this is a matter administered by the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice and I will obtain an answer from the Minister for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army a question. Will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Health the possibility of extending the re-establishment rights of national servicemen to ensure that they will not have to undergo a second qualifying period of 3 months for medical and hospital benefits under the national health scheme because their fund contributions have been interrupted by their service under the National Service Act?
– The honourable senator’s suggestion is an entirely new one to me. I think it is worth considering. I will consider it.
– 1 direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I feel obliged to do so because 1 believe that T may have conveyed a wrong impression to him, in view of his reply to my earlier question in which he referred to compassionate leave. The question that T directed to him was to this effect: ls it a fact that compassionate discharge from the Services is not available to national servicemen who re-enlist after the completion of their term of national service under the existing provisions of section 27 of the National Service Act? Will the Minister have a look at this matter to verify whether that is correct? If it is found to be correct, will he undertake to ensure that steps are taken to remedy that situation?
– The honourable senator having made this suggestion, I will give it early examination and, after consultation with the Minister for Labour and National Service, advise him of the decision that is made on it. However, let me say that T would be surprised if there were any provision that prevented the compassionate discharge of a serviceman, whether a national serviceman, a volunteer or a permanent serviceman.
– I refer to the question that Senator Keeffe asked me. The statement that I propose to make relates to customs duty evasion by certain Japanese companies. But the honourable senator raised other matters that are not covered in that statement. Therefore I ask for leave to reply in full to the other parts of his question.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– One part of Senator Keeffe’s question was whether Japanese and Australian companies were avoiding customs duty. The statement that I propose to make refers only to motor vehicles. When Senator Anderson was Minister for Customs and Excise he stated that legal action would be taken as soon as possible against companies - Australian and/or Japanese - importing goods and avoiding customs duty and that the companies that had evaded customs duty were being given the opportunity to have their cases heard under Part XV of the Customs Act and so avoid going to the High Court. But the companies have to make a request for , their cases to be heard under that Part. If they make such a request, they must understand that there is no appeal and that the Minister for Customs and Excise can impose penalties equal-
– Is the Minister aware that some authorities consider those provisions to be invalid?
– I do not want to get involved in that aspect, but I should think that if that were so no company would ask the Minister to hear its case under Part XV because if it did it would have to agree that it would not appeal. Therefore, a company is not likely to ask for the case to be heard under Part XV and would take it to the High Court. I wanted to make it plain that action will be taken but some time may elapse before there is a hearing. However, if the company and I agree to my hearing the case under Part XV we will get a much quicker result than if it were heard by the High Court.
– With your permission, Mr President, I should like to ask a further question of the Minister for Customs and Excise following the statement he has just made. Is it not incongruous that a Minister of the Crown should set himself up as an alternative to the judicial bodies in this community to hear charges of criminal offences and then to impose fines against companies? Apart altogether from the question of the validity of these provisions since the Boilermakers’ case in 1956, is there not the question of public interest in that where serious charges of widespread conspiracy are made such charges should be heard in courts of law?
– Part XV has been in the Customs Act since 1901. It is designed to give companies an opportunity, if they so desire, to have cases heard outside the High Court and to get a speedy decision.
(Question No. 5)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Capital Territory. It was inspected11 times by an inspector from the Department of the Interior during the period 11th August 1967 to the date of the accident, 15th January, 1968.
(Question No. 57)
Senator DITTMER (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Following legislation passed last year which authorised the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to make hearing aids available to pensioners, are the Laboratories at present in a position to provide these aids? If not, when will they be able to do so?
The Commonwealth Government’s scheme to provide hearing aids for pensioners and their dependants came into operation on 1st April 1968 in the metropolitan area of Adelaide and in Newcastle. The scheme will be extended to other capital cities and to certain large provincial centres by 1st June 1968. Regular visits by staff of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to other provincial cities and townswill also be made in due course. It will be practicable to supply hearing aids to all pensioners to whom they would be of value. Pensioners in the 65-69 years age group will be tested in the opening stages and, as soon as practicable, testing will be extended to all other age groups of pensioners and their dependants.
(Question No. 79)
Senator McCLELLAND (through Senator
O’Byrne) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many applications have been lodged by trade unions for hearings before the Public Service Arbitrator since December 1966?
What was the date offiling of each of the applications?
How many of such cases are part heard?
When did the hearing of each of these cases commence?
How many are still awaiting a hearing?
How many cases have had determinations made?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answers: 1 and 2. Between December 1966 and 19th March 1968, 451 applications were filed with the Public Service Arbitrator. 3 and 4. One case, the hearing of which commenced on 12th March 1968.
(Question No. 101)
What has been done to implement the recommendations on roads, by the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, that:
‘Designstandards of all types of roads should be established. The use of road markings, road signs and traffic signals should be in accordance with as uniform a code as possible throughout the Commonwealth’;
‘Construction of major roads should be on the basis of providing divided carriageways for traffic’; and
‘An immediate programme should be drawn up for the modernisation of street lighting in all States’?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 125)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: 1, 2 and 3. The Department of Works expects to invite tenders for the Randwick Migrant Hostel within the next month and for Springvale in July 1968. The estimated completion date for each hostel is within 2 years of the letting of a contract
(Question No. 128)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 131)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 134)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
Is It a fact that during 1966, 1967 and 1968 to date, recruitment to the Navy has fallen alarmingly, if so what are the reasons for this decline?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer:
In answer to the honourable senator’s question on recruiting, the answer is no. The following figures will indicate that over the years there has been a steady increase in the numbers entered for Naval Service.
To date, 1968 recruiting activity overall is at or above 1966 and 1967 levels, which in turn were above 1964 and 1965 levels. In one avenue of entry, that is, the adult male entry, the number entered in 1968 is down compared to the corresponding period of 1967, but up on the same period for 1966.
(Question No. 139)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What action has been taken on the following points which were raised at the 13th Annual Congress of the Public Service Association of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, that:
a full-scale inquiry into housing for local officers be conducted by the Administration forthwith;
such inquiry should cover -
true current housing needs of local officers;
projected housing needs of local officers for the next 5 years, using current requirements as a basis for the projection;
current and projected needs for housing for Papuans and New Guineans generally, in view of the degree to which local officers’ enjoyment of their housing is restricted by the general shortage and their social and family obligations;
the cost of meeting the requirements of local officers;
in addition to housing needs as such, needs for sanitation and water. In some areas, rainfall is just insufficient to provide enough water for minimum health standards whatever arrangements are made for its catchment.;
such inquiry should be completed by the end of 1968;
in the meantime, the Administration should press on apace with construction of low cost housing;
such inquiry should be conducted by the Housing Commission, if it soon becomes fully operative, or else by a committee including technical, financial and statistics representatives of the Administration, a representative of the Public Service Association, a member of the House of Assembly and a representative for the community generally;
upon the cost of meeting local officers’ needs becoming known, the Australian Government and the Administration should urgently make special arrangements for the necessary money to be made available over a period of5 years to meet those needs and should give all publicity to their endeavour;
in an effort to reduce high labour costs, the maximum use should be made of selfhelp schemes, and increased allocation of funds for housing should be made to District Commissioners to enable use to be made of local labour potential;
staff-posting policies be reviewed with a view to leaving local officers in one place for longer periods of time to encourage them in provision of maintenance and improvement of dwellings;
the Housing Commission be made fully operative with all despatch; and
for housing for non-public service workers, the principle of properly planned areas not subject to any covenant as to value of buildings erected but subject to minimum standards of sanitation, water supply and space to safeguard health and to allow for urban renewal should be used in conjunction with more conventional schemes to assist home-purchasing?
Senator WRIGHT The Minister for External Territories has now supplied the following answer:
The resolution noted by the honourable senator was recently forwarded by the Public Service Association for the Minister’s consideration. The Minister will make a copy of his reply to the Association available to the honourable senator.
(Question No. 160)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 175)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer: 1, 2 and 3. There are at present five vacant positions of the kind mentioned in the question. These positions have been vacant for varying periods. It is some years since all vacant positions were filled. Vacancies are advertised from time to time but the response has not been such as to enable all positions to be filled.It is intended to advertise again this month.
– by leave - A few moments ago Senator Keeffe asked what action had been taken in relation to certain matters in Papua and New Guinea. As I understand the position, the effect of asking such a question is to prevent other senators from asking a question on the same matter. The question was asked in order that information be made available to the Senate. I suggest to the Minister that, instead of simply supplying an answer to Senator Keeffe outside the chamber, it would be more appropriate for the answer or for the document itself to be supplied to the Senate, and I ask him to do so.
– Order! Obviously Senator Keeffe asked a long question. If a long question is asked and if a long answer is given, for the orderly working of the Senate they should be incorporated in Hansard.
– That Is not the purport of what I was saying. I was referring to the supplying of an answer to an individual senator outside the chamber rather than making the information available to the whole Senate.
– Order! My remarks were made in a general way in regard to detailed questions.
– by leave - I do not understand the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) to be objecting to the form of the reply. The reply gave a frank answer detailing the action that is being taken. That is, consideration is being given to all those matters. The reply indicated that the only responsible way of conveying this information would be to communicate it to the honourable senator who asked the question as soon as the Minister has made a decision. It has been suggested now by another senator that the reply should be communicated to the Senate. 1 will be pleased to accept the suggestion and will make it my business to see that the reply given to Senator Keeffe is communicated also to the Senate.
Has the Postmaster-General been informed of a petition signed by 795 residents in the district of Sturt in South Australia protesting against a departmental decision to close down the Sturt Post Office - which has been operating since 31st October 1849 - when a new post office is opened in an adjacent suburb in a few weeks? If he has not, will he use his authority to have the closedown decision deferred to enable the petitioners’ argument that the effect of the new post office on the old post office will be only marginal to be tested over an operating period of, say, 6 months? Finally, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral use her best endeavours to have this matter treated as urgent because of the time factor involved?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Following receipt of a petition presented to the Director, Posts and Telegraphs, South Australia, on 8th March 1968 the proposal to close the Sturt non-official Post Office upon the opening of the new official post office at Oaklands Park was reviewed.
The proposal to rearrange the postal facilities in this area arose from the establishment of a new major shopping centre at Oaklands Park. As the
Department endeavours to locate post offices where they will be most convenient for the majority of residents, it was decided to provide an official post office in the new shopping centre. It is usual in these circumstances to review the need for nearby post offices ana as the Sturt non-official Post Office is located within SOO yards of the proposed Oaklands Park Post Office, its retention could no longer be justified.
In addition to Oaklands Park, residents in the area are served by Marion, Mitchell Park, Sturt South and Seacombe Gardens Post Offices and it is considered that, under the changed circumstances, adequate postal facilities exist for the residents in the vicinity of Sturt non-official Post Office.
I am afraid, therefore, that it is not practicable to agree to the request that the Sturt non-official Post Office be retained.
The Minister for Health has informed me that the position is that for some years the Commonwealth has endeavoured to persuade State authorities to provide incinerators at ports for the disposal of overseas ships’ garbage, this being, in the Commonwealth view, a responsibility of the port authorities. However, the States contended that this was a Commonwealth responsibility and in order to end the impasse which had been reached, the Commonwealth offered to meet the cost of incinerators for this purpose.
The Commonwealth offer was made by the then Prime Minister to the Premiers of all States except Western Australia on 30th May 1 966. The terms of the offer were that the Commonwealth would pay the full cost of establishing incinerators at selected ports plus the cost of ancillary structures including buildings, foundations and fencing, and half the cost of access roads but excluding land costs. The Commonwealth would not be responsible for any share, of the costs of maintaining or operating the incinerators or transporting garbage. This offer has been accepted by New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia.
However. Queensland, without formal acceptance of the Commonwealth’s offer, has decided to put in hand immediately the necessary measures for the installation of incinerators and subsidiary plant, equipment and organisation in such Queensland overseas ports as may be necessary. Queensland intends that - the matter of replacements will be further discussed with the Commonwealth.
Victoria is proceeding with the establishment of incinerators at four major Victorian ports. However, the Premier of Victoria in taking this action has advised that he reserves the right to negotiate further with the Commonwealth on financial arrangements between the two Governments.
– by leave - I make this statement to inform the Senate of certain factors associated with a current investigation by the Department of Customs and Excise into the importation of motor vehicles from Japan. Late last year the Department received complaints from Australian manufacturers of motor vehicles alleging that motor vehicles were being exported from Japan at prices less than the normal value. The Department receives many complaints of this nature, and followed its normal course of commencing a fairly routine inquiry into the valuation of such motor vehicles. It was recently established that these cars were being exported to Australia at dumped prices. Inquiries of this nature are complex, because of the nature of our legislation, but it had been expected that they would be completed in the near future.
At this late stage, following an intensive investigation of one particular Australian company engaged in the importation of Japanese cars, the Department has now come into possession of documents which state that the exporters of motor vehicles from Japan have agreed and, indeed, have collectively conspired to give the customs investigators false information aimed at evading our laws. Indeed, these documents give instructions to the Australian company aimed at ensuring that similar false information was tendered in Australia. This evidence suggests that the duties evaded may be much greater than the routine investigation had disclosed.
This is a very serious matter, and I wish to inform the Senate of it. I have instructed the Department to intensify its inquiries into this matter, and I can assure the Senate that appropriate action will be taken in this matter as soon as the investigation can be completed. For this reason, I have today issued a Gazette notice notifying that imports of motor vehicles are formally under dumping investigation.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till
Tuesday, April 30, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - agreed to:
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Pneumatic tyre valves and parts.
Earthmoving, excavating and materials handling machinery and equipment.
Debate resumed from 3 April (vide page 536), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party, of course, supports this Bill which was introduced in this chamber yesterday. The purpose of the Bill is to seek the approval of Parliament for an amendment to the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Act of 1964 to raise the upper limit on the Commonwealth’s financial assistance payable under the Act from $5.5m to $8m. Under this Act the Commonwealth is making available to the State non-repayable grants over the 6-year period ending lune 1969, as a general financial contribution towards the cost of flood mitigation works on certain coastal rivers in the State. The financial assistance is made available on the basis of matching $1 for $1 the State Government’s contribution. The State contributes $3 for every $1 of local authority expenditure in the case of the Hunter River, and $2 for every $1 spent by local authorities in the case of the Macleay, Richmond, Clarence, Tweed and Shoalhaven Rivers. The Commonwealth’s assistance is being provided in recognition of the national importance of flood mitigation on these particular rivers.
As most honourable senators will know, the Labor Party has been battling for many years to have a measure such as this passed by the Federal Parliament. I do not have to remind the Senate that a former member for Cowper, Mr Frank McGuren, came into this Parliament and campaigned strongly for flood mitigation. He worked day and night for it. He favourably impressed everybody, but particularly the late Prime Minister, Mr Holt, who in 1964 introduced the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill. In his second reading speech in another place, Mr Holt said:
The purpose, of this Bill is to authorise a grant of up to £2,750,000 to the State of New South Wales over a period of 6 years as financial assistance towards the carrying out of flood mitigation works on certain New South Wales rivers.
Floods affect nearly all New South Wales rivers, certainly all New South Wales coastal rivers. We must say that the dairy farmers - the principal industry in these areas is dairy farming - believe in self-help. So it was only reasonable that the Government should do something to help them to help themselves.
When I resided in the Hunter River District, every 5 to 7 years we had floods. They swept away the assets of the farmers, irrespective of politics. A flood has no regard for politics. During the last big Hunter River flood the mine workers laid down their tools in order to help the farmers. They came out of the mines early to line up along the banks of the Hunter River and save the city of Maitland. They worked with members of the municipal councils, most of whom were probably members of the Country Party. That did not make any difference. The mine workers rolled up in hundreds when the call went out for them to come and help with the sandbags that would hold back the river and protect Maitland and the rest of the Hunter River area.
You, Mr President, have been very active in the organisations that have been set up in this spirit of self-help. Maitland has a soil and water conservation and flood mitigation organisation. It is called the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust. Its members are all laymen’. They are experts in their own fields, of course. But this is a matter of self-help. The population of the Hunter River Valley is more than 250,000 and there are at least another 100,000 people within the immediate vicinity of Newcastle. The Hunter River is very important to Newcastle. Floods not only hurt the farmers and other people in rural industries but also cost the New South Wales Government about $4m a year in relieving the Newcastle Harbour of the silt that comes into it as a result of erosion along the River and its tributaries. So floods represent a very big problem for everyone. We must compliment the people who work in organisations to provide the background, initiative and inspiration for governments to come to their aid. We are glad that the Gorton Government is carrying on the work commenced by Mr Holt under pressure from the Labor Party and from Labor men in the area who for many years have been advocating government aid in flood mitigation.
When we drive through or fly over the north coast area of New South Wales, from
Byron Bay down to Newcastle, we see the beautiful country and think it is the ‘Valley of the Moon’ but it is not. At the moment the Government is preparing to move one in every three dairy farmers off their farms. There has been a steady decline in the farming population in the north coast area of New South Wales for many years. I should not speak disrespectfully of Sir Earle Page, but throughout the time that he represented the electorate of Cowper nothing very much happened in respect of flood mitigation. Only lately have people become really busy and have governments become interested in helping to solve this great problem. Farmers have lost thousands of dollars worth of assets; some have lost fortunes. Hundreds of farmers in the north coast area have walked off their properties without receiving any compensation. The beautiful appearance of the north, coast area can be very deceiving.
At this very moment the Government is preparing to put teeth into a recommendation that was made in 1962, when the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry reported that there were too many farmers in the north coast area, that one in every three farms would have to go and that the farmers would have to move off their properties or produce beef instead of milk. I believe that very soon we will be debating in this Parliament a measure along those lines. But the report on this matter was made in 1962. The Government has been very slothful in acting on it. Obviously people will be hurt. A man’s farm is his castle just as a man’s home is his castle. If a particular farmer is selected as one who has to leave his farm he will be hurt and will not want to go.
I agree with the Government that we cannot have subsistence farming but there is another aspect of the problem. North Coast farmers, struggling for a livelihood as most of them are, live side by side with farmers who are living in comfort. I refer to farmers in the New South Wales Milk Board area. They are getting the cream of the business because they supply the metropolitan area with milk. They are doing very well indeed. New South Wales had a Labor Government for about 25 years and I suppose Government senators would say that it should have done something. It did. It came to the rescue of the dairy farmers and set up the New South Wales Milk
Board. Instead of children doing the milking, farmers were able to employ labour at well above the basic wage and the industry was able to carry on. It would have been wise if the Labor Government of the day could have extended the Milk Board form of organisation to all dairy farmers.
I do not want to get involved in a discussion of that aspect of the matter. I am not an expert-
– You do not think it is a matter of the price paid for a gallon of milk?
– Of course. I realise that. The North Coast farmers have to depend on the butter export trade and they do not get as much-
– The Milk Board is a form of stabilisation.
– That is right. Let me repeat a warning that I have stated in this chamber previously. Farmers in one section of the dairy industry are living in comfort and security while farmers in the other section never know the hour or the day when they will have to walk off their farms. I do not deny that the Government will have a problem in trying to convince certain farmers on the North Coast that they should go while others are allowed to remain. As Senator Prowse remarked, it is a matter of price. The man in the milk zone gets a good price for his product and the man outside it does not. One gets the fat and the other gets the skim milk.
When one looks at places like Lismore, Byron Bay and other towns along the coast of New South Wales one sees beauty and signs of prosperity, but the farmers often have a different view of things. The Government must do something about the problem. Flood mitigation and the protection of farms were probably the answer in the early days. We are a strange country. Dorothea Mackellar wrote about this sun burnt country. Every 10 years it is either sun burnt or flooded. That has been the history of the coastal rivers system in New South Wales for many years.
I support what the Government proposes to do by this Bill. If I have any criticism to offer it is that this has all been too late, particularly when one remembers that in 1962 the Government set up a committee of inquiry to investigate the dairy industry. The committee’s report stated that the population of the rural industries on the North Coast had to be reduced so that we could conform to market conditions. After all, that is what is happening in many other aspects of industrial activity in Australia. The coal industry is a case in point. Some years ago its markets were almost totally local but now its markets are almost totally overseas. We have allowed the industry to become dependent on exports and overseas conditions. That has been happening in the dairy industry for many years. However, we support the Bill and congratulate the Government on seeing the light at last.
– I rise also to support the Bill now before the Senate. As Senator Ormonde has said, the main purpose of the Bill is to raise the upper limit of the Commonwealth Government’s contribution towards flood mitigation from $5.5m to $8m. The assistance is directed particularly to the Hunter River Valley and the North Coast rivers of New South Wales. This is a splendid example of the Commonwealth providing funds to assist State governments and local government bodies to make a contribution of great importance not only to the people who live in the areas concerned, be they primary producers or town or city people such as we find in Newcastle, but also to the people of Australia as a whole.
Since coming to the Senate 1 have frequently referred to the devastating effects of the drought which has been experienced in most of Australia for the last few years. I think the drought of 1963 to at least 1968 will go down in history as one of the worst ever experienced in Australia, having regard to its marked effect on our rural production. We must also cast our minds back to the period between 1950 and 1956 when Australia, particularly the eastern States, suffered devastating floods which did a tremendous amount of damage. I can speak of this subject with some experience because of my owning a property on the Murrumbidgee River, one of our inland rivers. Between 1950 and 1956 the
Murrumbidgee River was in major flood on at least four occasions. On each occasion at least 50% of my property was covered by flood waters, and in 1956 as much as 90% was covered by flood waters. Because of the nature of the 1956 flood, 4 weeks elapsed before at least 50% of my property came to the surface.
Fortunately floods in the inland rivers are not as devastating as floods in the coastal rivers. In the coastal area rain falls much more heavily. Further, the water runs off much more quickly than it does in inland areas because of the steeper slopes in the terrain. Consequently the damage is considerably greater. I think all honourable members will remember the 1955 flood in the Hunter River Valley where the damage was tremendous and the suffering of many people acute. The flood affected not only the people in rural areas but those in the towns and cities as well. In addition there was considerable deterioration of soil. Scientists tell us that the 7 inches of topsoil in Australia might be regarded as the country’s greatest asset because from it we get our greatest production. Tremendous damage is caused by the scouring out and the destruction of river banks. Any honourable senator with experience of flooding will appreciate the extent of the damage that is caused from time to time in the northern rivers area of New South Wales. The erosion of river banks is of great importance and causes great difficulties in those areas. It must also be remembered that in flooded areas business is lost by the people in the towns. The homes of thousands of people are damaged or washed away and completely destroyed. Their furniture is lost.
Senator Ormonde referred to the work of local government authorities. They are hit very hard by the effects of floods. They have set about helping themselves by establishing committees. They do not stop at making representations to governments. They have shown in the past that they are prepared to get together and help themselves. Their example of community help has been most appreciated. Harbour facilities are also damaged by floods and the mouths of rivers are silted up. One example is the Hunter River. At Newcastle great sums of money have been spent to keep that watercourse open to shipping.
The measure before the Senate is a step in the right direction. Nobody expects that it will result in the prevention of floods but at least it is a very important attempt to ensure that the damage caused by floods in the areas covered by this legislation will be lessened in the future. The effects of both drought and floods often are felt within a decade, and sometimes within the same year. We must ensure that as soon as possible at least some of the water that . falls on the tablelands is dammed, and perhaps even channelled to the higher western areas where it can be utilised to the best advantage of primary industries and the Australian economy.
Fifty years ago people did not believe that many of the engineering feats since accomplished could be achieved. 1 refer to the burrowing of huge tunnels through mountains as part of the Snowy Mountains scheme and the damming of water on a scale then thought to be impossible. Not only has the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority almost completed its tremendous task, but it has done so in a much shorter time than was thought to be possible. I support the Bill, lt is a splendid achievement which will furnish great assistance to the northern rivers area of New South Wales and will make a vital contribution to increasing the production of this country.
Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) 1 1 2.23] - As explained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Supply (.Senator Anderson), who represents in this chamber the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the purpose of this Bil] is to increase the amount of Commonwealth financial assistance payable under the principal Act from $5.5m to S8m. The New South Wales Government contributes $3 for every $1 of local government expenditure in respect of the Hunter River system, and $2 for every $1 spent by local authorities in respect of the Macleay, Richmond, Clarence, Tweed and Shoalhaven Rivers. Each of those rivers, with the exception of the Shoalhaven, is part of the northern rivers system of New South Wales. The Minister has said that Commonwealth assistance is being provided in recognition of the national importance of flood mitigation works on the rivers I have named. The Minister pointed out in his second reading speech that in addition to the amount of $2. 5m which will become available to State Governments under this measure, an . amount of $1.3m remains available to the New South Wales Government under, the present arrangement. All told,- a substantial sum will be available for flood mitigation works in this financial year.
It is rather ironical that whilst great stretches of Australia are now and have been for some time in the grip of drought, here in the National Parliament we are considering a bill to provide money for flood mitigation purposes.. I suggest it would be far belter, if the Commonwealth were con-, templating on the northern rivers system of New South Wales projects for the Snowy Mountains Authority which is being disbanded in the southern part of the State. The Snowy Mountains Authority could effectively explore the. possibilities of harnessing and diverting flood waters of the northern rivers system. It could inquire whether the building of dams and weirs would be’ practicable, to contain flood waters and release water when needed.
The north coast of New South Wales is , beset with a great number of problems at this time. Senator Ormonde referred to the difficulties of the dairying industry. Many dairy farmers are living virtually like peons because of the hopeless economic situation of the industry. The Governor-General stated in his Speech that over the next 4 years the Government is to make available $25m in an attempt to divert some dairy farmers into other occupations. In my speech in the Address-in-Reply debate I referred to the difficulties of the banana industry because of over production. I could name other industries and farming pursuits facing problems in the northern rivers area of New South Wales. Their problems are linked in part with the economic losses they have suffered as a result of flood damage.
I appreciate the work being done on the northern rivers system. To appreciate it properly it is necessary to have experienced floods. One then realises that the money to be made available through this legislation is a mere drop in the bucket. The magnitude of the tasks ahead of people responsible for flood mitigation works can be gauged only after seing flooded areas. Last January at the height of the flooding of the Macleay River I was in Kempsey. I visited South West Rocks at the mouth of the Macleay River and saw there a great sheet of swiftly flowing mud carrying logs and other debris out to the Pacific Ocean. Long stretches of the Pacific Highway were completely under water, in parts to a depth of 10 feet. I was amazed by the turbulence and volume of the water flowing out to sea from the run-off into the Macleay River. Local dairy farmers had to shift their machinery to higher ground and board up their homes. The emergency branding of cattle was necessary before placing them on agistment so that they could be identified after the floods subsided. This hurried organisation of arrangements has to be made within a matter of hours because they may receive a warning at 3 o’clock that the river will be in flood by 7 o’clock. The shifting of machinery, the boarding up of their homes, the branding, shifting and agistment of the cattle have to be arranged in a very short time. While speaking on this subject I should like to pay a personal compliment to the Mayor and Mayoress of Kempsey, Mr and Mrs Melville, who performed outstanding work at the time of the flood in January in organising emergency accommodation for tourists and other people who had been caught at Kempsey by the flood because the railway line, the road and all other forms of transport and communication into and out of the area were completely cut. They did a terrific job, and are deserving of the highest commendation.
Having spoken in this general way, Iel me now come to what I hope is a constructive suggestion in regard to the type of work that is being undertaken. I question whether we are getting real value for the amount of money that is being spent. We know that the Commonwealth and the State subsidise local councils fo’r the work that they perform in carrying out flood mitigation projects. But let us consider the Pacific Highway which comes under the jurisdiction of the Main Roads Department of New South Wales and which is a responsibility of the New South Wales Government. That Government, along with other State governments, says that it is not receiving sufficient money from the Commonwealth for road development and main tenance purposes. Between Johns River near Taree and Woolgoolga, which is just south of Grafton, the Pacific Highway is, I suggest, little more than a country road. Along it are very narrow bridges where one vehicle has to stop while waiting for another vehicle to cross. Transport hauliers have great difficulty in moving their semitrailers across some of these bridges. At Johns River during the January flood a young father lost his life while trying to cross the river because there was no indication of the height of the water over the bridge.
Some of the money used by local authorities on road works should be diverted to the Department of Main Roads to enable the level of the Pacific Highway to be raised, so that it can be widened and so that bridges can be widened to enable an effective means of transport and communication at a time of flood. These remarks apply particularly to the Johns River, the Macleay River and also to the Clarence River. To illustrate what I have been saying I invite honourable senators to compare the difficulty of crossing the Harwood River when the punt was in operation at Harwood with the ease of crossing the Harwood River- today over the great bridge which has been constructed. I remember that in or about 1962 I was delayed at the Harwood River punt for about 3 hours waiting to cross the river which had not long before been in flood. As a result of planning by the former Minister for Local Government in New South Wales, the Honourable. P. D. Hills, a bridge across the Harwood River has now been built and the delay no longer exists. One is able to appreciate the- amount of time that is saved and the saving to our economy by having effective means of transport at times of flood.
While dealing with the question of whether or not the Commonwealth is getting real value for the money that it spends, let me direct attention to the Tweed River on the far North Coast of New South Wales. Some farmers in this area are very concerned at the manner in which flood mitigation work is being carried out. I am not an expert in this Held, but a great number of farmers have said, rightly or wrongly, that it is all very well to vote a certain sum of money for a particular project but they doubt whether they are getting real value for the expenditure. They ask whether the money is being used to the greatest advantage having regard to the amount of work that has to be done. For example, I have been told that no model trial of the Tweed River area has ever been made and that no one will know the real effect of the work that has been done for another 4, 5 or 6 years.
– They will know if they are Hooded out.
– Yes. But there has been an expenditure of $1.6m on flood mitigation work in this area and the farmers are not sure that the work done will overcome their problems. They say that they will not know for another 4, 5 or 6 years. Of the $1.6m which has been spent on flood mitigation work on the Tweed River, twofifths has been supplied by the Commonwealth. Consequently we are entitled to ask whether the work that is now being done is the best that can be done having regard to the problems in that area.
There seems to be a common misconception that flood mitigation work began only after the Commonwealth came into this arena in about 1964, but the fact of the matter is that flood mitigation really came into vogue on the North Coast of New South Wales after the great 1949 flood. Towns like Kempsey, Grafton and Maitland were under water for many days and they suffered great loss of life and damage. In 1950, shortly after the 1949 flood, the then New South Wales Government appointed a water conservation expert, a Mr Lipping, to make a detailed investigation of the flood areas. After investigating the situation and having reported on the matter, a committee headed by a Mr E. W. Harrison, the investigating engineer of the New South Wales Department of Public Works, conducted a further inquiry and investigation into the situation. After the Harrison committee had studied the Lipping recommendations it in turn made comprehensive recommendations which virtually became the basis for flood mitigation proposals for the northern rivers system. Eventually an agreement was signed between the then New South Wales Government and the local councils for the implementation of the work which began in about 1953 or 1954. But it was not until 1964 that the Commonwealth, by an act of this Parliament, came into the sphere of flood mitigation. I point that out so that the Senate will be aware that flood mitigation was well’ and truly under way - admittedly on a limited basis owing to the paucity of funds available to the State - before the Commonwealth came into this arena in 1964. 1 come back again to the question of whether we as a nation and particularly the farmers in the immediate area are getting real value for the money that is being spent. Perhaps I should refer next to river development which involves dredging and cleaning out the river to make sure that there is a free flow of water and that it is free of logs and other debris. I have been told that an estimated $250,000 has been spent on this type of work on the Tweed River. But, again, that sum has been spent without any real type of prior investigation. Then, apparently, somebody suddenly decided not to spend any more on river development work, as it is called. It was decided that the money would be better spent in the preparation of levee banks. In the final allocation of flood mitigation moneys in the Tweed River area just recently no provision at all has been made, I understand, for further river development. There has been a tremendous concentration of development of levee walls on the Tweed River. I am told that in many instances the construction of these levee walls is not meeting the wishes of local landholders. They have pointed out to me that if water either seeps through a levee wall or breaks over it and, as a result, banks up behind the wall, when the river subsides after the flood the farmer is left with the banked up water and has considerable difficulty subsequently in draining it away. It sours the soil and adds to the farmer’s problems.
Recently an expert investigated some of these problems in the Dulguigan area of the Tweed Valley. A Mr Trench, of a Sydney firm of consulting engineers and town planners, prepared a plan for flood mitigation and drainage.
– Do you not agree that this is a State responsibility?
– I do not agree with that. Let us face it: The Commonwealth is spending a considerable sum of money for this purpose. It is just not good enough for the Commonwealth to say: ‘Here is the money. Spend it as you wish.’ The Commonwealth should be interesting itself in getting some hydrologists or other experts to look at the type of work being done and present reports on whether or not the work can be improved.
– Surely the States will make their own hydrological surveys before they spend money.
– Good, bad or indifferent - 1 do not know. Commonwealth money is involved and 1 suggest it is not good enough for us to say: ‘Here is the money. We wash our hands of it. You do the best that you can.’ It is our responsibility to co-operate as much as possible with the States and with the local authorities to see that the money is spent in the best possible way. The report prepared by Mr Trench, to whom I have just referred, states at page 4:
In the Tweed valley levee banks can only be justified when minor flooding from the river itself causes serious damage on the flood plain and where the disposal of local storm water is not a problem, lt would appear that neither of these conditions would apply to the Dulguigan area and I am surprised that flood mitigation by the construction of substantial levee banks was attempted in the area, it would appear that any benefits that might result from the construction of the levees would be minor while the disadvantages could well be considerable.
This is part of a report by an expert consulting engineer who was appointed by the local drainage union for the purpose of investigating whether this type of work was to the best advantage or could be improved. Farmers are complaining of lack of coordination between the local municipal councils responsible for the carrying out of the work and the drainage unions which, of course, arc semi-governmental organisations under the auspices and control of the New South Wales Public Works Department.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I said that a number of farmers in the Tweed district had expressed the opinion that more valuable work than that which has been done to date could be done to obtain proper value for expenditure on flood mitigation activities. I referred also to the subject of levee banks and quoted portion of a report pre pared by a Mr Trench, a consulting engineer who had reported on Hood mitigation and drainage in the Dulguigan drainage district. Let me repeat this part of his report:
In the Tweed Valley levee banks can only be justified when minor flooding from the river itself causes serious damage on the flood plain and where the disposal of local storm water is not a problem, lt would appear that neither of these conditions would apply to the Dulguigan area and I am surprised that flood mitigation by the construction of substantial levee banks was attempted in the area, lt would appear that any benefit that might result from the construction of the levees would be minor while the disadvantages could well be considerable.
Later in his report, again dealing with the subject of levee banks, Mr Trench said:
The crucial factor is the behaviour of the river before and after the construction of the levees. The effect will vary from flood to flood. While floods greater in height and of longer duration would appear to be almost inevitable it is not possible to make a categorical statement to this effect without a full investigation.
That is the point I am making. There should be a proper and effective appraisal of the value of the work that has been done to date to try to co-ordinate a much more effective plan in the future. Mr Trench went on to say:
Unless a very full investigation has been carried out including the production of a scale model it would nol be competent for any engineer to make a definite statement one way or the other. Unless the Tweed Shire has made or has access to such an investigation, then the construction of a system of levees was dangerous from an engineering point of view.
In summing up. he said:
Flooding of the Dulguigan flats by flooding from the North Arm has never been a serious problem to farmers.
Because of the type of rainfall and limited catchment area of the Tweed basin, the Dulguigan flats will flood as frequently or almost as frequently even when protected by levee banks. This is primarily due to run off from the catchment area of the Dulguigan Creek.
The flats are at times inundated by flooding from the creek when the river is not in flood. Prior to the construction of the levees these floods passed freely over the river banks into the river. Under present conditions this type of flooding will be more severe and of longer duration than prior to the construction of the levees.
That is an opinion expressed by a consulting engineer about the type of levee bank that is being constructed in the Tweed area. Obviously he is suggesting that because flooding in the future is likely to be more severe and of longer duration than in past years, bearing in mind the topography of the country, the levee banks now being constructed may not be of very much effect in future years.
I repeat that some farmers in the area are complaining of lack of co-ordination between the local authority that is responsible for the carrying out of the flood mitigation works and the respective drainage unions, which are semi-governmental organisations under the control of the New South Wales Public Works Department. Although for the last 30 to 35 years the drainage unions have been responsible for considering the control of water in these areas, apparently suddenly they are finding that their ideas and suggestions are being ignored. In the Tweed Valley there are about thirteen of these local drainage unions. They are maintained on the basis of the ratepayers on the flood plain paying rates to the local drainage union, the directors of which are elected every three years by the local ratepayers. In other words the drainage union is a democratically elected organisation.
There have been threats of litigation between individuals and the local government organisation. Currently the Dulguigan drainage union, which is the one in Mr Trench’s report to which I have referred, has successfully sought an investigation under section 654 of the New South Wales Local Government Act, which provides for an investigation to be made by an officer appointed by the Minister for Local Government in relation to disputes that exist between two governmental institutions such as a shire or municipal council and a drainage union. One of the drainage unions on the Tweed has sought an injunction in the Equity Court to restrain the local government organisation from completing a section of the levee wall which it is claimed will prove to be detrimental to the area.
– One of the unions, did you say?
– Yes, one of the drainage unions in the area.
– What is a drainage union?
– I thought I had explained that a drainage union was a body which consists of ratepayers who reside in a particular flood plain. The ratepayers contribute rates to the union in the area in which they live, and the directors of the union are elected by the ratepayers for 3 years. In other words, a drainage union is a kind of local government organisation within the area of a particular flood plain. On the Tweed River there are about thirteen drainage unions.
– In a State that is not as unionised as New South Wales we call them boards.
– Knowing of the Minister’s antipathy to unions, I point out that these organisations are not industrial organisations within the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. On the Macleay, Clarence and Hastings rivers, which are in the southern portion of the north coast area of New South Wales or perhaps I should say on the mid-north coast, channels have been constructed to divert and to hold water. These have proved to be very effective and of great assistance in flood mitigation. But side channeling of the river is not being carried out on the Tweed. Apparently the Lipping report of 1 950, which first gave rise to flood mitigation activity in New South Wales, suggested that priority should be given to improved drainage by the development of this kind of channeling. But to the consternation of a great number of farmers on the far north coast, the work being undertaken is not in the form of channeling but of levee banks. What I have attempted to show is that the work being carried out might be beneficial at the present time but that it could have deleterious effects - I am not saying that it will - in the future. Because the Commonwealth Government, through the States, is allocating a considerable amount of money for flood mitigation, I suggest that it should be making inquiries to ensure that the best value possible is being obtained for the money spent. It is not good enough to say that we are spending $8m on flood mitigation and then claim that we are getting for the farmers in the area and for the future development of the area the greatest possible value, lt is not good enough to say: ‘Here is $8m. Spend it as you will.’ As I said earlier, the Commonwealth should be making arrangements to send experts from . the Snowy Mountains Authority to the Northern Rivers system of New South Wales to investigate the situation there and to make recommendations for future planning in respect of flood mitigation. 1 would like to see trained hydro.logists and other experts who have studied the effects and control of water - perhaps officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - appointed by the Commonwealth to make recommendations with regard to future Hood mitigation activities.
As Senator Ormonde said, we do not oppose this measure. I have taken advantage of the debate on the second reading to make what I regard as constructive criticism of the type of work that is now being undertaken and to raise in this Parliament a voice on behalf of the farmers who are expressing concern at the type of work that is being done. They have grave fears that they and the Commonwealth are not getting a proper return for the expenditure involved. All of these things should be thoroughly investigated in the near future in the interests of this Parliament and the Australian people and particularly in the interests of those who live on the northern rivers system ofNew South Wales. I trust that my remarks will be noted by the Government.
– This Bill is a fairly simple piece of legislation. It is further example of the generous and sensible help being offered by the Commonwealth where certain crucial problem areas exist in individual States. We all know that Australia is bedevilled by the trilogy of flood, fire and drought. We are living in a more enlightened age where the Commonwealth secs the existence of a problem and announces its willingness to help in emergencies as they arise. These emergencies will always be part of the Australian scene. We will always suffer very greatly from fire, drought and flood. So this proposal is one we all should welcome. lt demonstrates a constructive approach to the problem. It establishes a pattern to which one may return on a later occasion when the same kind of situation arises in another State.
Senator Ormonde made a good point when he said that these natural disasters bring out the best in Australians. In such cases we see the Australian people banding together to help each other. We see wonderful examples of voluntary work - of people getting together to relieve the plight of those less fortunate than themselves. Some of us in this place have been involved in these voluntary efforts. Some of us may have taken part in the activities of bushfire brigades and in flood clearing operations. All of us would agree that when these emergencies arise we see the best side of the Australian people, who join together to help others who have had a bit of a rough time. We should commend Senator Ormonde for that thought. It is a good one to place before the Senate.
Senator McClelland said that the. Commonwealth should send experts from the Snowy Mountains Authority to the northern rivers area of New South Wales. 1 think he is confusing the functions of the States and the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Authority could go to the northern rivers area and give advice, but only at the request of the New South Wales Government, which has the responsibility of looking after New South Wales in the matter of water conservation. I have done a fair amount of work on this subject through the years. I am not uninformed on the problem. New South Wales is well equipped with people who are fairly competent in this field. The State does draw on the Snowy Mountains Authority for help and advice as and when required, but the Commonwealth is in no position to send a band of experts into the northern rivers area with explicit instructions to override the State authorities and dictate to them how to handle the problem.
Senator McClelland raised what I thought was a good point when he referred to the problems of the dairy farmer on the northern rivers, who is living, as I said in an earlier speech, in many cases a life that is very close to the line of poverty. We all hope that the programme of assistance referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech will enable many farmers to enjoy a brighter and more prosperous future. Part of the problem that now confronts the North Coast stems from the fact that many dairy farms were carved out of scrub that should have been left as scrub. In many cases the land will not support dairying activity effectively and, inevitably, nature being a stronger partner than man, the land reverts to nature. What is happening in a lot of that country is that the land is slowly reverting to the natural forests that were there before man came.
One of the great pities associated with the development of the northern rivers area has been the over zealous clearing of land to produce dairy farms. This in turn has produced a problem about which Senator McClelland is worried - the problem of siltation, which raises the level of the river bed, producing a flood problem. So, while what the honourable senator said contains a lot of merit, it tended to deal with the effect rather than the cause. This is a problem that has to be considered in the case of the northern rivers of New South Wales and perhaps it will have to be considered later in the area around the Shoalhaven River in the south and perhaps, as years pass, over more of Australia. But it is rather a problem peculiar to New South Wales.
The State has a dividing range running fairly close to the eastern seaboard, with a lot of water being generated on the heights of the range and flowing quickly down steep slopes to the sea. If this watershed, which receives a lot of rain, is ever cleared you will get slow erosion and siltation in the short, fast rivers and the problem of floods will be with you for many years. In this problem you keep coming back to the same cause of the trouble - over-clearing and soil erosion on much of the catchment area. As those who take an interest in this matter will know, the things that limit Australia’s capacity to be greater are a shortage of water and a lack of forest cover. We are a country poor in water resources. Water and forest cover are the two great resources necessary to an expanding country wishing to support a large population, and Australia is deficient in both. As a Commonwealth we have taken positive steps to join with the States in a Federal system to increase our resources of timber. We have joined with the States in an endeavour to husband our water resources. But we have gone even further. The work of the Australian Water Resources Council is similar to that undertaken by the Australian Forestry Council and the Australian Agricultural Council. It represents a joining of the Commonwealth and the States in common purpose, with each party retaining its rights and responsibilities. No part of the exercise is designed to force the will of one party on the other. That is why the proper authority to look into this matter of the northern rivers area is the Water Resources Council which, if it so desired, could ask the Snowy Mountains Authority for help or advice. I hope all honourable senators will appreciate that under our Federal system the Common wealth could not say to a State: ‘We are sending to the northern rivers area twentyfive experts of the Snowy Mountains Authority, who will tell your water conservation people what to do’.
There is a good book which deals with the general problems of river valleys, lt was published a long time ago. It was written by David Lilienthal. Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States. When the Authority began its work the Tennessee Valley was a region of poverty, distress, misery and general low living standards. The book deals with the control of erosion in the Valley, the sensible use of its water and (and resources, the generation of power - in fact, with the whole matter of the rehabilitation of the Valley and its people by the wise use of land and water. That is the kind of approach that we want to our problems. It is the kind of approach that we are beginning to see emerging in the Australian Water Resources Council, which is a joint Commonwealth and State body. I believe, that Lilienthal spoke well when he said in the foreword that he wrote to his book that what he could say about this matter was that from the time the Ten.nesee Valley Authority began to function the region began to live, whereas previously what was in front of most of the people was a fair measure of distress and misery.
Recently a very useful project was undertaken and carried out in New South Wales. I think it has now reached a conclusion. It was purely a matter for New South Wales and the Minister for Conservation in that State. I am referring to a full survey of all the major river valleys in the State. It followed the general thinking of the Tennessee Valley Authority, namely, that we should look at a river valley as a region of itself and study it, see what its problems are, where it gets into trouble, what can be done to make it better and what its opportunities are. Anybody who wants to follow this matter through will find a series of exhaustive research volumes, well prepared, fully documented, mapped and containing the results of hydrological surveys. Each volume is about an inch thick. The volumes represent an exhaustive study of the river valleys of New South Wales. They lay down a pattern for the development of those valleys, both of coastal run rivers and of inland run rivers.
They represent a massive achievement by the Minister for Conservation and the Government of that State.
I do not think I need say a great deal more about this matter. 1 have spoken because I felt that certain things were misunderstood. In conclusion I repeat that the flood problem is caused very largely by the silt which comes down the coastal rivers from the high watershed country and which raises the bed of the river to such an extent that the water can no longer flow within the banks. The river then floods over the plain and the banks have to be raised by artificial means; the banks have to be made higher by levees. That is a palliative. lt is not a solution. The solution is to make sure that the watershed and the eroding areas that produce the silt which restricts the stream and river flow become forest areas or areas in which sensible farming practices are adopted.
If 1 had to make one suggestion it would be that in Australia, because of our land mass and our problems of flood, fire and drought, our governments could well consider whether we are fast approaching the time when we need, in addition to the Agricultural Council, the Forestry Council and the Water Resources Council, a similar type of body to study soil and soil erosion in order to ensure that we maintain the heritage that has been passed on to us on behalf of the Australian people. Otherwise 1 have no objection to the remarks of other speakers. I believe that this is a wise measure. I welcome and support it.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) 12.39] - Like other speakers, I support the substance of this Bill. I begin by taking over the baton that Senator McClelland carried and asking these questions’. To what extent should the Commonwealth Government play a supervisory role in flood mitigation? I can think of no better analogy than the situation in the field of education. For quite a long while Senator Gorton, as he then was, handled Commonwealth activities in education. We know that he and the Government quite rightly had their own secretariat to vet all the proposals made by the State education authorities. We should apply that principle to flood mitigation.
I believe that on occasions the Commonwealth could bear down a little harder. When we consider the history of Commonwealth and State relations we realise that at the time of Federation the various State railway systems were constructing far too many branch lines. Because particular local authorities were able to lobby effectively, railway lines were constructed along certain routes, whereas if the engineering and other broader aspects had been considered the routes of those lines would have been considerably different. The States are not in a position to be too sensitive on this matter. They can always be vocal about what the Commonwealth Government should do. I do not question for one moment that the Commonwealth Government, as the central tax collecting authority, has the finance, which has to be disbursed in various fields. But I believe that sometimes the Commonwealth Government is a little timid in respect of the role that it should perform. When Senator McClelland referred to the role of the experts in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, he was suggesting that they should be called upon to advise the Minister responsible for this matter, in the same way as the experts whom Senator Gorton, as he then was, rightly had around him advised him. Many State government people become caught up in their own local enthusiasms. One of the functions of the Commonwealth Government is to consider proposals objectively and to be advised by people who look solely at the principles of a scheme and are not dazzled by any local lobbying.
The subject of flood mitigation has many attendant problems. On the north coast of New South Wales there is the growing problem of beach erosion. Some of the erosion is occurring where the rivers flow into the sea. Whilst I welcome the money that is earmarked for flood mitigation under this Bill, I believe that in Government circles there is some doubt about how far the Commonwealth can intrude into State functions. That is how I interpreted an exchange between one or two interjectors on the Government side of the chamber and Senator McClelland. I believe that inevitably the Commonwealth will have to assume greater responsibility. I am prompted to say that by an answer that I received some months ago from the then Prime Minister to a question in which I referred to some of the increasing beach erosion problems on the north coast of New South Wales. I was told very bluntly that this was primarily a State matter. I am sorry that Senator Gair is not present. I know that just across the border in Queensland many of the local newspapers have been agitating very vigorously for some form of Commonwealth action in respect of beach erosion.
In Massachusetts in the United States people such as Senator Edward Kennedy have played a very vigorous role in this field. I believe that history will prove that at some time the Commonwealth will have to buy into this field. If we let beach erosion continue more or less unfettered it will be a factor in subsequent flood problems at the mouths of rivers. I hope that Senator Henty’s proposal for the appointment of a select committee on water pollution will be implemented. An industrial establishment in the upper reaches of a river may be contributing, even in a small way, to the siltation of that river. Rood mitigation has many attendant problems. I have come to the conclusion - I think most honourable senators will agree with my conclusion - that industry, with its modern devices, will have to make a contribution, instead of the Commonwealth and State governments spending large sums of money on river rehabilitation when many of the problems are man-made.
I am pleased that Senator Marriott is in the chamber. He and I have different views on society. The last speaker, Senator Cotton, said that it would have been better if some of the land that has been put under dairy farming had been left more or less in its virgin state, as forest land. Articles in some of the New South Wales forestry publications dealing with the actions of the cedar getters and other timber cutters at the turn of the century would suggest that that statement is true. I wonder whether Senator Marriott’s political predecessors at that time talked about private enterprise and the freedom of people to get an axe, chop down trees and farm a particular area. We members of the Opposition are not trying to be oppressive. We believe in a planned society because we realise that the things which Senator Cotton said were wrong can happen when the freedom of people in a particular area is untrammeled. I assure the Senate that we are simply being practical; it is not a matter of our having any particular ideological concept of society. I was very pleased to hear Senator Cotton make that remark because the view is now held that a lot more land should be put back under forest.
That brings me to the next stage. The Australian Conservation Foundation has suggested that land should not be cleared. Processes can be over mechanised. An authority could say: ‘All these mangrove swamps will be cleared and we will get rid of the mosquitoes’, but then it may be found that the balance of nature has been upset about 100 miles down the river. We must not forget that all these problems mesh together. We need to consider the various forms of recreation that are affected. What about trout fishing? The people concerned would come to the Government and say: ‘Because you did this here something has gone wrong there.’ The punch line to these submissions is delivered when the Government says blandly: ‘Oh yes, we com.partmentised the situation’. When you try to placate one’ local interest you find the forestry authorities complaining. The Commonwealth authorities should support a plan for the co-ordination of all State and municipal authorities. That is not to say that we should adopt Orwell’s concept of the big brother, but if we require precision in our modern society there must be precision in the legislative field.
Mention has been made of the various rivers concerned in this proposal. I agree to a point with Senator Cotton’s remarks about the Shoalhaven River which runs through the electorate of Macarthur but Mr J. Beale, the present Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, has never been the complete diplomat and there has been a very serious confrontation with the Shoalhaven Shire Council on the matter of flood mitigation. Many people in the area - I have in mind, for example, shire councillor Gordon Ritchie - have a first class record in advocating prompt measures for the future of the Shoalhaven district. They feel that they have a point of view to express. For that reason I would prefer experts from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to meet the Council and hear the Council’s views rather than have Mr Beale, in his dual capacity of Minister for Conservation and member for the South Coast, getting a little tough with those people. If we put our beliefs about democracy into practice we would give every person, whether he be a. senator, a Cabinet Minister, a shire councillor or an ordinary member of the public, the right to express his viewpoint without feeling that someone was lording it over him. 1 join with all Opposition senators in welcoming this Bill, but I appeal to the Government not to have too many inhibitions about over government from Canberra. Make no mistake: Anyone who has talks about political problems with student gatherings knows that stupid State rivalry, and concern about whether a person comes from Sydney or Melbourne, does not cut any ice with them. They merely ask: ‘Is the proposal practical?’ If the Commonwealth Government is prepared to veto what the States put forward, Australia may reap the benefit in 10 or 15 years. The mass of Australian voters, irrespective of their political labels, will support the Commonwealth. I preach this gospel of increased Commonwealth intervention and coordination because I know that it is the view that will be held in the future. Let us not look back too often and practise the narrow parochialism which has kept Australia backward. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– in reply - 1 thank the Senate for its support oi this Bill which is designed to raise the upper limit of Commonwealth financial assistance for flood mitigation work in New South Wales from $5. 5m to $8m. I have listened with considerable interest to the debate, and in other circumstances I would have been delighted to have a genera] discussion on the points that were touched on, particularly by Senator McClelland and Senator Mulvihill, because they are broad issues which are open to research and interesting and fruitful debate.
I do not believe it can be argued that funds allocated under conditions, or under section 96 of the Constitution without conditions, are allocated without regard to the need for the application of the funds. 1 think we tend not to evaluate properly the Commonwealth’s consideration of a matter before making a substantia] donation to the States. I believe the Commonwealth first looks at the aspects to which the honourable senator has referred - the need for the funds and their application. 1 -listened very carefully to Senator McClelland’s comments about the application of funds in the northern rivers area of New South Wales. He was careful, to point out. that he was not arguing the merits of the matter but rather was expressing a point of. view which had been expressed in that area to the effect that the local people feel that the funds spent by State authorities on flood mitigation very often had been misdirected. However New South Wales, the mother State of the. Common wealth, has a very responsible, department administering this matter, a department that has had profound experience in this field. Putting personalities aside for one moment let me say that New South Wales, having had a tremendous .amount of experience in the problems associated with floods, particularly in the northern rivers area, would have built up over the years a staff of technical experts who would consciously seek to do their best to solve those problems. I do not think for one moment that New South Wales would devote funds to certain works without first having conducted a tremendous amount of research. Obviously there are margins for differences of opinion in the area of research but I would not like it to be thought that the Commonwealth would allocate funds to the States unless it were satisfied with the expertise of the responsible people in the States. Nor would I like it to be thought that there was not an extremely high degree of expertise in the States.
Senator Mulvihill, however, tended to argue slightly the other way to the effect that we do not need the views of the people in the area. He believes that big brother - the Commonwealth - should use its own technical experts to satisfy itself that the proper thing is being done and that value is being received for money spent. I think we are on common ground in recognising that floods are one of Australia’s major problems. It is a paradox that we are beset both by floods and droughts. In addition we have bushfires, often at the same time as droughts. Almost in the twinkling of an eye flash floods occur. A tremendous amount of expert opinion has been built up in this field, both at Commonwealth and State levels. We have also sought expert overseas opinion on hydrological matters, and on flood mitigation works. I thank the Senate for its co-operation in giving a quick passage to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether anything has been done towards flood mitigation works in the catchment areas. I thought we were discussing flood mitigation, but after listening to all the speeches in this debate it seems to me that every topic but flood mitigation has been mentioned. I have had the impression that the Commonwealth is to provide finance for works to prevent rivers overflowing and flooding the surrounding areas. I do not have a bird’s eye view of this matter. I would not like to make concrete suggestions but I had hoped that somebody would tell us what the authorities - the State authorities or anybody else - are to do with the money provided to mitigate floods. It seems to me that the catchment areas may be the causes of the floods. Is work to be undertaken on watercourses and the outlets of rivers in order to cope with the floods? I am interested to learn just what is to be done for the money that is to be spent. No-one has yet said in this debate what methods are to be used to prevent future flooding.
– The honourable senator has posed a wide question which goes beyond the scope of this Bill. This is a special Bill to set an upper limit on funds to be provided to the States for flood mitigation works. Quite frankly, I am not competent to give an answer to the general type of question asked by the honourable senator at the Committee stage of this debate.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 April (vide page 582), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following paper:
Upon which Senator McManus had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add’, but the Senate expresses concern at the deterioration of Australia’s defence position occasioned by -
Britain’s impending withdrawal from east of Suez;
increasing United States of America opposi tion to military commitments in Asia and our area;
China’s development of long range atomic weapons, and, accordingly, calls on the Government for action to improve our defences under a 4 year plan for -
significant increases in the strength of our armed forces generally;
a naval programme, including an aircraft carrier;
initial steps to development of our own aircraft industry; and
in default of a satisfactory treaty for world nuclear disarmament, acquisition by Australia of its own nuclear deterrent’.
At the adjournment of this debate last night I was discussing various aspects of our external affairs policy. The main theme of my speech has been the very important announcement by President Johnson of his intended retirement from politics, and of the cessation of bombing by the United States of 90% of the area of North Vietnam. President Johnson has expressed the hope that this move will bring from Hanoi moves towards peace negotiations. 1 said last night that international affairs move very quickly. Today we have the information that there has been an immediate reaction in North Vietnam to President Johnson’s offer. Every honourable senator will be delighted at this prospect.
I wish to refer to world comments reaching Australia expressing hopes for the outcome of possible peace talks as a result of the move by the United States. However, we should not be over-optimistic, in view of the reported comments by the Government of North Vietnam. I have a Press document in the name of AAPR and United Press International. It states:
The United States and North Vietnam are to bold peace talks about arrangements for negotiations towards a settlement of the Vietnam war. It is not yet known when the talks will begin, or where they will be held. Early today, eastern Australian time–
That refers to today, 4th April -
Events are certainly moving quickly. J. am sure it is the prayer of every honourable senator that a forward movement will be made towards peace and that we will see very shortly a recession of hostilities in Vietnam. President Johnson has our prayers for success in this matter. I suggest that the comments made in this debate by honourable senators on the attitude that President Johnson has taken should be forwarded to him by the Senate. The Senate could express its great confidence in President Johnson and could congratulate him on the work he has done towards peace in Vietnam. He would certainly be heartened to know from the comments by Senator Cormack, Senator McManus and others that there were Australians and, in particular, senators, who were willing to express confidence in the work he had done towards peace. I would advocate that as a Senate we should make him aware of that.
It is interesting to take note of the text of the Hanoi domestic radio broadcast in relation to this matter. I am afraid that whilst expressing hope for peace, I do not find in the wording of the broadcast any real reason why we should feel confident that Hanoi is genuine in its attempts to achieve peace. We would be clutching at straws to take hope from what was said. The following is the monitored text of the North Vietnamese statement which was broadcast by Hanoi domestic radio in Vietnamese at 1433 hours Greenwich Mean Time on 3rd April 1968:
Since 196S, in order to retrieve its setbacks and stalemate in South Vietnam, the United States has massively sent US expeditionary troops to carry out a local war in South Vietnam while at the same lime waging a war of destruction against the DRV. lt has committed an extremely barbarous crime of aggression against all the Vietnamese people.
The heroic South Vietnamese people, under the talented leadership of the National Liberation Front, have fought with an exceedingly valient spirit, successively defeated all the extremely cruel and perfidious plots and tricks of the US imperialists and their lackeys, and scored great victories. The South Vietnam army and people’s general offensive and simultaneous uprising have dealt them a crippling blow. Nothing can save the collapse of the puppet administration and puppet army prop of US neo-colonialism. Nothing can save the US aggressors from total defeat.
The valiant North Vietnamese people, who are determined to triumph over the US imperialists’ war of destruction in defence of their sovereignty and territory, have punished the US aggressors in a ‘ well-deserved manner. The Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence and freedom has entered a new phase. US defeat is obvious.
The United States must put an end to its aggressive war against Vietnam and must withdraw all US and satellite troops from South Vietnam so that Vietnam’s internal affairs may be solved by the Vietnamese people themselves. The Vietnamese people’s stand of peace and independence is the four points of the DRV Government and the political programme of the NFLSV It embodies the fundamental principles and main provisions of the 1954 Geneva Agreements on Vietnam and is a correct basis for a political solution of the Vietnam issue.
The DRV Government has on many occasions stated . . . talks between the DRV and the United States will begin after the latter has proved that it has actually ended unconditionally the bombing and all other war acts against the DRV. This just stand and goodwill of the DRV has enjoyed the warm sympathy and support of wide public opinion in the world. Peace and justice-loving people throughout the five continents demand that the United States respond to the DRV Government’s demand that conforms both to sense and sentiments, cease permanently and unconditionally its bombings and all other war acts against the DRV, and put an end to its aggression against Vietnam.
Recently, in face of the extremely dangerous situation with no way out faced by the United States in South Vietnam and the heavy defeat of the war of destruction against North Vietnam in face of the great political, social and financial difficulties caused by the Vietnam aggressive war, and in face of the increasingly powerful pressure of world public opinion and US progressive opinion, President Johnson has had to declare a restricted bombing of North Vietnam.
This is a defeat and at the same time a shrewd trick of the US Government aimed at placating public opinion. In reality, the US Government is still sending more US troops to South Vietnam and endeavoring to strengthen the puppet army. They are asking for more allocations to continue the Vietnam aggressive war. In reality, the United States is still continuing to bomb, an important part of the DRV territory, from the 17th to the 20th Parallels, and is still refusing to end unconditionally its’ bombing and all other war acts againstthe entire territory of the DRV. It is clear that the US Government has not correctly and fully responded to the just demand of the DRV Government, of US progressive opinion, and of world public opinion.
However, on its part, the DRV Government declares its readiness to send its representatives to make contact, with US representatives to decide with the US side the unconditional cessation oi bombing and all other war acts by the United States against the DRV so that talks’ could be begun. So long as the United States pursues its aggression against Vietnam, the Vietnamese people, responding to President Ho Chi Minh’s sacred appeal, will resolutely tight on until final victory to defend the North, liberate the South, proceed toward the peaceful reunification of their fatherland, and thus contribute to the defence of peace in Indochina, Southeast Asia, and the world. The DRV Government earnestly calls on the governments and peoples of the fraternal Socialist countries, the peace-loving countries in the world, and the- progressive American people to warmly sympathise with and extend still stronger support to the just struggle and correct stand of the Vietnamese people and DRV Government.
That was the full text of the statement by -the North Vietnamese Government broadcast by the Hanoi domestic, radio yesterday. From those remarks we have taken some faint glimmer of hope. I sincerely hope that something will flow from this present situation, although I have grave doubts from the general wording of the announcement whether we will achieve success. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) a day or so ago brought to our notice an important point in relation to this whole matter. According to a report of a statement that he made at a meeting of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation at Wellington last Tuesday, he said:
It is in Vietnam today that the most immediate threat faces us, and in a stark form.
The republic of Vietnam is under attack in a war but is directed, supplied and controlled from outside.
The attack takes the form of subversion and of armed operations by regular forces from North Vietnam.
Then the Minister made this important point:
We have to keep our eyes firmly on the great issues at stake and not be diverted or misled by any single military incident or battle.
I believe that those remarks are very applicable to the view that has been taken in the last 24 hours to the reaction from Hanoi. I should like to express my view on the great importance of security in this area as it is related to the Department of External Affairs. It should be put on record that the Department of External Affairs through its officers, in the development of establishments overseas, plays a significant part in our being able to keep personal contact with some of the near Asian countries. The history of the development of the Department of External Affairs is interesting. It was first established in 1901. Its progress from that time was only slight and eventually it was abolished in 1916. 1 should imagine that this will never happen again. On its re-establishment in 1935 it continued to progress until the number of staff it employed reached 410 by the year 1946. It is significant that the. Government places such importance upon this Department that a year or so ago its total staff numbered over 1,500 individuals. We have 19 posts in South East Asia, 18 in Europe, 7 in North America, 7 in South America and 3 in the South Pacific area.
Defence must occupy a prominent place in our Budget and I suggest that our record discloses that Australia has done all that it should have done in the past. I know that might be contrary to the views held by some honourable senators who have argued that the Government has been reticent about providing more money for our defence, but the record discloses, that over the years that it has been in office this Government has been wise in seeing that as high a proportion as possible of the Australian people’s money has been expended in that important area of national development. It is my belief that if our national development can take precedence over defence this will eventually make for far greater security for Australia than would the expenditure at this time of large sums on our own defence.
When I was speaking last night, I had not time to complete giving the Senate some - statistics relating to the expansion of our defence expenditure. The people should be made aware of the enormous increase that has taken place in the amount of money spent on our defence. Tn 1966-67, our defence expenditure totalled $950m, which was 27% more than the amount expended in the previous year. The Budget papers for 1967-68 disclose that the amount set aside for defence was $1,1 18m, an increase of $168m or 18% over the expenditure for the previous year. The average rate of increase in the 4 years since 1962-63 was approximately 22% a year. In view of these figures, I am led to endorse the statement by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that we cannot continue for long to meet anything like that rate of increase without a deep impairment of our economy.
Although 5- years ago our external defence expenditure was under $100m a year, this year it could be well above $350m. I emphasise that this is purely for external costs. Keeping those figures in mind, I wish to deal now with Great Britain’s withdrawal from east of Suez. I am one who has some doubts as to whether the Australian Government has done all that it possibly can do to encourage the United Kingdom Government to stay in this area. I emphasise the political factors affecting the British Government which have led to this decision. There can be no doubt that Britain’s economic position is very awkward at the present time. The cost of maintaining forces outside her own country is enormous. Iri order to appreciate her position we must examine her great financial commitments and the great changes that have taken place in the United Kingdom over past years. The figures relating to the total involvement of the British Government beyond her own shores make interesting reading, especially when compared with the limits we are placing on our external commitments. During 1967, even after the initial reduction of forces in Malaysia, the total strength of British forces outside Britain was approximately 23,000 in the Navy, 106,000 in the Army and 34,000 in the Air Force, making a total of approximately 163,000 members of the British forces deployed outside Britain. The estimated costs during 1967-68 were £St* 184m for European ground forces and £Stg173m for overseas areas, which would include the area near to our shores, making a total of £Stg357m. It is interesting to note that these figures do not include the cost of running the Navy while at sea.
– From what is the honourable senator quoting?
– This information was supplied by the Legislative Research Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.
– I thought the total was higher than that.
– I think the figures were taken from a British White Paper on defence issued in July 1967. 1 wish to deal now with Great Britain’s finances because I think they furnish reasons why Britain would withdraw from South East Asia. They demonstrate that often those who win a war are the losers in the long run. This has certainly proved to be so with Great Britain. At the outbreak of war in 1938-39, total United Kingdom capital holdings overseas were approximately £Stg4,000m. Confidence in sterling was high and dollar reserves were £Stg450m, equal to about 6i months of her imports bill. To pay for the 1939-45 war, the United Kingdom had to sell one-quarter of her overseas investments to help pay for imports. Her overseas debt was increased from £Stg476m in 1939 to £Stg3,567m by the end of 1945. Overseas’ United Kingdom gold and currency reserves in 1966 were £Stg1,107m, equal to 2i months imports for the same year.
Honourable senators will be aware of the great difficulties with which Great Britain is faced in her present economic position. She is also worried by unemployment. It is interesting to know that in June 1939 the United Kingdom work force totalled approximately nineteen million of whom some 10% were unemployed. By August 1967 the work force had increased to nearly twenty-three million, of whom 555,000, or 2.4%, were unemployed. Unemployment was expected to increase to 800,000, or 3.5% of the labour force in the first 3 months of 1968. Britain has every reason to be concerned about’ her economy. I opened my reference to this matter by saying that I doubted whether’ the Australian Government had done enough to encourage Britain to remain in this area. Although I have a great regard for the efforts of the United States and realise thai according to the record of recent years, she is the one line of strength to which Australia must look, I am still a great admirer of the brilliance in negotiation and the strength of character to be found in Great Britain. I believe that we have not negotiated as we could have done or taken an initiative to provide bases within Australia so that both the United States and Great Britain could hold and retain an interest in this area. There is a very interesting reference to this matter in an article published last year in a magazine entitled ‘United States News and World Report’. It reads:
Just now coming to light are United States plans to take over the burden of defending yet another huge area of the world. This time it is the Indian Ocean stretching from Africa to the shores of Australia.
Combining reports from London and Washington, the article states that an unpublicised 50-year agreement between the United States and Britain in December 1966 paved the way for a larger United States role in a region from which Britain was withdrawing; that Britain will turn over to the United States rights to build bases alone or jointly with Britain on two island groups in the Indian Ocean; that secret negotiations have been going on recently over what should be built on those islands, and that Australians may be asked to build a new storage area on the Cocos Islands and a new naval base south of Fremantle, as well as a new Fill base. The article goes on to state that Britain is pressing Australia to join New Zealand and Malaysia in attempting to take over the Singapore base as a joint enterprise after the British leave. Although I am not aware of any great steps that Australia has taken to encourage Britain to remain in the area, at least there have been top level discussions between Britain and America in an endeavour to fill that hole in the Indian Ocean area.
Aid to overseas countries must be one of the most important measures by which we can assist to establish and maintain peace in this area. The improvement of economic conditions and the relief of famine disaster as it occurs in some near Asian countries are matters to which Australia must look on every occasion. I believe that we have done well in providing aid. It appears that official overseas aid runs in the vicinity of $11 to $12 per head of population. Although one or two figures have been given by senators in relation to this matter I should like to read a list given to me by the Department of External Affairs snowing in order of magnitude official aid expressed as a percentage of national income. This shows the position to be as follows:
It is significant that we hold third place. The aid that Australia has given is significant. I am proud to say that it has been by way of gift and has never attracted servicing costs which some nations find impossible to handle. Sir Leslie Melville, a former Australian adviser to the World Bank, on returning to Australia a few years ago stated that sometimes aid given in the form of loans caused great distress and that, far from helping developing countries, in fact hindered their development. He said that developing countries in accepting loan aid had in some instances placed themselves so heavily in debt that the repayments cost more than the benefits that accrued from the project, and the countries experienced a net loss.
I hope that we continue our policy of giving official aid in the form of non repayable grants. I advocate that there be a section of the Department of External Affairs responsible for reporting regularly to the Parliament on the effect of continuing aid and making an unbiased evaluation of it. Australia is a country that from many aspects needs every dollar of its own money for its own development. I believe that Asian and other countries receiving aid from us fully recognise this and that our endeavours are of greater significance than those of countries which have finance readily available.
One of the important matters that will face us in the immediate future is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Senator McManus has included in his amendment an item that no Government senator could accept, calling, in default of a satisfactory treaty for world nuclear disarmament, for acquisition by Australia of its own nuclear deterrent. I do not doubt that many in the community feel that this would be a wise provision. Certainly Australia must do nothing to retard the progress that will be made in using nuclear reactors, but the comment that was made by the Minister for External Affairs should find greater acceptance than Senator McManus’ proposal. According to a Press report the Minister said, in relation to the spread of nuclear arms:
We fully hope that effective measures will- be found to prevent such further spread. 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 report continues:
Discussion was going on within the Government so that Australia’s position could be settled by the time the United Nations General Assembly convened next month.
Mr Hasluck said one of the main issues needing clarification was whether the treaty prevented nuclear activity in non-military fields.
Moreover Australia’s strategic and tactical military requirements, both now and for the future, were directly involved.
It has to be examined whether restrictions would apply with equal weight and effectiveness on all potential nuclear powers.
Senator McManus should realise that the Australian Government has this matter well in hand and is studying it very closely. If he wished to gain some support for his amendment he should have deleted paragraph (4), which relates to nuclear disarmament.
The statement on international affairs is one of great merit. I believe that in giving its support to the United States in Vietnam, Australia has acted absolutely correctly. We pray that the recent action of the President of the United States will bear fruit. We are encouraged to believe that it will by the report that Hanoi is willing to meet the other side. This is the first time in the last 3 years that Hanoi has shown any willingness to do so. I hope that Hanoi’s attitude to the United States will be modified to a large extent and that she will see the wisdom of avoiding any escalation of the war which I believe can be the only result of any rejection of the offer to talk peace. I have pleasure in endorsing the statement.
– The statement that we are discussing has already been outdated by the recent decision of President Johnson which hit the world like a bombshell. His announcement was a startling turn of events for the United States of America. Right up till Monday last the Australian Government supported the United States on the question of bombing North Vietnam. The United States finally yielded to world clamour which the Australian Labor Party has supported. The action of the United States has thrown up, in no uncertain manner, new hopes for peace. Hanoi has moved reasonable quickly. In view of the delaying tactics and the peculiar way of negotiating that Communist countries usually adopt, I should have thought there would be much more delay than there has been on Hanoi’s part.
Full credit must go to President Johnson for taking a very marked step towards securing peace. I believe the same must be said for Hanoi. We are indebted to Senator Webster for reading the full text of what I took to be the radio report from Hanoi. What has happened on the part of the Communists has been a form of Communist propaganda. The Communists indulge in overtalk on the slightest provocation, lay down all sorts of conditions, and belt into the Western powers. Assuming, as Senator Webster seemed to assume, that the Communists believe what they have said, is it not all the more remarkable that they are prepared to come to the peace table? We can only assume that both sides are quite genuine.
There has been an interesting reaction to all this, and I think Senator Webster demonstrated it to a degree. I noted that Senator Branson interjected when Senator Cavanagh was speaking and asked: ‘You do not really believe that Hanoi is going to talk, do you?’ Senator Cavanagh replied: No, I do not think so.’ I think he took a slightly different stance to that taken by Senator Branson. He said that it was like sitting in one’s house while there was a stranger there. 1 do not know whether I am being over-optimistic but immediately I heard of Hanoi’s reply I said to myself: Here is a genuine chance for people’. Wherever people live and whatever ideology they embrace, surely deep down in their hearts and souls they do not want to see their cities and their homes bombed but genuinely want peace. Maybe they want other things too. But I am temendously optimistic and I am pleased that both sides have moved.
However, I am disappointed at the action of the Australian Government. I believe that it could have said very much more than it has. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) should not have taken the matter as casually as he did. The Government seems to have adopted a don’t care attitude to the Vietnam war. One would have thought that when things reached the present stage it would have jumped at the opportunity to offer help. Perhaps it is not even too late now for the Government to say: ‘Just as we went to America’s aid earlier we now stand ready to assist in establishing peace. We are willing to send men of peace to rebuild the wrecked economy, the wrecked cities and the wrecked factories in both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. We are ready to help to speed up the great work in the Mekong Delta’. If there is any region in the world where boundaries ought to be wiped out and progress should be achieved at a reasonable pace, then it is in South East. Asia and particularly in the Mekong delta area. Instead of standing back and allowing these things just to coast along, Australia should come forward as an ally and say what she is prepared to do in the future.’
During the discussion on the torture incident in Vietnam’ one of the things I said was that the case advanced by the Government threw up all sorts of doubts as to how much liaison there was between Australia and her allies . and about whether the Government acted on wrong information. My concern is reinforced by the discovery that Australia had no prior knowledge at all that America’s attitude to the bombing of North Vietnam was to be varied. If we go back in mind we can recall the peace offers which have been made, the amendments to peace offers, Hanoi’s rigid determination in the first place and then a gentle softening of her attitude, and a slight shift in America’s stand. But Australia did not seem to take any notice of all this. As recently as 26th March we were even insisting on the bombing. In his speech, Mr Hasluck said:
What impression of resolution and determination would the allies give to the embattled, wartorn, suffering people of South Vietnam if the controlled and selective bombing of North Vietnam were to be terminated - and terminated at a time when the other side steps up the level of violence against the people of the South?
We have been told about the great alliance between America and Australia. The Australian Labor Party has been criticised over the years and has been accused of being anti-American, but we have said time and time again that the alliance is of the utmost importance to Australia. We have also said that a silent partner is not a good partner. We believe that if you have a friend you should be able to talk freely and frankly and tell that friend that he is wrong but still retain his friendship. Only last week Australia was still insisting on the bombing of North Vietnam. At that stage President Johnson must have just about prepared the statement that he was to make to the World. The consultation that we have been led to believe was in existence obviously was not in existence. The Government has been putting itself in a very dangerous diplomatic position and has been allowing itself to be taken for granted.
The Prime Minister has said that he sees nothing unusual in this situation. I cannot understand his statement. I have had to read it several times. I cannot understand his saying that there is nothing unusual when there has been a major change of policy - one which affects the whole situation. The Prime Minister said that Australia would expect to be consulted if she were to be asked to provide more troops for Vietnam. I would not expect consultation; 1 would expect that such a decision would be Australia’s alone. The Prime Minister implies almost that it is not the Australian Government that decides the level of .our forces in Vietnam but some other country. ls it any wonder that such statements cast doubts into the minds of people as to what this great alliance means and as to how much we are a partner of America and how much we are a puppet. I do not believe that we are a puppet, but these are the doubts which you cast in the minds of people when you take this casual attitude.
In the final analysis Australia is being far more hawkish than any other country with troops fighting in Vietnam. Even now I do not hear any clear utterances on going all the way with LBJ in seeking peace. I sense reticence to accept that Hanoi is genuine about coming to the peace table. I hear no utterances that Australia wants to assist in peace negotiations. I assume that the Government agrees with the Johnson statement. I assume that the Government agrees with him when he appeals to Great Britain and Russia to reconvene as joint Chairmen of the Geneva Conference of 1954. But the Government has certainly not stated its attitude very clearly. With the British withdrawal from east of Suez the time is coming from Australia must stop standing on the sidelines with its mouth shut and instead must go forward and assume some leadership.
I leave this matter, because the Vietnam situation had better be left where it is, praying that all sides go all the way in the matter of peace because if the peace talks fail and the doves of America and the rest of the world start to go into the camp of the hawks, you could have an all out war. If that happened it would be all out not only in Vietnam but all over the world. I cannot see how you can have a military victory in Vietnam without an invasion of North Vietnam. Such an invasion would necessitate the deployment of tremendous arms and the sealing of borders. An invasion of North Vietnam could lead to another Yalu River incident and could bring China and the whole world into the conflict. We have a wonderful opportunity to stop what has been one of the most terrible wars, one of the most enigmatic wars and one of the most divisive wars in the history of the world.
I turn briefly to the matter dealt with by Senator Webster - Great Britain’s decision to withdraw east of Suez. I do not know whether I get strange reactions to things, but surely nobody was surprised when Britain was forced to withdraw from this area. We had ample warning of Britain’s intentions. The only thing that was a surprise was that Britain speeded up the timetable. Instead of bemoaning Britain’s withdrawal and saying that Australia should be trying to do more to get Britain to stay we should accept the situation and start to act upon it. Senator Webster said that we should have tried to coax Britain to stay in this area. Ivor Richard summed up the situation very quickly on television a few nights ago. Nobody could blame Britain for looking towards Europe and considering herself as a European power. Nobody could blame Britain for admitting that in the event of a conflict in this area in the future, she could not do much about the matter.
Since 1942 I have not had much faith, firstly in the Singapore base under extreme pressure, and secondly in the ability of the British to be able to do anything if hostilities reached such a level that Britain were heavily over committed in other areas. I would like to see far more action on the part of the Australian Government so far as this area of the world is concerned. 1 would like to see the Australian Government do more than it has done in the matter of Vietnam. It is time Australia had its own policies. It is a terrible thing that the Australian Government should not be doing something in the matter, having regard to Australia’s stage of development. A meeting of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation countries is to be held shortly. SEATO seems to be going to pieces. Something needs to be done about it. There is a meeting of ANZUS coming up and a five power conference. It is not very important what we call these arrangements. A series of talks is to be held to see what is to be done about Britain’s withdrawal from the area. The five power conference will comprise only former Commonwealth countries. I believe that this representation is far too narrow if we are to do all that is required in this area. But it is a start and I hope that Australia will cause its voice to be heard and will play a leading role in the area, because wc are the Western middle power. We are the people who have the advantages of education, a welfare state and all those things which we should be trying to provide for Asian countries. Naturally those Asian countries will be interested in individual security and in regional security. The United States will not be represented at the talks but because of the tremendous position which it holds in the world there will be a feeling that America will be underpinning some of the hopes and aspirations in the area. We should move in quickly. We should take a leading role here because there is a tendency, due to Australians and New Zealanders having white skins, for Asia to look to Asians on a regional basis.
It is interesting to know with what thoughts Australia approaches this matter because it may not be enough merely to have preliminary talks and then to forget about the matter for a few years. I think people are inclined to be thinking of one big pact. I doubt if this would be the type of pact we should be seeking. We could have a regional pact and we could have bilateral arrangements - between countries. We could have a combination of both. The Government must get its lines of thought clear as’ regards pacts, lt must be clear about the threat which worries it, what it wants to make pacts about, and which section of the vacuum it hopes to fill. Whenever you touch on this subject you think of China, referred to a few years ago as the yellow peril’. When Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister he used the threat of China effectively at election time. 1 did not think for one moment that he believed China was a threat. He was too intelligent for that, but he was a consummate politician. The trouble is that many of his supporters really believe that China is a threat. If you look at China’s record over the last few years you will see that it has rarely gone beyond its borders. It did so in the case of India, Tibet and Korea but it claimed that Tibet and Korea were part of the old empire, and that its actions were justified. 1 know there is room for debate on this. It is interesting to note that in the Vietnam situation neither Communist China nor Nationalist China, the two countries which you might expect to have a tremendous interest in the area, has sent troops into the area. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What progress has been made towards the introduction of a reasonable scheme of legal aid for those involved in cases in Federal courts and in Slate courts exercising Federal jurisdiction?
Senator WRIGHT - The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
The question whether legal aid should be provided by the Commonwealth for persons involved in cases in Federal courts and in Stale courts exercising Federal jurisdiction is a matter of policy and it is not appropriate to say in answer to the question whether such aid would be provided.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Senator WRIGHT - The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer: 1 and 2. There have been no persons convicted of treason and executed under Federal law or Territory law.
Motion (by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
My remarks will be very brief, but they concern a matter which 1 believe is of great importance. They are directed ot the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation. In many quarters concern is being expressed at the serious situation that has developed in the airline industry in which the people of Australia have a very great interest. I refer to Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd. It seems that an intolerable situation has been reached. Surely the people in the management of those two airlines are not so naive as to think that the benefit accruing to AnsettANA is accidental. I ask the Minister and the Government whether they will investigate reports that the Ansett complex is a financial supporter of the National Civic Council and that through a member of that Council the Ansett complex is promoting strife which is extremely damaging to TAA and Qantas and out of which the Ansett complex is making a fortune and permanently injuring TAA and Qantas.
– I note with interest the comments made by Senator O’Byrne. He is making a charge against Ansett-ANA which I believe cannot be substantiated. I also believe that the cause of most of the trouble is not AnsettANA employees but employees of other concerns. Those concerns and the people associated with them have their case before the courts at the moment. We all hope that by the time the Senate resumes sittings some sense will have been shown by the people working for those organisations. Australia has an overseas airline which is valued at $150m or more and whose operations are being held up by a few people who, according to the Press this morning, do not really know why they have stopped work. As I said, I am interested in what the honourable senator has said, but I assure him that none of the trouble has been instigated by Ansett-ANA.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m., till Tuesday, 30 April at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680404_senate_26_s37/>.